Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gobble Gobble

On December 18 I spent the afternoon volunteering at Loblaws for Second Harvest’s Turkey Drive. Second Harvest is a Canadian charity that recovers excess food from restaurants and redistributes it to social-service agencies. This was my second time participating in this event, and this year it really hit home as I was laid off from my full-time job, which made it even more important to help out. Perspective is everything.

And so I donned a Santa hat, grabbed some fliers, and worked up a short and cheerful spiel to say to customers who came to the frozen-turkey case. All smiles and positivity, I spoke to many people who no doubt have been inundated with appeals for donations. Many generous folks bought birds that afternoon (263 in total) ranging in price from $13 to $50. A lot of bellies will be filled this coming Christmas.

Despite what some may think, there was no particular type of person who donated: young, old, tidy, sloppy, male, female, singletons, families–they all opened their wallets to help others.

There was, however, one exception: vegetarians. It’s not like I knew they were coming, as if they had an Xed-out cow tattooed on their forehead. Rather, when I approached they announced their dietary choice loud and clear, “I don’t eat meat!” “I’m a vegetarian!”

Clearly, we’d crossed wires. My spiel, “Hi! I’m from Second Harvest’s Turkey Drive. Would you like to donate a turkey to feed Toronto’s hungry,” lacked pertinent details. The bird wasn’t for the giver, it was for other people. Ok, I readjusted and provided options.

“Oh, but the turkey isn’t for you. You simply buy it to feed those in need.”


“Ok, well, perhaps you’d like to consider an online cash donation. Here’s the website...,” I beseeched in vain as they walked past.

I wasn’t the only person who noticed. My comrade in wings, so to speak, encountered this resistance too. “What’s that all about?” he whispered, “It’s not like they have to eat it!”

Just to be clear, I stopped eating meat for two years once upon a time. For many reasons, I reclaimed my omnivore status and have never looked back. And for just as many reasons, others remain stalwart. Very well, I can respect that. Different strokes. More bacon for me.

But why must one’s personal and voluntary dietary restriction prohibit giving food to those whose “dietary restriction” is involuntary? I can’t believe that people think animal rights come before those of a person who must choose between rent and food. Or do some tofu-munchers feel the moral imperative to impose their wishes on those with few choices? I certainly hope not.

I often hear the argument that a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one that includes meat. That may well be true. There are many poor people around the world who don’t eat meat. What’s also true, however (Hindus aside), is that meat consumption in many emerging economies has gone up with increased income. This leads me to believe that poor people would likely eat more meat if and when they could afford it.

Ah, but who knows what those individual vegetarians were thinking; it matters not. I can only hope that they dropped some non-perishable food in the Daily Bread Food Bank bin or wrote a cheque. People in this city, and elsewhere, needn’t go hungry. That is the true moral imperative.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


In October 2010, Toronto underwent a mayoral election. Apparently we were an angry lot. Terribly so. I suspect that like many of the citizenry, I would have never had known this unless I was told by Rob Ford’s campaign. There was a “gravy train” at city council that so glutinous, so dripping, so deep and tasty Julia Child would be jealous. Yes, I ought to be angry. But I wasn’t.

There was a life-sucking land-transfer tax in place that was so prohibitive people were running screaming to Richmond Hill to avoid it. I ought to be angry about that too since I’m a renter who cannot yet afford to buy a home many of which list at $350,000...before tax. Any tax. Even before bidding wars set in. Grr? No, not really.

But the $60 car-registration tax surely must have raised my ire! That must boil my blood, yes? Nope. Smog pisses me off as do single-rider SUVs and congestion caused by private vehicles, but taxes on these vehicles. Nah. TTC fare hikes rankle, but I think there are bigger fish to fry.

Ooh, speaking of fish, what about the garbage strike, huh? That was AWFUL! It threatened our very way of life and civilization itself! THAT should have really gotten my goat. Well, it wasn’t pleasant, but we lived, and largely forgot about it.
Well, I must be angry about something, right?

Hmm. Let me think. Yes, by Jove I am.

I’m angry that I’m told by a bellicose, belligerent, pejorative-spewing spoilt brat that I’m angry and that I’m an elitist because I can string multisyllabic words together in a sentence uninterrupted by “uhs,” “ums,” and corporate jargon.

I’m angry because people who never venture into the downtown core let alone ride public transit are going to dictate its nature and makeup.

I’m angry that the very Conservatives that foisted amalgamation on Toronto in 1998* are now complaining that council is too big and things cost too much.

I’m angry that the minority Conservative federal government** that ignored the duly elected mayor of the largest metropolis in the country*** and stuck the G20 in the financial district endorsed the mayor-elect.

The funny thing about anger is it can make you do awful, destructive, desperate things. However, to channel the old-school punk ethos, anger can also be an energy and it can be power.

Yes, I’m angry...and engaged.

*Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris showed up at Rob Ford’s celebration shindig.( See CP24's coverage.)

**Finance Minister Jim Flaherty endorsed the Ford campaign.(See The Globe and Mail)

***David Miller interviewed by Matt Galloway on CBC's Metro Morning and Miller's press confernence as reported by Digital Journal.