Wine touring in Mendoza, Argentina

Wine tasting in Mendoza
Wine tasting in Mendoza

Mendoza is a really beautiful city and it is right in the middle of Argentina’s best wineyards (the region produces 70% of the country’s wine), and the base for a number of wonderful outdoor activities. One of them naturally being wine-tasting tours on bicycle….sounds like fun? It definitely is!!!

I went wine tasting with four good friends: Sherry, Thomas, Mathew and Andrew. We took bus 170 from the centre of Mendoza and got of in Maipu. There we started out renting bicycles and headed to the Museo del Vino. The museum displays wine-making tools used by the 19th-century pioneers, as well as colonial religious sculptures from the Cuyo region.

Tours run every half hour on weekdays, hourly on weekends. You can also stroll around yourself – there is plenty to see..and plenty to drink.

The museum offers free wine-tasting, but when you offer this to an English guy, two kiwis, an American woman and a Danish woman – they are going to drink as if there was no tomorrow. The folks at the museum was totally fine with that J The museum is highly recommended!!

After this pretty "wet" visit we went "biking" to the wineries for more wine tasting. All in all a fantastic day.

Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed

There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population. So why are more than 840 million people still going hungry?

The truth: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed. If everyone on Earth received 25 percent of his or her calories from animal products, only 3.2 billion people would have food to eat. Dropping that figure to 15 percent would mean that 4.2 billion people could be fed. If the whole world became vegan, there would be plenty food to feed all of us"”more than 6.3 billion people. The World Watch Institute sums this up rightly, saying, “Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain"”the grain is used more efficiently when consumed by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.”

pig

It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh. According to the USDA and the United Nations, using an acre of land to raise cattle for slaughter yields 20 pounds of usable protein. That same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein if soybeans were grown instead"”more than 17 times as much!

Producing the grain that is used to feed farmed animals requires vast amounts of water. It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater. You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.

It should be no surprise, then, that food for a vegan can be produced on only 1/6 of an acre of land, while it takes 3 1/4 acres of land to produce food for a meat-eater. If we added up all the arable land on the planet and divided it equally, every human would get 2/3 of an acre"”more than enough to sustain a vegetarian diet, but not nearly enough to sustain a meat-eater.

On top of this the industrial world is exporting grain to developing countries and importing the meat that is produced with it, and thus farmers who are trying to feed themselves are being driven off their land. Their efficient, plant-based agricultural model is being replaced with intensive livestock rearing, which also pollutes the air and water and renders the once-fertile land dead and barren.

If this trend continues, the developing world will never be able to produce enough food to feed itself, and global hunger will continue to plague hundreds of millions of people around the globe. There is only one solution to world hunger – A vegan diet is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue.

So the less meat you eat – the more people we can feed! Think about it.

The motivations and benefits of being a vegetarian

People often ask me why I am a vegetarian and for how long I have been a vegetarian. I decided to write a series of articles about vegetarianism because it is close to my heart and there are lots of things to be said about it. In this first article I briefly outline my personal reasons for being a vegetarian.

The simple answer is that I love animals and since the age of 16 I have refused to eat them. To me the notion of loving someone and killing them does not go together. And to me all animals are worthy of life and it makes no difference whether people eat a cow or a cat – you kill to eat and it is equally bad.

the cat who adopted me

Now I am not a fanatic vegetarian in the sense that I don’t object to other people eating whatever they want, but I do oppose people categorizing themselves as something they are not – like the notion that people who don’t eat meat but do eat fish are "vegetarians". To me this categorization is wrong because a fish is NOT a vegetable.

According to the official definition of vegetarianism from Wikipedia “it is the practice of a diet that excludes all animal flesh, including poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacean, and slaughter by-products”. A vegan is a person who excludes all animal products from diet and in some definitions from attire also, whether or not the production of clothing or items has involved the actual death of an animal (dairy, eggs, honey, wool, silk, down feathers, etc.). I am a vegetarian but I don’t buy leather or feather pillows or covers. This is against my conviction (which is personal and not religious).

My main reason thus is ethical – an aversion to inflicting pain or harm on other living creatures, or a belief that the unnecessary killing of other animals is inherently wrong.

Environmental reasons also count high on my list – namely the fact that so many people are starving and the production of meat for consumption as oppose to grains is unsustainable. Did you know that the inefficiencies of meat, milk and egg production range from 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up to 54:1 and as such the U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grain that the livestock eat.

Another argument is that farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the United States. Since factory farms don’t have sewage treatment systems as cities and towns do, this ends up polluting ground water, destroying the topsoil, and contaminating the air. Hence as a meat-eater you should consider yourself partly responsible for the production of all of this waste "” about 86,000 pounds per second.

There are an endless list of motivations and benefits of being a vegetarian including: religious and spiritual, health reasons, medical, ethical, environmental, economical, psychological, and cultural. In my next blog posts I will write on the topic in greater detail.

So as you can see there are plenty of reasons to stop eating meat – in fact you can improve the world by stopping today 🙂

Good luck.

Health reasons for being a vegetarian

If there is something all health experts can agree upon – it is that animal fat is NOT healthy. In fact the best thing you can do for your health is to become a vegetarian. A healthy vegetarian diet also protects you against numerous diseases, including: heart disease, cancer, and strokes.

Vegetarianism - Fruit and vegetables

The American Dietetic Association have declared that vegetarians have "lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer" and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be overweight. This of course doesn’t mean that you are necessarily skinny just because you are a vegetarian – but you are definitely healthier. Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Meat-eaters are furthermore nine times more likely to be overweight than vegans are.

The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has also been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and male impotence. Scientists have also found that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than their meat-eaters and this means that they are less prone to everyday sicknesses like the flu. Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters. Some may infer that it is not worth living longer if you can eat what you want – but there are more reasons than "merely" health to be a vegetarian (read: Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed)

A good vegetarian diet is perfectly sufficient for you to get all the nutrients you need, and without all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal products.

Highly recommended: On PETA’s website you can request a great, free vegetarian starter kit and they even send it for free (amazing!!!). I ordered one online for both of my sisters and my mum and they were delivered free of charge to their house: http://goveg.com/order.asp

Chiang Mai – the most vegetarian friendly city in Thailand

Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai

The best vegetarian guide for Chiang Mai is made by Ath (Phongsathon Kitchawet), who is a webdesigner, artist, photographer, writer and idealist.

When Ath moved to Chiang Mai in 2000, he found the Vegetarian Restaurant Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand map by David Freyer (15 March 2000). This map showed 39 vegetarian restaurants and 8 veggie-friendly restaurants, giving a total of 47 restaurants.

Chiang Mai Municipal city’s area is 40.216 square kilometer, so in 2000 the average was almost one restaurant per square kilometer…true heaven for vegetarians like myself.

Chiang Mai definitely has the most vegetarian restaurants in Thailand.

Surveying in September 2007 by Ath, there were more than 28 vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai City Municipality area. Less than 2000 because of closure or change from vegetarian to vegetarian-friendly (also meat) restaurant.

However, the Chiang Mai vegetarian scene is still vibrant, with more than 18 new vegetarian restaurants opening since 2000 (half the restaurants currently open) and the average is 1 restaurant per 1.43 km2, which is still high.

Chiang Mai’s broad cultural mix also plays a large role with Thai, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Muslim and western influences evident in Chiang Mai’s vegetarian restaurants.

Local culture seems to be less of an influence with some notable exceptions. The famous Northern Thai monk Khruba Sriwichai became a vegetarian in 1903. However this seems to have had only a limited effect on local people.

Even though there are more vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai than other Thai cities there is still only 1 vegetarian restaurant for every 5,356 people in the municipal area (population of 149,959, March 2006).When you consider the social, ethical and environmental factors, this is still very few.

Besides all of this very interesting information that Ath could give me, the website also has Thai language learning (with audio), a great map of vegetarian restaurants, and sight seeing information for Chiang Mai etc.

To visit the website – go to: http://www.geocities.com/chiangmaivegetarian/indexeng.htm

Burmese restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Burmese restaurant on Nimmenhaemin (across from soi 13) it one of our favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai. Not only is it very cheap with dishes ranging from 20-30 baht (0.60 $ – 1$), it is also very tasty food. The cuisine of Burma has been influenced by Chinese and Indian cooking, but it also has its own distinct flavor. The staple food is rice (htamin) served with mild curries (hin) made with vegetables, chicken, fish or seafood. Being a vegetarian I am not much in favor of the fish or chicken but the salads they serve are divine.

“Salad” is perhaps a misleading term for such intricate concoctions as these, full of sharp, contrasting flavors and varied textures. Green Tea Leaf Salad, made from fermented tea leaf, garlic, tomatoes, onion, and broad beans, is a smoky, utterly delicious and addictive dish. The menu in this restaurant is long but the dishes available few. However, they are all delicious. Besides the curries and tea leaf salad, they have tomato salad, fried egg salad, pennyworth salad, tamarind leaf salad, mango salad and bean soup.

The interior is nothing to write home about: brightly lit room with florescent lights and about seven tables. So it may not be the interior for a romantic dinner but then again it’s the company that matters isn’t it? 🙂

The picture below is taken outside the restaurant.

Burmese restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand

GMO vs. hunger…Greenpeace fight against GM papaya in Thailand

On Tuesday, August 28, 2007 Greenpeace dumped eleven tones of papayas outside the Thai Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry in protest at the agency’s move to lift a ban on open-field trials of genetically-modified crops.

GMO Papaya, Bangkok, Thailand

Although Greenpeace is a common sight in Bangkok, I really doubt that most Thai people in general have any idea of what they are talking about, especially in regard to genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs refer to plants and animals that have received small amounts of genetic material from another organism, usually to give them resistance to disease or insects or to give them another desirable trait, such as the ability to live in areas with little water.

The problem about GMOs is that they are new and not fully tested, so bad things could happen that we can’t foresee. GMOs can be harmful to environment, killing off necessary insects, contaminating plants and animals, or even accidentally creating whole new and dangerous species. Partly because of such potential dangers, many countries have banned the import of products containing transgenic components. Since Thailand exports large amounts of agricultural products, GMOS could be a significant threat to its economy. In addition, GMO seeds are typically patented by large foreign multi-national companies, giving them a huge incentive to try to have them introduced around the world. (All these contentions, incidentally, are hotly disputed by GMO proponents.)

Nevertheless, GM foods, including GM papaya, have been approved by governments in countries like the United States and Canada.

However, arranging a protest in Thailand is not simple when people don’t understand the issue at stake and are hungry at the same time. The Greenpeace demonstration was met with an unexpected reaction from a crowd of onlookers. Passers-by took matters, and tones of papayas dumped by Greenpeace, into their own hands, and ran off. Many passers-by, who mostly knew nothing about transgenic fruit, said they did not care about any health risks. They were just thinking about how hungry they were. Bangkok Post reports about a man who was waiting in traffic for the lights to go green near the ministry and then leapt out of his car and joined the feast. ”I’m not scared of GM papayas. Rather, I’m scared I won’t have any to eat,” said Ubon Ratchathani villager Ampon Tantima, 31, before rushing back to his car with the free fruit.

Naturally I support Greenpeace’ protest against GMO, but I think that a campaign should be aimed at a bottom-up approach. First you provide the general population with knowledge and then you try to influence politicians. Without the knowledge of the common people the support will only come from a small intellectual minority and this may not be enough to change the decisions made at the governmental level.