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Archive for the ‘environmental concerns’ Category

I want you to know that your podcast has helped transform my life.

I have always been a health nut, and in January of 2008, I was directed to John Robbins’ Healthy at 100, which documents how cultures subsisting on plant-based diets tend to live longer. Robbins’ book, along with Skinny Bitch, convinced me to try veganism. I experienced health benefits almost immediately. Until then, I was an asthmatic who used a steroid inhaler and a rescue inhaler to control attacks. Soon after I went vegan, I gave up both inhalers for good and haven’t experienced any shortness of breath since.

However, although I was vegan, I didn’t want to become one of those “animal rights freaks.” I told all my friends that I was giving up animal products for my health, because I was afraid I would lose friends if I changed my life for the animals. But I soon discovered your podcast on Itunes. At first, I only listened to the episodes on nutrition and avoided the ones that discussed animals. I thought it would be just too painful to listen. But even when you discuss nutrition or your favorite foods, your love for animals shines through. I eventually became brave enough to try other episodes and was shocked by the episode on “what’s wrong with eating eggs.” Finally, one of your podcasts led me to Gail Eisnitz’s Slaughterhouse. And then I opened my eyes. I have never been what I consider a big “animal lover,” because I don’t have pets. But I certainly don’t believe that animals should suffer the abuse of factory farms, and I certainly don’t believe animals should have to die for me to eat.

Now, I speak plainly and openly about animal rights and I tell people we do not need to eat animals to survive. To my surprise, even though I speak up for the animals, I haven’t lost any friends. Your podcasts have helped me find my voice and engage in open and honest dialogues. Before your podcast, I was hesitant to even call myself vegan. I would instead say “I don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs.” Now, I proudly say I’m vegan and even have a bumper sticker on my car that proclaims it. I’m in the process of starting a vegetarian student organization at the university where I work, and I hope that we will soon pass out literature on animal rights.

Of course, I experience difficulties with being vegan. My sister for instance, doesn’t want to give up the “tradition” of cooking a turkey when she hosts Thanksgiving this year. But without your podcast, I never would have had the wisdom or courage to ask her to leave turkey off the table. And I’m confident that my family will enjoy the stuffed acorn squashes I make (from your recipe!) much more than the turkey. Maybe next year we can have a truly peaceful Thanksgiving.

In short, your work has helped me find a diet that fully reflects all of my values – good health, environmental sustainability, and compassion for animals. I hope you are tremendously proud of your efforts, because you give people like me so much sustenance and hope.

~Megan in Mississippi

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I had never really been a particularly healthy person growing up. I guess I ate mostly what everyone else, my family, friends and the rest of New Zealand society ate. Meat and two veg for dinner, plenty of fruit, cereals and grains, a lot of dairy. It was the simple things I remember eating – meals of baked beans on toast, mince & mash or sausages in bread with tomato sauce or cheese and vegemite sandwiches.

As I grew older I was inclined to pay more attention to eating habits and health in general, although seldom was any of my newfound knowledge put into practice. I did however know that there was nothing wrong with lean red meat and dairy in a well balanced diet. In fact, I was quite sure that my iron levels were lower than average and thanks to persistent advertising, more than aware of the vital role of probiotics from dairy in promoting healthy gut flora. I made my own yoghurt, drank plenty of milk, made sure I bought, cooked and ate enough red meat and fish (omega 3!) and sophisticatedly indulged in eating cheese of varying varieties while drinking red wine. Little did I know I was flooding my body with cholesterol and fats and probably a not-so-healthy dose of antibiotics and hormones too!

The plight of animals never really crossed my mind. Sure, they were killed for our consumption. Of course they were; that’s what they were raised for. And anyway, if I didn’t pick up that chicken breast at the supermarket, someone else would, or it would be wasted. The damage had already been done and all I was doing was making good use of the product of an industry, not letting it go to waste. In a land full of farmers you seldom encountered opposing views. In short, you ate what you were given and were thankful.

After graduating, travel led me to all sorts of places and introduced me to a range of cuisines. Seeking desperately to avoid the ‘fussy’ label I had earned as a child I ate all manner of delicacies served for my consumption, including sea snake, puffer fish, raw horse meat, raw chicken, liver and cartilage. Somehow, this made me and my companions feel good. As if we had conquered the dead and lifeless meat in front of us and as if this was cause to congratulate ourselves and boast. None of this bothered me at the time. It is only now, when I look back on myself at those moments that I am saddened.

I have been vegan for a year and a half, vegetarian before that for a good six months or so. It has changed my life completely and continues to do so. I can’t really say that there was a definitive moment in my life that led me to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle, or that I woke up one morning and it all fell into place like the pieces of some terribly sadistic puzzle. But rather, things happened gradually. I was aware of issues surrounding the consumption of animal products in almost a peripheral sense, as if they were always there but I had never chosen to focus on them. It really is amazing what our minds and hearts will ignore in order to maintain the status quo and avoid change.

Most of the peripheral information I was aware of came via my partner, who had a colleague at work recently ‘convert’ to vegetarianism. He would come home with tales of conversations he’d had with his colleague, Matt, while sharing a beer during their lunch break or after work. I didn’t know Matt particularly well at the time, but one thing he was known for was his penchant for logic. He is a very rational and reasonable guy, not to mention patient and tolerant of others’ opinions. And here he was, giving up meat!

Somehow it didn’t quite compute. The stereotypes I had of vegans and vegetarians in my head did not look like Matt. But, hey, we were living in the 2000s and was willing to listen to his theories on a cruelty-free life second-hand anyway. I found my ears pricking up whenever my partner mentioned he’d had a conversation with Matt recently and low and behold I began to realise that I was actually interested. Could I be one of those people who ‘goes vego’, who opts for pizza without cheese..? The more I thought about it and researched things, the more sympathy I had for vegetarianism and the more I came to realise that there was nothing inherently ‘weird’ or ‘anti-social’ about these people. They were simply normal people; normal people who wanted to try and make the world a slightly better place to be in by not eating animal flesh. In just the same way that I recycled my plastic bottles and newspapers, reused my own bags at the supermarket or shared a smile with a stranger in a busy street, they were out to see if their actions couldn’t make life better for all of us.

It seems like a lofty idea and you could be forgiven for thinking I’m naïve and idealistic. But, in truth, I have never seen anything wrong with either of these qualities and much prefer them to pessimism and cynicism. Sure, opting for a salad over a hamburger is not going to instantly transform the world into some heavenly utopia, but it does make a difference. Less demand for meat means less demand for farmed animals who live pitifully short lives of suffering, less slaughterhouse workers who leave for home every night with blood on their white overalls and aprons, less trees and forests cut down to provide pasture for grazing, less habitats lost, less grain fed to animals, less people fretting about the price of food, less starvation, less high-cholesterol, less heart disease, less obesity, less taxes for health care, less resources wasted. Less suffering and death.

I suppose you could say that once I had made these connections there was no going back. Something had changed in the way that I viewed the world and my place in it. I had become so much more aware of how my actions, simple, small and everyday things, could have much greater implications elsewhere and create a knock-on effect. Soon I had decided to stop eating dairy, eggs and then processed foods that contained animal products. I was reading labels, thinking about ingredients and then thinking about them again. I had expected this to happen. But one thing I hadn’t expected was the influence this way of thinking had on the rest of my life. I began to find myself questioning if I really needed to buy another magazine or book or T shirt and wondering where and how and for what purpose these things had been produced. Who was I helping with my money besides myself? Was I making a difference in the world? Was this a positive action or a negative one..?

‘Awakening’ implies that you had to have been asleep beforehand, but I know that I wasn’t; I was fully conscious and considered myself a good human being. However, I chose to blind myself to many of these issues because to acknowledge them made me slightly uncomfortable. Many issues in the world still do. But veganism is not a journey that ends once you’ve completely rid your life of animal products and cruelty, cleared out your cupboards and given your leather boots away to the Salvation Army. It is an ongoing journey and one that you will be able to travel with throughout your life, like a good companion. Veganism is the voice that asks you to reconsider, asks you to live your life in accordance with your beliefs and to aspire to be better.

Even now I am continuing to learn and change and improve the way I tread on the planet’s surface. Do I tiptoe? Do I thud? Do I run? Flit? What sort of footprint do I leave?

Our diets have a far greater effect on the planet than many of us realise. ‘What’s one banana?’ you might ask. But realise you are fundamentally similar to the majority of the population of the earth, with similar needs, wants, desires and the question soon becomes ‘what’s six billion bananas?’. Thinking big is the only way to assess our true impact on the earth and it can only be done when we are able to recognise that our choices matter as much as the next person’s. The earth is our dwelling place and we have a responsibility to be in it and of it and to care for it. It is not up to politicians, governments, or other people in other countries to organise the way we live and the way we treat the world. It is up to ourselves.

In the same way, if one person avoids eating animal products, it really does make a difference. We may feel as though it doesn’t when compared to the large numbers of meat eaters out there, but the world consists of people just like us and surely if we can change, others can too. It really is as simple as supply and demand. No one buys animal products, animal products go out of business. No one supports industries testing on animals, industries look for alternatives. Every circus needs an audience, for without one there is no circus. This is truly exciting and it’s what prompts me to respond with patience and sincerity every time I’m asked about living a cruelty free life.

The only reason I ever even considered ‘cutting out meat’ in the first place was because I knew someone who had adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. Not a family member, or a close friend, just an acquaintance. And one who was particularly rational, patient and open to others’ viewpoints. Just knowing Matt existed and was thinking about these things led me to do a little research of my own. I firmly believe that if he had been judgemental of others or the type prone to proselytising, my curiosity antennae would have curled in on themselves and I never would have found out how much I agreed with his views. It pays to remember this when airing your beliefs in the company of those who still eat animal products. Be open, be humble, be kind and let their antennae roam.

~ Sarah, London UK

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Your podcast has changed my life. I am so grateful that you dedicate so much of your time to this work. It is so very important. I love to hear you read the letters written by listeners whose lives you have helped transform. I hear myself in so many of them, and that is part of the reason it seemed possible for me to transition to veganism.

I am in my late 30’s, and until recently, a ‘foodie’ and ‘compassionate omnivore’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one), but part of me could never reconcile the fact that my beloved pet chihuahuas were the same weight as the chickens I was consuming. Not only that, but I love chickens, their personalities and behavior. I think they are remarkable creatures. Why was I eating them?

These concepts were not new to me. I had been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for many years in my 20’s, but began eating meat again several years ago. 2 months ago I decided to once again stop eating animals. That decision felt so right! However, even though I knew of the horrors of factory-farmed dairy and eggs, I allowed myself to feel comforted by the fact that I was able to buy free-range eggs from the hens running around in my neighbor’s yard, and dairy products from the small Jersey cow herd on a local organic farm.

Then I accidently purchased a copy of the magazine VegNews, not knowing it was about all things vegan. Now, I have had vegan friends for many years, and have cooked many vegan meals for them, but for some reason, despite my passionate love of animals and abhorance of all suffering, I never made the conscious connection between my choices and the lives of the creatures whose animal products I was consuming. Veganism just seemed like a quirky dietary anomoly, and I enjoyed the culinary challenge of creating tasty meals my vegan friends would enjoy.

The VegNews issue I bought had your podcast listed in one of it’s articles. I found ‘Vegetarian Food For Thought’ on iTunes and listened to it–for 3 days straight! I could not stop, and still cannot. You helped me see that it is ridiculous not to transition to veganism! Veganism benefits not only the animals, but the spiritual and physical health of us human animals and of our planet.

I have long understood the health benefits of a vegan-diet–I am a medical clinician and have a special interest in nutrition and fitness–but alas, I was addicted to yogurt and cheese. No longer! I have been plant-fueled for 2 weeks now, and I feel fabulous! What is interesting is the response I get from my medical colleagues. These people, “experts” entrusted with educating patients and helping them make important health decisions, do not understand my decision. They mock it. I believe, as you and many of your wise listeners have pointed out, that when we discuss our decision to be vegan, we are holding up a mirror up to others and reflecting back to them the unhealthiness of their own food and lifestyle choices. Thanks to your wise words, I feel supported in my decision, and have the knowledge I need to continue with (what I believe is) the only sustainable way of eating and living available to us. I also have access to the ‘joyful vegan’ language that you utilize, which makes discussions about veganism much less antagonistic.

I have never in my life felt such inner-peace.

Thank you Colleen, for helping me to become a better person.

~ Christine in Colchester, VT

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Thank you, thank you for your terrific podcast. I have been a vegetarian for about 6 weeks. It has been a slow, long process to get to this point. I’ve always been a picky meat eater, never eating veal or rabbit, more fish than chicken, but I did enjoy foie gras until about 5 years ago when I witnessed jars and jars of enlarged livers at a shop in Nice.

Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation opened my eyes to the evils of the fast food industry, and as an environmentalist who is always looking for something else to do I was very interested in “cost” of raising meat to our environment. I started replacing the protein dishes that I was used to all my life for veggies with a side of tofu, but I was definitely still eating meat. I only started listening to your podcast to get some more vegetarian dish ideas, but instead you opened my eyes and mind. I had no idea the demise of male baby chicks or the conditions at slaughterhouses. I didn’t know any of this.

Of course I started listening to your podcast 3 weeks before a trip to Prague and Budapest. I thought about waiting until I got back to start totally eliminating meat from my diet (my many excuses including: it’s so hard to read an Hungarian menu, they won’t offer me any Vegetarian food, etc), but something you said about “doing something rather than do nothing” made me think. My master plan was to eliminate meat from my diet for three weeks, fall of the wagon and eat meat in Europe and then come back and eat a plant-based diet again. But it only takes three weeks to change a habit.

It was so easy being vegetarian in Europe. Almost every menu had a vegetarian section with wonderful foods to choose from and the waitstaff was always accommodating.  I did not have any excuses, and though as a “newbie” I messed up a few times, almost all of my meals were vegetarian or vegan. I had a wonderful vacation with lots of energy and a clear mind.

On the train from Prague to Budapest I listened to 6 hours of your podcast and now I am completely “up to date” waiting for your next one. And I plan to sponsor your podcast as soon as I have paid off my trip 🙂

P.S. Last week I went to a Chinese Hot Pot restaurant and had the veggie-based soup with delicious vegetables, noodles and frozen tofu! I had never heard of frozen tofu before … you put a firm tofu in the freezer for a day and it creates these little holes that, when defrosted and put in a soup or stir fry “holds in” the flavor .. delicious!

~Debbie

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In 1988 I took an Environmental Science class as a sophomore at Penn State.  From films, we learned about soil degradation, water pollution and destruction of the rain forest as consequences of animal agriculture. I don’t know if the professor was a vegetarian, but I made the switch rapidly that semester to a meat-free diet.  It was purely for the environment and had nothing to do with animal welfare in any regard.

Four years later, I worked for an animal shelter in rural Oregon.  I saw a hand-made flier entitled, “Vegetarianism and Animal Rights:  A Free Series of Videos on Alternate Thursdays.” Since “I loved animals,” I thought my boyfriend and I should go.  It was November and just before Thanksgiving.  Off we went to this perfect stranger’s house with no idea what was in store for us.  I’m not even sure I knew what “Animal Rights” meant.

In Ron and Peggy’s living room, we watched, “The Animals Film” and learned about intensive-confinement animal agriculture, the clear connection between milk and veal and that roosters have no place in egg production.  It was hard to watch.  I have a crisp memory of the drive home through trailer parks and orchards, both of us sitting in stunned silence.  Someone said, “Well, I’ll never eat that again.”

We didn’t, and for the most part, we have never looked back (he’s now my husband).  Yes, we have made occasional allowances for wedding cake and if grated cheese finds it’s way onto our plates, we make do, but for the most part, we haven’t missed these things that were the foundation every meal, every day for over twenty years.  And it’s not
because of the incredible array of delicious, animal-free foods available, of which there were and are many.  It’s because of the unforgettable footage of the routine practices of animal agriculture.

Today, when I speak up about the cruelties of animal farming, I’m told, “Oh, I know all about that.”  Really?  I doubt it because I believe the vast majority of reasonable people would find the routine practices of animal agriculture abhorrent, if only they would bother to take a serious look.

So, if you know of someone who says they simply can’t resist animal products or they say they believe stories about animal agriculture to be false, exaggerations, or atypical occurrences, ask them to watch, “Earthlings” or “Meet Your Meat” or another of the video’s available online.  These are not easy to watch, to be sure.  But if we demand animals endure deplorable conditions in which death is their only relief, can’t we take enough responsibility to watch?  Once we become
completely informed, the decision of what to eat takes care of itself.

~Susan in Pacifica, CA

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Although I’ve never been a huge meat eater, I decided to officially become a vegetarian this past summer.  My original decision was simply because I was disgusted by both the taste of meat and the thought of eating animals that were once living.  But as I began to search for tips on vegetarian cooking, I came across more and more information that confirmed I made the right choice — for my own health, for the environment and animals, and for the world as a whole. 

I discovered your website this spring, and have been listening to your podcasts for several months.  A year ago, I would never have considered being vegan, and I was definitely one of those “but I love cheese!” people.  But you’ve inspired me to reduce the amount of animal products in my diet.  As a student, I have had to compromise and opt for the vegetarian choices when I eat in the dining hall, but I am proud to say that I have stopped buying dairy products and I’ve even had a few successful attempts at vegan baking!

Listening to your podcast, however, I’ve realized that veganism is a profound belief, rather than just a special diet.  The vegan choices I’ve made thus far have been surprisingly easy, but I feel that if veganism is something I wholeheartedly believe in, I should be willing to make sacrifices.  So I’ve decided to go completely vegan this summer (when I’m home and away from college food).  I’m really excited about this decision, but it is a place I never would have arrived at without your podcasts.

Since I only know a couple vegetarians and zero vegans, listening to your podcasts feels like talking to a friend.  When I get sick of telling my friends where I get my protein from, or after watching them consume hamburgers at a barbeque, I come back to my room and listen to your friendly and wise words, and I am reminded that I am not the only “crazy vegan” in the world.  So thank you, a million times, for the work you do. 

Thank you for being such an inspiring person!

Carynne M.

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I was probably a very “typical” vegetarian. I had slowly transitioned into it because of a smart, loving, vegetarian boyfriend, who had asked me some great, poignant questions like: “Could you kill an animal yourself?”  Eating less meat, I slowly realized how much happier and better I felt about my food choices. Simultaneously I was learning about loving-kindness (a Buddhist way of life), and the environmental impact of a meat diet and it all just sort of clicked.  I started educating myself and learning more about living a life of compassion, and it just felt perfect…. and right. I started to view “meat” as “suffering” and couldn’t imagine feeding myself something with so much pain attached to it.

Meanwhile, I was listening to a ton of podcasts and came across Vegetarian Food for Thought with Colleen. I was instantly hooked; emotionally and intellectually. Once I knew about the dairy industry and then saw the film “Earthlings,” there was no going back. You can’t take off your blinders and put them back on. It just doesn’t work that way.

It’s become a moral issue for me now, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was contributing to the horrors of the dairy and meat industry.  I do have memories of having said things like: “I could never be vegan, no way!” but the truth is, it’s been extremely painless…literally and figuratively! A couple of weeks ago I went to a farm and was reminded…. animals are incredible beings! It made me so proud of my choices.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your compassion and wisdom through your podcast. I feel so enlightened and educated, and am proud to be transitioning towards living my own truth, through a mindful, vegan diet.

~Nina in Somerville, MA

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