Monday, August 25, 2008

Tales of the Veggie Avenger

There's a new superhero on the streets of Big City. He's the Veggie Avenger, and every day he does battle against the meat industry, the milk lobby and the fast food chains. Our hero has no super-human powers. He has no mask and he has no cape (but he does
have a rather snazzy sport coat.) Relying only on his cunning and his good eyesight, he works to preserve the not-so-American way of Mom, apple pie, and tofu dogs.

Today we bring you two stories of the Veggie Avenger in action.

"Tacos in the Elevator"

Our story begins as our hero has taken a job as an elevator operator in a Big City skyscraper. (In this job he truly can leap a tall building in a single bound.) The elevator fills with his first load of passengers, and, just as the door closes and they begin their ascent, the Veggie Avenger brings out an old shopping bag.

Veggie Avenger [to the passengers]: You thought this was going to be an ordinary, boring elevator ride, didn't you?

Woman [leery]: That's certainly what we were hoping for.

The Veggie Avenger moves closer, and as the crowd backs away he holds up a "recycled" (i.e., he bought it at a garage sale) Tupperware container.

Man: Is that a bomb? Are we hostages?

VA [laughing]: No! I just want to offer you free samples of the Veggie Avenger's famous earth-loving tacos. Good for you, good for the environment! They're all organic. No chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and absolutely
no animal flesh.

Woman [even more leery]: What's in them?

The Veggie Avenger, prepared as always, shrugs and mutters something about not reading the label on the package.

Young Boy [stepping forward]: I'll try one. [he puts a taco in his mouth] Hey, this is good!

Our hero smiles and pushes the Tupperware toward the other passengers. They gasp. A woman reaches into her purse for mace. A businessman defends himself with his briefcase.

Young Boy: Hey pops, let me have some more!

As the elevator door opens on the 18th floor and the passengers flee for their lives, the Veggie Avenger is content. He's just started this job, but already he's shown a young boy the joys of vegetarianism. Smiling, and with a heart filled with love and brotherhood for his fellow creatures, he reaches over and pats the boy on the head.

Young Boy: Touch me again and I call my lawyer.

"Doggies in the Elevator"

Later that day, a woman in a full-length fur coat enters the elevator with her small daughter. The door closes and the three begin their decent to street level.

Veggie Avenger: Boy, that's some coat! Is that real dog skin?

Woman in Fur: Certainly not!

The Veggie Avenger moves closer, as if he might be about to reach out and touch the coat. The woman backs into the corner and shields her daughter with her arms.

VA: Yeah, when I was a kid my dog Flopsy had fur like that. Of course, we didn't make him into a coat or anything. No, when he died we just buried him out in the gully behind the garage. Anyway, it would have taken five, maybe six dogs the size of Flopsy to make a coat like that one.

Daughter: Mommy, is that a doggie?

Woman: Of course not honey, it's fox fur.

Daughter: What's the difference between a fox and a dog?

Woman: You know the difference; a fox is a wild animal.

Daughter: Does it look like a dog?

Woman: Just a little.

The little girl starts crying as the elevator reaches the ground and the door opens. The woman glares back at the Veggie Avenger as she leaves the elevator, her daughter in her arms. Our hero shrugs and gives her an innocent smile. But inside he's confident that there's one more little girl in the world who won't wear fur when she grows up.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nineteen Things I Hate About Being a Vegetarian!

  1. I hate ordering a pizza, having them leave out the most expensive ingredient (the cheese), and still having to pay full price.
  2. Speaking of restaurants, I hate being lied to by waitpeople who are too lazy to go ask the chef, and instead tell me anything I want to hear. ("…Yeah, I think our bacon cheeseburger deluxe is totally vegetarian.")
  3. I hate it that, even if I had the money, I couldn't even consider buying really nice shoes (leather), rugs (wool), cars (leather seats), or a myriad of other products. (Why can't they make this stuff veg-friendly?)
  4. I hate the way plastic (phony leather) belts always fall apart.
  5. I hate being socially rejected as a "killjoy," and never being invited to all those social events where people with the meat-eating habit get together for their "fix."
  6. I hate it that my vegetarianism reduces my field of potential mates by 95%. (Okay, well I guess I don't mind that maybe the competition is reduced too.)
  7. I hate being in the Detroit airport at 9:00 at night and realizing that the limitations of my diet may make my food choices for the night less healthy (yes, the potato chips are vegan) than those of my meat-eating fellow travelers.
  8. I hate paying twice as much for soymilk as others pay for cow's milk.
  9. I hate having to buy the name brand of a medicine because the generic stuff only comes in "gel tabs."
  10. I hate that my vegetarianism was always a wedge between my parents and me.
  11. I hate being looked upon as a model for a healthy lifestyle. (Merely because I don't eat animals doesn't mean I don't have plenty of other vices!)
  12. I hate it when people assume that, because I'm vegetarian, I must be an aging hippie. (Even if it is true.)
  13. I hate feeling sorry for the plants I eat.
  14. I hate the fact that my organic vegetables may be supporting factory farming. (Yes, all that organic "fertilizer" has to come from somewhere.)
  15. I hate it whenever I make people go to any extra trouble to accommodate my vegetarianism.
  16. I hate not being able to stop myself from preaching to my meat-eating friends, even though I know intellectually that it won't do any good and that they'll just resent me for it.
  17. I hate the fact that nobody has developed a good, slip-on, stylish loafer that breathes and that I can wear without socks (I don't ask for much, do I?) without using leather.
  18. I hate it when restaurants and caterers assume that, because I don't eat meat, I also don't want anything with any fat, spices, or taste whatsoever.
  19. I love vegetarianism so much that I hate having to hate anything about it!

Friday, August 8, 2008

How Can It Kill Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

Back in the good old days, about eight Star Wars movies ago, life was simple. People ate meat and dairy products, they got heart disease and cancer, and they died. No one really understood all the intricacies of high-density lipoproteins and Omega-3 fatty acids in this process, but that didn't matter. Hey, life was simple and life was good. Life was short.

Today things are much more complicated. Today we spend half of our gross national product on exotic, biological research in level-5 isolation laboratories. We have genetically-engineered vegetables, new patented plants and animals, and we know all there is to know about the 3 natural and 52,126 artificial substances in our favorite foods.

The other half of our gross national product goes to studying everything we do and reporting on it with endless quantities of data. That data is fed into high-end scaleable vector processing system supercomputers, and what they spit back out is immediately routed by satellite and fiber optics to the four corners of our oval earth. A scientist in Tanzania can assess epidemiological data on the impact of corned beef consumption by left-handed people on Wednesdays in Ohio even before the sandwich wrappers hit the trashcans.

With all of these modern innovations, we now have all the knowledge we need to develop the perfect diets for our own health and the health of our loved ones. We pump out boxed dinners by the billion with promising names like "Healthy-Choice" and "Heart-Smart." Even our pets can eat "Science Diet."

So is life even better? Nah. People still eat meat and dairy products, get heart disease and cancer, and die. Life is still short.

One thing has changed, though. It's not just heart disease and cancer anymore, Toto. Our research and information skills have given us a much better idea of all the creative little ways that meat injures and kills us every day. What fun! Here are just a few of the things we've learned.

  • Exotic Diseases— People have known that infected meat is dangerous ever since the 14th century, when Tatar armies invented the first biological weapon by catapulting comrades who died of bubonic plague into the city of Kaffa. But now we have the specifics. Now we can chronicle with deadly accuracy each outbreak of Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria monocytogenes, not to mention our favorite little germ with the catchy name: Escherichia coli O157:H7. Of course, all of those seem mild compared to the brain-destroying prion protein that causes the spongioform encephalopathies "mad cow disease" in bovines and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in the humans who eat them. Meat is now routinely sold with warning labels, and the government recently recommended warnings on chickens' eggs as well. Heck somebody even came up with a warning label for bear meat which, like "pork," presents a danger of trichinosis if the meat is cooked rare.
  • Exotic Toxins— Since toxins tend to accumulate in meat, these crises seem to flare up from time to time. For years the European Union and the US have argued over the EU's ban on the import and sale of meat products treated with growth hormones. Just recently another worldwide political crisis broke out when it was discovered that farm animals in Belgium had been given feed contaminated with highly toxic dioxin. (Even if these substances never kill anyone directly, the arguing over them may lead to World War III!) In another recent incident 480,000 pounds of chicken nuggets were recalled by an Indiana company because people were having violent allergic reactions after eating them. The offensive ingredient? Dairy products!
  • Exotic Jobs— The meat industry is a dangerous place. In 1996, 154 Americans were killed working in livestock production, 73 in commercial hunting, fishing and trapping, and 29 in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. That same year 122,100 Americans were injured or became ill working at these same jobs.
  • The Truly Exotic— You want even more examples of the dangers of meat? We've got 'em! How about the 13 people who have been gored to death since Pamplona's "running of the bulls" became an international spectacle in 1926? How about the urban equivalent when, in just the past few months cows have rampaged in downtown Darwin, Australia and Atlanta, Georgia? ("traffic couldn't moove") Then there's the infamous story of the shoot-out that ensued when residents of Beaver, Oklahoma argued over ownership of "cow chips." (Apparently they were valuable as fuel.) Finally, there is the recent recommendation by a microbiologist at Kansas State University that electric bug-zappers and food should be kept apart because while they are killing insects, the zappers can spread bacteria or viruses up to six feet away.

    Okay, you say, bug zappers may be dangerous, but this isn't meat-eating, per se.

    Well, maybe not, but bug zapping is certainly in the same spirit. (Anyway, nobody's going to serve a vegan meal within six feet of one of those things.) I still say it's safer to be vegetarian—just like it's always been.