Veganism and Title VII Protection: Commentary & Guest Post


If you haven’t yet seen the underreported story of the vegan refusing the flu vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the case is worth a glance. Essentially, vegan and ex-hospital employee Sakile Chenizra was fired from the hospital for refusing to get an employee-mandated flu vaccine at the request of her employers. It’s common for hospitals to impose this, as it is in nursing homes, schools, etc. If you’re not aware, the flu vaccine as it stands in 2012/2013 is not vegan: it’s egg-based and also tested on animals. A great dialogue regarding the ethics of this are located here at Choosing Raw.

Chenizra sued the hospital for religious discrimination under Title VII, claiming the veganism, or rather, her belief in it, is strong enough to be considered a religious belief. Surprisingly, the court is allowing her claim to move forward! They wouldn’t throw the case out, and it’s set for a July 9th date. This is good news! If veganism can be taken seriously as a belief “with a sincerity equating that of traditional religious views” (the court’s words) then our foot is in the door for taking animal rights seriously. Which means, well…I’ll leave that to your imagination! For a preview of that possible future, check out the Nonhuman Rights Project.

So, I’m very excited to see how all this develops. However, legal stuff isn’t my forte, so I had the privilege of getting the insight of a friend and longtime vegetarian Joe Dunman. He was kind enough to give some background on this issue, and other comments. His remarks are below. Enjoy!


Coffee Gets A Boost!

I love coffee. And while I was never under the delusion that it was massively bad for me, I was always skeptical of the health benefits of “morning mud” as well. New research (done without animal testing) confirms the latter, however: coffee may extend your life! CNN reports:

Overall, coffee drinkers were less likely than their peers to die during the study, and the more coffee they drank, the lower their mortality risk tended to be. Compared with people who drank no coffee at all, men and women who drank six or more cups per day were 10% and 15% less likely, respectively, to die during the study.

This pattern held when the researchers broke out the data by specific causes of death, including heart disease, lung disease, pneumonia,stroke, diabetes, infections, and even injuries and accidents. Cancer was the only major cause of death not associated with coffee consumption.

Six cups or more seems like an awful lot of coffee…but even one or two (a “modest” consumption) was associated with a 5-6% reduction in risk of chronic disease. Decaf versus caffeinated did not make a difference (yay!), but researchers are still unclear as to what the mechanisms in coffee are that provide a health benefit. A recent study at the University of Portugal summarized this position:

[S]everal biological activities, such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticariogenic, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, and antiglycative activities, have been attributed to coffee melanoidins.To understand the potential of coffee melanoidin health benefits, it is essential to know their chemical structures. The studies undertaken to date dealing with the structural characterization of coffee melanoidins have shown that polysaccharides, proteins, and chlorogenic acids are involved in coffee melanoidin formation. However, exact structures of coffee melanoidins and mechanisms involved in their formation are far to be elucidated.

I’m excited by this “coffee science” as one might say – in Malaysia last year they determined that roasting coffee beans at different temperatures (and quantities) could affect antioxidant activity and other beneficial compounds, such as chlorogenic acid (which supposedly slows glucose in the blood stream). Pretty cool!

As with most products, there’s a better, and worse way to buy: coffee is no exception. Buying certified fair trade coffee ensures that the farmers who grew those beans (most likely in Asia, or South America) were payed a fair price, and are able to grow and sell in a secure environment instead of dealing with shrewd “middlemen.” See “Buy Fair Trade: It Just Makes Sense” for more info. Organic coffee is also a plus, leaving the land in good condition after the beans are grown. Global Exchange has an extensive FAQ on the difference between fair-trade, organic, “shade grown,” and other ethical terminologies.

Photo: Amanda via flickr.

Note: There’s a petition going on right now for Starbucks to start serving certified Fair Trade coffee in their US stores Sign it here.

LUSH Fights Animal Testing, Launches Worldwide Campaign

UK-based cosmetics company LUSH has gone on the offensive against animal testing. The self-proclaimed “cruelty-free” company (which does not imply vegan, by the way) is currently using the front page of their website to advocate for an end to cosmetic animal testing in the UK, showcasing the website, which claims:

Through the 80s and 90s there was a massive campaign by the public, demanding an end to the use of animals in cosmetics testing. In response to this, the EU Parliament finally passed legislation in 1993 banning the testing of cosmetics on animals. It is called The Cosmetics Directive. It gave industry 5 years to prepare, with a start date of 1st January 1998. The public were overjoyed that their campaign had achieved its goal. But, largely unknown to the public, this legislation has never been fully implemented. Some of the biggest players in the cosmetics industry have lobbied to have implementation of the legislation delayed again and again. Each time the implementation date came close, another delay was applied for and granted. So instead of the full protection of the law, animals have had to have only partial implementation of the Cosmetics Directive for the last 20 years. The last time the cosmetics companies requested a delay, they were granted an extension until 2013. Now that this date is approaching, another delay of 10 years has been requested and the European Parliament is currently considering this.

While the company may not be totally vegan (a few of their products contain honeybee by-products such as honey or beeswax), they do take strides to source ethical ingredients, and clearly label products which are vegan (most are). They even released “None Of Your Beeswax” – a lip balm for vegans frustrated that they can’t find one without beeswax (which, as a vegan, I can sympathize with). LUSH’s section on animal testing is fairly comprehensive, explaining why they don’t test on animals, and how they find alternatives. But I was really impressed with their latest campaign, where a social sculpture student (and vegan!) Jacquline Traide subjected her self to real live “animal testing” in front of LUSH’s London store front:

 A graphic depiction, but sorely needed. What impresses me about this is that LUSH seemingly feels like they won’t lose many customers over this, and that ethically, this is an important issue. Far beyond Coke saying “hey, recycle your cans,” this would be akin to Hershey’s bringing to light the slavery required for chocolate production, and not just claiming to source better stuff, but actively campaigning. We expect this from groups like PETA or Greenpeace, but from a cosmetic company? It shows that somebody at LUSH seems to care, and that it’s about more than just pure profit. In addition, LUSH attempts to use minimal packaging, which I appreciate from a green perspective.

You can sign the petition against European Union animal testing here (which should send reverberation world wide), or for action on this side of the pond, please visit the National Anti-Vivisection Society’s website.

For more pictures and coverage, see this Daily Mail article. LUSH published a rebuttal to those who thought the stunt was outlandish or sexist, entitled “Power, oppression, and abuse: performing animal tests” – it’s an excellent read.


More Evidence That Red Meat Kills

The tide is turning, friends. At least, I believe that, and I’ve witnessed a shift in our perception of meat-eating in the last six years that I’ve been vegan, since I pay attention to this sort of stuff. When I initially decided to give up meat, it was due to the increasingly bad stigma of red meat, one that was in the news a lot during 2005. Today, the evidence is clear: eating red meat is not a good idea. The most recent study from Harvard confirms this:

The researchers, including senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, and colleagues, prospectively observed 37,698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for up to 22 years and 83,644 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for up to 28 years who were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at baseline. Diets were assessed through questionnaires every four years.

A combined 23,926 deaths were documented in the two studies, of which 5,910 were from CVD and 9,464 from cancer. Regular consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat, was associated with increased mortality risk. One daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk.

Among specific causes, the corresponding increases in risk were 18% and 21% for cardiovascular mortality, and 10% and 16% for cancer mortality. These analyses took into account chronic disease risk factors such as age, body mass index, physical activity, family history of heart disease, or major cancers.

One researcher concluded that “regular consumption of red meat, especially processed red meat, contributes substantially to premature death.” I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty shocking. Who wants to die early? With the plethora of foods around us, why would anyone stick to eating the same red meat products again and again? Tradition, habit, stubbornness? I refuse to give up in the name of tradition while those around me die of heart disease – I’ve seen it too many times.

For more on the study see this great analysis by Dr. Michael Greger of, including Meat, Inc.’s criticism and Greger’s consequent rebuttals, including another gigantic study by the NIH that confirms the same thing – eating meat raises your risks of all major diseases. There’s a great video on by Greger on the page, as well.

Confused about where to turn after ditching red meat? Don’t be! Here are some great substitutes (Tofurky is my favorite) from Vegan Outreach, and a wonderful Vegetarian Starter Kit from the PCRM. If you’re in Louisville next weekend, up hit the delicious Vegetarian Tasting Fair!

Photo: Nick Castonguay

Work Should Be Reframed

From “How You Spend Your Time Determines Your Health” by Dr. Jay Parkinson:

Work should be reframed. It should be about optimizing your productivity, your health, and your life. To do this, we need to reframe how we should spend our time. We should do everything we can to minimize passive time and maximize active time.

À la the 80/20 principle that Ferriss and others espouse. After reading about that idea in the Four Hour Workweek, I try to apply it to anything and see if it makes sense. For example “20% of this sandwich is responsible for 80% of the fullness I get” (probably the specific fats and protein, not the carbs), or “20% of the calls I make account for 80% of the significant phone communication I have” (most likely true…most calls, or their content, are filler). Interesting stuff that adds up.

Parkinson’s point (quoted above) is that since some of us do have to work, let’s make it efficient, and healthy at the same time. He argues for standing desks, touch screens to burn more calories (lifting, pointing, raising instead of typing), and I would argue for yoga balls instead of chairs (though wobbling around after a couple hours does get annoying).

Parkinson’s website, whom he authors with Grant Harrison, is actually pretty rad. I see the posts on Twitter all the time and there’s some good, intellectual content on there. The design is fabulous, and they even write about sustainability! Check out The Future Well for more info.