Why I’m No Longer Going to Vote for Terry McAuliffe


Here in Virginia, the Democratic primary for the state’s gubernatorial race is underway. We have a few candidates running, including former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. I was initially considering throwing my vote his way, despite his campaign’s irriating calls multiple times every week, but after a mailing I received yesterday, there’s no chance. If you don’t want to open up the PDF, take a look at the video instead:

As a vegan, I cannot justify supporting a candidate who wants to turn animal waste into energy. Why would I reject an option that, in theory, doesn’t hurt the animals? Especially one that helps clean up the environmental mess that’s a result of their intensive confinement? Because it’s just not that simple…

  • Agribusiness doesn’t deserve the money. As an ethical vegan, why would I want to support factory farms (because, believe me, ain’t enough waste coming from farms like the imaginary one in the video to support McAuliffe’s plan)? Using chickens’ waste doesn’t solve the real environmental problems of overconsumption and factory farming. Rather, it financially rewards those causing the problem. Let’s look at another by-product of meat production: leather. The argument is that leather is just a by-product and the materials would otherwise be wasted and discarded. But, a USDA report states that animal skins are “the most economically important byproduct” of the meatpacking industry. It’s not just an afterthought, it’s an essential part of the operation of slaughterhouses and the poultry waste used for energy could potentially become nearly as essential.
  • It’s not proven to be environmentally sound. If it ain’t clean and sustainable, why is it even a topic for consideration? This Washington Post piece points out a number of criticisms of the chicken waste-to-energy concept:

    Environmental groups have been largely critical of efforts to generate energy from waste products such as garbage or droppings. Often such plants produce harmful emissions.

    In addition, critics note that raw poultry waste already brings in top dollar as a fertilizer — more, sometimes, than the energy it can produce.

    “It does not make sense to try to solve a waste problem as an energy solution,” [Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network] said. “It is an unproven technology that is going to serve only to delay and confuse the real solutions in Virginia, which are energy efficiency and true renewable energy like wind and solar.

  • Fibrowatt. Fibrowatt is a Pennsylvania-based company aiming to build a power plan on the Eastern Short of Maryland that would run completely on logging and poultry waste. There has been a lot of opposition to Fibrowatt and “poultry litter incineration” in North Carolina, calling the process “dirtier than coal, more expensive than wind, and litter incineration as an economic threat to farmers” (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League).

Where do the other candidates stand? Brian Moran supports it in a passing comment, but:

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for Moran, criticized McAuliffe’s fixation on chicken waste. “He’s made it seem like chicken waste is the solution to the problem, and we’re not even sure how much of an answer it is,” he said.

I couldn’t find a stated position for Creigh Deeds. I’ve sent him an e-mail and a note on Twitter and am awaiting a response.

While I’m sure none of the candidates are going to completely satisfy my lefty political desires, I can definitely say that I will not be voting for a candidate that so enthusiastically and aggressively supports plans like chicken waste-to-energy. We shouldn’t be putting more money into the pockets of factory farms while diverting attention from real solutions like reduced consumption, energy efficiency, and clean technogies like solar and wind power.

(Update: Creigh Deeds replied to my inquiry on twitter: “Great potential in poultry waste, and other ag waste for that matter.” Sigh.)

Final week of pleas

In six days, I’ll be running the sixth annual Poplar Spring Run for the Animals 5k and this year I’m raising money for the sanctuary. I can guarantee you that your money will be used well and wisely, directly affecting the lives of the hundreds of residents of the farm. So, if you have a few dollars to spare for a good cause:


And if you need a little more convincing, hit play on this slideshow of photos I’ve taken at Poplar Spring and Poplar Spring events over the last 5+ years:

NY trip notes (and some music)


A couple of weeks ago, my wife, daughter, and I headed up to New York City. It was the first time in nearly four years that my wife and I had been there and Rasine’s first time ever. We were only in town for one day and one night, but we had an excellent time and can’t wait to go back. A few, quick impressions of our culinary experiences this time around:

Two Boots Pizzeria

Though not a vegan pizza place, the Two Boots listing on Supervegan indicated that they had a number of vegan choices, so we stopped by for a few slices.

When I stepped to the counter and asked if they had any vegan pizzas made, the guy indicated that they didn’t and gave off the vibe that he didn’t want to bother making one, either. I gave him a disappointed look and said, “Oh, you don’t?” followed by a pregnant pause. He then said, tersely, “OK, I’ll make one.” He didn’t ask what we wanted on it or anything, so we crossed our fingers and waited.

What we got was one of the best vegan pizzas we’ve ever had. It was cheeseless, but they seemed to have taken every possible vegetable from their kitchen (and maybe a few from next door) and threw it on a pizza. The result was a slice piled ridiculously high that seriously hit the spot.


Lan Cafe

We knew for sure that we were going to Lula’s Sweet Apothecary for dessert, so the next trick was finding a nearby restaurant for dinner. There were a few options, but we settled on Lan Cafe, a vegetarian (and very nearly vegan) Vietnamese restaurant that serves up veggie pho, half a dozen varities of banh mi sandwiches, vegetarian banh xeo pancakes, and every other traditional Vietnamese favorite you can imagine. The food was excellent, as was the company (we met up with a childhood friend of my wife’s that she hadn’t seen in 20 years). My banh mi with grilled seitan was perfect and my wife thoroughly enjoyed her banh xeo with mock pork. Rasine, as you can see below, dug the summer roll appetizer:

Summer roll

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary

If there’s any spot in New York that’s worth the hype, it’s Lula’s. The Supervegan page is one glowing review after another stating that the homemade ice cream is equalled only by the friendly service of the two proprietors. For those that haven’t heard, Lula’s is an all-vegan ice cream parlor (one of two in the city!) that looks like an authentic, old school ice cream parlor (and not in the kitchy way, at all). To get a good feel for the vibe, check out this excellent photoset.

As soon as we entered, the owners told us, “Let us know if there’s anything you want to sample.” And sample we did. I eventually settled on a malt (a MALT! REALLY!) made with cake batter ice cream. Huyen and Rasine split a simple, but tasty, mint chocolate chip cone. I’m pretty sure that on our next trip to the city, we’ll be coming here each night.

Yay for Lula’s!

Lula's Sweet Apothecary 1

As an added bonus, I was lucky enough to catch up with the world famous Brownbird Rudy Relic. It was great to finally meet him in person.

With the Brownbird

And while we’re at it, I thought I’d throw in a video of an amazing performance of his in Australia last December. Be sure to check out his entire set, available for streaming online.

(special thanks to Rich, Jason, and Deb for the help and suggestions with regards to restaurants and parking!)