Join us for the music video release party for “Veal” on December 13th 2015 at The Red Herring Lounge in Duluth, MN. 5 pm! Screening of the video plus live music by Toby Thomas Churchill, Katy Vernon, Mary Bue + the Holy Bones. $5. 10% of proceeds go to the Humane Society. Optional vegan potluck starts at 5 – bring a dish if you want + tons of vegan cookies for all. Video produced by Jon Hain w/ assistant Angelica Engel. Video will be live on the web shortly after!
It feels trite to say that I’ve always loved animals.
Trite because it’s such an understatement. But the truth IS I love animals! I grew up with dogs, fish, rabbits and cats. In the country, surrounded by deer, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and all sorts of varmints. I got to see exotic animals in zoos and books and fell in love with pandas and koala bears, dolphins and orcas. I had a dream in junior high and high school of becoming a veterinarian and helping sick, injured animals or a marine biologist and learning about ocean life. I took horse riding lessons and studied dog and cat breeds. I drew their pictures and wore t-shirts and puffy sweaters with animals all over them.
Despite this love of animals, I sure ate a ton of them! My parents both grew up on dairy farms and my dad hunts. Milk was a staple. Cheese smothered the broccoli. Meat and potatoes made up the bulk of our rural midwestern meals. Dietary shifts aside, I am so grateful for a family unit that ate meals together every day – and my mom is an awesome cook and baker.
In high school my tastes started shifting as I learned about vegetarianism. I learned about animal cruelty as well as health benefits of eating more vegetables. I read “Diet for a Small Planet” and learned that so much of the world’s food – edible grain – is fed to livestock for our increasing hunger for meat while it could be feeding large populations of people. I started studying yoga and learning that meat takes longer to digest and has a different “energy” than plant foods. I dated a few vegans in my twenties. I always admired their strength and compassion. They were never militant, never made me feel guilty, just led by example. I converted to vegetarianism, dabbled with a vegan diet and was on and off and on and off again for about 15 years.
What is a vegan diet? A vegan diet is a diet composed of all plant-based foods. That includes “everything your great-grandma would recognize as food” – things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and every combination of those things. It does not include any animal products. This means, no cheese, dairy, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc. Many vegans abstain from honey. It also means not buying or wearing animal products like leather or fur. People go this route for what I call “the trifecta” – usually for one or more of these reasons: health, the planet, or the animals. Also for many other reasons. More about all of this a little later …
In 2008 I moved to Seattle, WA to get certified in a yoga teacher training program at Whole Life Yoga. I learned about the yogic foundation of ahimsa – non-violence – and how for some yoga practitioners this means adopting a cruelty free diet. I thought long and hard about this as I worked at a very meaty, upscale diner in upper Queen Anne. I was a bartender during the super busy, popular brunch. Every morning we sold hundreds upon hundreds of slices of bacon, grilled up right next to my perch at the bar. I made a good friend at that restaurant, her nickname is Scooter. She and her husband Gordon are vegans. Again, kindness prevailed with both of them, and they both had such positivity and both lived their lives doing whatever they want. Now they live in Spain, still doing exactly what they want! Scooter lent me a book which set the stage for my ultimate conversion to a plant-based vegan diet. That book is called “Diet for a New America.” Scooter also cooked up the most AMAZING vegan mac and cheese which I eat at least 10 times every winter.
This is a rather long passage from that book by John Robbins (son of one of the founders of Baskin Robbins!!!) but it really hits the nail on the head for me:
“A the present time, when most of us sit down to eat, we aren’t very aware of how our food choices affect the world. We don’t realize that in every Big Mac there is a piece of the tropical rainforests, and with every billion burgers sold another hundred species become extinct. We don’t realize that in the sizzle of our steaks there is the suffering of animals, the mining of our topsoil, the slashing of our forests, the harming of our economy, and the eroding of our health. We don’t hear in the sizzle the cry of the hungry millions who might otherwise be fed. We don’t see the toxic poisons accumulating in the food chains, poisoning our children and our earth for generations to come. But once we become aware of the impact of our food choices, we can never really forget. Of course we can push it all to the back of our minds, and we may need to do this, at times, to endure the enormity of what is involved.
“But the earth itself will remind us, as will our children, and the animals and the forests and the sky and the rivers, that we are part of this earth, and it is part of us. All things are deeply connected, and so the choices we make in our daily lives have enormous influence, not only on our own health and vitality, but also on the lives of other beings, and indeed on the destiny of life on earth.
“Thankfully, we have cause to be grateful-what’s best for us personally is also best for other forms of life, and for the life support systems on which we all depend.”
—— from the book Diet For A New America
This really got the wheels turning for me. In 2011 I moved back to Duluth, MN. I re-met my husband (who I first met when HE was a vegan in 2001 at a vegan restaurant in Portland, OR!), and on January 2nd 2013 I converted to full on vegan. What pushed me over the edge was bingeing on documentaries on Netflix like “Vegucated” and “Forks over Knives,” “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” (here’s a list for you to Netflix binge on: http://www.vegansouls.com/vegan-documentaries ). These are mostly about health factors. I was already kind of a health nut. In my mid-twenties I really taught myself to eat, lost 20 pounds, got deeply into running and yoga and already was in love with vegetables. What threw me over the edge was the more and more I read and studied about agriculture, meat consumption and big dairy, more I found out about animal cruelty.
This is what led me to write the song “Veal.”
Veal is written from the perspective of a veal calf destined for slaughter. Veal calves undergo forced separation from their mothers and are fed “milk replacers” purposefully low in iron so that they become anemic and their flesh stays pale. Then the calves live in crates that are 30 inches wide and 72 inches long. These are designed so that the calf can’t barely move let alone exercise, which prohibits normal muscle grown in order to produce soft, tender, “gourmet” veal. They can’t walk, their muscles atrophy, they suffer chronic pneumonia and diarrhea, and after 1 or 2 years of this they go off to slaughter. (And people want to EAT THAT???!)
Here are the lyrics to my song:
i will never see the sun
i will never see the sky
i’ll stay in my cage forever
i’ll never see the rain
i’ll never see the grass
like a goose nailed to a board
becoming fois gras
what did i do?
to deserve this?
look what i’m going through!
i’ll never see the rain
or the rivers blue
and i will certainly never jump over the moon!
i’ll never see the sky
or the ocean blue
and i will certainly never jump over the moon
i will never see the sun
i will never see the sky
i’ll stay in my cage forever
How about fois gras? Also featured in my lovely song. Fois gras is a “delicacy” that is illegal in many places that involves force-feeding (“gavage”) a goose or a duck with a long feeding tube, forcing the food into its esophagus. The goal is to fatten its liver up to 10 times its normal size. Sometimes this feeding method involves strongly holding the animal or even going to such lengths as nailing their feet to a board during this process. Have you ever thought that an animal has feelings? Or at least feels stress? I, for one, knowing this, do not want stress hormones and fear for my dinner. (Some may argue that plants also feel pain. I won’t deny this either, but for the purpose of this essay I’m sticking to discussing my background for the veal song …)
My friends Jon & Stephanie in Madison are also vegans and had a big impact on me. Extremely productive and well informed human beings. They run a coffeehouse with all vegan baked goods in Madison (Mother Fool’s). I approached Jon to help me make the music video for “Veal” which debuts on 12/13/15. He agreed and launched into full force. All of the paintings on this blog are featured in the video (and will be for sale at the release party!) We did some shots at a farm, in a barn and where I could frolic with the chickens. There are some pretty brutal shots but also some very silly, joyous snippets. Jon will have more to say about it I’m sure, but in a text he wrote to me, “I wanted to show that we can find joy in life AND be aware of great tragedy. I think many people shut their eyes because they think it is one or the other.”
And so, there we have the back story for “Veal.” Sometimes on my runs in the country near where my folks live, there are cows out to graze in the pasture. If they are near the fence, I stop and look at them. I stare into their milky eyes and I apologize for all of the friends of theirs that I’ve eaten. You can laugh, I don’t care. My own family makes fun of me! Ha! This is my decision, and I’m not hurting anything. No, really, I’m NOT HURTING ANYTHING!
I’m not doing this to judge you, I’m doing this for my own conscience. I’m not gonna pawn off my gifted leather boots or my grandpa’s gorgeous leather-worked purses. But I’m also not going to support big meat or dairy. I know some farmers who raise and slaughter their own animals and live relatively off the grid. I also have heard of people who live off the land, hunting and trapping and barely living in our modern society. These are choices that are remarkable and I applaud them for dialing in that lifestyle. For me, living in the United States, having access to so much amazing plant-based food and a few supplements (B-12 and algae based omegas), I can live happily and healthily, reducing my carbon footprint, not killing anything (except some bugs on the windshield), and keeping my heart healthy. Yes, I still drive a car and sometimes buy new things, wrapped in plastic. I am aware and sorry that still my consumer choices might cause harm – unfortunately child labor and poor factory conditions still exist … and I’m surely burning fossil fuels by heating my house and flying in airplanes. But this vegan thing is one thing I do because I love animals and don’t want to cause them any more suffering than I’ve already caused.
That’s my story! You can take away what you want – again, I don’t really care as I’ve “hardened” in my aging a bit, even while softening to protect innocent creatures 🙂 … But maybe there are a few of you who want to look further! And if so, here are some great books and websites that have helped me make delicious food and informed decisions. I send you love and light on all of those dark places in your path and in your hearts! xoxoxoxo Mary
Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine: GREAT 21 Day Vegan Kick Start Program
Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Life – community, recipes, products
Kris Carr – author of “Crazy Sexy Cancer” – juicing, health, spunky-ness!
Chef Chloe Coscarelli – AMAZING, decadent recipes from creamy pastas to desserts. Winner of “Cupcake Wars!”
The Humane Society – helping animals stay out of distress!
Farm Sanctuary – “To protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.”
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