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The Emperor Has Vegan Clothes February 18, 2010

Filed under: Animal Production,vegan lifestyle — sharonsweets @ 1:23 am
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Part of being an ethical vegan means living ethically, including dressing ethically. What you wear could be sourced from suffering, which is totally unnecessary in this age of abundant, gorgeous faux materials that show you are a person of good conscience. Read on to learn the origins of animal-derived clothing.

Leather – The skins of the animals used for meat represent the most economically important byproduct of the meat packing industry. When dairy cows produces less milk, they will often be killed and their skin made into leather, and the hides of their offspring, calves raised for veal, are made into high-priced calfskin. The economic success of the slaughterhouse (and the factory farm) is directly linked to the sale of leather goods.

Leather production is also very dangerous for the environment, and tanning prevents leather from biodegrading. Animal skin is turned into finished leather using a variety of dangerous substances, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of which are cyanide-based. Most leather that is produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned, and the Environmental Protection Agency considers all waste that contains chromium to be hazardous. In addition to the toxic substances mentioned above, tannery effluent also contains large amounts of other pollutants, such as protein, hair, salt, lime sludge, sulfides, and acids. Among the disastrous consequences of this noxious waste is the threat to human health from the highly elevated levels of lead, cyanide, and formaldehyde in the groundwater near tanneries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents in an area surrounding one tannery in Kentucky was five times the national average.  (from PETA)

Wool – Some people think vegans are a little silly for not wearing wool because the sheep need to be sheared anyway. Well, conditions for sheep that are mass-farmed are really horrible. There’s a lot of cruelty in this industry. First of all, the animals are in existence primarily for human use, and were bred to have extremely thick coats, while naturally, sheep have just enough of a coat to be able to grow it and shed it themselves as needed. Here’s some more information on the cruel industry (from Vegan Peace):

Photo by Pierre Lascott

Mulesing: Since domesticated sheep can not shed their fleece themselves, their wool will grow longer and longer while flies lay eggs in the moist folds of their skin. The hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. To prevent this from happening, ranchers will perform an operation called mulesing. Without anesthesia large strips of flesh are cut of the backs of lambs and around their tails. Other procedures performed without anesthesia include punching a hole in the ears of lambs several weeks after birth, docking their tails and castrating the males. The castrations are done when the male lambs are between 2 and 8 weeks old, with the use of a rubber ring to cut off their blood supply.

Shearing: Sheep are sheared in the spring, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Because shearing too late would mean a loss of wool, most sheep are sheared while it is still too cold. An estimated one million sheep die every year of exposure after premature shearing. Another problem with sheep shearing is that the shearers are not paid by the hour, but by volume. They handle the animals very roughly and a lot of sheep get injured. Smaller farms may treat their sheep better, but they may exist at all because they are selling the young ones off to slaughter or are killing the older ones after a while for their hides.

Holding Pens: When the wool production of sheep declines, they are sold for slaughter. Millions of lambs and sheep are exported for slaughter each year. In Australia they have to travel long distances before reaching very crowded feedlots, where they are held before being loaded onto ships. Many sheep die in the holding pens.

Transport: Those who survive the holding pens are packed tightly into ships. Lambs born during the trip are often trampled to death. A lot of sheep get injured or die. In Europe they have to travel long distances in tightly packed trucks without food or water. They are frequently exported to countries with minimal slaughter regulations and where the sheep are often conscious while being dismembered.

Silk – The most common species of silkworm (moth larvae) used in commercial silk production has been ‘cultivated’ over many centuries and no longer exists in the wild. On mulberry trees in temperate and disease-controlled conditions, the female deposits annually 1 or 2 batches of 300 to 400 eggs. She secretes a sticky substance and fastens the eggs to a flat surface. The larvae hatch in about 10 days and eat 50,000 times their initial weight in plant material. The silkworm produces a fine thread from its silk glands and uses it to make a cocoon around itself consisting of around 300,000 figure of eight movements. Naturally, the pupae stage would be followed by the secretion of an alkali substance which would eat through the threads – allowing the subsequent emergence of a moth. However, the industry requires the threads to remain intact and so, upon the completion of the cocoon, the pupae are killed by immersion in boiling water, steaming, oven drying or exposure to the hot sun. The producers allow enough adult moths to emerge to ensure continuity of the cycle. The usable silk from each cocoon is minute – around 500 silkworms (or 80kg of cocoons) and 200 kg of mulberry leaves are required to produce just 1 kg of silk. (from VeganViews)

Fur– I am going to give you info straight from PETA here because they have compiled their research so well. Eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s skins come from animals living captive in fur factory farms. These farms can hold thousands of animals, and their farming practices are remarkably uniform around the globe. As with other intensive-confinement animal farms, the methods used in fur factory farms are designed to maximize profits, always at the expense of the animals.

Painful and Short Lives
The most commonly farmed fur-bearing animals are minks, followed by foxes. Chinchillas, lynxes, and even hamsters are also farmed for their fur. Seventy-three percent of fur farms are in Europe, 12 percent are in North America, and the rest are dispersed throughout the world, in countries such as Argentina, China, and Russia. Mink farmers usually breed female minks once a year. There are about three or four surviving kittens in each litter, and they are killed when they are about 6 months old, depending on what country they are in, after the first hard freeze. Minks used for breeding are kept for four to five years. The animals—who are housed in unbearably small cages—live with fear, stress, disease, parasites, and other physical and psychological hardships, all for the sake of an unnecessary global industry that makes billions of dollars annually.

Rabbits are slaughtered by the millions for meat, particularly in China, Italy, and Spain. Once considered a mere byproduct of this consumption, the rabbit-fur industry demands the thicker pelt of an older animal (rabbits raised for meat are killed at the age of 10 to 12 weeks). The United Nations reports that countries such as France are killing as many as 70 million rabbits a year for fur, which is used in clothing, as lures in flyfishing, and for trim on craft items.

Life on the ‘Ranch’

To cut costs, fur farmers pack animals into small cages, preventing them from taking more than a few steps back and forth. This crowding and confinement is especially distressing to minks—solitary animals who may occupy up to 2,500 acres of wetland habitat in the wild. The anguish and frustration of life in a cage leads minks to self-mutilate—biting at their skin, tails, and feet—and frantically pace and circle endlessly. Zoologists at Oxford University who studied captive minks found that despite generations of being bred for fur, minks have not been domesticated and suffer greatly in captivity, especially if they are not given the opportunity to swim.Foxes, raccoons, and other animals suffer just as much and have been found to cannibalize their cagemates in response to their crowded confinement. Animals in fur factory farms are fed meat byproducts considered unfit for human consumption. Water is provided by a nipple system, which often freezes in the winter or might fail because of human error.

Poison and Pain
No federal humane slaughter law protects animals in fur factory farms, and killing methods are gruesome. Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but that can result in extreme suffering for the animals. Small animals may be crammed into boxes and poisoned with hot, unfiltered engine exhaust from a truck. Engine exhaust is not always lethal, and some animals wake up while they are being skinned. Larger animals have clamps attached to or rods forced into their mouths and rods are forced into their anuses, and they are painfully electrocuted. Other animals are poisoned with strychnine, which suffocates them by paralyzing their muscles with painful, rigid cramps. Gassing, decompression chambers, and neck-breaking are other common slaughter methods in fur factory farms.

The fur industry refuses to condemn even blatantly cruel killing methods. Genital electrocution—deemed “unacceptable” by the American Veterinary Medical Association in its “2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia”—causes animals to suffer from cardiac arrest while they are still conscious. In 1994, Indiana became the first state to file criminal charges against a fur factory farm after PETA investigators documented genital electrocution at V-R Chinchillas. The chinchilla fur industry considers electrocution and neck-breaking “acceptable.”

Would You Wear Your Dog?
When PETA conducted an undercover investigation into the dog and cat fur trade in 2005, investigators went to an animal market in Southern China and found that dogs and cats were languishing in tiny cages, visibly exhausted. Some had been on the road for days, transported in flimsy wire-mesh cages with no food or water. Animals were packed so tightly into cages that they could not move. Because of the cross-country transport in such deplorable conditions, our investigators saw dead cats on top of the cages, dying cats and dogs inside the cages, and cats and dogs with open wounds. Some animals were lethargic, and others were fighting with each other, driven insane from confinement and exposure. All of them were terrified.

Investigators reported that up to 8,000 animals were loaded onto each truck, with cages stacked on top of each other. Cages containing live animals were tossed from the tops of the trucks onto the ground 10 feet below, shattering the legs of the animals inside them. Many of the animals still had collars on, a sign that they were once someone’s beloved companions, stolen to be bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and strangled with wire nooses so that their fur can be turned into coats, trim, and trinkets.

Undercover investigators from Swiss Animal Protection/EAST International toured fur farms in China’s Hebei Province and found that foxes, minks, rabbits, and other animals were pacing and shivering in outdoor wire cages, exposed to everything from scorching sun to freezing temperatures to driving rain. Disease and injuries are widespread on these farms, and animals suffering from anxiety-induced psychosis chew on their own limbs and repeatedly throw themselves against the cage bars.

The globalization of the fur trade has made it impossible to know where fur products come from. Skins move through international auction houses and are purchased and distributed to manufacturers around the world, and finished goods are often exported. Even if a fur garment’s label says that it was made in a European country, the animals were likely raised and slaughtered elsewhere—possibly on an unregulated Chinese fur farm.

Environmental Destruction
Contrary to fur-industry propaganda, fur production destroys the environment. The amount of energy needed to produce a real fur coat from ranch-raised animal skins is approximately 15 times that needed to produce a fake fur garment. Nor is fur biodegradable, thanks to the chemical treatment applied to stop the fur from rotting. The process of using these chemicals is also dangerous because it can cause water contamination.

Each mink skinned by fur farmers produces about 44 pounds of feces. Based on the total number of minks skinned in the United States in 2004, which was 2.56 million, mink factory farms generate tens of thousands of tons of manure annually. One result is nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which wreaks havoc on water ecosystems.

Fur in Sheep’s Clothing

As fur sales decline, sales of shearling—lambs’ skin with the wool attached—have risen. Some fur manufacturers have actually taken to disguising mink as shearling.Many people are unaware of shearling’s origins or that shearling sales are an incentive for sheep ranchers to increase their stock, thereby adding to the plight of sheep. In Afghanistan, karakul sheep are now raised to produce lambs for the high-end market in “Persian lamb” coats and hats. For “top-quality” lamb skin, the mother is killed just before giving birth and her fetus is cut out. The pelts of the unborn lambs are prized in the fashion world for their silk-like sheen. One karakul hat requires the skin from an entire lamb.  (from PETA)

So, if you’re looking to reduce suffering and to be an ethical vegan, you’ll realize the harm in supporting these cruel industries and opt for the many stylish vegan clothing choices available.





Countdown to the Class Valentine’s Party February 10, 2010

Filed under: Vegan Kids,vegan lifestyle — sharonsweets @ 5:52 pm
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So every time my kids have a holiday party in their class, I get advance notice and get to work planning. I don’t want my kids to ever feel ostracized by their diet and lifestyle, so I always make sure they get stuff in line with their peers at parties. Of course this is tons of extra work for me, but it’s important. For this Valentine’s party, actually I mean 3 parties, since my kindergarten son has 2 schools and my toddler has one, here’s what I’ve done already by Wednesday for the party Friday:

-Bought eco-friendly valentines. 4 packages of really cool valentines for the kiddos. One type was recycled and had recycled material tattoos, in a rainforest theme, the other was also recycled and had sheet cutouts with seeds in them that the kids could later plant. There were also the ubiquitous stickers that kids love to stick everywhere. The best thing is that I found these at Target for $2.99 each pack.

-Rice Krispy treats. The other day I found some whole grain puffed rice in the super. It was nowhere near the Rice Krispies! Today, after playing in the massive snow with the kids while the hot chocolate was cooking, I broke out the Dandies vegan marshmallows that I bought on Pangaea http://www.veganstore.com. I melted some of the unused marshmallows with Earth Balance vegan butter in the microwave. It overflowed and got sticky gooey marshmallow all over the microwave! I stirred the unmeasured mixture into some puffed rice and squeezed it onto a little pan and refrigerated it. Later we cut it and it was delicious! The rest went into a container for school Friday.

-Cupcakes. I’m making cupcakes straight outta SWEET UTOPIA for the classes, most likely vanilla. Simple and they please everyone. I’m sure the cupcakes will be decorated with plenty of frosting and colored sugar by a 5 year old tomorrow.

-Jello. In addition to all the other sweets, the class is having red jello, but my kids will be sent with vegan fruit gel cups from the refrigerator section at Trader Joe’s. These are quite delicious.

-Candy. Yup, they’re also having conversation hearts at the party, but my kids will take their favorite vegan jellybeans from veganstore.com. What a treat!

-Cheese and dip. Also at the party will be cheese and crackers, and dip and veggies. I’ll send in Tofutti cheese slices from the supermarket and some humus, and vegan whole grain crackers from Trader Joe’s (just in case).

-Pizza. Yes, they’re also having pizza! These kids can really eat! I’ll have to make pizza for dinner tomorrow night and put some aside for them for the next day’s lunch. I use a ready refrigerated dough, marinara and Daiya cheese.

-Plates. Can you believe they also want me to bring in heart plates to the party? Quick trip to the dollar store and I got this covered.

Glad I got so much done before this crazy snowstorm.

Can’t wait until Friday!! The kids are going to get so high on sugar, and they’ll crash right in time to go home!





Indulge: 10 Easy Rules for Feeling Great January 29, 2010

I don’t deprive myself of cravings, I don’t diet, I don’t count calories, I don’t eliminate any vegan foods from my diet, I will eat anything vegan, and I have chocolate every day. Today I’m sharing some of the food wisdom that helps me get through the week and keeps me healthy, happy and fit.

1-Enjoy a rainbow. Eat all colors of foods, especially when it comes to veggies and fruits. Take time in the produce aisle or farmer’s market to explore and try new things. Don’t be intimidated; you can always Google a vegetable’s preparation. Buy what tickles your fancy because food should be enjoyable.

2-Get a bit of fat. I gained the most weight when I tried the fad fat-free diet. Now I eat a decent amount of healthy fats from soy, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive, flax and coconut oil, and I feel full, without my body freaking out that it’s not getting any fat and thus holding on to whatever it can produce from sugar and carbs.

3-Protein. I don’t feel full without eating protein at each meal and most snacks. I always make sure I roll that in or else I stay hungry. Good sources are beans, nuts, seeds, and veggie meats. Some whole grains already contain a lot of protein, like quinoa.

4-Don’t forget the treats. No chocolate? I don’t think so. Yes, Ms. Sweet Utopia eats treats each day. I just make sure I don’t overdo it. And if I do, I drink extra water, reduce the next meal substantially or eat only veggies for a little bit, and I kick up the exercise. Once you are in tune with your body, you can really tell where your body’s balance is, and do what it takes to maintain it when something like sugar comes around a little too strong.

5-Build your meals using carb blocks. Whole grains are best, but don’t overdo portion sizes of any of them. Using fat, protein and plenty of raw or lightly cooked vegetables with your carbs allows you to eat less carbs and still fill up. I eat various breads, pastas, rice, quinoa, millet, etc. but I don’t overdo it too often.

6-Snack a lot. I have a healthy, filling snack between each meal so I don’t have to eat 3 huge main meals.

7-Drink up. Keep hydrated with water. A glass or two of green tea, coffee, herbal tea, fortified nondairy milk, or very watered down juice is also good. Bonus points if you break out the juicer.

8-Mix it up & be happy. Vary everything you eat to maximize nutrition and enjoyment. Vegan and healthy should never bore you.

9-Movement and Rest. You really do need to get off your butt! Especially if you’re stuck at a computer all day. Carve out exercise time. Take a few extra minutes at your break to go to the gym and at least do cardio. Get up earlier. Run around or dance with your kids. Use weights. Do yoga. Go for walks and hikes. Or just jump around for a few minutes here and there. All this will kick up your metabolism so you can eat what feels good to you and not worry about it. And make sure that you get lots of rest. A good solid chunk of sleep at night, naps when you can, and just resting any other time you feel you need it will keep you healthy and less burned out.

10-Supplement. Everyone-especially vegans-needs to make sure they are getting the basics. I always add things in to our meals like flax oil or flax meal, DHA, nutritional yeast for B vitamins, dulse flakes for trace minerals, and green probiotic powder. We take multivitamins and calcium/vitamin d/magnesium, and other vitamins as needed. If we feel we’re getting sick, we’ll fight it with zinc, vitamin c and echinacea and herbal immune support supplements. It works well. Take some time to tour the vitamin section of your health food store. We’ll talk more about supplements another time.

You can eat really well and be radiantly healthy, without extremes and deprivation. It’s all about making smart choices and finding your own balance so that you can be fit and feel great.


Baby Steps Toward Veganism October 26, 2009

You may be one of the many people who are interested in veganism (well, hey, you are reading this aren’t you?). But you don’t know really where to start. It’s so overwhelming to imagine your life without. Just without. Because you think of it that way. You think of all the things you’ll have to give up. Here are a few steps to help you on your journey toward a healthier and kinder diet.

1. Change your mindset and brace yourself for an adventurous ride. Prepare as if you were going to do a massive experiment, because this is what you will be doing. You will be buying all kinds of things, tasting things, exploring recipes and new ways of eating. Be open to new experiences.

2. Embrace nondairy milk. Take your pick. There are about 20 varieties or more of soymilk. There are ricemilks, almond milks, whole grain milks, hazelnut, coconut, hemp, oat, and many more kinds of milk. Please make sure that you get the fortified variety. You will need the calcium, vitamin D, and B12 that are added. Make sure the vitamin D is D2, which is laboratory-created and not D3, which is derived from lanolin, from sheep oil. Taste different kinds of milk and decide which you like best plain, in cereal, coffee, or however you use cow’s milk currently.

3. Find the new and great meat subs. The new meat substitutes are amazing!! Go out and scan your supermarket, health food and specialty stores, fresh and frozen sections, and just try out lots of things. If you’re not in an area where you can get much, you can order frozen and packaged vegan specialties that will be delivered via UPS, http://www.veganstore.com is one example. There are vegan versions that really do approximate bacon, chicken strips, chunks, nuggets or patties, hamburgers, ground meat, sausage, hot dogs, ham, turkey, cold cuts, and so on. And they have gotten so good that you would be fooled!!

4.What about CHEESE???? You’ve hit on the sore spot of vegans for a very long time. I bet you could attribute a great percentage of failed conversions from vegetarian to vegan to the lack of a tasty cheese alternative. But that problem has just about become obsolete with the new products. My favorite are Daiya shreds for any melting (pizza, other Italian and Mexican food, grilled, etc.) and Sheese hard cheeses for slicing or toasting, plus Dr. Cow for eating straight. Vegan Gourmet, Tofutti slices, and Vegan Rella are also great. Yes, they are relatively expensive, but worth it. Why let cheese stand in the way of becoming a vegan when you can use these cheeses? You might have to special order them from an online vegan store, but they are entirely worth it. It’s gourmet and a real treat, and good enough to use in your every day cooking and eating.

5. Check out other dairy food replacements. Try soy versions of yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, butter and mayonaise.

While you’re exploring, try to add more vegetable dishes to your diet. We’ll talk more about this later.



I’m Not Vegan and Never Will Be August 26, 2009

Filed under: vegan lifestyle — sharonsweets @ 3:35 pm
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**Not an entry for the vegans but could help your friends!**

I’ve heard this a million times. Ok, so you know about Sweet Utopia and are interested enough to check out the Sweet Utopia blog, but you have little interest in becoming a vegan. That’s ok. Let’s go step by step. Did you know that you can try…

-endless varieties of nondairy milk and veggie burgers

-veggie “chicken” patties

-veggie cold cuts

-nondairy cheese, cream cheese, butter and yogurt

-veggie hotdogs, “beef,”  “steak,” “ribs,” “chicken” nuggets, “wings,” “meatballs,” etc.

…just about any other animal based product in a vegan form?

It’s not at all like when I became a vegetarian at age 12. Back then, and I am aware this is dating me, we had one variety of thick, chalky soymilk, and for the lucky ones who knew about it or could get it, vegetarian but not vegan patties imported from Israel in the frozen Kosher section of certain supermarkets. That’s it. I was so lucky that my mother raised us on mostly vegetarian food anyway, and lots of Middle Eastern food, so pasta, humus and falafel it was.

Really! They make everything you can imagine now in a vegan version! Even marshmallows! (In case you didn’t know, they usually contain gelatin, from cow bones.) And even better, you can get the stuff all over the place now! Supermarkets, Target, Walmart, specialty or health food stores, and online. Yes, online, meaning that you can live anywhere and have all types of foods come right to your doorstep for a small delivery fee.

What I’m trying to say is, you are interested, you are curious, and you want to taste some things. Give it a shot. Actually, give it a lot of shots. With so many varieties out there, there are bound to be foods you really like. Some meat substitutes are so realistic that I can easily fool meat eaters with them (and have!). They can be so realistic that I won’t touch them. I even abandoned a gourmet “beef” dish at my favorite Asian vegan eatery because it was too realistic for my tastes and it grossed me out.

Try some stuff, pick a few things you like, and add them to your cooking or eating repertoire. Every little bit counts to help your health, the environment, and the animals. Little by little we can reduce our use of animal products.