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Eating Well During the Holidays!

Ah, holiday time is here, and for most of us, that means a time to feast.   I’ve been feasting even a bit more than usual, as this year’s holiday has also matched up with my 40th birthday – which means it’s been celebrations a-plenty.  At these times – in fact, at all times – good food is essential.  Thankfully, over the past few years, making good vegan food has gotten easier than ever, primarily because of one woman: Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Who is this person?   Well, let’s look at what I’ve been feasting on lately, and it will come into focus.  For my birthday, it was delectable chocolate mocha and also rum and raisin(!) cupcakes.  Both earned rave reviews, but the kudos belonged to Moskowitz, whose amazing book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World was the inspiration.   Of course man cannot live by cupcake alone, so we also had Lemondrop and Chocolate Mint Icebox (with real pieces of mint tucked in) cookies.   Again, these were off-the-chart delicious, and everyone – vegan and non-vegan alike – dug in.  These beauties came from Moskowitz’ latest book, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

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Christmas Links Digest

Merryvegan christmas Christmas!

As you may have noticed, it’s been a couple of weeks since our last links digest.  Ten days ago, I decided to move the links digest to a fortnightly, not weekly cycle.  But, then, last weekend, life got hectic.  So, here’s the last links digest for 2009.

So, here you have it: The best, the worst, and the most ridiculous links about veganism, animal rights, and animal law from the last two and a half weeks.

  • As I write this, I’m sitting at home, at my parents’ house, where I’m spending a couple of nights over Christmas.  One of the many benefits of growing up, getting a job, and moving out was this: I don’t have to see bits of dead animal in the fridge.  I’m currently eating a slice of (vegan) fruitcake, baked for me by a kind colleague.  To get it, I had to stare down the cold dead turkey dominating the fridge.  Ah well, it’s Christmas.  I don’t what you eat for Christmas – a friend told me a couple of days ago that he planned a BBQ of assorted fake meats, which seems much more sensible for a scorching New Zealand summer’s day, or maybe you’re lucky enough to have imported some prime American tofurkey – but, ever since I went vegan, my dinner has been ‘turkey’ home-made from seitan.  Here’s the recipe.  It is good.  Dad’s cooking this gravy, and macademia nut stuffing.  Continue reading

Companion Animals, Abandonment, and Legal Analysis

The Question: ‘What could I write?’
As a law lecturer who teaches animal law, it is extremely common for me to get questions from students about potential paper topics.  Equally often, students make outright statements, along the lines of ‘I have no idea what to write for a final paper!’  Students often think that everything worth writing has been written.

This usually makes me laugh!

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Coming Around on Zoos

Zoos: Fun for Everybody?

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog on my personal web page discussing the uproar (pardon the pun) over the death of Dalu Mncube, killed by a tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens.  I was somewhat impressed by the fact that writers from across the political spectrum were coming together to agree that greater concern needed to be paid to zoos and wildlife parks.  Just as importantly, these columnists were pointing to a much bigger concern: that the primary objective of most zoos is not conservation or education – despite the public bleating of officials to the contrary – but profit.

Today I was amazed to see a conservative columnist from Canada reach the same conclusion in the wake of a recent spate of tragedies at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta.  Margaret Wente – one of the contenders for the title of “columnists I love to hate”, meaning that I read her religiously, even though I usually disagree vehemently with her views – of the Globe and Mail has posted a thoughtful and reflective column on zoos.  She makes a number of excellent points, including the fact that elephants should not be in zoos – ever – and that the rush for profit puts animals at risk, despite the PR statements coming from zoo directors about the values promoted by these “living museums”.  [As an aside: I’ve long wondered about the messages that are being supposedly promoted by zoos.  My favourite is where people tell me that zoos allow kids to “think about our relationship with animals” and gain a new found respect for animal life.  I usually point out that I’ll believe this when they stop serving hot dogs and hamburgers at zoos.   Why not giraffe burgers, while they’re at it?]

Wente stops short of calling for the abolishing of zoos, but I’ll still throw her a rare “kudo”, for a solid and provocative column.   Zoos tend to escape scrutiny from the mainstream public unless something goes horribly wrong.  It’s important for society to understand that its not individual tragedies that are the problem in zoos.  These breakdowns are just symptoms of the bigger concern: zoos themselves, being run “for profit”, usually at the expense of the animals contained therein.

‘Cubicle’ Dairy Farming: Factory farming by another name

Farmed Cows

'Cubicle' cows in the United States

Intensive indoor farming of dairy cows – which would be a first in New Zealand – is being proposed in South Canterbury’s Mackenzie region.

In this radical departure from current dairying practice in this country – grass-fed Friesians wandering outdoors – three companies: Williamson Holdings LtdSouthdown Holdings, and Five Rivers Ltd (the director of which has an appalling record for pollution of waterways with dairying waste) are each applying for land use consents and effluent discharge consents to establish a total of 16 new farms.

These will house nearly 18,000 cows in so-called ‘cubicle’ shelters for 24 hours a day, eight months of the year. For the remaining four months, the cows will be kept inside for 12 hours a day.

This will produce a quantity of effluent equivalent to that of a city of 270 000 people. This vast quantity of waste will require 414 million litres of effluent storage capacity in ponds. 1.7 million litres of diluted effluent will be deposited on the land on a daily basis in an attempt to make the land fertile enough to grow feed in situ. This is a tall order; the Mackenzie Basin is one of the driest parts of the country and is covered in tussock grass. Until then, feed will be trucked in.

 As with any form of intensive, indoor farming, there are significant welfare issues in housing animals in crowded sheds. Rates of infection are far higher and so greater amounts of antibiotics are generally required to keep the animals healthy. Taking cows, which are at least as intelligent as dogs, and confining them to small spaces is bound to be a traumatic experience. Nevertheless, in a radio interview earlier this week, the President of Federated Farmers, Don Nicholson, when pressed about the total confinement of the cows for eight months of the year made the frankly astonishing argument that:

We live in houses ourselves, we’ve adapted to intensification and I’m sure that farmers of New Zealand want to do their very best for the animals

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Jail Sentence for Dog Fighting

In a first for New Zealand, a man has been sentenced to jail for dog fighting. He is to serve a 10 month sentence.

William Kain Campbell, a 25-year-old process worker, appeared in Porirua District Court today after earlier admitting seven charges of dog fighting and failing to seek treatment for the injured animals.

His most notorious act was to steal a 14-year old Ridgeback cross named Lincoln in order to use it as ‘bait’ for his own fighting pit bull, Dukes. Lincoln suffered deep lacerations to his body and head. He is still on medication for his injuries and his owners report that he exhibits negative behavioural effects from his ordeal.

Campbell was ordered to pay reparations of $4362.47 and banned for life from owning or caring for an animal.

Although dog fighting has been acknowledged as a scourge in parts of New Zealand, sentences have tended to be rather lenient. It is encouraging to see a jail sentence being imposed for a calculated act of cruelty such as this.

‘Great with Chicken, Fish, and Vegans’

I’ve now lived in New Zealand for almost nine years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the word “vegan” appear in the New Zealand Herald – the country’s largest newspaper – in a positive light.

Imagine my surprise to wake up this morning to p A10 of the paper and see a good-sized advertisement with the heading “Great with chicken, fish and ‘vegans’.  Peering closer, I saw a picture of Oxford Landing chardonnay, like the one above.   The text states: ‘Vegetarians and vegans alike can enjoy a nice drop of Oxford Landing Estate.  While many wines contain animal based fining products like milk and egg whites, we prefer to make ours without.’

Without question, it’s the first ad I’ve ever seen from a ‘mainstream’ company targeting vegans as a group.  While I’m wary of drawing too big a conclusion from this, I do think it’s a very positive development.  If vegans comprise a big enough purchasing group to warrant an ad in a major newspaper, we’re headed in the right direction.  Good on ya, Oxford Landing!

On a related note, expect to see lots of Oxford Landing wine at my upcoming birthday party!

Finding Vegan Products in New Zealand

A couple I weeks ago, I mentioned that the Vegan Society of Aotearoa (for our foreign readers, Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand), had been revived, and that the group was planning some ambitious projects for 2010.   It is a much needed organization that focuses on veganism, as opposed to the more common and diluted vegetarianism.   One of the reasons I love the Society so much is that its goals match those of SoLVe: providing resources and assistance in getting people to make the transition to going vegan.

The Society has launched with a roar, and one of its first outputs is a much need resource guide to Vegan Products in NZ.   I cannot count the number of questions I get from students thinking about going vegan about how to find proper things to eat.  Well wonder no longer.  This book of products – available free at the NZ Vegan Society website – is a welcome step in the right direction.  It certainly doesn’t replace the need for proper labelling (a topic for future blogs), but it will make life easier for vegans (or aspiring vegans) across the country.

Kudos to the Society.  If you’re not a member yet, and supporting these efforts, what are you waiting for?  It’s cheap, and the group is doing as much as anyone to promote veganism in New Zealand.

Saturday Links

zoo

  • Last week, Vincent J. Guihan of We Other Animals wrote about the things he’s grateful for, as an abolitionist vegan.  Well worth the read.
  • Zoo hires actors to portray cavemen.  Wait.  What?
  • We are indeed “closer to animals than we sometimes think,” but this ridiculous publicity stunt does nothing to help people see that.

    B. Terrorist Threat. What terrorist activities have occurred in or around your building/facility in the past 5 years (documented cases)? Please check all that apply.

    [ ] Attack from international terrorists
    [ ] Attack from domestic special interest terrorists
    -[ ] Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
    -[ ] Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
    -[ ] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
    -[ ] Animal Defense League (ADL)
    -[ ] Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)
    -[ ] Formal hate group(s) (please specify):
    -[ ] Other (please specify): ____________________
    [ ] Cyber Attack from a known or unknown source.

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    The Lost Pets of The Great Recession

    Discussions about the economy are primarily anthropocentric in that they focus on the number of jobs lost, the rise and fall of the stock market, falling real estate prices, and so on. I want to use this post to highlight how animals are suffering from ‘The Great Recession’.

    One of the most troubling signs of this recession is the large, escalating number of abandoned pets. I’m not talking about just cats and dogs – I’m also talking about ferrets, iguanas, hamsters, turtles, horses, goats, pigs, etc. Pet shelters have reported a massive increase in the number of abandoned pets. Some pets are simply tied to the door of the shelter. Others are let loose in shelter cark parks, or even thrown in dumpsters.

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