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A Vegan Valentine’s Day

VHS volunteer Miles Linklater reveals the secrets of making a perfect vegan dinner for Valentine’s Day.

My partner travels a lot for his work, and we have rarely been together on the actual date of February 14. This year is no different, but we will be together February 13 and will make a great meal together. If we have any single friends without plans, we’ll invite them over as well.

I like to have a ‘theme’ when I cook for people. The courses should complement each other, so this year I’m choosing to look at recipes containing ingredients considered to be aphrodisiacs (it is Valentine’s Day after all). Not surprisingly, most foods that fall into this category are either fruits or vegetables; animal products are almost never considered ‘sexy’!

Let’s start with Asparagus

asparagus Asparagus is best served on its own, either lightly steamed or roasted, with just a touch of lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. You can make it even fancier by using truffle salt or a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar (don’t use too much or you’ll overpower its unique flavour), but DO NOT overcook the asparagus. This will cause it to go limp and sometimes mushy. Always taste while it’s cooking and stop just before you think it’s ready. It will continue to cook (as all foods will) even after you take it away from heat.
Here are some dishes you can make using asparagus

And now onto Avocados

avocadoNot just for salads or guacamole, avocados are a vegan’s secret weapon when it comes to desserts! They impart a creaminess when used in desserts, whether as a main ingredient or as decorative frosting. Naturally they also work well in salads and are the perfect base for a creamy pasta dish.
Some recipes.



Always popular in the dessert category, bananas are full of potassium, a nutrient key to muscle strength. Similar to avocados, bananas add texture and smoothness to any dish when they are ripe, and also be the base for an ‘instant’ ice cream.
Recipes containing bananas



chocolateFull of phenylethylamine, a stimulant that conjures feelings of well-being, plus it’s delicious! It’s easier than ever to find high-quality chocolate which doesn’t contain any dairy ingredients. Try some of these recipes for a decadent dessert.
Recipes using chocolate



pomegranateFull of antioxidants, these exotic fruits add a unique taste and visual appeal when used in salads or desserts.
Pomegranate recipes




Red Wine

redwineIn addition to relaxing you faster than a neck rub, red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation. If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly red wine, check out Barnivore’s list of red wines from Canada



Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds and Flaxseeds

walnutsAll packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which just happen to keep sex hormone production at its peak! Walnuts are perfect for adding texture to stuffed mushrooms, and also great in pesto recipes and desserts
Great recipes incorporating walnuts




vanillaVegan desserts and ice creams made with this sweet bean will help stimulate your senses. Why not spoil yourself, your loved ones, and your guests with a dessert full of vanilla?
Recipes containing vanilla



Given all these choices, what will I make for my Valentine’s dinner? I will include red wine, start with a Colombian avocado soup, a delicious salad with broiled hearts of romaine, a lovely pasta dish with roasted vegetables and avocado, and end with a fruit tart or dessert of some kind.

As you can see, there are so many vegan recipes available to try (thank you Internet) that there’s no excuse not to make a caring and comforting dinner for those you love.

Food and Drink News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted vegan vegetarianism

How I impressed fussy foodies with a gourmet vegan dinner

Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache – Vegan version!




VHS volunteer Miles Linklater loves to cook vegan meals but he had a challenge on his hands when some Gallic, gourmet guests came to dinner.

Two of my good friends are world travellers and very snobbish about their food. Whenever I visit them for dinner, they ‘deign’ to provide me with some kind of boring bean dish or uninteresting pasta, but serve all the other guests various forms of meat and cheese.


It is always a challenge I love when it’s my turn to cook for them. As a vegan I consider it my ‘job’ to show non-vegans how delicious and easy it is to create a wonderful meal without animal products. I always start with the idea of serving them something which they will find familiar and tasty and then proceed to ‘veganize’ it. I often take non vegan recipes and find a way to make them animal-free.


For appetizers I simply prepared some dips (hummus and tapenade) served with bread sticks and vegetables, and then created some ‘cheese’ toasts using a mixture of chopped tomatoes and vegan cheese (Daiya or Earth Island) mixed with some vegenaise and grilled on slices of baguette until bubbling and browned. No one misses the cheese.


For my first course I cooked a traditional onion soup. Onion soup is normally not made with animal stock; the deep colour and richness of the soup is obtained from slow cooking of large numbers of onions for 1-2 hours until they have browned. I made the base of the soup a mixture of dried portobello mushrooms soaked in boiling water and then puréed in the blender, with a little sherry. I didn’t want to repeat the ‘cheese baguettes’ I’d served as an appetizer so I made some tarragon dumplings. Nothing is easier than making vegan dumplings for soups and stews. Simply a mixture of flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, whatever herb you wish to use (I usually use fresh dill), and then the ‘buttermilk’ (which is nothing more than soy or other nut milk with a teaspoon or two of vinegar added to it which causes it to thicken and sour like buttermilk). Most dumplings are cooked on top of the soup/stew, but I prefer to ‘steam’ mine over water as you would Chinese dim sum. This makes it more likely that they will turn out nice and fluffy and dry.


The main course was a vegan shepherd’s pie. This was the easiest thing to veganize as one just has to use vegan mince (Yves ground or Gardein) in place of the ground beef. Mix that with some pre-cooked vegetables and mushroom gravy and top it with puréed mashed potatoes and you’re set. I served the pie with Brussels sprouts stir-fried in garlic and olive oil.


The dessert was where I knew I would impress them the most. I decided to make a Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. I’d never worked with the new vegan ‘miracle meringue’ replacer aquafaba (bean water), but I found a recipe to use this leftover liquid from a can of chickpeas as the replacement for the egg whites normally called for in a meringue, and the base for the multi-layered dessert and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. After only 40 seconds in my stand mixer the chickpea ‘liquid’ had already begun to form beautiful white stiff peaks. The coffee buttercream was just a mixture of Earth Balance, icing sugar and espresso. The chocolate ganache made from vegan chocolate chips and soy creamer. It was a time consuming dessert as the ‘meringue’ had to be piped into circular shapes, baked for two hours at a low temperature and completely cooked before assembly, but the result was really impressive and my guests said they could not tell the finished dessert was any different from what they would purchase and consume in any French pastry shop! I’m looking forward to experimenting with aquafaba again soon, trying my hand at macarons and other ‘meringue’ desserts.


Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache

Traditional onion soup

Tips for a gluten-free version of this meal:

Use rice flour for thickening the onion soup
Use Gardein ‘ground’ in the shepherd’s pie, with rice flour to thicken gravy
The dessert is gluten-free (but has LOTS of sugar)




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New shocks follow Europe’s horsemeat scandal!


The horsemeat scandal that has rocked Europe may be just the tip of the iceberg, as new revelations about the food supply emerge.  European consumers expressed revulsion when it was revealed that frozen lasagne and other products where contaminated with up to 100 per cent horsemeat.

But now a new shock about food products has turned the stomachs of shoppers and diners in Britain and across the continent:  It has emerged that the flesh of other dead animals, not just horses, is rampant throughout the food system.  For example, it has been revealed that dishes such as roast lamb and lamb stew actually contain the flesh of a baby animal of the same name.  Investigators have also discovered that the entrée known as veal is made from another baby animal called a calf.  There are now indications that the entire human diet may be contaminated with the flesh of a range of dead animals.

British consumers interviewed about the revelations were appalled.  “You mean every Sunday I’ve been eating one of the cute little spring lambs I’ve taken my children to see in the countryside?” said one horrified woman.

A man in a pub refused to finish his lunch when told that steak and kidney pie actually contains the organs of a slaughtered animal.  “What, you mean the kidney is actually a kidney?” said the disgusted diner.

Another diner, who said he had been sick to learn about horses being used for food because they were so sensitive and intelligent, was dumbstruck when told that his ham sandwich was made from a sensitive and intelligent animal called a pig.

Government officials have suggested that the contamination may be the work of “organized criminal gangs” who have introduced the flesh into the food chain.  There are dark rumours that this may even have happened on a global scale, with so-called “factory farms” keeping billions of animals in inhumane conditions before killing them and distributing their body parts for huge profits.

However, scientists and bureaucrats have dismissed the rumours, stating that it’s unthinkable for such a cruel system to exist.  “It’s impossible to believe that anyone could organize something so brutal on such a scale,” said one official.  “No civilized society would ever allow such a thing to happen.”

An environmental expert said such a system would also be unsustainable.  “It would use up an enormous amount of resources, pollute our air, land and water and contribute to climate change through massive releases of greenhouse gases,” he said.   “The human race would never be so self-destructive.”

And health officials say that if people were eating a diet heavy in animal flesh we would be seeing high rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  “It just couldn’t happen,” said one medical expert.  “It would be almost suicidal for society to take up such a diet and we’re a lot smarter than that.”





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Guest post: The Humanist view of animal rights

By Ian Bushfield, executive director of the B.C. Humanist Association

Religions have traditionally approached the topic of animal rights in one of two ways. The more conservative religions state that God gave dominion to us over all ‘lesser’ species to do with as we please. Alternatively, some say we were charged with stewardship over God’s creation, so we should reduce the harm that comes to God’s creatures.

Yet today, more than one-in-three British Columbians are non-religious. Of this non-religious community, many atheists and agnostics put forward an ethical system called Humanism. Humanism is about being good without God by basing our worldview on reason, compassion, and hope. It gives us the ability to create our own values and ethics, while forcing us to be skeptical of all claims – including our own.

Humanists see evolution by natural selection as the best theory we have to explain the diversity of life on earth. This theory tells us that given enough time, simple self-replicating molecules adapted and reproduced, eventually giving rise to all of the plants, animals, and people alive today. We therefore recognize that we are not superior to other animals and that we are a part of nature itself. We respect the rights of animals because it is a mere extension of the rights that we grant to other human beings.

Furthermore, as we learn more about the different species of life on earth, we are beginning to recognize that animals feel pain, fear, and suffering to different extents. The more an animal is like us, the more we identify with its suffering and seek to alleviate that.

All Humanists oppose torture and cruelty to animals. However, Humanism is a worldview without dogma, so our beliefs form a wide spectrum when applied to the real world. For example, some strongly oppose the existence of zoos and aquariums, believing that the animals would be better off in the wild. Others argue that the scientific and conservation benefits of these institutions outweigh those arguments. Many Humanists support animal research, provided it is done in a humane and ethical way, while others oppose it.

Where many religions have taboos on what foods may or may not be eaten (sometimes depending on the day of the week), Humanists use our own reasoning to decide what we each feel is ethical to consume. Some Humanists strongly oppose the eating of meat, as there are many alternatives to provide our required nutrients and there are many deplorable aspects of modern factory farming; however, many Humanists are not vegetarians, but try to choose more ethical and sustainable food sources whenever possible. Few Humanists support the ritualistic slaughter practices of some religions which involve letting an animal bleed to death.

Humanism is a dynamic and progressive philosophy. What is considered moral and acceptable today will be put under a critical eye and may be rejected as barbaric in the future. By rejecting the authority of dogmatic tradition, we can focus on creating a better future for all life on earth.

Note: VHS is interested in all ethical points of view relating to animal rights and welfare.  We plan to publish more articles from different philosophical and religious standpoints in future blog posts.  

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Tormenting animals to make them buck

The rodeo industry likes to say that bucking bulls and horses only work a few seconds a year and otherwise lead pampered lives.  They also like to talk about the animals being “born to buck.”

But if you watch this video you’ll see that bucking bulls are tormented at a young age to “train” them to buck.   A metal weight (called a dummy) is placed on their backs and is only released when they buck their hardest.  The animals are clearly distressed and want the weight off their backs.  What animal wouldn’t?   Can you imagine doing this to dogs?  It’s only because we are conditioned to seeing livestock treated badly that there is no public outcry against such practices.  Yet cattle and horses, as prey animals, are especially likely to suffer fear and stress from such treatment.  And they are subjected to this distress for the trivial purpose of amusing humans (and to make money for a few of them).

It’s true that bucking bulls and horses are deliberately bred to have a genetic predisposition to buck.  But even with such a predisposition, it’s still necessary to torment them with “dummies.”   And even that’s not enough to ensure they buck for the crowds – there’s also the flank strap, which is tied around the animal’s hindquarters to cause further stress.  It’s only released when the animal stops bucking.

The whole bucking stock industry is designed to make animals behave unnaturally.  Is it not perverse that this industry, including the Calgary Stampede, strives to breed horses that no one can ride?  It’s the exact opposite of what real cowboys have historically sought to achieve.   That’s because rodeo has little to do with the genuine traditions of real ranching.  It is a circus and, like all circuses, it exists to exploit animals for the sake of entertainment.

And what happens to the animals that are not good enough for this circus? As we now know, there’s a good chance they’ll end up in the slaughterhouse.

More information on the Calgary Stampede.

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Calgary Stampede sends young horses to slaughter

Bucking horses are a major part of rodeo ‘entertainment’

An article in an Alberta magazine has revealed that the Calgary Stampede sends young, healthy horses to slaughter if they can’t make the grade as bucking horses for the Stampede rodeo. (CTV News is running a report on the revelations.)

The current issue of Alberta Views carries a story by journalist Curtis Gillespie about animal care at the Stampede.  In it, Gillespie asks staff at the Calgary Stampede ranch (which breeds and raises bucking horses for the rodeo) about the fate of bucking horses not good enough to perform at the Stampede. Here is a passage from the article:

I asked what happens to those horses that simply aren’t suited to bucking, that aren’t naturals? “We usually just keep ’em around,” Marrington said. “A lot of mares go into the breeding program, even if they can’t buck, because we know they’re genetically good. We do cull, no question about that. But the fact is, you can get some young horses, for whatever reason, that fight the chute, or are just bad, and they could hurt cowboys with no ability, and they’ll just run over you. And they’re disposed of, and that’s all I’m going to tell you. They’re out of the system, out of the inventory. It’s inventory in, inventory out.”

The next day, I asked ranch manager Raymond Goodman how many times, on average, a young horse is dummied before a decision is made to remove it from the bucking program.

“Usually three or four times,” he said.

“And if they’re mares, they go back into the breeding program?”

He nodded.

“And what about geldings and studs?” I asked. “They’re culled?”


“And they go where? Fort MacLeod?”

“Yup, Fort MacLeod.”

Fort McLeod is the site of a slaughterhouse run by Bouvry Exports Ltd., where many horses are sent for slaughter.  The plant was the subject of  an investigation by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition in 2010, which found evidence that horses were being killed inhumanely.  The CHDC revealed video footage showing horses at the slaughterhouse being shot and then hoisted away by their legs while still fully conscious.

Please let the Stampede’s chief executive, Vern Kimball, know what you think about this.

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Canada’s factory farms exposed

VHS’s contribution to the report concerns Canada’s supply management system and cruelty to caged hens like these ones on an Ontario battery farm.

Report is a must read

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has released some alarming findings about the impacts of Canada’s animal agriculture practices.

What’s On Your Plate? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Animal Agriculture exposes the destructive impacts of intensive livestock operations on our health, the environment, animal welfare and rural Canada.

The report also exposes the real costs of our food, including tax-funded subsidies to agriculture, and the costs borne by our health care system for public safety and food borne illnesses. Our “cheap” food isn’t so cheap after all!

VHS co-wrote a section on supply management and Canada’s egg industry (pages 101-105). Read the report here and take action to help address the issue.

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Horses die for our entertainment

News that the HBO series ‘Luck’ has been cancelled after three horses died during production, has put the spotlight on the horse racing industry just as a number of horses have been killed in high profile races.

The deaths of five horses in two days at the U.K.’s famous Cheltenham Festival has outraged animal welfare advocates, including the RSPCA.  Meanwhile, it has been reported that 16 horses have died in the last 14 weeks at New York’s Aqueduct Horse Track, prompting the State’s Governor to call for an independent inquiry.

Of course, race horse deaths are nothing new.  Last year, it emerged that 20 horses had died within as many months at the Hastings Park Racecourse in Vancouver.

And horses die regularly in other forms of equine entertainment, such as rodeos.  More than 50 horses have died at the Calgary Stampede since 1986,. This includes two at last year’s Stampede, as reported by the Calgary Herald ‘s pathetically upbeat headline: Visitor numbers up, horse deaths down as Calgary Stampede ends’ (Six died the year before.)

Supporters of these spectacles should face up to the fact that animals are dying so that they may be entertained.



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Red meat is bad, but don’t switch to chicken or fish

Eating red meat increases the risk of premature death says a major new report by the Harvard School of Public Health.

This latest study showing that red meat consumption is a health hazard will likely be welcomed by opponents of factory farming. After all, anything that potentially reduces the demand for meat should be good news for animal welfare, the environment and human health. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Like many studies showing the health risks associated with eating red meat, this one recommends switching to alternatives such as fish or poultry – options that are fraught with environmental, sustainability and animal welfare problems.

VHS launched an Eat Less Chicken project specifically to counter suggestions that chicken is a more acceptable choice than red meat. In terms of pound-for-pound animal suffering, eating poultry is among the worst options, as billions of chickens are inhumanely raised and slaughtered to provide relatively small amounts of meat. While poultry production is not as environmentally damaging as, say, intensive pig farming it still has considerable negative impacts.

If substantial numbers of people were to start replacing red meat with fish, it would likely further devastate global fish stocks, three quarters of which are already either fully or over exploited.

The simple truth is that moving toward a plant-based diet is the best way to reduce our impact on the environment, improve our health and prevent animal suffering.

For more information see our Eat Less Meat webpage.

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Smart pigs amaze us but we eat them anyway

It’s common to hear North American animal lovers express their horror at cultures that find eating dogs or cats acceptable.  And, indeed, it is repulsive to see these sensitive, intelligent animals abused and raised for slaughter.

But two recent stories in the news highlight a double standard in attitudes about animals killed for food – at least for those who eat meat.

Media in the United Kingdom and around the world have been raving about the accomplishments of Louie the pig, who has amazed and amused the British public by learning how to compete in dog agility competitions.  Louie has demonstrated intelligence and trainability on a par with his canine friends.

Meanwhile, two Dutch pigs called Rudi and Felix, are making a claim to fame for their therapy work in seniors’ homes – a role also usually associated with service dogs.  Again, media have lapped up the heartwarming story of clever and gentle pigs showing off their talent.

Of course, the intelligence of pigs has been well-established in scientific studies, and, like other animals, they can feel pain and suffer.

Yet pigs endure some of the worst treatment of animals raised for food. Hog barns house up to 5,000 pigs in crowded pens. Stress from overcrowding creates aggression and boredom, so most pigs have their tails cut off to prevent tail-biting.  Breeding sows are confined for almost their entire reproductive lives in stalls that are just slightly bigger than the sows themselves. They eat, sleep, and defecate in the same space; their manure falls through slatted floors to a cesspool beneath.

So the next time you hear someone who loves bacon telling you how appalled they are about dogs being eaten in Korea, remind them of how we abuse, slaughter and eat intelligent, sensitive pigs by the million right here at home.