Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crying and writing

I went online today to look for some cooking inspiration. I've been in a cooking rut for the last week, due mostly to the lingering cold we all have. Yesterday we survived on bananas dipped in peanut butter (Amira and I finished off 6 bananas between the two of us). I started glancing at recipes on the fat free vegan blog and ended up reading this article a few clicks later. I followed the article's link to the videos on the humane society's website. (to find the relevant videos click on "factory farming" in the channel navigator. Then watch the movies called "cheap meat" and "overlooked.")

I am still crying from those movies I just watched. Those of you who know me well, know that I've really never been an "animal person" in the traditional sense. Our only pet is a fish, I think it really weird when people dress up their dogs and I can't stand house cats (due to my extreme allergic reaction.) I've also never had a desire to live on, or even visit a farm. I didn't even like the petting zoo as a kid. That said, I found those videos so repugnant I will never eat another factory-farmed animal product as long as I live *. The video titled "overlooked" explained how baby cows get to see their mother for one day before they are separated forever (can't let the baby cow have mommy's milk, when people need to drink it instead) and put into cages where they can't even turn around. Pigs, who some people say are as smart as dogs, go mad due to the tiny cages they are forced to spend their existence in. I can't really talk about it anymore, as I feel myself about to vomit. Just watch the movies. Please.

The recent scandal about mistreatment of factory farmed animals is nothing new to any of us. Tales of animal cruelty- birds' beaks being sawed off, animals being sliced while still alive- have been around for a while. The change, for me, is that I have decided to listen. For a while I managed to push the knowledge to the outskirts of my consciousness (and conscience, for that matter) and chose not to think of where the frozen chicken breasts actually came from. Being a mother has heightened my awareness of, and respect for, all forms of life. I know that animals don't have the same level of intelligence as human beings, I get that, but I also know that on a basic, primal level those animals have a desire to live, and move. I don't doubt that those mommy cows feel the loss of the babies they carried and nursed for the one day they were allowed their calf.

I have a been a vegetarian for a while- but loosely so. Last night I had a bite of Mohamed's chicken (we got take out) and I have still been buying milk (occasionally) and eggs (often). No more. I do feel sort-of panicked and lonely in my decision to be vegan. Even among my very "natural" friends here on the island, I don't know anyone who is vegan. I find part of me wishing I didn't know, wishing myself back into ignorance. But I do trust that as I live my life with increased awareness of the world around me, I will be happier and so will my family.

Anyone who reads this and watches the videos, would you please comment? If you eat meat and find my thinking too extreme, would you let me know? I would really like to hear the counter-argument to my thinking (not to criticize, I promise, just to understand).

*The asterisk above is to indicate that I will still follow the Lord's advice as revealed in the Word of Wisdom (the LDS instructions on how to care for our bodies). The scripture says:

nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; (animals, that is)
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

In other words- if I am starving to death in the middle of a frozen wasteland, I will certainly kill an animal to keep myself alive.

One more interesting scripture, for my fellow LDS friends:
21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.

Please note, I am also aware of the scripture, oft quoted against vegetarianism:

18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

And I'm honestly not really sure what it means? Seems like a double negative? Anyone want to chime in on that one?

Alright, I'm off to eat some more bananas and peanut butter.


Allison said...

Jami- I so wish I could get Eric to believe all this.( Or even just listen with thinking I'm completely crazy) Instead I still have to cook two different meals. Meat for him and non-meat for me.

BTW, I do plan to call you very very soon and give you an update!

Allison said...

Ok that should be "Without thinking I'm completely crazy" I guess I should read it before I send it!

Caroline said...

I really commend you for this decision, Jami! I am not a vegetarian or a vegan (and I still need to watch your videos) but I think it's wonderful that you feel so strongly about a topic--and are doing something about it. So many times I feel like I should do this or that, but then I become lazy or forget and nothing comes out of it. Go Jami! You are an example to me.

As for the scriptures, there are so many contradictions in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Apostle Paul cautioned that women should remain silent. Is this something we believe in anymore? Furthermore, the BoM warns that a man should only have one wife and no concubines. Yet in the 19th century, Mormons practiced polygamy.

Anyway, I'd just put the scriptures aside concerning this topic. Do what feels best for you and your family. It sounds like this is something you've already prayed about and something you feel good about. Then there's no reason for someone to throw a scripture in your face and tell you that you're wrong! This is the beauty of personal revelation.

I miss you!

JoAnne said...

Jami-I just read your blog and thought I would share (I still miss you by the way and can't wait to have a play date!). The fist thing that came to mind was how the plight of animals must come far second to the terrible things many humans are going through. I can not stand on a soapbox however, I have done no great thing for the sake so many who are in need. I am not sure where the text you quoted is from (I am thinking the Book of Mormon) but I did think of Gen. 3:21 "Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them." This passage tells us that God himself killed an animal to cover the sin of Adam and Eve (I believe a picture of Christ as atonement for sin). The children of Israel often ate of the sacrifices of the altar. The Lord did prohibit them from boiling a calf in it's mother's milk. I think living healthy is a great goal but would only say to not let it consume so much time that we do less for those God cares most about. (This is totally for me too since I have been focused on diet and exercise a lot and realize now that I've misplaced my own priorities a bit.)

Eddie said...

I think my comments on this issue might carry some weight since I was a Vegan for a long time (3 years..? more? not sure). First off, I do believe that we should eat meat sparingly. I also believe that if we do kill an animal to eat it, we should eat it reverently, thanking God and with a manner of respect towards the creature. I also believe that eventually (during the Millenium of peace) that no one will eat meat. Here is a lesson taught by Joseph Smith, from under the heading "A LESSON AS TAUGHT BY JOSEPH SMITH" (The speaker in this passage is Joseph Smith, Jr.)

We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaguas, or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, "Let them alone--don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety." The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird or an animal of any kind during my journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.

I had frequently spoken on this subject, when on a certain occasion I came up to the brethren who were watching a squirrel on a tree, and to prove them and to know if they would heed my counsel, I took one of their guns, shot the squirrel and passed on, leaving the squirrel on the ground. Brother Orson Hyde, who was just behind, picked up the squirrel, and said, "We will cook this that nothing may be lost." I perceived that the brethren understood what I did it for, and in their practice gave more heed to my precept than to my example which was right.

[end of passage]

... Let me point out the quote "Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety.". To me, that implies that people won't eat meat during the millenium. (And neither will lions! :)

I also believe that animals should be treated with much more respect than the mass-farmed animals are currently being treated...

However, when it comes down to what really matters to me in life.... Which is more important: refraining from watching violent movies, or refraining from eating meat? Which is more important: abstaining from eggs or reaching out to our neighbors in Gospel fellowship? In both cases, I'm not trying to make a case that one or the other is more important, I'm just trying to point out that we should keep all things in balance. Don't let being a vegan distract you from other important things. (I'm not saying it's wrong to be a vegan .... in fact I think it's perfectly alright.)

My reasons for not being vegan anymore are numerous: my wife doesn't always cook in a vegan fashion. I'm not going to reprimand her for cooking what she wants. If i thought it was important enough, I'd cook the meals myself. This actually isn't a huge issue though, because the vast majority of the time she cooks vegetarian. The main reason I'm not vegan is when we eat elsewhere, I don't like to be a burden on other people. I don't like having them make two different meals... one with meat and one without.

Jami said...

Allison- please do call, soon! We've all been wondering about you (Patty keeps asking if I've heard from you). Can't wait to hear how things are. Maybe you could get Eric to watch the videos, and get his input?

Caroline- thank you for your unwavering support of me. It is hard for me to make such drastic decision(s), especially because I used to have contempt for people who tried to talk to me about the plight of animals. (please do watch the movies, I'd like to have your input).

JoAnne- we've had colds all week, so we couldn't get together, but we REALLY miss you over here. The arguments you voiced about vegetarianism are the exact reasons I've hesitated to really take the jump. But the flaw in the point that human beings are of much higher concern than animals (which I agree with) is that the two are mutually exclusive. In my journey to respect all life (foremost human life) I find myself filled with wonder and respect for all life. I guess the reason I've been speaking about vegitarianism more than humanitarianism is that caring about animals is new for me, while caring about humans in need comes much more naturally. Does that make sense? But I do agree that focusing on food/fitness can, like any good thing, become a distraction from the ultimate goal of drawing closer to God.

Eddie- I loved what you had to say (and have, on a seperate note, told Mohamed to e-mail you several times. He is crazy busy. I will send you an e-mail from his address, and then maybe you can write him first?). I am quite unfamiliar with that talk by Joseph Smith, but it makes sense to think of all the references of the lion laying down with the lamb as far as our tendencies to kill and eat animals. Very interesting to think about. I also really agree with what you say about incoveniencing others, and haven't yet decided what to do when we go somewhere for dinner. It's been pretty easy, usually, to avoid meat, but avoiding dairy and eggs in other people's food is next to impossible. What did you do when you were vegan and were a guest somewhere?

Eddie said...

First off, I'm glad to see you noticed my posts about wanting Mohamed to email me. I didn't know if you had seen any of them and I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get a hold of him :) So thank you very much for relaying the message.

Feel free to send me an email ( and I'll write to Mohamed first.

Yes, you are right, avoiding dairy and eggs when not at home is just about impossible. But there are several things you can do if you want to try. If you are dinner guests at a friends house, just politely tell them what exactly it is that you don't eat. I had it easier when I was on my mission, because I used the phrase, "I can't eat..." instead of just "I don't eat...". The reason for this is that I went to Korea first, but went home because of depression. I was depressed all the time. I was home for a few months working on getting better before I went to Illinois to finish my mission. Part of the many things I did to get better was to go on a special diet...veganism. So for me, being a vegan was a health issue to help me overcome depression. So I was a vegan for health reasons when I was in Illinois for the rest of my mission. The members who fed us sometimes had a really hard time with my diet, but overall they did really well. I actually would tell the relief society pres what I could and could not eat and so when a family signed up to feed the missionaries, they all knew my diet without me having to explain it before each dinner appointment.

As for eating out... they can make your food special. If you go to a sit-down restaurant, like, say, chili's, then you ask the waiter or waitress what is in the foods you think you'd like to eat. You explain you want it made without animal products. Make sure they understand you don't want milk products.

As for fast food restaurants... well, Subway sandwiches is the best place. I ate there all the time as a vegan. Also, you can even get McDonald's to cater to your diet when you are with a group that eats there. (If you aren't with a group that wants to eat there, what are you doing there? Don't ever eat there unless there is social pressure, etc...and not because I'm trying to boycott them or anything, they just don't have anything tasty for vegans to eat!) Here's what I used to do at McDonald's when I had to eat there: ask to talk to a manager. When he comes over, explain that you'd like the small burger (the tiny pathetic one that I think is on the dollar menu) but you don't want the meat at all. Just make it the same was as normal but leave the meat off (they don't have a veggie patty to replace it--- but Chili's does! Chili's has a black bean patty that you can ask to replace the meat on any of the burgers they offer).. back to McDonald's... Then, you ask the manager if you can have an extra tomato (they usually charge for extra ones, at least that was the case at the McDonald's locations that I ate at as a vegan), ask him if you can have an extra tomato at no extra charge since you won't be having the meat. I did this several times and I've never had a manager say no. While a patty-less burger at McDonald's isn't exactly good, it's one option if you must eat there for some silly reason. (I don't think they have any vegan salads, if they do that would be ideal).

As for being a vegan at home, well, I ate the strangest things before I was married, since I'm not the most patient cook. I had chocolate syrup on top of raw oats in soymilk. Not exactly healthy, but at least it was vegan. Also, this was a typical lunch that I'd take to work with me:
A tomato. A carrot. An apple or orange, and two slices of whole wheat bread with nothing on them. I didn't put anything on the bread because I was lazy, not because I didn't have anything to put on. Ideally, i would have put peanut butter on them. Anyway, I got used to eating carrots and.... tomatoes! yum! I can still eat a whole tomato. Good stuff.

Anyway, good luck! Just don't put too much strain on your husband. If he has a hard time with being vegan, not being vegan is probably more important than the strain it may cause in your marriage.

One last thought.... once, I ordered a pizza and had it delivered... with NO CHEESE! Just tomato sauce, and double pineapple! (I got the 2nd pineapple topping at no extra charge because I made a deal with the manager that since I wasn't having cheese.... you get the picture.)

Eddie said...

Oh, and when you're at a chinese or thai restaurant... If the menu says you can choose between "chicken, beef, or pork" for any given menu item, you can always go with none of the above and get tofu in it instead. I do this all the time.

Adrienne and Sam said...

I recently saw this video clip on the Bay Area news (and I guess now is the time when I secretly say that is precisely why I rarely watch the news). I do have a father and boyfriend that are massive knowledge base when it comes to current events, so I'm not totally out of the loop though. I just feel myself getting down everytime I see the news because there is too much bad in the world.
My thoughts on this cruelty matter was mortification. I specifically remember talking about it with everyone at work and my family, but I just didn't blog about it, so I'm glad you did. Inhumane treatment of animals is just wrong. My feelings were second when I saw the Oprah Puppy Mill show and it was then I was brought to tears as well because I love all dogs. Big, small, and yes even ones with bows and clothes on.
I think your decision is smart and I too commend you.
PS I had my first experience with Quinoa last week. One of our fitness instructors made it for a lunch meeting we had. Delicious! She added lemon juice, dried pinaple, snow peas. Wow. And apparently it's full of protein!

Neil Ransom said...

Chris Foster made a great power point about vegetarianism & the church. If you email me kate.kelly@gmail dot com I'll send it to ya. It's full of quotes by prophets, scriptures etc.

Jami said...

Eddie- thanks for all your advices on eating vegan. I actually really love to cook, and have been cooking meatless (but with still some dairy) for about quite a while. We eat a LOT of beans, lentils, etc. Mohamed just gets meat when we go out, or when he eats lunch at work. He hasn't complained too much. Oh, and good idea about the pizza- I'm excited to try!

Adrienne- I know you are such an animal lover, and have such a soft heart that I can imagine hearing about animal cruelty is awful for you (as it should be for all). Oh, and quinoa is awesome, my mom always made it for us growing up.

Kate- I would love all of Chris Foster's information. I wish I had had the "ears to hear" while I was there in Provo. I will e-mail you for that info. Thanks.