Thursday, November 24, 2011

World Vegan Day Tip #22

Committing to veganism is the single most meaningful and effective way you can help the animals of the world. Please consider exploring a compassionate vegan lifestyle and have a Thanksgiving full of true gratitude.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

World Vegan Day Tip #21

If you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to this holiday season, consider giving to your local animal shelter. Many do the best they can on very tight budgets and could use support. If your money is limited, contact your shelter and ask for a list of tangible items they need: you can often help out just by donating gently used towels and blankets or shampoo, brushes and nail clippers. Most important, consider giving the gift of your time. Becoming a volunteer is so rewarding: you can bathe dogs, walk them, groom and socialize dogs and cats. This time from you makes them more adoptable.

Monday, November 21, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #20

Veggie stir fry! A quick and nutritious meal that virtually anyone can make, veggie stir-fries can be made with any vegetables, grains and plant proteins you like for an easy meal. One such example: over medium-high heat, sauté garlic, ginger and scallions in sesame oil. Then add broccoli and diced carrots. Add tamari or soy sauce and brown rice vinegar. Cook until the broccoli is bright green. In a separate pan, sauté extra firm tofu, also seasoned like the veggies. Serve over rice or quinoa. DONE.

World Vegan Day Tip #20

If you are looking for a new companion animal, please adopt one from a shelter. Over 9 1/2 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year, many fully adoptable, because they do not have enough cage space. Pet stores and breeders are irresponsibly adding to the overpopulation and many pet stores in particular get their "supply" from horrific puppy mills. Please show your compassion for animals by adopting one: there are many young, senior, mixed breed and specific breed dogs and cats in addition to other domestic animals like birds, rabbits, hamsters, etc. desperately in need of a home. We are blessed to share our home with two adopted animals and I couldn't be more grateful! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

World Vegan Day Tip #19

Animals held captive in zoos and aquariums need our support: please do not support the institutions that imprison them. The animals are denied their most natural instincts and behaviors, they are kept in conditions that do not come close to meeting the needs of the animals, and it is teaching a terrible message to the children there: animals are here for our entertainment. Show respect to others by withdrawing your support from these exploitative institutions. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #18

One of the ways people can enjoy life more as they explore or maintain veganism is to subscribe to magazines that support that decision. Magazines like VegNews, ActionLine from Friends of Animals, Vegetarian Journal and online only options like Chickpea and Canada's T.O.F.U. Magazine are great to support and provide recipes, articles and a sense of belonging.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

World Vegan Day Tip #17

You are beautiful from in the inside out, but if you ever want to take things up a notch, please consider buying cruelty-free cosmetics. Not only are they usually made with more natural ingredients, cruelty-free cosmetics are made without (horrific and unnecessary) animal testing and ingredients. Check out compassionate cosmetics at Leaping Bunny.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #16

Just because your traveling, it doesn't mean you have to compromise your vegan diet or aspirations. Not only are there amazing vegan options the world over, but you can plan meals out through apps like the iPhone app, VegOut, as well as websites like Happy Cow, Veg Dining, and a variety compiled by Mercy For Animals to name a few. Just simple online searches with a town's name and the words "vegetarian" or "vegan" can uncover lots of options.

World Vegan Month Tip #15

Circuses are pretty much pure evil. The sensitive animals forced to "entertain" are abused in training, denied their natural habitats and instincts and moved from town to town by railcar. Please do not support this cruel industry and the message that animals being forced to perform unnatural stunts is entertaining. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All beings tremble...

“All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?” Buddha

Sometimes it just feels like being there can knock my legs out from under me.

Whenever I go to an animal sanctuary, I become acutely aware of my personal failings. It seems like an incongruous thing, feeling so peaceful with the rescued animals and pastoral setting but not being able to ignore the personal flaws that have come into high relief. This awareness doesn’t prevent me from enjoying myself, just sort of buzzes underneath the surface, a mosquito of little consequence but still an irritant.

I don’t usually think of myself as an especially resentful person, but the animals and their willingness to trust people after all we have done to them are a reminder that I still have a lot of work to do. Whenever I go to an animal sanctuary, I am reminded that forgiveness is a deeply challenging practice for me, as though if I have resentment against those who have hurt me in the past, it will transcend the time-space continuum and stick to them like a barnacle. The animals don’t hold on to anything and they have seen and survived far worse than I.  I remember this also from when I worked at an animal shelter: dogs who had been starved to near-skeletal conditions, cats who had been used as bait in pitbull fights, beings that had known little to no human kindness, still ran up to the cage door, eager to greet us. I will never forget the cat I met at the shelter, very disfigured from having been set on fire, rubbing his raw skin against the cage bars, purring at the sight of me, a stranger. A human. We can be terrible co-inhabitants on this home we share but they don’t seem to resent us.

Last June, as I do every summer, I spent the day with my family and friends at SASHA Farm, a Michigan refuge for animals primarily from the agriculture industry, where the residents rush to the fences to greet us. Yes, we had strawberries and apples and carrots, but even when we had run out, they stretched out toward us, seeking a hand, a friendly face. They looked at us without guile. The cows, with their wet, innocent eyes, always impress me with their gentleness. The goats, lively and rambunctious, climb over one another to grab carrots, they bleat with confidence and conviction. The tom turkeys strut with their feathers spread out like intricate fans, almost begging to be admired; the chickens look at us with unabashed, courageous curiosity, especially counter to their public reputation. It’s as if the animals know that they are safe now, these beings who almost all suffered horrific abuse, who were forcibly removed from their mothers and siblings as newborns. It’s more than that, though: it’s as if the horrors they lived through never happened.

You can still see it on them, though, like marker transparencies lain over their three-dimensional forms. Hens with bumpy, pink patches of skin where feathers should be, that’s one indication. A goat with a circle cut through his ear like he’d been through a hole-puncher. He had. The cow with little white nubs where her horns were once, lasting evidence of the systematic, everyday brutality she endured. Pigs inflated to such an enormous size to satisfy the demand for their flesh that they could barely move.

The routine deformities we can see in the survivors of animal agriculture is often the most obvious display of the cruelty they endure in the process of being turned from a living animal into a product to be consumed and forgotten. In the ultimate objectification, the animals are turned into mere vehicles for their own consumable flesh and what their bodies produce, the things we say we “can’t live without.” Engineered for their flesh, so-called broiler hens are conceived with a quick expiration date: our tour guide at SASHA explained that these birds don’t live past the age of one. They die of congestive heart failure before that, victims of our preference for their plump breasts, our meat. On this day, though, and on all the days since they found sanctuary at SASHA, the chickens scratched at the dirt, felt the sun on their wings, they lived as natural, fully realized beings. The expiration date ticks but they enjoy life. We ravaged their bodies but their spirits, if given half a chance, are unsinkable.

There is so much that we take for granted and the power we humans wield – not necessarily in strength but in the privileges we aim to protect - overwhelms me when I think about it. We can ruin someone else’s perfectly nice day simply because we feel like it, or we can ruin another’s life because we don’t want to question the liberties we'd prefer to keep enjoying.  Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me angry: A spilled glass of water, a misplaced set of keys, a train that I missed by five seconds. The anger I can feel over these trivial hardships frightens me. Once in a while, too, I lose my temper with my son. Imagine how that lopsided power structure feels to someone half your size to experience: a raised voice, a mean look, even a clenched hand from someone who could inflict real damage. My potential to harm my child, the one I most want to protect in the world, the soul who most fills me with joy, is a terrifying thing to own and I live my life with the knowledge of it. I have never hit my son and I never expect to intentionally harm him. We exist with an inherent power imbalance that dramatically skews in our favor, though, as adult humans. We cannot do whatever we want to simply because we have the privileges, preferences and opportunities: we should have learned as young children that this is not a moral way to operate.

All beings want to live without imprisonment and cruelty: if we are honest, we will admit that humans are not unique in this regard. We will also admit that all beings want the same for their babies. As consuming others as products is both unnecessary and necessitates violence, then it is an indulgence and there is a moral imperative to withdraw our support from it.  

All beings tremble before violence.
Of course we do.

All fear death.
 This only makes sense.

All love life.
All beings crave the things that make us feel good: warm sun, affection, the pure, visceral joy that shoots through us on that first beautiful spring day. To deny this is arrogance.

See yourself in others.
If you do, it will be hard to maintain your privileges.

Then whom can you hurt? 

What harm can you do? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #14

Looking for work that doesn't compromise your values but also is something you can be passionate about? Try Vegan Jobs, the VegNews work classified section, Vegan Mainstream and the Facebook Vegan Jobs page for ideas!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #13

Looking for shoes without animal hides? It used to be much harder to find stylish shoes that were leather-free. Today, you can find them anywhere from vegan boutiques (both online and in shops) like Moo Shoes and Alternative Outfitters to giant shoe emporiums, like Zappos.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #12

Even as a new vegan, you can find almost any recipe you're looking for online. Using simple terms like "vegan stroganoff recipe" can give you quite a few results. Eventually, you'll starts to find websites and blogs that are to your liking. Bookmarking these will help you to hone your cooking skills.

Friday, November 11, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #11

Take things easy on yourself while setting goals. If you goal is to reduce consumption of animal products, setting specific goals week after week is a good way to move forward. For example, if you consume eggs or dairy daily, try to get that to once a day for a week. From there, keep decreasing animal products and increasing plant foods you enjoy instead. Setting realistic, specific goals rather than aspiring to something vague will get you close to achieving what you want to see.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #10

Keep a well-stocked pantry. It's the little things that can make a big difference when it comes to the ease with which one can transition into or maintain a vegan lifestyle. Make things easier on yourself by keeping some staple items on hand so you can create simple but delicious meals without too much effort. Some things I always like to have on hand are beans (chickpeas, black beans, etc.), grains (rice and quinoa, for example), tomato sauce, onions, garlic, potatoes (white and sweet), tomato sauce, coconut milk, tamari, olive oil, peanut or almond butter, pasta, marinara, frozen corn and frozen peas. With a few staples on hand, you will never be at a loss for what to cook.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #9

Slow Cooker! What is a better feeling than coming home after a long day to the delicious aroma of a home-cooked meal that's already prepared? Slow cookers - and their high-energy cousins, pressure cookers - make nutritious meals a breeze with very little effort. Just some chopping in the morning, a quick sauté, combine things in the cooker and you are set.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #8

Often vegans are vulnerable to scare tactics from people who don't really understand nutrition, including the opinions of those in the medical profession, many of whom lack in-depth, up-to-date dietary expertise. If you are concerned about a vegan diet meeting your nutritional needs, why not consult with a professional who is an expert in the field? The Vegetarian Nutrition group of the American Dietetic Association is a great place to start.

Monday, November 7, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #7

Many people are overwhelmed with cooking for the week as it is and feel utterly lost trying to figure out what to eat as vegans. Here is what I suggest to everyone: write a weekly menu. Go through your cookbooks, look online, or just plain brainstorm ideas. While you're writing the menu, you can also make your grocery list. It's efficient, it can save money (especially if you don't allow yourself any impulse purchases off your list) and it can be a healthier way to live when you plan what to eat. Simplify: make a weekly menu!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #6

Soups! Especially this time of year, soups are a nourishing way to fill ourselves up with a delicious and enriching meal. For creamy soups, try coconut milk, pureed potatoes or cashew cream; for vegetable soups, make or use a vegetable stock and fill it with all kinds of goodies. Soups are also great to improvise: add pasta, frozen peas or corn, rice or barley, sauteed vegetables, beans, fresh herbs, tempeh "croutons" and more. Sometimes a good bowl of soup is the very best thing in the world!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #5

Supporting local vegetarian and vegan festivals gives you the opportunity to sample food, support businesses and learn about non-profits you might be interested in along with many other benefits. Maybe you should go to one today. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #4

Volunteering at a local animal shelter is a great way help these places that often desperately need our time. Socializing dogs and cats, scooping boxes, helping to fold towels, walking dogs, grooming and even fostering them are some of the ways you can help support homeless animals and shelters. Raising funds for them through vegan bake sales and donating blankets and towels is another very worthwhile contribution.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #3

Finding community is a huge factor in enjoying your life as a vegan or finding the support you need to explore it further. Although online groups are great for daily maintenance, finding a group that meets in person can be an essential factor in feeling a deeper commitment and enjoying life. We are social animals! Please check out groups on websites like for local groups of like-minded people. Don't see one? Consider starting your own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

World Vegan Day Tip #2

One of the best ways to learn more about vegan living is to read books on it and one of your very best resources is the public library. From cookbooks to informative books, you can "test drive" a book without any money down by checking it out from your local library. (And then buy the ones you like because we must support the good work of our hardworking vegan authors!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

World Vegan Month Tip #1

Conventional cleaning products are not only often laden with nasty chemicals that harm us and the environment but also are tested on laboratory animals in the most cruel, crude ways possible. Please consider making your own cleaning products with common household products like vinegar and baking soda: not only are you reducing plastic consumption, these homemade cleaners cost pennies to make, they are effective, and you are not supporting companies that torture animals. You will breath and sleep easier as a result!