Category Archives: veg

Vegan shoes for boys?

We’ve been having a hard time finding suitable footwear for my son ever since he started to wear out, and then outgrew, his IsaBooties. They had been an awesome find for us, and I was sad to see them go.

I feel like my shoe-buying criteria isn’t that demanding, but it must be because after searching high and low I am still finding very few shoes that fit the bill.

Here’s what I’m looking for:
– Flexible soles
– Non-leather
– Velcro or slip-on, no laces
– Under $30

Bonuses given to those that are:
– Lightweight
– Washable
– Not ridiculously ugly, actually look like shoes!

It always amazes me how thick-soled childrens’ shoes can be. I would never choose to wear shoes so bulky and heavy, let alone choose to put them on children who are just learning to use their feet. One of the
main reasons we chose the soft soled shoes in the first place is that research showed me that children’s feet are maleable, and take years to develop fully. Barefoot walking is the ideal for muscular development, and shoes too tight or hard can actually mold feet into the wrong shape and cause problems. While learning to walk kids should be able to feel what they’re doing and use their toes to grip. When going without isn’t an option, you want something that mimics barefoot walking but also gives them some traction so they don’t slip.

Even once they’re walking well (my guy is always moving these days!) flexibility continues to be important for proper foot development and is useful as they run, climb playground equipment, etc. The focus also
turns toward areas like protecting feet from sharp objects. I know I’m not alone in thinking flexibility is an important quality in kids shoes, given that there are companies specializing in this area, it’s just that they all use leather! True it is a flexible material, but there are substitutes like Ultra Suede that looks just as nice, is durable and cruelty free.

Part of the struggle may be that I’m looking for boys shoes. I see lots of cute girls shoes that are canvas with rubber soles and would work. Also, many girls shoes are slip-ons. Men’s shoes contain both these
features in the form of loafers, so why not shoes for little boys?

I see a lot of small kids wearing Crocs, but they are not flexible, quite ugly in my opinion and sometimes cause injury. I’ve found some canvas options, but they all have laces. (Laces seem nothing but a burden in shoes meant for kids that are nowhere near close to having the dexterity needed to tie them.) Considering how fast kid’s feet grow, I’m hesitant to spend the $50+ that a lot of the “eco-friendly” or vegetarian shoemakers are demanding.

So what’s the problem? Am I really being too picky? Is there really no demand for shoes like these?

I’ve had some luck with Squeaky Shoes. However, they are made in China, by who knows who, using who knows what. I really don’t like the idea that my son’s shoes could possibly be made by children. I’m sure they’re not environmentally friendly and even if they were, they have to be imported. But they are canvas, flexible, and under $10. Sometimes they go on sale or you can get defects for under $5. They hold up well and wash easily. (Note – we pull the squeakers out.)

If only some US-based company would take on this cause the way IsaBooties did! What are other vegan parents buying for their boys?

Silk is Non-Organic Soy

The Silk brand has grown to be pretty much synonymous with soy milk. If you ask for a cow milk alternative where I live, it’s pretty much guaranteed that’s what you’ll get. My husband prefers the taste of it too (I prefer a local store brand) so we buy it on a weekly basis.

With that in mind, I was quite upset when I found out that Silk has changed over their main product line to non-organic soy.

Back in 2002, Silk was purchased by Dean Foods, an agribusiness giant and the largest milk processor in the U.S. The company has been slowly introducing non-organic versions of many of their products, including their Horizon brand cow milk. Dean Foods say they are doing this to take advantage of a market that cannot afford their organic line.

I believe they’ve deliberately kept these changes as low profile as possible. With the Silk soy milk, they kept the exact same carton design. They subtly replaced the word Organic on the box with Natural and removed the Certified Organic logo. That is it- same colors, same wording, same everything! Sources say they didn’t alert manufacturers and even kept the same UPC code and price point. The change is near invisible!

We buy a box a week, and were only recently made aware when the Organic Consumers Association brought it to our attention. I don’t know how long it would have taken us to notice on our own. (I guess this serves as a reminder to re-check labels on occasion, even for brands we think we know and love.)

We shop almost exclusively at our local whole foods co-op, but neither they nor our closest regular grocery store are carrying the new organic line. I think if they had been, we might have noticed the juxtaposition as the box designs are quite different. But by introducing the new product with the old packaging, they’ve tried to maintain their market share. For people that don’t drink soy milk on a regular basis but may use it at their business, there’s no way they’ve noticed the difference, and many will not care. The higher price means they’re unlikely to switch since it would affect their profit

I emailed my concerns to Dean Foods via their new Silk web site, and received two responses, one obviously meant to be sent prior to making the changes in January of this year.

“Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk. We appreciate your interest in our products.

We’re making some changes at Silk and want you to be in the loop. Since we were founded, we’ve been dedicated to bringing the benefits of soymilk to as many people as possible-which means offering more choices whenever possible. That’s why starting in January, we’ll be expanding our product line to include both organic and natural options in several of our popular flavors.

Our certified organic options will remain the same as they are today, but you’ll find them in stylish new packaging. Starting in January, look for Silk Organic Plain, Vanilla, and Unsweetened refrigerated half-gallons in their new cartons, clearly labeled as organic.

In addition, our full line of refrigerated soymilks in all sizes will be available as natural products, made from soybeans that have not been genetically modified (non-GMO). You’ll recognize them in packages that look much like our existing line, clearly labeled as natural.

Both our organic and natural product lines offer the same delicious taste and wholesome nutrition you count on from Silk.

Why’d We Do It?
For you, for us and for the planet. At a time when all food costs are on the rise, this change allows us to keep our prices reasonable, so more people can afford to make Silk an everyday healthy choice. It’s also good for the planet: Broadening our offering allows us to source both natural and organic beans in North America, which conserves energy by
keeping our food miles-and yours-lower.

As always, we’re committed to being your favorite soymilk, and a partner in your healthy lifestyle. Enjoy the new choices!

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.”


“Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk. We appreciate your interest in our products.

We produce products that meet the needs of a considerable number of consumers. We look for nutritional, ingredient and flavor profiles that have a broad appeal to a wide variety of consumer tastes and nutritional preferences.

We are sorry to hear that Silk Soymilk did not meet your specific needs and hope you give one of our many different products a try.

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.”

I take issue with some of these statements. The price point is the same for the now non-organic version, which means it’s no more affordable for the masses. While it’s great that the new organic line will be non-GMO, it’s not at all good for the planet that now they’ll be acquiring much more soy that is not! While I’m glad that they’re no longer sourcing their soybeans from overseas suppliers, I can’t approve of the changes purely on the basis of food miles alone. And whose “consumer tastes” or “nutritional needs” require the purchase of non-organic soy?

If it were left up to me, I don’t think we’d be buying their products anymore. They cannot be trusted, are selling out organic farmers, and are responsible for the misery of so many dairy cows. It seems I’m not alone. People are unhappy with the way the Silk changes played out. It seems dishonest. Doing things like refusing to participate in the Cornucopia Institute’s soy industry survey only further soils their reputation in my eyes.

With the the changeover of many of their other brands on the horizon (ha!), I’m anticipating they will only alienate more of their core consumer base. Question is, can they afford this expense in the name of acquiring new customers?

Why dolphins?

From the Canadian news this week, we get a story about some men risking life and limb to free dolphins that had been trapped in ice.  On the surface, this is a heartwarming story and the men should be commended for their bravery. It also made for an interesting juxtaposition to the seal hunting that is just getting ready to commence in Newfoundland.

But there is something about it that puzzles me. These men were fishermen by trade. They regularly kill and harvest animals for a living. They have no qualms about hauling in fish with nets and hooks day after day. So what is it that made them want to help the dolphins?

Several news reports mentioned that the dolphins were crying, that the sound is one thing that drove villagers to action. So is it this human-like emotion that saved the dolphins? I hear others talk about how dogs and cats are different from animals slaughtered for food because they show personality and affection, so maybe it’s a similar sentiment?

Is it their perceived intelligence? If so, then why doesn’t this caring extend to other animals that are similarly smart and show signs of human behaviour, like pigs? It’s one thing that I find so disingenuous, this caring for animals on one hand, while killing them with the other.

I’m not going to knock people that help animals. Anything done to spare the suffering of a living being is a good thing. I just struggle to understand this perspective and realize that one day soon our son may be asking questions on this topic that I’m unprepared to answer.

Vegan potluck!

We’ve RSVP’ed to attend a vegan Thanksgiving potluck, to be held the evening before the holiday. I’m quite excited about it, and know the gourmet in our family is already agonizing about what to bring that will best show off his amazing cooking skills. Since going vegan, we’ve never been to an event outside our house where we’ll be able to eat anything served.

Despite the fact that neither of us are big social butterflies, we’re putting ourselves out there for this in part to integrate ourselves into the local veg scene. The organizer has promised they drew other families with kids last year, so I think we will fit in OK.

I’m sure at his young age our babe doesn’t notice or care that what he’s eating is not exactly what everyone else is having, but as he grows I am predicting this will change. From reading messages on veg parenting lists, it seems many kids get to a point where they don’t want to be the oddball out. I am thinking that it will help if he can see as he grows that there are others that eat the way we do.

Not that we need to have the approval of others, but there’s something about being around like minded individuals to enliven the spirit and reinforce commitment to decisions. Even when your choices are different from 95% of the population, you at least know the remaining 5% are with you. (Or at least pretending to be, wonder if the FBI will be there? 😛 )

Hopefully the evening goes well. If so, we look forward to attending additional events like this in future. As the babe grows, perhaps he’ll come to develop friendships with some of the other kids. And if not, at least the event shows there are others out there that follow the compassionate eating model that we do. Plus, it may give us some fabulous suggestions to freshen up our menus.

For the moms

I wrote the most fantastic post, one of the most emotive things I’ve written in a long time, and then it was spirited away as my laptop mysteriously shut off. This post seems downright clinical in comparison, but I felt it was an important enough topic to try again.


I had never really thought much about how milk production worked until I was pregnant and nearing time to breastfeed. Now that I’ve been at it for over a year, I understand a bit more about how it all happens. Still, until recently I hadn’t considered the similarities between human production and that of dairy cows.

A campaign from Viva! called Mothers Want Their Babies Back!, timed to coincide with Mother’s Day in the UK, captured my attention. In addition to the research I’d already done on dairy consumption, this prompted me to take another look at the milk industry from a lactating mom’s point of view.

In order to produce milk, a cow must go through a full pregnancy and birth her child just as a human mother would. To capture the milk for human consumption, the calf is taken away from the mother within hours of delivery. By that point the mother’s bond with her baby is already strong, and just as any mother would be she is devastated when it is taken away. (Little does she know that more cruelty is right around the corner for the babe as the male calves are either killed straightaway or raised as veal, a short but torturous existence, and the females kept for future milk production.)

Since mother and babe have been separated, production must be maintained via pumping several times a day. This doesn’t take place in a cushy corporate mother’s room, but instead in a shed crowded alongside other “working moms” that may never see the light of day. To make sure she has a strong supply, the cow will likely be given a galactagogue. Instead of the oatmeal or fenugreek you or I might use, she’s given something like BGH instead.

To increase profitability, the mother cow is pushed to oversupply, often to the point her udders sag so low they drag on the ground. Plugged ducts and mastitis occur as in humans, but on a more frequent basis due to the filthy conditions — a very painful ordeal often treated with antibiotics but meaning a death sentence for some cows.

Since the milk producing period is only meant to last as long as the baby needs it to grow, each year the cow will be artificially impregnated. This viscious cycle repeats until her supply dips to the point where she’s no longer profitable. Long before her life would naturally end, sometimes pregnant, she’s slaughtered. (As seen in recent news, even this doesn’t always mean quick relief from a miserable existence.)

The cruelty in the dairy enterprise is astounding and I can no longer play a part. I have decided to permanently adopt the near vegan diet I’ve assumed since we found out pur babe was sensitive to cow’s milk. Not only will it be good for my health and the environment, I’d like to do it for the moms.

Green your diet

Even if you’re not concerned about animal welfare or the potential health benefits of a vegetarian diet, there is yet another reason to reconsider your animal product consumption – the environmental impact.

Several great articles followed a lengthy UN report issued late last year that said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! The facts and figures surrounding this topic are astounding. Here are a few that I’ve pulled out of my recent readings:

  • A 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn and only two producing cattle.
  • More than 1/3 of all fossil fuels are used in animal production.
  • Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains grown in the U.S.
  • Because of deforestation to create grazing land, each vegetarian saves an acre of trees per year.
  • Producing a single hamburger patty uses enough fuel to drive 20 miles.
  • The livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher amount than the transportation sector.
  • Reducing meat production by just 10 percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people.
  • You could spend more than $20,000 on a Prius and still emit 50 percent more carbon dioxide than you would if you just gave up eating meat and other animal products.
  • Waste from animal production pollutes American waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
  • Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year.
  • You’d save more water by not eating a pound of beef than not showering for a year.
  • Chickens raised for KFC and other companies are fed crops that are grown in the Amazon rain forest.
  • More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals.
  • Almost half of the water and 80 percent of the agricultural land in the U.S. are used to raise animals for food.

With the recent media focus on “going green”, I find it somewhat surprising that we’re not hearing more about this. It’s all over the news in other countries, and in the UK official government sources have encouraged people to examine their meat consumption and eat and drink in a greener way. So why is this a non-issue in the US to the point that even Al Gore does not mention it??

Recent research has shown that a majority of people are concerned about climate change and want to do something to feel like they’re a part of the solution, but the recommendations our government and media gives to the average consumer are limited. In addition to driving a hybrid, switching to energy efficient appliances, or turning off lights, we need to better communicate the message that reducing your animal product consumption is something you can do every day that will have a huge impact on the environment and global warming.

Want to make a transition to eating less meat? Check out One Bite at a Time: A Beginner’s Guide to Conscious Eating, participate in Meatless Monday, get a starter pack from Vegan Outreach, find a vegetarian friendly restaurant, or do whatever it takes to stop global warming one bite at a time.

Highway to Hades

I can’t even begin to describe how disheartening it is to see trailers full of animals on their way to slaughter or making cross-country trips just to participate in the food chain. Recently I was behind a truck full of chickens, rows and stacks of open cages, driving smack into the middle of a thunderstorm with trails of white fuzz wafting back into the cars behind. For a short while I followed a trailer of baby pigs, poking their snouts out the slats in curiousity. Unfortunately where we live, and with me driving interstate near daily, this is a common occurence.

I don’t quite understand why this bothers me so deeply, while others take no notice. I suppose I never noticed either, for a long time. I always try to think comforting thoughts towards the animals.

At one point after going veg I thought to myself that the truck driver hauling these animals is like the mythical ferryman taking people to hell, Charon. What a horrible job it would be if the driver were more aware, an enabler to the deaths of so many animals.

Vegetarian family values

While I was pregnant I often got questions about being vegetarian. Almost every one focused solely on my protein intake. What I always considered questioning in return was, how is your protein intake? Better yet, do you know how much vitamin C you got today? How are your folate levels?

Where we live a vegetarian diet is still somewhat rare. Some of the questions are based in ignorance (I find many people believe that meat is necessary and aren’t even aware protein is also found in vegetables and other foods), but I can also tell that others are being intentionally judgemental. Some see vegetarianism as a personal attack on their values and bring it up attempting to start an argument. (If I was allergic instead would it still be an issue?)

I can’t say for certain, but I’d hazard a guess that pregnant/nursing/parent veggies are often as or more aware of their nutritional status than omnis. While I was pregnant I tracked my diet pretty closely, sometimes every single thing I ate all day (including the stray piece of candy) was recorded to make sure that I was hitting at least 100% of the RDA for most things and more for key things such as protein. I regularly hit 80+ grams every single day and could tell you (or look up) the numbers for any number of the other nutritional requirements. I had done extensive reading on the topic, as well as received professional advice. I’d venture this is a lot more work than the average person puts into their diet.

Now that I’m nursing the babe (a whole separate point of interest that draws nearly as many comments!), I’m starting to get questions about whether or not I’ll feed him meat or let him have it if he shows interest. I like to think that not eating meat is a value for our family, in the same way that relgion or abstention from alcohol may be a value for theirs. We’ll teach him our position, and then once he’s out on his own he can make a determination about whether he wants to continue. Some have postured that it’s not fair of us to deprive him of the chance to eat meat. I’d like to counter with the same argument considered in the context of smoking. If your child shows an interest in smoking, would it be unfair for you to consider depriving him of this act?

Striking a balance

We have been thinking our lad is sensitive to milk protein, so I recently went about attempting to eliminate dairy in my diet. We’d previously discussed going vegan, but determined it would be hard. I figured there’s no way I’d be able to give up cheese, ice cream, etc. Turns out its not been so bad after all. There are lots of replacements and it forces me to eat more fruits, vegetables and unprocessed food in general. All good, right??

Truth is that my biggest worry is that I’m going overboard with the self limiting diet, making eating choices more difficult, and setting myself up for hardship. It creates an extra burden for our family, even my coworkers. The goal is to strike a balance, find a point at which I’m doing the right thing both for myself and the world.