Category Archives: Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party, Battery cages, Ned Taylor, factory farming. veganism

GROWING A GREEN POLITICO

I met future politician Ned Taylor just after Canada’s 2015 federal elections, in which I stood as a candidate for the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party (thankfully now renamed the Animal Protection Party)! Ned, then sixteen-years-old, wanted my help in promoting his Change.org petition to “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,” fighting against the brutal treatment of factory-farmed chickens in the egg industry.

SIGN IT HERE: https://www.change.org/p/the-prime-minister-of-canada-ban-battery-cages-in-canada

Ned’s petition exposed the reality that more than ninety percent of Canada’s egg-laying hens are trapped in cramped wire “battery cages” for their entire lives, forced to exist in spaces smaller than an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper. It was a stellar document that I enthusiastically supported and promoted.

Canadian chicken factory farm

But I was also struck by its author, this fresh-faced, engaging and energetic youngster who was spending so much time researching and crafting his petition, and then guiding it through the rule-bound, paper-strewn path that is the only route to changing Canadian laws. And Ned’s eagerness to learn was real, and he listened to the more experienced animal advocates he sought out to help him. Clearly he was a caring, compassionate and effective politician still in embryo stage!

Ned Taylor, budding Green Party politician

And I assumed that his passion about drastically improving the lives of the farmed chickens whose intelligence and sensitivity he admire meant that he must also be vegan, the logical consequence of his heartfelt opinions.

But when we spoke on the telephone and I mentioned our shared veganism, Ned quickly set me straight.

“Oh, I’m not vegan,” he said. “We humans are animals, too, and animals have been eating other animals for centuries. I believe that if we treat them right and they live a full life, then there’s nothing wrong with eating them.”

And so do humans have the right to kill healthy, usually very young animals at will, as they currently do? I demanded. And what about food culture that avoids all killing and cruelty? In other words, what about veganism?

“I completely support and understand it,” Ned responded. “In fact, I’m considering it. Not promising to do it, just considering it right now.”  By the time our conversation ended, he had committed to one meatless day a week.

Ned’s meatless experiment has gone well. Almost a year later, he is a steadfast vegetarian. It’s a great start! And, Ned adds cheerfully, “It’s incredibly easy now.”  He is mindful of how his food is sourced, what kind of oil is used in fried dishes,  if animal-derived gelatin is used, and he has even abstained from fur and leather  – “I really don’t mind the little details,” he says. His family, always supportive, has also become much more veggie-friendly, and his dad encourages him to eat more healthful nuts and beans. “My mom thought my vegetarianism was a phrase,” Ned says. “But now she realizes it’s forever.”

Ned Taylor’s Vegetarian Year!

Forever! That’s my kind of vegetarian (with vegan flourishes), and I renewed my efforts to recruit Ned for the Animal Protection Party. But Ned’s loyalty to the Green Party is unshakeable, and for compelling reasons. “Animal welfare issues are hugely important to me, and always will be” Ned explains, “especially the environmental issues such as climate change that directly relate to animals and meat consumption. People often don’t make that connection, and that’s what I want to focus on. I want to bring that awareness into the Green Party.”

How could anyone argue with that?  And I’ve longed for years to see that awareness in the Green Party.  With Ned and some of his cohorts, that will likely happen, with animals huge beneficiaries.

Ned has already caught Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s attention and, at her invitation, he spent a week in Ottawa volunteering, which reinforced his conviction that this is where he is meant to be.

But it’s not a loss for the Animal Protection Party, it’s a win for animals, as Ned and several of his friends transition to vegetarianism or veganism. “Kids and teens are now more receptive to vegetarians and vegetarian food,” Ned says, “and even friends who were previously pescetarian are ditching fish. My co-workers at Starbucks also notice that lots of customers order soy or other non-dairy drinks, and they make sure it’s available.” In other words, among young people, a slow and steady food revolution is unfolding, one squash soup and soy latte at a time!

Postscriptum

Ned has given me an assignment: to calculate how many animals he saves on an annual basis by not eating them. That’ll be my next blog about the contributions to animal advocacy of this up-and-coming Green Party politician, B.C.’s Ned Taylor.

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Filed under Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party, Battery cages, Ned Taylor, factory farming. veganism, Uncategorized

SAVING ANIMALS WITH PIZZA!

Ned Taylor

What better way to begin 2016 than to veganize Ned Taylor, a sixteen-year-old from Victoria, BC? In December’s MEATLESS ANYDAY AND A TEENAGER’S PLEDGE TO HELP CHICKENS, I blogged about promoting Ned’s petition – “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,” – urging the government to ban battery cages for chickens. Yet despite his deep concern for chickens and other animals, Ned still ate them.

But he was already considering veganism, and when I challenged him, he committed to one vegan day a week. A few days later, Ned shared his notes about Day 1, which was vegetarian, kind of a warm-up, and Day 2, which was out-and-out vegan.

Day 1 (Vegetarian)

Breakfast: I had scrambled eggs (free-range of course) and hash-browns.

Lunch: I had three grilled cheese sandwiches.

Dinner: I had mashed potatoes, baked green bean and french fried onion mixture, stuffing and carrots.

Thoughts: It was pretty easy going just without meat. For breakfast my family ate bacon, eggs and hash-browns and all I had to do was remove the bacon. I could definitely see myself doing this more often. It’s healthy, good for the environment and super easy!

Day 2 (Vegan)

Breakfast: Hash-browns and 2 pieces of toast and peanut butter.

Lunch: Beans on toast

Dinner: I had a butternut squash soup with garlic bread (recipe below). Also after dinner I went to a movie and got popcorn. Thankfully my mum reminded me to get margarine instead of butter so I didn’t spoil it at the end!

Recipe for Butternut Squash Soup:  

SOUL_SOUP

Thoughts: This was definitely trickier than going vegetarian but overall it wasn’t too hard. The main obstacle was avoiding dairy products (like the popcorn butter issue). Also the butternut squash soup was delicious! I definitely want to have that more often.

Well, well, well! What was I to say about this menu? The Day 1 vegetarian dinner looked like a typical meat-based meal with the meat omitted, almost identical to meals I’ve consumed as a guest of non-vegans. Its main virtue was that it required no extra preparation and was, from Ned’s perspective, “pretty easy.” No wonder he could see himself doing it more often.

But I couldn’t help commenting about his lunch of three grilled cheese sandwiches” Isn’t that … um … a lot of sandwiches?” “Oh, my mom also asks me if I really need three,” Ned said cheerily. “The thing is, I do, because I’m really hungry. But I work out a lot so I can afford to eat a lot without gaining any weight.”

I chuckled and reminded myself that Ned is just sixteen, and super fit. I won’t worry about the quantity of food he consumes. I’ll just stick with doing what I’ve agreed to: guiding and documenting his progress on his weekly vegan days, when he abstains from animal products altogether: no eggs, cheese, milk, etc.

When Ned plunged into his vegan day, it helped that both his parents were very supportive, and that it was a Sunday, when he had the time to “find stuff I could cook myself” to avoid expecting his mom to prepare special meals for him. Breakfast and lunch were simple and toasty, and he probably enlivened them with a glass of something to drink and a fruit or two. Lastly, Ned’s dinner of Butternut Squash Soup from One Green Planet constituted a brilliant ending to his first vegan day! (Except, of course, that unbuttered movie theatre popcorn, a pop cultural indulgence shared by millions, including me.)

cook-the-book-afro-vegan-cover

Squash or pumpkin soup is a mainstay of Caribbean cooking, and when I lived in Haiti we had it every Sunday. It’s delicious, nutritious and filling; it’s also versatile, perfectly happy to be spicy or blander, and always willing to soak up and integrate a stray vegetable or two.

Ned ended his first vegan day resolved to repeat it. “Dairy was the hardest to avoid,” he mused, “but I’d much rather eat vegan things.” Ned’s an environmentalist and a compassionate animal advocate who is already lobbying politicians against factory farming. So far, our modest little experiment is working, because Ned is determined that it will. But it’s clear that I should offer more encouragement in the form of that most basic of assistance: recipes, simple, clearly-described and most of all, appealing to this extraordinary teenager who is so eager to rescue and restore the world to pristine nature.

I’m going to start with pizza, arguably the most popular fast food in North America, and heavily consumed by male teenagers. If Ned tries some of these delicious recipes, he won’t be the odd man out at the table. Without even trying, he’ll have introduced his family members to the delights of good vegan food, and in a single sitting, spared at least a few animals!

 

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Filed under Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party, Battery cages, Ned Taylor, factory farming. veganism, Uncategorized, Vegan recipes

MEATLESS ANYDAY AND A TEENAGER’S PLEDGE TO HELP CHICKENS

Recently, a sixteen-year-old high school student in British Columbia contacted me and asked me to help him help chickens. “First off, I would like to thank you for running in this election [for the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party] and standing up for both animals and our environment,” he wrote. Then he requested my support for his petition, “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,”  against the brutal treatment of factory-farmed chickens, which references the Canadian Coalition for Farmed Animals as its source.

Canada factory farm chicken

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

As an animal advocate, I could not resist this appeal on behalf of billions of chickens. Ned’s petition is stellar. It reviews the condition of more than ninety percent of Canada’s egg-laying hens, detailing how these creatures are trapped in cramped wire “battery cages” for their entire lives, forced to exist in spaces smaller than an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper.

These conditions are not only cruel, Ned writes,  but they deprive hens of their natural behaviors of nesting, perching, dust-bathing, stretching their wings or even walking around, and the consequences can be dire. Chickens are fouled and sickened by urine and feces falling down from cages above them. Their feathers fall out and their skin is damaged. Their muscles waste from lack of use, their bones and skeletal systems become brittle, and their spinal cords deteriorate, leaving them paralyzed. Dying and dead chickens litter the cages and are often cannibalized by their surviving cage-mates.

“This is how millions of hens spend their entire lives in Canada, and yet nothing has been done to stop this,” Ned’s petition concludes. “We need to ban battery cages in Canada and make it mandatory for chickens to be raised in a free run or free range system. This is the humane and Canadian thing to do. … Please, for the sake of our animals and our people, do the right thing.”

I read through and signed the petition and agreed to promote it. Soon after, I connected with Ned by telephone and bombarded him with questions. What had driven this teenager’s desire to help chickens? And why had he chosen petitioning the government as the best way to achieve his goal?

“Oh, because at home we always ate free run eggs and one day I just asked my mom why. She gave me some information about battery cages, and when last October’s election was called, I looked at the platforms of all the different candidates, because I thought battery cages, and the way we treat chickens aren’t right, and that led me to your party, the AA/EV.”

“I’m a bit of the odd man out,” Ned admitted. “My friends also followed the campaign, especially about the legalization of pot issue, but I’m the only one who volunteered. And the petition came after the election, because petitions are important tools to achieve results. Look at Europe! Switzerland banned battery cages back in 1992!” Western Europe is way ahead of Canada in animal welfare, Ned and I agree.

And, because we also agree on the intelligence of chickens, and their right to live full, natural lives, I invoked the veganism I assumed we shared.
“Oh, I’m not vegan,” Ned said.

Not vegan? I was taken aback. How could someone so knowledgeable about chicken nature and culture, someone so compassionate about the treatment of animals, justify eating them?

Ned’s explanation was forthright. “We humans are animals, too, and animals have been eating other animals for centuries. I believe that if we treat them right and they live a full life, then there’s nothing wrong with eating them.”

There was more. “Hunting them is better than the food industry,” Ned said. “They live in the wild, and die without fear.” That’s certainly true, but it still implies that humans have the right to end a healthy animal’s life whenever they wish to. Which begs the question: what about veganism?

“I completely support and understand it,” Ned said promptly. “In fact, I’m considering it.

Not promising to do it, just considering it right now.”
How about committing to one meatless day a week? I suggested. It needn’t be a Monday; any day of the week would suffice, making it more convenient and easier for him to honour his commitment.

Ned did not hesitate. “I agree to one meatless day a week, starting next week,” he pledged. “And I also agree to take notes and let you know how I’m doing.”

Ned Taylor

Ned Taylor with Abbey

I can’t wait to hear, and not just because each of Ned’s Meatless Days will save an estimated .54 animals, for a grand total of twenty-eight each year. It’s because I’m confident that this challenge will be so easy for him, and so satisfying that he’ll not only embrace it for life – his life and the lives of animals he cares for so deeply – but that he’ll find ways to reach out to other young people who’ll be inspired to follow his example. When they do, their Meatless Days will add up to thousands of animals saved from the horrors of factory farming and the terror and anguish of slaughterhouses.

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Filed under Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party, Battery cages, Ned Taylor, factory farming. veganism, Elizabeth Abbott, Uncategorized