Wandering through New York City yesterday you can’t help but become immersed in excessive consumerism. Everywhere you look in NYC you are being sold to. If you can fit an advertisement certainly it’s there.
Songs have been made about the lights on Broadway in Times Square. The hub of the tourist trap. Certainly, without the constant bombardment of advertising and high pressured sales would this Mecca survive? Corporate profits pay huge costs for billboard space on pricey real estate. Another age of decadence.
But when you briskly walk past the nonsense and look for a bit of normalcy you can find whatever you are looking for in the greatest city in the world.
Food is my favorite daily priority. As I’m now on a plant-based diet for well over a year now I’ll always search a neighborhood for what vegan options are available. I favor restaurants that have made the decision to only be vegan and vegetarian over restaurants that cross-pollinate plant-based food with animal products.
I’m not sure I would say a food snob as it’s a doubt that’s the proper definition however I will say I’m becoming an educated consumer. Businesses that commit themselves to not offer animal-based products are increasing. The options available are growing exponentially as consumers are learning about the environmental and health issues of animal-based diets.
Passion In Philosophy
Walking into P.S. Kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen we were warmly greeted and quickly seated in the chic bar area. We were a bit early for dinner and so it was the perfect time to sneak in before the dinner rush that would soon follow.
Seated at a high top we ordered a few cocktails and an appetizer. The ambiance of the room was warm and inviting and the staff was cheerful and helpful. As we sipped our drinks we began to see the diner crowd lining up and decided to have our meal in the bar area which is my favored placed to eat due to the ease of interaction with others.
Reading over the menu I was overwhelmed with the depth of the menu which offered well designed vegan creations of favored dishes. As I read the menu I couldn’t help but look at the reverse side and instantly fell in love with the restaurants’ philosophy.
Our world is changing. We are on a rapid trajectory towards destruction as prices of goods and services are rising along with the Dow Jones. The separation of wealth continues to cripple families as welfare and social services have diminished along with living wages in favor of corporate wealth and excessive profits.
When a company decides to turn itself upon the crowd and walk fearlessly in the opposite direction, caring not only about their customers by offering carefully chosen ingredients to answer the concerns of the vegan demographic, but to also focus on gifting away their profits we must embrace these trailblazers.
Focusing foremost on animal welfare by operating a vegan restaurant followed by donating the profits to help Haitian women with employment, healthcare, and education the humanitarian loop is fulfilled. By taking profits from patrons dining in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and sharing with one of the poorest helps to define the future we need to build.
Ready or Not the excessive abuse of the planet’s resources from people to the soil needs to be improved upon. We need to educate ourselves and understand the impacts of the damage we are doing. The future is now and thankfully there are those that are paving the pathway.
On the average, a dairy cow produces 82 pounds of manure per day per 1000 pounds liveweight
Source: Illinois Livestock Trail
Dairy cattle each weigh on the average 1,500 pounds while fluctuating between 1,000–2,000 pounds. According to Compassion in World Farming, the dairy cattle population is 264 million dairy cows worldwide. That equals approximately 32,472,000,000 pounds of smelly dairy cow shit. That’s 32 billion pounds of fecal matter daily which the farming industry loves to call cow manure. Only issue is this over abundance of cow dung has many of the World’s Nations recognizing that this excess is actually a toxic waste. Yummy.
We are only talking the Dairy Cattle Industry for all of you Milk Does a Body Good believers. We are only talking about Dairy cows here as the world’s entire cattle population is 1.468 billion head of cattle. Beef cattle create a bit less at around 65lbs of cow patties per 1,000 pounds of cow daily. Feel free to do the math yourself however and recognize that’s a lot of zeros. And a lot of steamy shit.
So what to do with all the shit?
Let’s re-feed it to the animals. An actual nasty process is to feed animals the dried up cow shit. Sounds delicious doesn’t it.
While much of the shit is resold as manure to be spread in fields as fertilizers, much of a farms shit piles windup in our waterways from manure runoff from these farms.
With cow patties having high nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels this excess of nutrients from the manure runoff enters our waterways which create Dead Zones commonly called Hypoxia which is basically a reduction in the waters oxygen levels. The oxygen depleted waters kill off most life including fish and can increase algae levels.
The United States largest Hypoxic Zone is in the Gulf of Mexico and is the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. With nutrient rich cow shit entering into the Mississippi River that dumps into the Gulf, the hypoxic zone has grown in size depleting oxygen levels.
As the Dairy and Cattle industries continue to expand cutting down rainforests and other natural habitats, this has created an unsustainable imbalance. Many species of animals, bugs and flora are being wiped out for factory farming and specifically the Dairy Industry.
Beef cattle is already well documented on its inefficiency based on the incredible amounts of feed and water required to produce just one pound of beef, however there are large segments of the World’s population that feel that “dairy cows” are a healthy source of protein and nutrients while being sustainable. None of which in reality is true.
The factory farming “Dairy Cow” is a systemwide Envirnomental issue killing off large quantities of the world’s animal species. While the USDA has been fueling the Big White Lie for generations now.
With a large percentage of our population being Lactose intolerant, we have begun marketing Lactose free milks and cheeses that are still made from….Lactose.
If your Lactose intolerant here’s a novel idea….stop consuming Cow’s Breastmilk dumbass. With the increase in plant based milks on the rise try to substitute with somewhat more sustainable and absolutely more emotionally intelligent plant based milks.
In my best Bubba Gump voice….”we got Oat Milk, Hemp Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Cashew Milk, Macadamia Milk, Coconut Milk, Flaxseed Milk, Barley Milk”….. and the list goes on.
But for fucks sake stop drinking cows breastmilk and stop wrecking my favorite beaches.
My empathy for animals and issues with modern farmings environmental impact and sustainability.
Photo by Michael Competielle
One summer Saturday my wife and I found ourselves in Upstate New York and decided to stop at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel known for the largest Buddha statue in the Western Hemisphere. With serene peaceful rolling hilly landscape with a large Temple and various outbuildings the monasteries property is perfect for meditation and escaping life’s complexities.
Weekends the Monastery serves a vegetarian lunch for a nominal donation. At the time of our visit we were still on a pescatarian diet so we knew that days vegetarian offerings would work within our existing diet. With denoted vegetarian foods cooked and served by volunteers the lunch was sure to be tasty and it did hit the spot. Our plates were lovingly filled with rice and fresh steamed vegetables and the rooms general silence was humbling.
Thinking of food entirely as natures resource and less like a commodity was a contemplated rule. Therefore by prioritizing the foods quality and less about quantity and recognizing the foods offerings would be for nutritional and medicinal purpose as part of your personal requirements was the philosophy. Your positive attitude and respect for nature and it’s resources prepared you for your food. As we ate we noticed most of the visitors were intently immersed in the meal they were eating and there was limited talking as I believe the visitors were expressing respect for the food and the volunteers for creating it.
As we finished our meal and walked around the grounds we felt a bit more mindful and at peace as we respectfully moved throughout the Temple and prayer gardens. A connection with the Buddhist philosophy and being one with nature was apparent that day.
Buddha’s teaching allowed monks to consume some meats and fish being vegetarian was not a requirement however the practice is implied. The point of reference is my experience of serene Monastery and vegetarian meal felt natural and harmonious to me.
An egg farmer friend of mine spent many hours of many days explaining to me natural farming. Having some cows, pigs and a lot of chickens his farm specializes in meats and predominantly eggs. With hundreds of Happy Chickens he makes Happy Chicken Eggs. His dedication to the craft of natural farming and sustainable process is absolutely extended directly to the products he produces that are of superior quality.
I predominately learned the complexities and risks associated with being a natural farmer, from the costs of feed and work involved to maintain a free range farm, the practice is challenging. By mostly selling direct to consumers and fending off the market ruining wholesalers my farmer friend is motived by passion and integrity. He works incredible amounts of hours nurturing his animals and respectfully selling his products.
One afternoon I went on a field trip with my farmer friend to visit a Halal Meat Market. The owner was interested in purchasing chicken feed from my friends farm as well as advice on the proper slaughter technique. My farmer friend explained the watering, feeding and slaughtering process to my market owner as I listened intently.
My farmer friend asked the market owner for a chicken to use as the example and the owner handed my friend a chicken. I watched as he respectfully petted the live chicken to calm her and then he slide her head first down into a stainless steel funnel. A sharp knife was used to cut the chickens throat while ensuring you didn’t cut the windpipe so the chicken can continue breathing as see bleeds out filling a trough below with blood.
Ironically the chicken remained reasonably calm as she took her final breaths. The chicken was removed from the killing cone and placed into a vat of hot water called a scalder which scalds the chickens flesh to simplified the feather removal. The chicken is then placed into a chicken plucker which is essentially a cylindrical vat with rubber prints and a beater that whips the chicken around removing the feathers.
As I looked at the then bald and motionless chicken I began to feel sadness. This chickens life was ended before me soon to become someone’s meal. The entire slaughterhouse sequence was understandable however I began to ask myself why?
I began to research the source of our food and gain an understanding of modern farming practices. I’d ask my farmer friend hundreds of questions after I watched documentaries such as Food, Inc., Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives. Learning more about the techniques used to produce uniform products while maximizing yields and profits became apparent. My research was showing a different farming practice than I had witnessed at my friends egg farm or the dairy farm I helped work on during one summer.
When I was a child I’d spend summer weeks with my grandparents. They both had immigrated from Austria and had lived during the tumultuous times of World War II in Europe. With good hardworking values and an appreciation for quality we would spend the entire Saturday grocery shopping.
My grandfather and I would head out together grabbing fresh produce from a local farm stand as we headed into downtown Clifton and start with the live poultry market. My grandfather would let me choose the chicken I liked and then we would head across the street to the pork store where we would pick up cold cuts and pork chops. We would stop into the cheese store for fresh butter, milk and cheeses and fill the cooler he kept in the truck of the car.
Finally we would stop back into the chicken store and take our eggs and freshly slaughtered chicken still warm and wrapped in brown waxed paper.
Our final destination would be the bakery to purchase fresh bread, baked goods and cookies. My grandfather would lift me up to the counter to grab a paper number while we awaited our turn. I would often get to pick a cookie or a cream puff as a treat for being patient. The chomping noise of the bread-slicer cutting up my grandmothers rye bread usually was the signifier we were almost done.
We would head home and my grandmother would make up fresh cold cut sandwiches from the freshly baked kaiser rolls. Our treat for eating all of our lunch was some freshly baked cookies and pastry.
Years later I think back at this early style of shopping as we headed from specialty store to specialty store. Everything we purchased coming directly from a farmer, butcher or baker was fresh and perishable. My grandmother planned her weeks meals around the freshness of the food and had a system I’m sure she picked up in Austria.
The food store we used to purchase paper towels, dish detergent and tin foil as she would express to me “Michael that’s junk” as I’d question why we didn’t purchase our food there. In the defense of modern food stores, the food stores of the 70’s and 80’s were exactly that….Junk.
When I’d ask my mother why my grandparents shopped in such an odd way, she would tell me that’s how it was in the old country. My grandparents grew up on farms where you raised your cows, chickens and pigs for your own food. You grew fresh vegetables and only purchased the few items you couldn’t produce. This manner of shopping was the closest my grandparents could do replicate that life.
She also told me she struggled to forgive her grandfather who had her pick a pet pig only months later slaughter it for food. My mother refused to eat it.
Only years later did I make the connection to the chicken I had chosen in the live poultry market was the dinner I was eating. I’m uncertain why I didn’t make the connection but I can only believe it was to avoid the unthinkable. Armed with years of experiences and knowledge while finding much of the modern farming practices while feeling empathetic to slaughtering animals for food has led me to living a Vegan life.
This article is an outline to future articles on Buddhism, Veganism, sustainability and environmental concerns.
How Removing Dairy From My Diet Changed My Sense of Smell
For most of my life cheese has been an important staple in my diet. Breakfasts often consisted of a smear of cream cheese on a bagel or an egg omelet with melted cheese. For lunch I’d love a sub sandwich with cold cuts and thinly sliced deli cheeses. Swiss, American, Provolone and Fresh Mozzarellas we’re regulars.
Evenings my wife and I would share with our slightly overweight dogs blocks of Champagne Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Swiss and Colby Jack. For dinner we would have blends of mozzarella, parmigiana and ricotta mixed with pasta. Ravioli, Tortellini and Cavatelli with homemade sauce and sprinkled with Pecorino Romano was a weekly tradition.
Friday nights we would feast on nachos grande sprinkled with a four cheese taco blend or a large Brooklyn pizza pie. Desserts we would treat ourselves to ice cream, gelato and cheesecake.
We ate cheese daily and the chances were slim to none we could ever give up our love of fromage.
It is little over a year ago until I watched and my wife heard from our kitchen a rather disturbing video from Erin Janus on the dairy industry.
The content in this video highlights the Dairy industry in a graphic matter and the content is unsettling. Immediately upon watching this film I had vowed to never consciously consume dairy products again. If you love your ice cream or cheese I highly suggest you pass on this video and watch some cheesy feel good videos. You’ve been warned.
Years ago while in my late teens I spent a summer in Otsego County in Upstate New York. With charming villages nestled along the 70 mile long Unadilla River and large expanses of forest the area was a perfect location to just get away. Driving up the old single lane country highways I’d pass dairy farms and cattle farms often populated with hundreds of baby calves chained to small white huts. After only a few short days I began to learn these calves, often males as they were unable to become “dairy cows” were kept in close quarters to keep their meat tender as they would soon become what we know as veal.
Veal is the meat of calves, in contrast to the beef from older cattle. Veal can be produced from a calf of either sex and any breed; however, most veal comes from young males of dairy breeds which are not used for breeding. Generally, veal is more expensive than beef from older cattle.
Since that time I’ve only once (and only mistakenly) eaten veal. With such harsh living conditions and without any quality of life I refused to make veal a part of my diet.
Upstate NY was a perfect place to pick up the occasional odd job often helping farmers with haying, fence repair or working as a farm hand. Working for slightly more than gas and cigarette money, I’d work a 9 or 10 hour day at various farms. I became friendly with a family of dairy farmers, 3 high school aged boys who’s father had passed away. Afternoons and evenings I’d head on over to help relieve the boys from the 8 days a week job of running a farm.
Armed with my horse farm work experience I helped herd the heifers and female cows across the busy street into the dairy barn. Cleaning stalls, feeding and watering was my specialty as the brothers would proceed with the milking process. Tubing ran inside the barn to the milk room that contained huge stainless steel tanks of freshly pumped raw milk. Every other day the affiliated processor would send trucks to pump out these tanks. An evening treat would be a small cup full of the freshly pumped milk.
For many years I consumed milk based products with pride feeling that the dairy industry was generally wholesome. I’m uncertain at that time if these farms would have been considered organic and free range as I’m doubtful those were everyday terms of those times. I ignorantly assumed dairy cows consistently produced milk in a natural and pure way. It wasn’t until I had watched Erin’s 5 minute video did I learn the truth.
Weening myself off of dairy products wasn’t as difficult as I assumed it would be. For years I was using Almond Milk in my coffee so the challenges would be cheese, butter and cheese.
Oh how I love cheese.
My wife and I quit cheese cold turkey (oh we quit turkey too and all other meats and fish on one fell swoop). Having heard that the non-dairy or Vegan cheeses were quite simply gross, we built a revised diet around rices, beans, grains, fruits and veggies as we boycotted anything remotely similar to meat and dairy products.
Watching scores of YouTube videos and reading hundreds of webpage articles we gradually began to reintroduce and consume Vegan cheeses and pseudo meats. Our first Vegan pizza was simply delicious as we devoured the entire thin crust brick-fired pizza with plant based cheese.
Our son who only occasionally makes the Vegan switch claimed the nondairy cheeses weren’t horrible as he helped us devour vegan pizza. With plant-based diary items gaining a massive growth spurt the availability of ice creams and cheeses has increased.
Walking thru our local high end supermarket we try our best to avoid the cheese aisle. The aged and moldy smell that reminds me of old gym shoes reminds me of the horrors I saw in the above video.
Our collective efforts to remove dairy, meat and fish has been a success as we recently celebrated our one year anniversary being on a plant based diet we look where we stand and feeling complacent about our stance while happy to have made the transition.
A few years ago good friends of my wife and I invited us to accompany them on a trip to Costa Rica. Having never been there before, we certainly were up for the trip and quickly agreed, excited to explore the known to be lovely Central American country. La Costa Rica means “rich coast” with a long and skinny landmass flanked on either side by the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. With over 800 miles of coastline and a northern border with Nicaragua and Panama to the south Costa Rica is Tropical paradise known for its biodiversity.
According to the Happy Planet Index Costa Rica is the happiest and most sustainable country on the planet. With the coastal plains separated by rugged mountainous regions the country is home to over half a million species of which 70% are insects. According to INBio Costa Rica consists of 4.5% of the worlds biodiversity with 12,119 species of plants of which 950 are endemic.
Landing in San Jose we headed to the rental car agent and procured our necessary 4 wheel drive SUV to climb the dirt road to our villa in the mountains above the Southern Pacific coast.
With our GPS plugged in and programmed we started our 2 hour trek down to Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast. With surprisingly well build and smooth roads we headed through the lush mountains to to the Pacific coast and headed south towards Quepos and followed the Pacific coast. We passed through the town of Dominical a surfers hamlet known for year round waves.
We eventually arrived into the Village of Uvita known for the Envision Festival as well as wildlife and nature. Our friends received the keys for our villa named Casa Aracari located 400 feet above the stunning whales tail in the Marino Bellana National Park.
The mountainous dirt road was heavily rutted from the recent rainy season. In four wheel low we slowly climbed the rugged terrain passing the poshKura Resort and for one week our next door neighbor. Opening our private gates we pulled up to the breathtaking property.
With a mixture of tropical plants and hardscaping we followed the gravel driveway to the charming yellow masonry home. Accented with thick beams and slabs of local teak, Saltillo tiles floors lead out to the patio and private infinity pool overlooking the Pacific coastline below.
Ceiling fans cooled the space while the topmost wall areas had screened in pillars to exhaust the days heat. Sounds of birds, insects and monkeys could be heard during the warm quiet evenings.
After unpacking we decided to head back down the arduous mountain into the quaint village below. On a local corner we met Emmanuel a produce merchant that loaded the entire rear of our SUV with fresh watermelon, mangoes, papaya, oranges, pineapples and bananas.
The local grocery provided the essential coconut water, rice, coffee, eggs and bread. Surprisingly the markets fish and meats were less than desirable.
Over the next few days we traveled the beautiful countries jungles, oceans and villages. Examining much of Costa Rica’s lovely flora and animal life we never knew what to expect.
As always I researched before we had left for the trip understanding the Tico way of life, Pura Vida. We made fresh mango salsas with yellow rice and lime soaked plantains from our properties trees and fresh tropical drinks from coconuts that had fallen by the pool and papaya cocktails…we were in heaven.
We ventured into Dominical the surfers enclave for local art pieces, food and bath products in Mama Toucan’s organic health food store. We also were in search of fresh fish which we ultimately purchased from a local fish monger I ordered in my broken Spanish “se vende pescado?” Which he replied “si” with a large cleaver in hand. We purchased two large fresh red snappers that created the evenings rice, beans and fish dish.
Traveling the lovely coastal country we came upon large palm oil farmsalong with black smokey palm oil polluting the air from the palm oil extraction process. The palm trees planted near Quepos and Jaco were know to have been responsible for ruining the areas biodiversity by killimg off what once was the once jungles lower canopy. Small shanty homes cropped up around the plantations roads provided housing for the local farm hands.
In our adventures we saw the countries native born Tico way of life. Pleasant and respectful people that cherished the land and the maintenance of the large abundance of plant and animal life.
My friend a bit more of a meat lover than I was hoping we could find him some decent steaks. In our ventures we would see the Brahman cows known to survive well in arid terrain but looks less than desirable than the New York strip steaks we were accustomed to, we passed living almost entirely on fruits, vegetables and some fish.
One afternoon we headed to a local artists home/ studio. Mel and Misha living in a cute home less than a quarter mile from the Marino Bellena beach. We talked art, Costa Rica’s culture, local living, and Misha’s computer business. They offered some homemade ice creams they made from coconut they collected on the beaches and laughed how we’d paid for fruits we could’ve collected freely in the nearby jungles.
We talked about Costa Rica’s beef which Misha informed us wasn’t like our Jersey cows however some Tico farmers were now raising them. He mentioned a meat market in town that imported the ever coveted NY strip steaks where we headed off and purchased.
To be honest the meat wasn’t the same and seemed almost unnecessary after the bulk of the weeks delicious plant and fish based offerings. We loved our travels to Costa Rica certain we would certainly return.
Heading back to the States my wife and I made a conscious decision to attempt to maintain our Costa Rican diet once home. Upon entering the local New Jersey markets we laughed at the inadequate offerings of tropical fruits and vegetables in November compared to the quality. And quantity eaten on our recent journey.
We continued on a with a Pescatarian lifestyle for the next few years and very infrequently eating meats. Since that time we’ve become Vegan, examined biodiverse farming and Costa Rican life. Once again to return as Vegans living on the fruits of paradise.