Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meat Free Monday?

If I had my way, it would be a meat free day, every day. Paul McCartney first inspired the Meat Free Monday movement to encourage people to give up meat for one day a week in a bid to "save money, reduce your environmental impact and live a healthier life..." (MFM site).

What scares me the most is that I can't understand how we live in a society where the thought of abstaining from meat for one whole day is such an abhorrent idea? How did we get to a point in this modern day and age, where we're so reliant on animal protein to sustain us? Without going on a rant about the obvious cruelty involved in the meat industry, if we were to break it down by just looking at the negative health effects of eating animal protein on a daily basis, then surely that would be enough to persuade people to give meat the flick for a single day a week? Apparently not.

We could also look at animal agriculture's effects on the environment from both a land degradation and greenhouse gas emissions perspective... Animal agriculture is a massive contributor to both and at a rate that is nothing short of alarming (have a read of today's The Age article on banning beef), yet despite this fact, despite the proven negative health effects of eating meat, and most importantly despite the cruelty involved in factory farming, we as a society still feel it unforgivable to be asked to give up meat for one day a week.

As the demand for meat seems to keep increasing, as does its impact on our environment, we need to find a better way to communicate to a seemingly ignorant public the obvious correlation between diet and climate change. I would love to go out and shout "Go Vegan" to every passer-by, but in reality an abolitionist cry may effect change in less than a handful of people if that. Some may disagree with me on that point, however, what I think is initially needed to aid a smoother transition to a vegan diet/lifestyle, is more government-funded education on meat consumption and its negative effect on our environment: what it means for us and our planet moving forward.

If animal cruelty and meat's health-risks won't sway people away from eating meat, then maybe we need more stronger messaging around how our food choices are killing our planet, depriving other humans of food, destroying out last surviving rain forests and increasing water pollution?

Perhaps we could consider a tax on beef? Have animal agriculture included in the federal government's carbon trading scheme?

A start, at least for our planet, would be to go meat free for one day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Funky Vegan Handbags!

When I need to buy a new handbag or a pair of shoes, I have to admit I tend to shop online. I find that with a bit of research I can get something that fits my style and is within my budget, and that generally the variety online is a lot better than what I can find here in Melbourne. The only downside is that it's not as great for the environment because you're not purchasing locally, however some designers will offer carbon offsets with your purchase so it's always good to try and look for that.

I stumbled across these great vegan handbags made by US designer Crystalyn Kae and got a great deal on a couple of bags that were that were on special, including free shipping which always makes an added bonus!

Her range is varied and not all of it is vegan-friendly, so make sure if you're browsing you select the 'shop by style' tab at the side menu bar, and then choose the vegan option.

This black and tweed bag has been fantastic! It doesn't look too sturdy in the photo, however it's managed to fit my laptop, note books and diary no problems -and lugging it around daily to work, it's still kept its shape!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oscar's Law -The Reality of Puppy Farms.

Nearly three years ago my partner and I walked past a Pets Paradise store and decided on the spot that we would buy two puppies. Impulsive. At the time we knew nothing about puppy factories -hadn't even entertained the thought that dogs could be factory farmed let alone that pet shops could possibly play a role in the facilitation of these farms...

Thirty minutes later we were back at home with two puppies, signed paperwork and enough toys and bedding to entertain these two dogs for a lifetime! Unfortunately we had no idea that our spur-of-the-moment emotional purchase would be one of the worst decisions we ever made, and also a sad learning curve for us on the reality of puppy farms.

Both our mixed-breed Labradors were sold to us at apparently 10 weeks of age. Confirmation from our vet told us they were in fact more around the 5 week mark, hadn't been weaned correctly, were full of worms and had an infection that might not see them last till the end of the week. Our vet asked us where we bought our boys from and after hearing we plucked them from a window of a pet store, slowly began to educate us on the profitable industry that sees so many puppies churned out to the masses at the expense of the pups' health, their parents' living conditions, and the ignorance of the public -my partner and I included.

Edward (the black puppy in the photo) and Leonard (the brindle) managed to survive the week, but their health never fully regained. Both had stunted growth, with Edward's bones not developing properly and requiring an elbow operation at 14 months. Leonard unfortunately developed a cancerous tumour in his chest which eventually spread to his lungs. Leonard was just shy of two years of age when he passed away of a cardiac arrest, his heart working overtime to try and keep beating against the cancer that had consumed it, yet in the end not strong enough despite the best hospital care.

My partner and I had many conversations with our vet and the hospital vets about why our dogs had such a rough start to life (health-wise), and why Leonard developed (or was born) with a cancer that grew so rapidly without any symptoms till his last days? The conclusion from the vets was simply that it was the reality of what they see happening more and more frequently. The reality of purchasing puppies from pet stores that are 'stocked' with puppies from puppy farms. 

I mentioned that it was one of the worst decisions we ever made, but that's not entirely true. We have a beautiful boy Edward that's still with us and we had a wonderful two years with Leonard that gave us many happy memories. Also, a couple of months after Leonard passed away we ended up adopting (from a shelter) another little boy who now has a forever-home with us after 10 months of living in a shelter. So not all was a bad decision!

Next weekend there will be a local rally for Oscar's Law that my partner and I will be attending. Oscar's Law calls for:
  • An end to puppy factories;
  • Councils to properly police standards in breeders around the country;
  • Stopping the sale of factory-bred puppies in pet shops, classified ads and online.
I hope that with time and awareness more people will become educated about the right way to bring a dog into the family, and help get behind the Oscar's Law campaign to put an end once and for all to factory-farmed puppies.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Run Lola Run

I run. A lot.

Ever since the age of about seven, I've been running. A big part of my childhood was Saturdays spent at Little Athletics competing against other gangly-limbed kids all entertaining thoughts of becoming star olympians on the track circuit. I still remember how proud I was of my ribbon collection, counting my blue red and green ribbons monthly and comparing my times for each of my 'star' events!

I was never a long distance runner, sprinting was my forte. Hurdles predominantly. However, fast forward a number of years later (a lot of years later!) and I love my longer distances. 5km/10km races and occasionally a half-marathon. I have sometimes thought about doing marathons however love the challenge of putting in a lot of speed in the shorter distances, so until I can 'race' a fast 21km, then marathons will be on hold for the moment!

I run 5 days a week: 2x speed sessions, 1x easy run, 1x tempo run and a weekly long run of about 15km-20km. I go the gym twice a week for a weights session and about once a week I try and do an easy yoga class. To some people it might sound like a massive effort, but when you've been running for a long time and really enjoy it it almost becomes something you can't live without.

The great thing is I do it all on a plant-based diet AND have almost double the amount of energy doing it, than I did in the days where I ate meat and dairy! I often get asked the usual questions: what do you do for protein, what about your bones (calcium), how do you manage to run that far on 'nothing'?! I would be lying if I said those questions didn't get tiring after a while, but answering them has almost become a memorized dialogue so I tend to tune out a bit when entering the discussions!

So, my can't-train-without food ingredients that I wanted to share with you that are essential to my training diet/nutrition, are:

Whole grains! Barley, brown rice, millet, amaranth to name a few. Not only do they all contain an essential blend of vitamins and nutrients, they also provide a stable supply of fuel and energy for training.

Sea vegetables! Not appealing to everyone's taste, but these super plants of the sea have done wonders for my energy! Wakame, arame, kombu, hijiki, dulse and of course nori. Full of iodine and calcium they are great to add to soups, salads, stews or even eaten toasted. Eat in moderation.

Adzuki beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, split peas...! That will silence the protein questions :-)

Coconut water! An excellent source of electrolytes and potassium. Great for a post-run recovery drink.

Kale! Of course there is an endless list of tasty and fantastic vegetables that any vegan eats, but I have to say that kale is an essential on my weekly shopping list. Purple, green or dark kale -I love them all. Raw is my preference, either in a smoothie or in a salad, but steamed with a drizzle of umeboshi vinegar is delicious also. Full of antioxidants and jam-packed with calcium, I would say I eat/drink kale daily. I am also really loving  Loving Earth raw kale chips! Mmmm.

For something sweet, I make these fantastic little energy balls of dates, shredded coconut, activated walnuts and raw cacao. I blend them together and then store them in the fridge and they are a great snack throughout the day, and also satisfy my sweet tooth.

Last but not least, I am not usually a fan of sporting supplements however I have to say I am a fan of Vega Wholefoods products and occasionally when I'm running out the door in the mornings, or if I feel like an extra recovery drink after a hard session, I will blend up a Vega Whole Foods Optimizer Smoothie.

There are so many inspiring athletes out there that excel at what they do and don't consume any animal products in the process. Brendan Brazier, Carl Lewis and Rich Roll to name but a few. And then of course there's the every day runners like myself that do it for fun and fitness (and still, somewhere, in the back of their minds, entertain thoughts of being an olympian runner in their next life)!