On Thanksgiving, What’s a Vegan to Do?

It’s the day after Election Day, and relationships are already under stress. Yet now, as much as ever, we need to come together, organizing for a mental shift in humanity. We’d have had to anyway, no matter whose team won and whose lost. Keep cultivating at the local level, and on the level of what’s most important to sustaining this Earth.

This is also a time of traditional family convocations, and I’ll bet not one will be untouched by the political chaos swirling around us. It’s a good time to find safe moorings, refresh our souls, and prepare for the work ahead.

If you are vegan, may you feel the support of vegan friends. If you are not yet with us, consider your personal potential to come together and crowdsource a refusal to war any more on the bio-community, or to war against or wall off “other” human beings and nations.

I’m not much of a YouTuber, but with a little urging from friends, I decided to have a go at making a vegan-to-vegan message. It’s dedicated especially to you who are just becoming vegan during an unprecedented meeting of environmental and social turbulence. I hope you find meaning in this video, and feel free to share it.

Finding Your Vegan Tribe: Some Practical Tips

Lydia and Mauro of From A to Vegan have some good suggestions for this post. They suggest we host vegan dinners, inviting vegan and vegan-supportive friends and family members to the gatherings.

And look to the Internet to find festive vegan get-togethers in your area on Meetup.com. In some areas, you might find none, but that just means you’ll need to start one and invite those hidden vegans out of the closet and into your circle.

Get together and share some new recipes (and feel empowered to share yours right here, in the comment field).

Here is a recipe for Cashew Nut Roast that Robin Lane gave me when I became vegan. It appears in the cookbook Dining With Friends (used copies available for a penny on Amazon at the moment).

Holiday Cashew Nut Roast

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1/2 pound cashew pieces
4 ounces of brown rice
6 ounces of rye toast crumbs—including caraway seeds, or a dash of celery seed.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large, ripe tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons brewer’s yeast
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of lemon (preferably freshly squeezed)
Dash of ground pepper

Preparation:

Cook rice until tender; grind cashews. (This can easily be done by hand by carefully running a rolling pin or jar over bagged nuts.)

Chop onion and garlic finely and heat in oil until they are slightly brown; chop and add one of the tomatoes; simmer until soft and add the broth.

Combine all of the above ingredients and press into two 9-by-5-by-2 1/2 -inch loaf pans or glass round pie baking dishes. Slice second tomato and use to decorate top, then bake for 30 minutes or a bit longer at 350 degrees F / 175 C.

You can share the Cashew Nut Roast as a main dish, or as a side dish as an alternative to bready stuffing.

Here is my serving suggestion. I’ll be making this one for the tribe.


Banner photo source: CheepShot, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Nursing the Bio-Community

The International Council of Nurses represents 16 million nurses.icn code of ethics for nurses Recently my friend Brenda Trerice, a retired RN, directed my attention to their Code of Ethics—a guide for action based on social values and needs.The Code has served as the standard for nurses worldwide since its first adoption in 1953.

Its Point #3 (on page 4) states:

The nurse practices to sustain and protect the natural environment and is aware of its consequences on health.

Brenda senses a connection between this ethical tenet and animal-liberation philosophy; but explains:

Yet articulating it requires such subtlety so that one discovers then starts to make more connections on their own via their own psyche (memories, experiences, observations, resolution of dilemmas) so the choice is made in full consciousness for all time. Of all the health professionals, I think it is nurses who could grasp this philosophy easier than most others.

Why nurses? Because the nursing orientation is holistic. The individual is perceived as an integrated whole having biological, psychological, social, and, depending on the individual, spiritual aspects—not simply a disease or body part.  It is a mere leap across a gap, the connecting of a nerve synapse, to understand whole and health in the larger sense: the Earth and all inhabitants. Veganism is holistic.   

Earth’s atmosphere sustains all living beings within it. No animal is meant to live forever, nor to escape pain. Yet all require nurturing, nourishment, and balance. All of our lives are placed in danger by the degradation of Earth’s surface features, by mass extinction events, by climate disruption. Each factor alone will unravel life; it’s a matter of time.

So to step back and regard the big picture means to understand human health as existing within the sanity of nature.

Animal agribusiness work as a health risk

A porcine pairBreeding animals and keeping them in confinement (shooing away predators and taking up land for feed crops as we do it) constitutes a practice in opposition to the natural world.

And the placements of animal confinement, and slaughter sites as workplaces, affects vulnerable human populations.

At Vegstock in September, I noted a Johns Hopkins public health study cited by Dr. Ana Negrón indicating that half of the population of slaughter workers test positive for campylobacter. And then there’s the rate of amputations in the industry. While nonhuman lives are commodified completely in animal agribusiness, the arena is and will always be inhumane to humans who must work in it.

Animal farming’s climate impact as a health risk

Everything depends on climate. Plants are losing the conditions that support them. By 2100, some tropical regions are predicted to have 200 fewer growing days a year. The health and nutrition impacts remain to be seen, but how could they not be harrowing?

And consider what’s happening to untamed animal communities as climate zones shift and native plants stop growing in their habitats.

Climate change is complex; but the major role played by animal agribusiness is now well known, and it is connected to massive fossil fuel use. We keep releasing stored carbon dioxide (through transport and electric refrigeration) and disrupting Earth’s capacity to Slide22store it (by cutting down trees to enable both grazing and growing feed crops). We’re releasing methane into the atmosphere (in significant part, though our domesticated animals, mostly cows).

Animal manure is a major source of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide too.

More to explore

I’m making the connection with animal agribusiness, the health risks plaguing people in animal husbandry and slaughter, and the health of our biosphere. I haven’t made any eating-related health claims; I’ll leave that to the people in the medical field.

There is still much more to explore: the ethic that addresses our duty of care for the animals we domesticated, and to the untamed Earth that’s habitat for animals who could still live free; and how we would nurture a developing humanity that sustains and protects the natural environment and the conscious lives moving within it.

But to start: Should the International Council of Nurses take a broad view of health—situating it in its actual context, which is the planet’s whole biological community? Tokyo Ariake University on Slideshare.net - International Council of Nurses and the Contribution of Nursing Students

Here (PDF) is the International Council of Nurses 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. Those who implement such plans are not guided here, at least not in any concrete ways, to come to grips with the Council’s longtime ethical commitment to sustain and protect the natural environment and promote awareness of its consequences on health. Can the Council, in a time of environmental crises, neglect these issues?

Deer and the Simplicity Principle

Yesterday an op-ed piece I wrote ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sharing it on Facebook, Harold Brown observed that the best answer to a problem—in this case, the claim that suburban Philadelphia has too many deer—can be right in front of us all along.

Letting the indigenous deer be and at the same time enabling coyotes and bobcats, their natural predators, to live and thrive is the simple, environmentally obvious response; yet reporters, policymakers (including the author of Valley Forge Park’s Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan), and people who type into Internet comment fields have all used the term reintroduction of predators as though something complicated would have to be done. Coyotes and bobcats are already here. It’s strange how one can write this plainly—coyotes and bobcats are already here—and people will still react, time and time again, to the idea of reintroduction, which is not being proposed.

One of the e-mail messages I received in response to the column came from an It's their home. Let them roamInquirer reader who says it’s infeasible to have coyotes “used for animal control” because they are “aggressive and hard to control…” It seems this reader got the idea of an extermination firm coming in with a trained pack of coyotes.

Respecting the balance of communities in habitats is a simple idea, a common-sense concept. When it comes to respecting nature, people appear to lean heavily to making the most simple answer seem the most complex.