Veganism and feminism are inseparable concepts in my life.

This blog is a theoretical interpretation of the lived experiences of a vegan feminist,
and an exploration of what it even means to be one in the first place.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegan Meal Plan: Breakfast

Vegan meal plans are a great resource for new vegans (or people like me who want to try new food ideas). I'm making this post as a way to use my experience to show my support to other people that are similarly concerned with what they are eating.

My meal plans will use ingredients you should already have in your cupboards, limit the recipes to taking 15 minutes or less to prepare, and make them simple enough that anyone can prepare them!

Here are 7 breakfast ideas that will allow you to prepare a new one every day of the week. :) In the future I expect to make vegan meal plans for lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert, so keep checking back!

1) Monday:

Bagel or toast with peanut butter or jam, a glass of orange juice, and a banana.
Most bread products are vegan, but double check for bizarre ingredients like amylase or L-cysteine and avoid them. Jam is usually vegan, but watch out for gelatin and select jams that have pectin instead. You can use margarine as a topping instead, but you have to be very careful to make sure it's a vegan brand (no D3, whey, or milk solids).

2) Tuesday:

Oatmeal, fresh berries, and a glass of orange juice.
Instant oatmeal or cooked oatmeal are both easy to make. You can eat raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries on the side or put them in your oatmeal.

3) Wednesday:

Cereal with soy or almond milk and an apple.
Most cereal is vegan but double check that it doesn't contain milk or honey in it.

4) Thursday:

Pancake or waffles with fresh berries, maple syrup, and orange juice.
This is a very easy pancake recipe I found in a "Compassion Over Killing" I picked up at a Vegetarian Fair a few years ago. I use it in my waffle maker to make waffles. You can put the berries on the side or right into the mix.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups soy milk, almond milk, or water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preparation: 1. Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir in the wet ingredients. If the batter is too thick add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until reaching desired consistency.
2. Pour into a pan or nonstick surface and cook like a regular pancake!

5) Friday:

Smoothie made of soy or almond milk, flax, and fresh fruit.
I usually fill a blender up half way with almond or soy milk and put in cut up fruit. You can use frozen fruit or fresh berries, bananas, and mangoes for example. I grind (or you can buy already ground) and put in 3 tablespoons of flax seed (lots of omega and fiber!) and a tablespoon of molasses (masked by the other flavors but packed with iron and calcium!).

6) Saturday:

Fruit Salad.
Mix berries, apples, melon, pineapple and other fruit in a big bowl. You can season it with maple syrup, agave, or brown sugar. You can also add mint leaves to give it a kick.

7) Sunday:

French Toast with orange juice.
Vegan french toast is surprisingly easy to make. It doesn't taste exactly the same, but close enough I think. I have used the recipe here and been really happy with it. That one uses bananas as an egg substitute. Here is another one that uses tofu instead and looks like it should work just as well.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gardening as Feminist and Vegan Activism

Gardening, for me, is a creative form of feminist and vegan activism. I'm not currently a dedicated vegan abolitionist, but I am strongly influenced by Gary Francione's ideas about activism as finding non-violent and creative ways to educate people. It's because of his ideas that I get excited every time I think about a creative and peaceful way to do activism. I don't think activism needs to follow a formula; I see it as an attempt that we go into with the best of intentions and are willing and ready to change or abandon if it accidentally becomes oppressive or hateful. Whatever activism looks like is unique to the activist, so I invite you to try gardening as a form of activism if it makes sense to you.

Gardening is a form of peaceful resistance that simultaneously makes us as gardeners more self reliant and allows us to financially support certain industries less. While many of us will never be fully self reliant when it comes to food, we can still make steps in the right direction and take control where we can.

Gardening is a form of feminist and vegan activism because it rejects the oppression both of these groups oppose. Both feminist and vegans oppose humans being taken advantage of. Commercial grocery stores sell plant produce that is either grown in "developing countries" by the local population or in "developed countries" by migrant workers. These workers are rarely paid appropriate wages, can experience physical and verbal abuse on the job, and are forced to keep these jobs and put up with the poor conditions to support their families. Even buying locally is not the solution; in Ontario, where I live, we have a large migrant worker population. Furthermore, nonhuman animals are killed regularly by pesticides and farm equipment. At their best, monocrops displace large native populations of animals. Gardening gives the activist complete control over the conditions that their produce is grown in and they know exactly who is affected and how.

Luckily for us, anyone can garden! Sprouts, most herbs (like basil, thyme, rosemary, mint etc.), wheat grass, and dandelions (for their leaves) can all be grown indoors year round. Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, zucchini, and rhubarb are just a few examples of plants that can grow in pots on your balcony or porch from Spring to early Fall. If you have the space for an in ground garden you can get creative and buy fruit trees (small ones go for $50-100) or grow plants like corn, raspberries, and pumpkins. Your local library or the internet can always provide more specific information about the amount of sun, soil quality, and pot size certain plants will need.

Be wary of information you find when it comes to "pests", most current information in gardening is influenced by an anthropocentric and speciesist train of thought that is ready and willing to trade animal death for the "perfect" looking garden. This is unnatural (as gardens are never perfectly kept and they're just fighting off the inevitable), cruel, and unnecessary. As activists we should be concerned with impacting other sentient creatures as little as possible. Our gardens should be designed to prevent encroaching "pests". Indoor gardens can be started from seed and any insects can be moved outside. If it's too cold out, buy your insect friends a plant (preferably with yellow flowers, aphids are attracted to those) that is just for them, and move them when it gets warmer. Outdoor gardens should avoid monocrops. If you plant 3 meters squared of tomatoes, then yes, you will get insects that eat tomatoes. Mix up your plants and add plants that deter insects (like citronella) or plants that attract predators (like sunflowers). There are usually natural and friendly remedies to get rid of all "pests", but they vary animal to animal and should be looked up individually and with patience. It might take getting to the 10th page of google before you find help that isn't cruel. For larger "pests" use netting, buy a small greenhouse with a see through plastic cover, or go to your local humane society and ask for cat feces (when I used to volunteer at one a fellow came in asking for this, saying it deterred raccoons).

Finally, the soil you buy matters. Read the ingredients in any soil you buy to avoid financially supporting products that kill or use nonhuman animals. It's really just as simple as buying a different bag. Avoid anything that contains blood meal, bone meal, manure, and compost (just to be safe). If you need a perk me up, go for natural fertilizers like used coffee grinds (Starbucks and Whole Foods gives bags of these away for free if you ask for them). If you happen to live near an animal sanctuary, offer a donation in exchange for their manure.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bisexual and Lesbian Budgies

I've recently become interested in queer animals, specifically after reading that Canadian Geese in monogamous pairs were assumed to be heterosexual when many were in fact lesbians. This occurred because researchers assumed the two geese were male and female, instead of actually checking. I've started to pay a lot of attention to Mallard Ducks, whose sex is easy to tell unlike Geese, but completely forgot about the queer animals in my own home, until they started "making out" loudly to remind me. Before I begin explaining why they're queer and why this matters, I hope to bring a vegan ethic into my description of the birds I live with and introduce them as subjects of lives instead of subjects (really objects) of observation and scrutiny.

I currently live with three parakeets, or budgies as they are more commonly referred to. To preface my conversation, I will admit that they are all pets of some sort. As much as I might want them to be free agents, I have complete control over their lives. I could kill them, sell them, or breed them. I try to find ways around this problematic relationship, but to pretend it's gone would be silly of me. I am the owner, they the pets. Still, I do my best to disrupt this relationship. My budgies all live in a cage that is always open. They have free access to a room, toys, and food at all times. I often put on music for them, which they enjoy. One of them is adopted, and the other two come from before I was vegan and not critical enough to realize that selling any animal as property is wrong. I am very careful with their diet; I buy a two seed mix (as more complex mixes have D3), give them a lava rock (rather than mineral which contains bone), and give them lots of fresh veggies to supplement those nutrients. That might seem like a lot of useless information to preface queer animals, but how I interact with these animals is very important. I believe they are as sentient as I am, so treating them well is important.

To introduce my bisexual and lesbian budgies, I feel it's best to tell a story about their lives. Most of the story is about one of my budgie's many partners. Snowy was the second budgie I'd ever owned and I felt sad that she didn't like humans much, so I bought Isis to hopefully bond with her. Unfortunately, you can't tell what sex budgies are when they're young (or at least the people at a pet store can't) so female Snowy was put in a cage with, what turned out to be, female Isis. Snowy picked on Isis a little, but they generally ignored each other. In budgies, it's recommended that a pair be male and female to avoid fighting. Snowy eventually died and since Isis had always lived with other budgies, I felt bad for her. As a bit of an aside, I've always felt most drawn to Isis because she is so awkward. She is an eight year old albino budgie who has never been able to fly.

I got Skylar (who luckily turned out to be male) to live with Isis. Isis and Skylar constantly preened each other and clicked their beaks together as if making out, so I considered them to be a couple. As far as I know, they never had sex, which is interesting because that became a pattern with Isis. Skylar died of intense seizures so I got two new budgies to live with Isis.

Jack luckily turned out to be male and Colonel Mustard turned out to be female. At the beginning Jack and Isis would make out and preen each other, just as Isis had done before with Skylar. Isis still never had sex. Colonel Mustard and Jack hung out outside the cage together for most of the day like friends (and never preening one another) and then Jack would come inside to preen Isis (since she refuses to leave the cage) occasionally.

I was later given Junebug, a female budgie, so that she wouldn't go to a humane society. I raised Junebug on her own for a little, but when she heard the other budgies in another room, I introduced her to them. Over time Jack began to groom Junebug and ignore Isis. I caught Jack and Junebug trying (and thankfully failing) to have sex a few times. I then noticed that Isis and Colonel Mustard began to preen one another. Eventually Jack died and Isis and Colonel Mustard have remained a couple. They preen each other and make out just like Isis used to with Jack and Skylar. I think the absence of sex with Colonel Mustard isn't important because Isis never had sex with any of her male partners.

So after all of this it appears that I have a potentially heterosexual female budgie (Junebug), a bisexual or pansexual budgie (Isis), and a potentially lesbian budgie (Colonel Mustard). I feel privileged to have been able to watch Isis' relationships flourish, and I wonder if the Canadian Geese have just as many interesting partners. These anecdotal observations, to me, signify the importance of taking animals and their lives seriously. Just like humans have a variety of sexualities, non-humans seem to as well. Perhaps their relationships are more liberated and honest than ours because they are not burdened by heteronormativity. Maybe we could even learn from them.

The idea of queer non-human animals excites me, because we don't really know exactly how queer or not queer our pets are. Domestic pets are not free to pursue relationships. We neuter or spay them, we force them to interact with humans, or we breed them selectively. My birds are more liberated because they don't have human contact, but I still decide which birds they can have contact with. Would Colonel Mustard choose all female partners if given the option, or would she go back and forth like Isis seems to? There is no ethical way to answer that question though, as their sexualities are their own. The last animal sexuality study I read about was horrific (think human encouraged rape) and any intervention on our part (even if well meaning) is immoral. I am happy just to observe them and make notes.