“Food of the Gods” – April 2018

   The month of April once marked an annual festival including ritual sacrifice to honor the cacao god, Ek Chuah.  According to mythology, a Plumed SerpentPODS2 gifted cacao to the Maya people after humans were created from maize by the divine grandmother goddess Xmucane. The Latin name Theobroma cacao literally means ‘food of the gods’, and the tree was a bridge between heaven and earth. Its beans were so valuable that they constituted a major currency system in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. With international production now in the millions of tons, it could be said that cacao worship has become a global phenomenon. There are few foods as exalted as the confection derived from this sacred plant, known and loved today as chocolate.

     Coincidentally, our contemporary consumption of cacao skyrockets in April with Easter accounting for 30% of annual sales. Chocolate has nothing to do with Christianity of course – its popularity only arose after Spanish colonizers introduced to the bean as a beverage had turned it into a fashionable drink for rich 17th century Europeans through the addition of sweeteners. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the first solid bar was created. Boxed candy marketed by a little company called Cadbury soon followed, leading to the first dark chocolate ‘eggs’. Nestle pioneered milk chocolate just a few years later – a variation that has dominated the Easter market ever since.

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17th c. Spanish chocolate party

      The reality that a ubiquitous treat so freely associated with the joys of childhood remains connected to such egregious human rights violations in the 21st century must seem unfathomable to the vast majority of consumers. But at least 70% of cacao is still harvested in West Africa where the impoverishment of farmers has resulted in children being subjected to daily hazards and horrific treatment.

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     An estimated 1.8 million are at risk of falling under the worst forms of child labor conditions set by the UN, including trafficking as slaves. The growing demand for chocolate hasn’t helped. Some critics have claimed in recent years that even ‘green seal’ certification schemes aimed at fostering sustainable production haven’t been tough enough to change an industry still rife with “blood chocolate” and are “a cheap way to tap into the ethical consumer market without a substantial change in business practices.”

     The Food Empowerment Project (FEP) is one social justice organization determined to hold industry accountable. It is helping a whole new generation of chocolate lovers cut both human and non-human animal cruelty out of their supply chain by maintaining lists of vegan chocolate recommended (or not) based on the origin of the beans involved: foodispower.org/chocolate-list/ As founder lauren Ornelas reminds us chocolate is a luxury item, not a necessity like fruits and vegetables. We can refuse to enable the big players still tied to West African cacao like Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle and support producers instead who are committed to full transparency, a decent wage for farm workers and protection from exposure to toxic chemicals and other dangers.

      Denman Island Chocolate is recommended by FEP, and this highly successful local business is celebrating its 20thanniversary this year. Ruth and Dan Terry were passionate about helping grow the organic food movement when they started the very first organic chocolate company in Canada. Today Denman Island Chocolate can be found in retail outlets all across the country and in numerous locations Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 10.22.19 PMsouth of the border. Sadly, Ruth passed away in 2004, but Dan has traveled the world searching out the very best edibles to include in the expanded product line he and Ruth co-created. It bears noting that some Fair Trade stand-alone labeling can be misleading – both Terry and FEP consider it inadequate. Denman Island Chocolate only involves beans sourced in Latin America, and they are certified organic as well as Fair Trade. (FEP concurs that neither slavery nor child labour have been documented on cocoa farms in the region, making them a much safer bet than the notorious Ivory Coast when it comes to fair farming practises.) Every single ingredient in all ten varieties of Denman Island Chocolate is in fact certified organic!

     The sugar, vegetable oils, artificial flavors, milk and other fillers added to conventional chocolate are all cheaper than cacao. Denman Island Chocolate and similar quality products have a much higher cocoa mass – you get what you pay for. Ever committed to environmental stewardship, Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 10.26.09 PMTerry also eschews the use of palm oil. And he continues to donate a percentage of his company’s annual gross income to vital conservation causes. Last year he introduced the ‘Grizzly Bar’ – a wildly successful fundraising initiative in support of Coastal First Nations and the Rainforest Conservation Society‘s efforts to help protect the grizzly in the Great Bear Rainforest. What a bonus that commitment to positive change in the world also just so happens to taste delicious!

Fireweed’s Classic Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 9.55.29 PMOrganic Ingredients:

  • 7 T. palm oil free vegan butter + 1 T. olive oil (or 1/2 C. vegan butter for a softer cookie)
  • 1/2 C. organic sucanat or other brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. cane sugar
  • 1 flax egg: (1 T. ground flax seed mixed with 3 T. water)
  • 1 tsp. vanillaScreen Shot 2018-04-02 at 10.12.20 PM
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup organic dark chocolate chips (Cocoa Camino is also FEP recommended… fair trade, organic and vegan-friendly!)


Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flax egg, set aside. With a mixer beat the vegan butter until fluffy, add sugars and beat again until creamy. Beat in the flax egg, followed by the remaining ingredients, but fold in your fair trade organic chocolate chips. Position parchment paper on baking sheet. Form individual balls of dough and press down gently on paper. Bake for 10-12 mins. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 mins. before moving to cooling rack. Bon appetit!


Food Empowerment Network’s Recommendation Bunny, Chavez!



“#Pinot Not Pipelines” -March 2018

“There is no wine so sweet as wine taken from a foe,” wrote George R. R. Martin in ‘A Feast for Crows.’ It’s anyone’s guess how our own regional ‘game of thrones’ will play out as Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley continues to joust with BC Premier John Horgan for pipeline access to this province. At least for now we can breath a sigh of relief that her bitter ban on BC wines was lifted before that imposition had a chance to inflict any really serious damage on producers. Good to have learned, however, just how well paired BC vintages are with standing up for water protection and climate action!

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thanks to Albertan Emma Jackson for tweeting this great photo!

     For those who imbibe we have such a wide variety to choose from. Today there are vineyards and wineries in the Similkameen Valley, the Fraser Valley, the Cowichan Valley, and up and down Vancouver Island including here in the Comox Valley and on numerous Gulf Islands. Some historical references erroneously credit a Catholic missionary with the origins of wine-making in this province in the Okanagan in the 1860s. Others note that grapevines were planted by settlers on Salt Spring IslandScreen Shot 2018-04-02 at 5.49.25 PM even before the trading post and port of Victoria was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 (exactly 175 years ago this month!) Allegedly, these gnarly vines can still be found scattered across Salt Spring on abandoned farm sites.

     Much has certainly changed in the interim. The ethical considerations inspiring so many of us today to prioritize environmental protection and other harm reduction measures over profit, convenience and custom, logically extend to the food and beverages available to us. It can come as a surprise to learn that a great number of wines may actually contain ingredients we would prefer not to consume. The next step after fermentation in the wine-making process is clarification. Traditionally, egg whites, casein derived from milk, gelatin and isinglass obtained from the bladders of fish are used as fining agents – organic compounds employed to remove both undesirable particulates fish.jpgand soluble substances that can reduce the desired quality of the finished product. Some countries require that wine labels reveal the use of fining agents that may be allergenic substances. In Canada such labelling regulations apply to “all non vintage wines and to wines with a year date of 2012 and later, but not to vintage wines with a year date of 2011 and earlier.”

     The use of animal ingredients is hidden from consumers in many unexpected places – from plastic bags and fireworks to fabric softeners and bike tires. Bone char is used as a decolourizing filter to whiten sugar. There are over 20 components from animals that can end up in shampoo and conditioner, and even the glycerin in your toothpaste could be animal-derived. When it comes to shopping for personal care items, at least we have the option of reading labels and supporting vegan brands that assure us that no animal byproducts were used or live animals tested upon. To find out whether or not an alcoholic beverage of choice is vegan-friendly, check out www.barnivore.com. This extensive on-line resource currently lists over 37,000 beer, wine and liquor products by country. If you don’t see your favourite listed there the next step is to contact its maker directly.

     Of course buying wine made from organically grown fruits is important if we wish to avoid supporting the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that also put animals and our ecosystems at risk. By the fall of 2018 here in BC, all producers, Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 6.41.00 PMprocessors and handlers of organic foods and beverages will require documentation verifying their products have accredited organic certification – including at farm gate sales, farmers’ markets and retail stores. According to the Certified Organic Association of BC (COABC) this new regulation is driven by the consumer need for clearer definitions and regulations around the term “organic,” and is long overdue. Forty-nine growers are currently included in the ‘wine’ category on the COAB website, with a handful listed as ‘transitional’. A bit of cross-referencing is required to determine what kind of fining agents might be utilized by any one certified organic (or transitioning) winery. But it only took me a couple of minutes to locate several who also eschew animal products in their clarification process – Rustic Roots Winery in Cawston, Covert Farms in Oliver and the award-winning Beaufort Winery right here in the Comox Valley!


I recommend a dry white (like the Beaufort Epic) as the perfect accompaniment to the following recipe!

Resistance Risotto (Vegan Gourmet Mushroom)Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 6.44.41 PM

(serves 4 to 6)


  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 pounds (4 cups) sliced mushrooms (white, brown, portabella, oyster, porcini)
  • 2 T. dried mushrooms, reconstituted (optional)
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 T. finely chopped chives
  • 2 T. organic Earth Balance (or other vegan butter)
  • 1 tsp. Truffle oil (optional)


  1. In a saucepan, warm the vegetable broth over low heat. I like to make my own with
    organic ‘Better than Bouillon’ paste.
  2. Using a large pan, saute all of the sliced mushrooms in 2 T of olive oil and cook until soft, approx. 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid and set aside.
  3.  Lower heat to medium-low, add 1 T. of olive oil and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute.
  4.  Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
  5. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden colour, pour in the wine, stirring
    constantly until it is fully absorbed.
  6.  Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring continuously until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  7.  Remove from heat, and stir in the mushrooms, Earth Balance, chives and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper to tasteand enjoy!


photo by Francis Georgian

“You Can Do It!” – Feb. 2018 –

Facebook-Profile-Photo-Cow-1     Beginning the new year with resolutions for positive change in our lives is one thing – following through is another! The UK charity ‘Veganuary‘ has provided encouragement to those interested in adopting a more compassionate, climate-friendly diet for several years now. Over 150,000 folks signed up for the 2018 Veganuary challenge, pledging to eat a 100% plant-based diet for the month. Achieving short-term goals can lead to lasting change, and so public relations executives for animal agribusiness have been taking note. At a recent dairy council conference in Glasgow, delegates supported the launch of a UK-wide campaign clearly designed to counter the so-called “rising tide of veganism” advanced by initiatives like Veganuary. They are calling it ‘Februdairy!’

     Prominent adverts lauding UK dairy products are scheduled to appear in tube and railway stations this month, while farmers themselves are encouraged to post and tweet promotional messages daily.  Februdairy’s social media piece may have already souredScreen Shot 2018-02-19 at 6.18.03 PM however, as opponents have been swift to parachute in, exposing the reality of animal suffering routinely white-washed by industry propagandists.

     Meanwhile, with the popularity of dairy continuing to plummet on this side of the pond as well, industry is doubling down on athletic sponsorships in order to boost sales. The Milk Processor Education Program in the USA, for example,

has a 5 Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 11.44.26 PMyear partnership with the US Olympic Committee. Other campaigns involving college athletes promote chocolate milk as a post-recovery workout drink. The emphasis is always on the wonders of dairy’s ‘natural protein’ and other nutrients (designed for baby bovines) as advantageous to optimum human health. In reality, there is nothing necessary in a glass of animal-sourced milk that an athlete can’t acquire from plants. But dairy marketing boards – and animal agribusiness in general – have continued to benefit from associating their products with strength and physical fitness. The bad news for them is that an excellent new documentary aimed at “the biggest demographic brainwashed by the protein myth…young males,” is poised to change the game completely.

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Patrick Baboumian, ‘Strongest Man In Germany’

    Produced by James Cameron (‘Titanic,’ ‘Avatar’) and directed by Louis Psihoyos (Academy Award winner for best 2010 documentary, ‘The Cove’), ‘The Game Changers‘ features Fighting Champion James Wilks and other elite athletes not only thriving, but excelling on a 100% plant-based diet. Its diverse cast includes the likes of ultramarathoner Scott Durek, two-time World Surfing champion Tia Blanco and record-holding weightlifter Kendrick Farris alongside Damien Mander (founder and CEO of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation), Germany’s Strongest Man Patrick Baboumian, and many more inspiring individuals.     Scientists, doctors, sports nutritionists, public health officials and environmentalists examine the facts about our food choices, leaving virtually no stone unturned. Handily, ‘The Game Changers‘ exposes the regressive gender bias that has traditionally linked meat with masculinity and strength, and plants with similarly stereotypical notions of femininity and weakness. Beyond raising awareness about the actual advantages of a diet that excludes animal products, the film underscores the preventable damage animal agribusiness is wreaking on our planet and how we will all benefit from the plant-based revolution. Watch for it!

     Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles for folks considering switching to a vegan diet is the belief that it is bound to be too restrictive in terms of variety and taste. Happily, this too is a myth that can definitely be put to rest. The following delicious recipe is sure to warm you up on a blustery winter’s day…bon appetit!JAMBAYLA

Slow Cooker Jambalaya 


  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 8 ounces seitan (wheat meat)*
  • 8 ounces of vegan sausage*, cut into 2-inch slices
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded & chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. miso paste
  • 1 1/2 tsps. Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley (optional)

*You can make your own seitan like I do, but Green Cuisine’s Wheat Cutlets are great in this recipe, and they are available at Edible Island Whole Foods Market in Courtenay along with a tasty selection of vegan sausages.


Drizzle the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker crock pot with olive oil. Combine the tomatoes with juice, seitan, sausage, onion, green bell pepper, celery, vegetable broth, garlic, miso paste, Cajun seasoning, thyme, and oregano all together in the pot. Simmer on low for 4 hours. Add your rice to the mix and turn up the temperature to the high setting for about half an hour (until the rice is cooked thoroughly). Serve, garnished with parsley… and enjoy!

“Ruminations” – Dec., 2017-

THIS GOATHand-crafted from golden straw bound with red thread, a curious little animal will soon be gracing Christmas trees once again. Obscured by their contemporary status as mere ornaments, the pagan roots of these Scandinavian Yule goats seem largely forgotten. But they may harken back as far as the Proto-Norse period and the worship of the god Thor who rode through the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats. What historians do know for sure is that the tradition of the Yule Goat coming in through the front door to deliver presents to children existed prior to the Protestant Reformation and continued on until the 1840s. Santa Claus himself (along with his reindeer) are simply other European manifestations of the gift-bringer archetype brought to life through the cross pollination of cultural symbols over time.

     Today it is goats themselves that are frequently gifted in December, purchasedno-animal-gifts-250-sq-b-s- through aid and development organizations as so-called ‘ethical alternatives’ to traditional gift-giving. But this particular feel good initiative for the privileged is well worth reconsidering. GiveWell, a charity-evaluating nonprofit dedicated to “helping donors have the greatest impact for every dollar donated” doesn’t recommend it. On their website they list many unanswered questions about the effects this gift might have, claiming to have found that “livestock-gift programs are among the more poorly documented developing-world aid programs out there.”

     In response to critics, even the international charity Canadian Feed the Children (which runs livestock programs) reveals on the top of their list of pros and cons that it is true that “buying goats isn’t the most efficient donation option.” But offering animals has proven to be a very effective marketing tool for a wide variety of aid organizations. Canadian Feed the Children thinks it is a “good starting point” for donors “who may not know us well.” When they and similar organizations are overfunded for goats, for example, that money is most often simply redirected elsewhere. Also on their list of pros and cons, Canadian Feed the Children agrees that the high level of lactose intolerance among Africans, for example, makes dairy an inappropriate source of nutrition! They emphasize that, at least in their case, the goats provided are used primarily for meat not milk. In response to concerns about inhumane treatment of the animals they admit, “That’s a tough one.”

     Capture3It should be noted that other aid agencies are heavily invested in dairy production – Farm Africa, for example, crosses British goats with local ones in order to increase milk yields (and resistance to local diseases.) Hunger relief and animal protection organization, A Well Fed World, has pointed out that animal-gifting programs appear to focus on small-scale farming, but in actuality can have large-scale implications that “pave the way for factory farming and drastically increase consumption of meat, dairy and eggs throughout entire countries and beyond.” Heifer International, for example, “boasted that their projects produced 3.6 million gallons of milk in one year in Uganda” and has established a nation-wide dairy program in Tanzania. A Well Fed World underscores the fact that these massive programs were “developed despite the high prevalence of lactose intolerance” in these regions where “native plant crops are capable of producing equal or greater amounts of protein, calcium and other nutrients.”

     In November, on the 25th anniversary of the first ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity’, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries co-signed a second notice. “Especially troubling,” it states, “is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs.” Agricultural production – “particularly from farming ruminants” is highlighted alongside the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation as seriously problematic. “Promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods” is listed among the 13 steps humanity can take “to transition to sustainability.”

  TRANSITION   The world’s most disadvantaged peoples are the hardest hit by global warming. According to the World Food Programmecurrent projections indicate that unless considerable efforts are made to improve vulnerable people’s resilience, 20 percent more people will be at risk of hunger by 2050 due to the changing climate.” Those of us with the privilege of choice have a responsibility to choose wisely. Rather than funding livestock production, which is so much more water and resource dependent, why not direct your ethical gifting this season to an organization sponsoring resilience through forward thinking plant-based food projects? Sadhana Forest works with local people in Haiti, India and Kenya combating water shortages and hunger through the planting of indigenous food forests. A Well Fed World divides all donations to their Plants-4-Hunger project between four exciting programs that feed and empower children and their families in Ethiopia, India, Guatemala and the USA.  Check out their websites for the pertinent details: sadhanaforest.com and awfw.org


     This month’s recipe is in honour of my dear friend Ruth Masters, who passed awayScreen Shot 2017-11-29 at 8.44.19 PM
on my birthday last month at the ripe old age of 97. Visitors were always offered one of Ruth’s famous ‘Gut Grinders’ with their cup of tea! Hundreds more are sure to be consumed at her Celebration of Life on Sun., December 10th between 1:00 and 4:30 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay, BC. Ruth was a long-time animal advocate and dedicated environmentalist  loved by many. Here is my vegan-friendly version of her famous cookies – suitable to leave out for Santa (or even an old goat) with a glass of dairy-free milk on Christmas Eve.

Gut Grinders (with thanks to Kathy Jones for her recipe original)

2 cups raisins

2 cups coconut

4 cups rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup fair trade organic chocolate chips

1 cup organic sunflower oil

4 flax eggs* (or sub ripe banana)

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla


Combine 4 T. of ground flax seed with 12 T. of water. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients together by hand, or use a blender if using a banana as your binder. Fold the wet and dry mixes together and form into balls. Flatten into one inch high cookies on a well-greased sheet and bake for 20 – 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy!



“Choosing Mercy” – Nov. 2017-


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unidentified photographer

     Like a salmon swimming upstream, a bill that would ban whale and dolphin captivity in Canada is one leap closer to its goal. It’s taken nearly two and a half years to get this far, but on October 26th, Bill S-203 cleared the Senate’s Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. It now goes back to the Senate for full deliberation and a third reading, then on to the House of Commons. Opposition definitely exists, so it is important that advocates for marine mammals let those in power know what we want from them! Thanks in part to the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” (now available on Netflix), more people than ever are aware of the tragic plight of cetaceans either captured in the wild or bred in captivity. Ongoing protests at theme parks and aquariums around the world signal a growing recognition that it is utterly inhumane to confine intelligent and socially complex creatures that belong in the wide open ocean in what are essentially cement pond jail cells.

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     But what about species that don’t classify as charismatic megafauna? Motivated by the same criterion, wouldn’t it be morally consistent to also care more about the suffering of other aquatic creatures than we humans generally do?

      Granted, acknowledging the unique personhood of an orca is easier than feeling fondness for a moray eel. Unless of course you’ve established a personal relationship with said fish, which is exactly what Valerie Taylor did over the course of many years diving in the same spot to visit her unusual friend ‘Honey’ near Banda Island in Indonesia. Likewise, since diver Hiroyuki Arakawa nursed an ailing Asian sheepshead wrasse off the coast of Japan back to health, the bond established between man and fish (he named her ‘Yoriko’) has lasted over 25 years! ‘Tracker‘ is the aptly named blood parrot cichlid who now lives in the aq

credit: dailymail.co.uk

uarium at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital in Courtenay. Not only does this curious fish fix his gaze on clinic staff until fed each morning, he is famous for tracking visitors in the waiting room even when food is not on his mind. One blood parrot cichlid owner I found on YouTube discovered that this amazingly aware swimmer also delights in physical interaction. And so he routinely provides the kind of hands-on affection for his companion fish that most of us reserve for an appreciative cat or dog! It seems that our capacity for compassion and our ability to recognize the intelligence of underwater species are really only limited by our willingness to learn about and respect them as individuals.

     We are easily overwhelmed by the difficulty of distinguishing one from the other in a school of fish. However, scientific studies compiled by ethologist and author Jonathan Balcombe in “What a Fish Knows” (2016), corroborate the anecdotal evidence that fish do indeed have distinct personalities, amazing memories and intelligence, develop lifelong bonds, feel pain and actually experience a wide range of emotions. Research published last year in the journal “Royal Society Open Science” concerning the high number of what are referred to in the aquaculture industry as ‘drop out’ salmon on fish farms in Norway, actually talks about fish “depression.” It’s obviously a financial liability when fish grown for the marketplace stop eating, become stunted and morose, then die prematurely. Noting what the study refers to as “sad” behaviour, the research team took measurements of cortisol production and elevated brain serotonergic activation – “both of which are common in humans that experience chronic depression or in other animals that have been exposed to long periods of stress.” They found both present in the ‘drop out’ salmon, suggesting (according to the report) that the fish became “listless due to overexposure of stimuli and other stress factors.” Balcombe names the strScreen Shot 2017-11-05 at 5.45.26 PMess of permanent confinement, the possible boredom of swimming in endless circles – unable to escape bigger, more aggressive fish and even get enough food to eat, and the heavy load of pesticides (used “because of the rampant parasites that can flourish in these intensive confinement situations”) as ample conditions for severe depression.

     It has long since ceased to benefit our humancentric interests to think erroneously of fish as vacuous beings incapable of suffering, and/or simply unworthy of better care and attention. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “the amount of fish in the oceans has halved since 1970, in a plunge to the “brink of collapse” caused by over-fishing and other threats.” Can new understandings about the nature of fish help counter the alarming trajectory we are on? For the sake of wild salmon, endangered orcas and the entire web of life that revolves around them, the eradication of fish farms on our BC coast is imperative. Let’s just not delude ourselves with the notion that shifting these factory farms from the water onto land is less ethically problematic than continuing to hold whales and dolphins captive, or subjecting any other sentient beings to cruel confinement.

Did you know that you can get 2 grams of Omega-3 ALA by eating just 4-5 English walnuts? If you’re a fan, I think you may just enjoy my favourite fall veggie burger recipe!

Vegan Lentil Walnut Burgers                 Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 5.50.13 PM


-3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
-3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
-1 slice multigrain bread, toasted
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-2 tsp. ground coriander
-1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
-3 cloves garlic, crushed
-1/4 tsp. sea salt
-freshly ground pepper
-1 T. olive oil
-1 flax egg (1 T. ground flax + 1/4 cup water)


Whisk ‘egg’ and set aside. Boil lentils in 2 cups of water for about 25 minutes, rinse and cool. Toast walnuts on parchment at 350 F for about 12 minutes, then cool. Blend garlic, walnuts, toasted bread and seasonings in food processor. Add oil and lentils and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add ‘egg’ and pulse again. Divide into four patties and bake at 350 F for approx. 20 minutes on each side. Serve with traditional condiments on a bun. Bon appetit!

“Hope for Change” – Oct. 2017 –

     Towering high above me in the field at six foot three (I’m a little shorter than the young woman in the photo below), Theodore has come very close to getting into the Guinness Book of World Records! The ten year old steer is about an inch taller than the previous record holder for tallest cow but one inch shorter than current contender, Danniel, in California. This gentle giant already enjoys recognition, however, as the unlikely champion he has become.

photo by Fireweed

     Theodore’s once tiny body was found on top of a manure pile where he had been discarded shortly after birth on a B.C. dairy farm. His very survival defied the odds, along with the fate that normally awaits the vast majority of males born into an industry that prioritizes for profit. Only a very small number of male offspring are retained for breeding purposes with the remaining majority raised for veal. Veterinary care for a sickly baby is a financial liability. Theodore is simply ‘not supposed to exist’ and yet today he is a beloved ambassador, writ large, at R.A.S.T.A. (Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) on Vancouver Island.

    On scheduled tour days, R.A.S.T.A.’s founder Lucie Cerny provides visitors to the Chemainus property a thought-provoking overview of the realities of factory farming. Included in her visuals are photos of the cramped stalls where so many calves torn away from their mothers are destined to spend their short lives. In some cases (as revealed by undercover investigations conducted by Mercy for Animals here in Canada), infants chained by the neck have been documented not even able to lie down, let alone turn around. Restricted movement intentionally prevents their tender white flesh from developing muscle.The fact that behind every glass of milk or slice of cheese there are babies denied not only the maternal comforts all crave, but also normal mobility, is perhaps especially horrifying to learn for vegetarians who believe they have eschewed animal suffering and slaughter. However, milk production requires keeping mother cows almost perpetually pregnant. Since approximately half of all calves born are males who would otherwise serve ‘no purpose’ to the dairy farmer, the meat industry has always been inextricably linked to the availability of yoghurt, ice cream, butter, etc.  Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 4.23.24 PM     Shifting societal values concerning the treatment of farmed animals suggest that it is in the best interests of the dairy industry to distract consumers from the ruthless reality of veal production. One particularly bold attempt at green-washing (also being called ‘pink-washing’) back-fired big time just this past week. Given that October is recognized as ‘cancer awareness month,’ a manufacturer of plastic hutches designed for confining dairy and veal calves came up with a short-lived idea for partnering with the US-based National Breast Cancer Foundation. The aim of “Hutches for Hope” was to offer a limited edition of pink-colored housing units for a nominal fee (with the ‘hope’ of garnering social license, no doubt.) In the promo material, a wee calf was displayed standing freely outside of one of these pink plastic prison cells – ironically flanked by a smiling human child embraced by protective parents. Activists made hay on social media pointing out the hypocrisy of attempting to fundraise towards finding a cure for breast cancer this way when conflicting studies concerning the relationship between animal product consumption and the disease are at best inconclusive. Not to mention the fact that the cruel separation of bovine babies from their mothers in order that we may steal their milk for absolutely unnecessary human consumption, along with other indignities inflicted upon cows exploited for their reproductive capacity, are profoundly anti-female. The campaign was swiftly dropped, and nearly all references between the company (Agri-Plastics) and the Breast Cancer Foundation now appear to have been scrubbed from the internet!

      1 in 9 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and we sure don’t need animal agribusiness in bed with our healthcare system. Approximately 65% of the human population (over 90% in some communities) are lactose intolerant. We also know that dark leafy greens of all kinds, broccoli, dried beans, figs, almonds, calcium-fortified juices, soy milk and other non-dairy milks are all excellent sources of calcium that contain other cancer-fighting nutrients that dairy products lack.

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     Nonetheless, proposed changes to Canada’s decade-old Food Guide (coming in 2018) are being challenged by dairy industry lobbyists who have been accustomed to far greater influence over Canadian food choices in the past. The new guidelines are expected to reflect up-to-date nutritional science that emphasizes “vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich food – especially plant-based sources of protein” – for optimal health. Meat and dairy will no longer be centre stage.

       Also long overdue, environmental sustainability is playing a key consideration. Health Canada’s guiding principles state: “In general diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact, when compared to current diets high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat.”

      In fact, a new study just published by researchers in the Journal ‘Carbon Balance and Management’ has revealed that earlier estimates of methane emissions (far more potent than CO2 emissions) were based on out-of-date data. These scientists warn that methane emissions “from livestock are larger than previously thought, posing an additional challenge in the fight to curb global warming.” It’s a good thing that those of us with the privilege of choice can respond pro-actively with responsible adjustments to our meal planning. Surely we owe that much to animals like Theodore – and to future generations of all species.

     For the sake of brevity here this month, try this quick and easy cheese substitute to sprinkle on pasta, pizza, salads, etc. Bon appetit!

VEGAN PARMEZAN (thanks to www.milkhurts.org)

In a blender, mix: 
1 cup organic walnuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. sea salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
and enjoy!


“The Power of One” -Sept. 2017-

                         BC declared a state of emergency
                           on July 7th due to the wildfires

Raging fires, roaring floods… it can be hard to get out of bed in the morning if you’re fortunate enough to still have one. According to the UN in early August, there were already 65.3 million people displaced from their homes worldwide. The latest round of weather-related emergency evacuations means that tens of thousands of new environmental refugees are now swelling those ranks. Beyond Houston, densely populated areas like MumbaiHong KongIstanbulSierra Leone, and even Northern Ireland and Windsor, Ontario were overcome by catastrophic weather events within the same general time frame. The statistics alone are enough to induce psychic numbing, and that is exactly why we have to change our thinking as we face the reality of climate breakdown. 

       “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will,” said Mother Theresa. And indeed she hit the nail on the head when it comes to our human capacity for a proactive response to overwhelming crises. Paul Slovic (University of Oregon) has spent decades researching “the dance of affect and reason.” His work has shown that while caring people will “exert great efforts to rescue ‘the one’ whose needy plight comes to their attention,” the abstract nature of big numbers fails to spark emotion or feeling and thus fails to motivate action.


The occasional donation to an emergency relief organization notwithstanding, it’s hard to accept that we may be programmed for apathy when it comes to grand-scale suffering. But that certainly explains the reluctance of so many to respond more conscientiously to the plight of animals also. For an awful lot of people it is literally ‘easier’ emotionally to experience moral outrage over the killing of one lion (like Cecil), than to be moved by the suffering of billions of cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc., that no one with the privilege of choice needs to eat for their own survival in the first place. It doesn’t have to be this way. But animal agribusiness counts on consumers distancing ourselves from the reality of individual personhood when it comes to the sentient beings they ‘convert’ into meat, dairy and eggs. As long as we remain under the spell of dissociation, we aren’t helping our own species face the increasingly uncertain future that lies ahead for all of us.

            Ironically, farmed animals like these Texas cattle trapped
            by flood waters are major contributors to GHG emissions.
       While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, wrote pro-vegan journalist George Monbiot recently, “none is unaffected by it.” If we are as concerned as we should be about the increasing frequency of deadly storms and frightening temperature extremes it surely behooves us to recognize, as Monbiot has, that the power of our food choices has a very significant role to play. Switching to a whole foods vegan diet is one of the most immediate ways those of us with the privilege of choice can help reduce GHG emissions. So what on earth are we waiting for?
              Houston, 08/28/17 Jonathan Bachman/Rueters photo

Slovic doesn’t have any easy answers to the problem of psychic numbing, which often includes the sense that we can’t possibly make a difference in the greater scheme of things anyway. But awareness of our thought processes is a necessary first step. Because the good feelings we experience when responding with empathy to an individual human or nonhuman may be lacking when we attempt to broaden our scope, Slovic suggests we not rely solely on our emotions to guide our actions. It is in our collective best interests to fight against false feelings of inefficacy because, as he so succinctly puts it, “even partial solutions can save whole lives.” Don’t be misled, he adds, by the fact that you can’t do it all.


Penny (above) jumped off of a truck bound for the slaughterhouse in Saskatchewan. 

Of course time is of the essence and scale matters immensely, but systemic change doesn’t happen without individuals pushing it forward. Human-oriented relief organizations and animal-advocacy groups alike make a point of personalizing their outreach by telling the stories of individuals. They understand full well that compassion fatigue is exacerbated by abstract numbers. If you’re ready to take the next step and adopt a kinder, more climate-conscious diet, it can help to seek out the stories of farmed rescue animals on line. Better still, visit a sanctuary (like RASTA on Vancouver Island) and sponsor a special someONE sure to help keep you on track.

     To support Food Not Bombs in delivering vegan food to folks struggling after the floods in Texas, please consider donating through A Well Fed World and maybe even double your donation. See here for details! www.awfw.org


What would the end of summer be like without an abundance of juicy ripe tomatoes? I don’t ever want to know. Here is a traditional Tuscan recipe I hope you’ll enjoy!
Panzanella  (thx to D. Mele for this tasty version!)
                              garden toms – photo by Fireweed

                       1 pound loaf of day old country style bread
                       1 pound ripe tomatoes cut into chunks
                       1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
                       3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 1 T.)
                       2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
                       1/2 cup chopped fresh celery leaves
                       1.5 cup chopped drained marinated artichokes
                       1/4 cup pitted, halved olives
                       3 T. chopped capers
                       1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
                       10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn into pieces
                       1/4 cup red wine vinegar
                       1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
                       sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Directions: Cut or tear the stale bread into 1.5 inch chunks. Fill a large bowl with cool water and dunk the bread into it until just barely wet through. Squeeze the water out of the bread chunks immediately with your hand and place in a large serving bowl. Add the vegetables and toss. In a smaller bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over your salad, toss again, correct seasoning and serve. Buon appetito!

    A Well Fed World: Nourishing People, Helping Animals


“Listening” -July 2017-

     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 the woman’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,” Bishop reported the next morning following Bamboo’s successful rescue by Denman Island’s Volunteer Fire Department.


                                        Bamboo and Paige Friesen


     Leeloo had somehow managed to free herself from the dense underbrush and find her own 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 grateful dog were lowered together down 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, they aren’t so sure anyone else would have heard the animals communicating their distress. Fortunately, sound does travel 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.
                              Anna Pippus, of Animal Justice Canada

     Another inspiring speaker I’m really looking forward to listening to and learning from at 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.


     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
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!