Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's not a soapbox, it's a personal choice

I'm going to a special fundraiser tonight for my leukemia running group ( It's a $50 a plate dinner at a fondue restaurant, very nice. As a vegan, there will be very little that I can eat but I will still have a great time. I'll be discreet and respectful, if being vegan isn't about being peaceable, what's the point?

But it's generated a lot of discussion over the last several weeks and I just wanted to acknowledge that our food choices are very personal. There is stronger cultural bias over mealtime than there is over religion!

It's okay to say, "I've got to have my MEAT!" Or, "No way could I give up ICE CREAM!" (Okay, out in "the world", it's coffee or alchohol.)

But do you see? Nobody wants to be TOLD what to eat. We didn't like it as kids and we sure don't like it as adults.

I have gotten into marathon running this last year. I am over 50 and never was athletic a minute in my life. I was slender -- just my body type and metabolism -- but I was not fit. Didn't ride bikes, didn't ski or play golf, didn't go to the gym. Nothing.

But I am now so aware of the lack of health in the people around me. Even just walking past them in the mall, I'm aware of heavy breathing and pudgy bodies and the pallor of people who spend their time on the couch, the redness of people who drink too much. When I eat with my co-workers in restaurants, oh, I'm so horrified by people consuming three days of calories in one meal!

But at the end of the day, it's PERSONAL. Nobody makes those big switches without coming to their own conclusions on it.

So relax, enjoy my blog. I'm not evangelizing a plant-based diet. This is just about my own personal journey.

What can a vegan eat for lunch?

I googled using exactly that phrase and found a wonderful, pictorial blog called The Vegan Lunchbox!

She's on Twitter and Facebook and she has a book!! Yay!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I went vegan last week

I've been a vegetarian for six years. Last week, after a visit with my doctor and a young medical resident, I decided to go vegan. He is a vegetarian, she is a vegan, and the conversation just helped me realize that it's really not that hard. You just have to become more of an educated eater.

The thing is, we have been trying to overcome a particular health issue. My doctor suggested some guided imagery and talk to this little problem to see what it's trying to tell me. Is there something I yet need to do -- diet, sleep, exercise, supplements, medicines, whatever -- that we haven't tried?

So I've been doing that and I've really been drawn back into all the books I read when I first eliminated meat from my diet.

There was one book, The China Study (see the Amazon link at the right), that someone told me about but I had never picked up. It happened to be on the Whole Foods bookshelf where I stopped right after my doctor visit, so I bought it. It was so fascinating, I stayed up late reading it, read it early the next morning, and have read it almost every day since.

I immediately realized that one thing I could do for my health that could impact this health problem is eliminate dairy.

Now, I LOVE milk and real butter. I am a Mormon. What else do we eat for fun but milk and cookies? Hot fudge sundaes? Milk and Mormon brownies? Milk on our morning cereal? I even have milk with my co-workers at Happy Hour. I am a marathon runner. I have whey protein shakes mixed up with milk, that way I make sure to get my protein.

So I thought.

Well, in a nutshell, the link between dairy products and autoimmune disorders is quite plain. The leaching of calcium from your bones to process the animal protein is documented. The sensitivity of many humans to milk is well-known.

So I just plain quit.

It hasn't been easy. You don't realize how much cheese is on everything! We eat at Subway and Atlanta Bread and Panera and Spicy Pickle. Oh, you'll have to hold the cheese. Monday, someone at the office treated us to six pizzas. They got a "vegetarian" one just for me -- a purely cheese pizza. I had to decline and run to the store around the corner for a broccoli salad, four-bean salad, and waldorf salad. (Haven't quite been able to cut out the egg products, mayonnaise, but I'm getting there).

I met a friend and her son for the free day at the Botanical Garden and she packed a lunch for me since I was meeting them directly from my office. She was so kind as to pack a peanut butter sandwich, with slices of cheese and hardboiled eggs. I ate them because what is the point of eating mindfully of the animals if you are not mindful of being kind to the humans, as well?

I eat out a lot just because that's what we do at the office. Twice this last seven days, I've eaten at Sweet Tomatoes. Dang, I need to live closer to Porter Adventist Hospital, they have a terrific vegetarian cafeteria.

There's going to be a bit of stumbling out of the gate. I don't expect to be a purist, at least, not at first. And I simply can't expect my sweet friends and co-workers to know all of my dietary choices as a vegan. They've been really good at handling my being a vegetarian, it might send them right over the edge to try to accommodate my veganism!

The last time I went vegan, it lasted six months. That was out of animal sensitivity. This time, it's about my health. Honestly, that just might be the motivation that makes it stick.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Son the Mormon

I stumbled across this wonderful article written by a Methodist mother whose 16-year-old son joined the church. It is sweet and candid and fair. It has nothing to do with being a vegetarian but everything to do with being a Mormon. Just wanted to keep the link here so others could enjoy it.

Did you know the Humane Society has a page on the Church and their beliefs about animals?

The mission of the Humane Society is to "create a world where our relationship with animals is guided by compassion". It doesn't mean that they necessarily endorse going vegan or vegetarian, but that whatever we do is compassionate. That means, for example, allowing chickens who provide eggs to be cage-free, that sort of thing.

You may be interested to know that they have an entire religion section, in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is included. Click on the "religion section" link to sign up for The Humane Steward, which is their monthly e-newsletter.

Here are the relevant quotes on their LDS page.

Official Statements on Animals

Joseph Smith's divine revelations listed below assert that animals were provided by God for people's use (including for use as food), but they also explain that animals are only to be used in time of true need and are never to be wasted. Animals, they say, also have souls and will enjoy eternal life.

"Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; and it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth; and these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger." (Doctrine & Covenants 89:12-15; see also Doctrine & Covenants 49:18-21 and 59:16-20)

"Q. Are the four beasts [described in Revelation 4:6] limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders? A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity." (Doctrine & Covenants 77:3)

"Prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together. And every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed; and also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth. And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face." (Doctrine & Covenants 101:23-26)

Historical References on Animals

Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and other nineteenth-century leaders of the Latter-day Saints taught that all animals should be treated with kindness and should not be killed without reason, even venomous snakes and crop-eating grasshoppers. These leaders cite a number of reasons that we should be kind to animals, including their roles as exemplars of God's glory, their similarity to humans in having souls and being capable of being saved, and, according to Brigham Young, the fact that animals obey God's law better than humans do. Perhaps most important, if humans refrain from violence toward animals, said the leaders, they will help build the Peaceable Kingdom on Earth, in which all beings will live together in harmony.

Joseph Smith on animals:

"In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, 'Let them alone—don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.' The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger." (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 2, pp. 71-72)

"[If we] would banish from our hearts this spirit to destroy and murder, the day would soon come when the lion and the lamb would lie down together." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 71)

"John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes, or men." (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 343)

"Says one, 'I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts.' Any man who would tell you this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beast giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The beasts were four of the most noble animals that filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect. They were like angels in their sphere." (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 5, pp. 343-344)

Brigham Young on animals:

"Field and mountains, trees and flowers, and all that fly, swim, or move upon the ground are lessons for study in the great school of our Heavenly Father, in what is before us in good books and in the greater laboratory of nature." (Journal of Discourses 9:320)

"The animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms abide the law of their Creator; the whole earth and all things pertaining to it, except man, abide the law of their creation." (Journal of Discourses 9:246)

"Learn to control yourselves and that which is immediately around you, and always keep in view that the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms—the earth and its fullness—will all, except the children of men, abide their creation—the law by which they were made, and will receive their exaltation." (Journal of Discourses 8:191)

"Traveled 19 miles. The prairie appeared black being covered with immense herds of buffalo. May 7th [1846]. I preached in camp and advised the brethren not to kill any more buffalo or other game until the meat was needed." (Brigham Young History, 1846)

"According to present appearances, next year [1868] we may expect grasshoppers to eat up nearly all our crops. But if we have provisions enough to last us another year, we can say to the grasshoppers—these creatures of God—you are welcome. I have never had a feeling to drive them from one plant in my garden; but I look upon them as the armies of the Lord." (Journal of Discourses 12:121)

"The Spirit of the Lord and the keys of the priesthood hold power over all animated beings ... In this dispensation the keys ... will be restored, and we are to return to the favor of the Lord ... cease hostility with the serpents and lay aside all enmity and treat all animals kindly." (Brigham Young History, April 26, 1846)

"Let the people be holy, and the earth under their feet will be holy. Let the people be holy, and filled with the spirit of God, and every animal and creeping thing will be filled with peace ... The more purity that exists, the less is the strife; the more kind we are to animals, the more will peace increase, and the savage nature of the brute creation will vanish away." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 203)

Heber C. Kimball (First Counselor to President Brigham Young) on animals:

"[Horses] have the same life in them that you have, and we should not hurt them." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, p. 137)

Contemporary References on Animals

Like the nineteenth-century leaders of the Latter-day Saints, contemporary members of the LDS Church, including several Church presidents, have argued that humans have a duty to be kind to animals and not to kill them for sport or other frivolous reasons. They argue that animals deserve such care because they, like humans, were created by God; because they have souls and will be saved through the resurrection; and because God gave humans a special stewardship responsibility toward animals, modeled most prominently by the primordial conservationist Noah.

President Joseph F. Smith on sport hunting, kindness to animals, and the Peaceable Kingdom:

"I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here this evening by all who have spoken, and not less with reference to the killing of our innocent little birds, natives of our country, who live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is abominable, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend, not only to the bird life, but to the life of all animals ... I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the 'sport' of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day's sport boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter ... I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong." (Gospel Doctrine, Vol. 1, pp. 371-372)

"Kindness to the whole animal creation and especially to all domestic animals is not only a virtue that should be developed, but is the absolute duty of mankind ... It as an unrighteous thing to treat any animal cruelly ... It will be a blessed day when mankind shall accept and abide by the Christ-like sentiment expressed by one of the poets in the following words: 'Take not away the life you cannot give, For all things have an equal right to live.'" (Juvenile Instructor, editorial, February 1912)

"When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer herding along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hurt and none to molest in all the land, especially among all the inhabitants of Zion." (Gospel Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 371)

President David O. McKay on kindness to animals:

"A true Latter-day Saint is kind to animals, is kind to every created thing, for God created all." (October 1951; quoted in Gerald E. Jones, "The Gospel and Animals," p. 65)

President Joseph Fielding Smith on animals having souls and being saved at the time of the resurrection:

"So we see that the Lord intends to save, not only the earth and the heavens, not only man who dwells upon the earth, but all things which he has created. The animals, the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, as well as man, are to be recreated, or renewed, through the resurrection, for they too are living souls." (Conference Report, October 1928, p. 100)

"Animals do have spirits and ... through the redemption made by our Savior they will come forth in the resurrection to enjoy the blessing of immortal life." (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 2, p. 48)

President Spencer W. Kimball on sport hunting:

"In Primary and Sunday School we sang the song: 'Don't kill the little birds / That sing on bush and tree, / All thro' the summer days, / Their sweetest melody.' (Deseret Song, 1909, no. 163). ... Now, I would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life ... And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals ... because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men." ("Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live," The Ensign, November 1978, p. 45)

Elder Marlin K. Jensen on living with animals and animals in heaven:

"Given affection and care, they return affection and care generously and consistently. People whose lives include relationships with animals are usually happier. For me at least, heaven will not be heaven unless the animal kingdom is part of God's kingdom." (Living After the Manner of Happiness, The Ensign, December 2002)

Elder Dean L. Larsen on living with animals:

"I have come to appreciate why our Heavenly Father placed animals on the earth to be used by man. He expects us to be kind to them and not to abuse them. They can add much to our lives while we are here on earth." (Friend to Friend, Friend, April 1977)

President Milton R. Hunter on living with animals:

“What has been our pay for feeding all these birds? As a family we have received great joy from watching them. We have come to realize that our Father in heaven provides for them as He does for us. They are part of His great plan. He created them to gladden our hearts with their songs and to give us joy in observing their beauty.” (Friend to Friend: Feeding the Birds, Friend, August 1973).

Further Resources

Givens, Terryl L. 2004. "Environment," pp. 208-213 in Terryl L. Givens, The Latter-day Saint Experience in America. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Jones, Gerald E. 1972. "The Gospel and Animals," The Ensign 2(8): 62-65.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1972. "Brigham Young on the Environment," pp. 3-29 in Truman G. Madsen and Charles D. Tate, eds., To the Glory of God: Mormon Essays on Great Issues--Environment--Commitment--Love--Peace--Youth--Man. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.

Packard, Sandra Bradford. 1992. "Animals," pp. 42-43 in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan.

Williams, Terry Tempest, William B. Smart, and Gibbs M. Smith, eds. 1998. New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith.

Monday, January 12, 2009

U.S. count finds 1 in 200 kids vegetarian

A government study is reporting that one in 200 kids is a vegetarian. Some surveys suggest that that number is four to six times higher among the older teens who have a little more control over what they can eat.

No one can definitively say the reason why kids are going vegetarian, but the consensus is that they are doing it for animal welfare, not for health. There are a lot of YouTube videos showing the inhumane treatment of factory farm animals and the actual slaughtering process, and that may be turning kids away from eating meat.

From a story in the Daily Herald

Friday, January 2, 2009

Why did I become a vegetarian?

Six years ago, while standing in line at a natural grocer, a colorful display rack got my attention. Photos of heirloom tomatoes were featured on the cover of Vegetarian Times Magazine. They were so luscious it made my mouth water! I am an organic gardener so I bought the magazine. As I flipped through the pages, I learned some things about animal cruelty that stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn't want to be any part of what I had just learned.

Trying to be impartial, I searched the Internet for non-biased articles on animal husbandry. I was looking especially for articles written by agriculture and veterinary colleges on how they raised large numbers of chickens and pigs. I was a little bit afraid that what I'd read in VT was "hype" written by extremists.

But, no, the agriculture schools confirmed that what I had learned was true. In the process of raising and killing hundreds of millions of animals per year to feed the 200 million people in the United States every day, you develop hugely inhumane practices in order to provide food both economically and at a profit.

I was horrified enough to stop eating meat instantly.

But I did want to know what God had to say about people eating meat or not eating meat. My search took me directly to the Bible -- and this is a subject for a whole 'nother post -- and the Bible confirmed that He would rather we NOT eat meat, but it wasn't mandatory. And it most certainly shouldn't be a topic of contention between one person and another.

So my desire to be kinder to animals also came with the understanding that this should be a peaceable practice for me, not something where I would become obnoxious at the meal table or judgemental of my family and friends.

And then I wanted to know what my own faith had to say about it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the Word of Wisdom found in Doctrine & Covenants Section 89. This counsel is "adapted to the capaticity of the weak and the weakest of all saints" (v. 3). We most often know the parts about not drinking tea, coffee, or alchohol and not using tobacco. But we fall apart on the healthful practices of eating more fruits and vegetables and grains and strongly limiting our intake of meat.

In Section 89, the Lord says that beasts and fowls are given for the use of man, but here is the rub: "Nevertheless they are to be used sparingly" ( v. 12).

"And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." (v. 13)

And lest we misunderstand the first interpretation of the word "sparingly", the guidance on using the flesh of beasts and fowls and wild animals was repeated.

"And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger" (v. 15).

I did one last thing before I officially made the change. I did a little homework on what Presidents of the Church have ever said on the topic. And again, that's a whole 'nother post.

But in my heart and soul I came to believe that these sweet, beautiful creatures have their own purpose in life and it was not originally intended that they die horribly to become our food and clothing. They want to have joy in their lives just as I want to have joy in mine.

I went vegetarian five and a half years ago and while the initial reason was to prevent the suffering of animals, medical concerns later confirmed that going to a meatless diet was actually a life-saver for me.

It's not a practice that everyone can or should live, not while we live in a fallen world. There are too many cultures that simply cannot go to a meatless diet, yet. And there are too little food resources in many parts of the world for people to live solely on grains and fruits and vegetables.

It's been the right choice for me. I'm a kinder, gentler, much healthier person because of it.

Those changes are the reason for this blog.