Kite Hill Cheese

Another nail in the coffin of dairy.

Kite Hill vegan brie

I recently tried a vegan brie–yes, brie–by California-based company, Kite Hill. Kite Hill specializes in hand-crafted, artisanal, nut-based cheeses.

When you read that description, you might think “pricy,” but you can’t put a price on compassion. The wheel of brie was about $12 at Whole Foods–and worth every penny. Cruelty-free, rich and smooth. Just like “real” cheese. Because it is real! It’s made with macadamia nuts.

And, with such a rich product, a little goes a long way. I served the brie with crackers and apples. I went through about a third of it so I saved the rest for two other occasions. Wine and cheese nights are always fun to have and with this brie, everyone is happy.

I hope you get to try Kite Hill cheese. So many people tell me that their love of cheese is what prevents them from going vegan. With Kite Hill, you’ll know that no cows were harmed. No calves were denied a mother.

You can have your cheese and be vegan too!

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Last night I attended the Seattle premier of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. And wow, what an eye-opener. It’s the REAL Inconvenient Truth!

Trailer:

The show played to a sold-out crowd at a popular mainstream cinema and was followed by a Q&A with producers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn.

Cowspiracy is a documentary that follows Anderson as he tried to find out why mainstream environmental groups like Greenpeace and The Sierra Club aren’t talking about the main cause of destruction to the planet: animal agriculture.

Even government departments that promote energy savings such as low-flow shower heads and better lightbulbs avoid the issue. There was so much ignorance, denial, and greenwashing that you start to think everyone’s crazy–or maybe you are!

Unlike Meat Your Meat or Earthlings, with graphic scenes and animal rights as the main focus, Cowspiracy is an environmental film–but one that concludes animals suffer greatly in our current food production system and the environment cannot survive with the current state of animal agriculture. Adopting a plant-based diet is the only true way to make a difference and, quite literally, save the world.

Unfortunately, Big-Ag (corporations that run the animal agriculture industries) is a powerful force with gobs of money and loads of politicians and lobbyists on its side.

With fantastic interviews with the likes of Howard Lyman, Will Tuttle, and Michael Pollen (and head-scratching ones from people at Greenpeace, the Department of Water Resources, and The Sierra Club), you’ll follow the plot like a suspense movie.

For a few tidbits (to tie you over until the screening comes to your town), here’s the info about the environmental footprint of a single hamburger:

Here’s a fascinating short clip about how ranching is decimating wildlife:

And finally, a clip about the exploding human population and the farm animals raised for food:

There’s only one short clip in the film that shows overt animal cruelty, and you’ll know when it’s coming if you need to turn away. However, it’s followed by a happy animal scene that still brings joyous tears to my eyes.

This film shares the truth and we shouldn’t turn away from that. Despite the grim realities, there is hope in the message. The remedy is simple:

Go vegan!

cowspiracy cow

Tail docking and ear cropping

Heidi Montag reportedly had 10 cosmetic procedures done in a single day. Well, whatever you think of that (or her), at least she was a consenting adult.

Dogs are sometimes subjected to amputations when they’re just puppies. Two procedures affect dogs of one breed or another–and they’re both unnecessary and cruel.

Tail docking

Docking is the process of severing the end of a dog’s spinal cord at the dock (or rump). It’s done when puppies are just a few days old–usually without anesthetic! Historically, people docked the tails of ratters, fighters and bull baiters (less for an opponent to grab). But two wrongs don’t make a right! Sometimes docking is done to increase speed or prevent injuries “in the field.” Again, if you’re not racing dogs or hunting with them, this is a moot issue.

I got my dog from a rescue when he was five years old. He already had his tail removed. Even people who buy puppies from breeders (something I do not condone) generally buy their dogs at eight weeks of age–too late to save their tails. Docking inflicts unnecessary pain on dogs and can cause nerve problems. Several countries, such as Australia, Norway, and Turkey, ban it outright. Besides, dogs communicate by using their tails and need them to send messages. It’s hard for other dogs to read a docked dog’s body language. And tails help a dog balance–leave them on!

Frankie

Frankie is a rat terrier and has naturally upright ears (one was torn in an accident and doesn’t stand up anymore). His tail was cropped, however.

Ear cropping

Cropping is the amputation of part of the ear in an effort to make the ear erect. A vet performs the procedure while the dog is under local anesthesia (although unscrupulous people have been known to try DIY versions, which can lead to blood loss, infection, mutilation, and death).

Cropping was historically done on dogs used for fighting, with the thinking being the ear flaps are something for the opposing animal to sink his teeth into. That’s why you’ll see certain “tough” breeds with cropped ears–Doberman pinschers, boxers, and pit bulls come to mind. Today, though, it’s a cosmetic procedure.

boxer puppy

This sad-looking puppy has her ears taped while they heal from being cropped.

Cropping is usually done when puppies are between two and three months of age. Sadly, instead of learning to socialize and explore the world, these dogs are recuperating from surgery with splints on their ears. They are bandaged up for three weeks and need twice-daily wound cleanings. So instead of bonding with my dog and helping her learn new things, she gets to associate me with pain and fear. No thanks!

Several countries, including Belgium, Germany, and South Africa have banned ear cropping.

Some dogs, like rat terriers and German Shepherds have naturally erect ears. If you love the look of upright, pointy ears, consider adopting a dog with that style of ear already. If looks are more important to you than the well-being of an animal, may I suggest a classic car instead!

If you don’t like the idea of inflicting unnecessary pain on a dog, you probably aren’t a fan of cropping and docking. Spread the word and stop the cruelty!

The winner of the Farm Dog Naturals giveaway is…

…Anika from Seattle Vegan Score!

giveaway

Congratulations to Anika for winning the Farm Dog Naturals contest I held a couple of weeks ago. Anika tweeted about the giveaway, which got her name added to the draw.

Farm Dog Naturals is an all-natural, all-vegan line of herbal dog care products. You can learn more about them on their website and in my original post in this blog.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the giveaway. If you didn’t win, you can still try Farm Dog Naturals. They sell products on their site and have a list of retailers who carry their products.

Anika has a very special dog. When the products arrive at her place, she’ll use them to pamper Louise.

Louise

Three-year-old Louise knows how important it is to have safe and gentle products that aren’t tested on animals. You see, she is a former laboratory dog and knows first-hand how bad life can be.

I can’t think of a better winner for the contest. Louise will enjoy her calming remedy and soothing salves. Anika can use the sage smudge stick and odor remover.

Farm Dog products

Congratulations again Anika and Louise!

 

Veganniversary

I missed my vegan anniversary (veganniversary?). April marked 14 years that I’ve been vegan.

In my mind, that’s a good thing. Losing track means being vegan is no biggie; it’s a natural part of my life. I’m not trying hard to make it to the next milestone. It is part of who I am.

vegan cake

Of course it’s vegan! (I took this picture at Violet Sweet Shoppe–and then I added the 4)

I remember the date, only because April is the month I moved from Canada to the USA. I’d read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America in 1998 and immediately cut out milk. I stopped eating eggs (except the ones hidden in baked goods). Cheese was the one thing I hung onto.

But a big move, an empty fridge, new grocery stores, restaurants, friends, and habits. What a perfect time to draw a line in the sand, step over it, and go vegan.

I’ve never successfully reinvented myself (partly because I bring myself with me everywhere I move); however, I did use April 2000 as a time to reinvent my eating habits.

I was already a staunch animal advocate and long-time vegetarian. Moving and “starting over” was a great impetus for taking the big leap.

After I settled down in Seattle, I connected with the Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN), met some terrific (smart, funny, passionate) animal rights people, and plugged into AR events around town.

That was it. It stuck. But it wasn’t a chore. It was–and is–an uplifting experience. Being vegan fills me with joy! I’m healthier for it, and I know I’m making a difference to animals who have no voice.

Sure, I’ve seen my share of unspeakable horrors in undercover videos and exposés. I’ve read about injustices and cruelty to animals that I never could have imagined in my worst nightmares. But I need to know the truth–and fight for those who can’t. Turning away doesn’t stop the cruelty.

I’ve also learned that it’s easy to burn out. So I make sure I lead a balanced life, complete with hobbies, interests, friends, and work. As important as it is to fight for animals, I know it’s also important to unwind, relax, recharge, and enjoy life.

I really believe we’re on the cusp of the next big social justice movement. I want to be on the right side of history. When generations from now, people ask why these evils happened, and who fought for the animals, I will know that I did. In some small way, I will have played a part in changing the world.

Grandiose? Perhaps. But hope and optimism fuel me. Well, that and delicious vegan food.

Farm Dog Naturals review and giveaway

I met up recently with Rita Hogan, cofounder of Farm Dog Naturals, an all-natural, all-vegan line of herbal dog care products. I got to test some of the products and I’m also offering a giveaway so you can try them too!

Farm Dog products

Farm Dog Naturals offers safe, effective herbal remedies for dogs. All products are natural, sustainable (herbs are grown on a local herb farm), free of animal products and GMOs. I love supporting small businesses with ethical practices, so I was thrilled to take home a sampling of their wares.

Farm Dog odor control products

Relief is a pet urine and odor remover–and it smells like lavender! It’s ideal for removing (not masking) odors left from accidents. I sprayed it on Frankie’s dog bed and in the litter boxes. A few spritzes in my car got rid of the dog odor in there. Frankie wanted to help test the product too so, as if on cue, he rolled around in bird poop. I wiped him off and deodorized him! That’s how gentle and safe the products are. Of course I kept the spray away from his eyes.

Relief is sold in a 24 oz bottle with a small amount of concentrated formula in it. Just add water and you’ve got your supply. When you need more, you can order a refill–the concentrate in a small bottle. Farm Dog encourages reusing containers (plus, it cuts down on shipping costs). Brilliant!

Rejoice is a smudge stick handcrafted from California white sage. I lit my stick and waved it around to get rid of kitty litter odors and what I call “old dog smell.” It’s great for getting rid of cooking odors too.

Farm Dog salves

Salvation and Restore are two salves that every dog should have. Salvation soothes irritated skin and sore paw and is great for tender ears and crusty noses. It speeds healing and hair regrowth and helps heal topical yeast in ears, wrinkles and in between toes. Restore is great for wounds, hot spots, itchy skin, flea dermatitis, and lick granulomas. It stops itching on contact.

I love that there are natural products for common issues that we often run to the vet for. Why put a dog on antibiotics, steroids, or other harsher regiments? I personally don’t like to go to the doctor for every little thing. Having a few safe tricks in my pocket to help my dog (and help him avoid the vet) is wonderful.

Farm Dog stress reliever

Relax is a stress and anxiety remedy that is applied directly to a dog’s ear flaps and neck. It’s great for nervous dogs, especially before fireworks, thunderstorms, a trip to the vet, or when company comes over.

I really appreciate their minimal packaging and how 2% of each sale goes toward a tree-planting initiative at Sound Forest.

Farm Dogs was founded in 2007 by two like-minded women. Rita, whom I met with, was working in pug rescue in Tennessee when she met Lynn, the owner of an all-natural dog supply store and dog wash. They had similar needs for natural, sustainable dog products and decided to fill the void themselves.

Giveaway

To enter the giveaway, like or comment on this post, on the Instagram write-up, on my Facebook page or tweet @jeaniebellini and tell me why you’d like to try Farm Dog Naturals (use the hashtag #Farmdognaturals in your tweet).

Farm Dog giveaway

On June 5th, 2014, I’ll randomly select a winner from the entries and I’ll send the winner the sample package: a 4 oz bottle of Relief, a mini Rejoice smudge stick, 1 oz jar of Salvation, a 1 oz jar of Restore, and a 1 oz container of Relax. Open to US residents.

If you don’t win, you can look for Farm Dog Naturals at one of the retailers listed on their site, or order directly from Farm Dog Naturals.

International Respect for Chickens Day

Today, Star Wars fan and punsters are repeating “May the Forth” be with you. I’ll add “May you go Forth with kindness for chickens.” For today is also International Respect for Chickens Day, a project launched by United Poultry Concerns.

chicken on the go at Pasado'sI’ve met many people who tell me they’ve cut back on red meat or switched from beef to chicken. Whether for health or ethics, this isn’t a good strategy. Chickens are one of the most abused animals on the planet–from the eggs we eat to the way their tiny bodies are stressed in the process of “raising” them for meat.

I’m against eating any animals, but what strikes me as odd about switching from beef to chicken is that because chickens are small, so many more lives are lost to harvest the same quantities of meat.

Here are some facts about chickens that show how wonderful they are and why they shouldn’t become a meal:

Hens are terrific mothers – Hens lay a clutch of eggs and care for them by keeping them warm under their bodies and carefully turning them over several times a day. When the checks hatch, hens protect their young and hide them under their wings when predators are around.

Roosters are great protectors – Roosters watch over their flocks, alert hens to danger, and will fight off predators. If roosters find food, they will call their families over to share the treat.a hen in Hawaii

Chickens are smart – They communicate, they can count, they express their feelings, they feel joy, pain and sorrow. They will help other animals, and if given the chance, are wonderful members of a family. They are as social and individual as any dog or cat.

I heard about a chicken who adopted a duck egg. She took care of the egg, just as she did with the other eggs she laid. When the duckling hatched, she walked him over to water, so he could swim. She loved and cared for that duck, and she knew he wasn’t a chick.

Nine billion chickens are killed for food every year in the US alone–and they are exempt from animal cruelty laws.

What to do?

  • Please don’t eat chickens or their eggs. There are so many alternatives like Beyond Chicken, Ener-G Egg Replacer. I wrote about egg substitutes earlier on this blog. And UPC has a wealth of chicken-free recipes too.
  • Contact your federal and state senators and urge them to ban debeaking and battery cages, and to include poultry under the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Tell your friends and family about how wonderful chickens are and that they shouldn’t be eaten.

May is International Respect for Chickens Month, so let’s keep the momentum and spread the word about these wonderful animals who are so mistreated.

The Naked Truth: An evening with Ingrid Newkirk

Ingrid with chickenThis past Thursday, I was one of a few hundred lucky souls who get to see Ingrid Newkirk speak in Seattle. Newkirk is the president and founder of PETA. The event was sold out, and the room was packed. She spoke about the future of animal rights.

I have a newfound respect for PETA and Ingrid Newkirk, in particular. PETA is often seen as a polarizing organization, but that’s not a bad thing.

Newkirk is an eloquent, humble speaker and a captivating storyteller. I didn’t feel like I was being preached to or getting a sales pitch. Her words were genuine, heartfelt, and passionate.

PETA is responsible for bringing the animal rights movement into the mainstream. Founded in 1980, PETA’s first act was exposing footage of an animal research lab–an act that resulted if the first ever police raid in the USA of an animal research facility. She and others helping her, got the Animal Welfare Act changed as a result of the cruelty they exposed.

The influence of PETA is immeasurable. I was never not a fan, but I was not a flag-waving PETA apologist. Well, I am now. Just recently, thanks to PETA many victories for animals have taken place, including:

  • The bull hook (a cruel device used to beat elephants into submission) got banned in LA County.
  • A bill was introduced in California that would end orca shows statewide, at places like SeaWorld.
  • Several bears, languishing in a pit in Georgia, were rescued and sent to a sanctuary.
  • The EU is banning cosmetic testing on animals.
  • Indian courts have agreed to release Sundar the elephant to a sanctuary.
  • Major retailers like H&M have stopped selling angora.

And the list goes on. PETA is instrumental in changing the way people think about–and treat–animals. They have great lawyers who challenge the system. They know media (and social media) and use shock value to grab people’s attention. They will not let people get away with injustice to animals.

Whether it’s a celebrity who wears fur, a company that tests on animals, or a school abusing animals for “fun,” people know they can’t get away with it. PETA will find out–and they will come for them!

Newkirk said that it’s important to draw a line in the sand. To question and challenge, and never be silent. Every social justice movement faces challenges, makes people uncomfortable, and is defeated many times before it succeeds.

Claudine

After the presentation, my friend and fellow activist, Claudine Erlandson, received a PETA lifetime achievement award for her tireless work over the past three decades.

Simulab, creator of the TraumaMan Simulator, also received an award. They created an anatomical human-model surgical manikin for students to practice several surgical procedures–without using animals! They gave PETA a huge discount on 64 of these manikins. PETA donated them to doctor training programs in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Doctors will be better equipped to treat patients, patients will be in better hands, and animals’ lives will be spared.

Finally, we had delicious vegan desserts, like peanut butter and jam Nanaimo bars, and a goody bag from local, ethical cosmetics company, Gabriel. I received a pretty, peach nail polish and matching lip gloss.

The gift bag, snacks, and award recipients are all proof that it’s possible to live a cruelty-free live and adhere to PETA’s mantra: Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.

vegan treats

 

Slaving for your seafood?

Human rights and animal rights are often interconnected. Animal rights is a social justice movement and its participants are often involved in helping people too.

The dirtiest jobs in the animal food industries are often done by people who are abused like the animals in the system. They’re undocumented workers, undereducated and lacking in resources or language skills and they can’t speak up for themselves and their situations.

Most of the time, people have the option of walking away–the animals don’t. So I feel for the animals, not the perpetrators. Sometimes, however, the dire situations people find themselves in, ties their hands too.

One example of this interconnectedness is in the fishing industry. In Thailand, men from neighboring countries are tricked into working on fishing ships. Of course I wish people wouldn’t entertain the idea of decimating the ocean for a paycheck, but I haven’t walked in their shoes. I don’t know the poverty they face. I don’t know about their struggles to feed their families. I can’t judge.

fishing boat

With over 25,000 legal fishing vessels in Thailand, and a vast ocean at their shores, the illegal boats easily blend in. Like any seedy underworld activity, they go unnoticed. Migrant workers can be bought for about $600, but their lives are worth even less.

The slaves on fishing ships are smuggled from nearby countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, with the promise of a good job. Once on the ships, they’re overworked, denied pay, beaten and sometimes even killed.

It goes on because the money is lucrative, because the demand for cheap fish is high, and authorities don’t prosecute. Victims who escape and speak up are often punished.

Thailand is the second largest importer of seafood to the USA. It’s going to take consumers to stop slavery. We need to take a stand and say no to an industry that is relentlessly cruel to the environment, animals and people.

References:

On declawing

I’ve never liked the idea of declawing a cat–claws are part of who they are. That’s why my cats have theirs. I recently watched a riveting documentary called The Paw Project and it builds an airtight argument against declawing.

anti-declaw billboard

But my first cat–a kitten I’d found in my late teens–was declawed. I sent her in to have the procedure and I can share first-hand why I’d never do that again.

I wasn’t planning to get a cat. She found me I guess you could say. I lived in an apartment that didn’t encourage pets and if cats were to be allowed, they had to be declawed. I couldn’t afford to move, and I was too selfish to rehome the cat. For her best interests, I should have found a home where she’d be allowed to remain whole.

When I brought my cat back from the vet, she was in a lot of discomfort. To see her limping and favoring her front paws broke my heart. She left bloody footprints around the apartment for a week too–my first realization that declawing isn’t a simple procedure; it’s an amputation.

Declawing consists of removing the first joint of each toe–because cat’s claws grow from the bone. My cat endured ten amputations for no good reason. She couldn’t scratch carpets, walls, or furniture, but she also couldn’t stretch and climb like a normal cat. She was indoors-only, but one afternoon I had her on a harness and leash when a dog rushed onto the property and tried to maul her. She climbed the nearest tree, but without a grappling-hook grip, she fell back toward him. By sheer luck she reached a horizontal branch on her second try.

In her old age, she wobbled on arthritic feet and stopped using her litter box. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s common with declawed cats.

Cats need to scratch. It’s a territory marker (with both scent and visual clues). It’s good for their muscles too. I have a tall cat tree for my cats to climb and strategically placed scratching posts around my house. My cats prefer their posts to my furniture. In a few cases, I’ve had to put double-sided tape on sofa corners until they got the hint that the furniture isn’t for scratching. I trim my cats’ claws regularly too. No matter what, my cats’ wellbeing is more important than my sofa!

fistful of clawsCats’ claws are important for self-defense. They use them to fend off attackers and to make a quick getaway. Cat scratches hurt, but cat bites are more dangerous. If a cat loses her toes and claws, she’ll be more likely to bite. It’s better to adopt two kittens together (so they can roughhouse and learn about boundaries) or use toys–not hands–to play with an energetic cat.

If a cat experiences pain in the litter box (from a UTI or painful feet), he’ll likely associate the location as the source of the pain and change his behavior. With age, amputated toes often become arthritic and painful. Many cats who experience this will develop litter box issues.

Basically, removing claws doesn’t benefit the cat; it benefits only the owner. That’s why it’s unnecessary and uncalled for. If a piece of furniture is more important than a cat’s well-being, then maybe a cat isn’t the best choice. If someone is worried about junior being scratched, then adult supervision is needed. Teaching kids to play appropriately with cats, and never leaving little kids unattended with cats is the most sensible option.

Many countries and (as you’ll learn in The Paw Project) some cities in the USA have banned declawing. It’s barbaric and should be banned nationwide. I wasn’t educated on the risks and dangers of mutilating my cat with a declaw procedure. At the bare minimum, people need to know what they’re subjecting their cats to and what the outcomes are. I’m happy to report that my current vet is very anti-declawing. She won’t do the procedure. Instead, she educates cat guardians and works on changing problematic behavior.

I hope that’s the norm and that declawing will be sent to the history books.