Mylène Ouellet – Abolitionist on Fire

One of the blogs I find myself returning to again and again is My Face Is on Fire. Mylène Ouellet is the force behind its creation – she states, “I like to poke around and see how much of the issues surrounding (the ethics of consumerism) are (mis)represented in the mainstream media.”  Watch out, media, you are being scrutinized!  A recent post blasted yet another celeb for promoting a non-vegan burger that she admitted to eating. Not only is Mylène a tremendous worker for the cause of abolitionism, she is an intelligent and dedicated human being that has deep respect for animal life as is in evidence in the following interview:

What is your vegan history?  Your abolitionist history?

I spent too, too many years — around a dozen — as a lacto-vegetarian participating in various online “veg*an” discussion forums before going vegan. Although I actually spent many of those years living animal-product-free, I only consider myself to have been vegan a little short of three years, since just after my father died.

Sometime in early 2007, I’d started listening to Bob and Jenna Torres’ Vegan Freak Radio podcast and unlearned a lot of what I’d had drilled into me about veganism the years I’d spent as a non-vegan shuffling various animal products in and out of my diet while convincing myself that I was making ethical choices. Bob and Jenna were the first two vegans I’d ever heard discussing veganism as anything other than a “personal choice.” I’d spent years hearing vegans being dismissed as “extremist” in these online communities where vegans having the audacity to talk about veganism were often chided for hurting others’ feelings by suggesting that consuming dairy or eggs (or using any other animal product) was wrong. Hearing Bob and Jenna’s podcast was an absolute relief.  It was the first time I’d ever heard anyone presenting veganism as the absolute least we can do if we’re serious about the rights and interests of nonhuman animals, and they did it in this matter-of-fact way that made veganism sound normal and the consumption and use of nonhuman animals sound extremist.

Vegan Freak Radio and the Vegan Freak Forums were also where I first learned about Gary L. Francione.  His abolitionist approach to animal rights had the sort of clarity that left me sorry that I’d spent so many years with such muddled thinking. Reading Prof. Francione’s work is what cemented my decision to go — and stay! — vegan and it convinced me that I needed to take things one step further by using my blog to talk to others about veganism.

Do you live with any companion animals? History with nonhuman animals?

I currently live with three cats.  Zeus and Sophie were adopted as kittens almost 10 years ago.  Friends were fostering them for a local shelter, along with their mother, who’d been abandoned pregnant in an apartment by tenants who’d skipped out on their rent. I had been thinking of introducing another cat to the household and when I met the kittens, I fell in love with both.  I had only planned to adopt one, but Sophie had problems with her eyes and I had been told that there was a chance that she would be killed, since it decreased the likelihood of her adoption (her eyes teared constantly — something eventually misdiagnosed as fused tear ducts).

A little over a year later, Sammy was rescued from a neglectful neighbor in my building who’d left him outside 24/7 for several months.  I spent a lot of time in my vegetable garden and he decided to starting hanging out with me.  After I’d spent an entire summer feeding him and treating his abscessed bite wounds from all of the scraps he’d get into — and after failing miserably at getting the local SPCA to do anything — I approached the neighbor about him and she told me that she’d been hoping he’d just “go away.” I’d intended to rehome him, since I was living with four cats at the time, but he was nervous and tended to snap and I was worried that I’d be unable to find someone willing to be patient with him.  As it turns out, he’s just such a really sensitive and intuitive guy and I can’t imagine not having spent the last several years sharing my home with him.

I’ve been rescuing, fostering and rehoming cats for over 20 years now.  Every single one of them was a person to me and has had an impact on my life.  I’m grateful to have had a chance to get to know each one and to have been able to help each one.  Some, like Tarwater who came to live with me in 1994 and died just last summer, I still mourn.  So many people have this unfortunate notion that cats are aloof, and they view them as being sort of generic, when nothing could be further from the truth.  You need to get to know them, to establish relationships with them — as you would with anyone. They’re incredible individuals. I agree with what Vincent Guihan says of them.  He calls them refugees.  These cats, dogs and all the rest of the animals bred into existence to be our so-called pets and then abandoned to shelters — we need to give them homes, to let them live our their lives. People go on about open rescue — busting animals out of factory farms — when there are over 3-4 million cats and dogs (and rabbits, mice, rats, et al.) killed in shelters every year in the US alone. And why?  Because they were bred into existence for human pleasure and then tossed aside when those humans were done with them.  If you have the space, please adopt a non-human refugee from your local shelter.

Is there a viable vegan community where your live?

I live in a really small city in a tiny Canadian province that is mostly rural.  Hunting and fishing are favourite pastimes and animal agriculture is everywhere.  Veganism has entered the mainsteam and more and more people I encounter are familiar with the idea of it, however, speciesism is such a part of the culture here that I’ve only ever so briefly met one other vegan in this city (and our politics were significantly different). She very much believed that veganism was a personal choice and that it didn’t matter whether or not other people used animals.  To me, that’s like saying that you’re against child slavery so won’t enslave children personally, but that you don’t care whether or not others do. I think that some vegans, although refraining from using animals themselves, still very much need to come to terms with their own speciesism in this sense.

The very first time I was ever knowingly in a room with vegans was when I met Prof. Francione and his partner Anna Charlton early last September.  They’re absolutely wonderful people, both of them.

Is your family supportive of your veganism?

I grew up in a very small town in a working class family.  Both of my parents had been raised on farms and had been taught to view animals as existing for human use. I was the sort of kid who’d bring home every single stray I encountered, but my mother believed quite strongly that non-humans either belonged in the woods or in barns — certainly not inside houses.  I’d already been living away and on my own when I started changing my consumption habits, and my parents respected my choices as personal choices, but for the most part, my family members had it in their heads that I had stopped eating animals because I was a big old softy — that it was an emotional thing. My father used to say that he could relate to it since although hunting season was a very big deal when I was growing up, he refused to hunt, stating that he couldn’t bring himself to kill another living being. During his last few years, he asked me a lot of questions about my actual reasons and the ethics behind it, though, and soon expressed an interest in reducing his own consumption of animal products and in having me cook some vegan dishes for him, but he had so many dietary restrictions at the time that my mother — who did all of his cooking — was opposed to it. I’m convinced, based on our conversations, that had circumstances been different, my father would have eventually gone vegan.

Any advice for budding activists?

Read all that you can get your hands on and think critically about everything that you read and about any information you’re given by anyone.  A lot of people get into animal advocacy thinking that there’s immediate gratification to be had from it and get disappointed when they realize that we have a lot of work to do to change the status quo significantly and permanently. Part of changing this status quo involves informing yourself of the issues and arguments so that you can be a better advocate.  Part of it also involves staying focused on what we owe non-human animals and to talk to people about going vegan and about rejecting the commodification of non-human animals.   Read Gary L. Francione’s Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog to gain a better understanding of animal rights and Rain Without Thunder to learn why it is that anything other than an abolitionist rights-based approach falls so incredibly short in helping non-human animals. Focusing on regulating their use accomplishes nothing except to make people more comfortable with using them. Is that what we really want?

It’s also important to get to know other vegans — other animal rights activists.  Start an abolitionist vegan group in your school or city.  Start an animal rights book club.  There’s a great discussion forum online called Animal Emancipation where abolitionists come together to discuss everything from advocacy to animal ingredients — come join in the discussion.

Mylène posts frequently on Facebook, and you can follow her on Twitter, too (MFIoF).  Be sure to check out her new podcast, either on her blog (My Face Is on Fire) or on iTunes.  Her passion for ethical consumerism, abolitionist animal rights, and simple fairness are all apparent in her writings and podcasts.

FatFree Vegan – Susan Voisin

One of the most popular vegan food sites on the internet is Susan Voisin’s Fat Free Vegan. With so many people searching for low-fat cuisine, her site gets a lot of traffic from non-vegans, too.  ”I’m happy to be able to expose them to vegan food that’s delicious and good for them.  One less animal eaten is one less animal suffering, whether that comes about from someone turning vegan or someone cutting back on the amount of meat they eat. I try to maintain a welcoming tone because almost all of us were non-vegetarians at some point,” Susan relates.

Sharing Vegan Resources on Fat Free Vegan

Susan became a vegan in 1994 and joined an email list called Fatfree. Several years later, the list had been discontinued and Susan was missing the support and all those great recipes; she decided to develop a new group, and from that her website grew so the group’s recipes would be available for others and be easily searchable, too. With a background in web design that she has since abandoned, she was off to a good start, adding a blog to the site after another year and a half (see Fat Free Vegan Kitchen).

Keeping her eyes open for inspiration, Susan peruses cookbooks, magazines, and stays open to “wild ideas.” Sometimes she will find a recipe that might be good if rendered fat free or vegan; other times she creates something new by using what is left in the refrigerator when dinner time is beckoning. Maintaining a family while busy with so many projects is a balancing act; luckily for Susan, she can combine dinner preparation with a post for her site.

Susan Voisin – More to Follow!

With a successful website and blog, an online forum, a marriage and a child, what is left for Ms. Voisin? “I’ve beeen planning to write a cookbook, but all those other things you mentioned keep me very busy. I’ve also just started a big photography project, taking the photos for Nava Atlas’ next cookbook, The Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Eventually you’ll see the Fat Free Vegan cookbook in the booktore (though it probably won’t be called that).”

Susan lives with a husband, a child, four cats, and a dog. A life-long lover of animals, she’s been vegetarian for over twenty years. What is next for this busy, creative woman? Her website is under construction, being redesigned to make it more interactive, so that readers can submit their own recipes and interact with others on the site.

Like many fans, I owe Susan Voisin a debt of gratitude for the resources she has made available for so many people around the globe.  If you have not yet searched her site, you are in for a pleasant surprise. It is easy to find any type of recipe and offers many other features that are not easily found on other food sites. And be sure to check back soon to see that newly designed website!

Fierce at Fourteen: Sam Tucker

While listening to one of my favorite podcasts, NZ Vegan Podcast, I was amazed at the solid, logical sound of a very young man, 13 years old at the time, who was on fire for animal rights and veganism.  Not only was he intelligent and well-spoken, he was doing something about the injustice he was witnessing.  Sam Tucker is that young man, now 14, and he is already an enterpreneur (having owned a tee-shirt business), a radio host (Food for Thought), a public speaker (at Animal Rights assemblies and on podcasts), and a successful animal rights advocate.  He is also a snowboarder and a musician.  Sam, as you can tell, does not let any moss grow under his feet.  He is part of a growing number of young people who are making enormous contributions to changing the way people think about animals, about food, and about the earth.  Below is a recent interview done with Sam:

When did you start to realize what was wrong with the way animals are being treated? When did you go vegan and why?
It all started when I read a book called Man vs. Beast by Robert Muchamore.  It was a fictional book about vegan terrorists and one activist described the inside of a battery farm; I was horrified. I thought to myself, surely it can’t be that bad in real life.  So I did some research and found out that it was that bad.  I immediately stopped eating battery eggs and started eating less factory farmed products.  Eventually I decided that, regardless of how well treated, it is wrong to kill an animal simply because you like how they taste.  So I went vegetarian.  As soon as I learned about the horrors of all the other animal industries, I decided to go vegan.  It is only in the last few months that I’ve learned about the abolitionist approach to animal rights.

Do you have many vegan associates where you live? 
I think in total there are less vegans in New Zealand than other places, but I do know several nearby and I am on an email chatroom with about 120 local vegans.

How did the radio show get started?  How long do you plan to continue with that?  What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into broadcasting?
Before I was into animal rights, I was co-hosting a music radio show with one of my friends. When I learned more about animal rights, I wanted a way to be more active for animals. My friend suggested that I should do a radio show on it, so I contacted the station. After two hours of technical training, I was allowed to do the show.  So far I have been doing the radio show for just under two years and I hope to continue with for as long as possible.  If anyone wants to get involved with broadcasting, the best thing to do is find a local volunteer radio station, either student radio or access radio, and ask them if you can do a show on an issue that concerns you. Radio is only one type of broadcasting, so you could try something else such as TV broadcasting.
I saw a graphic that you helped design for Coexisting with Nonhuman Animals; it was very, very good. Are you interested in graphics, design, photography, or any other artistic ventures?
Thanks for that, I am glad you liked the design! I love graphic design and filming. A few years ago my form 1 teacher taught us how to use photoshop and other graphic programs, and I have been interested ever since. I use a free graphic design program call GIMP to design things now. Earlier this year I did work experience with a graphic designer and that really helped me. I made a large animal rights poster and helped design coupons and posters for a give-away.  As well as the design for Coexisting with Nonhuman Animals, I have made a few websites, some leaflets, some web banners, and a YouTube video called, “Why Vegan?”

What are your academic interests?  Where do you see this leading you?
My favorite subjects are English, Business Studies and Social Studies. I would love to get involved with things like political science, sociology and philosophy. One day I would like to set up a vegan/fair trade business or do marketing and graphic design.  I would also like to teach philosophy, especially ethical philosophy.

Do you plan to continue advocating for veganism?  Do you have other issues you want to work on?
Yes, I am definitely going to continue advocating for veganism. Early next year, I am planning on having an information stall about abolitionist veganism with pamphlets from Gary Francione, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, (hopefully) the NZ Vegan Society and others.  I see all oppression as being intertwined, so I support people who spend their time advocating for human rights, although I dedicate most of my time advocating veganism.
What do you do to counterbalance all the advocacy? (sport, music, hobbies)
I love music and play the bass and electric guitar.  I am really into hardcore music, especially metalcore. I sing and play the bass and rhythmic guitar in my band, Chaos Theory. I play hockey and snowboard in winter and mountain bike in summer. I am particularly interested in downhill biking and jumping.

Who do you admire or look up to? Who is the example you most want to follow, in your family or in the movement?
Vincent Guihan, Gary Francione, Elizabeth Collins, Jordan Wyatt and Roger Yates, among many more.

Are you a guardian of any animals? Do you have any relationships with particular animals in your life that led you to want to champion their cause, or see them as fellow earthlings?
Yes. I live with heaps of nonhumans!  Two dogs, two cats, two goats (both rescued from a milk farm), a lamb (rescued from a meat farm), a horse and ten ex-battery hens. In particular my relationships with my dog Lucy and my lamb Daffy (have impacted me).  I have always recognized cats and dogs as moral persons because of Lucy, but I only started recognizing farm animals as moral persons because of my relationship with Daffy. She was originally being raised to be slaughtered and eaten and the more I interacted with her, the more I realized that it is wrong to exploit and kill animals like her.
How about eating vegan at home or where you live; is that difficult?
Being vegan is extremely easy.  Pretty much anyone can be vegan at any time of their life.  My Mum is vegetarian, so normally the vegetarian option is either vegan, or easily veganized by replacing a few ingredients.  There are a lot of farmers in New Zealand, especially dairy farmers, and farming is seens as a large part of New Zealand culture. This can make talking to others about veganism a challenge, because almost everyone is related to smoeone who makes a living off animal exploitation.  However, veganism is certainlhy growing and our vegan society has just reopened, which is awesome.

What are your hopes for the future for animals? For yourself?
I hope that animal exploitation and their status as property will be made illegal.  Obviously, that is a long way from where we are now, but I think it is definitely a possible goal to aim toward. In the more immediate future, we need as many ethical vegans as possible.  The more vegans we have, the less animals are exploited. For myself, I hope to become a more effective advocate and convince as many people to go vegan as possible.  Before vegans have any political power, we need to increase our numbers.

What would  you recommend to anyone wanting to make a difference in the lives of animals?
First, go vegan. The only way to stop animal exploitation is to stop contributing to it. If you are already vegan, then help others go and stay vegan through nonviolent, creative vegan advocacy. Whether that is a podcast, an information stall, a blog, a website, leafleting, street art, food giveaways, or anything else, the most important thing is that you are promoting veganism and the abolition of animal exploitation.

Be sure to check out Food for Thought, Sam’s radio show. Personally, I can hardly wait to see what Sam is doing at twenty-five!

Vincent Guihan: We Other Animals

Podcasts are a unique medium that can be tremendously beneficial, are available at no cost, and cover a wide array of topics.  After moving to Texas and working from home, the isolation and intellectual void became mind-numbing. Podcasts helped me to go vegan (Colleen Patrick-Goudreaux, Vegan Radio, Vegan Freaks), to learn about what was going on with animals (Animal Voices, Elizabeth Collins, Jordan Wyatt), learn about abolitionism (Gary Francione, Roger Yates, Vincent Guihan).  Bloggers are also a saving grace; I am a fan of too many to mention here, but Animal Emancipation and the We Other Animals podcasts are high on my list of must-read, must-hear.  Vincent is so multi-faceted, it is hard to get it all in a brief article.  He is a published poet, a pirate, a playwright and a podcaster.  He is an academic, an abolitionist, and animal activist.  He creates beautiful AR posters. He kayaks. He works on his dissertation. He has eight cats all with unique histories, all of whom he treats with great respect. He cooks, and is a cookbook author, with his New American Vegan book recently published by Tofu Hound Press. He is innovative and is not content to veganize traditional fare, but to explore an entire new vista of tastes, textures, and something called “flavor theory.”

Here is the interview with Vincent in its entirety:

You have been a vegan for ten years.  How did that happen?

Like a lot of people, I wasn’t entirely sure why I went vegan.  I knew that my lifestyle was harming nonhuman animals. I didn’t have all of the details worked out.  But I wanted to stop harming nonhuman animals and I knew that veganism was the simplest, most meaningful way for me to do that.  It wasn’t until a bit later that I learned about abolition, understood that provided a simple and effective way for me to think about my moral intuitions and organize my work.

About the pirate and poet? (on your blog)

The piracy is just an internet meme joke.  But I’m also a published poet.  Mostly small stuff.  One of my one act plays was also performed when I was in college as an undergraduate many, many years ago now.  Some pirates also represent some of the earlier forms of democratically organized labor.  That and I enjoy the sea (and water in general) and saying ARRR!

How did you get into blogging and podcasting? You mentioned starting with food blogging; is there another blog out there?

I started with my first blog a handful of years ago now, VeganImprov.  The blog is mostly about improvisational vegan cooking (cooking without a strict recipe) – mostly about getting in the kitchen and trying out complementary flavors, colors and textures and seeing what happens.  When I read Francione’s books, particularly Rain Without Thunder, they made a huge impression on me.  And one of the perceived impediments to adopting veganism is knowing what to cook and how to cook it.  So, I thought, this is a small contribution I could make.  Why shouldn’t I? If it helps just one person make the transition to abolitionist veganism, then it’s worth it.

I started my second blog, We Other Animals, in part to blog my dissertation, but I decided that wasn’t necessarily all that useful.  So, I turned it into a general commentary blog.  Mostly, I blog about what interests me: nonhuman animals and their ethology, the political economy of animal slavery, the rights of animals not to be used as property and our responsibility to go vegan in light of those rights, and so on.  The podcast stems largely from the blog, trying to make the message of the blog even more accessible, but also to expand on some topics for which a blog article is just too long.

But again, I thought, well, I have a $15 headset with a mic, and a little netbook with a mic-in port, why not give it a try? It will probably be an ungodly distaster, but why not?

Loved your open letter to Gary Francione; background?

Gary and I haven’t seen eye to eye on everything always. We’re both passionate and committed advocates who take animals very seriously.  It’s only normal in a movement like abolition where there is no absolute party line, where advocates are encouraged to think critically, where there’s no propaganda machine, and so on, that disagreements occur.  All I can say is that I was wrong here and there (not always politely), but that he was always magnanimous about it.  I issued the letter because he’s often a target of harassment especially from the larger animal advocacy community, and I find that very disappointing.  I find it disappointing because it’s both wrong and intellectually problematic, and because it’s often very, very boring.  Most of the criticisms I’ve seen directed at Francione and his work have been little more than cut and paste, underinformed personal attacks, and it’s very unfortunate that this passes for ‘critical thinking’ among some animal advocates.

The doctoral is in what area? How is the dissertation coming along?

The area is called Cultural Mediations, but it’s largely a cultural studies degree.  My research focuses on the contemporary Canadian novel, its focus on representation of nonhuman animals and the politics that follow out of those representations.  So, for example, Timothy Findley has a whole novel, Not Wanted on the Voyage, about Noak’s Ark and one calico cat’s attempts to stay alive during the flood aboard the Ark.  Barbara Gowdy has a novel about talking nomadic elephants, the White Bone, who are looking for sanctuary in Africa.  Yann Martell has a novel, the Life of Pi, about an East Indian boy (Pi) who ends up on a lifeboat with a number of nonhuman animals from his family’s zoo, including a Bengal Tiger name Richard Parker.  The novel is all about Pi reexamining his relationship with Richard Parker.  All of these novels ask very serious questions about what we owe nonhuman animals and tend to pose nonhumans as agents of change to whom we owe moral duties.  It’s a curious post-WWII tendency and my work asks: “what exactly does this mean and how does it suggest the way we perceive the human/nonhuman animal relationship to be changing?”

I rarely talk about my academic work on my blog and podcast, but it still tends to make its way into my more practical work there.  My work with (mostly) sociorealist literature and moral realism go hand in hand. When advocates are faced with a complicated moral problem, for example, I think there’s often a tendency to do a bit of hand-waving and oversimplification and then to rationalize a decision based on their inclinations. My work with (mostly) sociorealist literature  and moral realism go hand in hand. The strong support for welfare reform in the animal advocacy community is a good example; it privileges what makes activists feel good, but it neglects to take into account all the realities of what nonhuman animals face in slavery today and how the property status of nonhuman animals and speciesism makes welfare reform morally problematic as well as strategically and tactically unhelpful to nonhuman animals.  In contrast, I prefer to look at the reality of a given moral situation in depth and suss out what it means in terms of its complexities. Abolition, in contrast to welfare reform, works from empirical data and soundly reason in that suggests that welfare reform has correlated with a rise in use historically. So, even if there were no moral problems to promoting reforms, I would never advocate welfare reforms because they don’t work in reality. Furthermore, abolition works from a soundly reasoned view that if we want people to stop using animals, we should tell them to stop using animals, go vegan and educate others about veganism and abolition. And although I am not a philosopher, that makes good sense to me!

What keeps you going when the work is so discouraging at times?

I’m never discouraged. There’s probably some sort of  personality disorder for that, but my sense of solidarity with the oppressed is enough to keep me going. I never have doubts about veganism or the rights of animals. I believe in the prospect of social transformation. Reform and violence are not shortcuts; they are steps backwards. In the meantime, every new abolitionist vegan who demands a different future is one brick removed from the foundation of slavery in the present. Every domesticated nonhuman animal who is adopted and whose personhood is restored by love and care is another. In some respects, I don’t feel like I have the option to be discouraged when I see change already happening all around me.  But even if that weren’t the case, there only has to be one abolitionist vegan in the world and the system of animal slavery will always have to answer to someone’s criticism, someone’s demand for change, someone’s insistence on an end to that slavery.  The system’s collapse is inevitable so long as we keep working and building a movement that turns our opponents into our colleagues, and that’s a powerful thing.

What do you do to keep in balance, for fun, to make sure you have time for your family?

I like to run, cycle, swim, kayak, camp, cook, listen to music, read, play Scrabble, bake, dance, chat, talk about ideas and other things. I also make AR posters and outreach/education materials with my partner and we run a discussion forum (animalemancipation.com), which is mostly fun. Pretty standard stuff.  My life is pretty quiet and average, but I find it enjoyable and that’s what really counts.

Background on the cats, how they found you, their personalities, etc.

This  would be a very long story, since I live with eight cats. They’re all very unique.  Azrael, Thor and Jasmine were all rescued by my partner when she lived in Montreal from a cat colony there.  Jasmine and Thor are brother and sister, both white long-hairs.  They both like to bite my toes, Jasmine especially when I’m recording a podcast. Azrael is a small, long haired Maine coon mix. Fred was adopted from a friend. He lost the tips of his ears when someone thought it was a good idea to let him out in a Montreal winter and he was lost.  Julius and Harriet were adopted from our local shelter.  Julius is a remarkably friendly, but also remarkably sneezy, blue cat.  Harriet is a very surly tortie who growls at everyone. Wade and Seymour were both adopted from a no-kill shelter not far from us.  The two were very close after a four year stint together in the shelter.  Wade only has one eye, and both of them were a little skittish, but now they’re both very well-adjusted and very happy.  I want to thank everyone who saves the lives of nonhuman animals daily with shelter and rescue work.  I know there’s not a lot of thanks and glory in it, but each life is precious.

Lots of info on the cookbook? Do you cook? Did you before becoming vegan?

I do! I was vegetarian for a decade before becoming vegan and I cooked almost that entire time as well. Of course, I’ve gotten a lot better with practice, and veganism is a great way to learn how to cook.  You really get to know the proper flavors of a very wide range of foods cooking plant-based meals.

The cookbook, New American Vegan, focuses primarily on common ingredients, techniques and recipes from the Americas, less on Asian or fusion styles of cuisine. It’s coming out this spring from Tofu Hound Press.  There will be 150 recipes, give or take, and they’ll range from very simple sauces (e.g., kiwi and jalapeno coulis) to much more complicated dishes (e.g., acorn squash stuffed with lentils, wild rice and greens with both a white and a red sauce).  The purpose of the book is to help vegan cooks get comfortable with flavor theory, understand common building blocks, and how to really understand what makes a plate flavorful, inviting to the eye and so on.

The cookbook, I find that many vegan cookbooks focus on imitating meat-based cuisine or on fusion.  I find the former fairly boring and although I like the latter, I think it’s been overdone. I like kitschy imitations sometimes myself, but serious innovation tends to interest me more.  I also think there is no strong sense yet of what vegan food should really taste like, how a primarily plant-based cuisine will express itself visually and in terms of its flavor or how the vegan palate should be properly cultivated.  My book is an attempt to advance that dialogue into a more public discussion.

Part of the world where you are?

I live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city.

Hope for the future?

Yes, today, I hope everyone who reads this article and is not yet vegan will take the rights of animals not to be used as property seriously and go vegan, help to educate others and work to end the property status of nonhuman animals and cultural speciesism as quickly as possible. Tomorrow, I hope we can fix all of the other problems of the world.  Whether we will be successful, it’s the right thing to do, and we will certainly be unsuccessful if we give up before we start.

Here are links to some of Vincent’s work:

VeganImprov

We Other Animals

Planting Peace

NZ Lifesaver: Elizabeth Collins

Elizabeth Collins inadvertently witnessed two slaughter videos in 2007 while watching television (MNN).  Although she was not eating flesh nor drinking milk, she had not yet understood the breadth of animal commodification. She had also decided to avoid leather, and searching for vegetarian shoes led her to animal websites, including a link to Earthlings.  While it took her awhile to build up her courage to actually watch the film, she quickly bought it.  She was sobbing just from watching the trailers for the film, and in conjunction with the slaughter films, she knew it would be horrific.  To gather information, along with her courage, she went on the forums for the film, and started hearing more and more about veganism.   She felt compelled to watch the film, although there was a corresponding dread to doing so, something most sensitive people may well understand.  In the interim between the purchasing and the viewing of the film, she began buying “free range” eggs, thinking it would eliminate suffering.  Her education was about to begin.

One night, she finally got her courage up and watched the entire film.  Again, she went back to the forums, because the experience of watching the film was so devastating.  The vegan advocacy on the Earthlings forum helped her to take her first step towards becoming vegan.  After learning as quickly as she could about animals and their suffering, she decided she needed to dedicate herself to non-violent vegan education, which led then her to podcasting.  Being alone in her struggle to understand the enormity of what was being done to animals and how she could change the current status quo, she realized there was a need for education and support for others who were learning the same things.  Living in New Zealand, she became aware of the lack of vegan education there, and NZ Vegan Podcasts began.

Interview with Elizabeth Collins

1.  What led you to veganism?  (something about your evolution and awakening to what is really going on with the animals)

I became vegan in 2007, having previously been a non vegan who didn’t eat some things, like the flesh of land animals and birds, but ate and used all other types of animal products. It was very superficial, and I was still completely ignorant of the truth about the inconsistency between my personal beliefs and my personal actions.  I saw my very first ever slaughter video in the 1st half of the year 2007, about pigs.  It was completely unplanned, I just turned on MNN one late night and it was on.  Then I a couple of months later I accidentally caught a documentary that aired on another random channel, about the dolphin slaughter in Japan.  I still hadn’t made the connection though, even after these two videos.

While watching them I had experienced true grief, outrage and overwhelming guilt, but had no one to guide me, no one to talk to about it.  Neither video advocated veganism as an option, neither even mentioned veganism.  None of my friends were vegan, none had seen nor would be willing to see these videos.  So I was kind of lost and hurting with no real way of dealing with it at that point. It culminated in me actually coming to a realization that I would no longer eat seafood, and that I would no longer buy leather—but this was months after seeing these things.  I guess it was lying dormant in the back of my unconscious.  So when I realized I needed a new pair of boots for winter I finally clicked that I wanted to buy vegetarian leather, after having just bought about 3 pairs of leather sandals for the current summer.  As I was moving back to NZ I looked at NZ vegetarian leather options and of course this lead to other animal websites, one of which featured a link to the movie Earthlings.

It took me ages to build up the courage to actually watch the film after I had bought it.  I saw the trailers for the film and I was sobbing on the floor just from that, plus since seeing the pig and dolphin slaughter documentaries I knew what I was in for.  During this interim period I went on the Earthlings forum, before even seeing the film, and there are some people on that forum really advocating veganism.  Their solution to this horrible guilt and agony was to go vegan, and remove yourself from the exploitation.  What a concept!  I WISH I had been opened up to that sooner, but never mind.  So I thought, well, I wonder if I can go vegan, but I still hadn’t made the full transition, and I also somehow knew I had to see the film.  For some reason I knew it was something I had to watch, that I owed it to myself and all the animals whose suffering I had been contributing to my whole life, to see it.  In this period between purchasing the film and watching the film I started buying “free range” eggs for myself, through being misguided by the majority of mainstream animal advocates that this was a good thing to do.  I had given up diary products 3 years before because of my skin, otherwise I may very well have gone and bought “organic” milk.

Oh! Those Vegan Firemen!

Right in Austin, Texas, the heart of cattle country, barbecue, and obesity,* have come these five fire guys with their new vegan diet plan. Rip Esselstyn, the author of The Engine 2 Diet, had been a vegan for over twenty years when his co-fire guy James Rae (JR) tested 344 on a routine cholesterol screening.  That news, coupled with a family history of early heart disease for JR, led the  other four men to support his quest for health and go vegan in the firehouse.  In the process, JR lowered his cholesterol 150 points while the rest of the crew lost weight – some as much as 20 pounds! Esselstyn had been a pro tirathlete and swimmer before joining the firefighters; his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of Cleveland, had been doing research for over a decade with heart disease and had noted that a very-low-fat, plant-based diet along with cholesterol-lowering medicine could bring striking improvement in what otherwise would be considered terminally ill patients. Rip is aptly name – he is one ripped, healthy, athletic looking guy.

Specialist Rae tried eating vegan at the firehouse and then flexing to other foods on the outside. This failed to lower his cholesterol, so he expanded his veganism to a global eating plan which lowered his cholesterol under 200.   Matt Moore, Derick Zwerneman and Scott Walters are the other three firemen who go vegan at work.  Check out the  Engine 2 website here, which allows you to register, get diet and exercise tips, and join a community of other health-conscious folks. Rip Esselstyn takes all the hoopla in stride and admits some folks thing he is daft.  ”For compassion reasons and for environmental reasons, it’s the best way to go,” Esselstyn said of eating a vegan diet. The vegan firemen of Austin’s Firehouse 2 won the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA)  Animal-Friendly Firehouse of the Year Award in 2005.  These five men have demonstrated that firemen can indeed be heroes to the entire community, including the four-legged kind!

*   Nearly two-thirds (64.1 percent) of the state’s adult population is overweight (Texas).  See state report for more information.