Howard Lyman on Politically Incorrect

The “Mad Cowboy” Howard Lyman was on Politically Incorrect on Monday with Tom “My 15 Minutes are So Past” Green, Florence Henderson, and Humberto Fontova (who?). The transcript is available online.

The entire show was devoted to discussing meat and the health and environmental issues associated with it. Unfortunately, the transscript is a frustrating read with three of the four guests attacking Lyman’s stance without giving him much of a chance to respond. Bill Maher, the host, was surprisingly quiet during the discussion, despite his well-known status as a vegetarian and his support of PETA.

Thoughts on the BK veggie burger announcement

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The biggest news for the vegetarian community in the last few days has been the debut of the Burger King Veggie Burger. It’s a big step—while some fast food restaurants offer veggie burgers, it appears this is the first that will be served nationally. On top of that, it’s considered a “permanent addition” to the menu and Burger King plans to actually advertise the burger on television. If the burger does well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other fast food joints following suit.

I’ll be honest: this isn’t going to make me a Burger King customer. I may try the burger once to show some support for the product, but I’m not going to be driving through any more often than I am now (that is to say, never). I don’t think I’m the target audience, though. I think that having a veggie burger right alongside their beef burgers will help elevate the veggie burger in the eyes of the general public.

A few notes… while the burger was originally planned to be vegan and served on a vegan whole wheat bun, that’s only partially the case. The burger itself is vegan safe, but the bun isn’t whole wheat and has trace amounts of dairy in it (“natural and artificial butter flavorings,” confirmed to be animal-derived by Vegan.com’s Erik Marcus). If you’re lacto-vegetarian, than it’s not an issue, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re vegan. Personally, I think it would have been great if they made it a whole wheat bun, just from a health standpoint. The fast food diet is severely lacking in whole grains, and this would have been the perfect time to introduce a whole wheat bun as an option.

The new burger is served with a newly-introduced low-fat mayo (which you can ask them to hold) and, here’s the big one, vegetarians of all types should ask BK to microwave the burger rather than have it cooked on the same surface at their beef burgers (thanks to Erik for mentioning these suggestions).

While the fact remains that Burger King’s business exists mainly to sell meat products, I applaud Burger King’s decision to launch this product and put some advertising muscle behind it. I hope for it to be a hit, if only to give a long-term boost to non-meat sales in fast food restaurants and elsewhere.

Links beefed up

A site-related note: I’ve made the links section a little more substantial, by organizing it a little better and adding brief descriptions to each link.

So much soy milk

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Last year when I shopped the aisles of Giant (a major fast-food chain in my area of the country), I was pretty amazed at how many soy milk options there were.

Now, though, my mind is blown. The refrigerated variety sells better, but the soy milk available in the aseptic packaging has the most variety. Get this: Giant now offers a store brand soy milk! It’s only about 10 cents cheaper than others, but nutritionally, it stacks up pretty well. Though it doesn’t have as much protein as Edensoy Extra (from what I’ve been told—thanks, Brant—this is one of the most nutrionally-dense soy milks on the market), it does offer 50% of the RDA for vitamin B12, the same as Edensoy Extra. Surprisingly, the store brand also uses organic soy beans (which now seems to be rule rather than the exception, thankfully).

One of Europe’s most popular soy milk producers, Belsoy, is now adorning the shelves of US markets. Unfortunately, at the Giant near me, they’ve cut back on the Edensoy selection in favor of Belsoy. I bought one of their original, unsweetened varieties to try with my cereal. Since it’s lacking in the B12 department, when I use it with my cereal, I sprinkle on a little Red Star Nutritional Yeast first. Tastewise, it’s nothing to write home about, but does the job in cereal.

But the variety of soy milks has also increased. Last Christmas, you may have seen Silk Nog, but did you know that Silk also makes Silk Creamer, Silk Mocha, Silk Soylatte, and Silk Chai? Another interesting variety that caught my eye was Vitasoy‘s Green Tea Soymilk. I decided to give it a shot, and was pretty impressed. It definitely has that subtle green tea taste (they use Japanese Green Tea), but with a nice, milky consistency.

While I rarely drink soy milk (or cow’s milk, for that matter) by the glass, I use exclusively soy milk in my cereal. I’m also a fan of almond milk, but have yet to try the box of Rice Dream sitting in my fridge.

I’m thinking that sometime soon, I’d like to organize an “alternate milk” taste test with vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters to see how they stack up tastewise, and nutrionally. If you live in the Northern VA area and might be interested, drop me a line.

Washington Post looks at “attitudes”

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Today, the Washington Post took a good look at the attitudes of meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans (link via Alex). It starts with a brief overview of how, apparently, meat-eaters see vegetarians (as “wan and undernourished” people that “can’t understand why everyone won’t make allowances for what essentially is their own choice”) and vice-versa (“Meat eaters are rude… They think animal products are the only way to get protein”).

The article then discusses the stand-offish attutide of cookbook authors from each camp. Anthony Bourdain refers to vegans as “a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn” while Carol J. Adams says of meat-eaters, “I truly believed that when they asked about vegetarianism, they really wanted answers. I was wrong.”

Things conclude with a roundtable discussion with six DC-area vegans.

I think it’s a shame how this article seems to take the “us versus them” attitude of some people from both camps and really amplifies it. While I have run into meat-eaters that take absolute offense to even the most passive vegetarians, the majority of people I’ve talked to are understanding, respectful, and interested. At the same time, I’ve met a few “militant vegans,” but even among the misunderstood vegan community, the majority that I’ve met haven’t been the aggressive, self-righteous type, but rather laid back, intelligent people who made a choice for “compassion over killing.”

I think among the meat-eaters that do get offended by a vegetarian’s very existence, the problem tends to be that they feel threatened. They feel threatened that “we” are somehow going to take away their right to eat a fat steak and force them to eat a tofu gluten bulgur burger with a side of kidney beans and flax seeds. But that’s not the case. I know that I’d love it if family members became vegetarian, but I realize it’s a personal choice. And while I’d love for everyone I know to read about the horrors of factory farming practices and the political shadiness in the dairy, meat, and poultry industries, I know that forcing information on them won’t do any good. I wasn’t ready to hear it five years ago when I was eating cheeseburgers for lunch everyday, but when I was ready, that’s when the information made a difference in my life.

The best we can do is to answer questions and set a good example. Let people look at you and see your positive attitude, your good health, and your compassion for living things. Don’t let them see the bitter “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” attitude that some people associate with vegetarians. It’s the old idea of “lead by example.”

We can only change our own lives, but we can influence others’ without saying a word.