Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why vegan?

I want to use this blog to help people adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle whether their reasons are for animals, their own health, the environment, or simply because they find meat icky. In order to understand where I'm coming from in my advice I thought I should share my own story of how I became a vegan, and some of my reasons for keeping it up.

When I was 16 I stopped eating red meat. I never really enjoyed eating it, but to be honest I can't really remember what caused me to give it up. However, I have a vivid image in my mind of why I stopped eating poultry and fish as well. I was on a weekend trip with my high school's drama club, and in the parking lot of the hotel we were staying at there were several dead deer in the bed of a pickup truck. That was the first time I had ever seen an animal that had been intentionally killed by a person, and that image made me re-think my relationship to animals.

Over the next 9 years of vegetarianism I was blissfully ignorant about the egg and dairy industries. I thought, "the animals aren't killed to give us eggs and dairy, so it's okay." I thought that keeping cows and chickens in captivity was the big issue for vegans (as well as the poor treatment of cows and chickens in captivity, which I tried to convince myself was better than the fate of cows and chickens killed for meat). Then I went to China. I saw some horrible things there including a box of skinned dog heads, a man shocking hamsters in a tiny cage to demonstrate a pest control product, exotic animal furs being sold in every shopping district, a circus with animal acts including a tight rope walking bear that had to be beaten on stage to perform, among other things. While these things aren't related to the dairy and egg industries, they opened my eyes to what goes on in places that value animals less than we do in North America. That got me thinking about what is permitted in our culture that I wasn't aware of. So I decided to take the blinders off and I read an article about the link between the dairy and veal industries. And then I read an article about what happens to male chicks born on egg farms. And then I watched Earthlings. What I saw in China cannot be unseen, and what I know about how animals are treated so that people can have meat, dairy products and eggs cannot be unknown. So I made the decision to no longer draw a line saying, "it's okay to use animals in this way, but not in that way." It is no longer okay for me to use animals in any way.

I should add that I am fully aware of the place of privilege I come from as a Canadian. I have an abundance of food to choose from, and can enjoy a healthy vegan diet. I am aware that many people around the world do not have an abundance of food to choose from, and cannot afford to be picky about what they eat. That being said, we are facing a global food shortage and one of the best things we can do is to consume less meat. This would reduce the amount of water and fossil fuels we use and forests we cut down. Below is an infographic explaining the carbon footprint of one hamburger patty:

Furthermore, over 1/3 of the world's grains are fed to livestock. The following infographic explains the impact of livestock farming on the environment, as well as the inefficiency of feeding so much food to our food:

My health reasons for being a vegan are much less fleshed out (pun?). While I believe that eating a plant based diet that covers all nutritional bases is the most healthy choice for me (and something I am working towards), I also recognize that simply not eating animal products does not equal a healthy diet, and vice versa. However, I'm striving to be an example of a healthy vegan because the reasons above are compelling enough for me to keep going. 

Now that you know my story, I will do my best to provide advice for people at any level of interest in consuming less animal products- whatever the reason, I support you! :)

Feel free to comment below! If you have a veggie story to share I'd love to hear it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Defend Canada's Core Values From Bill C-38

This is what you will find on the websites of many Canadian organizations tomorrow. The reason behind this is the fight against Canada's Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-38. Included in what should have been a standard federal budget are sweeping changes to Canada's environmental laws, which would effectively gut most of the protections Canada currently enjoys against environmental devastation.

Why is this a problem? Ecojustice has provided an analysis of what Bill C-38 means for the environment. Here is their report:

The 2012 budget bill (Bill C-38) will weaken Canada’s most important environmental laws and silence Canadians who want to defend them. Instead of using the usual process for sweeping changes, which allows for thorough debate, these changes are being shoehorned into a 452- page budget bill.  
The changes amount to: 
• weakened protection for fish and species at risk; 
• an entirely new — and less comprehensive — environmental assessment law;  
• broad decision making powers for Cabinet and Ministers; and  
• less accountability and fewer opportunities for public participation.  

What follows is a list of the TOP 10 items of environmental concern in the budget bill.
1.  Changes to the Fisheries Act mean that the law may no longer protect all fish and the waters where they live.  The new protection framework could exclude many fish and watercourses. Generally, habitat protection will only include permanent alteration or destruction of “commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisher(ies)” habitat and some activities will be exempt from the law regardless of how much damage they cause. The federal government will also be able to hand over the power to authorize destruction of fish habitat to provincial governments or other entities, which is worrisome.  
2.  No maximum time limits on permits allowing impacts on species at risk. This means that there will no longer be any guaranteed review to evaluate ongoing impacts to endangered species. These potential ‘perpetual’ permits could continue even where there is a drastic decline in the population of a species affected by the permitted activity.  
3.  The National Energy Board (NEB) will be exempted from species at risk protections. The NEB will no longer have to ensure that measures have been taken to minimize impacts on the critical habitat of at-risk species before the NEB approves a pipeline or other major infrastructure. For example, there is no guarantee that an environmental assessment will consider the impacts of a proposed pipeline project and related oil tanker traffic on the habitat of endangered orca whales before the NEB issues a certificate approving that pipeline. Prepared by West Coast Environmental Law and Ecojustice Published May 2012.
4.  The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is being replaced with a new Act that will significantly narrow the number of projects that will be assessed for their environmental, social and economic impacts. Assessments, when they happen, will be less rigorous and subject to time limits that will place further constraints on public and First Nations’ participation. The new Act will apply only to “designated projects,” but we don’t yet know what those will be. The new Act gives the Environment Minister and government officials broad decision-making power: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would be able to exempt a designated project from even going through the assessment process. 
5.  The federal government is offloading responsibilities to the provinces. This is troubling because the patchwork of environmental laws and policies at the provincial level leave doubt as to whether they can act as a sufficient or legally defensible substitute for federal oversight. Prime examples of this offloading include shifting responsibility for implementation or enforcement of the Fisheries Act to provinces and eliminating many federal environmental assessments. 
6.  Cabinet is now granted authority to override a “no” decision of the National Energy Board. This may allow politics of the day to trump an independent, objective process and undermine the NEB’s expertise. 
7.  No more joint review panels. Where a major energy project will be subject to an NEB hearing, a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency-enabled review panel is prohibited, so there will be no more joint review panels. Thus, the environmental implications of major energy projects will now be evaluated only by the energy regulator.  
8.  Broad decision-making powers are being shifted from the public realm and given to Cabinet and individual Ministers. This means decisions related to fish habitat protection and environmental assessments will be allowed to be made behind closed doors with minimal public scrutiny. 
9.  Significant narrowing of public engagement in resource review panel hearings, particularly for major oil projects, pipelines and mines. In order to participate, people will have to prove they will be directly affected or have relevant information or expertise. In some cases, their contributions may still be ignored.  
10. Repeal of two important environmental laws. The repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, means no more domestic accountability measures on climate change and the repeal of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy Act will phase out this valuable advisory body completely.

Help stop this devastating bill by signing the petition below, writing a letter to your MP, writing a letter to the editor of your favourite national and local newspapers, speaking out on Facebook and Twitter, and spreading the word in any other way you can! We can't let Canada's core values go down without a fight!