Monday, September 21, 2009

Why I Became Vegan

Why would anyone want to be a vegan?  Don't you just eat lettuce all day?  LOL  No, but I won't go into the details of my diet today, other than to say it's quite tasty, and yes, I do love good food just like anyone else.  I have probably actually found a lot more awesome recipes because I'm vegan than I would have if I'd never made the switch.

For those of you that don't know, I am the regional coordinator for Mercy For Animals.  One of our goals is to educate the public about the rampant animal abuse on factory farms, as well as the impact of a vegan diet on health and environment.  Mercy For Animals has been around for about 10 years now, but just go started in my area about a year ago.  Following is the speech that I gave at our kick-off dinner last October.

Vegan Testimony

...I want to tell you how I got involved with vegetarianism and Mercy For Animals. I had a pretty traditional upbringing. Meat was a normal part of dinner most nights. My favorite meats were chicken and pork chops. While attending [college], I tried ribs for the first time, and I really liked them! Smothered in all that BBQ sauce, I’m sure I was a mess. I definitely had to ask for extra napkins!!

At a campus fair, I walked up to the vegetarian club’s info table. The woman staffing the table told me how egg laying chickens are crammed 6 at a time into tiny cages where they don’t even have enough room to spread their wings. In order to prevent injury and death from their stress-induced fighting, their sensitive beaks are seared off with a hot blade. She encouraged me to avoid contributing to this cruelty by adopting a vegan diet, one that contains no meat, dairy, and eggs.

I have to say, I was skeptical and irritated. I was studying to be a dietitian at the time, and I believed that we needed at least some animal products in our diets to be healthy. I thought this woman was irresponsible for telling people to eat this way.

But her message about the abuse of animals stayed with me. Over the next few years, I would sometimes think back to our conversation. Finally, I decided to do some research of my own. I’m a dietitian, so I wanted to see what the American Dietetic Association had to say about vegan diets. I already knew that a person can be healthy without eating meat, but I was very surprised to see the ADA’s position paper on vegetarian diets say that vegan diets are healthy for any stage of life, whether old or young, infant, pregnant, or lactating!

I could no longer use the argument that we had nutritional requirements for meat, eggs, or dairy. Even the ADA, which heavily promotes dairy products, agrees we don’t actually need them.

I did some internet research, and found out that the horrendous abuses of animals in factory farms are not isolated incidents, but actually are standard practices. For example, in the dairy industry, cows are treated like machines instead of living creatures. They are artificially inseminated each year, and their babies are taken from them within 24 hours of birth. The mother cow mourns the loss of her young. If the calf is male, he goes into a tiny veal crate, in the dark, where he is unable to move and is fed an iron deficient diet which makes him anemic, so that his meat will be white and tender. I had no idea that drinking milk supports the veal industry.

After learning about the cruelty, I decided I could not support these practices, and I adopted a vegan diet. I found some great substitutes for ice cream, cheeses, and meats, plus there are many awesome vegan cookbooks and websites. I learned that being vegan can be easy and taste great!

But it wasn’t enough for me to just give up animal products. I wanted to share with people this important information about where our food comes from. I found Mercy for Animals and I really liked the work they do. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anyone to coordinate activities for... That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a part of getting MFA started in our area.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We're All Sinners

Wait...what?  I said I didn't believe Christian dogma, and I promised to talk about something positive next time, so why am I talking about sin?  Well, I just thought that since it's Sunday, it would be fun to get some old-time religion going.  Um...just kidding!!!!

You are not a sinner in the Christian sense that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  There is no Original Sin, no inescapable sin passed down from your ancestors to you, nothing that you've done to piss God off so much that he'll send you to Hell for eternity if you don't believe the right things.  I will be devoting an entire post to Hell sometime in the near future.  But for now, let's get on to my uplifiting message.

You are an expression of the divine!!!  The creative force of the universe is inside of you; it's inside of everyone and everything.  It's so awesome to know that my baby is an expression of the divine.  Knowing that, how can I ever treat him/her like anything but that? 

I attend a Unity church.  Unity teaches that we are all expressions of the divine.  Unity follows the teachings of Jesus (although often interpreted radically different than mainstream Christian churches and thus is why I don't consider myself a Christian).  Unity believes that Jesus is divine, but no more divine than the rest of us.  Jesus is the expression of our highest potential.  He reached the highest level of consciousness that can be attained.  We all have that potential within us.

So where does sin come in?  A few weeks ago, my minister talked about sin in her Sunday message.  Sin is a term in archery that means "to miss the mark."  So, by sinning, you are missing the bullseye.  You must go and pick up your arrow and try again.  Unless you have never made a mistake and are always hitting your bullseye in life, you are a sinner.  You're not going to Hell, because Hell doesn't exist.  The only thing that exists is love.  You have the potential to be like Jesus (or Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., whatever spiritual/religious leader inspires you).  You just have to keep trying.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fed Up with Disrespectful Parents, Part 3

My previous 2 posts were about ways that parents disrepect their children.  This post is about:

What Parents Should Do Instead

Always tell the truth to your children, please. If you want to have a good relationship, you must tell the truth, just as in any adult relationship. You child will not trust you, and won't tell you the truth, if you don't tell the truth with him. You don't have to go into details that are inappropriate for the child's age, but still find something truthful to say.

Secondly, please respect your child as you would an adult. Validate their feelings.  Listen to what they have to say.  Don't ever make fun of them, mock them, or ridicule them. It's okay for them to feel what they feel. If you are upset about something, the last thing you would want is for someone to tell you that you're overeacting or that your feelings are stupid. So don't do it to your kids.

Don't expect your child to respect you simply because you're an adult. If you want your child to repect you, you must first respect him. You are the model for him to follow. You must act as you want your child to act. If you don't respect him, your child will quickly become frustrated, resentful and/or suffer from low self-esteem, and parenting will become much more difficult.

Okay, I'm done talking about bad parents.  Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.  Tomorrow there will be a new topic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fed Up with Disrespectful Parents, Part 2

Okay.  I promise the rest of my posts are not always going to be such downers, but this topic is something that has been bugging me for years now, and it feels good to get it off my chest.  So on to Part 2:

Parents Deny the Validity of Their Children's Thoughts/Feelings

Even more upsetting is the way parents talk to their children. They ridicule and belittle them. Now, most of the children I work with are under the age of 5, and these poor kids just can't win for anything. No matter how they act, their parents ridicule them. For example, a child is upset because she's getting a finger poke. First, the parent lies to the child about the pain. Then, the parent gets upset and sometimes yells at the child for crying. The parent acts as though the child is intentionally misbehaving, when the child is actually scared. Lying to the child about the pain will not help, as the child knows it will hurt. Yelling at the child will not help, as the child cannot control her fear response. The child needs to be told the truth and then comforted as much as possible throughout the procedure and after the procedure.

When the finger poke is over, many children are understandably still upset and often still crying. Many parents will get angry, and tell their children "It's over. Stop crying." Or, "See?  All that crying for nothing."  But the child is not crying for nothing.  There is a reason.  The parents are telling the child that he shouldn't be feeling the way he's feeling, that his reaction is bad, that they are upset with him for having the feelings he has. There is no comfort offered, and the parents appear to have much disdain for their own children. What a horrible and isolating experience for such a young child.

Another one that gets me is "See, your little sister didn't even cry."  First of all, babies cry less often than older children, as they often don't know what's about to happen.  Older children have been to the doctor several times, and they know the drill.  They have a lot of time to think about and anticipate what will happen, and therefore are more scared than the younger child.  But secondly, why are these parents trying to make their children feel bad about themselves, to dash their self esteem at such a young age?  Even the older kids we see are no more than 4 years old.  One time, a mom was thoroughly disgusted with her child, who was just shy of his third birthday.  She ridiculed him, saying, "How are you going to go to school acting like that?  Do you want all the kids to laugh at you?"  What the hell?  Did this mom actually think her child is the only one who cries about pokes/shots?

Worse yet, there was an incident in which a mom was upset with her child because she had been crying all morning after being told they were going to the clinic that day. The mom kept saying that there was no reason to be upset. Then, after the poke was over, this poor child was finally smiling. Her mom still ridiculed her, saying "Why aren't you still crying? I thought your finger hurt." Good lord. If the child had still been crying, the mom would be mad about that. Now that the child was happy, the mom was ridiculing her. This child just couldn't win, no matter how she acted.

I bet that's how a lot of children feel - like they just can't win.  And if they can't, then why even try?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fed Up With Disrespectful Parents, Part 1

Yeah,  you read that right.  Disrespectful parents.  I daily witness interactions between parents and children, and I find that parents who respect their children are a rare breed.  No wonder we have so many anxious, depressed, and angry adolescents.  Not to mention disrespectful.  If a child is disrespectful, he often takes the blame for it.  But what makes a child so disrespectful?  Is it the child's natural inclination, or does it come from years of being disrepected by adults? 

I have witnessed so much disdain for children that it breaks my heart.  People treat children in ways they would never dream of treating an adult.  Over the next few days, I'll be discussing some examples.

Parents Lie to Children

I work in a health clinic where children are weighed and receive finger pokes to check hemoglobin status.  Almost 100% of parents lie to their kids. The child, upon realizing that he is about to get poked, starts to cry and get upset.  The parents almost ALWAYS say, "Oh, it's not going to hurt."  Why?!  Of course it's going to hurt!  The child knows it; he's gotten poked before.  Sure, he'll be upset even if you tell him the truth about the pain, but it's better to tell the truth than to lie. 

If you lie to your child about whether a shot will hurt, he will begin to not trust you.  Then he will be scared about everything.  Because you haven't been truthful with him, he won't ever know what is safe and what is not safe.  I firmly believe that is why so many children are afraid to get weighed.  All they have to do is stand on a scale, but some kids are absolutely petrified.  They scream and cry and refuse to stand.  I don't believe this would happen if parents told kids the truth about what is going to happen at the doctor's office.

Who I Am and What This Blog Is About

This is the first blog I've ever written. I hope it is a successful venture.

I'll start off with a little information about me. I'm a registered dietitian, a vegan, and an animal rights activist. I strongly believe that animals should not be bred and raised for lives of misery just to become our breakfast/lunch/dinner. But being vegan doesn't just help the animals; it helps us. A well planned vegan diet is healthier than a diet with meat and dairy. It's also better for the planet, as animal agriculture is worse for the environment than the automobile industry. I'll probably expand more on these topics later.

Besides being an animal rights activist, I am 7 months pregnant with my first child and am planning a homebirth. I love being pregnant. Feeling the baby move and seeing the movement rippling on my stomach is the highlight of my days now, although I am endlessly frustrated that every time I place my husband's hand on my belly, the baby stops moving. Seriously, every time! I am really looking forward to meeting my baby.

I currently work in a health clinic with children. I see parents interacting with their children everyday at my job, and let me tell you, I am often very disturbed by what I see. Some of my views on parenting have come from watching these interactions.

I used to be a Christian, but I no longer claim that title, as I no longer believe most of Christian dogma. My husband and I are trying to find ourselves, our place in the world, and our spiritual path. It's hard work! We are currently attending a Unity church.

So, what is this blog going to be about? Well, it's going to be what I feel like writing about that day, and that's going to be a wide range of topics. I will discuss different aspects of veganism, obstetrical and birth issues, parenting, and spirituality. I hope you enjoy it.