The following pieces were written by Northern Vegans board member, Carrie Plummer:
Defining Veganism: The Mining Journal on December 16, 2012
To the Journal editor:
I’m writing you today because people continue to ask me and other vegans I know what a vegan is. Essentially a vegan (pronounced vee-gun) is someone who strives to live a life that causes the least amount of harm to animals (this also includes us bi-pedal animals).
Vegans would like to see a world where animals are free from human exploitation. So a vegan will abstain from eating animal foods of any kind-including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. But veganism is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle.
So vegans, for example, won’t wear animal furs or skins; avoid patronizing pet stores or places that use animals as entertainment such as animal circuses; and avoid buying products that are tested on animals or have animal ingredients in them.
The intent is to try to create a world where we can live without using animals for human purposes, and to live non-violently and harmoniously with the non-human animals that we share this world with.
The word vegan was coined by Donald Watson who founded The VeganSociety in 1944. Back then their food choices were far more limited, but today there are so many dairy and meat alternatives to choose from that shifting to a plant-based/vegan diet has never been easier.
To make this transition even more accessible the local group NorthernVegans has donated dozens of vegan cookbooks to Upper Peninsula libraries. By going to http://www.uplibraries.org we can all check out these wonderful, free resources. You can learn to cook and bake delicious vegan desserts that are free from eggs and dairy products.
One of the best vegan dessert cookbooks is “The Joy of Vegan Baking” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (available at the Negaunee Public Library).
There is no other diet that can be more profoundly kinder to animals, the environment, and our own personal health than a vegan one.
If you are someone who loves animals and wants to make a monumental and positive difference in their lives- you can make going vegan your new year’s resolution! Northern Vegans is a great resource and offers a vegan mentoring program where they connect you with someone who has successfully been living vegan for awhile.
Also the group meets every month at restaurants that offer vegan fare and everyone, vegans and non-vegans alike, are welcome. More at: www.northernvegans.com.
Bugs Are People, Too: Cultivating An Empathetic Vegan Child, June 2012
“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child
as it is to the caterpillar.”
I have been vegan since 1989 and I knew I would never turn back. I was a vegan for life. And now, being a mother and raising a vegan child has only strengthened my convictions. I find myself routinely teaching my 4-year son Henry about empathy, mercy, and compassion not only because our small family is vegan, but because we are simply confronted with the day-to-day situations that bring into focus our choice to live as nonviolent an existence as possible.
Through engaging in the outside world Henry witnesses vandalism, littering, dogs chained up, and so much more. These are the types of things that need to be explained to him. The outside world is also full of bugs “Do you see that ant?” I point to the ground, “try to avoid stepping on bugs whenever you see them.” “Take care not to ruin an ant hill, as that is the entrance to their homes. How would you feel if a giant came along and stepped on our house and crushed it? Would you like that?” He smiles shaking his head no. He gets it. Henry is the giant and the ants are the little guys at his mercy.
This kind of scenario, where the shoe would be on the other foot so to speak, will help him understand what it would be like to be a victim thus helping him nurture and cultivate empathy. He would want the giant to be kind to him, so naturally that is what the ants would want, too.
Empathy is really a core value of veganism. Empathy needs to be cultivated. Children can be inherently kind, but at times they don’t understand consequences or may have a curious nature to be destructive and desire to see the causes of their actions, so therefore they may sometimes act cruelly. So we as parents have to explain to them what is right and wrong. What is harmful and what is not. What is kind and what is unkind.
Raising a thoughtful child takes initiative and guidance. Through all kinds of circumstances Henry understands how kindness can be executed and why. Kindness to both humans and non-humans of course- that is paramount. I explain how it is kind to open a door for someone who is in need such an elderly or disabled person or a parent with children; that littering is wrong and broken glass, for example, can cut into a dog’s paw or a person’s foot. He is learning that our actions can have either a positive or negative effect on the world. I also explain that if someone, human or non-human, is weak or more vulnerable then all the more reason that they are deserving of our help or mercy. This is veganism.
As a vegan mother I continuously have, as Ricky Ricardo says, “some splaining to do” when I am reading him books that often depict animals as commodities or the stark reality of how humans can be unkind to animals. For example, from the wonderful book “The Trumpet of the Swan” By E.B. White, the cob (father swan) warns his babies of predators to avoid (my son is learning quite a bit about predator and prey among the animal kingdom) and not to swallow the bullets that sink down into the pond, as they are toxic and can kill. Well why are there bullets in the pond anyway my boy might be thinking? My son was growing so attached to the main character Louis and pretending to be a trumpeter swan. He will sooner or later understand that the bullets come from hunters shooting at birds- birds that he admires and emulates. The next question as he gets older will ultimately be “why would anyone shoot at a bird?” These and many other situations that I encounter from the many books we read open up an array of topics of what people do that is unvegan and why as vegans we would never participate in these activities.
There are many mainstream titles that also present similar points of view by promoting the kind treatment of animals, even though their messages aren’t strictly designed for vegans they have at their core the heart of veganism- the non-exploitation and non-killing of non-human animals. A few examples are, Bob the Builder’s “Bob Saves the Porcupines” By Diane Redmond; “Big Night for Salamanders” By Sarah Marwil Lamstein; and “A Turkey for Thanksgiving”By Eve Bunting- a great Thanksgiving book in which they are “having” a turkey for dinner by actually inviting the turkey as a guest instead of eating him. These are just a few of the many examples out there that support the education of a vegan child.
There are many ways to incorporate the lessons of compassion and empathy. Animal rescue farms, many of which are completely vegan to their core, provide great opportunities to experience the energies of other vegans whose devotion to providing these sentient beings sanctuary offers a distinct alternative to the mainstream reality of animals as products. Our family has recently sponsored a male cow named Jefferson at Sasha Farm in Manchester, Michigan. Our next step will be to make periodic visits to the farm so Henry can meet these animals that were once destined for their meat or by-products. This face to face interaction will be a wonderful vehicle for teaching both compassion and empathy.
Henry is understanding that we are vegans when most people are not. While being vegan seems completely normal to him, he is realizing that we are different from most people in our society. But he is understanding why we are what we are. When the choice is there we choose not to support animal suffering and exploitation- we choose mercy, compassion, and empathy. This makes sense to him. We may not know whether a fly can feel pain, but because we don’t know this fact doesn’t give us the right to pull its wings for amusement. Give them the benefit of the doubt, we choose to be merciful. We can live healthy lives as vegans (and evidence suggests even healthier lives than our omnivore friends) and therefore when the choice is there we choose to eat vegan. My 4 year old has the ability to empathize with a bug. So he surely can empathize with a cow, pig, and, most obviously, a human being.
Children are born without prejudices or cultural preferences or customs. They rely on us parents to help guide them and say, “just because it has been custom, it doesn’t make it right.” This sort of concept is not new. Parents who were anti-slavery and anti-racism in 1850 in Alabama were a minority, but that didn’t stop them from teaching their children what was right. At the time they were revolutionary, but now those so-called radicals represent the majority of us (just about everyone I know at least).
My son is part of the vegan revolution. There are more children being born and raised vegan now than any other time in human history. Their customs, views, virtues, and values will help heal the problems of our unjust world. Bringing thoughtful, compassionate, and healthy vegan children into this world is not only attainable but can be regarded as a catalyst for a more peaceful and empathetic world. They are the wave of the future.
We Can Stop the Use of Pesticides on City Properties: June 2010
Recently, my family and I were walking around Lower Harbor/Mattson Park in Marquette where we instantly detected the strong smell of herbicide granules (weed and feed) on the main grass area where teenagers were playing frisbee in their barefeet.
Progressive local governments across the United States and Canada have banned weed-and-feed and other products containing 2, 4-D (a neurotoxin once found in Agent Orange).
Weed-and-feed and other lawn chemicals have been linked to cancer, endocrine system disruption, neurological and immune system effects,asthma and respiratory effects, and behavioral and learning effects. Children are especially vulnerable to adverse effects of pesticides. Scientific studies show that children face elevated rates of diseases associated with pesticides (children’s organs are still developing and are therefore less efficient at removing toxins and they will play in the grass and put things in their mouths).
Lawn applications of pesticides or herbicides by use of spray or granules are also prone to leaching and runoff, which contaminates water above and below ground. These chemicals have no boundaries and end up in Lake Superior and in our own bodies.
Chemical pesticides harm all forms of life including wildlife. Those that like to play on these lawns the most (ie: children and pets) can absorb it from skin contact and take it in orally by touching the grass or rolling in it. Below ground, pesticides harm microorganisms, and beneficial insects and earthworms. Lawns are best managed successfully without a reliance on these toxic chemicals with a practice that addresses soil health, aeration, mowing height, proper organic fertilization, watering techniques, and appropriate grass varieties.
I find it disturbing enough when pesticides are casually used on lawns by homeowners but when municipalities do it- paid for by our city taxes- it is reckless. There were no warning signs posted either! While I am not a Marquette resident, my family frequents the area. For those of us that are greatly concerned for the health of our local environment and therefore our personal health we need to kindly but firmly demand that the city no longer uses pesticides on any city properties.For those that are still using lawn pesticides on home properties please consider checking out: http://www.safelawns.org.
If you also are concerned about this issue then please contact the Marquette City Commission and request that lawn pesticides be banned on city properties. To contact them by email go to: http://www.mqtcty.org/commission_city_meet_your.html. If many of our voices are heard then this can very well happen.
Who is more superior to me and why?
I can not accept it’s because one is stronger, richer, or more dominant than I.
If I was to proclaim that someone was superior what is that intended to mean?
Is my Superior someone I wish to emulate, who challenges and lives unpretentiously?
If that is so, what such attributes does she exemplify?
For these attributes I wish to possess and willingly apply.
My Guru- Superior- the one I revere possesses compassion, generosity like heroes of yesteryear.
Thus to say superiority is humility uncompromised, like Christians have seen in Jesus once upon a time.
It’s God incarnated as man- the most superior of them all.
Yet with his power he chose modesty instead of arrogance or control.
He envisioned a world of harmony and not of domination.
As the lower are not inferior and deserving of liberation.
Most will agree altruism is a superior quality to have.
Non-humans have proven time again that they share this quality with man.
From the Dolphins circling around a would be drowning child, his body lifted to see the light.
Or the two Elk who sandwiched a shivering boy and all slept in the maze of mountains overnight.
Such merciful animal stories are forgotten or rarely heard.
The survivors were left unscathed and joyfully rebirthed.
If the human claims to be- like God- the most superior of them all, mustn’t it be altruism and not self service that the world befall?
By Carrie Plummer, Copyrighted 2003
May be used in unchanged form by avowed Animal Rightists if accompanied by this copyright message.
The Dandelion Prerogative
It was an early Spring that my husband and I were visiting family downstate and staying with his parents. They had a large luscious green lawn with dandelions sprouting everywhere! I was so excited to see them in full bloom. It takes me back to my childhood. I ended up picking a plentiful amount of dandelion leaves one day- their lawn of course was untreated and away from roads, thus the greens were safe to eat. I added organic tomatoes and onions to the mix, topped with my mother-in-law’s homemade balsamic vinegarette dressing and needless to say, it was a hit! Eating something so fresh and nourishing that took no fossil fuels to transport, no watering, no cultivating of any sort, is truly a gift from Mother Earth.
European settlers brought the tenacious yellow flower to the New Land because it was widely used as both food and medicine. Dandelions are very high in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A and have as much Vitamin C by weight as grapefruits. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says dandelions pack more nutritional punch than even broccoli and spinach. You can make a coffee substitute, wine, and jelly out of them. They stimulate and aid the liver in the elimination of toxins from the blood and are used for breast tumors, cysts, fevers, kidney and gall stones, P.M.S., menopause, hypoglycemia, recent onset diabetes, high blood pressure, digestive disturbances, and hepatitis. They are also used as a skin cleanser and help increase production of mother’s milk! Oh, and best of all – they’re free!
Unfortunately, many of the inheritors of this potent flower are unappreciative and, frankly, at war with it. A large green carpet with little to no diversity has become the convention. People are spending time and money routinely spraying poisons on their lawns. Many of the commonly used pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) are suspected human carcinogens. Air, water, and soil are being contaminated and in the process, wildlife is disappearing and the friendly beneficial bacteria in the soil are dying. What’s most disturbing is that children are up to 6 times more likely to get childhood leukemia or brain cancer when living in or near homes where the lawns are treated with these indiscriminate chemicals. (See Children’s Health Environmental Coalition’s website: www.checnet.org and Pesticide Action Network: http://www.panna.org).
Perhaps more of us can begin to see dandelions, as well as other so-called weeds, like clover and chickweed, as no longer eyesores but rather a gift from our ancestors and Mother Earth. Are we sensitive enough to learn from these survivors of our most deadly poisons? Many Native American Indians believe “whenever possible eat raw and eat wild”- some sage advice to us all. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if neighbors came together with their children and picked many of the edible wild plants that grew right on each other’s properties and shared a magnificent salad together! What a way to connect children to where food actually comes from (understanding that vegetables and fruits don’t miraculously appear at the local grocery stores) as well as allowing them to be team players in the harvesting of the plants, and promoting healthy eating habits for the long haul (studies have shown that children are more receptive to eating foods that they normally would have rejected when they participate in the process of growing, harvesting, preparing, or cooking of the foods).
Surprise your neighbor with a large delectable dandelion salad! The leaves, roots, and flowers are all edible (they’re less bitter in early Spring). Be proud of your dandelions, enjoy your arriving wild visitors (the pollinators), and take advantage of the incredible benefits these beautiful “weeds” provide! So by all means – LET THEM GROW! (Great books: The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook and Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (And Not so Wild) Places both by Steve Brill (vegan), and The Chemical-Free Lawn by Warren Schultz. See “Wildman” Steve Brill’s website: www.econetwork.net/~wildmansteve/body.html.
Peace Begins on Your Plate
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.”- St. Francis of Assisi
Can we someday live in a world free from war and violence? We certainly hope. But why is there violence? Violence often occurs as the by-product of power and control, but is also due to a prejudice, a sense of separateness. Most of the time, violence is inflicted on the weak, helpless, and vulnerable.
In a study by Tingle et al. (1986) of 64 convicted male offenders, animal abuse in childhood or adolescence was reported by 48 percent of the
rapists and 30 percent of the child molesters. Violence is violence, whether it’s inflicted on a woman, man, child, or animal.
Like racism, sexism, and homophobia, speciesism is undisputably another form of prejudice or bigotry, although not obvious to all yet.
Speciesism is a discrimination in favor of one species over the other. It’s a commonly held belief or bias (among humans) that human animals are the only ones that have rights (or souls), and that all other animals are here to benefit human beings. It’s the same sort of prejudice like any other- “Because they are different from ‘us’ or not like ‘us’ they are therefore inferior to ‘us’.” Speciesism is pervasive and strong, but worse, it goes unrecognized and is often not questioned or acknowledged among the mainstream.
Both social and peace activists like Dexter Scott King, son of Martin Luther King Jr.; Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat; and Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, are ALL vegans. “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.”- Alice Walker. Holocaust survivor Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, wrote, from Animal, My Brethren: “I refuse to eat animals because I cannot nourish myself by the sufferings and by the death of other creatures. I refuse to do so, because I suffered so painfully myself that I can feel the pains of others by recalling my own sufferings.” Of course Mahatma Gandhi was an ethical vegetarian too.
Living a non-violent peaceful existence can begin from our most basic need, food. Food is an incredibly intimate and essential part of our lives. By consciously embracing a diet that is free from bloodshed and suffering we would not only be promoting peace, we would also be saving countless animal lives, significantly improving the environment, and living much healthier lives (vegetarians have a 45% reduced risk of contracting diabetes; vegetarian mothers have 35 times LESS DDT in their breast milk; and vegans are 12.5 times less likely to die of a heart attack). It’s a win win situation! Eating animal foods is unnecessary for survival and it has been proven that a high animal protein, low fiber (fiber is found only in plant foods) diet is detrimental to human health. Not only can we survive on a vegan diet but we can thrive on it! (See: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s site: http://www.pcrm.org and consider reading these excellent books: Eat Right, Live Longer by Neal Barnard, M.D. or The Food Revolution by John Robbins.
Let’s ask ourselves, do we want to support a market of violence, oppression, and killing just so we can continue to eat animals and their by-products when it’s unnecessary? It is a choice, and a very profound and important one at that. If we begin to look at “food” animals as intrinsically no different than our companion animals, for example, then the mere thought of eating them would be an unpleasing one indeed- we would be on the road to a just and peaceful world.
Eating can be such a pleasurable experience, let’s make it a compassionate, thoughtful, and peaceful one as well.