Saturday, June 14, 2008

Welcome to My Blog

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to everyone who came here after reading The Pioneer Press Father's Day story about dads who blog. I'm glad to have you.

First off, let's get this out of the way:

"The American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and young children."

-American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, 1998; Messina & Burke, 1997

There, now that we've answered whether or not a vegan diet is healthy, you might be wondering what exactly it means to be a vegan.

The commonly accepted definition of vegan is this, from the Vegan Society:

“A vegan is someone who tries to avoid - as far as is possible and practical - all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. This is for the benefit of people, animals and the environment. Vegans eat a plant-based diet free from all animal products, such as meat, animal milks, eggs, honey and gelatin. They also avoid animal products like leather, wool and silk for clothing or other purposes.”

Simple enough, right? We humans do not need to exploit non-human animals. We can live just fine without causing fellow sentient beings harm and suffering. In fact, we can live better!

I used to eat a lot of animal flesh ("meat"), drink a lot of animal secretions ("dairy") and eat quite a bit of chickens' menstrual waste ("eggs"). But after I learned what happens in order to get those things on my plate, I could no longer choose to participate in the unnecessary suffering and exploitation of animals.

My family is happy, healthy and compassionate. And my wife and I aren't the only parents out there bringing our kids up vegan. There's a whole bunch of kids these days being raised to respect animals and oppose cruelty. Check out a sampling of awesome vegan kids here.

The reasons for choosing a vegan diet and lifestyle are numerous.

FOR THE ANIMALS

The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.

-Albert Schweitzer

For more information on the cruel treatment of farmed animals, check out this website.

And for a great film about the exploitation of non-human animals by humans, check out Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix (yes, the guy who played Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line"). Here are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of Earthlings.

You may watch those videos and then feel helpless. But you're not. You can go vegan. Yes you. About five years ago, I couldn't imagine my life without fatty, artery-clogging animal flesh either, but here I am, healthier and happier than ever!

FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

“A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.”

-National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan

Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? If so, you probably want to look into going vegan. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report, Livestock's Long Shadow:

"The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport….Livestock are also responsible for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems."

For a recent local example of the environmental damage, check out this story about families in northern Minnesota who had to be evacuated from their homes because of fumes rolling off a dairy operation. Yuck.

More information on the environmental devastation caused by animal agriculture can be found here.

FOR YOUR HEALTH

We've already covered the fact that a vegan diet is healthy for infants and toddlers with that American Academy of Pediatrics and Dietetic Association quote above. For information on vegan diets for children, check out the Physicians Committe for Responsible Medicine's information pages here and here.

For health benefits for adults, see this page.

We don't need milk for calcium. We don't need meat for protein. We don't need to eat any animal products to live a healthy life. In fact, studies show that removing animal products from your diet actually reduces your chances of getting heart disease and cancer. It can prevent and even reverse diabetes. It can lower your blood pressure.

I ingest zero cholesterol. A vegan diet is a diet free of cholesterol. The cookies I make? Free of cholesterol. Homemade vegan cinnamon rolls? Free of cholesterol. The "cheesey" potato casserole I made last week? You guessed it - free of cholesterol.

Which brings me to another question someone unfamiliar with veganism might ask: What do you eat?

The easy answer: Everything that you eat, and probably much more! Do you like bratwurst straight off the grill? So do I! Tofurkey makes amazing vegan brats. Do you like chocolate cake? Me too! Google "vegan chocolate cake" and you'll find a ton of recipes, from simple to gourmet. Do you love tacos smothered in cheese with a side of sour cream? Hot damn! I do too! Except I use vegan cheese and vegan sour cream! Zero cholesterol! Zero animal exploitation!

I could go on and on and on. The point is, I'm not starving. I didn't have to give up on food when I went vegan. Quite the opposite, I have discovered more food in the 5 years I've been vegan than I ever thought possible. Going vegan closes the door on meat, dairy and eggs, but it opens every other window in the house. For me, it knocked down walls I didn't even know I had.

Sorry about that. I tend to take metaphors too far.

If you are at all curious about veganism, I urge you to order (or view on-line) a free brochure from any of these sites. At the very least, you'll get some great recipes out of the deal. 



For more resources and reading on veganism I suggest checking out these sites:
Animal Rights Coalition (a home-grown Minnesotan group)
Compassionate Action for Animals (also Minnesota-based)
Fast and Furless (a vegan boutique in Minneapolis)
Veg Guide (a Twin Cities based restaurant guide for vegans and vegetarians)
Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection
Anima Naturalis (en Espanol)
An Animal-Friendly Life
Vegan Soapbox
Creature Talk
Animal Emancipation
The Abolitionist Approach

And for something completely unrelated to vegansim, I want to give all parents of pre-Kindergarten kids in Minnesota a quick little link to the Minnesota Early Childhood Education (ECFE) site. ECFE is an invaluable resource in parenting. From the Saint Paul ECFE website: "ECFE works to strengthen families and enhance the ability of all parents to provide the best possible environment for the healthy growth and development of their children."

There is a very small fee for the classes, but cost is based on income. Those who find it unaffordable are not forced to pay. In other words, you can get top-notch early childhood education and screening for potential problems for cheap or free.

You can find an ECFE program near you by going here.

And finally, a little shameless plug from yours truly. I'm a stay-at-home dad, which means my income is pretty close to zero. But I take wedding photos on the side! So if you know anyone who's getting married and wants their wedding photos taken for under a thousand dollars, feel free to point them toward my photo site.

Finally (for real this time), to reward you for reading through this whole post, here's a video of Anna being silly the other day.



Oh, and one more thing! If you have any questions about veganism let me know in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them in a future post. If you don't want to leave a comment, but still want to ask a question, you can email me at: thislittlepiggyhadtofu @ gmail . com (delete the spaces).

Have a look around the blog. Stay a while. And feel free to come back any time. All are welcome at the Piggy house.

11 comments:

Dave Rolsky said...

VegGuide is world-wide, not Twin Cities-based. We do have good TC coverage, because it's a CAA project, and we're a local group, but we also have pretty good coverage throughout the US. Coverage outside the US is a bit more spotty, and even worse in non English-speaking countries, but there's still a fair amount of stuff there.

Al said...

Hey Dave, thanks for stopping by. I guess I would still define it as Twin Cities-based, since the website is owned by a group based in the Twin Cities.

Regardless though, I love the site and have found several restaurants in the TC that I didn't even know existed. Thanks for the work you've all done on it.

Tasha said...

Hi! Followed you over here from VFF. Fellow vegan parent here, although my son is only ~5 months old. Love this post! It's such a comprehensive introduction to veganism, why it matters, and why it's not hard at all to pull off. Do you mind if I steal some snippets to quote in my own blog? I'll give credit, of course!

Al said...

Steal away! Thanks!

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

Nicely done!
I read your blog all the time but still enjoyed the info you presented for those who might have questions.

mindy said...

Hey Al! Thanks for the link-love, and great post. I hope more people consider vegan parenting!

PS. Anna is ADORABLE in that video. What a little nut. I love it.

Vegan_Noodle said...

I love this!! Lots of great resources and reasons to go vegan all in one post. That's awesome about the article and I hope lots of folks visit your blog as a result!!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I saw that you were a little disappointed that no non-vegans commented here so here goes.

I'm an ex-vegan and while I'm glad you're doing what you do I find it all a little irrelevant for my life and depressing.

Not all of us live in the metro. Not all of us have access to a billion fake meats, artificial sour creams, imposter cheeses, vegan restaurants and so on.

I was a die-hard vegan and it wore me the hell out. I have 4 kids, one disabled husband, 4 cats, 1 messy house and daily migraines, plus I homeschool my kids, grow an organic garden and run a small business.

Add to that... I have a kid with deadly nut allergies so half the vegan protein convenience food I find is ruled out.

Add to that... I have another kid who's sensitive to some articial ingredients and a lot of vegan foods are meat free but are not free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

Add to that... my husband and kids like meat, no matter how much I try to talk them out of it.

Add to that... we live on a very small budget and the fake stuff is PRICEY.

As it is, we eat very little meat because it's pricey too (though not as) and because I am still committed to the principles that made me vegan to begin with.

Don't tell me how easy it is though. Don't tell me I don't have to give up my beloved cheese and sour cream. I do. I did.

And don't tell me it tastes just as good. Maybe after a long enough time. Maybe to some people. It never did to me. I kept plugging away anyway because it mattered, but it cheapens my experience to hear that it was all so easy and delicious.

I live in farm country. When I was vegan, eating out consisted of ordering salads with french dressing and baked potatoes or french fries. Maybe if I was really lucky, they'd have some canned corn.

I spent years making un-cheese and trying failed recipe after failed recipe. Dinner took 3 times as long and tasted twice as bad. Nobody wanted to come to my pot lucks. I got really skinny because I didn't enjoy eating any more.

It exhausted me and I eventually crashed and burned. It's been several years and now I'm moving back in that direction. I check out vegan sites sometimes for inspiration, to feel like this is something I can work towards again.

I'm trying to move my family back towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Bit by bit, I've been cutting back on the meat. We buy local, truly free range eggs and we don't eat many of them. The small amount of meat I do buy comes from local farms. I supplement the milk with rice milk and soy milk. And so on.

I try to make my meat-loving husband happy in other ways so he puts up with my endless pasta and rice dishes.

Reading all about how easy it is makes me feel like giving up though. I'm not ready to be full-on vegan again, and this just riles me up.

I recently cruised to a vegan recipe blog and every recipe called for vegan sour cream or a product I can't get.

It's frustrating. And preaching at me isn't going to make me more likely to climb back on the wagon. I already know about the animals, the environment, the health issues. Got it.

I want someone to acknowledge that for some people it is a SACRIFICE. Yeah, it may be worth it. But don't discount that for some of us on small incomes, in remote places, with other issues going on like a husband who loves meat and a penchant for real butter and parmesan cheese and a million balls to juggle at once, it gets really f***ing hard.

The people who think like you and have your experiences are already vegan. If you want to increase your numbers, you need to find a way not to ostacize the people like me. Because for all my bitching, it is something I believe in.

Al said...

Thanks for the comment Anonymous. I do plan to respond in full, but I want to give my response the time and reflection your comment deserves. Thanks for your candor and thoughts.

Do you mind if I copy and paste part or all of your comment into a new post and respond to it there? You brought up a lot of good points that I want to address and I think other people would benefit from reading both your comment and my reply.

Couple questions for you, if you don't mind: How did you come across my blog? Where do you live (not like what town, but generally where)?

Oh, and please remember to let me know if you mind that I reply to your comment in a new post. Thanks!

Elizabeth said...

I came here from a link on Crunchy Domestic Goddess. I'm not a vegan or vegetarian but I think Amy rocks so I read her blog :)

I have a 2 1/2 yr old daughter and she watched the video with me, and now she would like to come over and "play with that cute baby"! Of course we are in Michigan so that's a bit difficult. I was wondering where you got that puzzle she is playing with, with the different outfits to put on the girl. Kaitlyn would like to "play with that fun puzzle". Thanks!

table4five@gmail.com

Al said...

That's great. My little 'un is all about matching these days, so she loves it.

Here's one place you can buy it: http://www.melissaanddoug.com/dyn_prod.php?p=3293&k=86067&name=Girl%20Dress-Up%20Mix%20'n%20Match%20Peg%20Puzzle