Bumrungrad Hospital

This post had been sitting in my drafts file for six months! I may as well finally publish it! :-)

surroundsound5000

For the second year now, I have been lucky enough to have a full medical provided by the medical insurance that I have as part of my job. The small amount of money we get to actually go quite far in Asia and as well as having all the basics done, I always like to ask to have a few extras done, especially those nutrients that a vegan can be lacking. I headed on over to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok (because I just moved back here… YAY) early in the morning with an empty belly to get all my numbers done.

After lots of poking and blood work, I went back to the doctor and listened to the results. Here is our interaction, because I think it illustrates just how much many seeds that can be planted in such a short exchange.

Doctor: So your results are in. Your blood pressure is a little bit low but not low enough to require any treatment. Your BMI is excellent, calcium is fine, iron is a tiny bit low, but not enough to require any work to be done. B12 is good and your cholesterol is excellent.
Brighde: Great. Do you know why my numbers are so good?
Doctor: Why?
Brighde: Well, I have a family history of osteoporosis and high cholesterol, so I am quite sure the numbers being good is because I am vegan. Do you know what that is?
Doctor: No?
Brighde: Someone who eats only plants, like jeh. No meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, fish etc. You know, you should recommend eating this way to your patients who have heart disease. I think it would really help them.
Doctor: But, I think that it is really difficult. Even I cannot do that.
Brighde: Well, I agree with you, that at first it is difficult while you learn to eat a different way, but I want to know. What is worse? Having your chest cut open or eating vegetables?
Doctor: Hmm… Well, what about burgers? I would miss burgers.
Brighde: I can teach you how to make burgers that will be really tasty.
Doctor: Well, that sounds interesting. (She is being very polite while I am telling her how to do her job.)
Brighde: Can I have a piece of paper?

I scrawled down the names of some important films or books that she might like to peruse in her own time.

After our pleasantries, I left the office with a skip in my step knowing that I had planted some really good seeds in that interaction.

Today, I need to go an see her again to pick up the report, and I will be offering her a USB stick with my favourite health related movies which of course, she might watch.

Some other thoughts about this interaction is:

1. Why don’t doctors know more about the health benefits of eating a vegan diet? Well, I think part of this is just the few hours that doctors spend on nutrition in medical school?
2. Why are regular doctors prescribing such moderate and ineffective recommendations to heart disease patients which are rarely successful? I think an answer to this, is that they feel it is impossible to make such ‘drastic’ changes to THEIR lifestyle, surely their patients could not do it either.
3. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if hospitals had health coaches in them, that were covered by insurance that would give the sick people all the help they needed to live a plant-based lifestyle, eg cooking lessons, supermarket trips, counselling etc? Bumrungrad does have a ‘nutrition program and weight management area’ which I must find out more about, but I bet it is not what I have just described.

What is Mercy Release?

This image is taken from a Scientific American Slideshow.

I’ve now been living in Asia pretty consistently for 10 years now. I have been lucky to spend decent lengths of time in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia (and although not in Asia, I have spent a year in France and also Morocco).  The first five years were spent tour-leading for a company that focused on trips that were considered culturally appropriate, fun and low impact. I spent much of my time having local interaction with the local people, taking my clients to local restaurants. markets, temples, taught them a bit of language and I have to say, I really enjoyed it It was during that time, that I started to doubt my vegetarianism values. As I have discussed on my Story of Transformation post, I really felt that  not eating animals and participating in some of the activities that were such a significant part of culture, I was somehow disrespecting the practices of the locals. For more selfish reasons, I thought that I was perhaps missing out on so much by not eating an ‘authentic’ Tom Yum Goong with the shrimp inside rather than having it with mushrooms instead.

Fast forward a few years, I am now a committed vegan, and because of my interest in other cultures and traditions relating to animals, I was fascinated to learn about mercy release today and also completely shocked by it.

Anyone who has spent any time in Asia, will be familiar with the concept. It’s a Buddhist tradition and involves the release of captive animals. Buddhists will release animals as a way to gain merit. The origin of this centuries old tradition is the idea that spontaneous acts of kindness and compassion will mean something when judgment day comes.

I have posted about religious reasons for using animals just last year when I wrote about Eid Al Adha – which is the ritualistic slaughter of an animal at the end of the fasting month.

I have recently found out a lot more about mercy release and like most traditions (cultural or religious) that we practice today that involve animals, the origins of those traditions were started out of necessity, but today have become a commercial operation and / or are no longer necessary.

I myself have witnessed mercy release in my wanderings around Asia in the few years in the following places.

  • In the lead up to Tet (Vietnamese New Year) when fish are released in to bodies of water (that is often not the cleanest it could be).
  • Walking through the streets of Bangkok, there will be people walking around with cages full of finches. The vendor will gesture to tourists and of course to anyone who will pay the money to come over the release the birds.
  • In Thai temples (of which I visited sooooo many in my tour-leading days) there are often vendors who will sell the opportunity to release animals (often birds, turtles and eels) to those who are visiting. Of course, Buddhists who are coming to the temple are in merit-making mode and will often participate in this. Tourists often do this too. Of course, all those little animals in small cages, of course we want to let them  go.

I have to admit, that until just a couple of hours ago, I had little idea about this industry. I don’t think I have ever participated in it even in my tour-leading days. I heard rumours from other tour leaders that the animals are often recaptured. I have to admit, I wondered how an animal could be captured twice (What terrible luck!) and wondered if this was THAT bad, but at the same time, there were a heck of a lot of these animals in the cages. I probably should have found out more, but you know… I never got around to it.

Well, I just found out a whole lot more in one of favourite animal rights podcasts, Our Hen House. There were interviewing Iris Ho from Human Society International who was interviewed about this issue.

Some of the incredible takeaways from learning about this issue are:

  • In Taiwan, there are 200 million animals that are ‘mercy released’ a year. I cannot imagine how many animals go through this fate altogether considering China is a country that also practices Mercy Release. Considering these animals are trapped from the wild or bred in terrible conditions, this is an almost unbelievable.
  • The animals are often transported long distances and suffer incredible stress. Many die during this process or shortly after release. They are released in places that are not native to the animals there so there can be considerable environmental impacts.
  • The animals are trapped and the traps are often not checked for a long time. Many die before they are even collected by the trappers. Many can be injured during this trapping process.

To hear the podcast interview, listen here from 28:24  for about 20 minutes.

For a snapshot of the issue, here is a video that has been produced by HIS. It’s in Chinese, for the Taiwanese communities. Please take a few minutes to find out about more about mercy release.

The idea of showing compassion towards animals to gain merit is certainly a noble one. I would like to suggest that very often these traditions and rituals have become involved in ego, rather than about what the actual message was about when the tradition started. Here’s a few examples.

  • At Christmas it’s become about parties and gifts rather than peace and goodwill
  • Thanksgiving has become about Black Friday sales and gluttony rather than simple gratitude.
  • Eid el Adha has become about who has the biggest animal to slaughter (the rich will often have the bigger more expensive animal) rather than breaking fast and sharing meat with the poor in a time of scarcity where there wasn’t much food out there.
  • Kosher and halal slaughter – the idea that the animal has to be fully conscious so that consumers could be sure that the meat was healthy has now become a reason NOT to stun the animal before slaughter.

There is plenty we can all do to raise awareness about this practice and practice alternative types of mercy release to gain merit whether you are Buddhist or not.

Things you can do.

  • Don’t participate in the practice and educate others about it. Support HSI’s work and share the information around your social networks and over the water cooler.
  • If you work in the tourism industry, please educate your passengers about this issue and ask them to not participate. Don’t visit temples that support this practice and explain why to the monks. I wish I had known more about this issue when I was tour-leading.
  • Even if you are Buddhist, you can still gain merit by spontaneous acts of compassion towards animals. Become involved with legitimate release of animals, like ones that have been rescued and then help release them back in to the wild (turtle release programs, cleaning animals after oil spills etc) or perhaps even better, help animals 3 times a day by NOT doing something! That’s right….. Not eating them! OK. It might not be looked on as favorably in your religious community, but if you are into pleasing the Gods, I am sure they will think your intentions  will gain you loads more merit.

 

I Feel So Humbled!

For over a year now, I have been doing volunteer work for Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I am a communications liason, which basically means that I help answer Colleen’s emails.

In the past few years, as her message has been discovered by many thousands of people through her excellent podcast, she has received many letters from her listeners, fans of her books, audience members during her speaking engagements etc. Now, if Colleen, were to reply to all of these, I don’t think she would have time to do any other work! My job is to answer these emails as best as I can.

The emails that Colleen receives might be a nutrition question, a challenge they face being vegan, the heartache they experience when they first realise what is happening to animals or most often, a letter of thanks to Colleen and an expression of the joy they feel living this lifestyle.

How am I qualified to do this? Well, since becoming vegan, I have listened to Colleen’s podcasts many, many times. First of all they were just enjoyable to listen to but more importantly, I learnt many communication strategies through her and also I have an in-depth knowledge of her work and her message. I also NEEDED to listen many times. The ideas were so radically different to those that I had, I needed to listen to them multiple times in order to internalise the ideas expressed in them. This means that I am able to point people to which of Colleen’s resources they might find helpful and if that is not available, I keep up to date with so many other blogs and podcasts so they can get the resources they need. I don’t want to give anyone a reason to go back to eating animal products. I also think I am able to provide some guidance to those that write to Colleen. When writing for Colleen, I always try to stay empathetic and remember my own story.

The benefits I receive by doing this work, far outweigh the precious time I spend writing them. First of all, it gives me hope. When I just feel saddened by the incredible scale of animal suffering, I just have to read an email to know that people are changing and waking up and realizing that there is a healthy viable alternative is brilliant. I also get an incredible satisfaction to know  that I am helping people by giving them resources, or comfort and of course getting to work with my hero Colleen by doing this work is fantastic. I also love the fact that I get to hone my communication skills by doing this work. Each letter is an opportunity to speak for the animals. The more one practices, the better one becomes. It’s great for my own interactions with the people around me.

So, I have been doing this for a year now. I’ve got my little routine for answering. It usually happens on Friday evening and I hope to be doing to for a long time. I know Colleen appreciates my work (she tells me often and gives such lovely feedback) but I was incredibly humbled the other day when I listened to her podcast.

Each year, she does a podcast where she reads a collection of love letters she has received from people all around the world to give her listeners hope. This year’s episode was nearly 3 hours long! That’s a lot of love letters!

I am tickled pink because at around the 12 minute mark, Colleen takes some time to thank little ol’ me! If you want to hear what she has to say, you can click here and if you want to hear the kind of letters I have the honour of replying to, keep listening. :-)

 

Facebook Activism

Anyone who is Facebook friends with me knows that I post a couple of animal rights links or make a status update each week. I am very selective about what I post and I am always very clear about my intentions when I do post to FB or respond to a comment from someone else. My intention is only to speak for the animals, to raise awareness about the suffering of animals and to speak my truth.

I know I have been defriended by some on Facebook as these posts irritate them in some way. I am sure many others have hidden my posts from appearing on their feed, I just KNOW that these posts do make a difference and they HAVE changed people’s feelings about animals. Sometimes, it will be a blog post that I have written about my context that a fellow vegan doesn’t know about which will get some support or encouragement. Sometimes it will be a behavioral omnivore that likes a good discussion. Surprisingly for me, there are some people that will comment out of nowhere and these people would be the last people I would expect to hear from. In some cases it is people that I only knew for a very short amount of time several years ago. I am sure, for most of the people on my FB friend list, I am probably the only animal rights’ activist that they have popping up on their feed.

Sometimes my posts get no likes or comments and I used to get a bit upset about that, but I don’t now. Because I know there are people that read them, and for those people, this might be the piece of information that resonates with them and they might start to make some changes. This post is about one of these FB friends seeing stuff that I have posted. It planted a seed and if you read to the end you will see where there thinking is at now.

So… I received an email from someone I used to work with. We only worked together very briefly and I think we hardly socialised together during that short time. We became FB friends and since we no longer work together I don’t think we had any actual interactions virtual or otherwise between that time of nearly 5 years ago and now.

What follows is an email conversation that we have had over the course of several months… She originally contacted me with a couple of questions regarding diet and digestive problems. You can see over the course of the conversation how this person’s perspective changed. I think it is quite unique.

Right now, she is about to embark on a 30 Day Vegan Challenge with the intention of continuing afterwards. She is honest about the challenges she thinks she will face. I especially like the part where she calls me crazy and idealist! :-) Ha ha…

I have blanked out her name and other distinguishing parts for confidentiality reasons. She gave her permission for me to reproduce our conversation here.

I have not edited it, so forgive our probably rushed writing. Neither of us were intending it to be published to the interwebs.. I will write my friends in BLUE and my replies in GREEN

Hey Brighde,
It’s been a looong time! How are you? I am happy we remained FB friends since living in Hanoi. Being connected on FB has allowed me to read some of your posts on nutrition. I’m not sure if you remember or even how much I’ve shared about my living with irritable bowel syndrome. I have been suffering with many of the common symptoms of IBS for years and I have struggled with making dietary changes necessary to be healthier. I’ve recently taken a step back from making the minor changes that haven’t made a huge difference and looking closer what would be helpful to make an overall change with my health. 
I started with having a Meridian Stress test done to look at sensitivities and imbalances in my body. i have been reading the book Eat Right For Your Type. I am also researching various perspectives on grains vs not grains, vegetarianism and veganism for pros and cons. I have seen some of your posts and I wondered if cutting out some or all animal products would be something helpful for me. Then after reading the book Eat Right For Your Type, or least the section on Type O blood I found conflicting information. Type O’s thrive on a high protein hunter-gatherer diet. I realize we don’t live in ancient times any longer however, it sounds like information worth taken seriously in my pursuit for the ideal diet and lifestyle for my well being. I read some information on grains vs no grains and how gains are harsh on our digestive systems and how they are not necessary. 
There is soooo much information out there and sooo many perspectives. I plan to read a lot more and find a holistic nutritionist or naturopath to support me. I also wanted ask you about your diet, how you decided to make changes and what information you might have that could help me in my journey. I am wondering if you have thoughts on a blood type diet, grains or no grains diet, how eating a vegan diet benefits you? You seem to be a guru on veganism. I assume you got there by seeking a lot of information. I have a lot of questions so please let me know if you are open to sharing your insight, experiences and resources with me. 
Thanks, hope all is well with you.
XXXXXXX

Dear XXXXX,

So lovely to hear from you and thank you for getting in contact! This will be a very long email with lots of links. I have a lot to say about this issue.

There’s lots to say about a lot of different topic.

First of all, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an animal advocate which means that I really want to speak for the animals because they have no voice. I believe that if we can not only survive but also thrive on a plant-based diet that causes no harm, then why shouldn’t we? From a health point of view then basically the more we move to a plant-based diet the lower risk we are of some diseases like cancer, heart disease etc. There are some doctors that I respect like Colin T Campbell, Michael Gregor, caldwell esselstein who promote no animal foods at all, some others like J Fuhrman suggest a minimum amount.

So, regarding the blood type diet. I have to say, I don’t agree with it at all and would go so far as to say that it is a ‘fad diet.’ When I saw that I mean it is a mixture of psuedo science and mixing factual information with far-fetched assertions. I especially think the idea that we should be eating MORE protein is really terrible because, protein is not a nutrient that we need more of, in general we are having too much and that puts us at risk from all sorts of things. When you are talking about high protein hunter gatherer we are essentially talking about the Paleo Diet. This has become very popular of recent times and it is essentially a fad diet. To listen to a very good criticism of the paleo diet, then have a listen to this….

http://www.compassionatecook.com/writings/podcast-media/the-newest-diet-fad-paleo-2

The woman who produces this podcast is excellent and should you want to look more deeply at all the issues surrounding the transition to a plant-based diet then consider listening to all the podcasts which you can find on itunes. She also has an online program available very cheaply which will help you make the transition.

www.30dayveganchallenge.com

In regards to seeing a holistic doctor, hmmm…. I am not a huge fan. I am not convinced of their validity. I wasn’t always this cynical, but after I read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, I became quite critical of pseudo science. That’s my opinion. 

If you are interested in finding out more about IBS on a plant-based diet and want to speak to someone with veg friendly agenda consider this list of wellness practioners.http://www.compassionatecook.com/resources/vegan-wellness-practitioners

I don’t know much about IBS actually, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggest IBS symptoms can be relieved or disappear on a plant-based diet so I certainly think it is worth giving a really good go. Here’s some info by the excellent dr mcdougall.http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_colitis.html

If you do decide to do that, you will want some help. Cooking a plant-based diet does require climbing a learning curve and it can feel a bit scary at first as you have to relearn everything you knew about cooking. As I said, the online program is very good as is the podcast I referred to above. However, there are plenty books that have more information as well meal plans to help you make the transition. if you decide to stick with it, then you will need to relearn a few things on how to cook in a plant-based way. There are so many wonderful cookbooks and blogs these days. I assure you that eating a plant-based diet is not one of deprivation. Look at the blog post I wrote the other day..http://howtolivecompassionately.com/2012/08/24/a-victory-for-baketivism/

Basically, I won a baking contest at school against lots of accomplished bakers using regular ingredients.

Try one of these to find our more. They also have health plans and shopping lists.

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman
Anything by Dean Ornishhttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=dean+ornish

Anything by Dr McDougall and Rip Esselstyn or his dad, Caldwell Esselstyn.

Watch : Forks Over Knives or Read The China Study to understand more of the research behind the benefits of a plant-based diet

I should remind you, that you can be vegan and unhealthy. French Fries are vegan! I am advocating a wholefoods plant-based diet one very rich in vegetables (especially green leafies) and the grains that you do eat should be whole grain and fantastic wholefood proteins like beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh. Those expensive vegetarian meats that you can buy in the supermarket are great for transitioning to a plant-based diet when you aren’t skilled at plant-based cooking, or as a special treat.

I hope that helps you a little bit. Please let me know if you decide to go down this road. I know this stuff inside out and can help if you have any further questions.

All the best,

Brighde

Hi Brighde!

It’s been awhile since last emailing. I have been crazy busy with starting a new position at my school year. I am back into the classroom after being out for 8 years. xxxxx has suffered huge financial cuts to education. Our majority government is trying to balance the provincial budget in an unreasonable timeframe. Yuck. It has been a lot of work to transition back into a classroom. I haven’t gotten too lost in my work that I haven’t been still thinking and reading about nutrition, diet, animal products, etc.

Oh my…I am CONSIDERING doing the 30 day Vegan Challenge…I have been going back and forth and ALL around with my thoughts on the idea of attempting to see if it possible. Damn I am hating teaching Social Studeies it mays me wanna do what I say…ha!

As well, I’ve called you crazy, idealist, and many other labels as I have been processing some of the information I’ve been listening to and reading. I’ve prided myself on being able to think and act outside the box for most of my life. I like being challenge and have always said that when you are challenged on your understanding and opinions, either you can come out stronger in your beliefs or you are able to see another perspective that has made you consider changing your thinking; therefore acting. Great…lol…again I’ve been really challenged to put my ‘money where my mouth is’. I’m up for challenging other ways of thinking/acting but this one has me struggling.

I am still unsure how I may be able to maintain a vegan life. I can see the potential of become a vegetarian, however, veganism is very restrictive. I get it but because animal products are in so many foods one wouldn’t think it is very difficult. I know, that doesn’t justify continuing to act with the masses but this change requires radical change. Oh my, as I type I realize how this sounds. I seem to how found a true challenge that requires more consistent action then some of my other challenges. 30 days is not a significant amount of time so worth attempting to make a conscious change for that time. It also gives me time to either figure out how not to eat turkey at Christmas or a reason to dive into the whole turkey…lol…(maybe a bad joke to you as a vegan but humour helps me)! I guess I am trying to say that doing a trial gives me a temporary commitment with an open mind.

Ok…let’s see if I can really do this and when. Thoughts please??

From XXXXX

Hi XXXXXXX,

Thanks for your email and for thinking about this so much! There are so many things I want to say.

I know this must seem like a daunting prospect making this change. I thought exactly the same.. Giving up dairy?? I thought I could never do that yet I did.

I am detecting your motivations for trying a vegan diet have changed. Is that correct? Let me know because that will help me advise you. At first you were keen to do this for dietary reasons. is that still the case?

So…. I sense that some of your concerns is how to cope socially and also during special occasions like Christmas? IT can seems difficult at first, the solution is to replace the animal products with something else. I have a delicious nut roast with vegan gravy. I doesn’t feel like deprivation at all. I never feel sad that I am missing out on anything. It took a while though.

This podcast might help with the social situations….http://www.compassionatecook.com/writings/podcast-media/10-tips-for-eating-vegetarian-in-social-situations-2 and there is lots of information within the challenge to help you.

The reason for 30 days is it takes 30 days to change a habit.

These podcasts also by Colleen are very good.http://www.compassionatecook.com/category/writings/food-for-thought-writing It was this podcast that made me a committed vegan from a blah vegetarian.

Many people think that being vegan is extreme and it is about saying no. Yes it is extreme…. It is about extreme kindness and unlimited compassion for all sentient beings. You will probably find that you care more about many other social justice issues when you become vegan. I did…..And about vegan being about saying no? Yeah…. It is about saying no to violence. There are 3000 edible plants in the world. There’s really no shortage of amazing foods to eat. I love the quote ‘If you look for lack, that’s what you’ll find. If you look for abundance that’s what you’ll find’. regarding animal products in foods, I assume you are talking about those funny ingredients in lots of processed goods. Well, we should not really be eating those highly processed foods anyway. Don’t worry about those ingredients at first. That’s something for later.

I’d say the only time it is especially annoying or difficult is on the very rare occasions when I am travelling in a rural asian area. There’s always something (like fried rice) and I might have to eat that a few meals in a row but I always tell myself, that eating fried rice a few times is just a little boring. Nothing compared to what the animals go though. I just suck it up…. It happens rarely. For you it might mean a green salad and a tomato based spaghetti at the least veg friendly place. I never have a problem because I always go to veg restaurants that I like where I have lots of choices. All vegans do that.

The interesting thing is, I eat an incredibly varied diet much more than before I was vegan. I eat incredibly healthily and well. In Canada you have a huge selection of regular vegan stuff you can buy at the supermarket and even more that you can buy online. I rarely eat those because I have learnt the skills to cook from scratch. It took me a while to do that though but you can use these foods to start with or in case of emergencies.

You might be interested to know that there are 34 listings on Happy Cow for XXXXXX, but you can eat something anywhere.

Does that help a little? Let me know if you have some other questions. We can talk on SKYPE if you like.

Brighde

Hi Brighde,

I’ve been wanting to reply, however, life has continued to be busy, hectic and even difficult lately. I still, however, have been able to read and listen to more of the information you have suggested.

Yes, my motivations for changing my diet have morphed from being solely about my physical to becoming more about ethical choices. The information you have shared really hit me. The podcasts were awesome. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau made me laugh and cry. I related a lot to the use of language when it comes to animals. I OFTEN use the same kind of dialogue with students when it comes to discrimination and harassment in schools. Language has a lot of power, both helpful and hurtful. I also often share the historical meaning of many sayings we use in everyday that many of us don’t know or make connections to.

I really enjoyed the way Colleen presents her information. I felt like she was sitting in my living room having a chat. She is informative without preaching or casting judgement. I went away from reading and listening feeling like I made even more connections to things I already knew but didn’t connect with when it comes to animals. I peeled another layer of stupidity off me. The more I learn, the more empowered I feel about living a value based life. I must admit that at times I feel life would be easier if I lived under a rock and didn’t know anything. But mostly I am grateful to be in a place to learn and make choices on how I want to live my life. I tell my students that “when you know better, you do better”.

I’ve been working on aligning my values with my thoughts and actions in other areas of my life so this information comes at a time in my life that it fits. I ate chicken recently and it tasted like an animal rather than the food I knew it to be for many years. I remember when XXXXXXXX first put together that ‘chicken’ was actually a chicken. I remember saying “yes hunny it is a real chicken”. She cried and wondered why we were eating it. I thought something similar when I was listening to Colleen talk about eating chicken vs eating chickens. It is amazing how much disassociation we do when eating. I don’t know how I wasn’t able to make these connections before now. Maybe I can now because of all the personal growth I’ve done in therapy in the last couple of years on dealing with past baggage and moving forward to a value based life.

I was chatting with a vegetarian friend recently who doesn’t eat animal meat but does eat fish and foods with animal products. She says she doesn’t eat meat because she thinks of the animal. I wonder why people who are vegetarian continue to eating other animal products and get disgusted when thinking about eating meat. To me it seems logical that if you give up eating animals for compassionate and/or ethical reasons that you wouldn’t eat any part of an animal.

Without trying to sound hypocritical, I have been cutting more and more animal meat and products out of my diet, but not completely. I have been reading more and more labels and buying more and more products that are vegan. I do have a lot of choices in XXXX. I have been still eating things I already have in my fridge, have on my shelves and in my freezer that have animal products in them. My thinking there is related to financial reasons since I already purchased them.

I am struggling with the holidays coming and giving into family and friends but I am working on that by buying vegan recipe books. So having said all that I get the idea of transitioning. It is the best way not to fall back into old habits of eating comfort food because of disassociating from what it really is.

One thing I don’t see myself doing yet is throwing away my leather boots, shoes and jackets. I don’t see myself buying anymore leather footwear or clothing but giving up my Birkenstocks would be very hard.

I guess it’s not as cut and dry as I suggested in the beginning of this message. I do, however, see myself thinking differently about dietary choices since I first messaged you months ago.

I’ll like to take you up on a Skype chat sometime soon. It may be helpful since I have made a shift in thinking and working on the rest.

Thanks for continuing to support me on my journey.

XXXXXXX

Hi XXXXXXX,

Your message absolutely made my day!  I am so pleased you are considering making changes and that this vegan thing has resonated with you. I truly do believe that most people would make changes once they know this information. Some people cut out animal products overnight, some take a bit longer and that is absolutely fine.  I did exactly the same as you in regards to the food products in my fridge. Throwing them away doesn’t help the animals, not buying new ones does! The same goes for leather. Many vegans will wear their pre-vegan leather until it runs out. Seb gave me a lovely leather (and expensive) handbag just a couple of months before I became vegan. I didn’t want to throw it out. I thought that was wasteful. I did finally give it away when I just couldn’t handle the thought of using it anymore. Probably after about 18months. In regards to your Birkenstocks, I think there are vegan ones available. When your ones wear out, you can get vegan ones if you’d like to…http://www.birkenstock.co.uk/index.php?m=catalogue&a=vw_prodlist&pgr_pgrid=12

In regards to the upcoming holidays, yes… this can be a difficult time. I have attached a recipe for my absolutely favourite Christmas turkey substitute and gravy. It does have egg in it, but I substitute for egg replacer and it works perfectly. My family have been making this every year since I was 12 and it is a winner of a recipe. We’ve only been veganising it for the past 4 years though. The gravy is outstanding.

Colleen also just released a lovely video on a vegan thanksgiving which can also be applied for other holidays too. here’s a link…http://www.the30dayveganchallenge.com/fe/34108-thanksgiving-video

In regards to your friend who is vegetarian yet eats fish and some animal products. You are absolutely right. It is strange. I know… I was one of them for many years… I am not sure if I gave you the link to my story…. Apologies if I have… here it is…http://howtolivecompassionately.com/2011/10/29/my-story-my-awakening/

The fact was, I was vegetarian for 20 years and I just didn’t realise about the impact of livestock production on dairy cows and egg laying chickens. It was a terrible shock knowing that by drinking milk, I am contributing to the veal industry, the terrible rape racks and or course the slaughter of spent dairy cows not to mention the terrible conditions most are kept in. I honestly had no idea. Perhaps your friend is like that too.

Many vegetarians eat fish. I think people think that they do’t feel pain when they are caught. Fish are also soooo different to us, it is hard to empathise with them but once you realise they DO feel pain and that they want to live (there are over 600 studies that say that they do feel pain) then you don’t want to eat them anymore… Well, I don’t anyway… Colleen has an excellent podcast on the fishing industry and by catch you might want to recommend to your friend if the time is right.

Of course, if you have any other questions let me know… I am happy to help.

Keep listening, reading and learning XXXXXXX. I am so filled with hope! 

Would you mind if I put our emails in to a blog post? Your thinking is so unique and I think a lot of people would be interested to read it I would take out all details that could identify you. Your choice. I would never post it without your permission…..

Take care,

Brighde

Hi Brighde,

Hope you enjoyed your holidays.

I started my 30 day vegan challenge today and have registered online tonight. I don’t start receiving day 1 messages until tomorrow. December turned out to do pretty crazy and I felt that starting a completely animal free diet would have been very difficult. I am committed now for the 30 days and aiming for beyond.

I’ll keep in touch with questions and updates if you still don’t mind. I am thinking time won’t lapse as long as my previous messages with this challenge.

BTW…I don’t mind you posting our messages. I am a little curious on how my thinking is unique?

Happy New Year!

XXXXX

Hi XXXXX,

This is fantastic. I wish you all the luck with the challenge and your future intentions…. You are very welcome to contact me at any time if you have questions concerns or comments….

About your story, thank you so much! Hmmm… I guess it is unique in that it is incredibly honest. I love how your thinking is changing over the emails and how you are open to such changes and the fact you are prepared to question what you and society have done.

I will publish them to the blog making sure they are anonymous…

I applaud you for giving this a try. 

Best wishes,

Brighde

Eid Al-Adha

It’s been a very tough day for me. An emotional rollar coaster day. I have so much going on at work, but it is hard to focus when there is so much pain and suffering. Today was one of those days. I just felt like crying all day and it kept getting worse.

It started off with buckets of tears as I watched the new film released by Animals Australia to coincide with their new campaign to ban factory farming. A fantastic video that tugs at the heart strings. It was comforting to see it shared on so many Facebook pages. I hope it opens hearts and minds and that people make changes.

A long hard day at work came to an end and as I was cycling home. I saw this fella. There was another in his place this time last year. Now, despite living in suburban Indonesia, I live in a gated community and it doesn’t look that much different from one in the US except security is tighter here. An animal like here tied up is certainly a novelty. This guy will be slaughtered on Friday to ‘celebrate’ Eid Al Adha.

I approached him. I tried to pet him, but he wouldn’t let me. He sniffed my hand and I felt his warm breath on my hand. I was welcomed by the guys there who were setting up  what I think must be a tent or a shelter. Possibly for the after slaughter party, I’m not sure. As I looked him in the eye and knew that this was a creature that would be literally fighting for his life in less than 36 hours. That he probably did not want to die. According to Wikipedia, the animal that is slaughtered is just a symbol. A symbol to represent what Abraham’s sacrifice and 100 million animals will be slaughtered over the course of 2 days. I am sure that much of this meat goes to waste. Instead of this senseless violence, can’t we just spend a few minutes thinking deeply about Abraham’s sacrifice instead of having to bring an innocent animal in to it?

In case anyone thinks I am being anti-Islamic here, I swear I am not. I have had several discussions with some behavioral omnivores who feel that this holiday is incredibly barbaric. I agree… But I find any ritual or tradition that needlessly kills an animal for the sake of tradition barbaric. The turkey that is the centre of the dinner table at Christmas and Thanksgiving, hunting for eggs at Easter time, steak on BBQ, it’s all unnecessary. The difference is in Islamic countries you look in to the animals eyes and use the knife. With turkey, someone else has been paid to do that for you. I have observed many rituals and festivals without the use of animals and the feeling that my special meal has come together without intentionally harming any living thing is so wonderful. I celebrate Christmas. Isn’t peace supposed to be a focus of Christmas? Christmas took on new meaning for me when I gave up all animal products.

To the beautiful bull with a gentle face and kind eyes not 50 metres from my house. I wish I could save you. I will just keep raising awareness so that your death was not in vein. I hope your death is swift and as painless as possible. Know that there are some people speaking for you and your kind.