I’ve been a member of Meetup.com for sometime, so when I saw that there existed a vegan group geared towards those living south of Seattle a few years back, I jumped on it. The South Sound Vegan Meetup Group has gone through some leadership changes, but its current organizer (who I have yet to meet) seems passionate about veganism and there have been some great events planned as a result. One of those great ideas was the inception of the Vegan Book Club group – perfect for nerds like me who love reading but are bad about doing it in a timely manner unless I need to for a class or a discussion.
The meetings take place the fourth Tuesday of every month at the ever-wonderful King’s Books at 7 p.m. The first meeting was held in February and the chosen book was “The China Study.” I couldn’t make this, but I would have loved to have discussed this incredibly informative and important book with a group of like-minded individuals – as it is pretty dense, full of scientific numbers and is generally lauded by the vegan community. I did make the March meeting after reading “Mad Cowboy,” by Howard Lyman though, and got to meet a few of the members as well as share our opinions on the work.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, (which I was not before joining the book club) “Mad Cowboy” is an account of Lyman’s early life, growing up on a Midwest farm, being born into a cattle ranching business and eventually turning vegan in mid-life for health reasons. The book is informative, but some of the chapters may be common knowledge to those who are already vegetarian/vegan, or who are at least aware of all of the cruel and inhumane ways that animals are treated in the processes of being slaughtered and the effects they have on the environment. The information that I didn’t already know was primarily about Mad Cow Disease – something that I (sadly) did not pay much attention to in the news when it spread as I thought, “well, I’m safe! Probably don’t need to know about that,” (I know, horrible). Learning about the bacteria Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, aka mad cow disease), its new variants and that it essentially does exactly what the name says – turns your brain into a sponge – and that is has a decades-long incubation period were all news to me, and honestly would’ve made me question eating animals if I hadn’t already been a vegan while reading it.
Lyman was also the man who in 1996 shared information about Mad Cow Disease and the cattle industry on the Oprah Winfrey show, which then led her to state that she would never eat another burger on air. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sued both Lyman and Oprah, but both were declared not guilty in 1998.
Some members of the book club felt that it was great, thoughtful and honest, but other felt that it didn’t cover the animal rights aspect of veganism enough and I agree, but I also don’t think that was Lyman’s reason for writing this book. His intentions seemed to be addressing the health problems arising as a result of these businesses that are being concealed by the meat and dairy industries and also shedding light on the ways that the environment is being ravaged by them. I feel that he did a great job conveying these by still utilizing his voice and yet also having all of the facts available and referenced to back up his arguments.
The next book club meeting will take place on a Monday (not on the usual Tuesdays), April 25 and the book chosen for it is “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism” by Melanie Joy PhD. I’ve finished the book and don’t want to give a ton away, but I did love the way that the messages of the work was portrayed: through a psychologist’s eyes, which is something I haven’t read a ton of in terms of books on veganism. It aims to break down the exact reasons and justifications as to why, over thousands of years, humans have decided that some animals are more valuable or deserve to live more than others. The title kind of scared me a bit, and made me think it was actually justifying eating all of these animals. But if you pick it up and simple read the first chapter, I think you’ll find that it’s a great read, too. Copies are available now at King’s Books, so go grab one and come to the April meeting!
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Today, the Food Camp (253) food conference took place and I presented on vegan food and lifestyle in addition to many others on topics ranging from the slow food movement, food photography, CSAs, canning vegetables and more. I had a great day, met some great people and ate lots of delicious food, but I’ll wait until next week to post a full rundown of the event (and procure some photographs taken throughout the day, too).
Next week I’ll also be giving details about a fundraiser that a few members of another Tacoma meetup and I are planning for the end of the month that I’m entirely too excited for. Two words: baked goods.