The Minimalist Vegan

The Minimalist Vegan: A Simple Manifesto on Why to Live with Less Stuff and More Compassion
by Michael and Masa Ofei, Dec. 2017, Minimalist Company Pty, Limited, 145 pages.
Book reviewed by Linda DeStefano
Translated by Rob English

This married couple from Canberra, Australia urges readers to cure themselves of the “More Virus”. This virus infects individuals and society into thinking that happiness comes from consuming more and more. Besides deadening the human spirit, this virus is killing the planet. Limited natural resources are wasted to produce items
which are unnecessary or quickly discarded. For example, plastic. Plastic is made from a diminishing natural resource (fossil fuels) and has formed a huge garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. Animals who live in or near the sea are ingesting and dying from pieces of plastic. Michael and Masa suggest avoiding plastic items which tend to be used only once, such as, plastic bags or straws.

People work many hours so they can buy more when instead they could find happiness in spending more time with people they love and pursuing activities they find fulfilling and relaxing. Although the authors don’t speak about this, I’ll add that some people don’t have the choice but to work many hours in order to support themselves and their
families. This is an injustice and indicates the vast imbalance in wealth in the US.

The authors urge us to de-clutter rather than be slaves to our possessions, which can steal too much time and mental energy to organize and maintain. They advise also to spend less time on digital devices, which causes mental clutter, information overload, distraction and over stimulation.

Are we slaves to the latest fashions? Do we buy cheap, fashionable garments and use them for only a short time? Even if we give them away rather than trash them, natural resources and energy (probably derived from polluting sources) were used to produce them. (I’ll note that cheap clothes also involve poor labor conditions). Better to
enjoy high quality clothes that look good on us and can be kept for a long time. Over 13 million tons of textiles are trashed every year in the U.S. alone and only 15% of this is recovered for recycling.

The Ofeis find that veganism melds well with their minimalist philosophy as eating fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, nuts and the many tasty dishes made from them is gentler on the Earth than raising animals for food. And it makes them happy to avoid taking part in the suffering and death of animals raised for food.

You can try vegan food by coming to a vegan social of People for Animal Rights and/or Syracuse Vegans Meetup Group. You don’t have to be vegan to attend these events but all food at the events is vegan. Contact me at People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, (315) 488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., peope4animalrightscny@gmail.com. I can also provide some hints for less wasteful living. You can contact Syracuse Vegans Meetup Group through Marybeth Fishman at mfishman4282@gmail.com or by calling her at (315)729-7338.

The Humane Gardener

art by Marjolein Bastin
Book Review by pam mcnew
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

If on grand or modest scale, one is able to apply this book’s principles to their life and the living of it, one will have the very formula of what is apt to bring true and lasting happiness (not only within you, but around you).

“We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.” Wendell Berry

There are many a book over a vast terrain of time that have encouraged us to save this earthly home by letting it be, by not harming it, by observing and respecting its very wholeness. One such book is THE HUMANE GARDENER by Nancy Lawson. I most highly recommend it.

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”
Wendell Berry

“Nothing that is necessary for life is lacking” as someone most wisely said. We have to learn to trust those words, for they are true.

So for most people it would take letting go of the false and embracing the complex-for-a-reason real world about us to be a true Humane Gardener. And this would be a really good thing.

I cannot praise highly enough the support, inspiration and worthiness of the book THE HUMANE GARDENER by Nancy Lawson. It is a humble looking book that brings new hope to me for our personal opportunity to bring about a transformed world right in our own backyard… or in the spaces around us that we might make a change.

The lure of the glamorous porn-like market of seductive non-native plants needs to be brought to its knees and made to see where true beauty lives and blooms.

Mono-cropped lawns give no hope of shelter nor nourishment to the vital diversity of life on this earth. In order for us all to survive, such practices and habits really must be changed. We need to find a new model within us… a different sense of loveliness… so that we will always keep the butterflies, the bees, the bunnies and all in between vital and thriving.

Leaves that fall give shelter to beneficial insects during the autumn, winter and spring. The nutrients they bring the soil is the health of the trees and even our very own gardens. The birds and the fish, the four footed and the microorganisms all need to be viewed in appreciative ways and protected in all our actions.

No herbicides, no pesticides, no mulches, straight rows in a formal garden will win the hearts of those who are truly nurturing their backyard habitat. And if and when united, these areas turn into life sustaining havens for the sovereign beings we ought all be concerned about and cherish. Run to get this book. It will nourish you, too.

“We don’t experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that studies also show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more apt to engage with the world and with each other. Nature, it turns out, is good for civilization.” Florence Williams

pam mcnew is a member of the board of People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., people4animalrightscny@gmail.com, peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org

“Milk Hurts”

by Teresa Melnick
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

From California’s “Happy Cow” campaign, to the catchy “Got Milk?” celebrity ads, dairy product advertising is relentless in its efforts to convince consumers that its products are wholesome, nutritious, and support the iconic family farm. We are surrounded by images of contented cows, lazily munching grass in glorious green pastures. The truth is a far cry from this idyllic pastoral scene. Unfortunately, most consumers don’t know the ugly facts about the dairy industry’s treatment of cows as disposable milk producing machines. Animal activist Ashely Capp is doing something about that with the creation of a new website Milk Hurts, and her campaign, “Mothers Against Dairy.”

Capp, a writer and editor for the website A Well Fed World, explains her upcoming Milk Hurts website: “Essentially Milk Hurts is intended to become the ‘go to’ comprehensive anti-dairy resource and database with ‘Mothers Against Dairy’ as one of its campaigns and ongoing web features.” The site will be a place where people can go to find the most current, comprehensive, fact-based research on the dairy industry’s harmful effects on animals, human health, and the environment, she says.

Capp started the campaign, “Mothers Against Dairy,” when she learned of a new direction the dairy industry was taking in its advertising.

“Mothers Against Dairy was launched as a way to directly counter the aggressive surge in pro-dairy messaging from female dairy farmers (most of them mothers) that I have encountered in my dairy research over the last several years,” Capp says. “I believe this trend is no coincidence, rather, in a climate of increased criticism of dairy farming practices, it represents a strategic industry shift to put more female faces on dairy farming, and to deceptively reframe the industry as a maternal nurturing one.”

Maternal and nurturing are not adjectives Capp would use to describe the dairy industry. Calves are removed from their mothers soon after birth and fed artificially, while the mother’s milk is harvested for human consumption. This is emotionally and physically damaging for both the cow and the calf, who visibly grieve the separation. The mother is again impregnated and the whole cycle begins again.

Capp has collected compelling first- hand accounts from women who realized, after giving birth themselves, that they could no longer support an industry that callously exploits the motherhood of cows.

(The Milk Hurts website will launch later this year, but for now you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook, or go to A Well Fed World for a link to “Mothers Against Dairy”).

Teresa Melnick is a member of People for Animal Rights (PAR). You can contact PAR at P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., people4animalrightscny@gmail.com. You can also contact Linda DeStefano who is the President of People for Animal Rights or find more information at peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.

Citizen Coyote

Reviewed by Linda DeStefano

“Citizen Coyote: Getting to Know Them – An Introduction” is an excellent 24 minute You Tube video available in English and Spanish. It provides a lot of information in a manner which is appropriate for elementary children right through to adults.

Janet Kessler took many photos of the coyotes she encountered in her walks in California as well as some videos, including the sounds of coyotes “singing.” Kessler clearly loves coyotes and wants to stop their persecution by people who unnecessarily fear them or find them a nuisance.

She uses a good teaching style geared to children by pointing out the similarities between people and coyotes, such as, both we and coyotes live in families and protect our children and our territory.

She says we now see coyotes in cities because people have destroyed much of their habitat. Also, sport hunters kill coyotes in rural areas but are not allowed to do so in the cities so coyotes feel safer in urban areas. And they can find plenty of natural food: fruit, rodents, birds, insects, etc.. They prefer this to our garbage so only a small per cent of their diet comes from garbage.

She advises that people are seldom approached aggressively by coyotes but it is always best to keep a safe distance away. If necessary, walk (do not run) away from the coyote. Keep dogs on a leach as the dog may chase the coyote – not good for either of them. Do not allow your cat or dog to wander and do not even leave them unsupervised in your yard as coyotes can scale a six foot fence.

Kessler encourages students to do coyote projects and send the information to her for possible posting on a webpage. She can be reached at coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

The video can be accessed at https://youtu.be/sZy3FJuVUbE

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, people4animalrightscny@gmail.com, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. This article was translated in spanish by Rob English.

Becoming a Vegan can be an isolating experience

Interview with Marybeth Fishman, Founder of Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup

by Teresa Melnick

Becoming a vegan can sometimes be an isolating experience. Non-vegan family and friends often don’t understand what motivates someone to adopt a plant based diet. “I wanted to meet other vegans in person,” says Marybeth Fishman, founder of Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup.  While there are plenty of on-line blogs and vegan websites, Fishman wasn’t able to find any local groups that met face to face, so she started her own. Just under a year old, Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup has grown to 225 members who meet on a regular basis to share their experiences and meet other like-minded people. It’s also a group that welcomes people who are not vegan, but who might be interested in veganism and who want to learn more.

The group, says Fishman, consists of people who have become vegan for a variety of reasons.  “We have some people who are environmentalists; some people switched to a plant based diet for health reasons, and there are people who are animal welfare advocates.” Fishman says for her, the switch to a vegan diet was mainly because of her concern for animal welfare.  “I saw the PETA video ‘Meet Your Meat’ on-line, and when I saw how farm animals are treated, all the suffering, that was the end of eating meat for me.”

The journey to becoming vegan started for Fishman, as it does for many, with becoming vegetarian first.  She thought that by eliminating meat, she was eliminating animal cruelty from her diet.  That, she learned, is only partially true.  “I didn’t know that cheese, butter, eggs, yogurt and other dairy products contribute to animal abuse as well.” After joining some vegan groups on Facebook, she read about how many animals are treated in the dairy and egg industries. Fishman then decided to eliminate all animal products from her diet, not just meat. “I became vegan that day!”

While a clear conscience was reason enough to eat a plant based diet, Fishman was pleasantly surprised by the added health benefits.  Suffering for years from stomach pains, once she changed her diet and eliminated animal products, her stomach aches went away. Fishman’s mother suffered from the same stomach problems, and also became vegan at Fishman’s encouragement and is now also pain free. “My husband is also vegan, and his cholesterol has gone way down,” says Fishman.

Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup meets monthly at various locations around the Central New York region.  “It’s mainly a social group,” says Fishman.  They often meet at coffee houses, and they have potlucks and picnics. “Most of our meetings involve eating!” Other meetings, says Fishman, focus on speakers or movies on vegan related topics. January’s meetup featured the movie “Forks over Knives.” Fishman is planning a near future meeting at her home.  “We have a professional vegan chef in our group, and soon I’m going to have him at my house so we can taste samples of his recipes.”

Fishman would like everyone to know that the Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup events are free.  Annual membership to the group is five dollars, which is due after a 30 day free trial.  For details about membership and events, go to https://www.meetup.com/Syracuse-CNY-Vegan-Meetup/.  The group also has a Facebook page (“Meetup Group for Syracuse/CNY Vegans”) that lists the events and gives people a chance to ask questions and interact with other members.

As the group expands and evolves, Fishman welcomes new members and new suggestions for meeting topics and activities.  If you would like more information about the Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup group, visit the website, go to the Facebook page, or contact Marybeth Fishman directly at mbcf8242@aol.com.

Teresa is a member of People for Animal Rights (PAR) and interviewed Marybeth at our request.  We are delighted that people in the Syracuse area now have more choices of vegan socials.  People for Animal Rights also has vegan socials as well as other activities (such as speakers and films on a variety of animal rights and environmental protection topics). Contact PAR at P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, or call us at (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., or for internet at people4animalrightscny@gmail.com, peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.

What a Fish Knows

Book review: What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Under Water Cousins

Reviewed by Linda DeStefano
Translated by Rob English

Written 2016 by Jonathan Balcombe, Director of Animal Sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy.

Some of the fascinating fishes Balcome features are shown in colorful photos in this hardcover book ($27).

Balcombe uses both anecdotal and scientific findings to reveal the complicated and varied lives of fishes. We learn about their ability to feel pain, pleasure, fear, stress, and fun, similar to other animals. It is easy for people to discount fish as they live in another element from us – water – and do not scream in a way we can hear in air. Their communication in water reveals their reaction to pain.

Balcombe explores how fishes perceive their world, their social lives, their varied means of reproduction. “The main conclusion we may draw from these aspects of what a fish knows is that fishes are individuals with minds and memories, able to plan, capable of recognizing others, equipped with instincts and able to learn from experience. In some cases. fishes have culture.” (pp. 176-177)

Fishes not only are capable of forming bonds with each other but with people. One of several examples is the relationship between Grandma, a wild shark, and Cristina Zenato, an ocean explorer, conservationist and certified dive instructor. Zenato says:

(Grandma) has a soft nature, and a way of approaching me with the desire to be petted and touched. She is usually very keen to come to me. Even when somebody else is down there with food and I am some distance away she will approach me before anybody else. Sometimes when I let her go she quickly turns and comes back into my lap. (p.145)

An example of the complicated nature of fish reproduction is that some can transition from male to female or vice versa. Others assume both male and female identities simultaneously. And seahorses carry fertilized eggs in their pouch and then give birth to the babies.

Fishes have many different ways to make a living. For example, archerfishes squirt a sharp jet of water up to ten feet through the air to capture an insect perched on a leaf. On the other hand, anglerfishes use their luminescent stalk and lantern as a lure for unsuspecting prey.

Balcombe reports on many scientific experiments using fishes, such as, their intelligence, problem-solving abilities, even kindness to a tank mate not doing well. I have a big problem with those experiments which inflict pain on fishes to scientifically prove that they feel pain. Typical humane arrogance to think science has the right to use other beings in whatever way the researchers choose.

Balcombe too has ethical concerns about some of these experiments. In the “Epilogue,” he makes an eloquent, well-reasoned argument for respectful, compassionate treatment of fishes.

I’ve barely touched the surface of the information provided in this valuable, groundbreaking book. See for yourself by borrowing from the Onondaga County Library system or buying from your favorite bookseller.

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, people4animalrightscny@gmail.com, (315)488-7877 (8 a.m. – 10 p.m.), peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org