Thursday, November 3, 2016

LIFTING THE VEIL - November 2016

by Fireweed for the Island Word, November 2016 issue

Donald Watson climbing 
mountain on his 93rd birthday 
     November 1st, in case you didn't know, was World Vegan Day. Just 2 days earlier this year in London, England, 2,000 vocal animal liberationists took to the streets declaring that “a different future for animals is possible!” Such a demonstration would have been unheard of in 1944 when teacher and conscientious objector Donald Watson (originator of the word 'vegan') and five cohorts co-founded the UK Vegan Society. By the time World Vegan Day was established to commemorate the Society's 50th anniversary, no one could recall the exact day in November the organization had been born. Louise Wallis, Chair of the Society in 1994 later explained her choice: “I decided to go for November 1st partly because I liked the idea of this date coinciding with Samhain/Hallowe'en and the Day of the Dead – traditional times for feasting and celebration, both apt and auspicious.”

Watch the trailer here

     Commercialization has certainly played a role in transforming Hallowe'en from a time of honouring ancestors and loved ones in the spirit world into far less reverential engagement with the cyclical mysteries of life and death. I'll never understand how feelings of fear can be embraced as a kind of entertainment, but apparently there are plenty of people who crave having the bejeezus scared out of them! When early Hallowe'en revellers in Ontario showed up for a free film billed as “possibly the scariest movie ever created” they were taking their chances. However, few were prepared for the frightening realities revealed in “Earthlings,” Shaun Monson's 2005 documentary about the way animals are routinely treated in the entertainment, research, clothing and food industries. Apparently half of the movie-goers walked out angry in the first thirty minutes. In their opinion, the screening had been falsely advertised. Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance member Malcom Klimowicz disagreed with that allegation in an interview with the Canadian Press. “The true horror of the film,” he said, “comes from the fact that it depicts real events.” 

Animal Rights March, London England, Oct. 29th, 2016
photo credit: Jack Taylor, Getty Images Europe
     When Animal Justice lawyer Anna Pippus weighed in on social media about the unconventional showing of “Earthlings”, she opined that those angry about deception really need to be asking themselves why they aren't angry about what's happening to animals. Such a perspective would most certainly have been shared by last weekend's demonstrators in England, as it is among the growing social justice movement for animals here in Canada. Its been 16 years since Monson's powerful film first shocked the world with its unflinching expose, yet as Mercy for Animals' recent undercover investigation in a turkey slaughterhouse discloses, plenty of egregious animal suffering is going on behind closed doors right now, right here in our own country that should definitely outrage us all.

photo credit: Mercy for Animals
click here to watch W5's "Fowl Business"
      CTV News aired the Lilydale turkey story in a W5 segment with reporter Victor Malarek called “Fowl Business,” and it is available to viewers online. I will spare you the details, but one worker in the BC slaughterhouse recorded by Mercy for Animals' undercover investigator describes torturous incidents he himself has witnessed time and time again on the job as nothing less than a “f-ing horror show.” Earlier last month animal advocates celebrated a victory when it was learned that several individuals have agreed to plead guilty in a criminal case resulting from hidden camera footage obtained over two years ago on an Abbotsford dairy farm, also through Mercy for Animals. But
Fowl Business” is another wake-up call for consumers of animal products, most importantly because the disturbing cruelty it reveals has been declared by management and so-called experts like Temple Grandin as constituting totally legal, standard industry practises.

     As animal welfarist Ruth Harrison wrote in “Animal Machines” (1964): “In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to a lot of animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.” 

     The W5 report concludes by emphasizing that there are 'less cruel' ways to slaughter turkeys.  Reform is slow, and cruelty should be abolished not regulated. The good news is that choosing a 100% plant-based diet has never been easier for those of us with the privilege of choice. In fact, among compassionate food bloggers dedicated to inspiring others with delicious vegan recipe ideas, the entire month of November is now celebrated as Vegan MoFo (Vegan Month of Food) online.  Click HERE for over 100 links to official participants, and HERE for a compact list of vegan resources compiled by BC musician and social justice activist Elyse Belladonna in honor of World Vegan Food Day and Vegan MoFo! 

Roasted Autumn Vegetable Soup (with thanks to The Buddhist Chef!)

1 sweet potato
1 onion
3 carrots
2 T. olive oil 
1/8 tsp. nutmeg 
1/4 tsp. cinnamon 
1/4 tsp. ground cumin 
1/4 tsp. turmeric 
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable stock 

Roasting veggies brings out their natural sweetness! Preheat your oven to 350 F and coarsely chop the vegetables. Toss them in a bowl with the oil and spices, mixing well. Bake for 30 minutes on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. After removing from the oven, place in a saucepan or sturdy blender and drain off any excess oil. Add your veggie stock (I use palm-oil free and organic Better Than Bouillon, available at Edible Island).Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the veggies are tender (about 15-20 minutes). Blend in batches with an immersion blender or puree until smooth in your Vitamix or similar kitchen appliance. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


  by Fireweed for the Island Word, September 2016 issue

     Did you know that for five centuries in Europe, pigs (and other farmed animals) could actually be arrested for a perceived crime, then tried and convicted in a court of law?

Illustration from "Chambers Book of Days" depicting trial in 1475
     We tend to think of granting moral agency to other species as a contemporary phenomenon, but historian James McWilliams thinks that recognizing certain animals as individuals with unique personalities came more naturally to people in pre-industrial agrarian societies. Living in such close proximity to those they raised for food and other uses would have fostered what McWilliams refers to as “observational intimacy.” The resulting projections made by our ancestors onto the animals they still chose to dominate may befuddle us, but McWilliams' research into these odd trials is telling – somewhere along the way we lost our ability to empathize with farmed animals as sentient beings.

     It has been suggested that speciesism predates all other forms of domination, but we can certainly credit industrialization for a shift in attitude towards our fellow earthlings that has profoundly deepened that divide. Through automated exploitation existing on such a massive scale that any semblance of individuality is routinely disappeared and rendered irrelevant, factory farms produce almost 99% of the animal-derived foods consumed today. Animals have become “Ghosts In Our Machine”, described by Professor Will Kymlicka in reference to the documentary film by Liz Marshall, as “ubiquitous but invisible members of the community: essential in its functioning; the creators of its wealth, utterly governed and regulated by its laws and policies; and tyrannized by complete absence from political representation or participation.”

Anita Krajnc speaks with reporters outside courthouse, 8/24/16
     In a contemporary Canadian courtroom, however, pigs were recently afforded long overdue consideration thanks to a case that has generated international media attention. As reported previously in this column, activist Anita Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief last year for an act of mercy - providing water to over-heated pigs in the transport truck delivering them to a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario. During the trial (now scheduled to reconvene on October 3rd), Anita and her legal team have been exposing the cruelty inherent in treating animals as mere commodities - not like someones, but somethings.

     For animal activists around the world it is the pig farming industry that is every bit as much on trial here - and the hypocrisy inherent in upholding some animal lives as worthy of protection while others count for nothing but profit. The BC SPCA's recent request for the public's assistance in finding whomever is responsible for leaving a deceased dog in a Coquitlam dumpster is one tragic case in point: that poor animal was determined by autopsy to have died from hyperthermia. There is no sound explanation why the lives of thousands of pigs found dead on arrival after transport in extreme temperatures each year throughout Canada should matter any less. Our laws are unjustly discriminatory. All pigs are as aware and sensitive to their surroundings as the companion animals we rightly treasure - none deserve to either suffer or die prematurely.

Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910
     Whether or not the court sentences Krajnc to jail time, Toronto Pig Save (the group she co-founded) will continue to hold vigils like the one that led to her arrest. Solidarity actions are taking place around the globe with new Save groups motivated by Krajnc's commitment to “putting personal faces on the nameless numbers.” Krajnc believes strongly that the act of bearing witness to injustice is a moral obligation. She is inspired in part by the Russian non-violence advocate and celebrated author Leo Tolstoy - “When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to she who suffers, and try to help her.” 

Thankyou Anita! #CompassionIsNotACrime

SPUDS  2016 Harvest, Denman Island
We've just completed our community organic potato patch harvest for another year here on Denman Island, and mmm...mmm, those spuds are delicious! Russians love their potatoes too, and in honour of vegetarian revolutionary Leo Tolstoy, the following variation on a theme is 100% vegan delicious!


14 ounces potatoes, cooked until tender
3/4 cup green peas
3 ounces carrots, cooked until tender
1 ounce chopped dill pickle                     
1/3 cup corn
0.6 ounce pickled onions
1/4 cup vegan mayo (Vegannaise, or Just Mayo)
1/3 cup soy yogurt (or see substitute below*)
2 T pickle jar vinegar, or 1 T umeboshi vinegar
1 pinch smoked paprika
chopped fresh dill to taste
1 pinch black pepper
sea salt to taste
4or 5 leaves romaine lettuce
optional: add chopped Field Roast sausage
substitute: a homemade, creamy cashew dressing
for store bought ingredients (recipe below)

Boil cob of organic corn for 3 minutes. Remove from pot. Dice carrots & potatoes into roughly 1/2 inch pieces & cook or steam until fork tender only. Set aside to cool. Chop pickled cucumber & onions. Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl. Add seasonings. Use a sharp knife to remove corn kernels from cob. Fold all cooled & chopped veggies together gently into the dressing. Add peas (can be raw or steamed). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove at least a half an hour before serving and add additional seasonings to taste. Gently fold in chopped sausage, and transfer to serving dish of choice on a bed of romaine lettuce leaves. Prijatnogo appetita!

SUBSTITUTE: Replace the store-bought vegan mayo and soy yogurt in my 'quick and easy' recipe above with the following creamy deliciousness! Soak 3/4 cup of raw cashews in warm water for a few hours. Pat dry, then combine in a blender with 1/3 cup olive oil, about 3 T of fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp of rice vinegar, 3 - 4 T of nutritional yeast, 3-4 T of almond milk, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 T dried dill, 1.5 tsp sea salt and 1.5 tsp black pepper (more to taste). Pulse blend until smooth. If you have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, toss in raw cauliflower to expand volume, blend again and correct seasonings!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


               by Fireweed for the Island Word, May 2016 issue

Jordan & Athena
       Here's hoping that Jordan and Athena are already neck deep in mountain blueberries by now! Thankfully, the black bear siblings were in very good health at the time of their June release on Vancouver Island. Sufficient fat stores should help ease any difficulty transitioning back to life in the wild after their year-long stay at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. Orphaned at just a few months of age in Port Hardy, the cubs gained notoriety after it became widely known that the Conservation Officer responsible for their mother's death had refused an order to destroy them also. Bryce Casavant's defiance cost him his job, but today Athena and Jordan are back where they belong, roaming free.

click on image to enlarge
      Contact with humans was strictly prohibited while the cubs were in captivity in order to increase their chances for long term survival. Six other young bears who haven't shared the media spotlight were released the same week, but Jordan and Athena were fitted with GPS tracking devices. A bear's search for food is such a driving force, it's no surprise that their incredible sense of smell can also lead to their demise. Sadly, conservation officers destroy hundreds of so-called “nuisance bears” around the province every year. The village of Cumberland, here in the Comox Valley, is particularly challenged because it just so happens to
be on a main migratory route for the regional population. Senior Conservation Officer Dan Dwyer has stated that bear encroachment into urban areas seems to come in cycles (lack of rainfall being one precursor of note.) The recent, widespread devastation wrought by fire in northern Alberta pushed bears into the evacuated city of Fort McMurray, beckoned by the aroma of rotting garbage and thawing freezers. We can only hope to learn, in time, that Jordan and Athena are managing to survive as far away from human activities as possible.

Fort McMurray, May 2016
        Cumberland , and many other communities here in BC and beyond, are to be applauded for promoting public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing human/bear conflicts at the local level. Understanding the bigger environmental picture is also crucial. Shrinking habitat is the most serious threat to natural food access for wildlife all over the planet today. Yes, that problem is tied directly to human encroachment (of all kinds), but it is also exacerbated by the myriad ways we are collectively contributing to global climate change. Scientists predict that as the planet continues to warm, we can expect an increase in, and frequency of, the kind of terrifying wildfires that wiped out thousands of creatures and their homes in bone dry northern Alberta this spring (spreading toxic ash from the incineration of human habitat in their wake.) As that ravaged landscape slowly recovers, its entire ecology is likely to change. According to researchers with Audubon and World Wildlife Fund, rising ocean and air temperatures are already forcing animals to “chase” the habitats they are accustomed to. Astoundingly, roughly half of the world's species are currently on the move. The situation is already so dire that an estimated one in six is predicted to go extinct if warming continues at its current pace.

Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance in the Walbran
        It's all connected. Ottawa is finally recommending marine protected areas and fishery closures to try and help save the threatened killer whales off our coast. Vancouver Island black bears depend on those fish too. And they play a major role in the redistribution of salmon nutrients vital to the health of our temperate rainforests. That these biologically diverse ecosystems remain under attack is utterly unacceptable- we need to stop logging the old growth right now! Conservationists recognize that doing so would have the potential to significantly help reduce BC's overall carbon dioxide emissions and enhance the function of our natural carbon sinks. We've been duly warned that the world is on a path of catastrophic global warming and that we should seek to reduce emissions as much and as quickly as possible.

James Cameron
       China recently showed the world it's paying attention by going where no western government has dared to tread so far- it is alerting its citizens to the fact that animal agriculture is responsible for more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined and urging major dietary reform. Movie director James Cameron (lesser known as the vegan owner of Beaufort Winery here in the Comox Valley), is one of the celebrity spokespeople recruited to help spread the word. “China's move to cut meat consumption in half would not only have a huge impact on public health,” he told the UK Guardian, “it is a massive leadership step towards drastically reducing carbon emissions and reaching the goals set out in the Paris agreement."

      There are so many wonderful new 100% plant-based products on the market today, that it's easier than ever for those of us with the privilege of choice to make compassionate, climate-friendly food choices seven days a week. The all vegan sausages, hot dogs and amazing burgers from “The Very Good Butchers” on Denman Island are one more great reason to come explore our wonderful Farmer's Market any Saturday morning this summer. And here's a novel, incredibly tasty recipe to make at home, then introduce to others at that next barbecue!

(with special thanks to Deborah Cooper 
for her original recipe on Blacks Going

thx to HighCarb Hannah for this photo

You'll need:
8-10 medium sized organic carrots
2 cups water
Marinade Ingredients:
2 TB. Liquid smoke
1/4 cup Bragg's Aminos or Tamari
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Veggie bouillon (or non-chicken) broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 TB. maple syrup

Peel carrots to uniform shape, rounding ends (size to fit your buns.) Simmer in boiling water only until fork tender (approx. 8-10 minutes, don't overcook!) Combine marinade ingredients. Drain al dente carrots and run under cold water to cool. Lay all carrots flat in the marinade (a zip style plastic freezer bag works well) and marinate for 6-24 hours (no longer.) Place carrots in a hot non-stick skillet with a bit of the marinade to caramelize and brown the exterior. Serve with all the traditional fixings on an organic bun, and enjoy!

Please visit the LINKS column on the right hand side of this page for article references along with more great summer recipe ideas. And thank you in advance for sharing The Transition Kitchen column!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


                                          by Fireweed for the Island Word, May 2016 issue

 5 dogs rescued by Soi Dog now in BC
Five lucky dogs rescued from the illegal dog meat trade in southeast Asia arrived in BC recently, attracting the kind of media attention hard to come by for Canadian-born canines.

Some 2 million homeless dogs already reside in this country, leading to approximately 600,000 being euthanized each year. Busy rescue transport operators AirAngels Canada are concerned about the fact that for every dog they are asked to help relocate here at home, they receive a minimum of three requests to import foreign-born dogs. “It's trendy to support local farmers and home grown, organic produce” they say in an online missive that questions the inconsistency of adopting companion animals from abroad. “We're proud to tell everyone at the dog park about the animal we've rescued from an exotic land, but did we consider the homeless pets in our own province and country?”

Of course it's fantastic news that Buster, Cherish, Trayat, Satia and Woodpecker have been blessed with a new lease on life. According to the Soi Dog Foundation, the Thai organization responsible for saving them, prior to 2011 some 500,000 stray dogs (and others!) were illegally exported to Vietnam for human consumption every year. Trucks intercepted en route to the border are still typically stacked with cages jam-packed with terrified animals. Many die from suffocation or other horrific injuries before they ever reach a slaughterhouse. Given the revulsion and outrage we feel over such cruelty, should we not be equally disgusted by the fact that the legal transport of chickens and other livestock right here in Canada results in similar suffering and mortality? Why is their fate any less disturbing?

photo from CETFA
It's been well documented that spent hens, for example, are very roughly handled, carried upside down several at a time, and crammed into crates for transport. Not only are bruising and broken limbs common place, an estimated 1.6% die in transit in Canada from such injuries or the extreme weather conditions to which they are exposed. Of course we are appalled by the dog meat trade first and foremost because dogs are off the menu in this area of the world. But selective compassion is absolutely socially constructed. Just as AirAngels Canada wants us to pay as much attention to the exploitation, neglect and premature deaths of Canadian dogs as we do to those killed for meat elsewhere, a growing number of animal activists are bearing witness as livestock transport trucks roll up to slaughterhouses in order to draw attention to the fate of the animals generally commodified for consumption in this country.

Anita Krajnc giving water to pigs at a
Toronto Pig Save vigil      
These conscientious folks are inspired by Anita Krajnc who co-founded Toronto Pig Save after encountering pigs on trucks bound for slaughter while out walking her dog. Recognizing an eerie similarity to her beloved companion in each set of eyes looking back through the slats in those vehicles, Krajnc knew she had to do something. Five years later, after providing water as an act of mercy to animals clearly suffering from heatstroke in a transport truck just outside of Fearman's Pork Inc. in Burlington, Ontario, Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief (and faced with the possibility of a ten year sentence). She'll be back in court this August with no intention of paying any fine, prepared to suffer imprisonment instead. Krajnc believes that treating living animals like pigs as property - “no different than a toaster” - is morally wrong and that compassion is not a crime.
Bill C 246 will
ban the sale of dog
 & cat fur
When it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect, Canada's antiquated Criminal Code is woefully inadequate. Compassionate citizens would do well to urge their Members of Parliament to support Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith's private member's bill, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act. As Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies explains, it aims to close loopholes in current animal cruelty provisions like those that “allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist.” At the heart of the Act she adds, “is the proposed creation of a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animals' welfare.” The Bill will prohibit shark finning in Canadian waters and ban the import of dislocated fins, and it will ban the sale of dog and cat fur, requiring animal fur products to be labeled with country of origin and species identified.

Contrary to the fear mongering from certain corners (namely industries and individuals who exploit animals and are therefore wary of welfare reforms), Bill C 246 is hardly radical. While I am whole-heartedly on Anita's side myself, I know we are a long way from affording rights to animals that would liberate them from their status as property, where applicable, under existing Canadian legislation. However, Bill C 246 will address some long-standing problems. Tune in to this excellent interview on Vancouver Co-op Radio's Animal Voices with Erskine-Smith, and find out how you can do your part to help make sure the Modernizing Animal Protection Act becomes law.

For additional details, please see MAY 2016 LINKS on the right hand side of this page. Now, here's a tasty Thai salad recipe to spice up your next picnic lunch, or to enjoy for supper on a warm summer evening... bon appetit!

SUMMER - THAI SALAD  (with thanks to Linda Wagner for the original recipe!)                                                
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup white or balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. finely minced ginger
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. almond butter
2 Tbs. Hoison sauce
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. spicy chili oil (optional)
1 tsp. sriracha or more if you like it spicy!
(sriracha is a type of hot chili sauce)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
a bit of agave or maple syrup to taste
3 chopped green onions

thinly sliced red & orange bell peppers
thinly chopped or shredded kale and cabbage
shredded carrots, chopped green onions
1.5 cups frozen edamame, thawed
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 a lime (more to taste)

Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar, screw on the lid and shake. Prepare your veggies and toss with your freshly squeezed lime juice. Add your coarsely chopped cashews, plate and serve with the dressing poured over top and garnished with green onions. Enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2016


                                                    by Fireweed for the Island Word, Feb. 2016
"nutritious seeds for a sustainable future"
     The UN has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Could we really heal the world with dried peas, beans and lentils? The founder of Salt Spring Seeds Dan Jason sees incredible potential in these versatile superfoods - and he is in very interesting company!

     First of all though, pulses deserve to be appreciated as members of the legume family that have been cultivated for thousands of years. In his wonderful new book The Power of Pulses, Jason praises these nutrient-dense plants as “the epitome of renewable energy.” They are nitrogen fixers, so actually increase soil fertility. They can be grown organically anywhere with very little water, and are both “the food you eat plus the seed for next year's crop.” A recipe for food security if ever there was one!

Visit Salt Spring Seeds HERE
     The Power of Pulses is a must read for anyone thinking about growing, harvesting and eating their own. But along with gorgeous photos, the book includes 50 organic wholefoods recipes that simply inspire the inclusion of far more of these nutritious plants in our diets. Jason is very serious about addressing climate change so of course there are no meat dishes included. This long-time organic grower is well aware of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization's findings that livestock production alone is responsible for more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined - approximately 18% of the total (considered by some to be a very conservative estimate).

     A growing number of culinary entrepreneurs concerned about climate change, as well as the widespread pollution and cruelty connected to animal agribusiness, are finding a way to meet many food-lovers half way. They are creating alternative products with the help of pulses and other plants that so closely resemble the taste and texture of animal-derived meats that even devout carnivores are won over. The CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, is proud of the fact that his 'Beast Burger' also packs more protein than beef and more omegas than salmon. But what about the taste? “Fooled me badly,” admitted New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman. “Livestock is an outdated technology,” Patrick Brown of Impossible Foods has declared. His latest creation is poised to go head-to-head with conventional ground beef in the mainstream marketplace with investors like Bill Gates behind him. As Dan Jason notes in his new book, “There are some excellent processed pulse products already and it's strikingly clear that one of the best slow foods around has the potential to take over the fast-food market.”

     The old guard is paying attention, determined to protect its turf. “Vegan Butcher - Just Plain Wrong!” reads a headline in the National Hog Farmer. The editor of the 50-year-old business magazine for the U.S. pork industry seems to have found it noteworthy that a small-scale, 100% plant-based meat shop managed to attract some 5,000 patrons over its recent weekend-long grand opening in Minneapolis.

     The Herbivorous Butcher is serving up cruelty-free versions of the kinds of sausages, barbecue ribs, pepperoni, chorizo and other meats customers would find in a traditional butcher shop. Pulses, other beans and grains are key ingredients in  their recipes. And it seems that just doesn't sit well with  National Hog Farmer editor Cheryl Day. She argues that a butcher is supposed to be a person who “harvests animals and handcrafts the meat into desirable cuts we all love to devour.” Totally missing the irony in her statement she continues, “I think that is some special kind of creative word-smithing and marketing, right there...just plain unethical and wrong on all levels.” She could choose to reflect instead on the fact that over 100 million pigs are killed for food in the U.S. alone each year (over 30 million in Canada) - 99% of which are raised on factory farms. But Ms. Day ponders: if meat “is such a bad thing, then why mimic it? If the term [butcher] is so negative, why use it as your brand?“

Kale & Aubry Walch, of The Herbivorous Butcher
     Aubry and Kale Walch, the sister and brother duo behind the Herbivorous Butcher, are in effect 'repurposing' the word. Their offerings cater to the palates of people who enjoy the taste of meat – not the fact that it was once a somebody. It isn't their goal to encourage people to forget the animals spared. “We're here to bridge the gap so that omnivores can switch over,” Aubry told a reporter with the UK Guardian. Added Kale, “we'll stop calling ourselves vegan butchers when they stop calling it 'humane slaughter'.”

     'Mock meats' have actually been around for a very long time. They date back at least as far as 13th century China when Buddhist monks had already mastered the art of flavouring wheat protein. But thanks in significant part to the versatility of pulses, today's culinary wizards are taking food science to a whole new level. High stakes competition in the marketplace should guarantee that we see ongoing improvements in the selection of healthy varieties of prepared convenience foods meant to replace animal products of all kinds.

     Thanks to Dan Jason for reminding us through The Power of Pulses, however, that these nutritious plants can help us both reduce our ecological footprints and embrace more compassionate choices by simply making their way into our own home-made fare. Any of the vegetarian recipes included by co-conspirators Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne are easily veganized. Look for Salt Spring Seeds at Seedy Saturday in Vancouver on Feb. 27th, in Courtenay on March 5th or at Seedy Sunday in Nanaimo on March 6th (as well as at other such events throughout the region). Jason carries hundreds of varieties of heritage and heirloom seeds, including over 70 varieties of pulses to get excited about! 
Fireweed's Favorite Coconut Dahl

2 T. organic coconut oil
1/2 a large organic yellow onion
3 cloves organic garlic, pressed
1 T. ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp chili power
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups organic red lentils, uncooked
1 can organic coconut milk
3 cups water

Sautee, stirring the ginger, garlic and onion lightly in oil. Rinse, then add the lentils with spices, coconut milk and water. Cook covered for half an hour over medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Test for seasoning, add a bit more water if required. Delicious served with brown rice and a side of steamed greens. Bon appetit!
For additional recipes & references for this month's column please visit the FEBRUARY 2016 LINKS, on the right hand side of this page.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


                                    by Fireweed for The Island Word, November edition, 2015

photo by Fireweed, Nov. 1st, 2015
     Exhausted but triumphant, the salmon are returning! Their silver scales shimmering in the late afternoon sun, my partner and I encountered several spent coho along the banks of Beadnell Creek today on the east side of Denman Island. Others waiting just off shore to complete their own perilous life journeys will have the opportunity to traverse the shallow gravel bed linking ocean with fresh water spawning grounds during the next high tide.

 The fascinating ability of salmon to return to their place of origin (sometimes after navigating thousands of miles) is a phenomenon only recently understood to involve the earth's magnetic field. Those born in the wild are reportedly far more successful than their hatchery-born counterparts. Scientists speculate that the electrical wires that surround such facilities may disrupt the magnetic fields that guide salmon. Competition with hatchery fish, the construction of hydro-electric damns, habitat destruction and excessive predation, are among the other hazards perpetrated by humans that affect wild salmon migration and health today. Perhaps most controversial overall, however, is the potential for illness through exposure to open net-pen fish farming.

     Denied the biological urge to migrate instilled over thousands of years of evolution, farmed salmon are forced to swim in endless circles in their own excrement (feces and food accumulating on the seabed as oxygen-depriving sediment laced with chemicals and antibiotics). As exposed in the must-see 2014 documentary:“This Pristine Coast”, risks to wild salmon and the environment from what is essentially marine-based factory farming are indeed numerous. All are grounds for protest by coastal BC wild salmon advocates, like Anissa Reed and her daughter Freyja. Unwavering from their own moral compass, the two have been in the media spotlight lately due to their clear opposition to Marine Harvest Canada, one of the world's largest salmon-farming companies and a newly acquired sponsor of Freyja's now former elite youth soccer team.

Whether in open water or on land,  fish farming is factory farming
     The young goalie's dismissal from that team, resulting from the Riptide Soccer Association's inability to reconcile its 'differences' with the Reed family, is a disturbing reflection of the power of corporate control. Marine Harvest claims that it's donations to community groups “have not, and will not, and will never, restrict a recipient's right to voice their opinions or their ability to speak freely.” But Riptide and other clubs dependent upon financial assistance from businesses with an interest in gaining social license understand full well the costs of going against the grain. Brand association with sports has always been a business relationship. It's not philanthropy.

Freyja Reed in CBC interview
Hopefully, both the emotional and financial support Freyja Reed has received from actual allies will help temper her loss and the difficult backlash she has been subjected to from some of her former teammates, their families and others. Paul Watson, no stranger to controversy himself, posted the following message to the fourteen year old on social media: “Freyja, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauds your taking a stand on this very important issue. Salmon farms are destroying wild salmon populations. We recognize your courage and sacrifice. Thank you.”

     Watson has been pointing to aquaculture as the economic engine driving the intensive exploitation of small fish decimating our oceans for years. He is in synch with scientists who have revealed that resulting, widespread malnutrition is affecting the fish, bird, and animal populations of marine environments world-wide. “I can't think of anything more important than the preservation of diversity in our oceans,” he wrote in 2009. “Perhaps we can adapt to global warming, and perhaps we can survive a mass extinction even of species on land. But I know one thing to be an ecological certainty and that is if we kill the oceans – we kill ourselves.”

     According to the new World Wildlife Fund report, marine populations declined 49% between 1970 and 2012. It states, “The picture is now clearer than ever: humanity is collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse.” Noting that only 3 to 4 % of the ocean is currently protected, the report emphasizes that the establishment and enforcement of more marine reserves is one of the most important things policy-makers can do to counter the trajectory we're on.

Sockeye returning home to spawn on the Fraser River
     Meanwhile, putting the financial interests of the fish farming industry ahead of sound conservation measures on the BC coast willfully courts calamity. We need more Freyja Reeds willing to swim upstream against the current on the side of justice for wild salmon. And we need far more people with the privilege of choice willing to join vegan Paul Watson in leaving whatever fish are still left in our ravaged oceans off their dinner plates altogether.                                                                   

Please visit the NOV. RELATED LINKS 2015 LIST on the right hand side of this page for article references and more. Thanks to Isa Chandra of the Post Punk Kitchen for the original version of the following tasty chowder recipe, so perfect for a blustery fall day! Bon appetit!

Vegan Sea Chowder                                       

Visit the Post Punk Kitchen for more tasty recipes by Isa Chandra
1 cup cashews, soaked for at 
   least 2 hrs.
5 cups vegetable broth
4 teaspoons organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, 

   thinly sliced
8 oz white or brown button 

   mushrooms, sliced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and 
   cut into small chunks
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
    fresh ground black pepper
1 to 2 sheets of nori, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste & 2 

   tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Put just 2 cups of your veggie broth in a blender (you can use veggie or herbal bouillon to make this) along with the cornstarch. Drain, then add cashews. Blend with the lid on until smooth, scraping the sides often (may take up to 5 minutes, depending on blender). Set aside. In a 4 quart pot, saute carrots over medium heat, then onions, until just slightly tender. Add mushrooms, celery and repeat. Pour in the remaining 3 cups of broth, add seasonings, nori and potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat until the potatoes are done but remain firm. Stir in cashew cream and heat gently, uncovered, for about 7 minutes until thickened. Fold in tomato paste, lemon juice & additional seasonings. Garnish with parsley or chives, and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


                               by Fireweed for The Island Word, September edition, 2015

life expectancy for a fin whale - approx. 94 years
     The presence of a fin whale in north Puget Sound recently has been cause for excitement! Second largest creature on earth after the blue whale, this endangered mammal was once common in the Salish Sea. Commercial hunting over the past century devastated the species' population, so the new sighting has marine experts hopeful about the potential for a comeback in the region.

     The young male appeared healthy but a bit on the thin side, according to marine biology professor Jonathan Stern. The unusually warm weather that led to a huge algae bloom extending from California to BC this summer resulted in a “major reduction in food availability for whales,” says Michael Harris, managing director of Puget Sound Express whale-watching. If, as a result, this particular marine mammal was forced to swim further afield in search of fish, it is well within reason to connect his appearance with climate change.

it's not looking good for polar bears
      We know that many life-forms are moving north or into deeper waters as their habitats shift at an ever increasing rate. According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, animals and plants that can expand their ranges stand the best chance of survival. Those that are highly specialized in what they eat or where they live, especially those whose habitats disappear completely, do not have time on their side. “Species have experienced swings like this in the past,” explains environmental biologist Peter Alpert in National Geographic, “but [the changes] have probably taken a thousand times longer.”
millions of hectares of BC forest habitat burned
  Ravaged by extreme weather and a startling number of intense fires this summer, BC is transforming before our very eyes. While late rains eventually relieved us of a protracted dry spell, California's climate is definitely expected to continue advancing in our direction. Without sufficient snowpack this winter our watersheds will struggle to sustain flora and fauna again next year. As Ray Grigg wrote recently, “the old ecologies of the Pacific Northwest are being reshaped as climate change begins the long and disruptive process of altering weather and remaking the biological structure of the region.”

       Most privileged people are conditioned to feel far removed from the social unrest that has already come with climate change in distant areas of the world. But the tragic drowning of three year old Aylan Kurdi, his brother, mother and others fleeing the crisis in Syria has recently brought Canadians face to face with the life and death struggle of 'climate refugees.' While analysts are quick to emphasize that climate change is not solely responsible for the drought in Syria and that drought is only one of many stressors that led to the humanitarian crisis and civil war, the need for far more widespread recognition of the complex ways in which drought, resource scarcity, and conflict in general intersect seems urgent.
Syrian children in refugee camp - Northern Iraq
      According to Francisco Femia, director of the Washington, DC-based Center for Climate and Security, the international community is not looking into environmental stress nearly enough. Five years of extended drought in Syria, he says, forced massive population displacement from rural areas into urban areas. “Those dynamics may have contributed to social unrest,”says Femia, “ and the sustainability of the revolutionary movement.”
      It is also important to note that poor agricultural practices, like over-grazing by livestock, have contributed to desertification of the ecologically fragile Syrian steppe for decades. According to biodiversity conservationist Gianluca Serra, “a major role in the unfolding disaster was played by affluent urban investors who threw thousands of livestock into the steppe turning the grazing into a large-scale, totally unsustainable, industrial practice.”

Syrian drought exacerbated by climate change

     Even if Syria recovers politically, it is estimated that it will have lost nearly 50% of its agricultural capacity by 2050. The circumstances are far more complex than can be adequately addressed here, but if global greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates, water shortages and droughts will only worsen.

      While we will never be able to precisely calculate the contribution of climate change to any one geopolitical event or human crisis, we can and must take responsibility for the myriad ways in which we collectively add to it. The necessity of reducing animal product consumption, particularly by those of us who have access to alternative sources of nutrition, is an ongoing theme in this column for a very important reason. Animal agribusiness produces more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined.

     Anyone lucky enough to eat three times a day has the ongoing opportunity to respond pro-actively to the realities of global climate change, endangered species, and vulnerable people around the world by making compassionate food choices. For more on this topic, and thanks to the generous support of actor Leonardo deCaprio, Netflix subscribers can tune in for the important documentary “Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret” starting on September 15th!

For additional references and links, please see SEPT. 2015 RELATED LINKS, on the right hand side of this page.

MUHAMMARA– Syrian Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (thanks to Jeanette!)


2 cloves garlic, mashed

1-2 red chili peppers, chopped, seeds removed

Juice of one organic lemon

4 red bell peppers, roasted

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 T. Pomegranate molasses
1 C of organic whole grain or gluten-free bread crumbs)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until mostly smooth, like pesto.
Depending on the heat of your chili peppers, you may wish to use more, or less.
Serve with fresh pita bread, or as a sauce on baked tofu kabobs... Bon appetit!