Led by the Humane Society of the United States, the campaigners for Humane Farms want to place the California Prevention of Cruelty Act on the state’s ballot in November 2008. Like a similar campaign in Arizona last year, the California initiative involves measuring the area in which animals are confined; and similarly, it appeals to conservative values and an idealized concept of animal agribusiness.1 Its website is decorated with an image of a child feeding a pig and a farmer standing in a paddock, looking proudly into the camera, arms folded, in front of a cow.
The animals listed as needing husbandry modifications are calves sold as veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs. The proposal makes exceptions for fairs and exhibitions, children in 4-H groups, and scientists who test on animals.
California has no crated veal operations; but this measure is intended to be the first U.S. prohibition of battery cages for egg-laying birds. Campaigners love to claim a “first” but what does this one really mean? Egg producers kill male chicks soon after they hatch. That would continue. Hens would still be used up and slaughtered. Moreover, as long as people keep eggs in their diets, they’ll likely be eating processed foods made with cheap egg ingredients from outside the state, often traded in liquid or powdered form. And they won’t be discovering the healthful joys of egg-free cooking.
The campaign’s designers actually point to the prevailing lack of knowledge of egg-free cooking as a positive point. The advocates’ website links a Humane Society report on the sales potential of cage-free eggs: “There are no close substitutes for eggs, and, as a result, consumers continue to purchase virtually the same number of eggs, even as prices increase.” The report further suggests that groups of producers could “pass increased costs on to consumers without a loss in profits” and that shoppers, in turn, would increase their yearly spending on eggs anywhere from 65 cents to $8.78.2
It’s not surprising that conventional humane groups would avoid public education about animal rights. But this campaign is openly dismissive of the very point it claims to promote: animal welfare. The HSUS report states: “Consumer perception of animal welfare is likely to be an important factor in producers’ choice of housing systems. For instance, although furnished cages have some welfare advantages over non-cage systems, consumers do not recognize a larger, modified cage as a significant improvement over conventional battery cages.”3
In other words, the campaign doesn’t necessarily assume the cage-free egg concept will be better for the birds’ welfare than modified cages; yet it focuses on promoting these so-called cage-free eggs. It’s an easier sell: “Eggs from hens confined in furnished cages,” states the HSUS report, “do not enjoy the market premium of cage-free eggs.”4 An examination of Californians for Humane Farms' website reveals other documents covering the economics of dead calves — the HSUS calls them carcasses — and the value of higher production potential of pregnant pigs with somewhat more space. As Claudette Vaughan writes, “Retrograde and dowdy though it is, institutionalized animal welfare is much more violent towards animals behind the scenes — much more sustaining a death culture — that what people are led to believe.”5
It would be offensive to call the California campaign an animal-welfare initiative. A “husbandry campaign” would be the accurate phrase. The campaign’s reliance on an optimistic forecast for egg sales precludes a genuine effort to improve animal welfare. We have clearly reached the stage at which the conventional humane movement has become so fully taken over by strategy (the concept of “win-win” for industry and the organizations) that it can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from people who support a campaign based on words whose actual meaning may be unknown to them.
Ironically, one of the HSUS reports cites a 2004 Golin/Harris poll for the United Egg Producers, in which most people surveyed said they’d pay extra for eggs with an “Animal Care Certified” label — even “without any information about what the label actually meant.”6 Perhaps the very same phenomenon is going on with donations to humane farm organizations themselves, for how many in the general public will know that HSUS is doing market research for animal agribusiness, and going along with what shoppers perceive as humane and assuring corporations of market premiums for newly packaged commodities? One thing’s well known: The label “new and improved” can persuade consumers to keep buying a product. Does such market research cultivate genuine respect for the other animals of the world? Does this campaign help change the psychology that sees animals as commodities — or does it reinforce it? As James LaVeck has asked, “Do we want to perpetuate the destructive fantasy that a social justice movement can be run like a multi-national corporation?”7
Finding a Coherent Message
The California Prevention of Cruelty Act would — if not overridden by state or federal law by its effective date of 2015 — also place pregnant pigs in something larger than seven-by-two-foot gestation crates. Campaigners for the adjustment frame it as a win-win situation for advocacy groups (who hope to claim it as a victory) and businesses that breed and sell pig and their flesh. It could reduce farmers’ building investment costs, according to a report on the economic forecast for “the retail price of pork” on the campaigners’ website. It could improve pigs’ bone and muscle development, reduce stillbirths, and augment the “productivity” of pigs still more by inducing earlier pregnancies.8
Activists also note that the switch could lead to a market premium, citing a poll showing most Iowa consumers would “buy pork products from food companies whose suppliers raise and process their hogs only under humane and environmentally sound conditions.”9 In short: Freedom will be allowed by the industry to the extent that freedom will be paid for by the meat-eater. Not more.
And what of those “environmentally sound conditions”? From both an animal-advocacy and an environmental perspective, expanded space for animal agribusiness makes little sense. Alas, as free-living animals are pushed aside by dairies and ranches, vegetarian activists are enlisted in “sustainable meat” campaigns. Reuters news service, for example, recently quoted a personal chef in the Bay Area of California who avoided meat for 20 years but believes the “grass-fed movement is the new vegetarianism.”10
Across the planet, animal agribusiness is on the rise. If not from vegetarian activists, where can global society find a coherent message? Steadfast support for the movement to opt out of animal agribusiness would cultivate and strengthen genuine respect for animals and the ecology. Excellent models are available, from community gardens and vegan-organic farming projects to educational gatherings exemplified by the North American Vegetarian Society’s annual Summerfest.
Yet another example is Gidon Eshel, the University of Chicago researcher who was once a cattle farmer, but now cultivates an organic vegetable farm. Eshel’s research, which has had an important influence in the United Nations reports on agriculture, shows that a vegan, who eschews the products of resource-costly animal agribusiness, generates about a ton and a half less greenhouse gases annually that an omnivore consuming the same amount of calories. In short, the best way to respect pigs, chickens in the egg industry, and the animals exploited in the dairy industry — both calves and their parents — is declining to create the demand for them. It’s up to us to vote with our dinner plate by gracing it with a reverence for life.
Learning From History
Of course, the idea of cultivating a reverence for life enjoys a long tradition in animal advocacy and vegetarianism. By 1944, Elsie Shriglie, Donald Watson, and a number of other people of straightforward thinking and firm resolve made it clear, by forming the Vegan Society, that avoiding not only flesh but animal products generally would be the logical conclusion of vegetarianism. A significant step in quite the opposite direction came in 1994, when Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) developed guidelines for “Freedom Food” labels for meat and dairy products derived from animals reared according to society guidelines. Pigs, for example, would have straw bedding before being slaughtered as Freedom Food. A decade after the label’s debut, more than 60 million approved eggs were being snapped up each month by shoppers in thousands of stores.
By 1999, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies gave its support in principle to humane labels; soon a Canadian meat production website would urge “livestock producers who want to be around for the long term” to take note of the marketing importance of this trend.11
One of the preachers of caring consumption in the United States is Michael Pollan, editor-at-large for Harper’s, and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Pollan became interested in the topic because of health and animal-welfare concerns, and wrote, “If I was going to continue to eat red meat, then I owed it to myself, as well as to the animals, to take more responsibility for the invisible but crucial transaction between ourselves and the animals we eat. I’d try to own it, in other words.”12 Pollan bought a calf. And Pollan chronicled the growth of the calf from nursing, through the wrenching separation from his distraught mother, to a regimen of unnatural foods, hormones, and pharmaceutical products designed to induce slaughter weight by 14 to 16 months of age.
“Staring at No. 534,” wrote Pollan, “I could picture the white lines of the butcher’s chart dissecting his black hide: rump roast, flank steak, standing rib, brisket.”
Temple Grandin, an assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State, impressed Pollan as “one of the most influential people in the United States cattle industry.” Grandin “has devoted herself to making cattle slaughter less stressful and therefore more humane by designing an ingenious series of cattle restraints, chutes, ramps and stunning systems.” Professor Grandin, notes Pollan, is autistic, “a condition she says has allowed her to see the world from the cow’s point of view.” The idea that autism makes one able to see the world from a cow’s point of view is desperately absurd, but it worked for Pollan, who admitted that eating meat is “something I always enjoyed doing.”
Notably, Grandin is cited as an expert in the reference materials prepared by the Humane Society and linked to the Californians for Humane Farms’ website.
Much like an airline selling first class-tickets at premium prices, the Freedom Food and Humane Farms concepts don’t guarantee that anyone is buying less of the conventional, cheaper products. These concepts clearly do provide a greater array for the consumer, and they clearly do make some people more comfortable with the product than they otherwise would be.
As the human population continues to rise, and as access to precious land, fossil fuel, and water becomes concentrated in fewer hands, mass production will be the norm, in California and everywhere else. Only a select few will have the opportunity to trace what Pollan euphemistically calls “the invisible but crucial transaction between ourselves and the animals we eat.”
Again to quote Claudette Vaughan, “Nothing can ever replace the good, solid efforts over a long period of time of animal rights education, veganism and cruelty-free activism.” Through consistent and truly life-affirming activism, advocates could replace the fantasy of sustainable and humane animal farming with a plain-speaking movement that gets to the point: We just don’t need to buy what animal agribusiness is selling.
The cookbook Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine, available from Friends of Animals, and covering everything from soups and dips and raw delights to unforgettable desserts. Have no fear: Egg-free baking is a perfectly traditional, and this book will help you get started with recipes that stand up to chefs’ standards. Dining With Friends has been kitchen-tested and highly praised by Vegetarian Times. Why not order this outstanding cookbook for yourself or a friend today? See ordering information in this issue.
- 1. Last winter, a high-profile campaign to effect adjustments in animal husbandry involved Arizona’s Proposition 204, a ballot measure for new minimum stall sizes for calves and pregnant pigs. It passed, albeit with a seven-year phase-out period; and already federal legislation has been proposed to stop states from imposing husbandry standards on businesses. Regarding the Arizona initiative, see “Movement Watch” in the Spring 2007 issue of this publication, also available on the Friends of Animals website: www.friendsofanimals.org (click ActionLine on the top tool bar).
- 2. “An HSUS Report: The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Battery Cages” (as visited through www.humanecalifornia.org on 8 Oct. 2007; internal citations omitted).
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. According to the HSUS report, consumers will pay “an average of between 17- to 60-percent more for eggs from non-cage systems.” Ibid.
- 5. Claudette Vaughan, “Review: Capers In The Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy In The Age of Terror by Lee Hall,” – Abolitionist Online (Autumn 2007).
- 6. “The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Battery Cages” (see note 2).
- 7. James LaVeck, “Truthiness Is Stranger Than Fiction: The Hidden Cost of Selling the Public on ‘Cage-Free’ Eggs” – Satya (Feb. 2007). LaVeck is co-founder, with Jenny Stein, of the nonprofit arts and educational organization Tribe of Heart.
- 8. “ An HSUS Report: The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Gestation Crates” (as visited through www.humanecalifornia.org on 8 Oct. 2007; internal citations omitted). See also Ian Bell, “Sows Well-Being in Stalls, Gestation Crates Compared” – The Western Producer (21 Jun. 2001).
- 9. Ibid., citing Hill Research Consultants poll for the Humane Society of the United States (2003).
- 10. Reuters New Service, “Compassionate Carnivores Focus on Activism” (16 Aug. 2007).
- 11. For more on this history, see “Movement Watch” in the Spring 2003 issue of this magazine, also available on the Friends of Animals website: www.friendsofanimals.org (click ActionLine on the top tool bar).
- 12. Michael Pollan, “Power Steer” – New York Times Magazine (31 Mar. 2001).
A showdown over the extermination of hundreds of monk parakeets was short-circuited in Superior Court in New Haven Tuesday, after The United Illuminating Co. promised to cease capturing the birds — for the time being.
Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, was relieved that dozens or more birds that have escaped capture — and death — will not be asphyxiated. She said, however, it was a Pyrrhic victory, after about 200 of the gregarious green birds were killed in the UI’s three-week campaign to remove nests from 103 utility poles from West Haven to Fairfield.
– Excerpt from “Deal Allows UI to Destroy Nests but Not Send Birds to Death” in Ken Dixon’s award-winning series of articles on monk parakeets for The Connecticut Post (7 Dec. 2005).
Programs to eradicate populations of monk parakeets in the Northeast and elsewhere throughout their North American range sparked widespread criticism and activism from wildlife enthusiasts, local residents and organizations that protested destruction of the birds. To provide alternative nesting sites for the parakeets we designed and tested a nesting platform, and, with the help of volunteers and donations from Friends of Animals, erected fourteen artificial nest platforms in areas where parakeet nests had been removed from transformers and power poles.
Two of the platforms were adopted by monk parakeet pairs. Although this adoption rate is low, both platforms were subsequently used as breeding sites from which young birds fledged. We suggest that widespread erection of artificial nesting platforms provides an alternative that remains attractive to birds and expedient for the utility companies and other agencies charged with routine maintenance of poles, light fixtures and similar structures on which monk parakeets may nest.
The monk parakeet is the most successful invasive parakeet in North America and the only one to colonize parts of the Northeast, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Present in this area since the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, these parakeets have been the target of several eradication programs that attempted to eliminate the entire population as well as more sporadic campaigns to destroy individual nests and birds at the local level.
Justification for these eradication programs has been based on two claims, neither of which is necessarily supported by ecological study. The first is that, since the parakeet is an invasive species, it is therefore undesirable and undeserving of protection. In response, we can point out that the monk parakeets bring color and wildlife interest to often blighted urban environments and are appreciated by the great majority of urbanites. The second complaint is that the enormous stick nests that monk parakeets construct cause occasional power outages, becoming the target of local and regional utility companies that then advocate their removal and the bird’s destruction. It is the latter argument that has generated repeated removal and destruction campaigns against this parakeet.
The last and most fractious eradication program to remove and destroy monk parakeets occurred in late 2005 in several Connecticut towns that fronted Long Island Sound. Citing public safety concerns, the United Illuminating (UI) Company, which services a part of the southern Connecticut shoreline towns, removed over a hundred active nests and destroyed 179 birds at a cost of $698.32 per bird. A subsequent nest removal campaign occurred in late 2006, when UI company workers removed nests from power poles in West Haven, Milford and Stratford but did not destroy the birds as in previous nest removals.
All recent eradication programs targeting this species have failed, instead resulting in energizing a large segment of the public that enjoys the bright and colorful parakeets in their urban landscape.
The destruction of monk parakeet nests along with adult birds, their eggs and their young spurred the search for suitable artificial nests that may appeal to the parakeets. Marc Johnson of Massachusetts drew up the plans for an artificial platform that would be simple to construct and cost-effective, while providing a roosting and breeding platform that was a visually stimulating alternative to power poles for the monk parakeets.
Marc designed and constructed a boxlike nest platform of plywood supported by PVC tube. The platform was further modified to include a simulated nest complete with an entrance and interior cavity to serve as a roosting and nesting chamber.
The platforms are constructed using readily available materials and are simple to build. Materials include 2×2 exterior ¾-plywood sheets that form the top and bottom of the basic platform, rolls of chicken hex mesh wire to frame and shape the entrances, and straw as filler. Six pieces of 1×8 pine were screwed to the bottom 2×2 exterior ¾- plywood base, providing six pie-shaped chambers. Each of the six chambers was loosely filled with straw to provide insulation. Each had its own circular entrance fashioned from twigs. The roof of the platform consists of 2×2 exterior plywood.
Volunteers assisted in building the fourteen nest platforms. The first two platforms were erected on 18-foot lengths of two-inch diameter PVC pipe. Support poles for the next 12 platforms were two-inch diameter steel pipe 20 feet in length. Platforms were anchored in concrete and supported by guy wires. Total costs for all materials, including the mounting poles, were about $100 per platform. Volunteer labor, including construction, transportation and erection, considerably reduced costs of the pilot project.
Between November and December 2005, the platforms were erected on private property in West Haven and Stratford, Conn., placed between 50 and 150 feet from existing nests on power poles, or at sites where nests had been removed by the United Illuminating Company.
Two of the fourteen platforms were adopted by the birds. One platform in West Haven was adopted by a single pair of monk parakeets in December, less than a month following destruction of the parakeet nest by the UI company. The artificial platform was located about 50 feet from the original nest and this pair — the only survivors from that nest destruction — immediately started work on building up the nest platform, weaving twigs into the straw to increase both width and height of the nest. The pair succeeded in raising two young, and these fledged sometime within the first week of July 2006. Four parakeets were attending the nest on this platform as of November 2006.
A second nesting platform, at 25 Crown Street in Stratford, was adopted by another single surviving pair in April 2005, nearly five months after the destruction of nests in this town and four months after the platform was erected in December 2006. This pair raised two young as well. The pair and their young attended this nest all through summer and autumn, 2006. Five additional parakeets took refuge in this nest following removal of their nest in October 2006.
While utility companies constantly claim to be concerned with safety hazards arising from monk parakeet nests on transformers, here we have a proven suitable alternative that saves the parakeets while minimizing costs associated with management concerns. We suggest that large-scale construction and use of artificial nesting platforms based on this proven model would be cheaper than the company’s deadly approach. We hope these platforms prove to be a viable, long-term solution. Furthermore, we hope that the young raised at these sites may imprint on platforms rather than power poles, producing generations of monk parakeets that will use the platforms to establish new nesting colonies of this colorful and desirable parakeet in urban landscapes.
Erection and maintenance of artificial nesting platforms requires the cooperation of local homeowners. With their help, we believe these alternative nests can provide a safe haven for future generations of monk parakeets, and eliminate or at least reduce maintenance costs and public safety issues that occur when the birds nest on transformers.
We thank the large contingent of volunteers who donated time, money, and space to construct the platforms and then erect them on their property. Julie Cook of West Haven and Michelle Slowik of Stratford kindly gave permission for us to work on their properties. Partial support for research on the ecological behavior of monk parakeet acceptance of the platforms was provided by funds from the Werth Family Foundation of Woodbridge, Conn.
Dwight G. Smith is professor and chair of the biology department at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. He teaches conservation ecology, mammalogy and ornithology. He and a cadre of students have been studying Monk Parakeet populations in the Northeast and elsewhere in North America for the past 15 years.
Marc Johnson is founder and chief executive of the Massachusetts-based Foster Parrots Incorporated.
When winter approaches, staying active, at least outdoors, becomes more of a challenge. In many areas, snow is abundant, and getting through the snow and ice can be daunting.
Of course, this resistance can be used to one’s benefit. Outdoor walks become serious excursions. With extra clothing and snow on our paths, a typical walk can burn twice as many calories as it would in the summer.
And that simple walk through a snowy park becomes much more interesting when snowshoes are added. Cross-country skiing is also very enjoyable for people of any skill or fitness level, although you should take it easy if you’re new, and focus on technique over speed. And, of course, if you live near a mountain, alpine skiing and snowboarding are great ways to spend the day.
As a cyclist who grew up in Ontario and has spent a winter in the interior of British Columbia, I can attest to the great fun that cycling in the snow can be. Bicycle tires can now be bought with steel studs in them, which make riding on ice feel like you’re riding on dry concrete. With an extra layer of clothing, winter commuting by bicycle is possible.
You’ll need to dress so you’re not too hot, but warm enough. If you’re feeling hot before you’re even outside, you’re likely over-dressed. Layers are a common way to address this: going out with a little extra, and having a layer you can take off to cool down a bit. Avoid air-tight clothing; clothes that “breathe” lift the sweat from your skin and transport it to the outer layer of your clothing. This, of course, prevents your clothes from becoming wet, which would cool you down mighty quick if you stop for long. Outdoors and running shops will be able to set you up with the type of clothing you’ll need to keep warm and dry while active outdoors.
One can also enjoy a great many activities indoors. Yoga and strength-training are two excellent options. Yoga classes are popping up everywhere, often including free trial sessions.
Gyms and recreation centers also offer opportunities to maintain or increase your level of fitness. There are many options for cardio training, such as rowing machines, treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical machines. Many also feature swimming pools. Alternately, there are weight rooms, and weight training not only helps create an overall body of health, but burns extra calories. Added muscle increases the number of calories you’ll burn every day, and help you shed any excess weight.
Check out my suggested Three Day Gym Workout program. The idea is to get to the gym three days a week (say, Monday, Wednesday and Friday), preferably with a rest day between each. This will give you a full-body workout, strengthening and condition virtually all major muscle groups. When beginning, use light weights. Going easy for the first week or two will prevent a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort that often occurs when beginning a new physical routine. There’s lots of time to increase your lifts and toss some big iron! Aim for 12-20 repetitions per lift if you’ve got an endurance focus. If you’re more interested in power, start with the higher repetitions, then work your way down every couple weeks, going from 12-20, to 10-12, to 8-12, down to 4-6 repetitions. Aim for two to four sets of each exercise.
Conclude each workout with a high-carb snack or meal. Aim for 200-300 calories, preferably in a liquid state for faster absorption. You’ll want minimal fat and protein in this, as the goal is to quickly replace your depleted glycogen stores in your muscles. This results in much less discomfort afterwards, as your muscles will have the fuel to repair and recover. Sleep is also hugely important in recovery.
Sample Three-Day Gym Workout
Starting a new routine? The professionals at the gym will explain these lifts to you. It is important that you do ask for assistance from qualified staff where you’re training, to prevent injury.
Each day is broken down to four portions – a warm-up, a core-work-out, a work-out for specific muscle groups, and then a cool-down of stretching. Aim to keep the specific muscle-group portion of the workout to around an hour. Beyond that, fatigue starts to set in, and diminishes potential gains. Total workout will be between one and 1.5 hours.
Day 1 – Legs
Ride the stationary bike. Not too hard; just get your breathing up a bit by starting slowly, and increasing the intensity over ten minutes. Eight minutes in, give it a little extra. Ease down for the final minute to cool.
Suggested core workout.
Start with ten to fifteen minutes for some core exercises focusing on strengthening your abdominal muscles and lower back. Common ab exercises include sit-ups and curls, or various leg raises. You can do leg raises lying, legs straight out, and raising your heels up and down from about 3 to 8 inches off the floor; or hanging from a bar, and raising your knees to your chest, as high as you can, with your legs bent. Keep the speed slow enough so you don’t swing, it should be a smooth and fluid movement. Once you can do 20 repetitions of these, you can switch to the advanced version, which is the same, but with legs straight. Back extensions can be done on a machine, or with a Swiss ball. The back extension machine has you laying forward on an angle, and allows you to straighten your back backwards, and the same can be done on a Swiss ball (one of those big, soft balls used in Pilates) by resting on your knees on the ground, and chest on the ball, then lean back several inches to work the lower back. If you’re not already familiar with these movements, request help to achieve the proper form.
Options with machines include leg extensions, leg (hamstring) curls, leg press, and the Smith machine, which simulates squats without the risks of free weights. Do all extensions and curls on machines one-legged for best muscle development.
Options with bodyweight and free weights includes step-ups, lunges, and side lunges.
For the advanced workout, squats and deadlifts are great for the legs, after all the above.
Stretch for ten to twenty minutes. Enjoy your recovery snack!
Day 2 – Chest and Back
Use the rowing machine. Not too hard; just get your breathing up a bit by starting slowly, and increasing the intensity over ten minutes. Eight minutes in, give it a little extra. Ease down for the final minute.
Suggested core workout.
Various sit-ups, leg raises, back extensions (same as above, in the leg workout).
Chest and back:
For the chest, options include the bench press with a bar, or with dumbbells, and bench flies with dumbbells. Pushups are a good option as well.
For the back, the seated cable or bent-over row, lateral pull-down, body-weight pull-ups, and bent-over delta flies are all excellent. If you’re not already familiar with these movements, request help to achieve the proper form.
Stretch for ten to twenty minutes. Enjoy your recovery snack!
Day 3 – Triceps, Biceps and Shoulders
Use the elliptical or rowing machine. Not too hard; just get your breathing up a bit by starting slowly, and increasing the intensity over ten minutes. Eight minutes in, give it a little extra. Ease down for the final minute.
Suggested core workout.
Various sit-ups, leg raises, back extensions (same as above, in the leg workout).
Biceps and triceps:
Biceps are easy to work. Standing curls and seated curls are common. Triceps are a bit more tricky. I suggest overhead dumbbell extensions, bent-over dumbbell extensions, and cable pull-downs. As always, if you’re not already familiar with these movements, request help to achieve the proper form.
Using dumbbells, beneficial exercises include overhead shoulder presses (stand with arms held up and out to side, bent, and push weights straight up, as though you’re pushing something off your shoulders); front raises (starting with your arms to your side, palms down, lift your arms forward to shoulder height as though you were opening a stiff trunk of a car); and side flies (arms at your side, raised sideways, as though were making a standing snow angel, to shoulder height).
Stretch for ten to twenty minutes. Enjoy your recovery snack!
Note to readers: The suggestions here are not presented as medical advice, nor can we anticipate all readers’ individual situations. To avoid injury, consult with your health professional before embarking on a new workout plan, and ensure the equipment you use is properly and regularly maintained.
Over more than two decades Peter Wallerstein has saved thousands of animal lives along the densely populated Los Angeles Country seashore. From gray whales trapped in commercial netting to sea lions sick from domoic acid poisoning caused by red tides, L.A.’s marine wildlife depends on Wallerstein’s one-man emergency care unit.
Well over 90 percent of the animals that MAR rescues are injured by human encroachment. “Domoic acid poisoning is exasperated by pollution,” Wallerstein said, obviously annoyed but without raising his voice.
But he never loses his missionary zeal. “I empathize with these animals. It hurts me to see them injured, but it gives me energy. That’s what keeps me going. The satisfaction of rescuing a single animal — knowing that I had an effect on a life.” He has found his calling. It’s not surprising that he’s been a vegan for 20 years and a vegetarian for 35 years.
It wasn’t always thus. Wallerstein, 55, is a child of the sixties and, like so many in his generation, he spent a lot of time finding his place in the world. After graduating from high school in Tonawanda, New York, he put on a backpack and hitchhiked back and forth across the U.S. He sailed to South America and lived for a time on an uninhabited island. Thoreau-like, he lived alone in a cottage on top of a mountain in New Hampshire for two years, raising his own food and bartering with the locals. (Unlike Henry David at Walden Pond, however, he couldn’t walk home to his mother’s house every night for a slice of pie.) “I went in search of myself,” he explained.
Nothing quite clicked, so he packed up and moved to Los Angeles, where he started a landscaping business and spent his off hours surfing. In the mid-eighties, Wallerstein met Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an offshoot of Greenpeace, and suddenly found himself the director of the organization’s Pacific projects. Based in L.A., he started rescuing gray whales caught up in gill nets. “I had the TV on, and I heard about these whales dying. And I thought, oh, that’s in some other country, but it was right here in L.A. Dozens of whales were dying every year, and no one was doing anything about it.”
He left Sea Shepherd and devoted himself full-time to rescuing local marine animals, originally calling his group the Whale Rescue Team. Over the years, Wallerstein has developed a tool kit of rescue techniques and has trained lifeguards and other volunteers to help him. MAR merged with Friends of Animals in the summer of 2007, and Wallerstein is relieved to have his organization on more solid financial footing. “This is going to continue,” he said with conviction. “If I get killed hoop-netting a 300-pound sea lion, it won’t all stop. It will continue long after I’m gone.”
Wallerstein isn’t being morbid or self-aggrandizing, for he knows full well the dangers of working with large animals who are injured, frightened, or disoriented from domoic acid poisoning. He is schooling others in his capture and release techniques as well.
A few years ago, Wallerstein began documenting his rescues with photographs, and they are consistently powerful and poignant. He uses a simple waterproof Pentax point-and-shoot, but the effect of his photos is often mesmerizing. “These animals are beautiful,” he said, “and they’re in a beautiful environment. I want to get the message across that it’s important to care and to have compassion for them.”
It’s a message that he carries with him every day.
Ben Adams is a vegan chef with over ten years experience in the food industry. He started working in restaurants as a teenager in Alexandria, Virginia, eventually completing his culinary training at the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Co. After school, he moved back to Virginia and started working at Sticky Fingers, a vegan bakery and deli in Washington, D.C. After four years as head baker, he moved to Brooklyn, NY to open his own personal chef business.
Ben’s extensive travel — to the Netherlands, Southern France, Italy, Egypt and Korea –has informed his work, which has been featured on the Food Network and ABC’s “Nightline.” The Washington Post, Washington Times, VegNews and Modern Baking have also highlighted Ben’s culinary handiwork. I met Ben in Johnstown, Penn. at Vegetarian Summerfest 2007—the North American Vegetarian Society’s all-vegan event.
FoA: Let’s start at the beginning: What led you to becoming a vegan personal chef?
Ben: The cooking school I attended, the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Colorado specializes in training personal chefs. I had originally gone a different direction after graduating, spending four great years at Sticky Fingers, most of that time as head baker; I was lucky enough to be given the freedom to experiment and create by the owners. [ New York] was the perfect opportunity to branch out with my own personal chef service. For me, the appeal is in cooking for clients’ individual tastes and making a wide variety of dishes. I’m also excited to use my broad experience with plant-based foods to work with people who have various dietary concerns or allergies. I really enjoy being able to help out people who think that their diets are so restrictive that they can’t enjoy food.
FoA: Are most of your clients actually vegan? And how does your service work?
Ben: I only prepare vegan food, but the majority of people I’ve worked with are not vegan. In some cases, my clients have food allergies or sensitivities; sometimes they’re just interested in eating healthier foods. I think after one session, the folks who aren’t vegan put it out of their mind and just enjoy the food for what it is. That’s ultimately my goal.
My service is customized to the needs of each client. I always start with a client consultation meeting to establish likes and dislikes, allergies, and an overall sense of what they need from a personal chef. I then use that information to create dishes tailored to their tastes and requirements.
I usually schedule one or two cooking sessions for each client per week, during which I come to the clients’ homes and make a variety of dishes for them that will be stored in the fridge or freezer for them to use as they please. I encourage my clients to offer feedback on what I’ve made so I can sharpen the profile for future sessions.
FoA: Typically, what kinds of foods are you asked to prepare? Is there a particular emphasis?
Ben: Whole beans and grains are the backbone of my approach, which clients seem to enjoy. I also try to incorporate lots of fresh vegetables and make simply prepared vegetable dishes. Mediterranean cuisines really lend themselves to this approach, which is fortunate since they seem to be quite popular with my clients.
I’ve also recently started making lunches for kids. I think a lot of parents are fed up with the unhealthy options at the school cafeteria, but often don’t have time to make lunch every day. I love cooking for kids – I think their palates are often much broader than we give them credit for, and they’re brutally honest about their reaction to the food. Adults will sometimes sugar-coat their impressions, but kids don’t hold back.
FoA: What do you find most rewarding in this line of work?
Ben: What I love about being a personal chef is the freedom to create. Every session is a new opportunity to work within someone’s palate and to understand what is important to each person.
FoA: As activists, one of our greatest challenges is creating more vegans. Do you see your work as a form of activism?
Ben Adams: I’ve been vegan now for fourteen years, and one thing I’ve always felt is that veganism is primarily about personal activism. It’s a question of what choices an individual can make to impact the world around them. As such, I’ve always tried to be an example rather than a proselytizer.
I definitely come from the “one meal at a time” school of converting people to plant-based diets. Every vegan has to choose to be vegan at every meal, and the more meals that someone has that are free of animal products, the closer they are to that end.
As I mentioned, the majority of my clients to date have been non-vegans, and I think setting an example for them about how versatile cooking can be when working with plant-based foods and within their personal specifications is the most important way for me to be an activist. When they see that vegan food can be prepared in their homes, meet their dietary needs, and be delicious at the same time, it’s much more likely that they’ll seek out more of it.
FoA: What are your favorite foods to prepare?
Ben Adams: I have a long-running love affair with grains. I find them to be so versatile, easily manipulated, and willing to take on other flavors. I think sweet brown rice, millet, and quinoa are my favorites. Of course, with grains always come beans. The two work in combination so well, and I certainly embrace the entire pantheon of beany goodness. I will admit that my favorites are cannellini beans and chickpeas.
Being in New York, and particularly the part of Brooklyn I live in, I find myself making marinara sauce more regularly. It feels like there are so many Italian markets and an amazing selection of imported tomatoes and olive oils that I just have to make stuff like that. Plus, there’s something about squishing those whole peeled tomatoes that never gets old for me.
I think more than anything, though, I love working with fresh herbs and greens – the washing, the chopping, that grassy new smell all around – it’s just great.
FoA: Do you emphasize locally or regionally grown foods? Do you find that your clients are interested in the environmental impact of food?
Ben Adams: Here in New York, we have access to a lot of local and regional foods, both from farmers’ markets and traditional grocery stores. For me, it’s important to find produce that is in season, locally available and can get from seed to me in the most environmentally sound way.
I think that anyone who seeks out a personal chef is clearly interested in being closer to the food they eat. To know where their food comes from and how it was prepared is important to many of my clients.
FoA: How do you appeal to consumers who claim to love the taste and texture of certain animal products? Do you work with mock meats and vegan cheeses, or do you avoid emulating these?
Ben: It is my opinion that the number one mistake in vegetarian foods is the reliance on “look-alike” products. I understand why they’re on the market and enjoy them myself from time to time, but I don’t cook with mock meat unless specifically requested by a client.
I believe strongly in whole foods; that is, foods that have been transformed in some way but still contain all of their nutritional characteristics. I try to avoid using foods that contain extracted protein; mainly because the advantage of plant-based proteins is that they are already low in fat and high in fiber in their natural, pre-extraction state. I’ll take a whole bean dish over a mock meat dish any day.
I think the “meat and two vegetables” concept is one that will take a long time to get away from. Even in the finest vegetarian restaurants, you still see dishes with this basic composition. For me, I find the best approach to challenge this mindset is to find ways to use plant-based whole foods to create something in a recognizable form. For example, bean and grain based burgers and savory loaves, creamy or “cheesy” sauces using flours and nuts, always including the whole source.
FoA: There seems to be a trend in the vegan community towards very low-fat, whole-food diets. Have you found this to be true? Does cooking low-fat present any particular challenges?
Ben: I would include myself in the whole-foods trend, although I tend to be more likely to use fats. I would agree that many people seem to want lower fat, high-fiber foods, which is great. Low-fat cooking is not nearly as challenging as no-fat cooking, which I find to be virtually impossible as an overall dietary approach. I think the trick to low fat cooking, or cooking for people who are concerned about fats, is to use whole fats, like nuts and avocados. The fiber-fat balance is important, and the more harmonious that balance, the better the results for the client.
FoA: Do you also prepare raw foods cuisine for your customers?
Ben: I do, although in limited form. Since raw foods often require two or three day processes to arrive at the end result, they’re not always easy to incorporate into client meal plans. I do feel strongly that raw foods are important, and I try to include them in any way I can.
FoA: Do you have any tips for people who want to learn to cook more healthfully?
Ben: I may sound like a broken record, but use whole foods! Stay away from extracts and isolates, eat more vegetables (fresh or frozen), and eat your beans and grains.
Quinoa is delicious and cooks super fast. Don’t be afraid of it – any time you would make rice to go with dinner, make quinoa. It’s faster and a nice change of pace.
Soy is a wonderful thing and should be a part of any diet, but it should be eaten in moderation. Find your protein in other ways, and when you do eat soy, eat tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Processed soy protein products are not necessarily good for you just because they’re better than the animal alternative.
FoA: What is the future of plant-based cuisine?
Ben: I think society is moving closer and closer to widespread acceptance of plant-based diets. It’s clear that more and more people are eating animal-free meals on a regular basis, and the community that eschews animal products is growing. The work of many animal advocacy groups, like FoA, is clearly very influential in exposing the horrors of animal foods production. With films and books like “Fast Food Nation” and “Super Size Me” creeping into the mainstream media, I think a growing number of people could be headed for the kinds of realizations that many of us have already come to.
As a cautionary note, though, I think it’s vital to analyze the industry that’s grown up around plant-based foods. We must be careful not to become reliant on the agribusiness companies that produce soy, corn, and wheat for the bulk of our diet. We can’t enable large companies to take advantage of our consumer dollars and we need to make smart choices and support organics, small farmers, and small retailers. The real heart of this movement is at the individual, grassroots level, and we have to set the example ourselves.