Photo: Living humanely — my husband Eric with Ziggy the Piggy at the Pigs Peace Sanctuary.
Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to meet some of the strongest, smartest women in the Puget Sound area at an inspiring political event. I got to talk to city councilors, county auditors, lawyers, advocates, teachers, PR professional and campaign managers (to name a few) about topics from women’s rights to gun control, and even, to my delight, about animal issues such as dog fighting laws, puppy sale bans and elephant retirements from zoo.
The event was a reminder to me that there are so many ways to “do the right thing” when we know how and why we can and should make better choices for ourselves and our community. So as a 2014 resolution, I made a point to ask my close, vegan friends about living more humanely.
“Things don’t have to be as daunting or black and white as they appear. Going vegan feels too extreme? OK then, but it can still be beneficial to strive to live lighter on the planet for the benefit of all when and where we can. ” says Friend #1 who gives these great tips:
- Don’t consume more than you really need. This simple adage has the power to transform our bodies and the world. We live in a culture where “supersizing” and overconsumption (not just of food, of everything!) is the norm, but consuming more than we need doesn’t serve anybody–including ourselves.
- “Hold the cheese” when it’s an option. Cheese is everywhere–and it’s loaded with calories, artery-clogging fat, and intense suffering. And it’s surprising, actually, how good things still taste without a layer of cheese thrown on top. Get extra avocado instead! Even pizza tastes great sans cheese (or with a dairy alternative if that’s an option).
- Bring a reusable bag when you shop. It’s easy to remember once it becomes habit and you can save countless resources with this simple step.
- Buy organic when you can. It protects the planet and your own body from toxic pesticides.
- Never buy animals (adopt from a shelter instead) and never support pet stores that sell live animals. Animal overpopulation is still at crisis levels with more animals than there are homes. Adoption saves lives!
- Designated specific days of the week to be meatless. Meatless Monday is a great place to start. Gardein or Beyond Meat (sold at most health food stores, including PCC and Whole Foods) are great meat alternatives that will likely inspire you to go meatless regularly.
Speaking of Meatless Monday, Friend #2 gives this great advice.
“[T]ry Meatless Mondays. There’s a link on The HSUS website and it includes an online “toolkit” and a “recipe of the week” subscription. Even just one day a week being vegan will help animals and the environment immensely!”
“One thing that I think non-vegans or aspiring vegetarians miss is you don’t have to buy vegan products; a lot of the things you already eat are or can be made vegan,” says Friend #3.
” I think it’s scary for them to “give up” stuff they like and it’s frightening to make so many changes; if they can still eat most of the stuff that they usually do (outside of slabs of meat) with a few adjustments it’s easier. One can have a comfortable lifestyle without the terrifying idea of special, expensive, hard to find vegan products – and once they make the change and are comfortable they can investigate some of the spectacular [vegan] creations”.
As we move towards making better choices for ourselves and the animals, it may also be time to confront some of the harder issues. Friend #4 reminds me that there are real, tangible reasons to be vegan beyond what is healthy.
“When people say “I could never give up cheese, milk, etc.”, I say ‘That’s what I thought until I saw a video of a dairy calf being taken away from his mother.’ I gently describe how absolutely frantic the mother was. It’s stunning, but so many people still do not realize that in order for people to have dairy products, mothers and babies are separated.” says Friend #4
Friend #4 goes to explain that any meat is just as problematic to our ethos. “I [also] focus on the horrific transport issues for the animals. Most people who think it’s okay to eat “humanely raised” meat completely forget that those animals are still subjected to abysmal transport and slaughter conditions.” says Friend #4.
In addition to the abusive conditions that animals suffer in the meat, egg and dairy industry, Friend #5 explains one more motivation for change — the environment. As we have watched the environmental movement grow and expands since the 1970’s, it not difficult to ask almost anyone to be ‘environmentally friendly’. But many people aren’t aware of that meat, dairy and eggs are responsible for 51% of greenhouse gases causing climate change. Additionally, Friend #5 says, “[T]he massive destruction of water and air – the amount of rain forests being slashed to graze cattle – the amount of pollution going into the ocean from farms….these stats also help show the bigger picture.” (See: Meatanomics and Meat and the Environment) .
Friend #6 has some good advice for sharing what you know about living more humanely with others.
“I teach by examples, bring vegan food etc, wear special T-Shirts etc. This year, on Thanksgiving I wore the PETA T-shirt “No” w/ a Turkey picture,” explains Friend #6.
As my 19-year vegan-anniversary fast approaches, its nice to reflect on how much I’ve learned and how many humane living tips there are to share. I’m especially grateful for the reminders of why we make these choices and how much they can affect our planet. However, Friend #7 gave me some of the simplest advice for sharing humane living with others. Friend #7 emailed to say, “chocolate soymilk.” Simply said, if you haven’t tried it, then make sure you do. Your taste buds (and the mother and baby cows) will thank you for it.
Happy Humane 2014!