Fish in the Sea

Something that I have never understood, is why so many people fail to consider fish, as meat. Perhaps it’s a religious thing. I hear Christians eat fish on Fridays or something. Or maybe people just don’t care much about fish. They aren’t cute furry animals that we have close bonds with and the fishing industry is so out of sight.

There are many vegetarians (actually pescatarian) who still eat fish despite giving up all other types of meat. So what’s the deal with fish?

  • Omega 3 – Fish is an excellent source of Omega 3 Fatty acids which are essential to human health and functioning
  • Protein – like other meats, fish is high in protein. However, it is considered to be healthier and it is recommended to eat fish at least one or two times a week. In particular, salmon is packed with vitamins and protein

Omega 3s, protein and vitamins – what more could you want in a meal? Yes, fish tend to be high in these things, but there’s a catch. . .

  • Mercury – most sites that address mercury levels in fish will tell you that it’s nothing to worry about. But then they continue to warn you not to eat too much and that pregnant women should avoid it (bad for fetal development) . . . but I thought it was nothing to worry about? Their main point is that fish amass higher levels of mercury over time, so larger fish (such as tuna, shark, etc.) will have higher levels than smaller fish such as salmon. Stick to small portions and small fish
  • Plenty of Fish in the sea – In 2012, a professor from the University of Toronto estimated that if we continue to fish at our current rate, we will run out by 2050. So Perhaps you think the answer is farmed fish
  • Farmed Fish – not all fish are equal. Farmed fish tend to have lower levels of Omega 3s because they are fed fishmeal
  • Plastic – human beings are not the cleanest species. We produce a lot of trash and a lot of it ends up polluting waterways and oceans. Plastic makes up a large portion of this debris. Aside from eating it, microscopic plastic can also enter a fish through its gills. It can take up to 6 times longer for this to exist its system than if it was ingested orally. With the amount of plastic floating around out there, I wouldn’t be surprise if you were eating a bit every time you take a bite
    • In addition to this, millions of sea turtles, seals, birds and other marine life die every year because they get tangled in plastic debris, or mistake it for food. To help stop this, reduce the amount of plastic you use and remember to recycle. 4Ocean has a great campaign that works on cleaning up the ocean that I would totally recommend checking out – https://4ocean.com/
  • Bycatch – bycatch is when fish or other marine life are caught unintentionally while catching a target species. Bycatch can include the wrong species (even turtles and dolphins), sex, or undersized fish of the target species. Some of the bycatch species are endangered and this is a serious threat to their population
  • Carbon Footprint – fishing uses up a lot of fuel. The fish that require the most fuel to catch are: Shrimp, lobster, salmon, scallops, tuna and sardines. Due to the depletion of wild fish, boats have to go out further to find them. After meat and dairy products produced on land, fish has the highest carbon emission, with that of tuna being equal to chicken
  • Contaminants – factories, farms and storm runoff all contribute to the growing contamination of water. It’s bad for the fish, kills aquatic plants and can be a harm to you as well
  • All the other stuff – Don’t forget about all the other reasons why you should not eat meat: The Meat Myth

Okay . . . so maybe there are a few downsides to eating fish (2 pros – 7+cons), what should you do? For one, you can cut down on the amount of fish you’re eating, or cut it out altogether.

  • Be Aware – it’s important to be aware of all your choices and the consequences they have, both for your health, and the world you live in. When you buy fish, find out where it came from, how it was caught or farmed. Was there bycatch or habitat destruction as a result?
  • Support local & sustainable business – a lot of fish in North America is imported, which mean it has a higher carbon footprint. Do a little research and find out where you can buy fish caught locally and sustainably in your area
  • Get your nutrients from other sources – you don’t have to eat fish to get omega 3s. Leafy greens, flax, walnuts and soybeans are all plant based sources

References

https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2012/11/09/is_fish_good_for_you_here_are_the_pros_and_cons.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2003/sep/16/food.lifeandhealth

http://marinesciencetoday.com/2014/08/29/the-pros-cons-and-ethics-of-eating-fish/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/marine-animals-are-dying-because-of-our-plastic-trash/

https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/bycatch

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Meatless Monday

Two years ago today, I emptied my freezer and gave whatever frozen/canned meat products I had to my house mates. And that was that – I stopped eating meat. It was such an easy thing to do once I made the decision. Making the decision and carrying it out was the hard part. Sure, it sounds easy, but forming habits is hard. Anyone who has made a “commitment” to change their diet or start working out knows the struggle.

The summer after second year, I was taking a philosophy class with one of my favourite professors, Dr. Matthew Grellette. The class was about Ethics, and at one point we were discussing animal rights. I remember him saying that the only reason he still ate meat was that he was too lazy to change his diet. All the evidence pointed toward a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle being superior. But people (like my professor) don’t adopt this lifestyle because it means putting in some effort to make a change.

It was shortly after that class that I decided I wasn’t going to be that lazy person. I was going to make a growth choice, one that would benefit my health and the environment. At the end of the summer, I told myself I had until New Years to make it happen. That would give me time to figure out how I was going to feed myself. Less than a month later, I was ready and I didn’t want to wait any longer.

Obviously ‘not being lazy’ isn’t a good reason to commit to something, so here are the reasons I have stuck to my vegetarian diet and continue to cut down on dairy products:

  • Fish are Friends, not Food – humans are not better than any other species, we have no right to dictate when they die. You can’t love animals and eat them too
  • Global Warming – the production of animal products is a leading cause of climate change
  • The Meat Myth – humans don’t need meat to survive. We are better off without it in our diets
  • Got Milk? – Cows milk is for baby cows, not humans
  • Carnism – we have been socialized to think eating meat is normal

Over the past two years, I have would have eaten over 400 animals, and almost 400 pounds of meat. By choosing not to do this, I have saved 3220 pounds of CO2 from entering the environment. If I was vegan, these numbers would be even higher. In addition, I have saved other resources, such as water, forests and grain. To see what impact you have, check out the thevegancalculator.com or thevegetariancalculator.com

 

Carnism

Carnism is a term that was coined by Dr. Melanie Joy in 2001. It is a belief system that conditions humans to eat meat. Like other ideologies, it is manmade. We learn it. We receive positive and negative feedback about our behaviour, and it conditions us to behave in a way that we receive optimal positive feedback and minimal negative feedback. Essentially – we learn to follow the rules (basic sociological theory).

The Secret Reason We Eat Meat – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao2GL3NAWQU (Below is essentially a summary of this video).

People often think that that vegans and vegetarians are the ones who have strong beliefs about eating habits, but that isn’t true. Eating meat is not a necessity (see the meat myth – https://livefree0seizetheday.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/the-meat-myth/) and it is therefore a choice, and choices stem from beliefs. This belief system dictates what animals we eat, and when we eat them (usually subject to geographic location and religion). This is carnism.

Carnism continues to exist by defending itself. The first mechanism of defense, is denial. It denies the truth by making it invisible. It’s the norm, people don’t question it, or really even notice it. It also keeps its victims (animals) invisible, by hiding them away in factory farms and disguising the finished product.  The meat you buy at the grocery store, or are presented at a restaurant, in no way resemble the animal itself and is even given a different name (steak, ribs, pork, etc.). Humans are likewise the invisible victims of this system – in our ignorance, we continue to fuel out bodies with foods that cause us to gain weight and develop health problems.

Justification is the second defence mechanism. We are taught to believe that eating animals is normal, natural and necessary – that these myths, are actually facts. These beliefs are institutionalized and imbedded in society, and like other societal norms, we learn them from our families and schools and are expected to conform. We internalize these beliefs and it distorts our perception of the system. Distortion is the third defence mechanism that prevents us from seeing what is really there. Cows become synonymous with streak. We no longer see the individual animal, but a hunk of meat.

In opposition to justification, denial and cognitive distortion, we have justice, truth and compassion, which ultimately leads to awareness. Awareness threatens carnism because it helps us to understand this system and gives us the freedom to make choices. Awareness has been an aspect of all social movements and has been significantly heightened surrounding this issue.

I’m really happy I stumbled across this video. I had never heard of carnism before, but it makes perfect sense to me and reaffirmed all my beliefs about consuming animal products. I feel especially attracted to this theory because I have spent four years studying social psychology and this is a psychological theory. There are theories and perspectives that help to explain and predict all types of human behaviour, but I never thought to look for one to explain our meat eating habits.

https://www.carnism.org/carnism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnism

Got Milk?

As a kid, I was brought up to think that drinking milk was going to make me grow up strong and healthy. Programs like “Got Milk” came into our schools and taught us about calcium and building strong bones. They had commercials on popular Kids channels and they had me pretty convinced.

But what they don’t tell you is that they had an agenda. “Got Milk” and other programs were/are advertising campaigns focused on selling a product – milk. By advertising it as healthy, even essential to a child’s development, they could ensure their product would be consumed. It became institutionalized, worming its way into schools, and into people’s homes.

Now, many believe that we have been “milked” – tricked by the industry into thinking that we need to consume milk. But in reality, milk is meant for baby cows, just as human babies breast feed from their mothers. But apparently we have an issue with breast feeding. We make a fuss when women do it in public, and when cows do it? We take away their babies, slaughter them, and then milk their mother dry until she dies prematurely as well. So I guess we’re really going easy on those women breast feeding in public. Anyway.

Cow’s milk is meant for baby cows. Everything in it is meant to make a little cow turn into a big cow. You’re not a cow. Cows are different from humans. They are bigger and they grow a lot faster. This requires a lot of fuel, or milk. Milk which is full of hormones, proteins and calories and a lot of much grosser stuff that I will get into in a bit.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toZ7Mr-ClCE This video is really interesting and sums it up pretty well. One of the hormones in cow’s milk (IGF-1) is a powerful growth hormone. Perfect for turning a calf into a cow, but fuels cancer in humans.

In addition to hormones, cow’s milk is full of fat, calories, sugar, cholesterol, bacteria, viruses, blood, and pus. Oh, and feces. As I understand it, there are regulations concerning the quality of dairy products and that they are stricter in Canada than they are in the US. But this shit is still in the products we consume.

One of the reasons milk is advertised as being healthy is because of calcium. Many people wonder where they are supposed to get their calcium from if they don’t consume dairy products. Maybe from the same place the cow gets it – plants. Just a suggestion. Plants have a large amount of magnesium which is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. However when we drink milk, we aren’t getting the magnesium, making the calcium useless. There are much healthier ways to get the calcium we need, along with everything else we get from animal products – try soy or almond milk!

Dairy farms also contribute to global warming, taking up a lot of space, and producing a lot of pollution. For more information on this, check out my previous post about global warming.

Disclaimer* I fully support women who choose to breast feed in public. I was merely using that example to highlight the abuse that animals are victims of.

cowsss

Resources

http://www.dairyinfo.gc.ca/index_e.php?s1=dr-rl&s2=canada

http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/have-we-been-milked-by-the-dairy-industry/

http://rense.com/general26/milk.htm

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/10-common-arguments-against-dairy-consumption-explored/

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/should-we-be-drinking-milk-arguments-for-and-against-dairy-10192238.html

The Meat Myth

tombstone2

I find it interesting when meat eaters ask vegetarian/vegans why they don’t eat meat. But if you ask a meat eater why they DO eat meat, they can’t provide a valid answer. The most common excuses are “it’s too hard [to give meat up],” or “it tastes good/I love meat,” and of course “humans are meant to eat meat; it’s natural.” People who give these answers have likely not done any research. All of these ‘reasons’ are essentially propaganda used by the meat industry to perpetuate the myth that humans eating meat is natural and good. On a side note – we need to start viewing the meat industry the way we do Big Pharma. It’s an industry focused on making money and has little regard for the people consuming its products. Humans aren’t meant to eat meat. This is something largely agreed upon in the field. There are several reasons for this which are outlined below.

Evolution – many people believe (for some reason) that humans evolved to be meat eaters and that we all therefore need to continue to eat meat to survive. When in fact, early humans had diets like our primate cousins: mainly plant based. We likely began to eat meat scavenging, which may have been necessary during times of scarcity. But we never adapted to it. Meat eaters have higher chances of heart disease, cancer and many other problems. If we were meant to eat meat, we would have adapted to have claws and canine teeth to tear hide and flesh. Instead we have hands, perfect for gathering and harvesting plants, as well as flat molars necessary to grind them down. We also lack the instinct to chase and kill another animal. In fact, we prefer to distance ourselves from the ‘hunting’ process and have our meat packaged. In essence, we don’t even want to think of it as an animal, it is simply a product to purchase at the grocery store.

Biology – Carnivores have more acidic stomachs than humans. They swallow their food whole (due to a lack of molars), and rely on their stomach acid to break down the food. Humans get sick if they eat raw meat and have much weaker stomach acid, unfit for breaking down meat. Carnivores also have very short intestinal tracts (only 3 times their body length), to ensure the meat they eat is processed and disposed of quickly (because it rots fast). This prevents them from gaining excess fat. Herbivores (humans) have an intestinal tract 12 times the body length, taking much longer to process food. This is why meat is more harmful to humans.

Canines don’t make Carnivores – Many people believe that humans have canine teeth because we are natural meat eaters. But this is not the case. Many prominent herbivores have canine teeth (nearly all mammals do), including hippos, gorillas, some deer species, baboons and camels. In fact, hippos have the largest canine teeth of any land mammal, and they eat grass…

Protein – Consuming meat provides humans with twice as much protein as they need which can lead to osteoporosis and kidney stones. “Animal protein raises the acid level in our blood, causing calcium to be excreted from the bones to restore the blood’s natural pH balance. This calcium depletion leads to osteoporosis, and the excreted calcium ends up in the kidneys, where it can form kidney stones or even trigger kidney disease.” In addition, animal protein can lead to several types of cancer and is expected to be named one of the ‘most toxic nutrients’ in the near future.

Health – Real Carnivores don’t get sick from eating meat. Humans do. As noted in the above sections, humans cannot properly digest meat and our bodies aren’t able to process the cholesterol and fat that we take in when we eat meat. This leads to many health problems such as obesity, osteoporosis, kidney stones, multiple types of cancer, diabetes, stokes and shorter life expectancy.

So by all means, go ahead and eat meat. But don’t try to justify it by saying you need it for the protein, or because it’s healthy or natural.

Resources

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/shattering-the-meat-myth_b_214390.html

http://www.celestialhealing.net/physicalveg3.htm

http://mindfullybliss.com/humans-are-designed-to-eat-meat/

http://freefromharm.org/photo-galleries/9-reasons-your-canine-teeth-dont-make-you-a-meat-eater/

https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/projects/meatless_monday/resources/meat_consumption.html

Global Warming

Climate change is a hot topic in today’s society and has played a large role in political decisions over the last few years. Global warming is the gradual increase in temperature of the Earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere. Living in Canada, this doesn’t sound that bad. But our world is sensitive and even the slight temperature increase (0.8 degrees Celsius) that has occurred over the last century has caused a lot of damage.

Some of the effects of global warming are as follows: more air pollution, higher wildlife extinction rates, higher sea levels, more acidic oceans, ice is melting, animals are migrating (due to changing temperatures or loss of habitat). This is just a sample of the damage that climate change is responsible for.

The majority of global warming is caused by humans. We destroy forests, wetlands, and nearly every other aspect of nature. We produce so much garbage – it is overflowing in landfills, floods the ocean and litters streets. And we produce copious amounts of greenhouse gases (especially methane and CO2).

CO2 accounts for about 80% of the greenhouse gases emitted in the US, with methane coming in second place. However, methane is more destructive, trapping more radiation in the atmosphere than CO2. Methane occurs naturally but is also created by humans through landfills and factory farms.

The livestock industry is responsible for at least 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and about 50% of what is currently in the atmosphere. This is because factory farms produce a lot of waste, which ends up polluting our water, soil and air. Manure is dumped in massive pits, which are toxic, and make the air harmful to breathe. Check out this video to see how bad it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayGJ1YSfDXs

From this it is obvious that people who consume dairy and meat are responsible for an immense amount of greenhouse gas emissions (livestock are responsible for the creation of 9 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions, 37 percent of human-caused methane emissions, and 67 percent of human-caused nitrous oxide emissions), specifically, 1.5 tonnes more than someone who does not consume meat or dairy products.  Therefore, lowering emissions by eliminating animal products from your life is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective methods you can take to not only lower global emissions, but to bring about rapid planetary cooling.

I know not everyone is going to just stop eating meat. But you can do little things like switching to a milk alternative (almond or soy) or choosing to eat vegetarian a few times a week.

Resources

http://www.livescience.com/37003-global-warming.html

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/are-effects-global-warming-really-bad

http://www.ecowatch.com/how-factory-farming-contributes-to-global-warming-1881690535.html

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw-effects/

http://www.greenplanetawards.org/livestock.html

http://www.sustainabletable.org/265/environment

Fish are Friends, not Food

One of the reasons I decided to stop eating meat is because I didn’t believe I could love animals and eat them too. Loving animals doesn’t mean just loving some of them – the cute and fuzzy ones (cows are cute and fuzzy too!) or the ones you call your pets. Loving animals requires you to stop thinking of them as a piece of meat, and distancing the meat on your plate from a living, breathing organism that can think and feel just like you.

I think many people have a problem with this, because they don’t see animals as being equal to humans. I disagree. I believe that “man [is] just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all” (Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible, p. 25). In extension, this means I don’t believe we own animals and we especially don’t have the right to decide when another being should die. There is no ethical meat. No animal wants to die. There is no ‘humane’ way to kill.

Why?

I have been vegetarian since September 2015 and don’t ever plan on going back to the life of a meat eater. On the contrary, I would like to slowly work towards moving even further from it. Giving up meat was something I had wanted to do for a long time before I actually did it, but once I did, it was easy.

Despite this, it seems difficult for many of the people around me to understand. Therefore this blog is dedicated to everyone who has asked me why I decided to give up meat. This will include animal rights/ethics, health and environmental impacts. Perhaps I will include some vegetarian recipes as well!