Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I make my world with my thoughts....

Across Canada, the recent outbreak of listeriosis has prompted a massive recall of hundreds of brand name prepared meats. Last evening during the 6 o'clock news the business editor suggested that this fiasco may mean the end of the huge Maple Leaf Foods due to the potential civil lawsuits which could amount to billions of dollars. And let me not forget that at current count, 14 people in Canada have died from eating contaminated products. This count will no doubt rise as the incubation period for the bacteria once consumed is 70 days (that is...symptoms can take as long as 70 days to manifest after consumption of tainted product).

For a brief moment I felt triumphant jubilation. Yes, bring Maple Leaf to it's knees - one less slaughterhouse. OK so this was not one of my more mindful, compassionate moments....the bankruptcy of Maple Leaf Foods would have far reaching effects financially not only for it's employees, but it's customers and suppliers. (This would include my former employer who sold to peripheral business' in the huge circle of this particular meat processing plant.) Therefore much suffering would ensue from the loss of jobs. The CEO of Maple Leaf has accepted full responsibility for the contamination and offered a sincere apology to those suffering with the ill effects and to the families of those individuals who succumbed to the infection.

I also discovered in my research that listeriosis can come from not only contaminated uncooked meat but also dairy products (soft cheeses) and vegetables. Obviously we must all be vigilant in our handling and preparation of all foods to avoid any kind of contamination. Unfortunately, in this outbreak the bacteria found it's way into the product after it was cooked and processed, i.e. in the packaging section of the line.

But back to my earlier stance, albeit a smug one. Most likely if the huge Maple Leaf falls, someone else will come in to fill the spot. So no, I don't believe that the demise of one meat processor will slow down or eliminate a portion of the suffering involved in the slaughter of millions of animals that are off-loaded regularly at Maple Leaf's guarded warehouses.

However, I believe more and more passionately that my thoughts affect and create the world I live in. Hence, I choose to water a seed of hope (borrowing words from Thich Nhat Hahn) my hope, that this world, this planet will come to be one where the human population does not eat animal flesh, does not exploit animals in research, entertainment or personal pleasure.

I think I am not the only one who nourishes this hope. Regardless, people, especially my fellow-Canadians, must be giving some thought to the meat they are throwing in their shopping carts.

On a lighter note (but still deadly serious), a friend forwarded this interesting link: a blog on the London (UK) publication, Daily Telegraph. I quite enjoyed the read - established facts presented with dry wit!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sunday, Aug. 17 Hamilton Food Not Bombs

This Sunday, August 17th and Sunday, August 24th, the Hamilton Chapter of Food Not Bombs will be preparing and offering free vegetarian meals to all hungry people. The location is Gore Park, downtown Hamilton (pictured above) King Street East between James and Hughson.

According to the advice notice I read in Mayday/Community Events, FNB describe themselves as a "non-hierarchical organizational model and are committed to social change through building democratic, compassionate community".

You are welcome to participate by contributing or serving. For more information please contact

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lessons from my fish

You can barely see a hint of their orange-gold scales in the picture, but I assure you this pond that sits outside of my kitchen window has several large gold fish in it. They are part of the menagerie of animals that this family has taken care of for quite a few years. Normally, at such a 'Kodak' moment, the fish would be right at the surface, mouthing up at me enthusiastically. As well trained fish-owners, to reward this little display, whoever was standing at the edge, would throw in some floating pellets. The food would be gobbled up in a gold fish feeding frenzy. During these eat-as-much-as-you-can-in-60-seconds, our lone catfish, like a stealth fighter, would rise from the black depths, slowly and deliberately, taking in whatever pellets he could selvage.

Much as we got accustomed to this, we never got used to it. Thus, it was one hot afternoon, that I heard through the kitchen window, the sound of a fish breeching. Absorbed in whatever I was doing, I took mental note, but delayed going out with my bag of fish pellets. Some minutes later, I stepped out the back door and stood glued to my place, wide-eyed, as a heron ascended from my pond. Herons in my part of the world are far and few between, living as I do, in a sub-division of a large city. In my 55 years, I can honestly say I have, luckily, seen several heron out in the country, but certainly, not more than a dozen over this span. My point is, I consider herons a rare and privileged sight to see, just not in "my" pond, eating "my fish"!!

Coming around to the end of the pond, I peered into the depths (actually just about 3 feet, deep enough for the fish to winter over from December to March/April). I could not see a single fish. Frantic, I called my husband at work to tell him ALL the fish were gone and that I suspected a heron. What was he going to do? Arrest the heron?

Resigned to the fate of our little fish, we accepted the situation, discussed it with neighbours, called fellow pond owners to warn them. (You might be thinking at this point...this women has no life...and you would not be far off the mark! But be patient, there is a point to all of this.)

A day or so after the big event, I again looked into the pond and saw way, way down some colour and movement. the heron had not get them all. However, we were told by an expert (OK, he was a high school student working at the garden centre) that if a heron visits once, they will return again and again, as long as is necessary to empty the buffet table, so to speak. Acting on this advice, my husband constructed this ugly, but necessary, screened tent over the pond. One of our neighbours, thoughtfully, with care and concern, walked over with a huge mixing bowl, water sloshing over the sides and carefully emptied a brightly coloured, googly eyed rubber fish, (taken from one of his children's bath tub critters) into the water. Were it not for his hysterial laughter, I would have thought, how kind of him to do that.

So, long story short, we are now three weeks, maybe four, since the theft. We have removed the eye-sore screening from above the pond. But have our remaining fish recovered? Apparently not. They remain, traumatized it would seem, approximately 12 inches below the surface of the water. We throw food in, they get all excited and swim around crazily, but will not come up to the top, preferring to wait for the pellets to become sodden and drop down to them. This seems odd to me. Is there an "alpha" fish, so charismatic, that they have agreed to follow his/her advise to stay down low, no matter how tempting the sunshine and faces at the surface? Or, as one friend threw out, maybe they are grieving the loss of some in their clan, staying secluded for an unknown period of time. In any case, I am getting a little tired of this. A lot of work went into creating this "natural ambience" what with the back braking digging, hauling and placement of boulders, plants and moss. We like to enjoy it's features including the dozen or so gold fish frolicking about.

Nothing I do is changing the situation. I am at my wits end. We tried adding a newbie, a tiny shubunkin, thinking that a new resident, one without a background history of coming face to face with a heron beak would encourage the others to go back to their easy going, fun-loving natures. Strange... I haven't seen that little shubunkin lately either. Could they have pulled him to the dark side that quickly?

I need a fish-whisperer. Someone who can remind the fish, that yes, life is safer in the shadows, with less risk of being eaten by a heron, but there is greater joy when you leave the abyss. Someone who can coax them back up to the sun rays, to nibble again on the hyacinth roots, to nestle into the soft beds of mossy algae.

If you are gifted in such a way, able to penetrate the inner sanctum of the fish world, send me a comment as soon as possible. All suggestions are welcome; progress reports will be updated regularly.