Posts tagged "vegan"

07 Sep 2018
Rose Cherry Chia Smoothie – High Raw Vegan Recipe

raw vegan recipe cherry rose chia smoothie

Get high!  This Rose Chia Cherry Smoothie is the one I want to be cradling on a paradise island.  Because it’s nice and cool, full of water-rich fruit and is easy af to make, so I won’t have to leave my beach for long.  All organic, high raw, 100% vegan.

Simply blend:

1 frozen banana
1C frozen cherries
2″ filleted aloe leaf
1T chia seeds
1T maca powder
½T rose water
1t vanilla powder

Top with:

1/2T grapefruit zest
5 germinated then dehydrated apricot kernels


When I did a raw nutritional analysis of 4 months of my diet with nutritional scientist Joanna Steven, we found that the only nutrient was was “low” on (80%), according to the federal government’s RDA, was calcium.  So we experimented a little and found that if I added just 1T of chia seeds to my daily diet, it put me over the 100% mark for RDA.  Those chia seeds not only have a ton of calcium in them, but they hold water and return it to you, when you need it.  Athletes really benefit from drinking or eating soaked chia.  I eat it every dang day!

Aloe is another super sexy ingredient.  I buy it fresh and fillet it (like a fish, I’m told, though I’ve been vegetarian near my whole life and am happy to have saved myself from the violence of that!).  Cube up the clear chunks and blend them up in the smoothie.  Make sure they blend all the way.  Aloe is soothing to the intestinal tract and naturally helps keep things moving.  Plus, we all know how great fresh aloe is for the skin – I just rub the inside of the skin directly onto my face and let it dry.  Rinse it off after 20 min, if you care.  I say don’t use aloe products – just the fresh stuff.  The aloe products come in glass or plastic, first of all, so there’s a better way.  AND the products always have some sort of stabilizer since as soon as you remove the aloe meat from it’s skin, it oxidizes like all fresh foods.  I don’t need chemicals to “extend shelf life” in or on my body.  If it’s not fresh, it’s dead and those chemicals are hella confusing to my kidneys and joints.  They go somewhere, you know!  Just use the fresh leaf or don’t use it at all:-)

The maca is a thyroid and adrenal soother and has a beautiful effect on yang energy, focalizing it into a sort of sexual potency.

The rose water and vanilla really round out that sexual energy with some yin sensuality and love vibes.  They are meant to be together!

This is an organic, high raw vegan recipe and when you eat it, you are organic and High Raw, too!


01 Sep 2018
Pizza That Makes You Smart – High Raw vegan recipe

My first raw vegan pizza crusts right here. Like a pro.

These crusts are 1 C each of soaked almond pate and flax meal w ¼ C olive oil and I went with tarragon galore – like ¼ C. 2.5 C water, stir, sit 5 min, shape on lined dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 115 for 3 hrs, flip and remove liner to dehydrate the other side for 8 more hours. Store long term in fridge or freezer.

Then a thin layer of avocado, lemon, sea salt, garlic spread.

Next, sliced green olives, diced or cubed Roma tomatoes, chopped cilantro, cubed Hass avocado.

Topped with a King Oyster mushroom I flushed at home, then marinated 24 hrs in coconut aminos. And black garlic I fermented in a rice cooker on warm for 10 days.

That’s 100% organic, raw, vegan pizza right there. Have all you want. But this food is so nutrient dense, one is a lot. Makes you smart.

High science. High raw.


20 May 2015
How to Make Cruelty-Free Burlesque Feather Fans

photo by Melissa Schwartz, cruelty-free feather fans and faux pearl corset by Tonya Kay, retouching by Stephen Newell


My vegan life does not always mesh with the layout of conventional society.  Fortunately, I’ve been vegan for 21 years and vegetarian for even longer, so compassionate dead ends aren’t firsts for me and I don’t let living in my world, whether I agree with it or not, get me down … for long.

I remember a nine year period when I replaced all the leather I owned with “cruelty-free” products.  Until I realized that the man-made plastics’ manufacturing was destroying potentially more lives of all species through air pollution, water pollution and manufacture/landfill-caused habitat destruction than the direct use of animal skin.  PLUS the quality of those man-made plastic uppers was so comparatively low, I consumed not one pair of leather tap shoes in 20 years (which is realistic and reasonable), but a new pair of plastic cowgirl boots every 6 months.

Unfortunate.  Sad.  Trapped by society.  But no longer trapped by inner-torment.

I’ve learned to stay conscious and awake in every choice in each moment.  One of the most important lessons of my vegan journey was surely that any duality-based black-vs-white right-vs-wrong thinking – even when it’s with the best of intentions, is closed minded, limiting and quite useless in a world that requires you interact with it real time.  The key is to educate yourself and move in real time from there.  Check it out:  I’ve learned that bullwhips are available nylon and are superior to their leather counterparts in almost every way.  All ballroom shoes have suede soles/souls, but you can purchase sateen uppers.  Car tires contain animal products.  Period.  Good luck with that, vegan fundamentalists.  Which choices are you going to make right here/right now/today?  Tomorrow may yield different results.  And so on and so forth for the rest of your educated and awake life.

My response-ability (a privilege) is to educate myself and make compassionate choices from there.

Burlesque has it’s own specific challenges.  Said suede-soled ballroom shoes vs. undancable plastic platform stilettos.  Replacing silk, fur and pearl with hard to find, but preferable luxury costume replacements.  And feather fans … I mean, what burlesque performer doesn’t want the classic feather fans of plush ostrich, pheasant, or other bird feathers.  But when we see the reality of the torture we initiate by purchasing conventional feathers how beautiful can we really feel on stage after that?

Beauty is not just external.  It is visible in the cleanliness of one’s thoughts, choices and spirit as well.  To choose to remain uneducated, is ignorance and that is ugliness of the mind.  To know and not care, is cruel and that is ugliness of the heart.  To know and to care, yet continue while feeling inner shame, is self-loathing and is ugliness of the spirit.   All this is visible, I assure you, in your performances, in your relationships, in the mirror returning your gaze.


Of course, there are no perfect people and no perfect choices.  Just honorable, educated, awake journeys towards a personal ideal.  I respect you if you are on your journey.  I strive to be respectable myself.

So I started with educating myself.  The commercial feather industry is cruel in that most feathers are torn from living birds bodies, leaving them bloody, in pain and unprotected.  As badly as I wanted my own feather fan burlesque, I wanted nothing to do with that process.  So I continued my education.  Searching and researching faux ostrich feathers.  I found faux pheasant feathers, but zero faux feathers of other variety.  I found other vegan performers making their own faux feathers by hand, like Bettina May, burlesque performer from Canada, designing faux ostrich feathers from short hair falls.  Or Monica Kay, pole dancer from New Orleans, designing massive black raven wings from finely cut foam rubber.  I continued my education.

I learned that ostriches are now “farmed” in over 100 countries for their meat, eggs, skin and feathers.  The feathers are plucked from the living birds and the birds after slaughter.  I searched and searched cruelty-free (not vegan) feathers and found only two suppliers claiming that standard.  I contacted both to ask questions.  The first was a large supplier whose products were always available and were of a standard price compared to other conventional commercial ostrich feathers.  When I contacted the supplier, he said his feathers were absolutely cruelty-free.  When I asked where the farm is, he said South Africa. Eventually in our discourse, he admitted he had never visited the farm himself, but trusts the people he works with implicitly.  I have visited South Africa and know first hand the differences South African society holds when compared to Los Angeles, CA, USA – vegan haven – which is where I live.  For me, it all didn’t add up, so I continued my search.  I found a supplier from Northern California (same progressive vegan-haven state!), Pegasus22 on Etsy.  She is a small supplier, confirmed that she visits the farm regularly and knows the people whom collect the ostrich and peacock feathers after the bird’s molt (rather than plucking).  I needed a large order (85 feathers) and she let me know that collecting this many feathers might take some time, since they wait for the feathers to become loose and that can’t be rushed.  Timing is of the essence since the collectors wait for the feathers to become loose, but ideally not be drug around or stepped on by the birds, creating more tedious cleaning and washing.  Her feathers were over twice the price of commercial feathers and I did indeed wait 3 months for my order to be fulfilled.  She invited me to the farm, which I intend to visit in the future.  All of this added up and I was confident I could move forward knowing that the spirit of the ostrich, whom wears the feathers first, would be alive and radiate beauty in my performance.  The ostrich – not my costume – is nature’s true beauty, after all.

Photo by Bruce Monroe

Having located my cruelty-free ostrich feathers, I not only had to, but sincerely wanted to make the fans by hand.  I wanted to touch the fans and become intimately connected so I contacted another grassroots business woman on Etsy, Donna Touch Burlesque, from Chicago.  I can not recommend Donna highly enough.  She has fine tuned her own laser cut, light-weight aluminum stave designs and easily creates custom pieces (which I’ve already commissioned for a second costume!). Donna spent extra time making sure I had all the hints and tips she could give a first-time fan maker.  When her staves arrived, they looked shiny and smooth like this:


I spray painted the staves with a rustoleum coating to match the feather color.


I gently laid out every feather. This was my favorite part. The feathers are breathtakingly beautiful and because they are not commercial feathers, the ends are not trimmed.  This makes the feathers far more fragile (I’ve had to learn to repair feather tips from use) but also keeps them at their longest and most flowing, since it is the tips of the feathers that taper down to the slimmest and most delicate.


photo by Marti Matulis w The Lalas, cruelty-free feather fans by Tonya Kay

I laid them out according to height and direction of bend at the tip. I knew three feathers were going to be attached to every stave, so took my time and chose which combination would make the most visually stunning layout for two full fans.  There is no right or wrong here.  This is the art of the fan building.


It takes a little practice, considerable patience and a lot of time, but I got quicker and more skilled as I went. With three twists of thin wire, I attached each feather to the stave at two attachment points.



The more feathers used, yes, the more expensive, but also the more responsive the fans movement and the most coverage for me to tease from behind. I figured, if I was going for quick, cheap fans, I wouldn’t have sourced cruelty-free, I wouln’t have built them myself, the fans would have ended up looking commercial and thin and so would have my act.  Since this process, it is easy to spot the difference between a nice set of feather fans and a cheap pair.  Cruelty-free and hand-made shine like stars!

I designed my fans to remain open, but it can be done either way. Opening and closing the fans places a lot of wear on them and I knew I was going to be using them exclusively in the open position for this act, so I layered all the staves with washers on a bolt, then hard wired the base together so they remain strongly in an open position.


Of course open fans need a custom case, which my Lover and friend, Teddy Baum, hand made for me!


And of course I spent 12 more days creating a custom pearl corset to compliment the quality and splendor of my stunning cruelty-free feather fans.  The end result is nothing less than breathtaking and when I perform the burlesque act live – a classic Peekaboo Feather Fan Dance – I feel confident my choreography and performance combine with magickal results.  This is one of the most beautiful journeys I’ve ever embarked upon.


photo by Melissa Schwartz, cruelty-free feather fans and faux pearl corset by Tonya Kay, retouching by Stephen Newell





photo by Melissa Schwartz, cruelty-free feather fans and faux pearl corset by Tonya Kay, retouching by Stephen Newell




 Originally published in Pyragraph.

10 Mar 2015
Vegan Food with The Karen Hill Tribe


Finally we arrive.  Our five bodies fall out of the truck like clowns unpacking from a comedically miniature car.  The nine hour rocking horse road trip from Chiang Mai to the Mung Fun Karen Hill Tribe Village, has left two of us severely car sick, one of us in intolerable pain and only our guide, Dino, and driver, P Pun, in lively spirits.  Show offs.

The Sun is setting and the shadows fall long across the village landscape, revealing purple mountain top against mountain top, appearing surreally two dimensional, like community theatre background flats.  Immediately six Karen men, four women and 8 children materialize with silent stares for greetings and extra hands for unloading our volunteer project’s belongings from the truck bed.  Gallons of clean water, pounds of fresh vegetables, traditional Thai mattresses, sleeping bags and backpacks are whisked away into the largest of the village huts.




I am told that 100 people live in this unmappably remote community, however my eye can make out only seven huts in the immediate area.  It dawns on me that many people share one hut and that there are still some Karen isolated even further away from this community, whom stay in the fields during rice season.  I’m pretty sure everyone at this location, however, is currently present and staring at us white volunteers as if we were grotesque alien giants.  “We come in peace – not to preach.”  We come to learn about your elephants.

I step inside to see the Journey to Freedom guides have already constructed a temporary “room” for my partner, Teddy, and I to sleep in during the next three nights, composed of a mosquito net surrounding two Thai mattresses, miniature pillows and sleeping bags set on a bamboo mat over an unfinished teak wood floor.  I notice that this home appears to be the largest in the village, with an enclosed living room and two bedrooms housing normally a family of nine.


This and all of the Karen homes are raised on logs, like stilts – I assume to accommodate the monsoon rains which climax from June – Sept, I am warned.  Now, late December, is not the rainy season and temperatures are a hot 85 degrees F in the Sun during the day, but can fall to 45 at nite, moist and chill.  The homes are constructed of local teak, hardwood or bamboo.  For every enclosed room, there might be an equal number of covered rooms, with no walls, but a roof made of meticulously folded titan leaves or corrugated galvanized steel.  This home has a large covered room for community rice storage.  By the light of the setting Sun and one energy efficient bulb, run off a large battery, the men sit down on the floor to prepare our welcome dinner.

Rice whiskey is passed around and even after asking several times, I am yet unsure if it is fermented like sake or actually distilled like whiskey.  The few sips I enjoy are sweet and tasty and bring a camaraderie, when shared, amongst the Karen, the Thai and the Americans that language barriers otherwise prevent.  The Karen kitchen is an enclosed room with a sunken fire pit in the middle with shelves above.  Stray dogs and cats freely roam in and out of this room, enjoying the heat, like we humans.  Teddy discovers that the fire pit is constructed of a hard wood box, about 3′ by 4′, lowered into the floor with a plastic “burlap” sack lining and 4″ of soil insulation, on top of which a small fire is kept stoked for food preparation.  One of Dino’s true passions is revealed to us this evening, as he enthusiastically prepares vegan dishes, explaining every ingredient like fermented soy cake, tofu, mushroom powder, unsalted Japanese soy sauce, cabbage, morning glory, tomato, red pepper and the Thai essential;  rice.  We are famished and a decorative bamboo mat is spread out on the floor to dine on.  The love that went into the preparation of our vegan meal just enhances the already-exceptional flavor.  Dino’s passion for vegetarian food preparation is only paralleled by his passion for eco-tourism, we discover later, after his whiskey sets in.






hand singnal under chin in Karen, means “handsome”

04 Sep 2014
The Joy of Being a Vegan Actor in a Vegan Film


I’d like to think that my 23 years of vegan status got me the role, but I had to audition like any actor would for any indie film. The casting breakdown went out like this:

“Lead, DARCY: Caucasian, Late 20s, The cool girl. Stylish, fit and confident. She stands out in a crowd. Open to tattoos, piercings and awesome hair. Vegan chick—but nowhere near a cliche. She has strong opinions and doesn’t care who hears them. She loves her mom and sister, but sees them as uninformed. She embraces change in every aspect of her life. Perhaps Kristen Ritter type, but open to options.”

I submitted and was called in, fortunately. Directors Liz Lytle and Deanna Dylan Scott and I were familiar with the others’ work in the vegan community—but that wasn’t going to land me this spot alone. They wanted the best actor. Well…I booked it.

The Pampleteer’s tactic was to nail a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first scene.

It’s always a pleasure to work on a set where production is health-savvy or better yet, full-on vegan, like myself. There tends to be a respect and open-mindedness in all avenues and c’mon, who doesn’t like eating lunch with the rest of the crew for once? But when the actual content of the film being produced is built around the ethics I support in everyday life, the passion I have for the project runs even deeper.

There are plenty of consciousness-raising documentaries out there, and some fantastic ones at that (don’t miss Lion Ark and Forks Over Knives). I meet and work with fellow vegans on almost every set I’m employed on nowadays, like Rob Zombie, Ellen Degeneres, Russell Brand and the independent names Gene Blalock, Nathan Barnatt and Stephen Wozniak.

But it is still rare to get to play a vegan character or deliver lines on-camera on the subject like I did in the groundbreaking scripted film Bold Native, about an Animal Liberation Front activist running from terrorism charges or recording the voice of Green Girl in the four episode “Rawman and Green Girl,” the family-friendly animated raw vegan superhero series. I wanted to play DARCY in The Pamphleteer desperately, to tell the truth. It had the makings of an important film to me.

As innovative as films with an activist purpose are, their niche audience status provides benefits and challenges to producers. I asked co-directors Liz and Deanna what their formula for producing an independent niche film and they confessed that they knew they had a built-in audience within the animal-welfare community. But they wanted to keep the investing sources private and small, if need be, so as not to risk watering down the scripted message. So funding becomes a more precise endeavor.

The Pampleteer’s tactic was to nail a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first scene, which they could distribute independently and/or use as a teaser to secure more funding to film another scene. Or shoot the entire film.

It worked! The Pamphleteer Kickstarter campaign got funded and the first teaser scene we shot is called “Harmony Drive” and features an older sister that continuously debates DARCY’s new vegan lifestyle as part of their natural sibling rivalry. It happens to all of us who stand for something at some point: our family or loved ones may lend little support to our new thinking and behavior. And we feel like we are defending ourselves to just convince them we are okay.

Or better than okay. Fantastic, actually.

Enjoy the first scene, Harmony Drive, from the feature film The Pamphleteer. Hopefully I nailed that original character description and brought DARCY to life!


Originally published in Pyragraph Magazine

05 Jul 2014
Raw Vegan Pinup

One of my favorite photo sets of all time.  Surely it’s the avocados.  The swimsuit was made by a vegan designer, the company Get Juicey whom set up the shoot provided fruit and juice not just for props, but for actual consumption all day and get this – they wanted my skin shiny, to show off my muscles, so we used a little trick of mine:  coconut oil.  But they didn’t want my hands getting oil on the floor and backdrop, so I wasn’t allowed to apply it myself – the owner of Get Juicey rubbed me down with coconut before each set up change!  What a great day.  With some great photography:















Get Juicey, Inc.
Ricky Clay Photography 
Palmela G Custom Swimwear
Graphic design Stephen Newell
#rawvegan #fitspo #pinup

01 Jul 2013
No Hassel Veg at the BBQ

Guacamole photo by un-sung

It’s a pool party! It’s a production party! And it’s going to be a barbecue with lots of liquor! As a raw vegan on set, I try to remain no-hassle. Because whining never gets anyone more work, more friends…or better food, I usually arrive on set with bottle after bottle of fresh juice, not expecting catering to cater to me. After a quarter century of being vegetarian, though, I’m starting to see an accelerated jump in people embracing my healthy lifestyle—even at the production barbecue pool party with lots of liquor.

The director thought to ask and cared to accommodate: “I have a raw vegan coming to a barbecue. What can I make for you?” Flattered, and still wishing to remain hassle-free, I suggested a party favorite and my personal favorite—a vat of guacamole. Yes, I did say vat. And standing in for raw tortilla chips: cucumber slices. Now what’s easier than Guacamole and cucumber? I guess this lifestyle isn’t so difficult to conceive of after all.

As I said, I’ve been a vegetarian for many decades. Twenty of these years as a vegan and the past eleven, as a raw vegan—so I’m used to fending for myself. And lack of workplace support has never swayed me from dedication to my lifestyle. Imagine my rapture upon realizing that this is the moment in history when I can build on all of the momentum I’ve created through living a clean, cruelty-free and waste-free lifestyle for so long.

I relish that the world around me is taking an increasing interest in these things, too. It leaves me feeling included, accepted and part of the community to be sought out for simple suggestions on how to make a production-party barbecue ‘veg friendly.’

Now is really the time!



18 Mar 2013
Raw Vegan Health Miracles, Part 2

This is my one last chance to reiterate how jarringly different a raw-vegan diet is from a cooked-vegan one. The latter avoids death karma and the former seeks life karma. Perspective and application mean everything in actualization.

Don’t get me wrong! Do not, do not get, do not get me wrong; I have been a vegan for almost two decades now and I am devoted to the vegan lifestyle’s monumental effects on the political, ethical and spiritual aspects of my life. I waver not from my position of animal compassion and how deeply that benefits my life every day. But now that you are vegan… give raw a try. It’s insane. It’s in-sane. I literally became sane when I transitioned from cooked vegan to raw vegan.

Can I say that? I just did. I don’t want to go into what poetic concepts I hold around the word insane, or if it is or isn’t desirable to be considered outside the social norm. Rather, I just want to impress upon you how truly miraculous this next health miracle, which I am about to share with you, has been in my life. It’s truly a f*ckin’ miracle. And I do not use that word lightly.

If you read my last piece, you’ll remember that my first health miracle was the development of glowing skin, when previously I had self-image-injuring acne. Well, consider that I had also been on medications for manic-depression (they called it that back then) for seven years of my life—with all sorts of worrisome symptoms, including the inability to commit to my own existence. I didn’t go raw to get off meds, but I knew the entire time I was a (cooked) vegan that I didn’t want to be on them. I tried all sorts of natural medications for insomnia, depression and nervous-system stress, but roots, oils and meditation were flip-flops when I needed a snowmobile—they did nothing to aid my plight.

So after a few pivotal realizations, I considered that I had never been an adult without drugs controlling my brain chemistry—I didn’t even know what my own baseline was! So I decided to find out. I was going to go off the meds for the third (and hopefully final) time, not to fix my problems, but to find out how bad my problems really were. I didn’t want to further complicate my problems through diet, so I decided to be as healthy as possible. That is why I went raw. And, in so doing, guess what happened? [Please note: This column tells the story of one person’s experience. It is not meant to offer medical advice. Please talk with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication. —Ed.]

I got healthy. On every level, I got healthy. And now, eight raw, medication-free years later, I want to give this gift to all the idealistic, passionate and troubled vegans out there who, like me, wish to live a healthy, natural life—unmedicated by prescription drugs, natural remedies and food, all of which are medications. Instead of finding the better medication, let’s aim for being healthy. Healthy people don’t need medication.

That’s my ideal anyway. And now I believe it is possible. Now I live its possibility. My health-ideal actualization is nurtured by perspective. I’ve fallen in love with life karma, rather than spend my time avoiding death karma. And it has turned me into a raw fooder with health-miracle stories. Just ask any of us—we all have a health miracle. What might yours be? Comment below, then tune in next week for the biggest of my raw-vegan health miracles.


More about Tonya Kay:



25 Feb 2013
Why I Went Vegan

Vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, vegan film director Denis Henelly and vegan actress Tonya Kay at Bold Native film premiere

I remember clear as day the moment I went vegan. I was in my late teens performing on tour with Kenny Rogers. I was the girl on the tour bus who was always awake, since the situation of driving and being around seven other cast mates while in my swaying bunk bed speeding down the highway at 70 miles per hour was too stimulating for a light sleeper like me. At about 2 a.m., the driver pulled up to a quiet truck stop somewhere in nowhere Tennessee. Just the driver and I were awake. I crept into the sundries store out of sheer boredom and somehow saw all the neon-colored packages and shelf after shelf of product for what it was. I thought to myself, “Why does any of this exist?” And I decided to go vegan.

It wasn’t necessarily an animal-compassion epiphany that urged my personal transition from a decade-long vegetarian to a vegan. It was the desire to eat real food. How painfully ironic that all I wanted was an insomniac’s snack at the truck stop that night, and out of an entire convenience store, 0% of what was being sold constituted food to me. I saw it. I got it. And I rebelled against it.

It took me about a month to truly make that transition. I got off tour, went back to my Indiana residence at the time, and began my education. My first step consisted of reading the label of every single food in my home and if it had meat, milk, egg or any associated products as an ingredient, I just never replaced it. By the way, yes, fish are meat—you are not a vegetarian if you eat fish. That’s not a judgment, but a fact. I encourage people to draw the line where they see fit and continue to grow from there, but people who eat fish are not vegetarians by definition.

So began my move toward the deep desire to stop being lied to and empowering myself to choose real food. I wanted to eat food, not products—and my transition to vegan was born of a desire for that freedom.


More about Tonya Kay:



20 Feb 2013
Why I Went Vegetarian

Young Vegetarian by Matt Nunzum

I went vegetarian when I was a small child—quite unconsciously. They say that children’s brains develop the perfect pathways for learning language around seven years of age (so get your second- and third-graders in Spanish immersion class!). I’m guessing it’s not just language skills affected by this cognitive expansion, but many other ways of connecting the symbolic dots. Why? Because that is the precise age at which I put the pieces together and associated the cows—whose noses I was petting in the cages at my grandparents’ slaughterhouse—with the headless, skinned bodies hanging from hooks and bleeding from their necks in the next room.

You see, up until that point, I sincerely didn’t get the correlation. But I remember quite clearly the day I knew one was the other. It took very little time from that point for my mom to recognize that her daughter would not eat the meat dishes at her dinner table. “Do you know what they call people like you, Tonya?” she asked. “Vegetarians.” To which I replied, “What’s a vegetarian?”

So my choice not to eat meat was definitely quite unconscious. All I knew back then was that when I saw the animal-based dishes on the table, my stomach hurt. I was just trying to avoid an upset stomach. I was operating from a child’s genuine emotional wisdom. Sometimes I wish that everyone could live from that place of innocent compassion, unadulterated by training, consumerism and misinformation. I am so thankful that to this day my childhood compassion still lives in me through my vegetarianism.

I also often wish for every child the blessing of a grandparent with a slaughterhouse. Too often meat-eaters today are just unconscious eaters. They purchase frozen beef and bean burritos packaged in neon wrappers and never see the cruelty, pollution and disease associated with their food choice.

But just because one’s conscience may be spared, the residual—sometimes fatal—effects are not. As PETA conveys, “In 2005 a study which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that among the 29,000 participants, those who ate the most meat were also at the greatest risk for heart disease. The researchers also reported that a high intake of protein from vegetable sources such as tofu, nuts, and beans lowers our risk of heart disease by 30 percent.”

With heart disease the single leading cause of death in the United States, it seems we would take the scientific knowledge about the health effects of animal-based diets seriously. If running red lights were the leading cause of preventable death, for example, it is certain we would strictly enforce laws against it. I’m saddened that our health and well-being is being overlooked in favor of business profits.

Not only are proud carnivores endangering their own and their children’s long-term health, but they cannot consider themselves environmentalists while contributing to the water pollution and habitat destruction inherent to meat eating.

The US Environmental Protection Agency, in a Report to Congress in 1984, stated that “Agricultural pesticides and nitrates used in fertilizers and manures seep into our groundwater, eventually spilling out into the oceans creating so-called ‘dead zones’ (expansive areas so toxic that neither plant nor animal life can survive) viewable from space.” And Merritt Frey of the Natural Resources Defense Council reports, “Besides the chemicals used in cultivation, accidental pollution though chemical spills and manure dumps are an ongoing source of water pollution from feedlots. The manure created from the billions of animals killed for food has to go somewhere, and often, it ends up in rivers and streams, killing millions of fish in one fell swoop.”

And simply consider the inefficiencies in the production of meat. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef, but only 55 gallons for one pound of oranges. For the amount of water it takes to produce a pound of beef, a human could drink his required daily intake for 2.4 years. All in all, it defies common sense: Why not just grow food to eat instead of grow food to feed to animals that we kill to eat as food? Not very ecological—even by the most simple reasoning.

And I won’t go into the cruelty and animal issues that invariably occur in the meat-production industry. But I will share a shocking statistic I read in an Emagazine piece entitled “The Case Against Meat”: “Male chicks born on factory farm—as many as 280 million per year—are simply thrown into garbage bags to die because they’re of no economic value as meat or eggs.” Also, according to PETA, “Every year in the US, more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food,” and “By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can save more than 100 animals a year personally.”

Really, though, the reason I wish every child to have a set of grandparents with a slaughterhouse is because it was precisely that experience that allowed me to choose my educated vegetarian path while still staying open-minded to those who eat dead animals. After all, my grandparents are lovely and loving people (rest in peace, grammy). And even though my family did not (then) emulate the emotional wisdom of the seven-year-old child, they all supported me by learning to prepare vegetarian dishes in order to feed me and include me in family gatherings.

For me, the real trick over the years has been maintaining my childhood compassion while continuing to love a world that does not yet necessarily get it. Of course, I wish everyone the goodness of life and health that I have experienced from a vegetarian diet. But I also know that the choice to grow in any way must be initiated and upheld by the individual. I am grateful I have had that freedom. And I am supportive of those trying to break free of tradition, training, marketing and an unsustainable system because they feel it inside. Indeed, individual growth must come from within.


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