Archive | December, 2011

Meating of the minds

31 Dec

I went to a dinner party last night. Maybe a dozen people. All very nice. I knew about half of them previously. I was the only vegan. And the hostess, a friend of a friend more than a friend, and a lovely person, went out of her way to make, in addition to chicken, a wonderful vegan Moroccan Stew (from the “New Recipes from  Moosewood Restaurant” cookbook) as well as some vegan couscous.

And as I sat around the table listening to everyone talk, including three guests born in Europe but living in LA for more than a decade, and watching them enjoying themselves and the chicken, ice cream, cake, etc., I had a thought: What the world has in common is meat.

You can be from just about any part of the world, speak just about any language, and what you instantly share with pretty much any other human being you might encounter in a social, business or random setting is that you both enjoy eating animals. It’s so unquestioned, so unremarked upon as to be remarkable, but only to someone who doesn’t do it. Otherwise, it doesn’t even crack the plane of thought. It’s assumed. Why wouldn’t you? Who doesn’t?

Longtime vegans are thinking: duh, you’re just noticing this now? Well, yeah. I’m 15 months in, and while being vegan doesn’t feel new anymore, there are still new things that strike me about it. And this hit me right between the eyes (though not as hard of a shot between the eyes as one from a bolt gun designed to stun me so someone could cut me up with a chainsaw).

It barely even came up that I don’t do this thing that’s so normal to do.

As I passed the chicken without taking a piece someone asked, “Oh, are you vegetarian?” I just said yes, without saying, “No, I’m vegan.” Because people don’t want to hear it. They’re having a good time. And their good time is being supported by the back office, where, 50, 100, 500 miles away, animals are being mistreated and tortured to facilitate this pleasant interaction.

And I started thinking, at a meal like this, where I was enjoying some very good vegan food made by my very thoughtful carny host, could I really have a good time? Could it really be a pleasant experience for me? And the answer was: not like it used to be. Without a doubt, it took some of the fun of a dinner party away. A type of social interaction that I’ve enjoyed for decades felt a little off, like there was an elephant in the dining room (the elephant being a chicken). But much like the talking frog, it was an elephant-chicken that only I could see.

I guess I’m a coward for not saying, “No, I’m vegan” and possibly precipitating a conversation of unknown duration on the topic. But they were being nice by accommodating me, right? To talk about certain things at their meat party is impolite, unpleasant. In the nearly half a hundred years I’ve walked this planet, I don’t think I’ve come across a subject that people don’t want to talk about as much as this one. Meat facilitates easy conversation, veganism kills it, because there’s nothing that can ruin a meat-facilitated conversation like discussion of the meat itself.

And then it hit me: if strangers are going to get together and eat animals — strangers of different backgrounds, different viewpoints, different political parties, different religions —  at least let it be an out-in-the-open source of unity, an acknowledged bit of common ground. Maybe it could end the troubles in the Middle East and around the world. You’re a Muslim, you’re a Christian and you’re a Jew, but we all eat meat. Let’s build on this thing we all share and love so much! You’re a leftist Democrat and your father-in-law’s a right-wing Republican but you both love some barbecue spare ribs. Instead of ignoring that you’re eating an animal that was tortured to provide you with a few minutes of pleasure, embrace it! We have our differences, sure, but we both don’t want to think about the source of our food or the pain that it felt or the immorality of our actions, and that’s a huge thing that we share!

Once meat-eaters begin this conversation can world peace (for humans) be that far off?

10 best vegan things i 8 in ’11

29 Dec

I love being vegan and I hate 10 best lists so I’m combining the two. Actually, I like 10 best lists but they’re trite. Oh well, I’m trite, so here goes.

This was my first full year being vegan. Woo-hoo, special me! I should start a blog so I can tell the whole world how great I am!

In no particular order, except that I’m starting with the tenth best and working my way in order to my favorite, here goes:

Doomie's pulled pork sandwich. (photo: toliveandeatinla.com)

10. Doomie’s pulled pork sandwich.  I went into Doomie’s for the first time late one night and asked the woman at the counter what to get. She said, “Ask him,” and pointed to Doomie. Without hesitating he said, “The pulled pork sandwich” and smiled an evil smile. It was great.

9. Clementine’s cous cous with roasted squash, dried cranberries, pistachios, scallions and lemon vinaigrette AND their beluga lentils with flame raisins, mizuna and toasted pepitas. I’m a little reluctant to include Clementine on here given that it’s not only a meat-heavy place but also the Worldwide Grilled Cheese Headquarters. But they have a salad case with a bunch of really fresh salads that rotate on a seasonal basis. You can get a three-salad combo for $11.95 and usually there are at least three that are vegan. I recently had the two above-mentioned salads along with some roasted beets, and while the beets were good the two other salads were UNBELIEVABLY good. Eat a forkful and put your fork down and say to yourself was that just as good as I thought it was good. The current menu will be around until late January. Go.

The Bigger Mack. (photo credit: http://www.huggerfood.com)

8. The Bigger Mack at Madeleine Bistro. Sure I could go with their famous Red Beet Tartare, which is great. Or the chicken and waffles, which I enjoyed. But dammit if Chef Dave doesn’t 100 percent nail the Big Mac taste. Not that it’s the greatest taste in the world. But it’s a very specific taste. And he did it. And not that I ever needed to eat another Big Mac after consuming way too many of them for way too many years. But when you think you’ll never get to taste a specific taste again, and then you do, it’s weird and impressive and satisfying.

7. The Wasabi Bean Burger at Native Foods Café. Don’t drop your iPad on the floor and run out the door to get one because they’re gone. This is an item that was on their menu earlier in the year and then, much to my dismay, disappeared. How come the world doesn’t do exactly what I want at all times?

6. A Dillo. A DingDillo to be specific. A cold DingDillo to be specificer. What are these? They’re vegan Chocodiles from Salt Lake City, what else did you think they were? I got mine at the Viva La Vegan grocery store in Rancho Cucamonga. But you can get em other places, too. I’m all out right now. And Rancho Cucamonga’s an hour away with no traffic. But I want one! Runners up in the dessert competition would have to be the Apple-Cranberry Toastie at Babycakes and the Blueberry Pomegranate ice cream I had one day at Scoops (the flavors change daily, as if you didn’t know).

5. The stuff I ate at  Stuff I Eat. I’d been meaning to go here for so long and finally made it. And it was great. I got some kind of eggplant lasagna. I’m not a big eggplant person but they offered a sample that was so good I had to order it, and I loved it. The person suffering through lunch with me got the “Sumthin-Sumthin” plate and we also split a side of jerk grilled tofu and we both looked at each other in amazement at how good it all was. I will keep returning till I’ve tried everything.
 

Mandoline Grill's tofu banh mi. (Photo credit: veggie101.com)

4. Mandoline Grill‘s tofu banh mi. This has gotten a little confusing in the past month or so. There’s some extra charges associated with it now that I can’t quite figure out. Like an extra 50 cents for Vegenaise (the spelling of which always bugs me). There’s also some confusing new thing about a “vegan baguette.” Does that mean she now has NON-vegan baguettes on the truck, too? Were there always two kinds of baguettes on the truck? Or are vegans paying a surcharge for the same baguette that everyone else gets without paying the surcharge? Like I said, I’m confused. I tried to ask about it but the conversation went nowhere. That said, I like Mong. She’s super friendly and serves great vegan food and if she needs to charge a little extra for it I don’t mind.

3. The Gardein Steak Sandwich at Green Peas. As you might have heard, right here in fact, Green Peas is now closed for re-modeling. But the owner told me that all the menu items are returning when they re-open, plus more, hopefully within a couple of months. I eat here a lot. I’ve tried a bunch of stuff from their vegan menu. The vegan chicken picatta sandwich is pretty dang tasty and could have easily made the list. But the Gardein Steak Sandwich is my favorite. (Not the “Rolling Gardein Steak Sandwich” — the stationary one.)
 
 
2. The Tri-Colored Lentils at Fatty’s & Co in Eagle Rock.  Me and Mrs. Insufferable (actually she prefers Ms) hit up Fatty’s one Saturday evening for a date night and were floored. We ordered four items and they were all really good but the one I’m still remembering months later is the lentils. It looked beautiful and tasted even better. A perfect combination of flavors.

All must bow to the ACSB. (photo: candypenny.blogspot.com)

1. The Ancho Chili Seitan Burger from the Cinnamon Snail.  Hate to do this to you LA but the ACSB from the NYNJ food truck was incredibly, incredibly good. An even more perfecter combination of flavors than Fatty’s lentils, and believe me that’s saying something. I WANT THIS TRUCK TO LIVE NEAR ME.

And that’s my list. Did you have some vegan food this year that was so good you had to shake your head in amazement? I’d love to hear about it, especially if it’s within driving distance of my driveway.

Is “almost vegan” almost as good?

25 Dec

I know someone who was a carnivore until recently but now describes herself as “almost vegan.” It’s a term I’ve seen all over the Internet. And I’m wondering, if your life is 99 percent free of animal products, is that 99 percent as good as being 100 percent free?

I think I can see the arguments lining up. To what I’ll call “hardcore vegans” the answer is no. If you eat a bit of fish now and then, an egg once in a while, some dairy not to make a fuss at someone else’s house, you’re complicit. You don’t get to pick and choose and only do it when it’s most convenient. You’re either in or you’re out and if you’re out you don’t get to call yourself vegan.

On the other side, if the point of going vegan (or the main point, or even a point) is to eliminate animal suffering, then the answer is a resounding yes. For if everyone, or even half or a quarter or a hundredth of everyone, eliminated most animal products from their life, it would greatly diminish the number of animals moving through the gulag. (Isn’t that the hope of Meatless Monday? And is Meatless Monday a bad idea if it just lets people who eat meat the other six days feel better about themselves and less guilty?)

So it becomes a matter of ideology vs practicality. And it’s hard to get righteous about practicality. You also see a lot on the Internet about “abolitionist vegan” being the only acceptable position. For example, I’ve seen Rutgers law professor Gary L. Francione criticize the Humane Society and Peter Singer and others for their “animal welfare” approach, saying it’s not morally justifiable to simply improve the conditions of the animals being killed.

Gary L. Francione

I agree with Francione that we have to stop and that anything short of stopping is immoral — which I guess makes me an “abolitionist vegan” — but I also feel that it’s going to take a long time till we get to that point, and that in the meantime, it’s better if any type of reduction in animal suffering can occur. So am I on both sides then? Am I being a coward and not really choosing either side?

Maybe the idea is that if those on the regulation/Humane Society side came over to the abolitionist side, that animal use would end more quickly. But would it mean that until the day it ended, animals would suffer more than they would without the improvements the regulation side brings about, even if these improvements, when seen on the whole, are small?

I think that ultimately, I am of the belief that both sides can exist. (And of course both sides DO exist.) For example, I don’t agree with everything the ACLU does, but I’m glad they’re around. Similarly, I am glad someone like Francione exists to press his arguments, which I believe in, but I’m also glad for those who can improve the conditions of animals until Francione’s position can win the day. But here’s the hard part: I don’t want to say, “EVEN IF THAT MEANS SLOWING DOWN THE DAY THAT FRANCIONE’S POSITION PREVAILS.” And that’s the rub, right? Justice delayed is justice denied, or something like that?

So I think it ultimately comes down to people who are realists vs the kind of people who wind up changing the world, who are not “realists” because if they were realists they would see others’ reality and not their own and perhaps their own is more real than the realists’. Just because I think that the abandonment of animals as a common food source will take a hundred if not hundreds of years, maybe it will only take twenty years and would never happen at all without people like Francione to push it through. Someone born in 1885 was 19 when the Wright Brothers flew their airplane and 84 when humans reached the moon. One lifetime. Things can happen fast. Opinion is generational and can change suddenly. Most people in their 20s probably know a vegan while most people in their 70s have probably never even heard the word (at least if they never watched Oprah). Who’s to say what can and can’t happen?

The Lunar Module and the Wright military plane being prepared to be moved out of the Arts and Industries Building, August 1975. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives

I guess I’m giving Francione more than the moral position here, I’m also saying he might have the boots on the ground realistic factual position too, more so than the realists who, if realizing they might not have the moral high ground, certainly feel they are the more realistic of the two sides. Compromise may be simply slowing down the arrival of a time when opinion shifts on this issue. And the tidal wave won’t come without people like Francione anchoring that position, to knot some nautical metaphors.

In other words, maybe practicality is impractical. Maybe incremental improvements make improvements incremental.

And yet I’d still rather someone be “almost vegan” than full-on carny. So is 99 percent vegan — assuming there could even ever be agreement on what 100 percent vegan even is, though for these purposes it’s enough that most of us probably agree what it is not, which is someone who eats meat, fish, dairy or eggs — but is it 99 percent as good, or 20 percent as good, or 99.999 percent as good, and is that last hurdle into 100 percentness all the difference in the world, and representative of the only morally acceptable position, or is it merely one small step away? Is it Manhattan surrounded by water, or Los Angeles where you can simply walk right in with a series of gradual steps (if anyone here walked)?

I’ve now managed to confuse myself, yet again. Though the one thing I feel pretty confident of is that an Almost Vegan is better than me, a full-on vegan who ate meat for almost half a hundred years. Or is it better than I? Sometimes the right things just don’t sound right.

Green Peas pause

22 Dec

Green Peas
4437 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, 90230
310.397.9815

I never bothered to write about Green Peas, one of my favorite places, because I figured most LA vegans already knew about it and others had already written about it, and like I said when I started this blog, I think my time is better spent writing about restaurants that LAVs are less likely to be familiar with.  But while having dinner there last night the owner, Jose, was taping up a sign on the front window. When I finished eating I walked outside and took a look. It said they were closing for remodeling! I went back in and asked Jose when they were closing. He said immediately, for six to eight weeks (another exclamation point).

The idea, he said, is to keep the current menu but also add dinner items like vegan ravioli, vegan risotto and vegan meatloaf. Sounds good to me (insert yet one more). But he said to do this he needs to expand his kitchen which entails moving things around a bit. Hopefully it’ll really all be done in six to eight weeks and I can go back to my Gardein Steak Sandwich and the best split pea soup of all time. (And I don’t even like split pea soup, but trust me, theirs crushes.)

Confession: I’ve been eating at Green Peas since before my salad days, I mean, my vegan days, so I can vouch for their omni food too, and it’s a great place to know about when you’re trying to plan a good casual meal with an omni. And by the way, I think we should stop calling people who eat meat “omnis” and start calling them “carnies.” I think it might boost the conversion rate, because who wants to be called a carny? But that’s a post for another day.

Unfigedible

20 Dec

To me, this is what a fig looks like in its natural state:

I don’t really eat them any other way. And I don’t think about them much. In fact, never. Not even when I’m buying the vegan (dairy-free) Fig Newmans. And eating the whole tray in a day. Two if I’m lucky.

But yesterday I saw a tweet from my favorite 3,000-mile-away food truck, The Cinnamon Snail, that made me go: Huh?  Seems that TCS had gotten into a twitter exchange with someone who was inquiring about their use of figs in their pancakes, and whether or not figs were vegan. In the thirty years that I have been vegan (okay, 15 months) I have never seen anything calling into question the veganticity of a fig. So I clicked my way into the heart of their exchange and found this link the challenger had thrown down:

http://www.veganfitness.net/viewtopic.php?t=7052

And there, spread across four pages, fifty-nine posts, and three years, you will find a discussion of whether or not figs are vegan. I won’t get into the whole thing because you can read it for yourself, but the basics go something like this: Figs are pollinated by wasps that climb into one end of the fig, deposit their children, sperm and luggage there, then die and leave their corpses to be devoured by fig-eating humans and other animals.

So basically, the argument goes, if you eat a fig, you’ve got dead wasps, wasp parts, or wasp secretions entering your up-until-now vegan body.

Well, here’s what I think. The problem with eating dead animals is that they are raised to be killed to be food for us. Or if hunted or caught wild, they at least are killed to be food for us. These insects are apparently dead inside the figs already. And if I’m following the story right, only some figs are even pollinated this way. So sometimes when you eat a fig, depending on the type, you may be getting dosed with bug parts. Is it icky? Sure. But where’s the problem?

Is it in the exploitation of the wasps? The (natural) death of the wasps in the (natural) production of a food item? Or is it the ingestion of the wasps or wasp parts or wasp jizz? (Remember those Budweiser commercials? Waspjizzzz!)

When bees make honey from the nectar of flowers, they do so to create a storable source of food for themselves. Beekeepers get them to overproduce honey so they can take some for the species Beekeeperus. (Okay, I might have misquoted Wikipedia here, but I can only stay on the page for so long without being overcome by guilt from those fundraising pleas.)

So with bees and honey, I can understand the exploitation. They get the bees to do extra work to make food for humans. Does this affect the bees? Are they aware of it? Do they mind? Does it lead to injuries and deaths and pain? I don’t eat honey for this and other reasons, but I don’t have a problem with people who eat honey and still call themselves vegan. (Isn’t that nice of me? Me who ate meat for almost half a hundred years.)

But this fig thing seems different. Humans aren’t making this happen. The wasps would do it in the absence of humans. It doesn’t even seem to be live wasps that are getting eaten. But I guess the idea here is that it’s wrong to eat something that once was alive. On principle, I suppose. Because what’s the difference between eating a dead wasp in a fig or eating a deer that was hit by a car and left dead on the side of the road. I wouldn’t eat that deer even if it were safe for me to consume because, well, I don’t eat animals. So does that apply here? Or is a wasp not an animal?

It’s at this point, when we’re out on what feels to me like the fringes having these kinds of discussions, that this might as well be a religion. But I suppose there are discussions at the edges in all kinds of secular areas, be they science or philosophy.

But isn’t it worse to think that The Cinnamon Snail Truck, as it heads home from dinner each night in the dark, is plowing into thousands of little flying things as it makes its way down the Garden State Parkway? Things that weren’t dead until they got hit by a truck. Or is the problem not the killing but the eating, even if the death of the thing being eaten wasn’t caused by humans at all? While it may not be clear to me whether a wasp is capable of feeling pain, I feel pretty certain that a dead wasp is not. So it’s not about the pain, which is the primary reason for my veganing in the first place. Sure I think that animals, even insects, have just as much right to exist as I do, but do I feel bad about the tiny things I may be hitting with my Honda or stepping on with my Soft Stags? A little bit, but I shrug it off pretty easily.

I hope this doesn’t make TCS change its ways or even feel bad for a second. What they and other providers of incredibly good-tasting vegan food are doing is showing that vegan food doesn’t have to be the feces-laden sawdust that so many meat-eaters imagine it to be. They show that an alternative exists that isn’t devoid of taste. That is in fact delicious. They are showing the way. And that’s a start. A very important start.

Farmer Boys: Victuals for Vegas-bound vegans in Victorville, and 24/7 in L.A.

18 Dec

Farmer Boys
726 S. Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
213.228.8999
(and throughout SoCal,
CentralCal, and Vegas)

Not Victorville.

Okay, I didn’t go to the Victorville location of Farmer Boys. Of which there are three. I went to the one in downtown Los Angeles. Not fancy loft in what once was a bank downtown — gritty truck-trafficked potholed downtown. Which isn’t all that far from the other one.

But the menus are the same in Victorville, and I thought it might be more useful to know that this option exists when you’re 15ing it to Vegas than to know there’s a fast food joint that awaits you with open vegan-friendly arms on Alameda.

And they’re not just on the road to Vegas, they’re all over the 99 to Yosemite too, though sadly not the dreaded 5 to San Fran. (cisco.)

My FAQ touches on the hold that fast food has on me. I’m not the only one, of course. Many other Americans patronize fast food even though they know it’s not good for them. Do they like the food? Do they like the convenience? Or like me, have associations been made with family, childhood and safety.

But there was no Farmers Boy when I was a kid. So what am I relating to? What still provides that feeling? Is it merely the concept? Vinyl and plastic booths, a big metal counter, some backlit signage, and ordering standing up?

The downtown Los Angeles location is open 24/7! (Or 7/24 if Eur from Europe.)

Pulling out of the fast food world may be the best thing that veganing has done for me. There’s no way the vegan crap I eat is crappier than the non-vegan crap I ate, right? (Please say right.) I actually hadn’t eaten much fast food for a good decade before going V last year. But once in a while I still did. And even though I hardly went any more, I often felt the pull, drawing me toward its location on the corner of Drive-thru Drive and Memory Lane.

But there are times when convenience is needed. When something/anything to eat is needed. Like that drive to Las Vegas. (Which btw I don’t do very often, because I don’t like Las Vegas —  because I don’t like cigarette smoke, odds stacked against me, or cowboy hats.) You probably know this, but the people in Las Vegas are Las Vegans. And sometimes even call themselves Vegans. And those Vegans do a pretty good job feeding us vegans, so I hear.

But let’s talk tofurky. Or at least veggie burgers. Because that’s what you can get at Farmer Boys. Or a veggie sandwich. That’s right. They’ve got two choices. Two on-the-menu choices that require but scant modification. No dressing on the veggie burger, and no cheese on the veggie sandwich. And swap out the wheat bread on the veggie sandwich for rye or sourdough, cuz the wheat’s got honey.

How do I know this? I called the Farmer Boys toll-free number and spoke to a friendly person who was eager to help. In fact, I didn’t feel a single eye-roll the entire time. And she even emailed me later to verify that the wheat bread had honey and that the veggie burger bun was egg, dairy and honey-free.

© Ansel Adams

Now to the basics. The veggie burger, which I photographed, and the veggie sandwich, which I did not (*sigh*), are pretty different. The veggie burger is the kind that’s a patty of stuff smooshed together. While smooshed might not be a verb that’s usually used to connote tastal satisfaction, in this case it’s doing just that. I much prefer this kind of big flat fall-apart patty to the kind of styrofoamy hockey puck veggie burger you’re often served when you dare to go meatless at a cathedral of meat. It came with iceberg lettuce, tomato, and onions, all of which seemed unusually fresh for a fast food joint, and there’s ketchup on the table to make up for the mandatory dressing removal. I combo’d it with some good hot fries and a Mug root beer. I can’t guarantee that all locations are Muggly since the menu on the website doesn’t show it, but for this caffeine-after-3-keeps-me-up-all-night loser, it was a sight for sore-if-I-had-Barq’s-the-day-before eyes.

The veggie sandwich, which comes on toast, has no burgery patty. But what it does have post-cheese is lettuce, tomato, mustard, pickles and avocado. (You can add avocado to the veggie burger, too, but it’ll cost you — $1.50 I think.)

And there’s calorie info on the website, too. The veggie burger weighs in at 581 (that’s some accurate lab they must use!) but that’s with the dressing, so I figure you’re saving at least a hundred calories by going ketchup or mustard or dry.  And the veggie sandwich says 398 but that’s with ewwy milk-of-another-animal cheese.

So there. Now you know about another fast food option. At least if you find yourself in SoCal, Central Cal, or Vegas Cal. If you’re in a different Cal, check out this great website if you don’t already know about it, which makes a pretty good effort to document what’s available to us eaters-of-the-future at the various fast food joints and other chains across this great American fastfoodjointandotherchainscape.

Oh. And if you liked this review, ring my bell.

The wool suit, the leather shoes, and the animal-free White Castle jacket

14 Dec

If you’ve been reading this blog for years, you know that I used to have good titles for my posts. What happened?!

Anyway, I’ve been struggling with a vegan issue and I’m curious what other people think.

When I went vegan 15 months ago it was all about the food. Then two weeks after that it was all about the animals. But about a month in I started thinking about the clothes. You see, some of my clothes were made of animals!

And my wallet was, too. And it was old. And falling apart. I needed a new one. So this was a no-brainer. I went to Amazon and looked up “vegan wallets” and ordered one from an Amazon seller called Alternative Outfitters.

And I liked it. It looked good. The functionality was good. And I almost immediately realized that it also made me feel good. Hey, look at me, I didn’t only give up food, I got a vegan wallet, too!

Well, it wasn’t long before I went back on Amazon and bought a vegan belt. It’s made of something called pleather. Because as I soon learned, veganism is full of portmanteaus. In fact, I bet before Mr. Watson settled on the term “vegan” he first proposed a portmanteau combining vegetables and diners, but for some reason decided that “veginers” was the wrong way to go.

So now I had a wallet AND a belt. Which meant the next obvious thing was staring me in the face (if I looked down) — shoes!

I usually wear sneakers. And some of them, I was pretty sure, had some leather. Especially the leather ones. And as for my shoes, well, all of them were leather. But although it was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t going to buy any more leather shoes or sneakers, the question became: was it okay to keep wearing what I already owned?

I struggled with this for a while. I mean, isn’t it wasteful to throw them away? I could give them to charity, but if it was wrong for me to continue to wear them then wasn’t it wrong for someone else to continue to wear them? Or was it okay for someone else to wear them since that person was probably eating meat, too?

And as I pondered these questions, I kept wearing my shoes as need be. But whenever I did, I felt bad. Like I was tacitly supporting the notion that it was okay to use animals like this. So I decided I needed to stop. The sneaker part was easy. You can find no-animal sneakers at lots of places. Heck, some of the ones I already owned weren’t even made of animals. But shoes were different.

So I decided to make a pilgrimage to Alternative Outfitters. You see, when I ordered that wallet on Amazon, it came really fast. Why? Because it turned out that Alternative Outfitters was only an hour or so away from me, in Pasadena.

 
Alternative Outfitters, I imagine, does most of their business over the Internet, and the store isn’t what I was expecting. I almost drove past it. It’s kind of at the corner of an office park, with only a small retail space, though they’ve got a lot crammed in there. Ninety percent of which was for women. But they have a pretty good selection of shoes. And unlike ersatz meat products, ersatz leather shoes are actually cheaper than the thing you’re ersatzing them for.

But I didn’t write this post to tell you about my trip to buy shoes. I wrote it because of the conversation I had with the friendly vegan who was working there that day. As I blabbed on and on about buying my first pair of vegan shoes (I’m insufferable) we got into an interesting discussion about whether or not it’s okay to keep wearing the animal clothing you already own since those animals are already dead and the items are already made.

She took the position that if you’re giving up animal-based foods because you think it’s wrong to use animals that way, why would you want to keep wearing their skin on your body? She said she remembered the day she made the decision to stop wearing a leather coat that she had.

And that got me thinking. Certainly, nobody would wear a pair of shoes made from human skin, no matter that the person was already dead. They would find the idea disgusting, repulsive, it would make their, yup, skin crawl. But why didn’t leather shoes make me feel that way? I guess because we’re so accustomed to it, same as eating meat. And because evolution has done something to make the idea of using humans this way feel repugnant to us.

So since our use of animal products is so everyday, we need to LEARN to find it repulsive. We need to EDUCATE OURSELVES on the matter to the point that we find it repulsive. Which brings me to my wool suit. I wear a suit even less often than I wear shoes. Do I want to go buy a new suit made of, let’s say, cotton? Nope. And so I wore my wool suit to my niece’s wedding last month.

But then I started wondering: is wool worse than leather? I think it depends on how poorly the sheep are treated. I keep reading that egg-laying hens and dairy cows have worse lives than the chickens and cattle raised for meat. And if I’ve given up eggs and dairy because of the way those animals are treated, then is wool any different because it’s worn not eaten? And while I wouldn’t buy any new wool suits or sweaters, should I stop wearing that damn wool suit of mine pronto?

And then there’s this:

My White Castle jacket. 100 percent polyester. But do I need to give this up, too? I’ve still been wearing it. It keeps me warm. But I could buy one that doesn’t have a message pretty easily. Is it wrong for me to keep offering up what seems to be (or is) tacit approval? To keep wearing something that might (or does) increase people’s appetite for meat?  Or what if I just stop wearing it in public? Is that enough? Or is it even wrong to wear it when I’m home alone and cold?

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