Saturday, September 17


Vegcast will be out later today. But as promised, here's a trimmed version of what will run on the podcast:

By Bob Torres and Jenna Torres
Tofu Houd Press

When your biggest complaint about a book is that it should have been longer, it's what you might call praising with faint damnation. And indeed there's plenty to praise about Vegan Freak, as well as plenty of damn-ing (along with more colorful verbiage). Bob Torres and Jenna Torres hit on all the major issues of "Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World," maintaining a youthful vernacular and straight-talking style that makes Vegan Freak a standout among vegan how-to books.

Those of you familiar with the Vegan Freaks weblog will not be very surprised by the tone or content here, but for the world at large this is a refreshingly frank, new take on the intro-to-veganism genre. The book ranges widely through a diversity of topics including the best way to go vegan, arguments that do and don't work, the hell of family food celebrations, vegan travel, and even vegan sex toys. They list which brands of beer are vegan and caution that some "non-dairy creamers" actually contain milk ingredients. They urge vegans to stand up for our choices and be resolute: "Meek vegans suffer!" becomes a mantra by book's end. In all, the authors keep the tone lively and fun, moving through the vegan landscape at cruising speed or faster.

And this is where that complaint I mentioned comes in: While this keeps the book from getting boring, I often felt myself wishing they had provided just a few sentences more information or perspective on a given topic before jumping exuberantly on to the next. At 150 pages, there was certainly room for the main text of the bok to be longer (there are 20 more pages of helpful appendices - in which this blog is listed as one of the resources). And although there aren't any glaring omissions overall, the result is sometimes a more superficial treatment of something that would have benefited from a more in-depth, fully researched approach. The best example of this is in the section on B12, where the advice "take a supplement every now and then" was criticized by Dr. Michael Greger (as the authors explained on their podcast) for not being rigorous enough and for downplaying the seriousness of adequate B12 intake among vegans.

In sum, one might wish Vegan Freak had been a little more thoroughly researched, a little more in-depth about some issues, but hey: As Donald Rumsfeld would say, you go to war against mainstream consumerist culture with the book you have, not the book you wish you had. And depsite any of these quibbles, I can honestly say that Vegan Freak is worth a read whether you're considering veganism or are already there. It's an ambitious task to try to write for both of those constituencies, and although it sometimes results in a bit of a scattershot tone, the authors ultimately pull it off with verve, attitude and conviction, and wind up with a book that may well serve as a bridge to veganism for an entire segment of the population who have so far been all but ignored by our moevement.

So to "Vegenaise" and "Pleather:" Rock on, dudes!

Friday, September 16


This sounds like a broken record, but as long as they keep reporting these, I'll keep pointing them out, because "fish" is so often smuggled into other stories about healthy plant-based diets: "Store-bought swordfish contained mercury levels above the legal limit in a study released yesterday by environmental groups. A University of North Carolina lab found elevated mercury concentrations in 24 swordfish samples from supermarket chains including Safeway, Shaws, Albertsons and Whole Foods." Note that this isn't just about finding elevated mercury levels out in the ocean. This is the actual fish people are buying and eating. And of course, mercury is only one of the health problems with eating fish, but that's enough for now.

Thursday, September 15


Mice Infected With Bubonic Plague Missing. Yep. You heard right. "Three mice infected with the bacteria responsible for bubonic plague apparently disappeared from a laboratory about two weeks ago, and authorities launched a search though health experts said there was scant public risk." Oh, that's good to hear. Wait, what's this? "Federal official said the mice may never be accounted for. Among other things, the rodents may have been stolen, eaten by other lab animals or just misplaced in a paperwork error." Oh great, that fills me with confidence. Nope, no risk from those animal-testing bozos.

Wednesday, September 14


Having just taken steps backward from protecting the American public against Mad Cow, the cattle/regulatory industry - known jointly as the FDA and USDA - may be in for another dope-slap: UPI reports that the federal meat inspector who was charged with misconduct by the USDA after claiming mad cow disease safeguards were being violated at slaughterhouses said he plans to file charges against the agency.
"Stan Painter, a USDA inspector and chair of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, the inspectors union, notified the agency's management in a letter last December he was aware of instances where the riskiest parts of older cows were not being marked or removed from processing." And here comes the kicker... "On Dec. 28, 2004, the agency charged Painter with personal misconduct for not revealing the names of the inspectors who told him of the SRM violations. Officials also told him he was under a formal investigation, which was dropped last month after the release of internal documents revealing more than 1,000 violations of the USDA's SRM regulations." Hmmmmm.

And how about those assurances, just before the 2004 election, that Japan was thisclose to dropping their ban? "Japan's food safety panel said Monday that U.S. cows were exposed to a higher risk of mad cow disease infection than their Japanese counterparts due to insufficient feed control in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, Kyodo News agency reported. Panel head Yasuhiro Yoshikawa said in the report that the extent of feed contamination in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s was up to 10 times as high as that of Japan." Hmmmmm... and Japan has had how many mad cows?

Tuesday, September 13


"Women who stick to a low-fat vegan diet are more likely to lose weight than those whose diets include meat," the Daily Mail reports, citing a PCRM study published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Medicine. "Dr Barnard, working with Georgetown University Hospital and George Washington University, found those on the vegan diet were able to lose weight without feeling hungry." The journal article also refers to a study of 55,000 women in Sweden which reinforces Dr Barnard's findings. Researchers at Tufts University in Sweden found that of the group, 40% of meat-eaters were overweight or obese compared to 25% to 29% of vegetarians and vegans.

Monday, September 12


Are elephants just a memory for some zoos? asks the Sun-Times of Chicago, where the American Zoo and Aquarium Association is holding its annual conference. We're familiar with the recent deaths and exhibit closures in a handful of zoos, but this is rather notable: "The dropoff in elephant exhibits likely will continue," officials of the AZA admitted to the paper.

Of course the AZA immediately tried to re-spin the prediction as a small, temporary dip. But I suspect there are more stories around the country of zoo's such as Philadelphia's, which wasn't mentioned in the Sun-Times' list of troubled exhibits:
"Zoo elephants may have to leave town," says the Inquirer, "[u]nless the zoo can secure a hefty state funding commitment this fall or dramatically lower the price of its proposed $22 million elephant savanna." The fact is that zoos can no longer get away with housing elephants on a super-cruel few hundred square yards of concrete and rock - over the past couple of years the public's consciousness has been raised just enough that that's obviously wrong. The only way to keep elephants is to invest massive amounts of money, which may prove more of a stumbling block for zoo officials than any ethical argument.