|September 28, 2013||Posted by Susan Bird under Animals, Endangered, Environment, Wildlife|
People love pandas. They’re cute, cuddly and desperately endangered. We want to save them. Our kids beg us to save them. Nevertheless, one journalist recently asked the provocative question: Should we just give up on the panda and let it die out?
Timothy Lavin, news writer for Bloomberg, caused a bit of controversy recently when he published an article called “Why I Hate Pandas and You Should Too.” Written in response to the joyous proclamations that a new baby panda had been born at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo, Lavin says we’re wasting money, time and effort trying to save pandas.
It’s an interesting perspective. Should we go “all out” to save a species — especially an adorable one — or spend that money where it might do more good overall for other species?
Lavin believes pandas should be left to go extinct because they are “evolutionary failures.” Put a fork in them, they’re done. They don’t reproduce reliably, they don’t survive mostly on meat like other bears and they’re expensive to maintain.
Lavin thinks panda lovers need an intervention right about now. He says conservation “requires making tough choices. Pandas had a pretty good run for 3 million years. All that money is better spent on preserving diverse habitats rather than on a single hopeless species.”
Almost No Pandas Left Out There
The panda, known as the Giant Panda to differentiate it from its cousin the Red Panda, lives in only a few mountainous areas in China’s Yangtze Basin region. Development, farming and deforestation have stripped it of nearly all its natural habitat.
The Giant Panda is listed as “endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. There may be as few as 1,600 left in the wild. Only about 61 percent of the world’s remaining wild pandas – about 980 — live in a protected status on 50 Chinese reserves.
Pandas are carnivores, but oddly about 99 percent of their diet consists of bamboo — lots and lots of bamboo. Bamboo is not nutritionally dense, so pandas must eat 26 to 84 pounds of it every day.
Panda Haters Be Hatin‘
As Lavin points out in his article, he’s not the first to suggest that we end heroic efforts to save the panda. Chris Packham, a British television wildlife expert, told The Telegraph in 2009: “Here’s a species that of its own accord has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It’s not a strong species.” Packham’s verdict: “I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go with a degree of dignity.”
Others have said much the same, sometimes harshly:
- Brian Barrett and Sam Biddle, writing for Gizmodo: “Nature has made it clear in no uncertain terms that pandas need to die. Now.”
- David Plotz, writing for Slate: “Pandas are not ill-natured. They are worse: They are no-natured. Drearier animals you cannot imagine. They are highly anti-social, detesting interaction with other pandas and people… Good riddance to the semi-bear.”
- Lu Zhi, Beijing University panda expert, has said that trying to reintroduce pandas to the wild is as “pointless as taking off the pants in order to fart.”
- David Bellamy, wildlife expert, has said, “You can’t release them back into the wild if there is no wild left and we shouldn’t rear animals just to put them into cages.”
The point here, ultimately, is that humans have so ruined the panda’s habitat that there is almost literally no place where captive-reared pandas could successfully be returned to the wild. That leads some to ask: Why are we trying so hard to make more of them?
Lavin felt the wrath of the panda-loving public following publication of his anti-panda article. “Have you no soul?” a fellow customer in a market asked him, according to mynorthwest.com. Lavin probably does have a soul, but he’s giving voice to thoughts that perhaps others won’t yet acknowledge: Should there be a point at which enough is enough?
Why the Panda Deserves Our Help
Defenders of the panda say “No” — if we go down, we will go down fighting. They charge that naysayers like Lavin write stories like these “mostly because it is easier and garners more page views to be boldly wrong than boringly right.”
Pandas are not “evolutionary failures.” To the contrary, we failed them. Before we came along, for three millions years or so, pandas sustained themselves admirably by mating and reproducing exactly as they do now, eating exactly what they eat now. The panda’s unique proclivities became “a problem” for their survival only after people arrived.
We then eradicated their habitat, wiped out their food supply, poached them for their pretty hides, crammed them into preserves and watched their number dwindle to perilously low levels.
“The panda can’t start giving birth more often because it’s critically endangered; that’s not how this works,” noted Dan Nosowitz of PopSci.com. “If you were told that the human race now suddenly depends on being able to give birth every other month and subsisting on oak leaves, it’s not like you could just do that.” Well said, Dan. The panda’s not to blame for this mess. We are.
Yet the question lingers. It’s sort of a “Sophie’s Choice” scenario: If we can do more good for other species with the millions we’re spending on pandas, should we cut our losses, consign the panda to history and help the others instead?
It’s a sad state of affairs when humanity has so destroyed an ecosystem that it’s necessary to debate the wisdom of attempting to save a beloved animal. Oh pandas, we do adore you – but if you have no habitat in which to survive, how can we save you? Many of us still want to try.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
|August 12, 2013||Posted by Susan Bird under Food & Nutrition, Health, Tips, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian|
If you’re a vegan, you probably spend time musing about how you’d find vegan vittles when you’re away from home or thrust into an unfamiliar living situation. Here’s a poser: How do you get a vegan meal in a situation where you’re not in control of the food preparation? Like, say, if you’re in the hospital?
Never fear – it can be done. If your food is not dictated by your physician and you are in charge of your own meal choices, you can do a lot of things to keep your diet on the vegan path. Pre-planning and investigation, where possible, are key.
1. Find a Hospital Geared to Your Needs
First, do you have a choice of hospitals? Quality of care always comes first, but assuming you can choose among roughly equivalent hospitals in this regard, you may have some options. For example, hospitals run by Seventh Day Adventists will be a good bet to have a decent vegetarian menu available, since vegetarianism is a tenet of that faith. It’s easy to veganize what’s already vegetarian. Additionally, larger hospitals in metro areas tend to cater to a wider set of dietary needs.
2. Investigate the Hospital Food Ahead of Time
Whether you can choose your hospital or not, unless you have an emergency situation, you can do a little pre-emptive investigation before your procedure date. First, do a fast check of the hospital’s web site. You may find enough information there to know how easy it will be to get a vegan meal.
If you’re still not sure, call the hospital and ask to speak to the dietitian or food service supervisor. Ask about their inpatient vegan and vegetarian meal options.
If you happen to be visiting a friend at the hospital where you’re most likely to go if you get sick, try to arrive around meal time. Ask the folks handing out the dinner trays about vegan options and see what they say.
3. Do Some Sleuthing for Nearby Restaurants Offering Vegan Fare
Perhaps you want a backup plan in case you have a bit of trouble getting something vegan for lunch or dinner? Check the restaurants that are near the hospital to see what vegan or veganizable meals could be brought in by family or friends. Chances are you’ll find a few things that will work for you.
4. Bring Vegan Snacks or Portable Food With You
As a vegan, you probably already keep vegan-friendly snacks in your cubicle at work or stuffed into a handbag or briefcase for emergencies. Just extend this practice to your upcoming hospital stay. Think of portable vegan munchies you could keep in your room and bring them with you.
Need some ideas? Bring things like a jar of peanut butter and loaf of vegan bread, nutrition bars, fresh or dried fruit, canned soup — anything that needs no refrigeration and is easily carried.
In the Hospital
5. Note Your Dietary Needs at Check-In
Hospitals have to pay attention to the needs of patients with food allergies and to requests for kosher meals. As you fill out the myriad forms when you arrive at the hospital, don’t gloss over the question on dietary restrictions. Make yours known. Hospitals are used to dealing with specialized dietary needs.
6. Talk to the Staff Dietitian
Often, when you arrive in your patient room, the hospital dietitian visits to discuss your nutritional needs. Take advantage of this opportunity to discuss your desire to have nutritious vegan-friendly meals. If the dietitian doesn’t visit personally, ask the staff to request that he or she come to talk with you. The dietitian will want to ensure your meals aren’t at odds with your doctor’s orders, so it’s a good idea to be sure your doctor is aware that you are vegan and won’t countermand your dietary choices.
7. Ask to See the Vegan / Vegetarian Menu Choices
When someone on staff first discusses your meal choices with you, ask to see the vegetarian/vegan selections, which may not be on the standard menu. What you may find is that there are vegetarian, but possibly not vegan menu options — or maybe not even that. Don’t panic, though. Vegetarian can be veganized, and there are enough safe foods on even a regular menu that can be made to work. Ideas include:
- Breakfast – Oatmeal, fruit cup, banana or other fresh fruit, orange juice, coffee/tea
- Lunch – Salad (greens and any veggies they have on hand, with balsamic vinegar dressing), fruit, steamed veggies, potato (baked, mashed, fries – if made without butter/dairy), vegetable soup/broth
- Dinner – Salad again, rice and beans (maybe wrapped in a tortilla), vegetable soup/broth, steamed veggies (get a double order), veggie stir fry, veggie tortilla wrap, oatmeal, fresh fruit, fruit cup
8. Food From Home
Bringing in outside food happens all the time. It’s just that it’s usually McDonald’s pseudo-food that people sneak past the nurse’s desk, not tempeh stir fry. If you have supportive friends or family that can bring in a vegan meal or two from home, you’re golden.
9. Get Someone to Swing By the Hospital’s Food Court
Many hospitals have vegan options in their food courts now. I can personally vouch for the fact that you’ll find several vegan choices at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The larger your metro area, the more likely the in-hospital restaurants and snack joints will cater to vegan visitors.
Do you have one of those smartphone apps that will tell you what’s vegan at various restaurants? They can also help you in this situation. Either way, ask a friend or family member to pop down to the various eateries around the hospital campus and see what they have on hand. You never know what you’ll find.
If all else fails, remember that a lot of hospitals have a Subway restaurant in their food courts. Get someone to run down and order you a Veggie Delite sub on regular Italian bread. That combination is indeed vegan. Pile on the veggies and chow down. Not a gourmet meal, but it’ll get you by.
See? Maintaining a vegan diet while in the hospital is not such a nightmare after all. Like every other eating experience, a vegan just needs to be prepared. Work with your doctor and dietitian to ensure that your inpatient vegan meals remain nutritionally balanced so you’ll recover as quickly as you should.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
|July 2, 2013||Posted by Susan Bird under Activism, News, Vegan|
UPDATE (July 10, 2013): I’m relieved to report that “The Vegan Sellout List” was in fact, not what it purported to be. It was a slick ruse by animal rights activists. Once the media attention to this story reached a fever pitch, the URL for exvegans.com was redirected. It sent about 200,000 curious viewers straight to slaughterhouse videos they would never otherwise have seen. Interesting tactic, I must say.
Sometimes I’d like to ask certain vegans to just chill. Cool it. Stop the insanity. This month, regretfully, I’ve found the perfect poster child for this feeling. It’s a new web site called “The Vegan Sellout List.” Its mission – to “out” people who were once vegan, but no longer are.
Really? Really?? We’re going to “shame and name” people for leaving a lifestyle they have decided is not for them? <facepalm>
Because of course, former vegans are very bad people. Right? No — NO. This is SO not the way to go. The only thing this will indisputably do is convince omnivores that vegans really are whackadoodles. We need that like we need a bacon doughnut.
If you take a look at the website, you’ll see that this is not just a group of vegans wagging their fingers at celebrities. “Oooh, Ellen DeGeneres eats eggs! Damn that Zooey Deschanel for not sticking with it.” Yes, you’ll see all that. But you’ll also see a whole lot of regular people there. Searchable by state, no less, in case you really need to know the names of all former vegans in Tennessee.
Talk about fodder for a lawsuit! This is a “user-submitted” website, meaning anyone can insert anyone else’s name, photo, contact information, website address, and any disparaging description they wish to write. Then they can watch the fun begin. Below every entry are social media widgets so viewers can Tweet, “like” on Facebook and pin to Pinterest anybody’s entry. There is, of course, no way to know who is doing the outing.
A typical write-up goes something like this (a real entry, but I’m not going to repeat the name): “She started out feeling bad for animals. Then she was vegetarian. Then it was cool to be vegan. Then she really missed cheeseburgers.”
OK, I will admit that the entry describing one woman as a “disappointment to the Goth community as well as the vegan community” made me giggle. A little.
If you’re a dues paying vegan, you’d probably prefer not to show up on this web site. However, leave it to angry exes, disgruntled former co-workers, and nasty neighbors. Any of these unfriendly folk can choose to have a field day at your expense. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a failed vegan or not. You can be painted with that brush quite easily.
Does anyone think this effort will work – that people will change their minds due to the “public humiliation” and come back from the dark side of meat-eating? No, of course not. This is just a bit of fun for the vegan police out there. Just a bit of online bullying. Nothing good will come of this. This doesn’t help animals in the least.
The only thing “The Vegan Sellout List” will accomplish is to give naysayers yet another silly, asinine, extreme example of vegans gone wild.
Why is it so difficult for the vegan community to come together, support one another, and offer the world an intelligent and compassionate example to follow? Let the folks who need to leave the fold do so. They might just surprise us and return one day. There are plenty of reasons why they should. We ought to be waiting with open arms, not jeering from the sidelines.
I have to admit, in my pre-vegan days I watched a lot of vegan infighting at various online sites and it deterred me. I was ripe for the picking, ready to be convinced to make the change, and I was turned off by the arguing. You couldn’t be a “real” vegan if you did this or ate that. Blah blah blah.
If I couldn’t understand how to be a “good vegan,” why should I try? Why make that life-altering effort to change if I was only doomed to do it incorrectly? I didn’t need that additional baggage in my life. Observing a fractured community engage in internal quibbling delayed my decision, which I now regret.
My vegan world view now is best captured by chef and activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, who says: “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.” She’s right.
Come on, man. We were almost there! Bill Gates is investing in meat and egg alternative companies. Restaurants are adding vegan options right and left. “Forks Over Knives” is winning converts. We’re almost mainstream. We’re right on the cusp!
So thanks, vegan police. Thanks for making us all look like freaky idiots. Again.
Or maybe that website is a joke. Oh, I hope it’s a joke…
Where’s my damn rice cake?
Photo credit: Pixabay