Vegan foods reviewed – part 5

I’m actually finding that my intake of faux dairy and mock-meat products goes in waves depending on my mood: when I feel sad or need comfort food, they get purchased in abundance; if I’m feeling good and healthy, then it’s all veggies, salads and smoothies for me! Lucky for you, I’m feeling a bit blah…so here come some omni-style treats! 🙃

We’ve got a “sour cream” show-down for you today, some meat-y snacking and a new offering from our American friends at Upton’s.

vegan-symbol

These reviews are particularly geared towards former omni eaters who are keen to have that meat or dairy favourite available as a tasty cruelty-free equivalent.

About the ratings system: Ratings are for what I consider the important elements of an appealing food product, with “Texture” being one that you might not normally see for other food reviews, but to me it is quite indicative of the success of a meat or dairy substitute. I choose “Value” over “Price” as vegan foods are generally more expensive than their meat or dairy counterparts (or rather, the latter are unreasonably and irrationally cheap given what they are) so I choose to focus on how good they are for the amount you pay.

On to today’s reviews:


** SOUR CREAM SHOWDOWN **

PRODUCT 1: TOFUTTI BETTER THAN SOUR CREAM

Type: non-dairy Sour cream
Country of origin: USA
tofutti.com

259850

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-4

vs

PRODUCT 2: GREEN VIE SOUR CREAM
Type: non-dairy Sour cream
Country of origin: Cyprus
greenviefoods.com

9415

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-4

Sadly, this will be a no-contest right off the bat when you look at the scores. When I decided to give the Green Vie a shot today, I was really expecting it to be a gloves-off, fight-to-the-finish competition between these two. I have been eating Green Vie’s cheeses and I find them good value and quite comparable to bigger, more established brands. I’ve been admittedly eating Tofutti for some time and it’s always my go-to for their sour cream and cream cheese products, but I figured there’s always opportunity to be newly wowed by competition. Today was not that day however.

Right off the bat, the Green Vie (GV) came in at over 20% more expensive than the Tofutti…I was expecting it to be extra gourmet! Tofutti is good value given that it comes from overseas and it is so tasty, but it still comes in at almost twice the dairy-equivalent price (as I’ve covered with this before, dairy is subsidised and undervalued so it’s not a totally fair comparison). Looking at the ingredients, the GV has a pretty short list and read more like it was one of their hard cheeses, which was a bit worrying.

The first thing that struck me upon opening the container was that they totally missed the boat with the texture (and have made totally false advertising on the package): it was lumpy, see-transparent and a cool-white colour – all very un-sour cream like. I didn’t care for it’s runnyness as I loaded some onto my corn chip. Sadly, the taste was equally disturbing: not so sour, quite strong coconut oil taste, and just a bit odd. I’m not sure how they missed the mark so spectacularly to be honest, unless sour cream in Cyprus is much different than North American or Australian equivalents.

The Tofutti is a very different beast. The texture is a little firmer than dairy sour cream, but if you stir it, it whips up into a super-smooth confection. Dipped with salsa on a corn chip (the way I love eating this combo), it is as near-perfect as I can recall to my dairy-eating days. It has a “sour” that isn’t simply some lemon added to the mix, but more subtle and accurate. Blobbed on top of nachos, or stirred into a mushroom stroganoff makes my tummy smile as to it’s perfect simulation for sour creamy meals. On it’s own it is also very good, though you start tasting that it’s not quite the same as the dairy version. However, I don’t recall ever eating sour cream straight from the tub so it doesn’t matter.

The verdict is quite clear: Green Vie, what’s the deal? How did things go sooo wrong?


PRODUCT: UPTON’S NATURALS – CH’EESY BACON MAC
Type: Prepared meal
Country of origin: USA
Upton’s Naturals

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-3

Bacon-Mac-Front

As I recently did my first Upton’s review, you can read a bit more in-depth background about them there, and I’ll just move into the review…

The meal comes in microwave-ready vacuum-sealed plastic pouches, one being the pre-cooked pasta (thick macaroni) and the other being the cheese and “bacon” mixture. As previously, the package says it is “2 serves” which is not true if you are a normal-sized human eating this as a main meal. It is a “just-enough” serve for one person, but I might be hungry in an hour. The $9 price point is therefore quite steep given the quantity but also the contents: seeing a simple bag of pasta and a little sachet of cheese mix and that is it made me think that this was quite a poor deal given their other products are more exotic with their ingredients. Worse yet, when I opened the sauce sachet, there were a whole 4 pieces of “bacon” and they were the colour of the sauce. Note in the product photo that there are at least double the amount of meaty red pieces. Not good Upton’s.

Flavour-wise I was not too impressed. Nutritional yeast (“nooch” as vegans tend to refer to it) is the primary ingredient and to me that is yesterday’s cheat to making something sort of “cheesy”. When I make homemade mac and cheese, I use cashews and a bundle of different ingredients to create a rich, creamy and very flavourful sauce. This one was thin, salty and too nooch-y. Even the texture failed as the sauce was a bit gritty and just not rich in that way that comfort food needs to be. Even with the obligatory ketchup drizzled atop the meal after I’d tasted it naked, it still revealed the gritty, salty side which just wasn’t satisfying.

Overall, a huge miss compared to the hit that was their Massaman Curry and the fact that both items were priced the same makes this one even more of a dud. Disappointed as I was very much looking forward to it.


PRODUCT: A&T INTERNATIONAL ROASTED VEGAN JERKY
Type: Mock meat snack
Country of origin: Taiwan
(no official site found; referring to reseller page Vegan Online)

overall-4
flavourrating-4
texturerating-5
valuerating-4

IMG_6785
When I did eat meat, I actually didn’t indulge in beef jerky all that much. I have liked hot and spicy food for many years however and that is probably what initially drew me to try this Roasted Vegan Jerky. It is made by Taiwanese company obscurely known as A&T International Soya Food and there is no official website from the Googling that I did. More than likely, that name is the distributor and their name is only in untranslated Taiwanese. Regardless, they sell the stuff at the link above if you are keen to try!

What I appreciate about this product most of all is the legitimate chewiness and fibrousness of the jerky, so it actually takes some effort to pull it apart, all the while kicking your butt with some hot chilli spices. I’ve not come across this texture simulation before in a vegan product. I like it! It’s also got a properly meaty flavour that isn’t just all hot, but also clearly a meat-like layering of taste. Thankfully, it’s not identical to the sinewy nature of dried animal muscle but it makes you work for it; if you miss that aspect of your former meat-eating days, then this will give you plenty of satisfaction.

The price is decent for what it is, albeit a small 120g packet for $5.50, but it’s a satisfying treat that does very well to simulate it’s meat-based cousin.

 


Vegan foods reviewed – part 4

I’m excited to be getting back into reviewing products, especially now that there are both so many new foods to try but also so many new vegans every day choosing a cruelty-free life! To those who might be reading, kudos to you! Even though longer-time vegans are generally good at scouring the shelves and internet for any new products, I thought I’d put my 2 cents in as well since it’s harder to find groupings of reviews in one place. Eventually I hope to make it a separate and searchable area, with links to products.

vegan-symbol

These reviews are particularly geared towards former omni eaters who are keen to have that meat or dairy favourite available as a tasty cruelty-free equivalent.

Ratings are for what I consider the important elements of an appealing food product, with “Texture” being one that you might not normally see for other food reviews, but to me it is quite indicative of the success of a meat or dairy substitute. I choose “Value” over “Price” as vegan foods are generally more expensive than their meat or dairy counterparts (or rather, the latter are unreasonably and irrationally cheap given what they are) so I choose to focus on how good they are for the amount you pay.

On to today’s reviews:


PRODUCT: FIFYA – KALE, ROCKET & WHITE BEAN DIP
Type: Snack food
Country of origin: Australia
Quality Food World

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-3

2505264-fifya-vegan-dips-kale-rocket-white-bean-250g-web
The title of this dip isn’t the most enticing you’ll come across as, on their own, none of these things are that mouth-watering items of desire. However, the way that FIFYA has combined them where the white bean becomes the creamy binding element giving it a smooth texture and the spiciness of rocket and the other flavours like pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and olive oil round out the dip in a very appealing way.

FIFYA does a variety of vegan, gluten free, preservative free dips like roasted eggplant & parsley, pumpkin & roast capsicum plus sweet potato to name a few. I intend to try them all in due time and I’m not sure how I came to try the kale one before these more obvious  choices with “roasted” veggies (my fave) given that kale is low on my veggie list (not my fave). I’m glad it happened though, as it is a satisfying dip for snacking.

The most impressive part of this dip is the flavour which is punchy and a nice balance of savoury elements, and is perfect on crackers, pita or with fresh cut veg. The texture is smooth and good, although perhaps a bit runny and lumpy as far as dips go, but it’s not a big issue. The dips represent ok value; I am not sure if it is because they are a smaller company or if by adding “vegan” onto something they can charge more, but at $2 per container more than most of their competition for ingredients that are far from exotic, $5.50 is a bit hight to pay for a 250g dip. Being 100% vegan, I will reach for it if I’m tiring of hummus but I would buy even more often if it were a bit lower in cost.


PRODUCT: CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER MASALA BURGER
Type: Burger patty
Country of origin: New Zealand
Bean Supreme

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-4

masala-burger-packaging

On first viewing of these Bean Supreme products, I find the packaging quite appealing: clean, modern and super-tasty looking food. I would be very surprised if a meat-eater would look at that image and not be seduced into trying it.

That does happen a lot with vegan foods I suspect, but the trouble is that the flavour doesn’t always match the what the image is selling. Unfortunately, even with vegans – most of whom started out as meat and dairy eaters – there is an expectation that certain foods that look a particular way will taste how we have become accustomed to them tasting. I pity the vegan product-makers who create foods with amazing flavours but someone who has a preconception might reject it simply because it doesn’t precisely match what they were expecting. Anyway, I digress…

What does that all mean with regards to Bean Supreme’s Masala Burger? Well, unfortunately the image oversells the product by a fair amount. When I first saw the raw patties, I was reminded of the ABC show The Checkout which has a segment that displays a product’s marketing photo vs what it really looks like. This was kind of the same: the patties were yellow and thinner with speckles like seeded mustard. Still, I hoped for the best and thought that as they browned they would look like the photo.

I baked them as it suggested that was a “healthier” way to prepare them, but when I took them from the oven they looked a bit anaemic, so I gave them a fast fry to brown them up. They looked better but were very dense and fairly dry compared to the juicy-looking photo. This is one of those cases where a beefy looking image was a omnivore’s nightmare, with a very-beany patty with blandish flavour. I didn’t get a sense of the intended “fragrant Indian spices” and it even was hard to dress up with some bbq sauce which I resorted to in the end.

At $8.60 for 4 patties, they weren’t the most expensive patties but they also were not that cheap, and given the competition in this category, I’d likely opt for something else before having these again.


PRODUCT: VEGANAISE
Type: No-egg mayonaise
Country of origin: USA
Follow Your Heart

overall-4
flavourrating-4
texturerating-5
valuerating-4
Organic-vegenaiseThis item has been around for awhile so it’s far from revolutionary, but it continues to be a shining example of how a vegan product can so effectively eclipse the item it is emulating.

Follow Your Heart has a lovely backstory of four vegetarian friends getting together 40 years ago to do a business that followed their ideals. You can see that there is a lot of love and successful tinkering in this product as I would say it is near-perfect. When I was an egg-eater 6+ years ago, creamy mayo had me hooked…I didn’t care for the low-quality stuff and ones that had a funny texture that was “slippery” and broke apart (like Hellmann’s) but rather liked Thomy’s very creamy and flavourful type. Vegenaise finds a good place in between flavour and texture-wise so it is as appealing as a spread as it is as a dip (the latter of which I am guilty of using it more often than anything else!).

I haven’t tried the organic version side-by-side with the regular version, so I don’t know if there is a real taste difference. I also love the garlic version which is much more aioli-like but not overly garlicky. Their byline is “better than mayo” and while I’d say that it is “as good as high-quality egg mayo” in terms of taste, the fact that it is eggless makes it far, far better.

The only thing that knocks down my score in terms of value is that I still don’t understand why there is a mark-up on vegan products when they contain no exotic ingredients (you’ll hear me harp on about this a lot 😝). At $9 per 473ml jar, it comes in 50% more expensive than gourmet egg mayos and twice as much as “regular” egg mayos. Even taking into consideration industry subsidies and economies of scale, I still think it is unnecessary to charge so much. If Follow Your Heart has been around for 40 years, they shouldn’t be considered a boutique brand anymore either.

Price rant aside, it’s one of my favourite daily-use products!

 


Vegan foods reviewed – part 3

It feels like I’ve semi-abandoned the vegan and sustainability part of this site but I’m getting back into it as I ramp up my focus on plant-based living and working.

The last products I reviewed were 5 years ago and wow, have things exploded in the vegan realm since then. The expanded range of options in every food group is impressive and exciting as the vegan movement takes hold of the world’s meat and dairy eaters. There are so many good dairy-free options now too, that I suspect even on-the-fence vegetarians might finally ditch their one last hold-out to full vegan eating!

I’ve made this page more extensive and visual, and will try to give variations on the same product type in order to truly compare the options that you have. I generally review products that have meat or dairy equivalents since otherwise they can just be called “food” since anyone can and does eat them.

vegan-symbol

These reviews are particularly geared towards former omni eaters who are keen to have that meat or dairy favourite available as a tasty cruelty-free equivalent.

Ratings are for what I consider the important elements of an appealing food product, with “Texture” being one that you might not normally see for other food reviews, but to me it is quite indicative of the success of a meat or dairy substitute. I choose “Value” over “Price” as vegan foods are generally more expensive than their meat or dairy counterparts (or rather, the latter are unreasonably and irrationally cheap given what they are) so I choose to focus on how good they are for the amount you pay.

On to today’s reviews:


PRODUCT: UPTON’S NATURALS – MASSAMAN CURRY
Type: Prepared meal
Country of origin: USA
Upton’s Naturals

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-3

massamancurry_0.pngI have seen Upton’s moustached men gracing their product boxes on grocery shelves for a couple of years now, but was only just made aware that this Chicago-based brand has been around since 2006. Their website shows off an impressive and mouthwatering array of products, many of which we still don’t get here in Australia (I’m looking at the seitan chorizo and mentally willing someone to distribute that here!) I did, however, note that this particular one that I am reviewing – the Massaman Curry – is a “Product of Thailand” so I’m afraid to ask if the ingredients are sourced in Thailand, shipped to America to prepare and then shipped to Australia for us, meaning there’s a whopping 25,000+ kms of fossil fuels attached to this item. Eeek!

Pushing that aside for the moment, their local distributor has just started importing the Massaman and I have to say, it is bloody delicious. There is a slightly enhanced zestiness to it that I wouldn’t say is my vision of a typical “massaman”, but it doesn’t matter because the plate is empty before you’ve had long to critique that point. Rich with flavour, crisp and fresh-tasting veggies, firm and flavourful tofu – it really was a satisfyingly delish meal.

The meal comes in microwave-ready vacuum-sealed plastic pouches, with separate purple rice, curry and crushed peanuts. My only peeve is that the package says it is “2 serves” which is quite wrong. It is only a 280g/480Cal packet and the serve that I heated up was smaller than my usual single-serve of curry (and I don’t eat exceptionally large serves by any means). It is really just a light lunch size but not a dinner for 2 or “I’m rather hungry” size. Because of this, the $9 price point is a bit steep for what it is. It may well be more expensive due to importing from the US (but then I do see it at US online retailers for US$6 so that’s comparable). I could understand the seitan or jackfruit or other specialty “meats” being a bit pricer, but non-organic tofu, rice and veg shouldn’t jack up the price that much.

Overall, a great choice for a guaranteed delicious meal, though not 100% “massaman-ish” and a bit pricey for the size you get.

 


PRODUCT: NUTTY BRUCE
Type: Nut milk
Country of origin: Australia
drinkbruce.com

overall-5
flavourrating-5
texturerating-5
valuerating-4

nutty-bruce-coconut-almond-milk-2d-clipped-png-web-re-size-e1541133829246.png

Far and away the best nut milk I’ve come across to date. It is pleasantly creamy and not watery like so many long-life almond milks (probably due to having 2-3 times as much almond and coconut than other mylks). It only comes fresh (not in long-life tetra packs) so that might contribute to its more “lively” flavour too.

It is organic, has no thickeners, is slightly sweet (brown rice syrup) and is perfect for nearly everything I might have used dairy milk for in the past. When I go back to other almond milks, they taste limp and bland by comparison. Other coconut milks just taste like watered down coconut cream you’d use for cooking. It also doesn’t separate in tea or coffee like other organic milks I’ve had (I’m looking at you “Australia’s Own”).

Price-wise, it’s also the most expensive compared to any of the long-life milks. At normal non-sale price, they often sit at nearly double the price of others. Given that the others almost seem unpalatable now that I have had Bruce, it seems like good value, though it still adds up and I cringe a bit when I pile on 3L in the cart at over $17!

The brand is fun, it’s local and I love em! Yummmm!

 


PRODUCT: ALTERNATIVE DAIRY CO. – CHEDDAR BLOCK
Type: Non-dairy cheese
Country of origin: Australia
Alternative Dairy Co. (FB)

overall-4
flavourrating-4
texturerating-5
valuerating-4

22177_cheddar.jpgDairy cheese is a strange confection as it has a property which makes it congeal and go gooey, and for some reason we have found this to be appealing. I would be lying if I said that I am not attracted to this feature when it comes to pizza or lasagne or Mac n’ cheese, but it’s still a weird thing. So of course we want our dairy cheese substitute to have the same characteristics, but many vegan cheeses struggle to simulate this well.

As far as rating a vegan cheese, this is a semi-important feature in my book as it does bug me when you make a pizza or toastie and the cheese is in a semi-solidified state even after cooking for awhile and now it is at risk of burning.

Alt. Dairy Co. has found a happy place where their cheese has excellent texture, bold flavour without a dominant coconut oil taste and pleasant meltability. It is still just cheddar, but you wouldn’t feel embarrassed to serve it to your bovine-breast milk-loving friends. High snackability on crackers or straight off the block. The feature that bolder flavoured non-dairy cheeses I’ve had might be the potato starch which I think might be the secret agent to making good faux cheese. Another favourite brand of mine, Vegusto, use potato in theirs and it is also delicious and not relying just on coconut oil to get by.

Overall, this is a great effort from a local company who are just starting to make headway with their brand. I look forward to trying more of their offerings!

 


 

Have yourself an ethical little Christmas…

christmas pig

As Christmas approaches, I am feeling very passionate about reducing the amount of cruelty-created products in my life and the lives around me, so I’m hoping you’ll take a PLEDGE to try to do this yourself this season.

Christmas represents a time when people gather for meals, share gifts and eat too much chocolate. All I am hoping is that you’ll consider reducing your intake of animal products and if you do, then source Fair Trade or ethical/humane options (see options below). And with the gifts you purchase, please consider where it came from and reduce the likelihood that it was procured using slave labour.

Some suggestions:

— chocolate: please avoid milk chocolate as the milk comes from antibiotic-filled, tortured animals. Especially the cheaper chocolate which will also be using cocoa beans picked by slave labour. With cheap chocolate, you are usually also supporting a multinational company that cares nothing about welfare and only about bottom-line earnings. Aim for dark chocolate with the Fair Trade logo on it http://fairtrade.com.au/  If you think you can’t afford to pay a bit more, chances are you should just save your money altogether and not buy ANY chocolate as neither you, nor the planet, can afford the cost of this luxury!

— meat: try to find alternative options to meat altogether. With everyone ramping up with their traditional of consuming a bounty of meat they usually eat this time of year, the number of animals slaughtered reaches an epic and horrifying high (Kill Counter: the moment you open the following web page, it tells you how many creatures have been killed from that moment on to deliver you the range of foods that humans have come to expect. I challenge you to watch it for 1 minute and then honestly assess how you feel about the totals you see: http://www.adaptt.org/killcounter.html )

If you MUST have some meat, please don’t buy the cheapest cuts which will definitely come from abusive factories. It’s not just how MANY animals are consumed, it’s how miserable they lived their lives. Why would you want to eat something that was terrified, miserable, orphaned and murdered? Look at the Humane Choice website ( http://www.humanechoice.com.au/ ) as an example of where to get ethical meat and eggs. Remember: every creature on this planet has the SAME RIGHT to be on this planet as YOU DO.

— consumer products: here’s a great guide to why it’s important and what/where you can buy to ensure a better chance that you’ll be getting stuff not made by slaves: http://www.ethical.org.au/consumer/christmas/christmas-gifts.htm There are also lots of charitable organisations like TEAR’s Useful Gift catalogue ( http://www.usefulgifts.org/ ) where you get to give something that actually helps someone else in a life-changing kind of way. It is after all the season for GIVING, right? 🙂

I try to live by these examples but none of us are perfect. However, if we all pledge to try to eat 50% less dairy, 50% less meat and be wary of where are other ‘stuff’ is coming from, that will already represent a positive change.

Will you take this pledge?

Don’t label me, please

20130610-003741.jpg

Since assuming a vegan lifestyle and an ethical stance against animal cruelty, I’ve heard a couple of stories from friends about the strict labelling that comes with being vegan. By that I mean the term “vegan” seems to attract some sort of expectation of behaviour that is not applied to any non-vegans. I heard the second story tonight and it seemed directed at me, and it made me angry…thus this slight rant.

In the two stories I’ve heard, one couple were self-enforcing the vegan label so vigorously that they would call out anyone who didn’t strictly adhere to veganism and would feel it a personal failure to step outside that realm themselves. In the story I heard tonight, it came from the other side of the coin; a non-vegan who was ready to challenge my use of the “vegan” term as I have indicated that I intend on living a 90-95% vegan lifestyle because I don’t want to become one of those people who make life difficult for others because of the lifestyle I am adhering to. Also because I want to be realistic.

I probably didn’t make that clear to the second friend when I started a vegan lifestyle because — I imagine like most born-again-vegans — we make a sudden thrust into the vegan world for either moral/ethical, health, environmental or animal rights reasons (or some or all of the above) and so we immediately gravitate strongly to the “vegan” label. To be fair, it’s initially empowering to call ourselves that, to clearly differentiate ourselves from the animal-murdering masses.

For the record, these are the terms of my vegan lifestyle:

  • On a daily basis, I will refuse to consume dairy, meat, fish, or things containing these items.
  • If at a friend’s home, I will shift to vegetarian eating if that is all that is available and let them know I eat vegan for future reference.
  • I eat eggs that I know are from cruelty-free sources, like friends’ chooks or a certified humane farm. I am very strict about the living conditions for the chickens.
  • I will refuse where practical and possible to buy items using animal hides, like leather. I will never buy fur (besides, it’s just so last season! 😛 ). I might buy a second-hand leather item as the deed has been done and I don’t believe the wearing/using these items incriminates me because it looks like I’m supporting this industry
  • I actively support animal rights through charitable donation, researching and sharing information, plus joining activist rallies like Ban Live Export.
  • I am adamant about protecting the environment by fighting for a reduction of factory farming and changing agriculture practices.
  • However, I respect the traditional hunting practices of people who live far in the bush or like the Inuit people who take only what they need to personally survive and who ritualistically cleanse the animal when they kill it, respecting the life they are taking.
  • I actively take care in knowing which companies do animal testing on their products and then boycott that product if they are animal abusers.
  • I plan to work more directly with protecting animals in the near future

With all these things, I aim for a 90-95% success rate as I believe that we have to be realistic: while I want animal suffering to cease, I recognise that a vast reduction would be considered a “win”. We cannot change this world 100%…it is impossible. And perhaps we don’t need to either.

For all intents and purposes, I am quite comfortable working within these boundaries and still consider myself following a vegan lifestyle. What’s more (and perhaps more importantly), I don’t care if I’m not living up to someone else’s labelling (and therefore their judgement). Another person I know heard that I was eating eggs (even with my strict policy for choosing them) and announced “so I guess you’re just a vegetarian then” as if I didn’t meet the vegan standards and was therefore stripped of my title.

I must admit it makes me laugh when I hear someone judging me for attempting to live a very challenging lifestyle, one that has health and ethics at its core, but where I am perhaps not living up to the dictionary definition of it. And by “makes me laugh” I mean I want to beat them with a hypocrisy stick. There is not one single way a meat-eater can make a judgement on the effectiveness or competency of someone who is working hard at their vegan lifestyle without sounding like a complete tool. That’s why I really dislike the label; it’s too easy for people to want to score you on how you’re doing with it.

I know this is sounding a bit like a rant but my wish is simply this: if you know someone trying to follow a vegan lifestyle, please support what they are doing even if it isn’t what you personally want to do in your own life. No one is judging your meat-eating ways even though the destructive nature of meat and dairy consumption gives vegans a lot of ammunition to fire at you.

If you are a vegan, my hope would be that you can see that we live in an imperfect world and we need to do our best but not beat ourselves up (or others) who aren’t perfect vegans all of the time. Plus, we need to gently inform meat-eaters of why it might not be a bad idea to cut back on their consumption, for the better of the planet and the rest of us who must deal with the fact that agriculture is destroying it. In other words, no one should judge anyone else, but we should all be prepared to listen and adapt for the better of our lifestyles, needs and the world around us.

Let’s not be so fussy with our labelling of each other!

🙂

P.S. There is a lot of self-righteousness that comes with our choices, particularly food ones. My wish would be that everyone be open to arguments on both sides of the meat/vegan debate, concede when someone has a valid point on either side, and stop letting personal pride dictate how “right” you think you are about following what you believe. Let’s all just try to make informed decisions and then we might see that personal labels are pointless anyway.

Cow’s milk (bovine breast-milk): the Great Debate

cowI was recently reading a blog posting about dairy on the controversial and very outspoken blog called the Collective Evolution. I’ve been meaning to post something about this topic as well as I feel strongly about it from an animal cruelty point-of-view but the more I learn about the health implications, the more surprised I am how many people continue to consume it. Even more surprisingly is how many people defend their dairy consumption, but then again, I guess it’s like the meat debate; you’ll always have people steadfastly defending the perceived merits from both sides.

The thing with dairy though is that much of it comes from factory-farmed sources, and while you can argue a case for grain-fed raw unpasteurised milk being better for you, the vast majority of people eat dairy tainted with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and unsavory other bits, then forcibly over-milked from suffering, unhappy animals. That stuff on most supermarket shelves is arguably the most processed, unhealthy, tainted and cruel beverage you can buy.

There is much I could say in my own words about this issue, but the following excerpt I found was in the comments section on the Collective Evolution article amidst heavy debating on this topic. This particular excerpt stood out due to the writer’s calm logic – a logic with which I completely agree. So to save just repeating what is already a well-written argument, I will add her words here. Unfortunately I don’t have a full name to give credit but I’m sure the writer in question would be happy for more people to hear what she has to say…

This informative piece is from poster “Karen” (22 May 2013)

Every drop of cow’s milk in any cow’s milk product represents a baby that is not getting the milk designed for him or her.

Male calves are taken from their mothers within 12-24 hours after birth, fed a low iron diet and kept mostly all indoors in the hutch in order to induce anemia (for the most pale, tender flesh), and with a bottle of milk not superior to its own mother’s milk, so that the milk intended for it does not go to to the calf, but to humans it was never created for. The only reason the farmer lets the cow suckle for the first few days is to get the milk flowing after colostrum, just like in humans, and then the baby and mother never see each other again.

On the other hand, If nature were allowed to take its course, the calf would breast feed for up to a year (which is about the same time many humans choose to stop.).

In order for that hypothetical cow’s mother to be pregnant, it had to be Artificially Inseminated on what is called a “rape rack”.

The Artificial Insemination process is an element the dairy industry does not advertise when selling their products: a farmer sticking his entire arm up the colon of the cow to his elbow in order to manipulate the cervix and shove a long steel device containing a long needle syringe of semen into the vagina and through the uterine wall. He masturbated the male to climax (Webster’s dictionary definition of Bestiality). This is done to the female as soon as she is possibly able to conceive (imagine in human years what this would mean: it is the equivalent of 10-12 year old pregnant human girls.).

The farmers keep the cows constantly impregnated throughout their lives, starting as young as they can possibly become pregnant, and each time they give birth after gestation period of 9 months (the same amount of time it takes for a human mom to develop a baby), they are impregnated again 3 weeks later, until they are no longer producing milk at the same rate as their younger sisters, at which point they are slaughtered: every female cow still lactating from the nipples as it hits the slaughterhouse floor.

There is no magic cow that magically makes extra milk for humans. Like humans, they must first give birth.

These are what the hutches look like in reality: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=422882381091565&set=a.422499237796546.91761.422224324490704&type=1&theater

Farmers don’t allow the babies to drink the milk (except to suckle for the first few days of their life. That baby can not be called “breast fed”, anymore than you can say a human baby who suckled for colostrum only the first 2 days of its life was “breastfed”).

The next time a farm tells you they allow their male calves to breast feed, be sure and ask: “for how long?” Because stated one more time: they only allow the baby to suckle for the first few days in order to get the flow of milk started, contrary to the feigned pretense that they are actually breastfeeding, or that they are doing it for the baby’s health. They are in the industry as a business and it is not profitable for a baby to cut into those profits by drinking the milk the mother made for it.

The milk that they normally make for their calves would in no way cause their udders to become engorged were they not mechanically suctioned on average of only twice a day, making it very painful for the cow to the point where she is unable to stand from the weight–she would have to be milked and must return for it: this pain is induced and would not occur in nature were she just feeding her calf. (So the whole lie we’re brought up with that “cows need to be milked because otherwise it hurts them! They like being milked, because they walk right in to be milked!” is exposed for why that is. You don’t make the problem and then claim to be the hero for “saving the day”.).

Were you undergoing the same pain from this overfullness of milk, (since they are induced to create 35-50 litres of milk per day (about 13 gallons), which is more than 10 times what they would normally be making for their baby calf), you would want relief too.

The veal industry is a direct by-product of the cow’s breast secretions industry and is inseparable.

The male babies are disposed of in one way or another (either shot within hours of birth, a hammer taken to the head, or raised in a short, miserable few weeks of life away from their mothers to be slaughtered as veal), because they are of no use to the industry, just like male chicks are ground up alive in mechanical macerators, gassed, or suffocated in bags after hatching. The females follow the same slave footsteps as the mother until they too, reach the same death end.

If what happened to female cows happened to female humans, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it would be called rape: they are forced into pregnancy without choice of partner, or choice of when they want to be pregnant, or if they want to be pregnant at all, all so that humans can take and murder the baby for the breast secretions, hook them up to machines in spaces that make them stand until 40% of all female cows are too lame to walk at a pre-determined “slaughterhouse time” and must be dragged by chain across the floor.

The cows watch in complete terror as relatives and people of their social hierarchy in front of them are raised by the foot on a conveyor belt or taken a bolt gun to the head, and have their throats slit, sometimes still conscious and kicking, and shred of their parts within seconds after murder, with no choice to go anywhere but to the same fate forced upon them. The screams of slaughterhouses, the stench, the run-off–it is horrendous.

As a mother, I dreamt of this before I went Vegan, of what it would be like to be a female cow on this planet. And it was a nightmare, more hellish than anything I could possibly imagine. I knew there was no other word for the actions perpetrated on this species than evil.

The tipping point that turned me Vegan: a photo entitled “milk by-products”–a pile of dead newborn calves, shot and piled on top of each other, in a bin, view angled from the top of the bin. They look like baby deer. Then I discovered there is no worse sound than a mother who has been separated from her baby, who will bellow frantically for days, or a baby from the mother.

If given the option, mother cows and their offspring would stay together for life.

On a happier note, a video of a sanctuary who rescued a separated mother and brought the calf back to return:

http://www.godvine.com/Cow-Cries-All-Night-Over-Loss-of-her-Calf-Then-They-Reunite-1903.html

All cows, unless rescued by someone who cares an awful lot, and raised in a non-profit sanctuary, are being killed so someone can have their hamburgers of their bodies and then wash it down with milkshakes of their own secretions.

There are no more wild cattle (except in very tiny amount as endangered species) in any areas of the world because of the tyranny of some humans. This is not an exaggeration.

But if there were, the cattle prefer living in mountain forests–not flat, dry, void, grassland. They can live anywhere from 25-35 years old in the wild. As business commodities for profit, the dairy cows are slaughtered on average between 2-4 years old.

De-horning (the equivalent of breaking our bones), tail docking, third degree burn branding, and burning the tissue (also third degree burns) from their heads where the horns would normally grow so the horns won’t grow in can in no way be called “natural”, so why do people who drink cow’s breast secretions say these standard “requirements” are a natural thing to do?

There are no U.S. laws that give rights to “humane” treatment of farm animals (as long as the businesses get together and decide to do a practice, no matter what that practice is, it is upheld as “industry standard”), none enforcing transportation standards, which result in deaths, sicknesses and injuries. Here are a few research websites:

http://nzdairy.webs.com/thelifeofadairycow.htm

Here’s many different diseases indicted with consuming cow’s milk:

http://www.notmilk.com

This powerful study shows the blood of those on a Vegan diet is 8 times better at both slowing the growth rate of cancer cells and stopping it in its tracks. Check out the results of only 2 weeks on a Vegan diet on breast cancer cells.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTIrmOdmil4

“20 experts on the breast cancer and dairy connection”:
http://freefromharm.org/health-nutrition/21-experts-on-the-dairy-breast-cancer-connection/

What’s in a glass of cow’s milk?

Answer: blood, pus, +80 hormones (including from cows not injected with rBGH), lactose, which our bodies CAN NOT process, so lactase is artificially added (because the meat and dairy industries know what’s best for us, right?), casein (which our bodies can not use & is indicted with many forms of cancer), long-chain saturated fatty acids which do not flush out of the body (unlike the medium-chain length from plant sources such as avocado & coconut), cholesterol, acidic protein which leaches calcium from bones, dioxins, dead bacteria from pasteurization, pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics. Cow’s milk is a mucus and acne producer.

Cow’s milk has an opiate effect on the brain, has been indicted with Diabetes T1 & 2, osteoporosis, arthritis, breast, colorectal, ovarian, kidney and prostate cancer, gallstones, Alzheimer’s, anemia, autism, allergies, asthma, constipation, headaches, obesity, and more.

There is no such thing as humane dairy. With every drop of dairy, rape occurs, a baby is stolen and a murder happens. And all for a product that kills us inevitably, leads to disease outbreaks and environmental destruction, and that we don’t need.

The testimony of a worker who was in charge of separating the mothers from their babies and ensuring the babies accept the substitute powdered water “milk”:

http://motherhooddeleted.blogspot.com/2008/11/crying-of-mothers.html

I could go all night into the environmental and humanitarian consequences, so I’ll save that arena for another time.


My hope – as it is with eating animal flesh – is that while I can’t expect people to completely give up dairy or expect the industry to just pack up and stop, we CAN greatly reduce our consumption to the point that factory dairies can be a thing of the past. My hope is that everyone can consider with compassion the plight of these animals and simply reduce their dairy intake, encouraging others to do the same. At the very least, pay that tiny bit extra to get your milk and eggs, etc. from a humane source.

If anyone decides the want to flame on at me on this topic, please read the whole blog posting first and consider the core argument here: animal welfare in factory dairy farms. Alright; off you go then…

Striking a balance: what kind of vegan to be?

lamb

Oddly enough, one of the things I’m struggling with becoming vegan is how to act in my daily life. It is something I’ve been having a tough time with even in terms of writing this blog, thus the reason why I have gone quiet of late. Should I be the dedicated preacher? The informed educator? The impassioned extremist? Quiet and tolerant, doing my own thing? Perhaps none and all of the above…

When I was first smashed over the head with the waves of passion that prompted me to give up meat and stand up against animal cruelty, I went all-in, guns a-blazing, making sure everyone heard what I was doing, all in the vain and naive attempt to get people to “convert” right along with me. My blog was an excellent platform, I told myself, to ensure that people knew not only how I was feeling, but the depths of the atrocities that occur (in full, living, bleeding colour). Surely if I posted enough informative and eye-opening material, if would be a no-brainer to get everyone on-side with this important task of ditching their traditional habits and embrace a new, healthy and compassionate way of living. Right?

Well, I pride myself on being reasonably observant and respectful of where people are at and while I was initially overly gung-ho, I’ve quickly realised that I need to take this much slower. While I am still madly passionate on this topic on the inside, I’ll have to squeeze out my information-sharing in controlled doses, letting my conviction and own experiences try to let others see how where I’m coming from can be doable to them over time if they believe it is right for them as well. Another thing I need to realise is that people are repelled to change by people who are in their face about it, pushing too hard or being “forced” to learn a new perspective, especially with a subject as touchy as food. Finally, being tolerant or where others are at and non-judgemental of their actions even if I don’t believe what they are doing is right, by my standards.

So what kind of vegan do I want to be? I obviously want to be faithful to my reasons for doing it in the first place (compassion for animals, environmental concerns, and personal health); I want people close to me to understand and respect what I am doing but also be willing to be open to listening and learning and changing as well; I’d like to be proud of what I’m doing and therefore promote it in a confident but dignified and democratic way; and I’d like to be someone who goes beyond just eating differently but also volunteers or involves myself directly in the helping of rescued animals or protecting environments where animals are at risk of losing their rights or lives.

This blog will continue to be my voice to show my personal progress on my journey and try to provide information that people I know will hopefully occasionally read/watch and be involved as well.

I’ve struggled a lot with casting judgement on people who refuse to change their habits when they know how much damage those habits are contributing to the issue of high-production animal-based agriculture, but I am learning that traditions and habits are often hard-wired into who we are from an early age. From influential parents, peers, expectations, plus media and advertising, we are told many things that are actually false or have critical information buried from view to make us think things are different than what they are. However, I cannot condemn people who have this hard-wiring anymore than I could be angry with myself as for all my 42 years until now, as I believed the exact same things and was victim to the same propaganda.

The following video that I came across recently is an excellent resource for anyone who has either flirted with the idea of going vegetarian or vegan, is curious about the idea or is starting to feel that there is something seriously wrong with our meat-eating society and wants to learn more. Intended for high school students originally, this brilliant talk eases you into the logic behind “going vegan” without being too aggressive with scary visuals. Basically the ABCs of how we’ve been conned into thinking we want and need meat.

I naturally believe that this sort of video is mandatory viewing for any and everyone, but I suspect a very small number of people will take the plunge. If you are willing to have your eyes opened and allow yourself to engage in a very important message, then you will be very thankful you did….!

I believe that resources like this will help people expand their vision on what being a vegan is all about without them all coming from me. There is a wealth of influential material out there that I hope to share and all I ask that you respect why I am offering it up and have a willingness to give it some consideration.