Vegan profile #7: Jennifer Hillman

Name: Jennifer Hillman
Age: 51
Occupation: Director of Strategic Advocacy and Campaigns, The Humane Society of the United States

How long have you been vegan? 20 years this year!

Jennifer and friend

Jennifer and Little Lord Fauntleroy in his cat enclosure

Why did you choose to be vegan? It was purely out of a love for animals. Once I learned about the horrors of factory farming and put two and two together about the animals we love and the animals we eat, I just couldn’t do it anymore. There was no question about it.

Biggest challenge: When I first went vegan, literally within the first few months, the biggest challenge was remembering to read ingredients! Once I started doing that, it was really remarkably easy. Even twenty years ago before the plethora of alternative meats, cheeses, ice creams, etc, it was still such a decision from the heart, that I really didn’t find it that challenging at all. I literally had those animals and their gentle souls in my mind every time I bought food. Plant-based foods are amazing and creative and delicious and they always have been. The nutrition aspect was not challenging at all either. I immediately lost weight and gained energy especially as soon as I gave up dairy products. After that, I felt healthier than I’d ever been. As a vegan, I’ve run four marathons and have never once felt at a lack for animal products as being an “essential” part of my diet.

Best reward: Eating an amazing diet that goes directly, every day, every bite, toward saving animals from suffering, protecting our precious environment and sustaining a healthy life for myself.

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.? I work for an animal welfare organization so I feel lucky that I get to advocate for animals for a living, but I do my own type of outreach on my own as well. I enjoy cooking vegan meals for family and friends. I feel like I’ve matured as an activist over the years. I really do enjoy conversations that I have with people who aren’t vegan – and my favorite question is “what do you eat?” I love telling them that I eat a lot of the same foods that they eat and that it is easier than ever to make our eating habits help reduce animal suffering.

Advice for new vegans: Don’t think about what you can’t eat, think about what you CAN eat – the possibilities for delicious, nutritious and compassionate food choices is endless!

Parting words: Becoming vegan and advocating for a vegan diet is one of the things that I’m most proud of.

~

Congrats on twenty cruelty-free years, Jennifer!

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #6: Heather Bolint

Name: Heather Bolint
Age: 28
Occupation: Seattle Director for The Humane League

How long have you been vegan? About 2 years

Heather and friend

Why did you choose to be vegan?
I became vegetarian overnight when I was ten years old because I had pet chickens that I loved and were my best friends. We never ate them, and it occurred to me one day that I didn’t want to eat any animal because I realized that my chickens were no different than my cats and dog, and that if I had a pet cow or pig, I wouldn’t want to eat their relatives either. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I attended Farm Sanctuary’s National Conference to End Factory Farming in 2011, that I learned how the dairy and egg industries are still just as bad and contribute to horrific animal suffering. It was a slower process for me to become vegan, but I finally went 100% vegan when I became an intern at Farm Sanctuary two summers ago, and I haven’t looked back since!

Biggest challenge:
How to effectively discuss my reason for being vegan with family and close friends. It can be especially hard around the holidays, and it’s still a challenge to not get too emotional when others still don’t respect my decision.

Best reward:
Being surrounded by a huge network of supportive vegans and animal rights activists who all share the same passion. It’s amazing the amount of love and understanding that this community of people share with each other all across the country and across the world!

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.?
Yes, it’s my job! The Humane League is a nationwide farm animal protection organization that focuses on public outreach and education. So much of my work includes distributing literature, tabling at events, giving classroom presentations about factory farming, and organizing people to become effective activists. I feel very fortunate each day to do what I love for work, and it’s rewarding to see others excited about getting involved as well.

Advice for new vegans:
Attend as many vegan/animal activist conferences, workshops and Meetups as possible to gain a stronger network of support. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone after making the decision to be vegan, so it’s very important to surround yourself with others who share your passion and are eager to make a difference. And for students who want to get involved in the movement, networking with people at these events is a great way to find internships and potential jobs – that’s what I did!

Parting words:
It sounds cliche, but it’s true: Be the change you wish to see in the world. When I was ten years old and made the decision to become vegetarian, I vowed that I would someday work to free all the chickens and give them good lives. And now, 18 years later, it’s incredible to find myself in a job that aims to do just that. Follow your passion!

~

Find out more about the work Heather and others are doing at:

The Humane League
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Greyhounds: Racing to the death

I first heard about dog racing in college, when a woman introduced me to her retired racing greyhound. I didn’t know how cruel the industry is until she explained some of the details.

  • Greyhounds are bred to race, but most don’t make the cut–and thousands of puppies are killed each year. Many are also injured (and then killed) while training or racing. When their racing “careers” are over, greyhounds are killed or sold into medical research. Only a lucky few are rescued and adopted into homes.
  • Greyhounds are muzzled and caged in cramped quarters for up to 20 hours a day. They often catch diseases in their tiny kennels because they are housed with so many other dogs.
  • Greyhounds often test positive for drugs (even cocaine!) and are seen as simply racing machines, with no regard for their well-being.
  • Greyhounds are gentle creatures but when they are bred to race, they are encouraged to be aggressive. Animals Australia recent blew the lid of the greyhound racing in that country when they exposed the ways trainers make their dogs more willing to chase a lure (they “blood” the dogs–basically, use live lure animals, like piglets, kittens and possums to bait the dogs, give them a taste for blood, and get them to chase a live lure during practice).

greyhounds racing

Dog racing is illegal in most states (and currently happens in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia). Commercial racing also still takes place in 7 other countries including Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam).

The races are an excuse to wager bets and try to win money, but there are other ways to gamble without abusing animals.

What to do?

  • Never go to a dog race–and tell your friends and family to stay away too.
  • Sign the Animals Australia petition on this page (scroll to the bottom).
  • Consider adopting a greyhound. This list includes US and international adoption groups working to save greyhounds.

Further reading

ASPCA’s page on greyhound racing (with downloadable report)
Grey2k website about greyhound racing
The Greyhound Cruelty page by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland
Peta factsheet about greyhound racing
Animal Rights Action post about the cruelty in the racing industry
Ten Myths about Greyhounds by Animals Australia

Visiting the Cherokee Rose Inn

It’s no secret that Portland is a very vegan friendly city. But not everyone knows about a true gem, the all-vegan Cherokee Rose Inn, tucked away in Southeast Portland.

cherokee rose inn

photo c/o Cherokee Rose Inn

I usually stay in a hotel downtown when I visit Portland. To mix things up, on my latest trip to Rose City, hubby and I visited this lovely B&B.

Staying in a big house in a real neighborhood made us feel like locals. The inn is a true bed and breakfast, and is walking distance to Belmont Street, where you can eat and drink your fill of vegan food and libations at the Sweet Hereafter, and also not far to Stark Street, home of the world’s first vegan mini-mall: Sweet Pea Baking CompanyHerbivore Clothing, Food Fight Grocery, and Scapegoat Tattoo.

Proprietor sandy Miller is a welcoming host and strikes the perfect balance. She’s hospitable, but respected our privacy. A long-time vegan, she’s done a wonderful job decorating her beautiful home and providing creature comforts in the two upstairs guest rooms, sitting room, and bathroom. We stayed in the Eagle room, a spacious room with queen-sized bed, walk-in closet, and extra trundle bed.

We had already planned to eat our way through Portland’s many vegan restaurants, and were we ever delighted with Sandy’s breakfasts! We had Belgian waffles with coconut whipped cream and homemade sausage patties the first day–and coffee, tea, and freshly squeezed orange juice!

The second morning, we were treated to down-home Southern cooking, vegan style: biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, grits patties, greens, fruit–and of course that great OJ!

The Cherokee Rose Inn is a place you’ll be glad you visited. Next time you’re in Portland, stop by and tell Sandy, and her little dog Hamish, I say hi!

at the front door of the Cherokee Rose

Miyoko’s Kitchen: A vegan cheese game-changer

It happened again. I served Miyoko’s Creamery to a vegan friend today and:

“What is this? Where can I get some? Oh wow!”

miyoko's on a cracker

On New Year’s Eve, the same thing happened. I brought a wheel to a party and the omni host declared it the best thing she’s ever eaten. She promptly went in on an order with me.

Let me take a step back. Miyoko Schinner is a gourmet vegan food goddess who literally wrote the book on Vegan Artisan Cheese. People have been making and raving about her delicious vegan cultured nut recipes, but like many good things, they take time to make. Cheese doesn’t age in a day!

Luckily for people like me, who crave instant gratification, Miyoko began selling her creations.

miyoko's creamery

Every time I serve Miyoko’s, people gobble it up. It’s a great way to show non-vegans that vegan food is delectable. The vegans who try it are happy to have a cruelty-free savory cheese in their lives once again. It truly is a game changer.

When I share a wheel of Miyoko’s, I usually pick a spreadable style like Classic Double Cream Chive or Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic. I think these are my favorite. They’re very versatile. In addition to tasting great on a cracker or bagel, they make the best cheesy mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. I used Miyoko’s in the recipe for this dish.

mac n cheese made with miyoko's

Rustic Alpine is a sharp, harder cheese that I ate on crackers and crispy, toasted bread. The Smoked Chive Farmhouse is a smoky hard cheese that, while not bacon-y at all, will get you over any bacon cravings. The satisfaction is in the wood-smoked flavor. French Truffle is a real treat. It’s earth and mushroomy and tasted great spread of a cracker. Or, like I did with half a wheel, make a mushroom stroganoff dish.

pasta with Miyoko's

Those are only five of the flavors you can find on Miyoko’s site. She has others too that I will definitely be trying. Miyoko’s ships throughout the continental US. Orders arrive in two days, icy cold and safe in an insulated box. You can freeze the cheese, which is a great incentive to stock up.

The trouble is, you might eat it all right away!

The vegan bedroom

If your concern for animals extends beyond your plate, you might find yourself looking at clothing labels and household brands to make sure there are no animal ingredients and you’re not supporting animal testing. One place you might overlook is the bedroom.

Pillows and blankets

Some pillows and comforters are stuffed with feathers and blankets can contain wool. Birds and sheep suffer in the production of these products, so steer clear of them. Fortunately, you can find lots of cruelty-free options. Synthetic pillows are hypoallergenic and reasonable. I’ve seen pillows stuffed with buckwheat, and I have one made of shredded natural latex. It all depends on the type of pillow you prefer. Everyone from Ikea to Amazon carries a non-animal version, so try a few out!

Sheets and pillowcases

Silk may sound sensuous, but it’s make of the fibers of silkworms. The cocoons–with worms inside–are dissolved in boiling water so the fibers can be harvested and spun. I’ve found a lot of silky synthetics that are nice, but I still prefer cotton with a little stretch. (Note: Peace silk is made by collecting the cocoons of wild moths after they’ve hatched, so the silkworms aren’t killed–this might be a good option if you insist on silk.)

Sleeping Girl by Nikolay Kuznetsov

Mattresses

Here’s an area where I struggled. I found a futon I liked and discovered, in addition to the main ingredient (cotton), it had a layer of wool (as a fire retardant). In order to get one made without wool, I needed a doctor’s note.

I found several coil mattresses and they were great–except they had silk covers. Ultimately I chose a natural latex mattress, which is made from sustainable natural rubber (tapped from a tree like maple syrup).

PlushBeds is great mattress company that makes all-vegan natural latex mattresses with plant-based fire retardants–no chemicals or wool! You can try out a bed, risk-free. But looking at the photos on their site, I bet you won’t want to give up that comfort!

Natural Bliss

I’m also intrigued with Casper, a latex and memory foam mattress made in America and shipped right to your door (in a surprisingly small box). They are 100% vegan, eco-friendly, and also offer a 100-day free trial period. What have you got to lose? Check out the Casper Mattress Facebook page for more.

casper

Here are some local options if you’re in the Seattle Area:

Bedrooms and More – Really helpful; showed me their silk-free and wool-free options, and educated me about natural latex.

Soaring Heart Natural Bedding – Bring a doctor’s note and they’ll make you a custom futon or tatami without wool.

Seattle Natural Mattress – Chemical-free cotton and natural latex bedding made in Portland, Oregon.

Intimacy

I won’t kiss and tell, but I will say that Trojan condoms and K-Y Jelly aren’t vegan. Trojan is owned by Church & Dwight and K-Y is owned by Johnson & Johnson. Both companies test their product on animals. Instead, check out The Vegan Sex Shop and Vegan Condoms for brands that don’t test on animals (like Glyde and Condomi). As an added bonus, The Vegan Sex Shop has a wide array of toys and whatnot so you can make sure your furry handcuffs are faux and your thigh-high boots are pleather.

These are a few of the things to look out for when creating a vegan bedroom.
And remember: You can still count sheep!

When tax dollars fund animal abuse

In the USA alone, more than $16 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent on needless animal experiments every year. It’s a number that boggles my mind. I can’t even fathom the scale of abuse that 100 million animals endure in the name of “science.”

It frustrates me that I can’t earmark my tax dollars and funnel them into education, healthcare, and parks instead of cruelty.

Just when I thought I’d heard it all, I read a New York Times article about a taxpayer-funded animal research facility in Nebraska. This horrific lab conducts research on farmed animals to benefit the meat industry. They receive $22 million dollars of taxpayer money a year to torture and abuse animals. The experiments are so gruesome even people in the animal agriculture industry are appalled!

I’m grateful to the whistleblowers who shed light on this atrocity (and the journalists who ran with the info and got the story published). The NYT article exposes experiments at the 50-year-old U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.

At the Center, animals are genetically modified to produce more offspring–and the result is often babies who are born with horrendous deformities. Vet care is inadequate, “caretakers” aren’t properly trained, animals are starved to death, and newborns are left to die in open fields.DNA double helix

This is all in the name of higher yields and bigger profits. Researchers are looking for ways to produce heartier animals and more meat. It’s a twisted tale that belongs in a sci-fi movie–but it’s reality.

Sadly, cows, pigs, and sheep are excluded from protection under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Only Congress can stop such egregious animal suffering by making changes to the Act.

The American Anti-Vivisection Society has put together a great page to help you reach out to your legislators.

Please tell your legislators that you are outraged that federal government funds are used for such cruelty and that it must be stopped. Politely tell them that ALL animals deserve protection under the Animal Welfare Act.

There are so many reasons why I want nothing to do with the meat industry. I don’t willingly give them any of my money. I hate that they get taxpayer funding. With enough public pressure, taxpayer–who also happen to be voters–can get this place shut down!

Please help me shut it down!

Saving Elephants: An Interview with ESPFund founder Scott Nelson

I recently met up with Scott Nelson, the founder of ESPFund, an organization that is helping African elephants. I wanted to learn more about how ESPFund came to be. Here’s what I learned:

What is ESPFund?
ESPFund is short for Endangered Species Protection Fund, a Seattle-based 501c3 nonprofit helping to stop the extinction of African elephants, and by extension also helping rhinos, lions, giraffes, and other wildlife. We partner with African communities to help them protect the biodiversity not only of their areas, but of the earth overall, since many species and ecosystems exist only in Africa.

How did ESPFund get started?
I see the over-exploitation of our environment as the biggest issue of our time, and I was not comfortable ignoring my love of elephants and letting others fight for them. I am not able to ignore the killing of such an amazing creature as the elephant. It goes against everything that I am and that I believe about myself and my place in the universe. We can all learn from elephants. Most people would agree that they are amazing, and yet we kill them by the thousands, and historically, by the millions. We are now down to the last remaining few.

baby elephant

What drew you to elephants?
This species is considered keystone, and their prevalence is indicative of a healthy ecosystem. They are so unique, so majestic and representative of the wild blue yonder, and so intelligent, that to me their decimation represents one of the clearest cases of humans destroying our very own habitat. I believe that elephants are like the canary in the mineshaft, and that the fate of humans is linked to the fate of elephants. If we lose them, it means we have irrevocably lost our way and poisoned our own environment beyond the point of no return. If we cannot protect such an intelligent being as the elephant, can we save ourselves from our own destructive ways?

How are you different from other organizations that help endangered animals?
We believe people need better options for channeling their conservation interests into change. Traditionally, many nonprofits start off with a noble idea, but in the growth process, they become large companies where accountability can become hazy, salaries get excessive, and the activities become too self-serving and competition-based. We are volunteers who are motivated by the mission, and our focus is specific, specialized, micro: Stop the poaching of elephants by giving Seattle and others a direct link to conservation in Africa.

In Africa, this must be intertwined with community involvement, so that is why we partner with other nonprofits whose missions center economic development. In this way we appeal to those supporters whose hot button is the poaching of endangered species, and we give those supporters a direct link to the front line. The collaboration aspect also provides a greater degree of oversight and accountability, because nobody wants to partner with a shady organization.

Can you explain a bit about the goals of ESPFund and how you’re meeting these goals?
We want to help communities secure areas where wildlife will be safe in the long run. We start by finding community groups that are trustworthy and motivated. Right now we are focused in Kenya, near Tsavo West National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro. We have partnered with a community group that falls between the areas tended to by larger nonprofits. We are getting their community rangers trained and equipped so they can work alongside the Kenya Wildlife Service and other private rangers, sharing resources and expanding their reach.

Our goal is to turn this patchwork of private and government rangers into a cohesive, effective network, and get them to a point where their operating area is free of poaching. Along the way we assist the community in forming a wildlife preserve within the protected area so they can bring in tourists and make a living by showing off their amazing part of the world. We then take the same model and apply it to a new area, and so on.

The group fighting for Elephants

What are the highlights of your work with ESPFund so far?
Working with the community rangers is amazing. We trained them on self-defense and first aid, along with training on Kenya’s wildlife laws and integrating with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Many of them are former poachers who are now passionate about saving wildlife. One of the rangers is a member of the Maasai tribe who rides his bicycle for three hours on rough dirt roads to get to get to the patrol area. That’s dedication!

We also recently promoted the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in Seattle where we had Tom Skerritt speak, along with Sam Wasser from the UW and Wendie Wendt from Big Life. It was part of a worldwide awareness-raising campaign, and we made many contacts around the world that we will work with in the near future. Also, working with the leaders of other nonprofits, planning and strategizing, is promising and encouraging for the future of wildlife in East Africa.

What’s next for you and the Fund?
The elephants are coming! They will be making a stand in Seattle. Look for the Elephants’ Last Stand in the coming months around the city. This will be a large fundraiser. As soon as funds are available, we will be focusing on building a ranger base in Kenya, getting rangers trained by KWS and better equipped, and expanding our efforts into Tanzania.

How can people help your cause?
We need help in all forms! We need contacts and introductions to people and organizations that want to save wildlife.  Donations of funds and outdoor equipment are sorely needed. (editor’s note: Look for the Donate Now button on the ESPFund home page)

We make every dollar count and not a cent is spent on overhead costs. Every member of our organization is donating their time and energy, and I personally oversee the allocation of all assets. We need someone with WordPress expertise to help with our website, and we need motivated and reliable people to join our fundraising committee. A graphic designer is needed for flyer production and other graphics. Soon we will need adventurous volunteers to come to Kenya and help build a ranger base. Lastly, I direct you to our What You Can Do page.

It is imperative that everyone who cares about wildlife starts to think much more frequently about doing what they can to save the animals we have left. And if you care about African wildlife and want to help save it, we want to hear from you.

Anything else you would like to add?
Well, yes, if I may step onto my soapbox for a bit, I would like to close with this:

For thousands of years elephants have been persecuted, while simultaneously revered for their intelligence, compassion, and “godliness.” King Solomon, Roman emperors, and countless ancient kings and leaders in Europe, while hunting the elephants for their ivory and using them for war, along with philosophers like Aristotle, Pliney, and Aelian, all praised the elephants for their power, intelligence, community spirit, and moral virtues. Edward Topsell, a naturalist and parson in the 1600’s, summed elephants up by saying “there is no creature among all the beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisdom of almighty god as the elephant.”

There are many authors, scientists, conservationists, and even the occasional politician, all saying that the wild is vanished, that the end of nature is here. Personally, I agree with them. I have seen it in what most people consider the wildest place on earth: Africa. The African wild is gone, taken over by overpopulation and corporate and political interests. We as humans have successfully tamed, bent, and broken nonhuman life to our desires, and we have proven our dominance over our surroundings, to our own detriment. And we are continuing to do so by continuing to believe and act as if we are separate from other life forms, and smarter than other life forms. In the coming years we will see iconic species after species disappear forever from earth because we failed to respect their instinctual desire for contentment and survival, and we failed to understand that our own survival is intertwined with theirs.

There seems to be a collective view that as long as there is a dam providing us power, a farm providing us food, a factory providing us gadgets and technology, and our 401k is growing, then we have what we need and everyone and everything else is either extra or irrelevant. We forgot that we need nature. Nature does not need us, but we need nature for our own survival. It is easy to forget we need nature, because the day-to-day changes in our surroundings are so minute that we barely notice the slow deterioration of our environment. But when we step back and look at the changes of our planet on a decade by decade basis, then we see how much things have “progressed.”

I believe we as humans on this earth are at a critical point, a point where if we are not actively working to create positive change, then we are actively hurting ourselves and our future as a species. It is time for each of us to change course and show our dominance in new ways. By showing respect for all other creatures and their habitats, we can show that the new dominance is a spirit of protectiveness, humility, and cooperation. It is the only way that we can protect our own future as a species.

ESPFund logo

Thank you Scott! I’m happy to be involved is such a noble and urgent cause.

It’s Veganuary!

Go to the gym. Eat healthy. Quit smoking. A new year means a new outlook.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Going vegan is an excellent resolution and January is the perfect time to take the plunge.

Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring people to go vegan for the month of January. The folks at Veganuary will help you stick with your goals with vegan products, recipes, and info about eating out. And after a month, you’ll have created a new habit that you likely won’t want to break.

Veganuary is in its third year, and offers info on health and nutrition, the environmental impacts of going vegan and of course, the benefit to the animals.

On the website, you’ll also find profiles of vegans, including yours truly.

Sign up and register on the website today–it’s never too late to be vegan!

veganuary

Driftwood Magazine

Have you heard about Driftwood Magazine? It’s a travel and culture digest for the graduated vegan. Driftwood is filling a niche in the vegan magazine market. Many magazines already exist to help new vegans, but there aren’t a lot of publications for people who want more than the basics.

Driftwood is online already and a quarterly print publication will start up this summer. I like that the print edition will be on high-quality paper so it’s a collector’s piece, not another throwaway item.

I recently had the opportunity to be profiled on Driftwood’s Vegan Faces page:

my vegan face profile

Photo by Holly Feral, Driftwood Magazine

Have a look at all the other fantastic vegans on the Vegan Faces page, all with their own unique and inspiring stories.

If you’re vegan, you can submit your photo and info for consideration. Check out the Vegan Faces section of the Contribute page. As if you needed more reasons to participate, each week, Driftwood Magazine is giving away rewards from vegan businesses to one photographer who submits to vegan faces.

What are you waiting for?

Update: Driftwood just launched a Kickstarter. Check it out and help get the magazine off the ground!