The Friday Feedback Forum

November 27th, 2010 - filed under: Furthermore » Feedback

Granny and Me!

Hello from the sunny OC! I’ve been having a truly splendiferous time, full of food, family, and more food! It’s been a marvelous and much-needed break, and the weekend is just barely beginning! w00t! So you know what that means – give me your comments, critiques, thoughts, support, and suggestions.

Love List time! There’s no such thing is too much positivity, and though we all gave thanks yesterday, I’m sure we can muster up some more gratitude. So let’s all list three things we’re thankful for. Mine =
1. Veganism. It is such a poignant part of my life. I love practicing true non-violence, and I love the sense of well being that it brings.
2. My family, and especially the lessons I can learn by observing that even though we are so so so (no really, SO!) different, we still love each other unquestioningly.
3. Turning my aunt and uncle onto green smoothies! And kale! Muahaha . . .

K, now it’s your turn.

Hope you all had a delicious and abundant Thanksgiving, full of laughter and flavor and joy. Now, have a great weekend!

  • Kelly M.

    Oh I couldn’t wait to tell you! I made your vegan candied yams recipe and brought it to my very non-vegetarian family thanksgiving. We always vote on the best dish and I won the trophy! With your vegan dish! For my acceptance speech in front of 30 family members I stood up and said, “I hate to cook, this dish is vegan, and I am awesome.”

    Then I proceeded to field many questions on how sugar and marshmallows can possibly not be vegan and I think I blew some minds.

  • erosan

    I love thanksgiving (allright, I’ll confess, I love thanksgiving food, k?). But, since it is not a holiday in Mexico, I seldom get to celebrate it.

    But, we celebrated with my brother’s girlfriend and her family (who are americans living here), so we got to eat the whole shebang, cranberry sauce and turkey and everything.

    Love list:
    1. First time that the company gave us thanksgiving as a holiday. And not only the thursday, but the friday too! 4 days of doing nothing in a row? it’s incredible!

    2. I recently upgraded my laptop’s OS. Linux mint 10 (Julia) is awesome and beautiful.

    3. The ultimate productivity blog!
    It made me giggle.

  • Catnip

    1)A warm house and a solid roof in the cold and rain.
    2)My hot tub
    3)Amazing vegan thanksgiving dinners!

  • Pler


    I appreciate the vegan positions against animal cruelty, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that agriculture (esp. industrial agriculture) is not violence-free. Species have been driven to extinction in the pursuit of farmland. The grains and vegetables vegans and humans worldwide rely on required vast deforestation, extirpation of species and land-bases, destruction of waterways for irrigation etc.

    Which isn’t to say that CAFO produced meat is somehow proportional or equivalent in violence or misery to a box of soy milk, however I think it’s hubris to ignore the destruction to animals which predicates all farming…it’s far from violence free. And it’s extremely destructive to habitats, humans, and non-humans.

  • Amber

    well said, Pler

  • Meghan

    @Pler and Amber

    I agree that it is important to consider the impact that any diet has on our world at large. But just as any vegan can’t 100% avoid animal products (tires, computer components, etc), in this case I think that leading the most non-violent way possible is the way to go.

    It is also important to keep in mind that a great deal of the deforestation for agriculture occurs to grow food for farm animals. We would need vastly less land to sustain the world on vegan diets, as we would not longer have the redundancy of needing to grow food for our food.

    My love list:

    1. My new house, wooooooooooo!
    2. My mom, without whom I would not be surviving this move.
    3. Thanksgiving food!

  • Pler


    I think which diet is most violent/non-violent is an open question.

    While it’s true that deforestation is often motivated to produce area and food for animals intended for slaughter/production, it’s hardly the only motive for deforestation.
    As you point out, there are commodities and objects surrounding us which are not just infused with animal products, but also the less-direct (but no less violent) consequences of ecocide.

    If everyone in the world were to adopt a vegan diet, would not the world’s prairies, rivers, and forests still be systematically raped in order to produce the soy, grains, and foods which humans would then rely on to feed themselves? Would they not be ravaged in order to supply us with our computers and cars, our buildings and cineplexes?

    What happens to the humans and non-humans as a result of agriculture? any agriculture? What happens to humans and non-humans in order to further our civilization? Would they not be driven to extinction and immiseration as a result of our systematic destruction of their habitats regardless of whether or not people embraced veganism?

    If the end result of both veganism and factory farming is extinction, and ecocide…then perhaps neither are sustainable?

    Maybe also, there are more options that these two choices. Maybe we don’t have to chose between the systematic torture and holocaust of non-humans in CAFOs or battery cages…and the systematic extinction of entire species and habitats by way of plant based agriculture.
    It seems to me that vegans and those who generally disagree with them, are perpetually assuming that these are our only two choices – and base most of their respective arguments on this assumption. But I think it may be a false dichotomy…

  • Sayward

    Pier – I think it is very much a false dichotomy, because I think you have misrepresented the vegan perspective and the ‘consequence’ of a vegan lifestyle. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. ;-D

    If we’re going to have this discussion we must first establish our baseline. In this case I think we can all agree that humans must eat, no? So we can start there.

    Also, let’s discount the overpopulation issue, which is the real crux of ‘ecocide’ (good word!) which is driving the destruction of the world as far as computers/cars/cineplexes go. We can probably all agree that there are too damn many of us humans, and that we all need to *take* a lot less. But we can agree of that point, and really, it’s only peripherally related to what we’re discussing, so let’s not bring it in to muddy the issue.

    The reality is that there are billions and billions of humans and that we do need to eat. The other reality is that there are billions and billions (and BILLIONS and BILLIONS) of animals – both wild and domestic – and they deserve to live. That is the baseline, the only baseline, from which I can operate. The issue we’ll probably run into is that you do not start from this same point . . . but I’ll continue anyway. =)

    Veganism is the system that feeds the people of the world while allowing the most animals their right to live their lives. Yes, it is true that wild animals are killed by trucks transporting goods. And it is true that field rodents are killed as land is plowed and planted. It is also true that birds lose habitat and die as their trees are cut down to clear the way for crops. All of these things are true, but all of them are exponentially magnified when animal agriculture is involved.

    As you move up a trophic level (the ‘food chain’), you lose 90% of the energy input. In order to produce 100 calories of beef, it requires 1,000 calories of grain. So you could feed 1 person a steak, or you could feed 10 people the grains. This is simple biology, generally applicable to any ecosystem. Eating lower on the food chain is more efficient and ultimately, more sustainable. The amount of land required to grow the food to feed the cows, and then the amount of land required to grow the cows themselves, is so so so much more wasteful than just using that land to grow plant protein that could feed more than 10x as many people. To me and my rational, logician’s brain, animal agriculture just doesn’t. make. sense.

    As for non-violence, you are right to point out that there is no true absence of violence in any given meal. Perhaps if I’m lucky, the beets I harvest from my own backyard will be free of aphids or other small critters – maybe they could be considered a ‘harmless’ meal. Still, if my goal is to minimize my impact, to practice Ahimsa to the very best of my ability, then veganism is the only choice for me to consider. The idea that because some animals *may* be killed in the harvesting of vegetables, so therefor fuckitall let’s have some dead chicken flesh – I’m sorry, but that’s mindlessness. It just doesn’t work like that for me.

    With veganism as my (and I can only speak from my own truth through all of this) moral baseline, I can begin to address the other issues that you bring up – deforestation, extinction, ‘ecocide’ etc – from a place of grounded, ethical consistency. In that way I AM practicing non-violence, at least to the very best of my ability. And that’s all that I (or any of us) can hope to do. =)

    I hope that helps to clear up what I meant!

  • Sayward

    @ Kelly M – That is the best news ever! Oh man, that totally made my day. Thanks for letting me know, and thank you for representin’ for veganism, w00t!

  • Pler


    I totally agree that animal agriculture exacerbates the ecocide which plant based agriculture generates. I’m not an advocate for it. What I think vegans and most meat-eating people take for granted – assume as a given – is this agriculture.

    You note that 1000 grain calories produce 100 meat calories. Yet, cows don’t naturally eat grain – I’m sure you’re well aware of the terrible physical trauma grains cause ruminants. They naturally eat grass. It is only if one assumes that cows must eat grain that this equation even becomes relevant. And this is a perfect example of the false dichotomy I referred to earlier – the assumption that we must choose between grain-fed animals, and those grains. That the only two possibilities are a world where we raise animals and eat them, or a world where we only raise plants and eat them.

    For the past ten thousand years, plant and animals agriculture alike has forced species after species to go extinct. It has literally turned forest and savannah in to deserts, caused rivers to dry up, and turned oceans in to dead zones…

    I believe I identify within Veganism a miscalculation. That miscalculation is the profound damage which the agriculture it requires, inflicts upon humans, non-humans, and habitats. As well, I think this miscalculation is often disguised by the assumption that the only alternative is animal-agriculture and/or factory farming.

    Veganism without agriculture is ostensibly impossible is it not? If it is, the implications for Veganism to be a truly non-human friendly philosophy/practice ends precisely where it forces animals to go extinct – no?

    Also, I’m not advocating “fuckitall let’s have some dead chicken flesh” – I hope that comes across (or that I’m advocating animal-agriculture). My argument is instead, that animal and plant agriculture alike are destructive – to what degree each is destructive doesn’t particularly matter, if they’re both horribly destructive and there are more ways of feeding ourselves than through plant/animals agriculture. In my view, both ought to ultimately end…but if plant agriculture ends, how can Veganism continue to exist??

  • erosan

    @Pler: hey, not defending either point, but… Have you considered that nature itself is violent?

    I mean, when a lion kills and eats anything, it does not do it in a humane-compasionate way… My point is, nature is not stranger to violence.

    I agree that humans change its ecosystem in a more profound way than other species, but I think it’s safe to assume that doing so is part of our nature. But, as we grow older as a specie we grow wiser too. There are lots of movements (veganism is one of them) that take a lot more emphasis on taking care of ecology. And although some vegans won’t agree –being afraid of most chemicals and additives– science is also doing its part by creating more nutritious and easy to grow ‘species’ of plants, which in turn might lead the way to a sustainable life i.e. we reach equilibrium with nature.

    All in all, I think veganism (even if I don’t wholeheartedly agree with all it implies, as I am a proud omnivore) is a commendable effort to make a stand and try for the best.

    And just between you and me… unless breatharianism starts spreading like fire, I very much doubt we will see an alternative to animal/plant agriculture soon. Unless you have a specific option in mind?


  • Donna Mae

    I am thankful for the things that keep my brain ticking…kids, boyfriend and job.

    I am thankful for having appreciation…family, Wyoming and home.

    And third I am thankful for growth and understanding from the people surrounding me.

  • Sayward

    @ Pier – I think that we agree on more than we disagree. But to echo erosan, what option is there that eschews both animal agriculture AND plant-based food systems?

  • Pler


    I’m neither a pacifist or a breatharian…

    I define violence as the “infliction of physical harm against anything living” – which has broad implications. From warfare and factory farming, to building dams or picking carrots from a garden. Violence is a part of nature which I think is often justifiable. Picking carrots for example, is violence which I find acceptable and justifiable – as I think most people would. I believe that violence is justified in the pursuit of self defense or the defense of others. And I believe violence is justified under the right conditions, in the pursuit of food…

    Throughout this exchange, my point has been to highlight the violence which veganism entails. Violence which I think is unjustified, and profoundly destructive…

    I think it’s safe to say that life-from-life is axiomatic. That life cannot continue and exist, without feeding on the death of the life which preceded it. Even plant eaters require the death of other creatures and their prey, to fertilize the top-soil which produces their food. Not to mention that ruminants don’t truly eat grass or cellulose, but the living bacteria in their own guts that digest and eat the cellulose they ingest…

    I think that Veganism means well, I think that Vegans are compasisonate, consceintious, and have thier hearts in the right place. I don’t believe that the concern for animal cruelty and immiseration can go too far. I think efforts to liberate animals from factory farms, vivesection labs, or the countless other holocaust asylums our society chains them to is legitimate. In my view, the existence of factory farming, vivesection, and the civilized’s treatment of animals is an atrocity beyond words..

    My contention is that Veganism requires the existence of much of this unjustified violence (imo) against animials and the natural world alike. Veganism requires converting old-growth and savannah in to neccessitates the extinction and extirpation of animals and habitats throughout the world.

    I disagree that the destruction of ecosystems is in our nature. I think this is evidenced by the fact that for 95% of homosapiens existence on this planet, our species did not engage in ecocide. Our species lived hunter-gatherer lifestyles until the invention of agriculture..and these hunter-gatherer lifestyles were sustainable. This lifestyle benefited the land, benefited the land-bases and eco-systems which we inhabited.

    Before civilization/agriculture came to the place I llive (Portland, OR), the rivers here were so full of salmon that early white exploers were afraid to put their boats in the Columbia for fear they would capsize. Their runs were so thunderous they could be heard hours before they arrived, and when they came they lashed the river into a white froth – today wild salmon are nearly gone from the river entirely and will likely go extinct by the time my son is my age – Veganism offers no remedy to this destruction, and in fact it *requires it* (imo). It requires the dams and irrigation which have so massivley contributed to the pending extinction of wild salmon. It requires the deforestation that contributes the the pending extinction of tigers, elephants, grizzley bears, old-growth, and so on…

    Veganism cannot benefit the land, because the land cannot sustain agriculture. And if the land cannot be maintained – if bio-diversity, top-soil, and rivers are destroyed in the pursuit of human activity…not only will we eventually succumb, when the land ceases in it’s ability to grow us food. But millions upon millions of animals will forever go extinct as a neccessary consequence…

    This is I think the miscalculation Veganism makes. The erroneous belief that by not eating animals, violence to animals can be maximally avoided – In Veganisms attempt to save animals from the cruelty’s of animal-agriculture, it dooms them to extinction just the same. I think that Veganism’s miscalcultion, is taking agriculture as a given..assuming it is the maximinally animal-friendly option…assuming that the only two ways people can live is through plant-only agriculture or animal-agriculture (hence, the “false dichotomy” I refered to earlier. And the Vegan tendency to contrast animal-agriculture/factory farming, to plant-agriculture)

    I think human beings, can live in better harmony with the planet. I think we’re capable of not-driving species in to extinction. I think sustainability is primary to all other things…because without it, we drive non-humans and humans alike to mass die-off or extinction. I think the maximally animal-friendly culture for humans, is one where we benefit the land by our existence…rather than systematically rape it.

  • Pler


    The only lifestyle, which I think our species can maintain which is sustainable are non-civilized lifestyles…

    I know that sounds insane to most people, that most people find the idea of abandoning civilization ludicrous. I certainly did the first hundred times I heard people express the idea to me…

    But, I think the evidence is overwhelming. Where ever we find denuded top-soil, extinction, deforestation, rivers that no longer reach the ocean, dead zones, (not to mention vivesection, CAFOs, etc), oil spills, etc…do we not find the culprit is civilization?

    pre-civilized humans have been accused of perpetrating the pliestocene die-off, and the die-off of other homonids, but I don’t think there’s any tangible evidence to legitimize those claims..

    The historical record as I see it, is one of humanity living in harmony with the natural world – living sustainably – until we developed a reliance on agriclture.. and took the land (and the creatures that rely on it, also) captive for our own purposes…

    I do not mean to come across as one who romanticizes a by-gone pre-civilized era. I think we’re capable of more than they achieved. Socities that are not just sustainable, but also just and equal….

    But, say what one will about the instances of injustice, misogyny, and slavery within pre-civilized cultures – There are just as many if not more examples of justice, democracy, and equality – and even the unjust societies, were themselves sustainable.

    So, this is what I think our choices are. We can either chose to live sustainably with the land, taking from it what it offers to us naturally – or we can chose to control the land, and force it to produce for us what we want to take from it.

    But if we chose sustainability, I cannot see how Veganism can thrive in most areas. Most land-bases do not *naturally* allow it, for humans, as far as I can tell…

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Love list:

    * Being back home for two full weeks and not letting old family drama ruin my visit (seriously, I think Franzen wrote “The Corrections” about my family).

    * The simple yet amazing vegan gravy I made for Thanksgiving on a whim – easily one of the best things I’ve ever made.

    * Alone time

  • Sayward

    @ Pler (sorry I was calling you Pier!) – I see what you’re saying about living a ‘non-civilized’ life . . . however I still don’t agree that this contradicts the ethical argument for veganism. Even living entirely ‘primitive’, it is MORE sustainable and MORE resource-friendly to eat plants. Not to mention that it excludes harm or suffering for sentient creatures.

    But that’s not really a conversation that I want to have, to be honest. I’m a practical person and I’m interested in real world solutions. It actually makes me uncomfortable to discuss such abstract concepts or such wild hypotheticals. It just feels like a waste of precious time to me, haha. But that’s my own issue; I’m a weirdo. =)

    I wish you the best though!

  • Pler


    Well, if people were to adopt what I asserted before were sustainable lifestyles – I don’t think Veganism would be possible.

    The crux of my critique is that Veganism necessarily requires agriculture. Because a plant-based diet, without agriculture (with the exception of a very few land-bases – generally tropical) would mean that most people on the planet could not find adequate nutrition. Not just nutrition for optimal health, but the nutrition required to survive and propegate.

    Native Americans for example, had virtually no choice but to eat meat. While the land was bountiful with a myriad of fruits, berries, and vegetables…their access to them was limited and fleeting. Humans cannot live on dried berries for six months out of the year indefinitley – stretched out over years we would suffer very serious medical issues. We require substantially more nutrition.

    Vegan diets are possible, because of un-natural variety and their reliance on vitamin enriched plants like grains and legumes…
    However grains and legumes would only be accesable naturally, for a month or so out of each year – what would people eat for the remaining months – how much could be harvested and stored without agriculture?? What would winters be like?

    To survive, most pre-civilized cultures required meat. They were litteraly incapable of surviving without it…

    So I think these our are real choices – to drive species after species in to extinction with agriculture, land-base after land-base to desert or moonscape…or to live sustainably with the land. How can Vegans live without agriculture and still meet their survival requirements? How can a vegan lifestyle be adopted without the massive harvest of grains, legumes, and vegetables…harvests which we can only take from the land, by first killing all competing forms of life on the land?

    Perhaps a life without killing/violence is impossible – Perhaps it is only our cruelty which we can control. Perhaps in an attempt to circumnavigate killing and cruelty, we would actually kill much more than we would if we lived in a pre-civilized fashion? If this is our choice, which is the most ethical? If we are unsustainable, and this leads to extinction and extirpation, how can it be more-ethical (per our relationship with non-humans) than a sustainable lifestyle?

    It’s this question, the question of sustainability and our relationship with non-humans and the land…that I think Veganism lacks an answer to (assuming my premises are correct). And why I submit – that despite what I think is Veganisms genuine concern and care for non-humans – ultimately makes Veganism only the second most-violent and destructive lifestyle next to factory-farming and animal-agriculture. And a not-so-distant second at that..

    As to the real world, I think it’s very likely that we’ll end up back at hunter-gatherer lifestyles whether we like it or not. The ravages of civilization/agriculture have so horribly damaged this planet that our ability to maintain our civilization/agriculture is swiftly fading. Top-soil is nearly denuded the world over, and it takes hundreds of years for just an inch to materialize naturally. We presently require finite fossil fuels to fix nitrogen to the soil, which our plant foods come from. Just 5% of the natural forests of America still exist intact. Our fertilizers and dams have contaminated entire rivers, and enormous swaths ocean for many months out of the year. And we’ve induced the melting of the glaciers which are the genesis of the worlds most important rivers to sustaining human life (for irrigation/agriculture) i.e. Ganges, Mekong, Yellow, etc.

    Ten thousand years of unsustainable living, of culture based on raping the land and driving species in to extinction…is quickly catching up. I don’t think the future generations of humans, will find the condition which we’ve left the world abstract or hypothetical. They’ll be in dire straits, without the luxury of distance, which most of us in the west and present today have…

  • erosan

    Must… resist… feeding… troll…


    @Pler: As I mentioned before, technology is part of our nature (which does not imply, as you interpreted, that destroying the ecosystem is part of our nature). No-one taught us technology; we developed it on our own. This is a characteristic that defines us as a specie and that has allowed us to thrive and reproduce. If you will, it gave us the upper hand in the survival of the fittest game.

    But we’ve commited a lot of stupid mistakes. That said, as we grow older as a specie, we also grow wiser. We know now that all those changes we made to our enviroment were less than optimal and that if we are to stay alive for an exended period of time, we need to find equilibrium with ecology and figure out a way of having a sustainable style of life.

    There are several movements (none of them perfect probably, as we are all learning) that make a stand and try with all their might to achieve that sustainability. Veganism is one such movement, and although I am a proud omnivore and do not necesarily agree with all veganism implies, I think it is a commendable effort and worth praising. Science is also making its part, striving to create new species of plants that are more nutritious and yield more produce: more food grown per square inch and less food needed per capita is a nice step torwards sustainability.

    Speaking of which, I don’t think ditching all tools and civilization and going back to the wilderness is a sustainable option for the masses. It might be sustainable for a small percentage of the world population, but for all of us to go back to that stage of ‘social evolution’, would require more land space per person and mass migrations. Since it would also require gathering instead of farming, we would rely on warmer lands and closeness to water sources, thus requiring the world population to be packed closer to the tropics. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it happening. The other option would be to leave a good percentage of the population to starve to the point where the rest can achieve that sustainability. I am sure you are not suggesting that is a viable option.

    I think it all comes down to the fact that you are looking too deep into the details. You chastize the vegan lifestyle mentioning it is not without violence, but when faced with the need to kill animals to eat, or ‘kill’ a carrot upon harvesting, you say that is justifiable violence. I suggest that if that is the case, then the violence embedded in the vegan farming is justifiable too, as it will prevent unneeded violence against other species and leaves a smaller eco-footprint. Perfect? maybe not, but its a good beginning, aye?

  • Pler


    These are my actual opinions, I’m not trying to get a rise out of anyone. I’m not a “troll”.

    Your premise that human culture has “evolved” exponentially with time is something I don’t agree with. Also the implication that pre-civilized cultures lacked “technology”.

    In my view, civilization (which I define as a culture predicated on the growth of cities – cities I define as communities which require the importation of resources) is itself a culture. A culture which is the killing it’s host, and therefore ultimately unsustainable.

    I think that civilization has artificially, pushed our species population past it’s carrying capacity. That sustainable human populations, necessarily imply much fewer humans than currently exist – but my solution isn’t to murder people.

    To the contrary, I think that civilization is doomed to crash. That this crash will necessarily mean a very violent and horrible death for billions of humans, non-humans, and land-bases. As well, I think that the future left to those who survive will be exponentially more-horrible the longer the land and animals are exploited prior to the crash…

    So, to that end I think that those who advocate maintaining our present way of living. Those who advocate holding our breath for some magical solution from technology…are unwittingly advocating a very terrible future.

    I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I think it’s within our power to mitigate the negative effects of civilization thus far – and transition into sustainable cultures. But, as I say – I see zero indication that the vast majority of people on this planet see the perspective I’m advocating as anything less than insanity and craziness…

    The pre-civilized had ingenious technology, their technology however was not dedicated to the rape of their land-bases, or the wholesale destruction of non-humans and humans alike. More over, their cultures were sustainable. As I said before, I don’t mean to sound as if I’m romanticizing the pre-civilized. I understand their societies were often just and unjust alike. I think human beings are capable of justice and sustainability alike…something potentially better than the pre-civilized had. or maybe not – but i think we must try if we care anything about the living creatures, land-bases, and future generations of humans…

    You mention that science is developing nutritious plants. Great, but where are we going to grow them? how will we fix the nitrogen we need to grow them? How will this development end deforestation, save top-soil from being denuded, or save Tigers, Grizzlys, wild salmon, wet lands, or old-growth? How will it render civilization, sustainable?

    You say that the violence inherent in the vegan lifestyle is justifiable. I don’t agree. I don’t agree that cultures which require the forced extinction of non-humans are justifiable, I don’t think that cultures which push the human population past it’s carrying capacity are justifiable, nor do I think that cultures predicated on the rape of eco-systems are justifiable. Those are all subjective determinations, of course….But I think most Vegans care about those things too. I think Vegans are motivated by a genuine sense of concern and compassion for the natural world – and therefore Veganism requires at the bare minimum a discussion on whether or not Veganism can be reconciled with the effects of agriculture.

    I don’t think it makes me a troll, to raise these questions.

  • Meghan

    Hm. I definitely still disagree with you, but you do raise interesting questions, Pler.