The Truth Behind The Cute Chick Pics

chick from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 frannie60, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

 

Apologies for the title – I figured it would make for good SEO. Though I guess it may not exactly attract quality traffic!

As I’m sure you’re aware, social media, blog posts and real life are rife right now with images of cute, yellow, fluffy chicks. A symbol of Easter, spring, and new life, you cannot go through March and April without seeing them somewhere. We ‘awwww’ at them and fantasise about having the chick in front of us for real so we can pet it. Of course we find them adorable as all hell. Who doesn’t?

Try the egg industry.

Quite apart from the wretched life that egg-laying hens have; to the people who produce your morning boiled eggs, baby male chicks are just a by-product. As they will never be egg-layers, it is not profitable to keep them, and they are not good for meat. So what happens to them? Usually one of three things. They are either gassed to death; put into a meat grinder alive; or they are put in a dumpster, all on top of each other so they suffocate.

(This vid isn’t too graphic, but of course it’s not pleasant)

This happens if the eggs are battery, free-range, cage-free and even organic.

Worldwide, billions of male chicks are killed each year in this manner.

Happy Easter from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 The 5th Ape, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Look, I don’t want to point fingers here, or poop all over Easter. Most people don’t know aboutthis – it’s not exactly advertised, so I am not judging those who eat eggs, and not calling anyone out as a hypocrite. My goal here is to reveal the bigger picture to those of us who haven’t seen it, so we can make more informed choices.

Doesn’t is seem nonsensical that we pay (through the money we spend when we buy eggs) for the needless slaughter of billions of chicks every year; yet at Easter we love looking at pictures of them, or even buying fluffy toy chicks for our Easter tables?

Happy Easter in 66 Different Languages - EXPLORE from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Karen Roe, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Also, would we let this happen to kittens or puppies?

Of course as a vegan, I think all animal slaughter is unnecessary. But even though I am used to reading about the cruelty inflicted on ‘food’ animals, and even though I’ve seen my fair share of slaughterhouse footage, the sheer volume of life killed as a waste product in the egg industry has me reeling.

And the mental image of someone gushing over a baby chick pic on Twitter this week, while eating their breakfast boiled egg or omelette, makes me crazy. Not because this person is being hypocritical – you can only be hypocritical if you KNOW the fate of baby male chicks and go ahead and gush at the photo anyway. It makes me crazy because this mass slaughter is just not widely known, and therefore the irony is not realized by many.

Isn’t it better to make a choice whether to eat a product or not based on all the information?

Of course we should enjoy any photos of baby chicks that come across our paths in the days to come; it’s a fun and beautiful time of year. But let’s just have no illusions about the destiny that many of them face.

 

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How To Navigate Christmas As A New Vegan

A Safe,Happy and Prosperous New Year to All from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Stratford, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Does it seem like it’s Christmas every frickin’ six weeks or is that just me?

It’s just such a lot of….well…bother!

Am I the Grinch?

*sigh* …Probably.

If this is your first (or one of your first) vegan Christmases; you may have a few concerns about how time spent with family and friends is going to pan out in light of your food choices.

It’s true that Christmas CAN sometimes present new vegans with a particular set of dilemmas.

I hope I’ve covered most of them here:

 

How do you navigate non-vegan family dinners?

I wrote a pretty comprehensive piece on this last year. Hope it helps!

 

As a vegan, should you even ATTEND non-vegan family dinners?

This is totally your call.

You are no less vegan if you do.

I get that it might be upsetting for some people, but it can also be an opportunity to wow the fam with some gorge food you made to bring and share.

A big obstacle to people going vegan is that they think the food will be boring and bland, so this can be an opportunity to prove to skeptical animal-munchers that the opposite is true.

 

If YOU are hosting Christmas, should you offer non-vegan food options?

In my opinion? Hell no. Your house = your prerogative. Why would you compromise your values?

However, you MUST offer lots of amazing plant-based food, to stop anyone whining about the fact that there’s no meat.

Look – you’re hosting – so you’re gonna be committed to a certain amount of kitchen time in any case. Try and find some extra-spesh, beautiful looking dishes that will excite the eyes and taste buds of even the grizzliest meat-eater.

Good food is good food. If it tastes great – they’ve got nothing to complain about!

I found some pretty cool ideas here and here.

 

What do you do if someone buys you a non-vegan gift?

Hmmmm. I have to say I think I would just be gracious about this.

It’s a gift. Their intention was good.

If you say you don’t want the gift and try to explain why...I mean…I just can’t see that turning out well.

If the gift is a leather or wool product, you can always make sure that you communicate effectively during the following year that your veganism includes not wearing animal products so that people get the message and it doesn’t happen again.

As for the gift? If it’s a leather, suede or wool product, I’d probably give it to a charity shop. It’s already been bought – and it can’t just dissolve or evaporate – so it may as well not go to waste.

If it’s a non-vegan food gift?

This one is difficult. Personally I couldn’t give it to some else – because I know how harmful animal products are health-wise and I couldn’t give to anyone else what I wouldn’t eat myself.

On the odd occasion when someone has unwittingly bought me non-vegan chocolate, it’s actually just stayed in my cupboard until its gone bad, such is my cluelessness about what to do in this situation.

Sorry!

 

How do you make vegan mince-pies

BLEEEEEEEEECCHHHH! I can help you go vegan and blow your mind with a ton of insights and inspiration to help you STAY vegan, but I cannot tell you how to make a vegan mince pie.

I always HATED those things and found them disGUSting. What even IS that mince shizzle made from?

I really don’t know.

I do not have the mince pie gene.

I found this recipe, if it helps, but I have not tried it and have no intention of doing so, so I can’t tell you if it’s good. Looks pretty legit though, if you like that sort of thing…

 

Is it ok to buy friends and family vegan cookbooks?

I say yes – if it’s a great quality cookbook. If it has lots of mouthwatering pics and engaging recipes, why not? Like I said in a previous point – good food is good food, and a good cookbook is a good cookbook, vegan or no.

 

What do you leave for Santa by the chimney/back door?

Um, a glass of almond or soy milk and some vegan cookies? We don’t want Santa to eat saturated fat and cholesterol and die of a heart attack or diabetes-related complications do we boys and girls?

And not meaning to fat-shame Santa, but he’s portly enough already if truth be told 🙂

 

I wish you all a relaxing and joyful holiday period, whatever you’re doing. And don’t forget, any rubbish presents – regift or repurpose 🙂

 

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So You’re The Only Vegan At The Holiday Table This Year? Don’t Sweat It!

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Is this year the first time you’re going to be the only plant-based type at family or friends festive* gatherings?

Don’t worry about a single goshdarned thing, I’ve got your back.

Follow this vegan protocol (I mean, it’s not official, I just made it up, but it is based on my experience and those of the gazillion vegan podcasters I’ve listened to over the years!) and you won’t go wrong. Or hungry.

Pick out whatever you think is appropriate from these ideas.

 

  • What can you do before the event?

Prevention is better than cure – in ANY context. So plan ahead.

Now you may be lucky and be going to eat with family and friends who have you covered and will be making vegan food options for you. If so; great. And what great people to have in your life.

If there is a chance you may not be catered for, then you need to sort this. It’s your Christmas too, and you don’t want to be hungry while others are filling their bellies with alacrity. And turkey.

It’s a great idea to call the host a few days before the meal, to give them time to organise something. Tell them you weren’t sure if they were aware that you’re vegan, and that you don’t want anyone to go to any particular trouble, and that you will happily bring a dish or two to share.

One of two things will happen then:

  1. Your host may well insist that you don’t need to do this and assure you that they will furnish you with enough food and will enjoy rising to the challenge of creating some plant-based dishes. This is obviously the preferred outcome! And happily, it’s most likely the one you’ll get. Lots of people, while not vegan, are interested in health issues and have some kind of sensibility towards cooking with plant-based ingredients, and will have the will and ingenuity to create something tasty for you. I’d even bet this covers most people. I’m thinking of the times I’ve been to dinner with even my least vegan friends; they’ve ALWAYS stepped up and made a delicious meal for me. I’ve never gone hungry. I would say the chances are 90% that your host will respond thus. If they do, I know you’ll be gracious, and don’t forget to remind them that lots of Christmas sides (sprouts, roast potatoes and parsnips) are vegan anyway if they are not made with butter.
  2. Your host may be confused as to what vegan means and ask lots of questions and not seem confident on the subject. Explain as sweetly as you can what vegan entails. Again, remind them that lots of side dishes are vegan or easily veganised, and say you’ll bring a couple of dishes to share so they needn’t worry. Yes, I agree, it can be a pain having to make the dishes – and why the hell should you when nobody else has to? They can just go along and snarf whatever is put in front of them. It’s not fair, is it? However, being vegan, you are the lucky one. You are the one who possesses the ability to be a discerning, independent thinker. You are the one that was enlightened on the health and environmental benefits of this lifestyle, and it’s you that gets to live in alignment with your core values of compassion every day – it’s your duty to spread the light! So, suck it up, get online, find a couple of dishes, and get cracking. I know you can do it! If you’re not too confident a cook, just keep it simple. Don’t try and be showy if it’s not your thing just because it’s Christmas. Good, simple food is often the best.  I know that even in pre-vegan days, I actually never liked the rich and heavy nature of Christmas food; I’d have loved a bean salad or a tabbouleh. I’m sure lots of people are the same way. Here are a ton of ideas to inspire you.

You may well find that your dishes go down a storm and there’s not much left for you. Here comes another important tip:

Whether your host has said they’ll totally cater to your vegan needs, or if you’re bringing food yourself – ALWAYS have a couple of nut bars (or other pocket-size snacks) to hand.

Because..

Some folks seem to initially understand what vegan means, but don’t really, so you may get to your gathering and the host who seemed to get what you were talking about previously has, in fact, laced everything with butter, thinking you were just vegetarian.

And sometimes, the dishes you bring might be so popular you might not get much of a look in. This is great, you want to show that vegan food is just food – that everyone can enjoy it, but some omni’s (thankfully very few, most people are considerate) don’t get that these are the only dishes you’ll eat, while they are helping themselves to a whole heap of animal foods too.

So, keep something in your pocket or bag for emergencies. It’s really VERY unlikely you’ll need it, truly, but just in case.

 

  • What do you do if someone starts asking you questions at the table about why you’re vegan?

You will have to gauge this yourself by the dynamic at the table. It’s always great if there’s an opportunity to advocate and share the reasons why a person would want to choose compassion and health, and the Christmas table is no exception. Cruelty doesn’t doesn’t stop for Christmas, in fact it’s ramped up to overdrive with all the turkey, pigs and game that are killed specifically for the festivities. But you don’t want to talk about cruelty to turkeys while people are eating turkey. The idea is never to make people feel like instant total crap. You want to just plant a seed and get them to think for themselves.

Answer genuine questions truthfully but briefly. For example: you can just say that you’re vegan for all the ethical, health and environmental reasons and leave it at that. If a particular person is pressing you for more info, tell them you’d be more than willing to chat to them about it after dinner. Make sure you follow up on it. If they were genuinely interested at dinner, they’ll still be interested later. You never know what might come of this. You may inspire this person to consider the impact of their food choices, and next year there could be two vegans at the table!

 

  • What do you do when old uncle F***wit says ‘...but if God didn’t mean us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat? Hahahahaha ‘ and everyone else laughs at how funny old uncle F***wit is?

Yes, this is annoying. But you know, if old uncle F***wit wasn’t having a dig at you, he’d be having a dig at someone else. It’s you this time because you’re the one at the table that’s different. And his name is old uncle F***wit for goodness sake, don’t even worry about him. And people laugh just to be polite when other people are trying to be funny.

So what do you do? Eyeroll by all means. You can even do an Oscar-worthy eyeroll. But do it with a smile and then move on. Console yourself with this fact – he’ll be the one with the rip-roaring indigestion later, not you 🙂

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Enjoy your holidays, whatever you’re doing, and always show how much you are enjoying the food (whether your hosts creations or your own). You never know whose curious mind might be working overtime and be interested in following your compassionate, healthy, planet-loving, plant-based lead!

 

* I realised I was a little late for Hanukkah so I wrote this post with Christmas in mind, but the advice is universal and absolutely applies to any holiday feast.

 

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Vegan and Still Want a Tra-dish Festive Meal? Here’s How (With Some Modern Ideas Thrown In!)

I guess a vegan Christmas never fazed me because I NEVER liked ‘Christmas food.’ Even in my pre- plant-based days; mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, turkey, pigs in blankets etc, left me cold. They were way too rich for my taste. I would have happily celebrated with a curry or a chilli!

Thankfully, we are all different, and I realise some of you might be wondering how to have a healthful, plant-based Christmas, while keeping all the traditional flavours and textures associated with the season.

My partner, too, loves the stodge and richness of Christmas nosh, so over the years we have reached a compromise.

I thought I’d share some of our Christmas meal plan – in case anyone else is in the same position.

I will normally volunteer to make a light starter (see what I did there? Picked the easiest thing – hee). We’ll both take care of the ‘Christmassy’ main dish, and he will make a seasonal (but not necessarily ‘Christmassy’) dessert.

I haven’t decided what to make for this years starter, but last years was so delicious I may just repeat that – Artichoke with lemon dipping sauce. Easy – boil the artichokes; throw all the sauce ingredients together, done!

For the last few years we have had Tofurkey as a main course. Tofurkey has been available in the US for years, and I know there are mixed opinions about it there. It hasn’t been available in the UK all that long. I think this is our 4th year of buying it (from Whole Foods) and we are still quite chuffed that this option even exists!

I never liked turkey, but I quite like this. It is obviously meant to replicate a stuffed turkey, but I think it tastes better. It is moist, and has a pleasant, chewy texture. The stuffing is delightfully herby and is made with wild rice and whole wheat breadcrumbs. The gravy that comes with it is hands-down delicious, and really makes the whole thing taste rich and decadent. The ingredients are as healthy as they could be, with wholegrains used wherever possible and absolutely minimal crap. Pretty impressive.

We roast lots of parsnips, sweet potatoes and white potatoes in with it, just as you would a turkey, and steam some greens.

Tofurkey is also available in Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium and Singapore, see their website for details.

There are alternatives in the US, Field Roasts Celebration Roast for one, but I can’t speak for this as I’ve never tried it. Perhaps someone who has could review it in the comments?

My partner will make a pecan pie for dessert. There are lots of vegan recipes for pecan pie, but some are waaay complicated, with a billion ingredients, and others are too spartan, aimed at the ‘raw’ crowd. The one I’ve linked to is a good balance between the two.

We will no doubt be snarfing chocolate over the holidays – these chocolate buttons are from Montezuma, and are incredible. They are dark chocolate but not at all bitter – I’ve given them to kids and they love them too.

Something lovely to sip when you return from your brisk Christmas day walk? Try vanilla maple chai. You will need:

-1 cup Yogi Chai (or any brand available, except Oregon Chai – this is too sweet already)

-1 cup vanilla soy milk

-Maple syrup to taste.

Heat everything up in a saucepan, pour into mugs, sprinkle cinnamon on top! Lean back in a chair, sip chai and say aaaaah!

You will not want for taste, luxury and decadence having a plant-based Christmas!

 

Wishing you a joyous, restful and delicious Christmas!

 

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