Category Archives: Farm Sanctuary

On Feeding Our Son Food.

Callum with garden beets

This is Callum. He’s 1 year and 8 months old. He likes birds, buses, water, dancing, pushing things with wheels, reading books, especially ones with monkeys, stacking canned food, throwing rocks at the beach, petting his dog-sisters, and roaming around the yard. He also loves food. Avocados, Yams, refried beans, tofu, goji berries, strawberries, kale, tempeh, zuccinni, lentils, brown rice, crackers, peaches, yogurt, blueberries, apples, raisins, spicy things, coconut milk, sunflower seed butter, garbanzo beans, watermelon, garden tomatoes, indian food, thai food, vietnamese food, peanut butter, toast, noodles, calzones, oatmeal, farmers market fresh apple juice, grapes,   (I could go on).

In addition to breastmilk, Callum thrives on whole foods. Fresh foods. Garden foods. Foods high in protein, rich in vitamins, filled with fiber, minerals, and good complex carbs. We supplement his diet with a children’s multivitamin, a vitamin B-12 supplement (he loves it when we spray it right into his mouth)  kiddo probiotics, and plant-sourced vitamin D and DHA. He has an exceptionally healthy digestive system, and he’s never been sick. Runs a fever or gets a runny nose occasionally when he’s cutting a tooth, but that’s about it. He’s exceptionally well-engaged with the world, a keen observer, experimenter, risk-taker, and adventurer. He’s self-sufficient, sweet, creative, and unbearably cute.

He’s also vegan. His poppa is vegan. His momma is mostly-vegan. When I tell people we are a vegan family, it tends to make them uncomfortable. Some ask questions, like “is your son getting enough protein and good fats?” Others change the subject. Rarely does anyone ask why. Of course, I’m not in the habit of asking people why they eat meat, dairy, or eggs. I’ve never asked another parent if they think their children are getting enough complex carbs, fiber, or leafy greens, or if they’re possibly getting too much protein, transfats, or meat- and milk-borne antibiotics and hormones. I assume that they’re educating themselves about their children’s nutrition in the best way they know how.

By their questions and comments, not a few people have made it clear to me they assume we are undereducated about nutrition, or that we’ve chosen a path of deprivation for political or far-left ideals.  Many people clearly believe its one thing for us to “do this” to ourselves, but another thing entirely to subject our son to our beliefs.  Leaving aside the fact that they’re overlooking the superb nutrition that takes place in our home, they miss a fundamental point: every parent “subjects” their children to their beliefs.  Every parent raises their children the best way they know how, based on what they know about the world and what matters to them.

I’ll tell you what though…. Our table is hardly a place of deprivation.  We use our cookbooks like other people use facebook. We season, sautee, bake, experiment, and savor daily. We love flavor, we love spice, we love to eat, we love to share good food with friends. We embrace dessert with gusto.  And we enjoy our food all the more because we know that the choices we make in our kitchen are in line with our most deeply held values.

compassion. health. stewardship and sustainability. community.

compassion.
Ryan and I believe that if we can eat delicious, filling, sustainable, and nourishing foods without causing suffering, then that’s what we want to do. We don’t judge other meat eaters, and we understand that humans and other animals have been eating meat for millennia. What hasn’t been happening for millennia is the factory farming industry, which causes horrific suffering for chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals, for the entirety of their lives. They do not experience the “humane,” painless deaths we would like to believe, and their bodies are flooded with terror and pain and adrenaline as they are slaughtered. That’s just not something we want to eat, and its definitely not something we want to feed our son. The meat, dairy, and egg industries have gotten savvy to the fact that people are disturbed by these realities, so they market things like “cage free eggs” and “happy meat.” Both of these labels are words used in an effort to sell products. They very rarely reflect reality.

I have a great love for cheese, and my periodic indulgence in it is what makes me refrain from calling myself a vegan. I am not oblivious to the suffering that indulgence necessitates. The cow that gave the milk for the cheese I love didn’t give up her life for my smoked gouda, but her male calf did. To get milk from a cow, you need to get that cow pregnant, then take away her baby so you can take the milk for cheese. Male calves aren’t worth much now that veal is unpopular, so they’re not kept alive. In Tillamook County, Oregon, there are so many of these throwaway calves they’re talking about using their bodies for biofuel. Which takes the edge off my cheese craving. Going through the intense, demanding, exhausting, and often painful physical processes of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding also put a dent in my desire for queso. I did these things out of love, and they were hard. I shudder to imagine doing those things under coercion. Sometimes I still eat cheese. But it just doesn’t hold the appeal it once did.

health

Healthy eating habits are learned in childhood.  My parents and Ryan’s parents raised us on balanced meals, and the love which with they prepared the food we ate as children set the stage for our choices as adults.  We want to do the same thing for Callum.  If we can start him off with a craving for kale, an appetite for whole grains, a passion for fruits, and a love for legumes, than by golly, that’s what we’re going to do.

There is a literal epidemic of obesity and childhood diabetes in America. The leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer.    One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk or heart disease and cancer is to eat a plant-based diet.  The vast majority of animal products in the United States are filled with hormones, to make the animals grow bigger faster (to achieve maximum profit) and antibiotics, to prevent the animals from succumbing to disease in the severely overcrowded and filthy conditions in which they live (again, to achieve maximum profit). If you consume food with growth hormones and antibiotics, you are incorporating those substances into your body also.  Numerous studies have found that animal products consistently arrive on grocery store shelves contaminated with fecal matter and foodborne illnesses like salmonella.  No thanks.

Thanks to our decades-old habit of using the oceans as a dumping ground for garbage, toxic waste, and the radioactive effluence of nuclear power production, seafood is extremely high in nasty crap like heavy metals. Being at the top of the food chain has its price—small amounts of toxins absorbed by plankton become concentrated in greater amounts in the flesh of the fish that eat that plankton. And so on, in the bodies of the humans that catch and consume that fish. Its called bioaccumulation. That means that if I feed my twenty-four pound son fish, he’s consuming a significant quantity of heavy metals.  That’s a lot of work for tiny kidneys—and our son was born with only one kidney. So we’re not messing around.

stewardship and sustainability.

I was raised to be gentle with the earth, and to consider how my choices impact the air, water, and overall health of the world around me. Animal products exact a severe toll on the environment.  Agribusiness has a vested interest in keeping this toll off the front pages, so you don’t tend to read too much about it.  Two trillion pounds of animal waste are produced by the livestock industry in the United States every year.  It has to go somewhere, and it usually ends up sitting in poorly managed holding ponds (from which it evaporates!) or running into waterways.   It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein.  It also takes roughly sixteen pounds of grain feed to produce a pound of meat.  That same amount of grain could feed a lot more people than that pound of meat.  There’s a lot of people on this planet, and less and less space left to produce viable food crops.  Meat just doesn’t make much sense.

community.

Yes, there are farmers out there raising meat, milk, and eggs who are dedicated to compassion, health, stewardship and sustainability.  If you eat meat, milk, or eggs, seek them out.   They are doing something difficult and noble and their product is worth every penny they are asking for it.  Unfortunately, they produce only a teeny, tiny fraction of the meat, milk, and eggs (something like 1%) consumed in the United States.   Most communities that host meat, milk, or egg production have a long list of chronic health problems, thanks in large part to their exposure to toxic watershed and air pollution.  Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are breeding grounds for infectious disease (think bird flu and swine flu) which can of course spread far from the “farm” on the flesh of animal products).  Slaughterhouse workers have one of the highest rates of occupational injury of any industry in the country.   Animal product production is bad for communities.

When its time to sit down to eat…

We don’t think of our meals as “vegan.”  We think of them as food. We are feeding our son food.  Varied, nutritious, ethical, delicious, plant-based food.   We are not alone in believing this is healthful.  “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. “
We are not alone in believing this is delicious either.  We would love to have you over for dinner. If you live far away, I will mail you cookies.

I’m going to keep feeding my son food.  And I’m going to send him out into the world knowing how to ask questions, think critically, and stand by his decisions—no matter what they may be.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under coexistence, community, culture.society.anthropology., Family, Farm Sanctuary, Food, Garden, healthcare, mostly vegan, motherhood, Peace, Vegan Recipes, violence

ReThinking Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a constructed holiday.

Just like the rest of them… Christmas, Easter, Patriot Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Like the sediment that piles up underwater against a dam that is holding back a river, holidays are accretions of stories and rituals that pile up over the years. We celebrate holidays in particular ways because we have learned these stories and rituals, and we find comfort in their repetition. We look forward to them, we plan and prepare for them, we enact them and recall them with nostalgia. If we’re willing to consider these stories thoughtfully, they can tell us a lot about who we are as Americans, and what it is we are truly celebrating.

Problem is, America’s never been big on questioning her own stories.

When I was ten years old, I portrayed Queen Isabella in a 5th grade play that endeavored to offer some Thanksgiving backstory. Wearing one of my mother’s fancy dresses, I tossed a handful of costume jewelry at another fifth grader dressed as Christoper Columbus. “Take my jewels, Christopher Columbus,” I haughtily declared, “and find a New World.” Not surprisingly, the play failed to illuminate how he did so, by accident, and heartily set out enslaving, killing off, and infecting with STDS and other infectious diseases all the kindly natives he found there.

Fast-forward a few years. Good, honest Puritan folk travel to Columbus’s New World, seeking to start anew in the Americas, a blank slate for enacting values of freedom, liberty, and private ownership, and fleeing the occasional criminal record back home. They did so emboldened by the imperial doctrine of terra nullius, a 16th century philosophy that dictated that any land occupied only by savages (ie, those who failed to cultivate it) was the property of the European nation who claimed it (or, the European nation that won control of it by force). The Puritan Pilgrims weren’t much prepared, tho, and some kindly Indian folk, headed by the genteel Squanto, came to the rescue with platters of corn on the cob and a giant roasted turkey.

Its a nice story. I especially like the part about savages bringing cultivated crops like corn. Wonder where they got that.

While some indigenous peoples certainly extended their goodwill and local knowledge to the struggling settlers, they and their descendants would soon find that any generosity to the European arrivals was sorely misplaced, as it was rewarded almost universally by violence, new diseases, displacement, and the rapid destruction of the natural resources indigenous communities relied upon for their survival.

In later years, once native populations had been sufficiently decimated to offer no threat to the new United States, we demonstrated that our goodwill could often be as destructive as our outright hostility. In an effort to “teach the savages” about that most hallowed of American traditions, Private Property, we carved up the reservations we’d just confined them to in treaties, gave them tiny parcels, and sold off the remaining land to railroad companies and white settlers. We kidnapped generations of indigenous children from their parents and forced them to abandon their languages, traditions, and cultural identities in pursuit of assimilation. We caricatured indigenous women as squaws or sex objects, and indigenous men as noble savages, alcoholic bums, or cartoon sports mascots.



We gave one generation livestock to teach them about the agrarian lifestyle, then returned a few generations later to slaughter that livestock, chastising its owners for decimating the rangeland. We used alcohol as a weapon against them, then criticized them for not controlling their consumption. Liberals excoriate Native communities that permit logging or mining on their lands, accusing them of being “bad Indians”— but fail to consider the crushing effects of generational poverty. Colonialism is alive and well in the U. S. of A., and brutal as ever: a mindset as much as a policy.

For many native peoples, “Thanksgiving” is observed as a National Day of Mourning, a tradition begun in 1970 when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited a Wampanoag leader, Frank James, to speak at a Thanksgiving event at Plymouth Rock—then uninvited him, when they learned he planned to address the oppression of American Indians.


(Indigenous activist Russell Means)

It makes sense that in the 21st century, we’d all prefer to gloss over that reality and celebrate a feel-good holiday where Indians and Pilgrims sit side by side and share things like turkey and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Except there wasn’t actually pie—
the Pilgrims didn’t have enough butter or flour to make the crusts.

The “First Thanksgiving” wasn’t conceived of as a new American holiday at the time—it was a celebration of a good harvest, heading into the winter— a ritual that’s been practiced by cultures that procure their own food for millenium, in every part of the world. Oddly enough, the average American family sitting down to re-enact that harvest feast has no concept of gratitude for good harvests going into winter because we are completely divorced from the production of our food. We can buy what we want to eat year-round, without having to consider the fossil fuels, suffering, genetic engineering, soil depletion, and sketchy food preservation processes that made that January tomato or cheap turkey breast possible.

Thanksgiving offers us a rich opportunity to practice gratitude in the tradition of the harvest feast. Sitting down with family and friends and sharing a meal, lovingly and intentionally prepared, is an exquisite ritual with which to express that gratitude.

First, we have to divest the ritual of the weighted Thanksgiving mythology.

Second: lets reevaluate the traditional fare. Those meat-eaters who’ve tasted wild or heirloom breeds of turkey express astonishment at how bland the average thanksgiving turkey tastes. I’ll admit it— I’m one of those half-assed vegetarians who’s happily made exception for thanksgiving turkey in the past. Don’t plan to this year, but I won’t judge anyone who does choose to partake. If you are going to serve up the bird, though, please consider a few facts about the industrialized production of turkey meat in this country. In the interest of true Thanksgiving.

Farm Sanctuary reports:

Modern turkeys have been genetically manipulated to grow twice as fast, and twice as large, as their ancestors. Comparing a turkey poult’s growth rate with that of a human baby, Lancaster Farming, an agriculture newspaper, reported: “If a seven pound [human] baby grew at the same rate that today’s turkey grows, when the baby reaches 18 weeks of age, it would weigh 1,500 pounds.” The strain of growing so quickly makes young turkeys susceptible to cardiovascular disease and can lead to fatal heart attacks. Although this rapid growth poses a serious threat to the animals’ health and welfare, the turkey industry continues to push birds beyond their biological limits.. This continual increase in growth causes commercially-bred turkeys to suffer from crippling foot and leg problems too. According the agribusiness newspaper Feedstuffs , “…turkeys have been bred to grow faster and heavier but their skeletons haven’t kept pace…” Catering to consumer tastes at the expense of animals, producers also raise turkeys with abnormally large breasts which prevent them from mounting and reproducing naturally…. Completely unlike their wild ancestors not only in terms of physique but also in hue, commercial turkeys are white, the natural bronze color bred out of them so their bodies are pigment-free and more palatable to consumers….At the slaughterhouse, fully conscious turkeys are hung by their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. The first station on most poultry slaughterhouse assembly lines is the stunning tank, where the turkeys’ heads are submerged in an electrified bath of water. Stunning procedures are not monitored, and are often inadequate, leaving the fully conscious birds to continue along the slaughterhouse assembly line. Some slaughterhouses do not even attempt to render these birds unconscious, as turkeys and other poultry are specifically excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires that animals be stunned prior to slaughter. After passing through the stunning tank, the turkeys’ throats are slashed, usually by a mechanical blade, and blood begins rushing out of their bodies. Inevitably, the blade misses some turkeys, who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line:, the scalding tank. Here, they are submerged in boiling hot water, and turkeys missed by the killing blade are boiled alive – a brutal end to an equally miserable existence on factory farms.

If the traditional Thanksgiving story is the gravy covering up the violence of American colonialism, then the turkey is… the turkey.

Its easy to create a decadent, cruelty-free, delicious meal to share with your loved ones. In doing so, you’ll be investing the celebration with potent and sustainable values. Lip-smackin’ good food, rich with conscience, humanity, and ecological integrity, does everyone good, and much less harm than the traditional spread.

Even if you only replace one traditional component of your Thanksgiving feast with a sustainable, vegetarian or vegan alternative, you’re taking a big step.

There’s lots of ways to do this.  Check out Post Punk Kitchen for about a gazillion recipes and great ideas. Its easier than you think.

And, instead of risking trampling, being maced, or having a heart attack from the pure chaos of Black Friday shopping,

stay home with your loved ones and eat leftovers. Then shop local on Saturday.

xo lovelies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Americana, Colonialism, Farm Sanctuary, Food, Thanksgiving, Vegan Recipes