Friday, July 14, 2017

Listening - JULY 2017

                                           by Fireweed for the Island Word, JULY 2017 edition

     By the time Deb Bishop managed to get as close as possible to the two dogs stranded on the cliff towering above her it was starting to get dark. Neither Leeloo nor Bamboo were within reach and the slippery slope beneath Bishop's feet was completely unstable.
 “One of the hardest things I've ever done is look that dog in the eyes, tell [her] to 'stay' and then climb down,” she reported the next morning following Bamboo's successful rescue by Denman Island's Volunteer Fire Department.

      Leeloo had somehow managed to free herself from the dense underbrush and find her way home through Boyle Point Park around 1:00 am, leaving her sister to spend what must have been a terrifying nite alone on a narrow ledge. In the light of day Paige Friesen safely rappelled down the steep embankment to secure Bamboo, then she and the dog were
Bamboo and Paige Friesen
lowered an additional 30 or 40 feet to the beach below. It's really a miracle that either dog was located in the first place, and that this story has a happy ending. Had kayaker Rick Paisley and his partner Ann not been paddling along that particular stretch of sheltered coastline the previous afternoon, he's not so sure anyone else would have heard the animals communicating their distress.
 Fortunately, sound travels farther over water.
                    
       We can usually count on our companion canines to let us know the mood they're in! Next to birds, however, did you know that it is actually cats who possess the widest range of vocalizations of any domestic 'pet'? When we pay attention to their various meows, chirps, yowls and purrs we can discern how certain sounds reflect contentment and ease while others expose worry, fear or even anger. Some types of cats are naturally more talkative but most are usually much quieter around each other than people, according to author and anthrozoologist John Bradshaw. He says they have simply learned how best to attract our attention. While there's no universal cat language when it comes to meows, Bradshaw acknowledges that a 'secret code of meows' can develop between a cat and their caregiver that is “unique to that feline alone and meaning little to outsiders.” 

Today we understand that within a wide range of species the relationship between mothers and their offspring also involves highly personalized vocalizations. Seals and sea lions, for example, recognize their own pups by the sound of their cries among hundreds and hundreds of other infants. But only as recently as 2014 did research published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science formally confirm what some farmers have known for a very long time -  that each calf and cow actually have “a characteristic and exclusive call all their own.” Taking a baby away from their mother violates the powerful instinctual bonds all mammals share. Cows have been known to cry out for their calves for hours and even days. Where I live in farm country the forlorn sound of distressed bovines seems to be routinely accepted as part of the rural soundscape. In general our species has been incredibly slow to value the voices of those non-human animals we have not invited in to our homes, and slower still to take an interest in what emotions they express. 

     On January 1st, 2014, Australian animal advocate James Aspey committed himself to a year of travel, bicycling around the country in voluntary silence. Passionate about promoting peace and veganism, he communicated with people only through body language, blogging and other means rather than break his vow. Inspiring many along the way, Aspey found being voiceless was actually “an incredible way of sparking conversations.” 365 days later on a popular national television show (ironically sponsored by animal agriculture interests), he spoke again for the first time. “I went voiceless because animals are voiceless,” he said, “or at least I thought they were voiceless. But then I realized that every time they cry in pain and scream in terror, they're trying to tell us that they're suffering.” The primetime interview was cut short, but a three minute segment shared on the internet has been viewed nearly a million times. Thousands of people have reached out to Aspey and so he has continued to travel with his positive message of justice and hope for a more compassionate world. He'll be speaking at Victoria Veg Fest (vegtoria.ca) on July 22nd about his experience, headlining a celebratory day featuring great food, musical entertainment, and a plethora of vegan businesses and animal advocacy organizations from across North America.

    Another inspiring speaker I'm really looking forward to listening to and learning from at
Anna Pippus, of Animal Justice Canada
this special event is Vancouver-based animal rights lawyer Anna Pippus. Director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice Canada and strategic advisor for We Animals, Pippus will be speaking to the hidden lives and deaths ''of the animals on our plates: The truth about Canadian agriculture." Click on the following CBC story about updates to Canada's Food Guide and the embedded audio link to hear Pippus reflect on the progressive regulatory amendments designed to guide Canadians away from reliance upon animal-foods towards more plant-centred dietary choices. 

http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2017/07/20/some-big-lifestyle-changes-may-be-coming-for-canadians-and-our-animals/ 

     If you can make it to Vegtoria you'll find Denman Island's 'The Very Good Butchers' serving their hearty vegan burgers and bangers, and Merville's brand new food truck 'The Band Wagon' cooking up a delectable storm of 100% plant-based comfort food. Find them on Facebook to track their delicious whereabouts this summer right here in the Comox Valley and beyond!
                              .........

Here's a delightfully refreshing, cruelty-free fruit salad recipe with a spicy kick to share with adult dinner guests in your own backyard on a relaxed summer's eve. 

Fire and Ice Melon (with thanks to John Ash for the original recipe)

Ingredients (serving 8):
1/3 cup organic, unbleached sugar (cane or coconut) 
1/2 cup white wine 
1 tsp. minced red bell pepper 
1 tsp. minced yellow pepper 
2 tsp. seeded and minced serrano chiles, 
or to taste (jalapenos are also fine)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbs minced fresh mint
2 medium-sized honeydew, cantaloupe,
crane or other ripe melon 
8 fresh figs, cut into fans (optional)
2 dozen whole organic walnuts or pecans 

Instructions:
Combine sugar and wine in saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add bell peppers and remove from heat. Cool and add chiles, lime juice, mint and peppers. 
To serve, slice cold melons in half and remove seeds, cut into uniform chunks, and/or scoop the fruit with a melon baller. Arrange on chilled plates and spoon chile syrup over top. Garnish with fig fans, and edible flower petals. Finish plate with several whole walnuts or pecans. Extra syrup can be stored for up to two weeks in the fridge. Bon appetit!







Friday, June 9, 2017

Redress - JUNE 2017

                                                      by Fireweed for the Island Word, JUNE 2017 edition 

2nd floor window of Vancouver Island pub
     “It's all in good fun,” claim supporters of the red-dressed mannequins beckoning hungry travellers from the pub's second story windows. But other locals begged to differ when the newly renovated watering hole/restaurant started advertising in online community forums. After being labeled “creepy,” offensive” and “stereotypically sexist” the so-called 'saloon ladies' were removed from their prominent posts overlooking the ocean-side highway in British Columbia. Owners of the Vancouver Island business were swift to reverse that decision however, encouraged by customers entertained by objectification of the female body. 

     It may be true that these kitschy representations of women in the 'old west' were never intended to appear to romanticize prostitution. And if the bikini-clad, real life women posing on motorcycles that the same pub has been hosting recently on so-called 'customer appreciation days' feel empowered by showcasing their sexuality this way, that is entirely their business. Let's just not pretend that these publicity stunts have nothing to do with peddling flesh.

click HERE for examples of the above
         It's really no surprise that a biker bar dedicated to propping up patriarchal ideas about women should boast a typically meat-centric menu and hold regular 'meat draws'. The relationship between the objectification, fragmentation and consumption of women's bodies and that of non-human animals exists all around us. “Patriarchy is a gendered system that is implicit in human/animal relationships,” explains Carol Adams, in The Sexual Politics of Meat.  She argues that male dominance and animals' oppression are linked by the way that both women and animals function as 'absent referents' in meat eating (also in dairy production). Behind every meal of meat, for example, “is an absence: the death of the animal whose place the meat takes.” The function of the absent referent, elaborates Adams, is to keep meat separated from “any idea that she or he was once an animal, to keep something from being seen as having been someone, to allow for the moral abandonment of another being.” Similarly, once a human female is objectified, fragmentation easily follows. Reduced from whole, complex beings to their body parts we know all too well how women are routinely treated like consumable objects themselves, “without a past, without a history, without a biography, without individuality.” 

     Given that male violence against women stems from the same hierarchical mindset that denies agency to animals, it is heartening to see more and more men these days rejecting the alleged 'necessity' of animal product consumption as a complete ruse right alongside other demonstrations of machismo that limit their own unique sense of personhood. For anyone with the privilege of choice, there is no shortage of adequate protein and other vital nutrients available on a well-balanced 100% plant-based diet. Veganism is a conscious act of resistance for many that happily turns patriarchy on its head.*                                              

     Socially ingrained habits may die harder for some than for others, but this Father's Day there is absolutely no reason not to fire up an exclusively cruelty-free barbecue. Cooking meat at a high temperature creates HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) – carcinogens linked to changes in DNA that can lead to cancer. Switching to plant-based options on the grill avoids this risk because HCAs and PAHs form in muscle proteins. On the other hand, phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables may actually reduce certain types of cancer.  Besides tasty veggie burgers and meat-free sausages, you can't go wrong with marinated tofu on shish kabobs. Options are really as varied as one's imagination though, so why not mix it up? Grilled peaches, pineapple, watermelon, avocado and artichoke hearts are delicious. So is grilled sweet potato, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, eggplant and corn on the cob! Cauliflower steaks are all the rage these days, so here's a simple, spicy recipe to experiment with on the grill this summer. Bon appetit!

[*AND FYI: here's another Transition Kitchen column from a couple of years back where I also touch on the subject of 'the sexual politics of meat': "Plant Powered"  For lots of great recipe ideas and related food for thought, visit Denman Island's Virtual Vegan Potluck page right HERE!]



Grilled Chipotle Lime Cauliflower Steaks (with thanks to Faith Durand for the original recipe)

Ingredients:
2 large heads cauliflower

1/4 cup olive oil
2 limes, zested and juiced 
2 cloves garlic, finely grated 
1 tsp. agave syrup, more to taste 
1 T. paprika 
1/2 T. chipotle powder 
1/2 T. nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp. salt 
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves 
Lime wedges, to serve 

Instructions:
Remove the leaves on each cauliflower head and trim the stem end until you can set the cauliflower flat on the cutting board. Use a large, sharp knife to trim off the sides, then cut the cauliflower into 3 or 4 thick “steaks.” Reserve the florets that fall away for another recipe. 

Whisk the olive oil with the lime juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the grated garlic, agave syrup and nutrutional yeast flakes. Add a bit more lime juice if the mixture is a bit too thick. In a separate bowl, mix the lime zest, paprika, chipotle, and salt.

Heat your gas or charcoal grill to medium. Brush one side of each cauliflower steak with the olive oil mixture and sprinkle generously with the chipotle powder mixture. Place the seasoned side down on the hot grill. Brush the tops with the olive oil mixture and season with the chipotle mix. 

Cover the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid and carefully flip the cauliflower. Cook covered for an additional 5 minutes or until done to your desired texture.  Final cooking time will depend on how thick you cut the steaks and the level of heat on your grill. 

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges on the side. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Personhood - APRIL 2017

 by Fireweed for the Island Word, March 2017 issue


     The air brakes on the live animal transport truck that had just pulled up in front of me at the busy intersection let out a loud hiss. Startled, I stepped back, fumbling with the settings on my camera. Better prepared witnesses advanced, swiftly documenting some of the frightened animals crowded
Toronto Pig Save photo
together inside the vehicle. Only 

moments later we were watching it disappear through the gated entranceway to Fearman Pork Inc., one of the largest slaughterhouses in Ontario. Billowing white plumes of steam mark the site as they exit chimney pipes towering high above scalding tanks inside the windowless complex. They are as hard to miss as the animal activists and their placards on the street holding vigil. I was heartened by the frequency of honks and thumbs up we received from drivers passing by. 

     'Save' vigils like the one in Burlington where I was recently visiting family promote the act of bearing witness to suffering and injustice as a means of consciousness raising about the plight of farmed animals of all kinds. 'Toronto Pig Save' events have been happening regularly outside Fearman's for
Anita Krajnc  -  photo by Taline Manoulian  8/29/16
almost six years now. It was here on a hot summer day in 2015 where founding activist Anita Krajnc's journey through the Canadian legal system began after she was charged with criminal mischief for providing water to thirsty pigs in the back of one of those massive delivery trucks. She hasn't stopped. A staggering 45,000 young animals continue to be slaughtered at this particular facility every week (not including those that are found dead on arrival of course - by law they are prohibited from entering the human food system). But the international media attention generated by Krajnc's act of mercy and subsequent trial has inspired nearly 200 'Save' chapters to spring up in over a dozen countries!

      Within Canada's legal system animals are recognized as 'property', but Krajnc and her supporters do not accept that she is guilty of any wrongdoing. Her lawyers have argued that she acted in the public good much as renowned civil rights activists have defied unjust laws in the past out of a sense of moral duty. Expert witnesses have testified at her trial about the deleterious impacts of animal agribusiness on our global environment (including its role as a leading contributor of GHG emissions), and about the psychological complexity of pigs. As neuroscientist Dr. Lori Morino explained, for example,“Pigs are at least as emotionally complex as dogs and as psychologically complex as primates. It sells pigs short to say they are as sophisticated as a human toddler, for they are more complex than that.”

   
Anita Krajnc outside courthouse - photo from Alex Bez
 The opportunity to discuss animal personhood in a Canadian courtroom afforded by Krajnc's trial is not expected to change any of the country's laws in the short term. However, after meat industry employees in attendance allegedly scoffed at applying the concept to farmed animals the judge made his own comparison between the legal status of pigs today and those of women in Canada nearly a century ago. “Though careful not to make any legal pronouncements,” wrote Jeremy Greenberg for
Ultravires, “Justice Harris suggested that, just as the Persons Case brought a long-overdue recognition of women as legal persons, so too might the law eventually “catch up” with the scientific and moral justifications for animal personhood.” That Burlington courtroom is sure to be packed once again on May 4th when the judge is scheduled to deliver his verdict!

     We arrived home from Ontario already mourning the death of a special feline companion who had unexpectedly passed away during our absence. Our one remaining cat was so distraught that he meowed incessantly for nearly two full days. Clearly missing his buddy as much as we are, it has taken lots of extra loving to calm and reassure him that we will all get through this loss together. The significance of the bonds that nonhuman animals share naturally with one another (and sometimes with the two leggeds they adopt as their own) is so obvious when we are paying attention.

     In “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon”, author Jeffrey
also available as an audio book!
Moussaief explores how love, loyalty, friendship, sadness, grief, and sorrow are shared by all domesticated animals. And as the slow pace of evolution would have it, these sentient beings are still very little removed from their wild ancestors. Hence, the animals we farm have all the emotions that belong to wild animals who live under conditions of freedom, says Moussaief. “This means that confinement is going to be all the more painful for farm animals, conflicting as it does with emotions that evolved under far different conditions.”

     Vested interests in the commodification of animals will of course continue to oppose their liberation from human servitude for the foreseeable future. But so will the peaceful heroism of Anita Krajnc and the 'Save' movement continue to shine a light on speciesism - arbitrary discrimination that affords greater protection for some animals over others no less deserving of freedom from harm.


     May your April be a joyous time of new beginnings. Here's a delicious 100% plant-based entree sure to please the entire family!

                       ...........


Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf, adapted from “Oh She Glows” with thx to Terry Walters

Ingredients (all organic if possible):
Glazed Lentil Loaf - "Oh She Glows" photo
1 cup uncooked green lentils
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  and toasted
3 tbsp ground flax + 1/2 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups diced sweet onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup grated carrot
1/3 cup peeled and grated sweet
   apple (use a firm variety)
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup oat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp dried thyme)
salt & pepper, to taste (about 3/4 tsp sea salt)
red pepper flakes, to taste

Balsamic Apple Glaze:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp apple butter (or unsweetened applesauce in a pinch)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Instructions:
Rinse, strain and boil lentils in 3 cups of water with a little salt until slightly over-cooked. Mash. Toast walnuts at 325 F for about 8-10 mins. Set aside and boost oven to 350 F. Whisk ground flax with water in a small bowl and set aside. Sautee garlic & onion in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add your diced celery, shredded carrot and apple, and raisins. Sautee for about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat. Mix all ingredients together, adjusting seasonings to taste. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Press mixture firmly into pan. Whisk glaze ingredients and then spread half on top of loaf. Reserve the rest for a dipping sauce. Bake at 350 F for 40-50 minutes, uncovered. Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Slicing this loaf is easiest when it has completely cooled. Bon appetit!






Saturday, March 4, 2017

Very Good! - March, 2017

                                  by Fireweed for the Island Word, March 2017 issue


        P.T. Barnum, the old-time American showman and circus operator, is often
associated with the phrase “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Of course animal advocacy in the 19th century didn't have the outreach ability it has today to expose what goes on behind closed doors. 

      When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally announced in 2015 that they would phase out their iconic elephants, a significant “mood shift” in their consumer base was cited as the reason for that decision. Now in its 146th year, the self-proclaimed 'greatest show on earth' will close its doors for good after a final performance this spring. Societal change never happens overnight, nor in a vacuum. However, public concern for the way animals are treated is continuing to grow, and new doors are opening for enterprise of all kinds dedicated to a more compassionate world.

     The grand opening I attended at the end of February for the Very Good Butchers' storefront in Victoria's Public Market was a perfect example of just how hungry people are for cruelty-free alternatives to business as usual. Specializing in organic,100% plant-based meats hand-crafted on Denman Island, proprietors Tania Friesen and James Davison and their hard-working team experienced the kind of immediate success in the capital city that most smaller-scale food outlets only dream of! Thanks in part to an unanticipated level of exposure through tv, radio and social media, close to 1000 people showed up and the Very Good Butchers were virtually sold out within hours. In a fortuitous twist of fate just prior to the opening, even online backlash from critical carnivores turned beneficial. It resulted in CTV news hour extending their acknowledgement of the vegan deli's opening over a second day in a row! Indeed, a little P.T. Barnum-style publicity can certainly come in handy.
       
A VERY GOOD Very Good Butchers' sandwich!
       
 It is, of course, all the positive reviews the Very Good Butchers are receiving for their delicious selection of plant-based burgers, meat balls, sausages, etc., that show the promise of a steady customer base. Folks who waited in line on Feb. 25th but ended up having to go home empty-handed were offered a complimentary discount applicable to any return visit purchase. And it's not just vegans and vegetarians the Very Good Butchers are aiming to please. Curious omnivores are expected to make up the bulk of their market as more and more seek to reduce and/or eliminate their consumption of animal products in favour of personal health, compassion for animals and environmental sustainability.


 “We were motivated to help omnivores feel comfortable, even through our choice of brand name,” explains Tania Friesen, ...to make the switch less overwhelming. We know that giving up familiar comfort foods is often the biggest challenge.” 

       It is unconscionable that cows should remain the elephant in the room in so many environmental and political circles today, while protein-rich plant foods are known to be far friendlier for the environment and healthier for people. In a 2016 study from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Alfredo Mejia, Dr. PH., an associate professor of nutrition at Andrews University, and lead author on the study, found that producing plant-based meat alternatives generates “approximately 10 times less greenhouse gas emissions than producing comparable beef-based products.” 

      The Very Good Butchers are clearly on the right track. They are also the first of their kind on the west coast and only second to Toronto's YamChops plant-based butcher in all of Canada. According to the Plant Based Foods Organization in California, increasing consumer demand is driving unprecedented growth in this industry and the global plant-based meat market is projected to reach nearly $6 billion US by 2022! In 2016 YamChops was selected as a hot investment opportunity on the Dragons' Den (CBC's reality tv show featuring entrepreneurs looking for financial support from venture capitalists) and that business is now looking to franchise in seven additional North American cities. Not one, but two Yamchops outlets are already planned for  Vancouver. The timing is definitely right for the Very Good Butchers to carve out a niche all their own. But these are still early days. Supplying other restaurants and retail outlets already interested will have to wait if the Very Good Butchers' own storefront sales continue to exceed all expectations! Watch for an upcoming Kickstarter campaign to help purchase additional equipment that would increase the company's production capabilities.

Theo @ RASTA -  forever free from harm!
    These young entrepreneurs are already providing full or part-time employment for at least a dozen people including folks on Denman Island. It's great to know they don't regard BC's minimum wage as a living wage, and have no intentions of hiring labour at less than $15 an hour. And what a thoughtful gesture to tithe 10% of their opening day's revenue to important community causes. This generous donation has been shared between the Victoria Women's Transition House Society, and RASTA (Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) in Chemainus on Vancouver Island.

      The Very Good Butchers plan to be open seven days a week in Victoria, and will continue to have many of their popular items available on Denman as well. Visit their website : www.verygoodbutchers.com for a sampling of their menu selection, hours of operation and other details. You can also find and follow them right HERE on Facebook.
                                               ................................

This month's recipe for The Transition Kitchen is a simple, but delicious slaw that makes a perfect side for any plant-based meat main, or a meal in itself. Bon apetit!

Fireweed's Spring Thaw Slaw (but tasty any time of the year!)

Organic Ingredients:
3 cups of green cabbage (any kind), thinly sliced
1 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup of coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup raisins, golden or regular sultana
1/2 cup chopped red apple
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds* (see directions below)
2 tsps. of lemon juice
1 tsp. agave or maple syrup
dash of umeboshi plum vinegar (optional)
sea salt and gresh ground black pepper to taste
3 or 4 T. egg-free mayo (Vegannaise, Just Mayo, or homemade)

Directions: 
     I like to toast my raw unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds in a seasoned cast iron pan on the stovetop. Use low to medium heat, stirring attentively with a wooden spoon. You can do a larger quantity than the recipe calls for and store the extra for another day. They will burn quickly if the heat is too high, so if you decide to prep your other ingredients while they are roasting you might be sorry (speaking from experience once too often here!) Remove your toasted seeds from the pan when they have browned slightly and set aside on a plate to cool.

     Next, shred your carrots on a grater and press out any excess moisture as required. Chop your cored apple (I leave the skin on), and toss with the lemon juice which will prevent any browning.  If you use a firm green cabbage (rather than a soft Chinese cabbage) slice that next as thinly as possible and combine with the apples and carrots. At this stage I add my dash of plum vinegar, agave or maple syrup, and season with salt and pepper. Add your vegan mayo next, before folding in the purple cabbage, raisins and seeds. TIP: adding the purple cabbage at the last minute prevents turning the whole dish pink if you make this slaw ahead of time to serve guests. It does hold up well in the fridge for a day or so. Save a few of the raisins and seeds to sprinkle on top of your serving to dress up the presentation, and enjoy!




FOR THE BIRDS - Feb. 2017

 
by Fireweed for the Island Word, February 2017 issue


      I haven't always been quite so interested in chickens...but that was before I met Sybil.

She was born in a rural classroom incubator with a slight deformity, never standing a chance at the bottom of the pecking order among her own kind. And so this wee bird joined our human family on the farm one summer and we bonded as she grew. Sybil knew her name and would come racing up to the farmhouse veranda for a treat when called. It was easy to spend far too much time with her cradled in my lap, her small head buried in the crook of my arm. A contented chicken will not only sigh, but coo like a purring cat! Sybil taught me to start paying far more attention to the unique personalities of individual birds, and the relationship at large between our two species.
       
      Gallus gallus domesticus are the descendants of jungle fowl indigenous to the bamboo forests of India and South-East Asia, but they have been introduced by humans to every corner of our planet. Incredibly, their population is now triple the size of our own. Bearing little resemblance to their ancestors, the chickens raised today for eating also look very different from those raised primarily for eggs. Each kind has been strategically bred for hyper-production. The vast majority suffer from severe physical problems brought on by genetic manipulation, and the hellish conditions inherent in factory-style farming which dominates well over 99 percent of animal agribusiness. The lives of so-called 'broilers' are typically ended at around 2 months of age, while 'layers' may languish for up to 2 years in cramped cages before they are killed and replaced. With few to no federal laws to protect them, billions of chickens stacked in windowless warehouses the size of football fields right this very minute are unable to peck, perch or spread their wings, let alone dust bathe or even scratch in the dirt.

       In the shadow of this heinous reality, the desire to keep a few chickens in one's own back yard has been granted almost heroic status in some quarters. Even where authorities have wisely ruled against the keeping of farmed animals on city lots the burgeoning locavore movement is pushing back. There is a plethora of on-line sites and groups today that romanticize small scale animal husbandry, linking 'local food security', 'justice' and 'sustainability' with alleged improvements in animal welfare. Never mentioned is the fact that there is zero need for eggs (or any other animal products) in the human diet, and therefore no real justification for encouraging the breeding and confinement of chickens in enclosures of any size.

      Predation is the leading cause of premature bird mortality wherever real freedom to roam is granted however. One day, out of the blue, my sweet Sybil simply vanished from the farm. I don't accept the notion that nature is simply taking its course when we fail to provide adequate protection for animals once under our care. But everyone I've ever known who has lived with chickens in the country has a tragic tale to tell. Urbanites who wish to keep hens obviously need to make a considerable investment upfront in secure accommodations – and not be discouraged from feeling compassion for the vulnerable beings they are essentially choosing to take under their own wing. Egg production typically wanes after two or three years. When the decision is made to replace still relatively young hens with new ones, will it feel right to betray those with whom trust has been established by sending them to slaughter, or will finding a retirement home somewhere safe be the truly 'just' and 'sustainable' option? Unfortunately, hospitable destinations are in short supply for retirees. I know of existing sanctuaries overburdened with the responsibility of ongoing care for 'spent' hens. There is already no end to requests for help with roosters from folks without the heart to deny those casualties of the backyard chicken movement the right to ongoing life either. 
 

         Courtenay is facing renewed challenges to existing bylaws that currently prohibit backyard chickens within the municipality. Residents would do well to familiarize themselves with the list of considerations the BC SPCA has made available on their website that reveal why raising hens in an urban backyard environment is not a suitable practise for the inexperienced. A few years ago inaccurate information started circulating that suggested the Vancouver Humane Society had reversed their position opposing urban poultry. Communications Director Peter Fricker recently confirmed for me that this was never the case. VHS remains concerned about the high probability of inhumane treatment of backyard chickens and is therefore opposed to the practise.

                                                               -------------
      
      Eggs are considered to be a great source of protein (boasting approximately 6 grams per) but so are plenty of plants. Did you know that there are 6.3 grams of protein in just 2 Tablespoons of hemp hearts? And 7.3 grams of protein in 1/2 cup of chickpeas? How about 9 grams in just 1/2 cup of cooked lentils? I hope you enjoy my tasty Quinoa Salad recipe below to the tune of 11 grams per cup!



Fireweed's Organic Quinoa Salad
Ingredients
4 cups vegetable broth (see instructions below)
1.5 cups raw whole grain quinoa
1 cucumber, sliced 
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup lightly steamed broccoli florets
a few cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered 
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts 
diced scallion optional
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:
Cook the quinoa for about 15 minutes in vegetable broth (I like organic Better Than Bouillon which is available at Edible Island - and palm oil-free!) Stir occasionally. Whisk together the fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper while the quinoa is cooking. When light and fluffy, remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then toss with your veggies and dressing. Stir to combine well. Bon appetit!