Monday, November 28, 2011

Southernish-Style Vegan Thanksgiving

We had Thanksgiving on Saturday this year, and it doubled as Christmas with Jen's mom. I figured I'd put the menu on here, because it was a darn good meal. I, as per usual, didn't take any photos of anything I made. But you can be sure that it looked completely professional and gourmet. Yeah.

The main dish, I guess, was the VegNews Mac 'n' Cheese. It turned out as expected. That's a pretty solid recipe. If you haven't tried it yet, I suggest it.

I also made Southern Fried Cauliflower and a bit of Southern Fried Seitan. I use this recipe, which is just written for seitan. When making it with cauliflower, I roast the cauliflower at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes and let them cool off before proceeding with the rest of the recipe as written.

Some vegan blue cheese dressing to dip the deep-fried goodness into. And some Franks Red Hot sauce.

Collard greens 'n' rice.

I also made these baked sweet potatoes that I like. I've never written the recipe down, but basically it's cubed sweet potatoes baked with margarine and pretty much equal parts chili powder and cinnamon (but maybe a bit more cinnamon). And then put marshmallows on top during the last ten minutes or so. But I forgot the marshmallows at home, so it wasn't nearly as good as it usually is. Oh well.

For dessert, I made pumpkin soy cream. For second-dessert, I made the VegNews/Chloe Coscarelli creme brulee.

It should be said that my sister-in-law helped with a bunch of prep work and I would have had to start a few hours earlier if I didn't have her help. She also gave me one of her two kitchen torches, so I'm thinking creme brulee might be a more regular thing at our house (which means once or twice a year, probably). Ooh, or torch-roasted marshmallows for kitchen-s'mores (which is just s'mores without the campfire).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Strumming Liam

Here's a long video of Liam playing the guitar. The second song is a version of Twinkle, Twinkle as sung by his ECFE teacher (who plays guitar in class). You can hear that version here

So yeah, the kid likes guitar. Also, we're pretty up-front with our children about death.


For those of you in the Twin Cities metro, the Riverview Theatre is showing Vegucated this coming Monday at 7pm. I haven't seen it, but it looks interesting. Anyway, more info is here.


Speaking of the Riverview Theatre, Liam went to his first movie back in September. He, Anna and I went to the new Winnie the Pooh flick. It was fun and he did pretty great.

Here they are before the show:

And in their seats waiting for it to start:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Photos

Some Halloweenish photos.

Carving a pumpkin with auntie Jessica.

Carving pumpkins with Lisa and Dan.

Halloween night. The squirrels added their own little touch to the pumpkins.

The neighborhood gang.

I forgot to "Boo!"

For the past four years, I've written a Halloween post in which my children dine on the flesh of innocents. This year, I apparently took a break. I'm sure the innocents will thank me later.

At any rate, you can read the previous years by clicking on this here hyper-text.

Speaking of holidays, Nathalie VanBalen, author of "Garlic Onion Beet Spinach Mango Carrot Grapefruit Juice" has a new coloring zine out called "Happy Thanksliving." Here's a sample page from her blog:

You should order it now so it will arrive in time for your kids to color it for Thanksgiving.

And speaking of "Garlic Onion Beet Spinach Mango Carrot Grapefruit Juice," VanBalen often puts free coloring sheets on her blog, often of the characters from the book. I printed out the two she made for Halloween this year and the kids colored them. Here are a couple that Anna did.


Yellow Spotted Snails: 

Both of these are unfinished. Pretty much everything of Anna's is unfinished unless every single speck of white on the paper has been colored in. 

And here's Liam's Thora: 

So yeah. Good times. 

And a happy belated Halloween to all. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

VegKins Halloween Party!

OK, so I forgot my camera. I didn't get any photos of our Second Annual VegKins Halloween Party, but my friend (and fellow VegKins coordinator) Celeste did. So go check out the photos over at her blog, Growing up Veg. It was a blast.

You know what? I've never actually explained what VegKins is on this blog. I should really do that some day. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cat on the Playground

Anna told us about her school day yesterday. The highlight of the day, apparently, was the cat who was hanging around the playground. He was there in the morning and for after-lunch recess.

Anna said that a bunch of kids were circling around and chasing the cat because they wanted to pet him (she said she thought he was a "him"). She chased the kids who were chasing the cat, imploring them to leave him alone.

I asked if they were trying to hurt the cat. She said no.

"So you just wanted them to leave the cat alone because you thought he might be scared?"

"Yes," she said. "He just wants to live his life."

- - -

I wonder sometimes whether or not Anna will choose to be an animal advocate when she grows up. It seems that she's already dabbling in advocating for animals, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy. But there's a part of me that worries that she might end up caring too much.

I know, I know. That sounds callous.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if she cares sooooo much and wants sooooo much to help animals and get others to see how they can also help animals ... well, she's in for a life of disappointment after disappointment ... punctuated by a few instances of joy and hope for the future of humanity.

I've managed to keep my distance. I advocate on behalf of animals in my own way, sure. But I rarely feel as much as many of the advocates I know. There are days when this concerns me and there are days when I see this as a blessing (bestowed upon me by genetics and environment).

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for advocating loudly and proudly on behalf of other-than-human animals. I guess I just cringe a bit at the prospect of Anna being sad all the time because her peers don't give two figs about the animals she cares so much about.

Anyway, we'll see how it pans out. One day at a time, right?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

MoFo 2011

Wow. I've been pretty much nonexistent in the blogging world as of late. But I have a good excuse! I've been writing an essay that will appear in an animal rights anthology, due out next summer. That's all I'll say about it for now, but you can be absolutely certain that you'll hear much more about it in the near future.

Anyway, I thought I'd post today about Vegan MoFo (that's Vegan Month of Food, in case you didn't know). I love Vegan MoFo. This year there are 658 blogs participating, all planning to blog about vegan food five days a week for a whole month. If they were all successful, that would be 69,090 blog posts about vegan food in a single month (not counting the vegan blogs not participating in MoFo).

How fucking cool is that?

My friend Celeste is doing the MoFo this year. She just posted a recipe for a veganized juicy lucy. Do you know what that is? It's a burger with cheese inside of it. I don't remember if I ever had one of these in my pre-vegan days, but damn, I want a vegan one. In my belly. Like right now.

Celeste is also doing a bunch of giveaways this month, so be sure to check out her blog. She currently has two giveaways going:

1. $25 gift certificate to Vegan Essentials. (giveaway ends Oct. 8th)

2. 9 Eli's Earth Bars (candy bars) and the cookbook, Vegan Lunch. (two winners, ends Oct. 12th)

It seems like this year is the MoFo Year of the Giveaway. Or maybe it's always been that way and I'm just paying more attention this year.

Anyway, Vegan Heartland is doing a giveaway too. Enter over there to win the cookbook, Vegan Slow Cooker. (And yes, me linking to that blog earns me an extra entry into the contest. I'm shameless and I don't care.)

One more giveaway: Chicago Soy Dairy is giving away a year's supply of Dandies Marshmallows (12 bags ... though I don't know in what crazy marshmallow-deprived universe a mere 12 bags equals a year's supply).

So yeah, get your blog-reading butt over to those blogs and enter.

And then peruse the 658 blogs participating in Vegan MoFo by following this link that I will title awesomeness: AWESOMENESS.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I was talking to Anna (and Liam too, since he was in the car, though I don't know how much of the conversation he grasped) about adopting animals instead of buying them. We've had this discussion before, but I like to revisit concepts now and again, especially when new contexts for the conversation arise.

So anyway, Anna was saying that we would never buy a cat because her mom's allergic to them. I replied that we would never buy a cat, period. We would adopt.

I explained that we would adopt because there are animals who need adoption. I explained that there are places where people take lost or unwanted dogs and cats, and those places are only so big and that they feel that they have to kill them to make room for more (all while breeding continues unabated). I was sure to say that it doesn't have to be this way, and that there are places where people don't kill the animals they are sheltering. In fact, tomorrow we're going to drop off some clothes and stuff the Animal Ark Thrift Store where they use all proceeds to fund Animal Ark, a no-kill shelter.

Then Anna said, "But people who aren't vegan would buy a dog instead of adopting."

I said not necessarily. I said a lot of people who aren't vegan still really care about cats and dogs and they don't want them to be hurt and killed.

"What?" she said, incredulous.

"Yeah," I said, "a lot of people love cats and dogs, but eat cows and pigs."

She was utterly flabbergasted.

I know the feeling.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The School Year That Was

Anna's last day of school was on Tuesday. She's both happy and sad for it to be over. As she said, "I'm happy because I get to spend more time with you, but sad because I won't get to see my friends all the time."

It makes me happy and sad, too.

The year was awesome, by the way. Anna learned a ton, and she made friends.

Some things of note, as far as the vegan stuff goes:

We talked to her teacher (let's call her "T") at the beginning of the year about Anna being vegan. T immediately understood everything we said, and there was never any confusion about it from then on. We gave T a list (incomplete, but a list nonetheless) of snacks that are vegan, since she does the shopping for snacks for the class. As far as I know, the class always had vegan snacks, or if they didn't, there was always a vegan option for Anna.


Kids have birthdays, of course, and they bring in non-vegan things. For the first few months, I just let Anna go treat-less. She would come home and say that so-and-so had a birthday and they brought such-and-such, but it wasn't vegan so she just had a snack. She never complained and never seemed sad about it. Except once. She said she wished she could have one of the cookies. I asked her if it was vegan. She said no. I asked if she wanted to eat things that aren't vegan. She said no. I asked if she wanted to eat the cookie. She said no, but that she wanted a cookie like that, but vegan.

So I bought a package of Candy Cane Jo-Jo's from Trader Joe's and sent them to school with her. From then on, whenever a kid brought in a non-vegan treat, T would give Anna a Jo-Jo. She loved it, and from the sounds of it, the kids were often jealous that she got a special treat.


Anna's teacher told us at the beginning of the school year that she has, in years past, kept a cockroach in an aquarium in the classroom. When she told us this, I mentioned that Anna may say something about the cockroach not wanting to be in a cage. I didn't ask her to not have the cockroach in class, mostly because I'm the kind of person who generally avoids conflict. But lucky us, after thinking about how Anna might feel about the cockroach, T decided to not have one this year. Yay! We feel pretty luck to have a teacher who respects, understands and even encourages our daughters empathy.

I know that some classes do a caterpillar in a jar in the spring. I don't think T usually does that in her class, which makes me happy. I don't like the idea of confining animals for the education of our kids. It might teach them something about life science, but the untaught lesson is that it's OK for us to confine and control the living conditions of our fellow beings.

And besides, who wants to see caterpillars and chrysalises in a jar in a classroom when you can see them outside?

It's a Montessori school, which means that pre-K and Kindergartners are in the same classroom. So Anna will have this same teacher next year. Woot!

UPDATE: Upon further thought, I realized that the white thing in the above photo isn't actually a chrysalis. But they were all over the place and each had a caterpillar in them. So what are they? Google is failing me. If anyone knows, let me know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anna's on Vegansaurus

Vegansaurus is a blog, for those of you who don't know, about vegan dinosaurs. Except actually it's just about vegan stuff.

Anyway, they're doing a series called Happy Veggie Kids and Anna is featured today.

Check it out.

And read all of the Happy Veggie Kids posts here.

And to those of you coming over from Vegansaurus, hi! Welcome to my sort-of weekly updated blog. Feel free to have a look around. A few of my favorite posts here are:

My Daughter the Monkey Eater (on pretending to eat animals)

We're All Made of Meat (on explaining what meat is to Anna)

Happy Feet (a review of the movie)

This is Not a Post About Milo & Otis (on Anna trying to understand others who aren't vegan)

The Life I Did Save (about a squirrel I brought into a rehabilitation center)

Anna's First Correction of "It"

Friday, June 10, 2011

One More Dead Wolf

On the morning of June 8th, a Mexican gray wolf escaped from his cage at the Minnesota Zoo. He walked slowly on a path, and people quickly moved away from him. The zoo staff decided that they should shoot to kill instead of tranquilize. Their rationale was that the wolf was a danger to zoo patrons and a tranquilizer dart, according to zoo officials, "can take 10-15 minutes to fully take effect on an animal."

So a choice had to be made by the zoo: either tranquilize the wolf and risk him injuring or killing patrons, or kill the wolf  and deal with the negative publicity that would be sure to follow. They chose to kill.

I have often said that if a tiger broke into my house and seemed intent on eating my children, I would not be opposed to killing her if that's what it took to save my kids. (I should note here that I would do the same if a human broke into my house and she seemed intent on eating (or just killing, I guess) my children. What I would do in this situation says nothing about what we should routinely do to animals.)

My point is, I'm not sure that the zoo necessarily made the wrong choice in this specific instance, though I think they should have more ways to catch an animal unharmed than by just using tranquilizer darts. The process they have in place for things like this should rule out killing an animal except for in the most extreme cases. Their emergency reaction plans don't take the non-human animal lives at the zoo into as much consideration as they should. But since they didn't have adequate protocol and their options were truly kill or tranquilize (as the zoo claims), I can understand why they chose kill.

The big wrong choice the zoo made was when it chose to be a zoo. Zoos are inherently unjust places, tiny pale facsimiles of animals' natural habitats, places where animals go senile, places where animals are merely a commodity to be used to entertain and, ostensibly, educate.

So in my view, the real question isn't whether or not the zoo should have shot the wolf, it's whether or not the wolf should have been there in the first place. It's obvious to me that the answer is no. We can't justify imprisioning these animals for our entertainment or even for (again, ostensibly) our education. And the fact that they escape (and they do quite a bit ... oh and let's not forget this), and then zoos are often caused to weigh the non-human animals' lives against the potential of harm to paying customers ... it seems like a recipe for disaster.

Of course, news outlets jumped all over this story. And there were plenty of outraged citizens, saying the zoo acted rashly and should have done more to capture the wolf alive. I agree. But I think it misses the point of the institutionally entrenched problem of speciesism, which allows horrible situations like this to happen.

That's an It. He's an It. Not a He.

On Minnesota Public Radio, they wrote:
"Zoo officials said no people were in immediate danger but they decided to shoot the wolf because they couldn't predict where it would go or whether it would hurt people visiting the Northern Trail." (link)
Elsewhere in the story, Tony Fisher, the zoo's "animal collection manager" refers to this wolf as a "he." I can't for the life of me understand why MPR would refer to him as "it." The rest of the news outlets, of course, also referred to the wolf as "it," even though he was identified as male within their stories.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press managed to gender and neuter the wolf in the same paragraph:
"The 8-year-old male wolf slipped through the gaps of a fence in the keeper area of its exhibit into a secondary enclosure where it jumped an 8-foot fence, said animal collections manager Tony Fisher." (link)
And the Star Tribune did the same thing (in fact, the combination of the words "male that" is the shortest distance possible between gendering and neutering):
"The wolf, an 8-year-old male that was born at the zoo, is one of an endangered subspecies with only a few dozen living in the wild. There were three Mexican gray wolves at the zoo, but this one was not on exhibit because it didn't get along with the other two, Fisher said." (link)
The AP went there, too. They did correctly attribute one gendered pronoun to the wolf, but then decided to neuter him anyway:
"Tony Fisher, MN Zoo animal collection manager, told KARE 11 the ordeal began around 10 a.m. when the male wolf escaped his primary display area. Vets and zookeepers armed with tranquilizers started gathering and preparing to recapture the wolf but it jumped a secondary barrier and ran out among the public walking on the zoo's Northern Trail." (link)
I've got to hand it to Tony Fisher though, in all the quotes I saw from him, he referred to the wolf by the proper pronoun. I wish the reporting media would have followed suit. I don't have my AP Style Guide handy, but I wonder if there's something in there that says you have to refer to a non-human animal as "it" even if you know his or her gender. Any reporters out there want to help me out here? Are there style guidelines on this?

This bothers me, as you can tell. Animals are not its, they are hes and shes (or in the case of hermaphroditic animals, the generic, but non-objectifying, "they"). By routinely refusing to attribute a gender to them, we reduce them to the level of things. Things are "its." We don't have to care about things. We don't really care about animals so we refer to them at "its." And we refer to them as "its" to make it easier to not care about them.

It's pervasive, it's insidious and I really, really want it to stop. Regardless of how you feel about animals, you should at least recognize them as beings who are not mere things. That recognition should be reflected in your language.

Precious Species, Worthless Lives

The Minnesota Zoo released a note on their Facebook page which explains why they shot the wolf instead of tranquilizing him. One of the comments on this note sums up what I think a lot of people are feeling:
"I am disappointed that this extreme action had to take place. A precious life had to end today because the zoo we support did not do its job to keep the animals safe. While I don't want to see any humans injured better safeguards should have been in place. I have been a long time member and contributor but am rethinking my support."
First of all, this extreme action didn't have to take place. This is a dilemma that was created by the zoo. If there was no zoo, this dilemma would not have existed.

Secondly, this wolf's life is no more precious than the chicken's life which became your last meal of McNuggets.

Thirdly, support for the zoo should not occur if you truly regard the lives there as precious. I know that this wolf is a member of an endangered species, but that doesn't mean his individual life is intrinsically more precious than any other animal's.

And let's not forget the reason this species is on extinction's door: human hunting of wolves. Speciesism feeds speciesism. On the one hand, humans have nearly eradicated Mexican gray wolves. On the other hand, humans are confining Mexican gray wolves in hopes of saving the species.

But what good is a species?  A species is a concept. A species doesn't have feelings. A species doesn't care if it's extinct.

What matters - who matters - are the individual members of species. But it's the individual members who are routinely confined, abused and killed. We confine them in zoos. We further encroach on their habitats with  urban sprawl. We clear-cut rain forests so we can have cheap cow flesh (and we kill cows for flesh). We kill 23 million individual chickens per day in the United States alone.

Looking at the patterns of abuse and disregard, it's obvious that the overwhelming majority of we humans could care less about individual members of species. It's almost comical to me then, that we go to such lengths to save species.

Anna and the Aquarium

Needless to say, my family doesn't go to zoos. The potential for escaped carnivores doesn't really come in to play when we make that choice; the right of animals to live free from ownership and exploitation does. Our sense of justice does.

That said, a few weeks ago Anna's class took a field trip to the Mall of America's underground aquarium, Minnesota Sea Life. We talked with Anna about it before hand and told her that she could go if she wants, or she could stay home. She said she wanted to go. She said she thought fish shouldn't be in cages, but she also wanted to go to see what it's like. She said she would maybe ask the people who worked there if they could let the fish go.

But she was sick that day. So she didn't go after all.

Her teacher and I were talking about it today and she said she was glad Anna wasn't there. There were a lot of dead animals that the kids could look at up close. Like a dead turtle, for example.

How many kids wondered what the turtle's life was like? What lessons did they learn by gazing upon this deceased individual's lifeless form?

What lessons did they learn by looking at the living beings trapped behind glass?

Further Reading

After writing this post, I looked online for critiques of zoos from an animal rights perspective. The following pieces are worth taking a look at (note: I don't necessarily endorse all views expressed on the sites at the other end of these links):

Should Zoos Keep Endangered Species? by Doris Lin
What's Wrong With Zoos? by Gary Yourofsky
Zoos by Wanda Embar at Vegan Peace

UPDATE: The Animal Rights Coalition has released a statement in regard to the shooting of the wolf. You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Liam Sings Annie

I wasn't kidding about Annie. At any given point in our house you can hear a song from the movie coming from one of my kids' mouths. Liam hardly watches the movie, but he knows the songs because Anna sings them all the time. Here he is singing the medley Anna and I sang for her talent show.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Activism of the Waffle and Educational Kind

The Global Vegan Waffle Party is nearly upon us. The Animal Rights Coalition is putting it on again this year, and if it's anything like it was last year, it'll be awesome.

The event will take place from 10-12 at Fuller Park on 48th St. and Grand Ave. (indoors at the little rec center there) in Minneapolis. The Facebook invite for the par-tay is here.

But maybe you don't live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Check out the Global Vegan Waffle Party page here to see a list of parties across the world.

And check out this collage they have on their site:

Anna's there in the far upper right corner. She is now famous.

I'm of the mind that having community pot-lucks and parties like this are a great way to open people up to delicious food that doesn't involve the oppression of other animals. It's a legitimate form of activism.

Events like this also foster community within the animal rights movement, which I think is important. Almost all of us want to belong to a community of some sort. The reason for that (at least in this instance) is not to insulate ourselves from the outside world, but instead to get our bearings, get refreshed, share ideas and commune with those who have, in their own time and way, come to view the world as we have. It's not essential, but it's damn close.


Speaking of the Animal Rights Coalition, I've been volunteering for them for a while now and I keep meaning to write about how I came to do that, but never get around with it. I won't it in this post, either. But soon...


After the waffle party, I'm co-facilitating a workshop called Help! I'm going vegan! with Dallas Rising, ARC's program director. We've done this once before and it went really well.

So now we're doing it again as part of ARC's Vegan University program, which includes these workshops, grocery tours and ongoing mentorship for new vegans and people who are transitioning to veganism.

Cool logo, huh? 'Like' the Vegan University page here if you've been wanting to find the vegan you.

The workshop will be on May 28th from 1-3 at Ethique Nouveau, ARC's store where all proceeds from sales go directly into their animal advocacy programs.

Anyway, this is the type of volunteering that I simply adore: Helping people go vegan. If I could do nothing but this all day (when I'm not taking care of my kids and cooking, going out with my wife, etc.) I totally would.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Talent Show

The talent show at Anna's school was on Friday. Here's our number:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Art and Annie

First of all, this blog now has a Facebook page. You can click here and like it if you want. I'll mainly use  that page for linking to these blog posts as well as to other things related to veganism, parenting and vegan parenting.

All right, now on to the art. 

Anna has produced a lot of art this year at school. We have kept most of it, recycled very little. I was going through it all with her the other day and picked out some of my favorites to scan in.

I really like the color and composition of these first two. She started doing things like this half-way through the school year. She was talking about missing us while she was at school and we suggested that she could draw us pictures when she feels sad about it. I can't remember if that's what these two are about, but here they are anyway. 

Here's one of our family. Left to right: Daddy, Anna, Mommy, Liam. This is an earlier one, I think. She's now adding big boxes on the arms and legs for clothing. 

Here is a page full of hearts (I think she said it was a hundred hearts, but I counted and it's more like 120). She said, "This is how much I love you."

Here is Venus and Outer Space. The word "venus" is written in there, but it's hiding. You could always click on the photo to view it larger if you really want to see it.

And last but not least: Annie. Anna has become obsessed with Annie. She loves the movie and the music. She sings it all day long. Hell, I sing it all day long. We have become an Annie family. When Anna draws pictures now, sometimes she'll sign them "Annie," and laugh hysterically when she shows us what she did. She loves Annie so much that this Friday, at her school's talent show, her and I are going to perform an Annie medley duet. I'll post video on the blog, assuming all goes well. This will be her first time singing in front of an audience.

Wish us to break a leg!

Oh yeah, she added hearts to this drawing. Because really, what's anything without hearts? Also, the writing there on the right says "4 and she turned 5," which is something that her little head just came up with and wanted to write down. Cool, huh? 

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Jen (my wife) had this great idea last fall. She thought that the kids would be playing less outside once the snow started flying, so she bought a trampoline. The kids love it. Their mom is super smart.

So here are a couple videos involving the trampoline. The first is Anna doing a routine that she and Jen worked out. The music is from Yo Gabba Gabba, here.

I know this video pretty dark, but you get the gist.

And here's a video of them flipping over the safety bar. Isn't it great how kids do that? Take something that's meant to make things safer and use it to make it more dangerous?

This flipping business was Liam's idea. I just looked over one day and he was flipping over the bar. I, of course, encouraged more flipping.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anna's First Correction of "It"

So Anna's starting to read. It's really exciting.

Yesterday she was reading a Biscuit book, which are early reading books about a dog, Biscuit, who does things and says "Woof!" (I should write ad copy for children's books.) The one she was reading had a frog hopping on a log.

"The frog hopped on the log," she read and turned the page.

"It was..." she stopped, "Wait, that shouldn't say 'it,' it should say 'he.' I'm going to change it. He was hot on top of the log."

I told her she's right that we shouldn't refer to animals as "it", but corrected the change in this specific instance, since it was analogous to saying, "It's hot outside." The "it" in the book referred to the temperature of the log, not the frog. (Yes, she understood. And yes, I'm the son of an English teacher.)

But still, I'm pleased to see that she's understanding that animals aren't "its" and that they are, in fact, "hes" and "shes," or if you're unsure, "hes or shes," or the always generic but useful "theys."

I have, of course, talked to her about this subject before. If we lived in a world that didn't use words like "it" to describe sentient individuals, I wouldn't have to talk with her about it. But we do. So I do.

When I read a book that refers to an animal as "it" I will change the word to either "he" or "she" often without mentioning that I'm doing it. She knows that I do it though, because I will occasionally tell her when I make the change.

I will also change, for example, a mention of eggs (if they're being eaten by someone) to tofu. Again, I don't mention it to her every time I do it, but I have told her that I do it and I've explained that I change the words because I don't think the way it's written is nice to animals.

The time will come pretty soon when she will know exactly when I do this, and soon after that she'll read them on her own, and she'll realize just how many of her books refer to animals in this way. She may be surprised or dismayed, but I doubt it. She's very used to being the only vegan in a situation (for example, her class at school) and she knows full well that most people aren't vegan. She seems to be comfortable with those facts (though if you ask her, she'll tell you that she'd like everyone to be vegan).

She probably gets that from her dad.

Anyway, to make this long story shorter, she hasn't even fully learned to read yet and she's already correcting speciesist language. Go vegan kids!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Veggie Nugget #34

"Some people feel threatened by the prospect that in recognizing and upholding the dignity of other living beings, we betray our own dignity as a species. It should rather be asked how the human species gains dignity by creating worlds such as this for anyone to live in. Can one regard a fellow creature as a property item, an investment, a piece of meat, an "it," without degenerating into cruelty and dishonesty towards that creature? Human slavery was brutal. Does anyone really believe that nonhuman slavery operates on a higher plane?"

Karen Davis, from her book Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (REVISED ED)

(Note: I would make a few cents or something if you bought this book on Amazon by clicking on that link. If you would like me to not make money on your purchase of this book (and seriously, I'm totally OK with that) just go to Amazon via a different route and buy it that way.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Squirrel: Episode III

Well, the squirrel was released last Thursday, thus bringing the saga to an end, at least as far as I'm concerned. For all I know, he has a few years left of being a squirrel.

My friend Threse, who volunteers at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota and was nice enough to coordinate his release with me, took this photo of the squirrel shortly before his release. 

Looks way healthier than when I saw him a month ago. 

Here's video of the release. Anna got to watch. Liam was taking a nap. 

So yeah, I'm thinking of donating and/or volunteering at the WRC at some point in the near future. Seems like a place full of hope. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A ... video! And Pictures. And another video.

It seems like it's been a while since I've posted a video of the kids. Here you go.

In it, they talk about our upcoming trip to North Dakota to celebrate their youngest cousin's first birthday. Then they sing. Then we talk about the gash in Liam's lip, which he got when he fell down at an indoor playground. I didn't see it happen, but I assume his upper teeth cut into his lower lip. There was blood everywhere. He was playing again about 20 minutes later.

The Kids Talk and Sing and Stuff from Al Nowatzki on Vimeo.

Here are some photos of Liam's lip, just because.

I swear, I did not tell him to make this face.

Or this one.

Liam thought that since I was taking photos of him, he should get a blanket out and lay down on it. Then he asked me to take photos of him lying on the blanket. I obliged. 

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the squirrel I brought in to the rehabilitation center is going to be released this Thursday. Possibly photos and/or video to come.

Bonus video:

Rock and Roll! from Al Nowatzki on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Squirrel Update

I received an email from my friend who works at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in regard to the squirrel I brought in last Friday. It turns out that my completely random guess at his gender was correct. He's a boy. She said that there was an abcess on his back that was drained. The redness I thought I saw on his hands turned out to be nothing. She also said:
I looked in on him and he was lying in his hammock and growled at me. Good sign.
I'm cautiously optimistic that as long as the antibiotics do what they should, this case will have a positive outcome.


The WRC actually had an open house this last Sunday. Anna and I went. Upon arrival Anna got to pick out an "injured" stuffed animal and take it through the various steps an animal would go through when they  are treated.

She picked out a duck. It had a fractured leg and wing. We went to radiology and saw what an x-ray of a fractured leg would look like, had a bandage put on the ducks wing, made a quick visit to parasitology to rid it of fleas and such and finally brought  the duck to the ward to get it all set up in a cage.

I really hate that word. Cage. But that's what they are. And I explained to Anna that the cages are there so that the people at WRC can help the animals heal and eventually be released to their home. I also told her that the animals may not realize that, so they might be scared of the cage and of the people trying to help.

Anna decided to call them kennels instead.

We watched a slide-show about how the place works and it showed the various animals they rehabilitate. Whenever the presenter would say how many animals they take in (for example, something like 2,000 rabbits, if I remember correctly) Anna would say, "Wow, that's a lot!"

I agree with her. That is a lot. They take in thousands of animals every year, rehabilitate those they can and give a painless death to those who don't have a chance of making it. I feel lucky to have this place in my backyard.

Oh, and we didn't get to see any of the animals currently being rehabilitated there, because of an agreement that the WRC has with the DNR. As much as I wanted to see them all, it makes sense. That many people walking around would scare most of them, and it's not really the intent of the WRC to showcase live animals. It makes me respect them even more.

My friend at the WRC said she'll let me know when they release the squirrel, and they'll do it right where I found him. There's no way to know how long the rehabilitation will take, but when he's released I'll post another update, hopefully with photos of the little guy running back home.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Life I Did Save

I saved a squirrel today.

Well, I don't know for sure that I saved him. He may have lived without my help, but it didn't look like things were going that way. And I'm not sure of the gender, but in my head the squirrel is a "him," so that's what I'm going with until I find out differently.

Anna carpools to school with our neighbor. It was their turn to drive, so I watched Anna as she crossed the street, but then I looked down toward my neighbor's house and there they were, Anna's friend and her mom, standing on the street with a cat and a squirrel.

It's important to note that the squirrels in the Twin Cities are not fans of humans. When my wife and I were in San Francisco, at Golden Gate Park, squirrels walked right up to us, stood on their hind legs and basically begged for food. I assume it's like that in some other metropolitan areas as well. But not in the TC. Squirrels cannot run fast enough from humans. If I look in my backyard in the summer, I'll usually see a couple squirrels running around, but when I go out there with the kids, they are nowhere to be seen. So it's a big deal that this squirrel was just walking slowly around two humans on the road.

I walked over there with Anna and checked it out. The cat was just following the squirrel around. Not swatting at him or trying to eat him, as far as I could tell. She was just watching, probably weirded out as we were by the fact that he wasn't running away.

The squirrel seemed to be limping a bit, and after a while we noticed that his hands (or at least one of them) were swollen and red and he had a large lump on his back. Anna and her friend got really close to him and I was worried about rabies, what with our bat experience in the fall. (Holy crap! I forgot to write about our bat experience! I should totally do that.) I suggested they stay a bit further away, but I couldn't blame them for wanting to get close. He was cute and squirrels always run away. Hell, I even wanted to pet the little guy. But instead I ran to my house, got our recycling bin and a piece of an apple. (Do squirrels eat apples? I don't know.)

I was sort of expecting him to run away from me when I approached, but he just sat in the middle of the road and didn't move a muscle. I put the bin on its side on the road and asked him nicely to get in. He didn't. So I moved it right up to him and gave him a gentle pat on the butt with my boot. He crawled in and cowered in the corner. He didn't make an attempt to climb out or anything.

The cat watched all of this from the side of the road.

I brought him into my porch and gave him a little piece of bread, just in case he wanted some carbs. He just huddled in the corner of the bin, scared shitless.

He almost didn't even look like a squirrel to me, he was so still. I went inside and called the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. They said to bring him in, so I did.

On the way there, I kept glancing in the rearview mirror at the recycling bin, scared of two things happening:

1. The squirrel dies en route.
2. The squirrel, refreshed by the heat in the vehicle, jumps out of the recycling bin and starts tearing shit up.

Luckily, neither of these happened. I brought him into the WRC, they said they'd take a look at him. While I was there a woman came in with a box. "Squirrel?" I asked. "Duck," she said. I filled out a form and left.

Here's how I felt: Heroic.

You'll hear vegans say they save lives just by being vegan, but that's not really accurate. We reduce demand, but that doesn't mean there are animals on farms who won't be killed because of someone's vegan choices. Instead, the reduction in demand that vegans create would ideally cause a lessening in demand, thus lessening the amount of animals bought into existence for the sole purpose of being used as a resource. Unfortunately, animal consumption is still on the rise, so the 1% or so of the US population who are vegan don't actually create a net reduction in animals brought into existence for the sole purpose of being used as a resource. It's less of more of the same, instead of less of an equal amount of the same.

I don't feel, on a day to day basis, like I'm saving lives. And I'm not. So bringing this squirrel in has created a much different feeling in me. I'd imagine it's similar to what those involved in open rescues feel when they free animals from farms. "You were going to suffer and die, but because of my actions, you have a much better chance at living a longer life with less suffering."

It's gratifying and alluring. I also feel that it's also sort of ... I don't know. If we're serious about respecting animal interests, then I think the best thing we could do right now is to challenge speciesism on a daily basis with our every-day actions. If we want to built a serious movement, then we need to show that a life without animal exploitation is possible and help people to take the view that animals are moral persons to whom we have obligations, chiefly among them the obligation to not use them as as resources.

This is not to say open rescues and wildlife rehabilitation aren't important. Indeed, to the lives they save, they are the most important thing (since they result in the lessening of suffering and the continuation of life). I guess I'm just trying to say that as long as we live in a society which so routinely devalues non-human animals and treats them as things instead of beings, we probably need to place most of our focus on educating others that, as Joanna Lucas from Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary (an organization that saves lives and educates the public on veganism) has said, "The value of a sentient life is not measured in its utility to others, but in its immense, irreplaceable value to the being whose life it is."

Another angle of thought that this all brings up: I've had a problem in the past with fully supporting wildlife rehabilitation. There's a part of me which thinks that if a wild (or to use a term more accurate: free living) animal is harmed, then that's just part of the life cycle and some predator somewhere will be better off for it. I have felt that by interfering, even to save these animals, we potentially harm ecosystems.

But those thoughts sort of flew out the window when I saw this little squirrel who was obviously injured. I just wanted him to be OK.

I brought this point up to one of the people at the WRC and asked her how she felt about it. She said that there are cases where it's obvious that we shouldn't interfere. She said someone once brought in a mouse that she saved from a hawk who was attacking him/her. But, she said, when a rabbit is hit by a car, or a squirrel is injured by a cat (which may well have been the case with the squirrel I brought in), the injury is due to our interference. By trying to save these animals, we're negating a very small portion of harmful effects our presence has already created.

Because we kill squirrels all the time. About four years ago I ran over one with my car. I can still feel the crunch of his bones. Last year a squirrel died after falling into our chimney. I still remember the smell of death when a nice man came out to remove the carcass (we found out about it because we heard a grinding noise when we turned on our furnace ... and yes, I've since wrapped chicken wire around our chimney). We're responsible for so much unintentional harm to animals. When we have the opportunity to save one of those animals, even when we don't know how they arrived at the injured state they're in, I say go for it. 

I'm even thinking of keeping a box in my car in case I come across any more injured free-living non-human animals. 

And in case you're wondering, I'll post an update on the blog once I find out how the squirrel is doing. I hope to know next week. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I was explaining to Anna why we don't call an animal an "it" today and I said something like, "This pepper grinder is a thing, so we say 'it' when we're talking about it. But a dog, let's say Bonnie [our friend's dog], we know that she's a girl and she has a brain so she's a she and not an it. She's a ..."

"She's a being," Anna said.

I don't remember defining "being" for her, but I must have a long time ago. Anyway, I just got a kick out of it. I actually wanted to say being, but wasn't sure if she would know what that meant and if it would lead into another ten minutes of explaining concepts. Not that I don't love those conversations. I do. But it was almost nap time.