Eid Al-Adha

It’s been a very tough day for me. An emotional rollar coaster day. I have so much going on at work, but it is hard to focus when there is so much pain and suffering. Today was one of those days. I just felt like crying all day and it kept getting worse.

It started off with buckets of tears as I watched the new film released by Animals Australia to coincide with their new campaign to ban factory farming. A fantastic video that tugs at the heart strings. It was comforting to see it shared on so many Facebook pages. I hope it opens hearts and minds and that people make changes.

A long hard day at work came to an end and as I was cycling home. I saw this fella. There was another in his place this time last year. Now, despite living in suburban Indonesia, I live in a gated community and it doesn’t look that much different from one in the US except security is tighter here. An animal like here tied up is certainly a novelty. This guy will be slaughtered on Friday to ‘celebrate’ Eid Al Adha.

I approached him. I tried to pet him, but he wouldn’t let me. He sniffed my hand and I felt his warm breath on my hand. I was welcomed by the guys there who were setting up  what I think must be a tent or a shelter. Possibly for the after slaughter party, I’m not sure. As I looked him in the eye and knew that this was a creature that would be literally fighting for his life in less than 36 hours. That he probably did not want to die. According to Wikipedia, the animal that is slaughtered is just a symbol. A symbol to represent what Abraham’s sacrifice and 100 million animals will be slaughtered over the course of 2 days. I am sure that much of this meat goes to waste. Instead of this senseless violence, can’t we just spend a few minutes thinking deeply about Abraham’s sacrifice instead of having to bring an innocent animal in to it?

In case anyone thinks I am being anti-Islamic here, I swear I am not. I have had several discussions with some behavioral omnivores who feel that this holiday is incredibly barbaric. I agree… But I find any ritual or tradition that needlessly kills an animal for the sake of tradition barbaric. The turkey that is the centre of the dinner table at Christmas and Thanksgiving, hunting for eggs at Easter time, steak on BBQ, it’s all unnecessary. The difference is in Islamic countries you look in to the animals eyes and use the knife. With turkey, someone else has been paid to do that for you. I have observed many rituals and festivals without the use of animals and the feeling that my special meal has come together without intentionally harming any living thing is so wonderful. I celebrate Christmas. Isn’t peace supposed to be a focus of Christmas? Christmas took on new meaning for me when I gave up all animal products.

To the beautiful bull with a gentle face and kind eyes not 50 metres from my house. I wish I could save you. I will just keep raising awareness so that your death was not in vein. I hope your death is swift and as painless as possible. Know that there are some people speaking for you and your kind.

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Livestock Transportation in Indonesia

Right outside my work is a busy intersection. I usually head home from work between 4 and 5 pm and as I am inevitably caught at the  traffic lights I often catch up to one of these trucks that are transporting chickens. It breaks my heart because I know where they are headed.

There is often the idea that animals for food in Asia are raised in villages and they have a lovely life, however this is simply not true. Yes, many rural families will keep a few animals for their own consumption, but I don’t see all 15 million inhabitants of Jakarta with their ‘own’ animals in their back yards. There are factory farms in Asia just like there are in the rest of the world. The problem is, that it is so much worse. In our countries we have some laws to protect animals although they are very weak, poorly punished when they are broken and rarely enforced. In Indonesia there is nothing, indeed we KNOW that animals are not treated humanely during life and at the end of it. We know this as it has been documented by Animals Australia.

The other week, I went out for dinner with my colleagues and we had to pull over for the other car to catch up with us. While I was standing there for 5 minutes, 3 of these trucks passed me by. My heart broke a little as I watched and thought how scared those animals must be and for the fate that awaited them, for this is the truth of the animal livestock industry. I have no idea whether these animals were destined for meat or for egg production, regardless though, they will end their lives violently and with terrible fear and anguish. And for no good reason other than we can.

A Victory for Baketivism

It’s long been said amongst the vegan community that one of the biggest  (and easiest) things we can do to help open people’s hearts and minds towards adopting a cruelty-free diet is to show people that it is possible to not feel deprived, that there is no real sacrifice in  living this way and you CAN have your cake and eat it (pun intended). It’s a great activism tool for people that might not be comfortable doing other more direct things like leafletting or going to protests.

A couple of weeks ago the idea of a bake off was suggested by some members of staff on one of our inservice days at my amazing school,  the rationale being that it will put some fun in to the proceedings  and bring a sense of community. I thought that was a fantastic idea. I immediately got thinking that I should contribute something to this because this would be a fab opportunity for some baketivism, potentially showing the whole teaching staff about how delicious vegan baking could be. A few people already knew, but how awesome to show so many people in such a public setting!

I am a huge believer in the power of baketivism (a term coined by legendary vegan cookbook writer, Isa Chandra Moscovitz) and something I have been doing for a long time. Bringing in delicious baked goods has not only surprised people by how tasty they are, but many times has started a conversation about this issue. As anyone who knows me will be aware. I want to have a conversation about this issue and this is a great way to do it.

I had a lot of doubts. What if my baked goods didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t baking for myself (I am seriously  not competitive), but for the animals and if they were not good enough then I would be letting down the animals. It sometimes felt like it would be easier to not bother, then I decided that I’d suck it up and do it with all the effort I could muster.I was also up against a lot of very good bakers. Yikes.

I decided to bake three different things.  From following many blogs I knew that there were several recipes out there that were supposed to be off the hook awesome. I wanted to choose items that were especially decadent and possibly a bit fancier. I usually can’t be bothered with cupcakes. I suck at decorating and cupcakes require 2 phases, the cakes, and then the frosting. Meh!! Still, this was worth the investment of time. Thankfully we were off school for a few days so I could get ready.

My choices were;

1. Peanut butter and chocolate pillows from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

2. Chocolate and Banana Cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky

3. Chloe’s Award Winning Ginger Nutmeg-Spiced Cupcakes from Chloe’s Kitchen.

I was especially keen to try the cupcakes. Gorgeous (and amazing ambassador for vegan living) Chloe competed against 3 other bakers using conventional ingredients in a TV show on the Food Network called Cupcake Wars and won much to the shock of the cupcake community! Would I have the same success?

So, over lunch the day before the ‘Shut Your Cake Hole’ baking contest we talked about how the ‘contest’ would  look like. It was decided that there would be a panel of 4 judges and they would sample all the baked goods and rate them on presentation, taste and texture. People sampling the baked goods would pay 10,000 IPR for a small plateful of whatever they liked and would get a couple of counters. They would be able to place their counters in a cup next to the baked goods they thought were their favourites.  This would serve as the People’s Choice award. It was also decided that we were try to keep the bakers’ identity secret. I was really pleased with this because on one hand I didn’t want people to be prejudiced against vegan goods and on the other hand I wanted vegan goods to stand alongside non-vegan baked goods as equals because I truly believe that they ARE as delicious as conventionally baked goods.

So, I knew what I was cooking but it did not go smoothly. I’d never cooked any of these dishes before.  I wasn’t sure about the chocolate cheesecake. It didn’t look that great and the bottom layer looked a little gray. This is probably because it of the banana in the it but I still wasn’t happy. I also had a crisis with the cupcakes. I thought I had followed the recipe properly the day before, but as I was cooking them, there was something that was not quite right. The cupcakes were taking too long to cook and they just didn’t look right when they came out of the oven. Early this morning (the morning of the bake off) I woke up early (as usual) and realised that I had used the wrong milk. I had used (homemade) almond milk from an unlabelled bottle instead of coconut milk (which was in a similar bottle). Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid!!!! This was probably the problem. The cupcakes would have a substancially lower amount of fat using almond milk and this would probably impact the taste. The chocolate peanut butter pillows did not look anything like the beautiful pictures on PPK website or  on other blogposts I’ve seen. I changed the name to choc peanut butter cookies.

So, I made another batch of cupcakes at 5:30 in the morning of the bake off. I frosted them at home, had a panic on the way to school that the frosting would slide off the cupcakes in the heat of an Indonesian morning. Had another crisis of confidence when I thought that my frosting looked like a white dog turd.

At 10, bakers met to plate our goods and for me to dribble over my date caramel sauce and give them a dusting of cinnamon. There was a respectable amount of entries, I think about 12 in all. The judges each had a plate with each entry on it in a taster portion. As we stuffed our faces I glanced over at the judges who were taking the job very seriously. Everyone was enjoying the baked goods but I was so worried about how many counters would be in the cups?

Towards the end of our morning tea break, our enigmatic head of school, John from the judging panel announced the results. Would this be a victory for the animals or not?

Well, I was beside myself when John announced that a chocolate slice had won 3rd prize this was actually my chocolate  and banana cheesecake. Huzzah! A victory! Second place went to  a dear colleague friend of mine who won with her mini-cupcakes beautifully decorated. First place was described as a muffin with lava on top!!! Sally said “Brighde, I think it’s yours!!” And it was!!! The cupcakes won the bake off. To top it all off, the cupcakes also won the People’s Choice Award! I was so excited. Seriously excited!! This felt like a wonderful victory for the animals in my little activist’s world.

My Chocolate Banana Cheesecake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pillows.

The winning cupcakes

Some other gorgeous entries! Some very inventive ones, for those that do not have ovens.

Sally’s beautiful mini cupcakes

People enjoying all the baked goods.

The judges’ tasting platters

John taking his role very seriously! 🙂

Much deliberating.

The judges are hard at it!

My prize to keep until the next bake off sitting proudly on my desk in my classroom.

What do Vegans Feed Their Cats?

Very occasionally someone will ask me what I feed my cats as a vegan. It’s a simple question, but requires a long answer to explain it fully. The short answer is I regrettably feed them meat. But for those with the patience here’s the long answer.

I have two cats and I am currently fostering 2 more stray kittens with some other teachers at my school. I got my current cats (now six and five) before I was vegan and my attitude towards my companion animals has changed much since then. I have to say that when I got my cats I did for me. I wanted a pet cat. I wanted the love and affection of cats. It kind of was all about me and how I felt. My attitude has changed now. I consider myself as someone who is giving my cats a good home and a safe life and at the same time I get a lot of joy from them. Rather than having them for me, Seb and I do everything we can to give them a good life. I have always enjoyed having cats in my household. I like dogs too, but cats are much lower maintenance!

You see, the thing is, if I could go back in time thousands of years and stop cats and dogs being domesticated, I absolutely would. I truly think that domesticating cats and dogs hasn’t really been a good thing for cats and dogs as a species overall. Forget about history for a moment. Look at what domestication of cats and dogs is doing right now.

  • In the US, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year (preferred method is gassing as the lethal injection is too expensive)
  • The food that cats and dogs eat has a huge carbon footprint.
  • The feral (and home cared for) cat and dog population are decimating wild life like birds and small mammals.
It’s true they make fantastic companion animals and give us lots of joy and love and make us feel good, but I think we need to move away how they makes US feel and focus on the animals and the impacts of them. It’s not always about US!

So, what do vegans feed their cats and dogs? Well, for dogs, it is really easy. Dogs can do well on a plant-based or nearly plant-based diet. Cats though? It’s not so simple. A lot of vegans do feed their cats vegan cat food with no problems at all but they do have very high protein requirements and can be fussy. There are some commercially products available but it isn’t so easy getting the average fussy cat to eat ’em. When I was in Canada a year or so ago, I brought home some vegan cat food to try with my cats. I was astounded that the cats actually ate it. I tried to find it  in South East Asia and couldn’t get a hold of it anywhere. When I  went to Australia I brought back a ten kilo bag of a different brand. It cost a lot of money and was a considerable pain to bring back and surprise surprise, the cats turned their noses up at it. I was gutted. I have to feed them food than not vegan. That or starve my cats. I hate doing it.

So…

  • Do I think we should be trying to reduce the amount of cats and dogs on this world significantly? YES!
  • Do I think we should be adopting cats and dogs that are desperate for homes rather than breeding them, that breeding cats and dogs should be banned? YES!
  • Do I think spaying and neutering should be compulsory for ALL domesticated  cats and dogs? YES!
  • Do I think we should be doing trap, neuter and release programs throughout the world on an extensive scale to reduce the amount of stray and feral cats especially in countries that do not have established no-kill shelter programs? YES!
We’ll reduce the cat and dog population of the world which would be a good thing for the animals and for our environment.

I keep meaning to buy vegan cat food and donating it to a cat organisation in the US or someplace that vegan cat food is available to offset my own cats’ meat consumption. Must do that!  I am just hanging out waiting for the time when  in vitro – meat* is widely available. The production of cat food would be a great application for this product. Let the humans eat plants (the most healthy choice) and give the remaining cats (that are hopefully much reduced in number) the in-vitro stuff. It certainly can’t be worse the crap we give our companion animals now. The ethical quandaries of having cats would be much reduced.

So right now, that’s where I am at. It’s not ideal (hurry up commercially available in-vitro meat), but I am happy with my stance all the while supporting programs that do all of the above things to reduce cat populations.

What do you think? these are my thoughts and I certainly open to further discussions on this issue. I agree, it is not clear cut.

These are the kittens we are currently fostering. They need a foster home for the summer! Anyone in Indo interested?

* I am sure that many people will say that this in-vitro stuff is playing around too much with nature and that we shouldn’t do it. I respectfully disagree. I truly believe that technology and scientific research creates some problems and solves so many others. But this to me in a no-brainer. In many ways I feel blessed to be living in a time where we canuse tech to do such amazing things to improve our world. What a wonderful thing to be able to produce meat that caused no suffering and had a light footprint. I think it would be wonderful. If we use technology well, then we can achieve great things for our species and our world.

Talking With Grade 1s

I was super excited to be asked to speak to the Grade 1s a couple of weeks ago on the choices that I make to be happy  which is part of their Unit of Inquiry.  Obviously, it was about my vegan choices and the kids were really good. They listened well, and asked some good questions. Here are some pictures.

Me explaining that when I was like them, I ate just the same as them.

And then a saw a film like Angelo out and about.

And I wondered what was the difference between a chick and a puppy!

And vegan food can be just as delicious. I don't feel like I'm missing out.