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Veg News Recap

Some recent vegetarian-related stories on the interwebs…

Veggie kids, omnivorous dad: I’m a little slow in posting on this piece in Slate, written from the perspective of the Dad (and only omnivore) of a 4-member family. He takes great pains to dispel the concerns that normal meat-eating parents would have about veggie kids– will they be freaks? Will they get enough nutrition? (No, and yes.) My main objection is that he evaluates vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice the same way that, say, wearing jean shorts is a lifestyle choice. For me, being a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice in as much as not stealing is a lifestyle choice. He doesn’t seem to get that, and I find this is a common problem. And I know 99% of the world won’t agree but I do believe that in an American society where veggie protein sources are cheap, plentiful, and convenient, choosing to raise kids who eat meat is as morally wrong as choosing to raise your kids to steal. Yes, I’m sure vegans feel the same way about ovo-lacto vegetarians, and yes, I’m fine with that. I think now that I’ve stuck with it for 16 years, relatives and friends can finally stop asking “are you still vegetarian?” The people I like get a “do animals still feel pain?”; the people I don’t particularly care for get “yes, are you still [insert his/her religion here]?”

Crustaceans feel and remember pain: It pains me to be a Mainer sometimes, land of the mighty lobster. A new study from Queen’s University in Belfast shows that hermit crabs who received a shock when they went into one shell would move into a new shell, while crabs who were not shocked remained in their original shells. A second study by the authors showed that crabs showed less response to negative stimuli when given painkillers.  They believe that their studies go to show that crustaceans’ response to “negative stimuli” like having their legs ripped off are not merely reflexes but true reactions to alleviate pain.  On a side note, here’s a disturbing but fascinating piece from the late author David Foster Wallace called Consider the Lobster. It starts out like a fluffy Maine travel piece and then takes a very serious turn into the ethics of eating animals, describing the way lobsters die by boiling and the myriad of ways cooks try to deny what they’ve done (like claiming that lobsters’ brains don’t allow them to feel pain or leaving the kitchen so they don’t have to hear the lobster scratching at the sides of the pot).  It’s some seriously good reading.

Red meat intake increases risk of death from cancer and heart disease:  I consider this a “no shit” argument I’m pretty sure I heard 16 years ago when somehow I got a hold of some PETA literature (or some PETA literature got a hold of me).  This time around, in a 10-year study of a half million Americans aged 50 to 71, both men and women in the top 20% of meat consumption had a much greater risk of dying from cancer or heart disease than those in the lowest 20% of meat consumption. Still, there will always be naysayers like meatsafety.org, who choose to go after the source of the information instead of the info itself (like criticizing The Cancer Project as a “Vegan, Animal Rights Group”).  Did you know that meatsafety.org was started by the American Meat Institute, “the nation’s oldest and largest meat and poultry trade association”?

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There are a lot of rumors and stereotypes about the kinds of animals Asians eat.  Most of them are true-ish.  Like dogs– yes, some Chinese people eat dog meat, but it’s definitely not widely consumed.  I remember my mom pointing out a dog meat restaurant when we were sightseeing in Beijing in 1998.  I think the closest analogy would be rabbit meat here.  Or maybe something rarer… like possum….

Anyways the AP reported yesterday that 2,300 endangered monitor lizards were rescued from a storage facility in Malaysia.  Along with 319 owl carcasses and 22 bear paws, they were bound for shipment to China where they would eventually end up on dinner plates.

Unfortunately this is an example of where species protections have put a cost premium on that species, which adds fuel to the argument against treaties like CITES that prohibit the trade of protected species.  It’s not a fair argument because those in favor of species protection have to counter with evidence that protections prevented a greater number of animals from being poached, and it’s a lot harder to prove a negative than to point to a carcass.

I’m ashamed to say that the Chinese are often the consumers of the ill-gotten goods.  Part of this is because of the status-symbolism of exotic and expensive foods, combined with the persistent belief in folk remedies that involve random animal body parts.  I think the other part of the problem is that people just don’t think about where there food comes from, and this problem exists all over the world.  Growing up we’d occasionally order sea cucumber at restaurants (tastes like pickles but more rubbery) and it wasn’t until much later that I found out (1) sea cucumbers are animals, and (2) consumption by the Chinese is depleting stocks around the world.  Chinese demand is also driving the endangerment of abalone, shark, turtle, and plant species as well.  See? Dog ain’t looking so bad after all…

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I’ve been thinking about this blog for a long time.  For the past year or so I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting in the kitchen, rediscovering my Chinese roots, and bastardizing traditional Chinese recipes.  There’s a dearth of Chinese + vegetarian recipes out there (I’ve looked, I’ve Googled, I’ve scoured the interwebs).   I’d been thinking “maybe I’ll start a blog” when I came upon this article in MSNBC today: Pass the Tofu: 1 in 200 kids is vegetarian.

So although there’s already tons of recipes and resources out there, I thought I’d add one more.

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