Why do We Eat the Way We do?

I’m currently reading a book titled The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jeffrey Masson.  If you’re new to the animal rights world, Peter Singer is the author behind the ever popular book, Animal Liberation.  Most people will say hands down that Peter Singer is the most influential philosopher in the world today.  His book, Animal Liberation, played a vital role in shaping the contemporary animal rights movement.  Jeffrey Masson is the best-selling author of numerous books including one of my favorites, The Face on Your Plate – The Truth About Food.

Peter Singer

Jeffrey Mason

I’m only a quarter into The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, but I can tell you already that it’s definitely worth the money.   In this book, the authors examine three families’ grocery-buying habits and the motivations behind those choices.  They describe in precise detail how applying industrial processing principles to animal husbandry has led to cheap foods whose cost occur at the expense of the animals who are raised for profit and product.

The first family we meet, a family of four from Kansas, explain how they do all their shopping at Wal-Mart because it’s cheap and convenient.  The parents, a man named Lee and his wife, Jake, admit that they don’t know much about animal agriculture or how much the animals suffer.  One comment that was made by Jake that I found interesting was: “To be perfectly honest about it, I do think there’s a hierarchy of animals.  I believe I would favor mammals over birds.  I think I probably feel sorrier for a cow than I would for a chicken.”  To this, her husband replies, “Honestly, I don’t think about it that much.  I guess I’m pretty absorbed in my life and my family most of the time and I don’t think very much about the welfare of the meat I’m eating.”

After I read those two statements, I wondered first how many people would agree with Jake.  Do people think larger animals, like cows and pigs, are more adept than fish and chickens?  If so, why?  Because they’re bigger?  Last summer I had the opportunity to volunteer at Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s most popular farm animal sanctuary.  Before arriving at the farm, I spent many hours wondering what each animal would be like.  I imagined the cows to be calm and docile, the pigs to be playful, and the birds to be, well, a bit annoying.  Ironically, it was the chickens and turkeys I enjoyed the most.  One of my jobs was to feed the birds and each time I would open the door to their sheds, they’d immediately run over to see who I was.  It took me a few days to feel comfortable with them, but before long I was picking them up and sitting among them, letting them hop on my lap.  There was one baby turkey, Daphne, who I adored so much.  Every time I would be near her she would jump to the closest surface so she could see what I was doing.  Sometimes when I was getting feed out of a giant barrel she would jump into the barrel and start eating.  I would gently pick her up and place her on the ground and within a few seconds she would be back in the barrel.  I wish all people had the pleasure of spending a few hours with chickens and turkeys.  They would be able to see them for what they really are; sentient beings with their own distinct personalities.

The second comment made by the husband, Lee, is probably common among most of society.  Between work, raising families, and trying to have some sort of life, who has time to think about anything else – especially where our food comes from?  I understand people are overworked, busy, and tired.  Trust me, I get it.  However, I don’t think that’s a fair excuse.  I think the real reason is that most people don’t want to learn about where their food comes from.  Thinking about factory farming and animal suffering brings discomfort, and no one wants that.  People just want to go to the grocery store and buy their cheap food without having to worry about the ethics or consequences behind it.

Learning the truth about the agriculture industry is upsetting and difficult to absorb.  I still have a hard time reading about how animals are treated each minute of every day in factory farms across the world.  The news breaks my heart and often times I’m left crying and wondering how people can be so cruel.  But you know what would hurt more?  Unknowingly supporting the agribusiness by buying their products.  By eliminating meat and dairy products from my life, I know that I am in no way contributing my hard-earned money to an industry that treats animals like commodities instead of living beings.  And that, to me, is worth the discomfort the truth brings.

A beautiful cow at Farm Sanctuary

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Old-Fashioned Lentil Loaf

Cooking has never been a strong point of mine.  Part of the reason is because most nights I’m not home, but the main reason is because I’m lazy in the kitchen.  Making a meal that takes only 5 minutes instead of a half an hour or longer?  Yes please.  While my idea of dinner may be easy and convenient, nothing is more satisfying than a home cooked meal.

Last Saturday I decided that I wanted to cook a delicious dinner.  I brought out the three vegan cook books that I own and began scouring them until I finally settled upon the Old-Fashioned Lentil Loaf from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s cookbook, The Vegan Table.  Collen Patrick-Goudreau’s two cookbooks, The Vegan Table and Color Me Vegan, are my two favorite cookbooks because she uses simple ingredients and gives the nutritional details for every dish.  And, most important, every recipe I’ve made has turned out amazing!

Old-Fashioned Lentil Loaf – The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 yellow onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup ketchup, divided
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.  Lightly oil a 4 x 8 inch loaf pan.
  2. Place 4 cups water and lentils in a large size saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed, 50 to 60 minutes.  Check lentils after 30 minuets; add more water, if necessary.  You want the result to be thick but lentils cooked down to a soft texture, so add water sparingly.
  3. Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in enough water to coat vegetables so they don’t stick to the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes, until onion is soft.  Transfer to a large size bowl.
  4. When lentils are done, remove from heat, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.  They will thicken up even more.  When completely cool, combine with onion/garlic mixture, and add 1/4 cup ketchup, bread crumbs, walnuts, parsley, thyme, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper.  Thoroughly combine all ingredients.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  5. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan, and spread remaining 1/2 cup ketchup on top.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Serves 12

173 calories; 2 g fat; 11g protein; 29g carbohydrates; 11g dietary fiber; 0mg cholesterol; 428mg sodium

Welcome to The Virtuous Vegan!

Hello and welcome to The Virtuous Vegan!  This blog is a plethora of fun and interesting information about ethical eating and living.  There are already so many wonderful blogs and websites dedicated to vegan living, but I wanted to create my own because I feel there can never be too many.

We live in a society that is very confused and mislead.  From the time we are old enough to understand, we are taught to believe that animal products will make us strong and healthy.  Many of us continue to believe this myth without questioning.  We turn a blind eye on the dangers eating meat does to the environment, the animals, and our own health.  Some of us don’t even know the suffering the animals endure for our food, clothes, entertainment, and cosmetics.  Most of us know, but we don’t want to think about it because it makes us uncomfortable.

I used to be one of those people…until I had to write a paper about the circus.  A little bit of research is all it took for me to begin viewing things a lot differently.  I became aware of how my actions affected the lives of those beautiful animals.  I learned that by contributing my money to companies such as meat producers or circuses, I am inadvertently supporting animal abuse.

So began my wonderful journey to a vegan lifestyle.  At first it was difficult, I won’t lie, but it gets a lot easier.  I promise.  My goal with this blog is to provide you with the useful information you need to help make your transition to a vegan life fun, easy, and rewarding.  It’s also to educate the millions of  people who are still stuck in the belief that the animal agriculture businesses actually care about our well-being and health.  They don’t.  All they care about is making a profit.  I’ll dispel myths and help you learn the truth about animal products and why we don’t need them.

I believe our society is capable of change.  Deep down I believe most people are kind, loving beings who care about our world and the sentient beings we share it with.  With a little bit of education, we can create a healthier, happier world.

Comments, questions, or concerns can be sent to: virtuousvegan@gmail.com.