The Past Is The Present

Remember back in the day when it was cool to smoke? Oh man, those sloe-eyed sultry women who could inhale through their nostrils were my idols! Clicking open the shiny silver cigarette case, flicking the gold-plated zippo, inhaling the first whiffs of butane, then “zoopf” the flame itself, six inches high, dazzling in its initial flash, then the first tendrils of smoke curling around a glowing end.

It was pure Hollywood, peeps, and I was a part of it. So were many, many of my friends, starting in our early to mid-teens. There was a law about age, you had to be 16, but no one enforced it. Unless you looked about five years old, no one refused to sell anyone cigarettes. In fact, even if you were five years old, all you had to say was you were buying them for your parent or grandparent, and boom, away you went with a little box of death that in the late 70s cost about $2.

In the 80s, the health and welfare party poopers got real hot and heavy over the health risks of smoking, and in 1988 new legislation was passed requiring cigarette packages to list certain health warnings and it just snowballed from there, peeps. Before long, the age was raised again (and people actually checked ID this time around!), smoking was banned in public places, then in the workplace, then gruesome images graced the boxes. People were quitting left and right, like passengers jumping off a sinking ship. Tobacco companies rallied, but the health conscious boomers were stronger and today, smoking is persona-non-gratis everywhere.

But let me tell you, the uproar! The initial hue and cry! Campaigns about curtailing our rights to choose, personal freedoms, the financial impact on tobacco companies and tobacco farmers, oh the humanity! It was not a popular concept at first. Our health was less important than the income generated from the industry – I mean, how were these rich tobacco families going to continue to live their extravagant lifestyle? Would they have to sell a yacht or two? Perhaps they’d have to forgo a few vacations or budget for Christmas?

Eventually, those companies either rallied and diversified or they died out. But life went on, and the quality of life for many was so much better. Today, we recognize how bad smoking is for us, and the memories of the turmoil of the 80s and 90s, as changes were made, has faded.

I feel like this scenario is playing out again, peeps.

But this time, it’s with meat and dairy.

Think about it: animal agriculture is a huge part of our world. It’s not bread that is the mainstay of cultures around the world, it’s meat. Our diets are meat rich for the most part. Rarely does the average family have a meal that is not meat-centric with a side or two of high-fat carbs.

So think of animal agriculture today as the tobacco industry of yore; and the way people fight to continue to eat meat despite medical organizations and World Health Organization’s (WHO) warnings about the risks of eating meat.

Society at large does not appreciate the truths about eating meat, the same as they repudiated the truths about smoking back in the day.

I can see it now: suddenly, all meat packaging starts to carry warnings as to the health risks associated with its consumption, maybe even gruesome pictures of colorectal cancer and plugged up arteries.

Animal ag farmers and dairy producers are already crying foul as activists storm their facilities and expose their deplorable conditions and abusive methods. They are opening their arsenal of propaganda to fight to maintain their position financially and ethically, just like tobacco companies did way back. Billboards are going up for both sides, peeps, using the highways as battlegrounds, and slogans as weapons.  085ebbd6ec24668f9a2474280167ad5b6620873c46d6d906235fd96444bdfdb4--dr-who-fun-stuff

It seemed like an unwinnable war, for either side, until I recalled the tobacco issued and suddenly saw a resemblance between the two.

Now I know who will win (at least a majority) because the writing is on the proverbial wall, peeps. Been there, done that.

Health and welfare will start to take the lead, as usual; and anti-meat sentiment will raise it’s broccoli-topped head and brandish carrot swords whilst showing the world a better, healthier more compassionate way. I know it, because health and welfare won the war against cigarettes, so I know it will be victorious here too.

Sure, some people still smoke. It is not gone completely. I expect meat eating to be the same. Neither will be completely eradicated until many, many years hence. But I figure it’s a start – and every little step taken is better for the environment, for us, and for our children.

Only 40 years ago practically every man, woman and child smoked. Today, only 20 per cent of the WORLD smokes. That’s fucking amazing, peeps! And guess what – people are living longer – back in the 50s, life expectancy was 52. Today it’s 72. That’s a 20 year difference and probably much of it is attributed to the non-smoking lifestyle choices and changes we have made. After all, we have fewer smokers and fewer incidences of second-hand smoke diseases.  Eat-beans-not-beings.

Imagine if meat were were mostly eliminated – life expectancy could be 82 or 92 – with less to no cholesterol ingested and very few carcinogens absorbed from processed meats, meat-related diseases would decrease drastically.

I changed my way of thinking about cigarettes way back when, and I quit smoking – as did most of my friends. Today, I also don’t eat meat or dairy – same with many of my friends. I adjusted to the changes both times based on new information and education about the reality of the industries and how they affect us and the world at large (not to mention the animals, in the case of animal agriculture).

If you can quit smoking because of the health benefits and what we now know, you can do the same with meat.

Go vegan!

 

 

 

 

We Gotta Start Somewhere

I saw a meme today, peeps. It was on IG and it intrigued me because it seemed kind of harsh, but I’m kind of a softie, so I thought I would read what other people thought of it – and holy fuck! Some people are just MEAN!

This was the meme: screenshot_20190813-103415_instagram6632946786314450277.jpg

It’s basically saying people who choose Vegetarianism (as opposed to full-on Veganism) are doing more damage to the movement than those who eat meat, because their “partialism” (now I just made that word up and I think it’s a great new word!) causes people to think Vegetarianism is doing as much good for the animal world as Veganism – which technically it is not.

Are Vegetarians, as this meme indicates, no better than carnivores in the bigger scheme of protecting animal rights? Is it actually worse to be a vegetarian? I don’t think it is. I think it is a step towards a greater good. But let’s have a look at specific meanings first, shall we?

According to Wikipedia, “Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”

By contrast, Wikipedia says “Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, and may also include abstention from by-products of animals processed for food. Vegetarianism may be adopted for various reasons. Many people object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life.”

That’s in a nutshell. There is wayyy more information for each on Wikipedia, and the links are there if you’d like to have a look.

So, I see both lifestyles may be adopted out of respect for sentient life, religious reasons, moral reasons, environmental reasons, and health reasons. Vegans choose to use or consume absolutely no animal products or by-products for ethical reasons, and Vegetarians might still use some by-products, such as dairy or leather. So far, so good – I can see Vegetarians perhaps don’t go all in, but surely their actions count for something – and surely they can’t be AS BAD as those who eat meat and utilize all animal by-products. Well there is a faction of Vegans who believe this is the case.

What the fuck?

I don’t think that’s right, and certainly it isn’t fair.

Personally, I don’t eat meat or dairy, and I don’t purchase new leather or other animal by-products BUT I still have some leather items in my wardrobe – things that I am not able to replace immediately – Am I a bad Vegan?

And wait – there’s more! As mentioned in a previous post, plant-based farming can result in the deaths of many wild animals through the use of traps, or machinery, destruction of habitats, etc. So knowing this, and choosing to eat plant-based foods, logic dictates that would make MOST Vegans bad too.

Where do we draw the judgmental line, peeps?

I’m doing my best, ffs! And so are a ton of other Vegans AND Vegetarians. We are bound by the constrictures of our society as to how effective we are, regardless of how committed we are to our beliefs.

I have nothing to be ashamed of in using my pre-purchased leather goods or eating foods in which unintentionally, an animal died. Field hands and farmers have been hurt and killed on the job – we still eat the corn or beans.

Shit happens, peeps!

So ethically, as a Vegan in the world, in this life, my behaviour is considered acceptable, but Vegetarians are not….hogwash and hooey, I say!

The comments on the IG post made it abundantly clear Vegetarians were not given the same sanction as Vegans who still use pre-purchased animal-based items – and I wanted to know why?

One word, peeps! INTENTION.

If the intention to do harm to another being is not there, then it’s all good. However, a Vegetarian still uses or consumes some animal products, possibly knowing the cruelty involved, thereby giving the idea that some animal oppression is acceptable. While I agree it is NOT acceptable to knowingly kill or hurt an animal for our personal use, I also agree Vegetarianism is a step in the right direction, and should not be vilified or maligned.

Statistics show a Vegetarian can reasonably be said to prevent approximately 100 animal deaths per year. A Vegan, according to Peta, is said to prevent the death of 198 animals per year. Although it appears a Vegan “saves” more animals, the 100 animal deaths prevented by being Vegetarian is not too shabby either. It’s 100 more PER PERSON than would otherwise be saved.

Could a Vegetarian take it a step further? Of course! And they just might – unless judgers out there turn them off of belonging to this niche. Who wants to connect with and be part of a group of nasty, judgmental, downright intolerant people? Whether the group is doing good in the world or not?

Humans are pack animals. We want to belong – we want our tribe to accept us, love us and protect us. We want encouragement to progress, not condemnation for not moving fast enough. So I made this point on the IG meme:

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You see, my compassion extends beyond non-human animals – it encompasses all sentient beings. This is what I believe Veganism is truly all about.

There is enough cruelty in this world, enough conflict, enough abuse, without inserting it into our attitude towards and treatment of people who are AT LEAST making an effort to help. We all come to our truths at different stages in our lives and in different ways. We all have individual paths to walk, perhaps governed by an omnipotent power or perhaps predicated by a past life – WE DON’T FUCKING KNOW!

So we have to stop fucking acting like we have all the answers and try to teach each other better with kindness, compassion and by example. Humans are impressionable and perceptive. If we see certain behaviours are working – and some are not – we will figure it out, in our own way and in our own time. Successful movements don’t happen overnight. Someone has to make a start.

Someone has to refuse to move to the back of the bus.

Those 100 animals the Vegetarian saved are happy someone did.

We all gotta start somewhere to get to our destination. It doesn’t matter where we start as much as it matters that we do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Being Vegan An Impossible Dream?

Being vegan: simple, right? No animal or animal by-products consumed or used, pretty clear.

But is it really?

This one really blew my mind, peeps, burst the perfect bubble of veganism in which I lived. How could I not realize this? How could I be so ignorant? Well it’s no consolation, but none of us is exempt, so I’m in good company.

The facts are: plant-based farming also kills animals!

What the ACTUAL FUCK??

Well, you know me, I had to get to the bottom of this! So I put my pencil behind my ear, slapped my glasses on, picked up my mouse (computer mouse, peeps, !) and began surfing. (Also not real ocean surfing, web surfing – if you know me at all, you know I would never, EVER go deeper into the ocean than my ankles. I was traumatized enough by having to step on mussels on the PEI beach, never mind facing up to bigger sea creatures – but I digress)

Apparently, the methods used to grow and harvest plant agriculture can be deadly to wild animals, specifically field mice, but it may also include other animals who venture into the fields for food. Snakes, voles, moles, rabbits, birds, none are excluded as possible victims of the harvest. Some have argued there are more wild animals killed in plant-based agriculture than factory farming kills domestic animals, which is patently ridiculous, as the numbers published do NOT take into account the number of wild animal deaths which occur naturally per acre, such as predators, old age, disease and environmental factors. The published numbers only reflect the TOTAL per acre. And seeing as much of our plant-based farming is used to feed said agricultural animals, it’s rather a moot point, anyway.

Unfortunately, meat supporters are using these figures to undermine the ethics of plant-based/ vegan diets. These reports are being thrown in our faces left and right, with a yodel of “nanner nanner boo boo” just for good measure, and vegans are left to stammer out weak sounding justifications whilst fighting confusion at the thought that their beliefs and lifestyle are not what they thought it was.

Two words, peeps: collateral damage.

Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s something we actually deal with daily and not just in our diets.

I mean, think about it: you wake up, brush your teeth, have a coffee, drive to work, hit an old lady at the crosswalk,….wait, what? Yes peeps, in the course of you living, breathing, working, doing everything normally in your best life, shit still happens.  And it can happen to anyone.  You didn’t intend to hit the old lady, it wasn’t planned, premeditated, it wasn’t a life goal, but it happened anyway.

Ever drive over a squirrel in your car? It’s heartbreaking! I have done it, I was traumatized for days! But that squirrel, like the little old lady, was collateral damage.

Typically, it’s a military term. Wikipedia states, “Collateral damage is any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an unintended result of military operations…”

Did you know Buddhist monks are so concerned about hurting or killing even insects, they they pray as they walk in case they step on any living creatures unknowingly. Even just walking down the street you might be killing something! 6beee91650a63f2a3c33102e7edb5999

As much as these associated deaths are painful to face and accept, they were unintentional. In fact, they occurred as a result of trying to do the right thing, and end animal abuse and slaughter completely.

Two more words, peeps: bigger picture.

We have to keep the bigger picture in mind. As vegans, our goal is to put an end to society thinking of animals as lesser beings; to encourage cessation of utilizing animals for our own gain, including food. We want to see a world in which no animals are harmed in order for humans to live. We want to see society respecting our earth and everything on it. It’s a tall order, and it’s going to take a very long time.

After all, it didn’t take us only two weeks to get to this place of pollution, climate change, species extinction, and domination. Sadly, people and animals will die or be hurt in the process – not intentionally – but just the same, it will happen.

What we must do is work towards a process where our farming methods will improve, and fewer and fewer casualties are experienced. This is more likely to occur if animals are respected as equal beings in this world, rather than inanimate commodities. I hate that living creatures are hurt in plant-based farming, but I hate that living creatures are hurt, killed and eaten even more. I hate that people can’t see it for what it is: murder. 836851423007c17462ed8cca6cfccff7

So as far as I’m concerned, peeps, veganism is still the right path. The end goal is compassionate treatment of all living beings. Once that concept is universal, things will start to fall into place like confetti on wet pavement.

 

 

The Silver Fox of P.E.I.

Everyone thinks of P.E.I as the Island of Potatoes, and although that is true, the province was also made rich – quite literally – on the backs of wild animals. Foxes. Silver Foxes to be specific. silver-fox-portrait-B920WY

While I was there, some dude pulled a pelt out of his bag. I was horrified as he blithely flipped it around, because my first thought, as always, was what the poor animal went through, but I did notice it was the most gorgeous fur I had ever seen. The Silver Fox is not a breed of fox: foxes on the island are all the same breed. It’s just a different colour, much like there are black labs, chocolate labs, and yellow labs. download

So I looked into the Fox situation on the island and this is what I learned:

In the late 1800s, many islanders were poor, and hunted for subsistence, either food or fur. They noticed the Silver Fox pelt was sold for gargantuan prices compared to the red fox pelt, and found they were very popular amongst European nobility, such as the Hapsburgs.

So a couple of bright sparks decided to catch some silvers and create a fox farm, so acquisition of the furs would be easier. You see, the silver pelt is rare, a recessive gene of red foxes, so having two silvers to mate and procreate was the only guarantee of successful silver pelt farming. The interlopers discovered foxes were monogamous and territorial and built pens a pair could live and procreate in, privately, away from other foxes.

According to The National Post, the men “sold 25 pelts in London and made $34,649 at a time when the average yearly income for a Prince Edward Island farm labourer was about $320.” They became rich. As did many who followed suit in the fox fur industry. A shocking 1 in every 10 islander owned breeding foxes!

Fortunately for the foxes, although it took many years, some farmers started to sell breeding pairs for even larger sums. However, in doing so, their market collapsed upon itself because now the countries who craved the pelts had their own farms.

Sucks to be them.

Today, there are no fox farms left in P.E.I., in large part to their greed for selling breeding pairs, but also due to the demand dropping hugely as activists made their voices heard. But fox money made the island a wealthy place, and many families are living off fox fur money to this day, although they have diversified into other business.

So here’s the thing: what is the moral difference between keeping a fur farm and trapping? Nothing, obviously. The animal still dies, and it does so after being kept in a cage all its life. So…quality of life? Nil. More humane death? Nil. Absolutely nothing marks fur farming as a better alternative to wild trapping. fur-farm-8

So many people object to fur nowadays, anyway. Many international designers are banning fur fashion; manufacturers are perfecting faux furs so beautiful they can’t be differentiated from the real thing. We have synthetic alternatives for warmth and style more so than ever before. There is absolutely no need to wear fur in this day and age. It’s an objectionable industry, and people from all walks of life agree fur looks best on the animal, not us. factory farm pigs 2

So why is factory farming not thought of in the same way as fur farming? Why is it so hard for people to recognize the truth: if keeping animals in cages to eventually kill them for their fur is abhorrent, then surely keeping animals in cages to eventually kill them for food is equally as abhorrent. Especially given the conditions in which they are kept. Especially given that we DON’T NEED MEAT to live and thrive – the same as we don’t need fur to stay warm anymore.

There is such a huge disconnect between animals as commodity and animals as pets. Society doesn’t see them as the same thing. Dogs and cats are (and rightly so) protected by laws enforced on the daily, not just by authorities but by everyday people, too. We rise up in anger at seeing a dog in a car on a hot day. People smash car windows without a thought to consequence. Then they go into the store and purchase the best looking steaks they see, feeling smug and comfortable that they saved an animal’s life.

WTF?

I know, I know, I was that person once. I ate meat and I loved my pets. I’m guilty. I can’t deny it. I used to own a fur coat: farmed rabbit, which I wore while I walked my dog.

I GET IT!

But we can change! We can see and hear the truth that is being publicized more and more. We can choose not to turn away and ignore the facts because we have always done it that way; we can listen and learn. We have that capability. We did it for the fur industry – we listened, learned, and spoke up, and look! Now P.E.I. has no fur farms and people are still thriving! They changed! They did not sink into the sea, they grew and are still growing.

Their story is a real testament to people’s ability to make changes for the better. It’s do-able, peeps, we just have to keep an open mind and LISTEN, and allow ourselves to LEARN. Stop holding on to outmoded ideas and concepts and move forward with the times. Create a different way – a better way!

Millions of lives are at stake.

 

 

 

 

Pizza Reinvented

Sometimes, I think about pizza.

There I’ll be, minding my own business, and suddenly, there is a piece of pizza in my head. A hot, gooey, stretchy mess of cheese and fat. It was one of my most favourite foods.

I’m not gonna lie, peeps, vegan pizza is the one food I have not been able to recreate adequately to satisfy the heart and soul. But staunchly, I stayed the course, eating my rice and beans (which I actually really love!) while everyone else in the house noshed down on that finger-licking perfect pie of my past.

It’s ok – I’m more than happy knowing my food did not contribute to the pain and oppression of the meat and dairy industries – but still, the Culinary Creative Carol part of me was challenged to design a vegan pizza that even a carnivore would love.

It’s like when my ex used to tell me “no” or “don’t do that or else” – what was I supposed to do? Listen? Tow the line? Pfffff  hell no. Challenge accepted!

My epiphany about pizza occurred last week when I went to Toronto with my friend Joanne and her daughter, Tatiana. We had lunch at a pizza place called “Apiecolypse Now” There were a range of different pizzas that looked distinctly unpizza-like except for the crust, and suddenly, the skies opened up and beams of angelic light played down upon us like gentle harp strokes as the beatific choir sang “aaahhhhhhhhh” in perfect, melodic, harmony. jesus

Not really. It was more like a slap upside the head as my brain yelled “Holy shit! I never thought about doing this to pizza! Amaze-balls!”

There were pizza topping combinations I couldn’t even imagine: there was a pizza topped with nachos; there was a big mac pizza; there was traditional cheese style; plant-based pepperonis, bacons, and ground not-meat; there were non-dairy feta cheeses, Notzzarellas, plant-based cheddars, tons of different veggies; different types of sauces; the permutations were endless and delicious and totally, completely, pushed traditional pizza boundaries.

So I realized, it wasn’t about recreating the pizza, IT WAS ABOUT REINVENTING IT! Creating a new type of pizza with it’s own flavours and with its own identity.

So I ordered the most unpizza-like pie on the menu: The Fat Mac (Big Mac copycat). This pizza had a plant-based meat topping, with onions, pickles, cheese, lettuce, special sauce on a sesame seed pie crust. I needed to taste it and see if it really did taste like a Big Mac, and more importantly, decide whether lettuce belonged on pizza! I needed to determine the ingredients used to recreate it at home. If it could be done at home, then I could recreate any other favourite food item into a pizza and revolutionize vegan pizzas completely so they no longer had to compete with the real thing, but could stand apart from and alone as its own entity.

Like I said: Challenge Accepted!

I was wielding my spatula like a samurai, peeps. Herbs, spices, plant-based proteins: check! Flour coated the surfaces, cast through the air like semolina wraiths. Vegan mayo transformed into Mac sauce with a few simple ingredients. Vidalia onions and sammich pickles found new life in a fine dice job. Pizza dough flew onto a pan like a UFO. It was a thing of beauty, peeps. I kid you not.

When it came out of the oven all bubbly and hamburgerly, I added the finely chopped lettuce and drizzled the Mac sauce all over it. The earth was created in seven days, according to Bible thumpers. In this case, Big Mac Perfection was created in an hour.

I did it.

The Big Mac Pizza was born. And I saw that it was good. pizza

OMFG peeps, it was so tasty, if you like Big Macs, which I definitely do. The flavour was identical, but it was healthier (no animal fats, no cholesterol, lower in calories) and no one was harmed in the process. Win-win for all concerned.

And I learned an important lesson. Sometimes it’s better to embrace new things than hold onto and try to recreate old things. Sometimes old things are old things for a good reason, and maybe they should stay old things, because we’ve progressed beyond that.

Frankly, I’m lovin’ it!

 

 

My Travels in Poverty

Since my day spent, in part, with the street people of Toronto, I have been reflecting back to other poverty I have witnessed in my travels.

In Alabama, I saw the folks who lived in the “little pink houses” of which John Mellencamp wrote in his song “Little Pink Houses (for you and me)”, but those folks, although at or below the poverty line, are not the ones that stick in my mind. What comes to mind in the southern U.S. are the government trailer parks with line after line of dingy white trailers housed with multiple families (mostly African American) situated on dusty dirt behind chain link fences, as if incarcerated. Their children ran barefoot and often pantsless (whether by choice or not I can’t say – it was brutally hot, and I know I like to be pantsless at home!) The elderly sat on upturned buckets or ratty lawn chairs keeping watch on the shrieking shenanigans of bare butt children and frenzied dogs, leaping after them. Occasionally, a scarfed grandma would be seen sweeping the ground at the foot of the trailer door, in a never ending attempt to clean away the grime and dust.

I’d never seen poor like that before. Oh wait – yes, yes I had!

In more northern climes, in my own country, many years ago as a youth, I remember travelling through a couple of Indian Reserves. It reminds me of the Wizard of Oz movie, when it starts off black and white and suddenly changes to techni-colour, only this was the other way around. My travels through started off in full vibrant colour and gradually faded into black and white the deeper I got into the Res.

The houses became more dilapidated until every house I saw was no more than wood pieces hammered together. Some were old trailers with extensions built from cardboard, steel and wood. I could see no options for indoor plumbing, electricity, or phones. I kept thinking where do they keep their food if they don’t have electricity for a fridge? It never entered my head I should be thinking “what food?”. I was so young at the time, the reality escaped me.

Did you know that even today, in 2019, just over 600 First Nation communities in Canada and “at any given time one in five of these communities are under a boil water advisory.” What? they have to boil their water prior to consumption? In Canada, in 2019?? What the actual fuck, peeps!

And did you know some of these Reserves are mere minutes away from your neighbourhood? How is it possible you have potable water and half hour from you a whole community does not? How is it possible this has not been addressed by our Canadian standards? Potable water is a RIGHT as laid down in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. This is Canada, ffs! How can some people not have clean drinking water?

Then, many years later, I travelled to India for work for six weeks. Yes, India! Me! I know! I am actually so happy I went, now, although at the time I was fraught with every anxiety under the sun (and more, I was also living with dickhead at the time). There I saw a different kind of poverty.

hovels

this was situated next to the building in my neighbourhood

It was the same, but different.

I mean, poor is poor right? You’d think…

Firstly, I soon figured out you could tell have’s from have not’s by their shoes – or lack thereof. Those with money had shoes; the poor had bare feet. It didn’t matter whether they were working or beggars, if they were poor, they went everywhere in bare feet. Even to work. Even if their job was construction, chopping wood, climbing scaffolds, whatever. Unless you were required to wear a uniform for your job, if you were poor, you had bare feet.

I saw construction workers on scaffolds four or five stories high, painting, hammering, and they had no tie offs, no hard hats, no shoes. The scaffold was pieced together bamboo hand-tied with rope, perilously propped against the walls, not the fancy schmancy metal poles with locking mechanisms we have here. I saw construction workers digging foundations for huge mega-apartments side by side with back-hoes, with no shoes, no hard hats, and using sticks and hand-tied shovels to dig.

It was an insurance claim waiting to happen. But guess what, they didn’t have insurance either! If someone lost a foot, or fell off a scaffold and could no longer work, they became beggars. I saw one beggar with his arm broken in three places, healed incorrectly, and he showed us that was his reason for begging, and not working. He had no shoes. He was a beggar but he looked exactly like the working poor there. Hmmm.

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this was upscale, but it was right next to the shanties pictured above

The homes these folks lived in were built of corrugated metal, and pieces of wood, propped up against a million-dollar condominium side by side. On the same street. The juxtaposition amazed me. Here, we have “areas” of town which evolve into luxury, middle class, and poor. There, rich and poor was side by side. There were no “poor” areas. They were mixed together like curry-flavoured Bits-and-Bites.

So you could walk down the street, visit shops, see gorgeous hotels, and then come upon a smattering of muddy hovels, with sari-strewn electrical lines, women making paratha, a high-class mall, a skyscraper tech company, and a line of bodegas with dirt floors and stray dogs. Then there might be a Hindu temple, with flowing palm trees and brightly dressed ladies in saris, sweeping the ground around it with tea leaves, bent over double, and not wearing shoes.

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this lady did the laundry for my apartment building. it was all done under this shanty outside the property on the street

And they smiled. Always. I would walk by and they would gesture for me to take their picture, with big smiles, they would pose in front of their street sweeper or temple or while they were ironing the clothing of the guests at the hotel across the road. They smiled.

They got their water from a local reservoir. It was not drinkable for us, but that is what they used for cooking, drinking, bathing, and washing. They had to carry it in buckets and bowls. Sometimes they balanced the jars of water on their heads and walked. I kid you not. Just like in the movies.

But whenever I asked to take a picture, they smiled, with or without teeth. It was lovely. It made me really happy to take their picture, like I was doing them a favour. I thought about this a lot, afterwards.

Why wouldn’t they be sad? Disgruntled? Jealous? I mean, right next door was a beautiful pink condo, obviously filled with people wearing shoes. I think somehow, even though they knew they were poor, even though they could see wealthy folks beside them, it never entered their head that there was anything wrong with the status quo. That it could, and maybe should, be different. It was just accepted as how it was, and they seemed happy.  One of my colleagues told me it was because they knew people who were worse off and they were just happy not to be in that pickle.

I don’t know. I don’t have an explanation for it. I just know whenever I felt anxious, or down while I was there, I went for a walk and took pictures, and this always cheered me up.

When I left, I left a few pairs of my shoes in my apartment for anyone who needed them.

They were crocs. I don’t think they minded. 🙂

 

 

A Summer Night in the City

I currently live in the ‘burbs, but once upon a time, I lived in the big city: Toronto. I really love it in Toronto. For someone who hates big crowds, this is an anomaly, but then I have never pretended to be anything other than myself: weird.

I actually love the diversity in people and in shops. Where else can you get vegan pizza sitting next to Ali’s Grocery and Cigarettes next to Hong’s Gift Shop next to Satan’s Eye Tattoos next to Mme. Dupont’s Ballet for Girls? I mean, come on, peeps.

So my forays into the city now are pretty special – and fun. Usually I go to see my girl, Moon, but this time, I went with my friend, Joanne, and her daughter, Tatiana. We had a fun day planned, including having some lunch out and a walking tour of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, (fucking blisters ahhhh) a landmark 200 acres in the heart of Toronto. Joanne also wanted to bring along some food and water to spend some time helping out the “homeless” downtown. Beyond giving some change, an occasional Timmie’s card or bag of dogfood (for the dogs) I haven’t really had much contact with the disenfranchised folks of the street.

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not my photo

It was an eye-opener, peeps.

I kind of took a back seat to the whole thing, letting Joanne take the lead in approaching “likely looking” people (and let me tell you, the likely looking people may not be what you think they are). I handed out the pies and smiled a lot, cause, you know, anxious and shit. They were wonderful: friendly, happy to see us, grateful for the food and water. It felt good.

That was the day time.

We still had food left after our tour and decided to go back to the Yonge Street area where there seemed quite a few street people congregating after dark. Of course, in Toronto, it’s not really dark, it’s lit up like a carnival, but it was night and a whole different type of street person was taking up the prime spots.

Cue doomsday music crescendo.

Gone were the chubby little Romanian ladies in babushkas with their little signs; in their place were addicts, gun shot victims, hookers and alcoholics, with dealers and cops peppered in and around them.

I mean, I’ve been downtown at night before. I knew these people were there. But this was the first time I actually spoke to and interacted with any of them.

At first I was nervous. The scene before me was like something out of a TV show. Not Brooklyn 99, I can assure you. These people were no “Doug Judys”. The scene was more like Law & Order or even Mad Max: City Nights. (That could be a thing, peeps! Screen play anyone??)

So we went about and among them, handing out pies and Joanne’s homemade healthy date and nut balls, filling up water bottles, and chatting about them: their life, their situation, their feelings.

Yes, many were drunk or stoned. There were a couple of sex workers, a gun shot victim (shot in the ankle, hand and leg… not sure how that happened).

There were some smooth looking, man-bun wearing, slim square-toed shoe-sporting city slickers hopping in and out among them all, dealing drugs, under the watchful eye of a uniformed policeman. I guess the amounts were not enough to warrant a reaction or maybe it was understood this was home turf for these people, and what goes on at home is private. I don’t know. It seemed very weird to me, but I realize this was not the black and white world we live in, where we always have a comfy bed, good food, and wifi. This was a world of shadows, greys and blacks, cold cement, grit-riddled food, and rats. (Yes I saw a few, running behind where the action was).

I gotta say, though, I was impressed. I’ve known Joanne a very long time; I have always known her to be a kind person, who is truly interested in people. She is one of the few people I know who actually listen whens someone rambles on about stuff, she questions them and shows honest interest in them and what they have to say. ,

So we met a murderer (a real live one!) and his girlfriend, both Natives, and felt our hearts break as the fellow talked about his grown daughter with tears in his eyes (he was charged with murder after he defended his daughter from being raped); we learned the woman had a college certificate. They were not stupid, useless or bad. They were drinking alcohol disguised as koolaid in their water bottles, so I assume the drinking contributed to their situation. They had 2 large bags full of all their worldly possessions, and their “home” was a doorway big enough for the both of them, the sidewalk around them strewn with shards of glass and litter.

And around us, people in Armani and Ralph Lauren went about their business, bypassing the street people in their translucent houses.

We spent a couple of hours in all, sharing food, talking, laughing and even crying with these folks. They are people, just like us. They have children, just like us. They have feelings, just like us. They don’t want to be out on the street, but there is nowhere else for them to go. homeless

On the streets it’s fairly warm, there are always bodies to cram up against for warmth; there’s food (not what we call food, but they get by), they have friends, colleagues, like-minded folks who “get” them, not look down on them; they have their addictions supplied, same as us. They have eyes to see – and they see much more than we give them credit for; they understand the reality of their world and what “we” think of it, but it’s their world, they own it, and they don’t own much else.

Now I am not a religious person, but all I kept thinking as I walked those city streets on this summer night was “but for the grace of god, go I….”

And that’s really the truth, peeps.

 

Black Goat Farm and Sanctuary

So this week, I had a date with a black goat.

No, no, I wasn’t delving into the art of black magic or practicing self-sacrifice to a satanic lord. (been there, done that in my last relationship ahaha! I’m laughing here but its really not that funny…see earlier posts)

I signed up for a bi-weekly volunteer work day at Black Goat Farm and Sanctuary, and Thursday was my first day!

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Totes the Goat, for whom Black Goat Sanctuary is named. He is in a timeout here because he was bad.

Now I already volunteer for occasional events at my local humane society, and of course I’ve adopted numerous dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, fish and snails over the years. I’ve shared sandwiches with our backyard chicken, and recently even fed baby racoons from a bottle! (awwwwww…let’s all say it together)

But I really just fucking love farm animals. I don’t know why. Cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, I just love them. Especially cows. They are just so huge and gentle, with the most beautiful eyes and soft, rounded lips, just like my spaniel. They actually kind of make me think of ginormous dogs. I like the fact that we can interact with farm animals because over the millenia they’ve been domesticated so much, and they are so trusting they basically know their lives depend on us. They are so misunderstood and mistreated, I feel a special bond with them and a special desire to take up their cause in particular. me and zoey

So I am really committed to the demonstrations against factory farming and the inhumane farming practices. Helping out at the Sanctuary was a new experience for me and one which I had been hoping to do for some time. Getting right in there, down and dirty, building barns, slogging manure, birthing babies…..ok well not that but I just wanted to interact with farm animals, ok?!

Of course, the day before my scheduled work day, I was sick with a fever and congestion. Really sick. Unable-to-scrape-myself-off-the-couch sick. Tissue-stuck-up-each-nostril sick. Anyway, I took some Dayquil, made a strong coffee in my travel mug, grabbed the Halls, and drove off anyway, armed with my rubber boots, rain poncho, and trusty phone for pictures. (Oh the pictures!)

These folks are super nice and bought this farmland with the intention to open a much-needed rescue. They operate solely on donations or their hard-earned money at their day jobs, and their mission is to raise awareness as to how livestock is treated in society. They are recently creating a schedule for volunteers to help out with the day-to-day management/work on the farm.

And it’s no small feat, as  I soon found out.

When I first got there, I guess you could say I was like a grinning child: I ran up to all the animals to hug them, “Who is this? Which one is this? OMG LOOK AT THIS ONE?” It was kind of neat because I had them on my Facebook and IG and so I felt like I already knew some of them, but here I was actually petting them! Once I had hugged every single cow, goat, and sheet, and had calmed down a bit, we grabbed our tools: shovels and brooms, and started the arduous job of cleaning out the barn so the floor could be prepped and new hay laid down.

The main barn used to be a chicken warehouse, and was now converted with some large stalls and a huge open space for everyone to play. And play they did.

It was a rainy day, grim and overcast, so first of all, none of them wanted to be outside. They clustered around us as we worked, extremely curious about who we were and what we were doing, playing with each other and bumping against us as we worked. It was not unusual to be sweeping away, feel a bump which nearly took me off my feet, and turn to see Zoey the Heifer peering at me curiously. I had to stop what I was doing multiple times to talk to them and pet them and hug them. That’s when I noticed Zoey’s soft mouth was like my spaniel’s, and then I was like “Omg you’re like my dog, Omg I Love you!” Calvin, the Jersey, at one point decided he wanted to help bring the filled wheelbarrow to be dumped, and turned it over back onto the concrete floor.

Then there was Maple, the crippled goat. In her past situation, she was being raised for meat, her leg was somehow broken there but was never set so it healed all broken up. Then due to her leg not being set properly, she was actually rejected for meat, was just going to be euthanized for no reason. Simply because she was not needed. Black Goat Farm to the rescue! And now, she gallops around on three legs, and plays head-butts with Millie, another goat, as if there was nothing unusual about her at all.

maple with her broken leg

Maple, her leg has actually fused this way due to a break which was never treated properly in her last situation.

Luna is a Heifer, so gentle and quiet, with both eyes missing. In her last situation, she developed some eye issues, but it was not tended to because, well vet bills are expensive and what did she need eyes for anyway? So her painful and uncomfortable condition was left untreated. When Black Goat Farm got her, her eyes needed to be removed in order for her to heal. Today, she is the calmest, quietest girl you could ever see, with no fear of her surroundings, despite having lost her vision.

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Luna had both eyes removed at Black Goat Farm because she had severe untreated eye infections from her last situation.

Many of the animals there have similar stories; some were dumped; some, like the pot-bellied “mini” pigs were adopted as pets by uninformed people and eventually surrendered, some were rescued from horrific circumstances, and sadly, some were rescued from deplorable conditions, treated by Black Goat Farm’s vets, and yet didn’t make it.

It’s truly heart breaking to hear the stories of what the beautiful and tender beings have been through; it’s emotionally debilitating to me to know there are thousands out there still experiencing it. Some at factory farms hooked up to milking machines, babies ripped away and tossed into a veal crate; standing butt to jowl in cramped transport trucks with no water or food for days, in extreme heat or cold, as they are carted to their death; some forced to bear litters in small metal crates over and over again with minimal to no veterinarian care because people really love bacon!

When you meet these beings in person, when you’ve watched their silly antics, when you’ve looked into their eyes, you really don’t see any difference between them and the animals we consider “our pets”. Why does society see them this way? Quick answer? Because we have been raised to think of certain animals as “products” not sentient creatures.

Serial killers dehumanize their victims to make it easier to torture and eventually kill them for whatever their nefarious purposes are. Their victims are a means to an end, to satisfy some cruel and evil blood lust, and the way I see it, factory farming is basically the same thing.

There is absolutely no good reason for eating animal flesh and consuming dairy in this day and age, with all the knowledge we have about health and wellness, and all the many plant-based options available now. If you truly want to make a difference in this life, for the environment and for yourself, stop eating meat. I know a whole truckload of living beings who will thank you!

From Compassion to Compassion Fatigue

We’ve all heard of Battle Fatigue, now more commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and now considered not limited to veterans of war only, but today I heard a new term: Compassion Fatigue.

Since I’m pretty much always exhausted, I decided to research this and see if I could add it to my list of neuroses.

Sure enough, I believe I can!

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a Polar Bear, not in its natural habitat.

Similarly to PTSD, one might develop Compassion Fatigue by continued and prolonged exposure to suffering, loss of life, and emotional upheaval. Typically, it was seen mostly in care workers such as: physicians, nurses, emergency workers, and social workers. However, with the prevalence of more home care required for our elderly or disabled citizens, with the lack of appropriate in-patient hospitals for mental health cases, and with the need for more and more volunteer trauma workers, society is now seeing more and more Compassion Fatigue in the average person.

But, I learned, it is also now being seen in the front lines of animal rescue and anti-animal cruelty!

And it makes total sense, peeps!

When you care, when your heart is so big and so full of compassion for others (whether humans or non-humans) it’s traumatizing to constantly see the abuse and cruelty bestowed upon them. It’s painful to know it’s never ending, that the day after one animal is saved, there is another to take its place, and another, and another, and another, ad infinitum. It results in one’s physical and mental deterioration over time. And that makes for a very fatigued person. Exhausted in every aspect of one’s being, which can also lead to actual physical illnesses due to a compromised immune system.

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These are your “free-range chickens” (just means they are not kept in cages)

So here are some symptoms of Compassion Fatigue:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless or powerless when hearing of others’ suffering
  • Feelings of anger, irritability, sadness and anxiety
  • Feeling detached from our surroundings or from our physical or emotional experience
  • Feeling emotionally, psychologically or physically exhausted, burnt out or numb
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches
  • Reduced empathy
  • Feeling hypersensitive or insensitive to stories we hear
  • Limited tolerance for stress
  • Self-isolation and withdrawal
  • Relationship conflict
  • Feeling less efficient or productive at work
  • Reduced pleasure in activities we used to enjoy
  • Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating, focusing or making decisions
  • Self-medicating and increase in substance use.

Taken individually or in small cluster groups, someone might not realize they are dealing with this illness. I mean, one might attribute it simply to overwork or not enough sleep. We’ve all had those times, it doesn’t mean it’s a trauma fatigue. But when one is working in a caregiving capacity, perhaps these feelings should be given more in depth scrutiny – just in case.

Animal advocates and rescuers deal on the daily, not just with sick and maimed animals which is bad enough, but also with the non-compassionate mindset of the “great unwashed masses” who do not ascribe to more humane considerations. We are exposed, on the daily, to people who simply don’t care that male baby chicks are ground alive because there is no use for them; that sheep are punched and pummeled to subdue them when they are shaved for their wool; when pigs are kicked, punched and poked with sharp instruments to herd them into the gas chambers prior to slaughter; that chickens are kept in small crates with multiple other hens, no room to move as they grow into over-sized, hormone ridden adults for our plates.

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This is how your ham and bacon is raised. 

Those of us enlightened in the ways of factory farms and wild animals in captivity deal with not only the animals’ treatment but the attitudes of others who choose to ignore the facts so they can enjoy their rare steak at a bbq. We are insulted, demeaned, ridiculed, and laughed at for our beliefs by many of these folks in our life. We are unfriended on social media because people just don’t want to know the truth. (Yes many people are sickened by the images, and rightly so, but they choose to look away and continue living in the same way despite knowing the truth. This is called Cognitive Dissonance) Some peoples’ own family members treat them horribly at family gatherings, just because they eat differently.

But we stand our ground. No matter how tired we are, how saddened by the violent images we see, how exhausted by the demonstrations and vigils at slaughterhouses. We keep going because it’s for the animals. It’s for life. It’s for all our lives.

But next time you feel all annoyed and judgy about someone choosing not to eat meat at a bbq or asking for soy milk at a coffee shop, remember, these are the same people who fight for the better treatment of your dogs and cats, animals we ALL accept as pets and as family members. Maybe think about the stress and upset they take on in a day for the betterment of all living beings in the world – including humans. Maybe put the judgment hat away and be glad someone is fighting for those who can’t speak for themselves.

 

 

 

 

Tweet Tweet!

Peeps, I just created a Twitter account. Apparently, that’s where all the cool kids go to connect and get noticed in their fields and build their brand.

Since I am trying to build my followers, I thought that seemed like a good thing to do with my blog. If you are interested I’m @BadpuppyBlogs.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, are the basic three; the mirepoix of social media. Just like in a recipe, if you don’t have these three as the basis for your brand, you will not have the fundamental groundwork to be successful. So they say.

I’d had a Twitter account before, and I could never get on top of it. I was lost in all the @s and hashtags and everything moved so quickly, I simply couldn’t keep up with it. It seemed all everyone did was share sports stories or push their brand exclusively. It didn’t interest me, and sure as hell didn’t absorb me, so after a few months I just thought what the fuck, and deleted it.

But supposedly, the more social media platforms you join the better, and it seems EVERYBODY is tweeting crap all over the place. Twitter is proven to be a direct, speedy, and effective way to say your piece and get noticed – if you have the right followers and are following the right people. You see, if you have a list of Joe-Blow buddies on your Twitter, you are basically going to be spouting off your astute meanderings and witty repartee to the people you are already spouting off to on Facebook. They are going to get sick of you and unfollow you, turning your already meagre list of followers into a mere skeleton of non-involved, disinterested rabble.

So I read up on shit, peeps, did some studying of marketing in this online world, and I found a new word: ENGAGEMENT. Not the ring kind, (been there, done that, not all it’s cracked up to be) but the kind where you insert yourself into a tweet with an intelligent statement or humourous retort and trigger others’ response to you. In this way, you put yourself out there for followers to fall in love with your bon mot, then follow you and hopefully “retweet” you to all of their followers and so the movement continues. THAT is how you gain followers and gain popularity.

So I signed in and immediately followed a few significant-to-me organizations: some animal justice accounts, a couple of news accounts, and I started “engaging”.

Low and behold, I got one follower almost right away, someone I did not know, but their handle was very similar to mine. However, it turns out, they are the “first and largest collection of Gay Male Adult Erotica” so that’s something! As the night wore on, one of my comments was getting liked over and over again, (not by Gay-Erotica Guy) even retweeted. I actually had one person comment that what I said should be made into a T-shirt!

Come on, peeps, that’s fucking amazing! Me!! Coining a phrase for a T-shirt that goes viral on Twitter. And that was only my first day.

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Screen shot of my notifications. Champ Titty Sprinkles’ comment was eloquent too, don’t you think?

I will reveal to you my Twitter-famous comment here: “Everything about #ford is offensive”.

That’s it. That’s all. But what a response! Thank god Ford is a dick or my comment might not have gone over the way it did; it might have simply been absorbed into the flux and flow of multiple tweets, into the black Twitter hole of anonymity, and my first experience on Twitter would not have been so exciting.

I’m hooked now, though, peeps.

I mean, I know it will take some time, but I’m really looking forward to interjecting my thoughts in places they wouldn’t otherwise get noticed. I mean how many people can brag they are being followed by the “first and largest collection of Gay Male Adult Erotica” @Badpuppy?

Pffff not too many, I should think.