Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Recipes From a Teenage Vegan

Vegan Kombucha Cupcakes LAIKA

The future of our planet belongs to the youth, who will continue to push veganism forward. What better way to welcome the new year, with all of its hope and promise, than to share delicious recipes by an ambassador from the new vegan generation – 17 year old LAIKA reader and cooking aficionado, Franny Gould. “We can communicate our ideas through vegan cuisine,” says Franny. “While many students in my high school bake for their peers and teachers, my baked goods never fail to spur a discussion about the merits of veganism.” Here she shares two original celebratory creations, which she also photographed, followed by a heartfelt essay.

citrusy kombucha cupcakes
Makes 10-14 cupcakes

cupcake ingredients:
3 heaping tablespoons melted vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread)
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup nondairy milk (I used Silk Original Cashew Milk)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3⁄4 cups all-­purpose flour
1 cup kombucha (I used GT’s Original)
1⁄4 cup orange juice (with or without pulp)
Zest of 1⁄2 lemon or orange

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine vegan butter with sugar. Add in in nondairy milk, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine until smooth and let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes.

Set aside the flour and the kombucha in two different bowls.

After the mixture is set, add a little bit of the flour to the mixture and stir. Then add a little bit of the kombucha and stir. Repeat this until all the flour and kombucha are in the mixture.

Add orange juice to the mixture and mix until smooth. Then add zest and stir.

Insert cupcake liners into cupcake tins and pour mixture into 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 of each tin. Bake for about 25 minutes (or until cupcake top is golden brown). Let cool before adding the frosting.

frosting ingredients:
5 heaping tablespoons vegan butter at room temperature (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons kombucha (I used GT’s Original)
Zest of 1⁄2 ­ 1 lemon or orange
Optional ­ vegan dark chocolate

Beat butter until smooth. Then add 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat until completely smooth. Mix in vanilla and 1 tbsp of whichever kombucha you choose to use.

In increments, mix in the remaining 3 cups of powdered sugar. Add zest.

Once the mixture has a thick consistency and is frosting-­like, either scrape into an icing bag or spread directly on cupcakes. Decorate cupcakes as desired (I used chocolate drizzle, raspberries, and blackberries).

Optional chocolate garnish: ­ melt chocolate and drizzle onto frosted cupcakes.

 

Vegan Canapes LAIKA

tofu-cauliflower canapés
Quantities depend on the number of guests

Toasted thin­ly-sliced bread, cut into triangles
Extra­ or super­ firm tofu, cut into triangles
Extra virgin olive oil
Sriracha (or other hot sauce depending on preference)
Arugula
Cauliflower florets
Crushed red pepper flakes
Toothpicks or sandwich picks

Using a skillet, simmer tofu triangles in EVOO and Sriracha. In another skillet, sauté cauliflower in EVOO.

To construct the canapé, start with the toast, then place on a couple of leaves of arugula, then the Sriracha tofu triangles, followed by more leaves of arugula, and finally the cauliflower.

Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Secure with a toothpick or sandwich pick.

 

Louder Than I Thought
by Franny Gould

I used to think I wasn’t good enough to be an activist. I thought that political, economic, and social change could only be accomplished by those with some level of fame, some degree of importance. I thought that as a young, idealistic vegan, I should be seen and not heard.

In the fall of 2014, I participated in the People’s Climate March in Manhattan. Although already a vegan, I wasn’t yet doing much advocacy on behalf of the vegan community. Somewhere along the march, I saw a sign that read “Raising Animals for Meat causes 51% of greenhouse gas emissions, cuts down more than 14,000 acres of rainforests everyday, uses more than 11 times more fossil fuels than producing plant protein. Save Earth, try vegan.” This information was not news to me, but I still did a double-take at the display. The girl holding the sign was no more than 7 or 8 years old. She was standing on the sidewalk, facing the procession of marchers.

There was something about her face, the way she stared straight into my eyes. Her message was a kind of powerful that I had never experienced before. It combined her vulnerability — a plea for the protection of her generation’s future — with her determination to convert at least a few marchers to veganism. She may have not been prominent in her stature. But she was an activist.

When it comes to fighting for social justice, I may not have as big of a voice as a celebrity. But I do have a voice. And by simply keeping the conversation alive, I am an activist.

2016 will be a momentous year for me, as I graduate from high school and begin college. And it will also be a momentous year for veganism, as the stigma of being a vegan will continue to die. Ever since I went vegan, I’ve been known as “Franny the Vegan” and have been asked every annoying question possible. But I believe that this year the unproductive questions about plants’ emotions and protein intake will finally be replaced by genuine curiosity and forthright discussions. ∎

From the Editor: Do you have a vegan story to tell and love making things? Write us at editor@laikamagazine.com and you may be featured in our Reader Spotlight on the LAIKA site!

 

Animal Agriculture Stockyard Factory Farm Climate Change

At the COP21 Climate Change Conference that took place in Paris from November 30 through December 12, the most prominent objective was to reach “a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C.” Last year’s report by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, stated that “consumption of meat and dairy produce is a major driver of climate change” and that it would be extremely difficult to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius without a dramatic shift in dairy and meat consumption.

The Climate Deal was finally signed on Saturday, yet it contained glaring omissions. While 195 countries pledged to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius” and gradually reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet, no acknowledgement was made of animal agriculture being responsible for over half of those emissions. The deal called for the preservation of forests, but ignored the fact that over 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon and about 14 percent of the world’s total annual deforestation is the result of cattle ranching. Search the document‘s 31 pages and you won’t find any presence of words like “meat,” “methane,” “animals” or any mention of human eating habits.

Aerial view of a U.S. factory farm feedlot and waste lagoon. (Mishak Henner)

Aerial view of a U.S. factory farm feedlot and waste lagoon. (Mishak Henner)

Life as we know it depends on the world limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F). According to reports from the National Research Council and the World Bank, should temperatures exceed those levels, the results could be catastrophic. Potable water would become much more scarce. Many of the world’s plants and animals would be on the brink of extinction. The Arctic would continue melting, losing 30% of its annual average sea ice. Saltwater intrusion from rising seas would make some island nations uninhabitable, with others going underwater entirely.

The omission of animal agriculture at the Paris conference is particularly alarming considering that last April became the first month in recorded history where the global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million (ppm). “The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It should be a psychological tripwire for everyone,” said NASA’s global change and energy program manager Dr. Michael Gunson in a statement.

CO2 emissions — a form of greenhouse gas — are the primary accelerator of climate change. A greenhouse gas (or GHG for short) is any gas in the atmosphere which absorbs and re-emits heat, keeping the planet’s atmosphere warmer than it otherwise would be.

The United States has the highest meat consumption per capita in the world. The effect of billions of animals used in farming on producing greenhouse gasses exceeds all emissions from transportation, including airplanes. Cattle production, for example, requires a great deal of land, which leads to the destruction of forests. The trees that are burned to clear the land release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The cows produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes warming. Enormous amounts of fossil fuel are used in animal agriculture, generated by everything from the production of feeds, to the transport of animals to slaughter, then processing them into meat products and transporting those by land, sea and air. Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide.  Taxpayers unwittingly fund this destruction. The US government collects $38 billion annually in taxpayer money to subsidize the meat and dairy industries. (By contrast, fruits and vegetables get only $17 million).

Animal Agriculture Climate Change

A cow looks out from a transport truck in New Jersey en route to slaughter. (Mike Hrinewski/LAIKA)

The evidence against animal agriculture has been piling up. In 2009, the Worldwatch Institute reported that a staggering 51 percent of GHG emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Then in 2010, United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management declared that a worldwide move towards a vegan diet is essential in preventing the most devastating impacts of climate change. And in its 2014 report Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector, Chatham House implored that “shifting global demand for meat and dairy produce is central to achieving climate goals.”

A 2013 report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed that beef production generates 13 times the emissions of vegetable protein such as lentils and tofu, and that 20% of of the meat that is produced gets thrown away — massive amounts of carbon dioxide are generated for nothing. Furthermore, the Climactic Change journal detailed in its 2014 study that high meat eaters are responsible for over 16 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution per day, in comparison with only 6.5 pounds in vegans.

Yet, vegan meals were hard to come by at the Le Bourget Centre, where the Paris conference took place. This, in spite of the secretary general of the conference Pierre-Henri Guignard vowing to keep the conference’s carbon footprint at a minimum (estimates put it at 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e) and the summit’s site featuring an extensive array of emission-reducing measures — none of them involving earth-friendly dining options.

Animal Agriculture Climate Change

Five month-old pigs, nearing “market weight” (age when slaughtered) at Lehmann Brothers Farms in Illinois. (Daniel Acker/Getty)

The situation is dire — as the world’s population and purchasing power has grown, so has its meat consumption. According to the World Resources Institute, it is projected to rise dramatically in the next fifty years, particularly among the growing middle class in Asia. If humankind’s consumption of animals is not confronted head on, it will become our downfall. A study by the Glasgow University Media Group and Chatham House released a week before the Paris conference stressed that “unless strong demand growth for meat is curtailed, livestock sector emissions will increase to the point where dangerous climate change is unavoidable.”

This year, California experienced its worst drought on record. What has the largest water footprint of all the food produced in that state? Animal feed. In the US, half of all water usage goes towards producing 41 million tons of plant protein that is then fed to animals who are then killed to produce only 7 million tons of meat. Newly-released NASA satellite data showed that the world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates.

California’s Gov. Jerry Brown, who was in attendance at the Paris climate summit along with a large delegation, focused on the potential for climate catastrophe and made sweeping recommendations for how to address the problem. He left out any mention of the devastating impact of meat on climate change.

Chickens awaiting slaughter (Mike Hrinewski/ LAIKA).

Chickens awaiting slaughter (Mike Hrinewski/ LAIKA).

Among the few public voices to cut through the hypocrisy was director (and vegan) James Cameron, who in an op-ed piece published by Newsweek during the conference wrote, “Simply by making a conscious, ethical decision about what we put on our plates, we could quite possibly change the world.”

A vegan lifestyle has now been proven as one of the most powerfully effective solutions to curtailing climate change. With the world’s leaders failing to address the crisis of animal agriculture, it is our personal responsibility to educate and empower ourselves, disseminate information to our communities and inform people about the consequences of their eating habits. Politicians deliberately hiding the truth from the public for fear of backlash will not make the problem go away. The time for change is now.

By Julie Gueraseva

Recommended viewing: Cowspiracy, Racing Extinction, Earthlings, Virunga. For an in-depth coverage of vegan living, read or subscribe to LAIKA, printed in limited runs on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks and available in digital format.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why Laika the Space Dog is All Animals

Laika the Soviet Space dog 1957On November 3, 1957, Laika became the first living being to orbit the Earth. She was launched on Sputnik 2 as part of the Soviet space exploration program, with the USSR locked in a heated race against the United States to conquer space.

A stray mutt from the streets of Moscow, Laika was described as being calm and quiet, complying obediently with her training. It included standing still for long periods of time, wearing space suits, being placed in simulators that acted like a rocket during launch, riding in centrifuges that simulated the high acceleration of a rocket launch and being kept in progressively smaller cages to prepare her for the confines of the space module. Oblivious to the plans set in place for her, Laika unequivocally trusted her caretakers, who ended up betraying her. The space shuttle was designed to not be retrievable.

Laika in the midst of her training.

Laika in the midst of her training.

She died within hours of the launch from extreme stress and overheating. Her heart was beating at triple its normal rate, and she was subjected to temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit as the capsule’s cooling system proved to be ineffective. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for five months with her remains, disintegrating upon reentry into the atmosphere.

Altogether, the USSR sent 48 dogs into space. Three years after Laika’s launch, Oleg Gazenko, a senior Soviet scientist involved in the project, adopted a dog from another space mission – Krasavka. She lived out the rest of her life with his family for 14 years. Gazenko carried the guilt of sending Laika to her death for decades. “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog,” he stated during a Moscow press conference in 1998. “When you understand that you can’t bring back Laika, that she perishes out there, and that no one can bring her back…that is a very heavy feeling. After I returned to Moscow from the launch, I left town. I wanted to isolate myself,” he told a Russian reporter.

Laika Space dog

Laika in her capsule, in preparation for her launch.

During many years of Soviet state propaganda, Laika’s launch into space was deemed an act of heroism, as though she had given her consent to participate. Her likeness was used to sell everything from cigarette cartons to children’s toys, and monuments were erected in her honor.

Various Soviet-era Laika paraphernalia.

Various Soviet-era Laika paraphernalia. The plate reads, “Laika – the first traveler in space.” Image: ©Fuel Publishing

Each year, over 50 billion farm animals are killed around the world – nearly eight times the human population. These numbers do not include the billions used for fashion, sport and entertainment. Their suffering is as profound as Laika’s, but they are not lauded as heroes. Just like Laika, they are commodities, used to sell products – themselves turned into products, their needs disregarded and their status as sentient beings erased.

Chained elephants in Nepal, awaiting to be used for elephant rides.

Chained elephants in Nepal, awaiting to be used for elephant rides.

Pig gestation crates

Pigs kept in gestation crates in the United States, unable to turn around or stand up.

Laika’s story represents not only the continued needless exploitation of animals at the hands of humans, but our paradoxical and arrogant relationship with them. In their innocence and vulnerability, they look to us for mercy and protection. But we betray them. And with this, we chip away at our conscience. There is no gain in exploiting other living beings, there is only loss — the loss of our humanity.

LAIKA magazine is a tribute to Laika the space dog and to all animals treated unjustly. It is a message of hope that we can repair and rebuild our relationship with our fellow earthlings. In the pages of LAIKA lies the proof that it is entirely possible to live a life free of harming others. This life is possible for each one of us, thanks to our innate sense of compassion and our ability to discern between right and wrong. Veganism simply means allowing compassion and justice to transcend the boundaries between species.

by Julie Gueraseva