Lions and cows and dogs, oh my!

Cecil the Lion, as he was known, was a lion who lived in Zimbabwe. You’ve probably seen the media storm and public outrage this week about his murder. A wealthy American paid to hunt down Cecil—at night, by luring him out of a preserve—and shoot him with a crossbow.

a lion similar to Cecil

It was nothing but a cowardly act by a small-minded trophy hunter, hell-bent on proving his sense of worth by killing others. The man—a dentist from Minnesota—as a complete sociopath and waste of space. But I digress.

What I learned from the frenzy this week is that it pays to have a name. Cecil was a lion who’d been photographed by tourists for years (he was 12 or 13). He was GPS-collared and was part of an Oxford University study. But he was no different from many other lions that wealthy westerners (usually Americans) pay to kill. Six hundred lions are killed in trophy hunts every year, according to National Geographic.

Cecil sparked public outcry because he was well-known. In the same way we mourn for a celebrity’s death, but not the random people who also die.

For most people, the lion is a majestic creature. King of the jungle. We don’t associate them with food or clothing. That’s another thing Cecil had going for him. People around the world have issued hate mail and death threats to Cecil’s killer, and vigils and protests have sprung up at the man’s business.

Most of the people disgusted with Cecil’s death likely also eat and wear other animals. It’s a disconnect. Melanie Joy addresses this topic in-depth in her book, Why we Love Dogs, Eat pigs, and Wear Cows. This phenomenon (of loving some animals and eating others) she calls carnism. I encourage you to read the book and see how people compartmentalize and justify this discrepancy.

It’s okay to mourn for Cecil. His death was a tragedy. His pride is in jeopardy, and his cubs will likely be killed by competing lions. But we need to also mourn for the millions of dogs and cats who are euthanized each year because they have no homes. And for the billions of farmed animals whose lives are brutal and short. They are all as precious as Cecil and as deserving of life.

We can’t stop evil people from hunting (although signing the petition to ask Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits or the petition to include lions on the endangered species list would help). But we can adopt dogs and cats and never buy from breeders. And we can choose to not eat animals.

If you’re not already, please choose veg. For the countless animals just like Cecil, who are worthy of our admiration and who want to live.

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Doctor’s orders?

“Let food be thy medicine.”

“You are what you eat.”

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

apple

We’ve heard these sayings before, but step into a doctor’s office and you’ll likely not be guided toward eating well. Doctors are great at things like diagnosing disease, performing surgery, and prescribing drugs. But I’ve learned that very few are trained in nutrition.

A vegetarian friend of mine who was low on iron started eating meat again—on her doctor’s orders! I told her cashews, kidney beans, quinoa, spinach and tempeh are all great sources of iron. Her doctor never told her that—or even recommended a supplement.

The doctor I saw last week for my checkup was just as bad. When he found out I’m vegan, he told me “it’s the riskiest diet.” He then recommended goat’s milk, since I can’t drink cow’s milk. I had to tell him goats are animals and their secretions aren’t vegan!

He told me to be careful because there are certain amino acids that are found only in meat. I said, “you mean protein?” He nodded. I asked him how cows and other herbivores get their protein. He referred me to a nutritionist.

The truth is, plants have protein. Plant proteins are referred to as “incomplete” only because they don’t match our human amino acid profile. But they are not “incomplete” when it comes to fulfilling our dietary needs.

Not all medical schools require training in nutrition, and the ones that do, require only a few hours. I’ve completed the Plant-based Nutrition Certificate program through eCornell, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, it has given me more nutrition training than most doctors have.

I worry for people who trust doctors blindly. For people considering veganism, a doctor’s warning like the one I heard might convince them not to try it. A whole-food, plant-based diet is a healthy choice—and most doctors aren’t aware.

There was a time when doctors recommended cigarettes as a way to relieve nerves. What doctors say about nutrition likely isn’t gospel. I’m on a quest to find a vegan—or nutritionally-aware—doctor.

Until then, here are a few good resources:

Dr. John McDougall
Dr. Michael Greger
Ginny Messina
Plant-Based Dietitian
PCRM

Vegan Philadelphia

I got to spend the 4th of July weekend in the City of Brotherly Love. My friend Donna and I enjoyed all the city had to offer: shopping, art, American history, and of course, food.

Philly is a great city to be vegan. We tried a few different vegan restaurants and found vegan options at omni restaurants. People knew what vegan was and were happy to accommodate me. Here’s the rundown:

Blackbird Pizzeria is a small, all-vegan casual dining environment. Order at the counter and your food will be brought to the table. I didn’t have a chance to try their pizza because I had a vegan Philly cheesesteak and the hottest seitan wings I’ve ever had. This meal was delicious! The cheesesteak was seitan-based too, making this a gluten-licious meal. The wings had a cool dipping sauce that redeemed me after every scorching bite.

blackbird pizzeria

Vedge is the opposite of Blackbird. A vegan fine dining experience, reservations recommended. The plates were small and artistic, making it perfect to try a starter, hot course, and side. I didn’t have a lot of room for dessert, but I ordered one anyway. We had soup, salad, golden beets, grilled tofu, Brussels sprouts, and cheesecake. Their cocktails are beautiful and refreshing.

vedge

Charlie was a Sinner is a dimly-lit fancy vegan bar. Small plates are great to nibble on while enjoying a cocktail. The kitchen is open late. I wasn’t too hungry at midnight, but I tried the crab cakes anyway.

crab cakes

At El Vez, the waiter helped me pick out tacos that I could veganize. It’s worth a stop at this restaurant for their house-made guac alone. The frozen cocktails are an added bonus.

tacos

The menu at Fuel proudly states that all salads and entrees can be made vegan, so that’s what I did. I had a healthy sandwich with tofu and tons of veggies. It was flavorful and healthy.

sandwich

While exploring the city, we grabbed quick meals here and there. It seemed like every place had at least a veggie burger—even the burger stand in Franklin Park!

veggie burger

The avocado toast with gazpacho and salad that we ate on the patio of a cute sandwich shop was a nice treat on a hot day.

toast and soup

We didn’t get a chance to try Hip City Veg or V Street, so I have at least two more reasons to go back to Philly.

Also, those wings!

The Awareness

The Awareness, a novel by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle, is an exciting tale that follows four animals—a traveling circus elephant, a pet dog in New York, a pig in a factory farm, and a bear in the forest—as they each become “aware.”awarenessOn one specific day, all the mammals of the world gain a level of consciousness they’ve never had before. They are aware of human-animal relationships, they talk, they plot, and they begin a war against humans.

Each of the storylines in the book follow animals with unique and different relationships to humans: pet, slave, food, wildlife. Readers get a wonderful glimpse into the thoughts and conflicts the animals face as they talk through their dilemmas.

The animals talk to each other and to humans. The events and actions were the stuff of fantasy, but this story was so believable. I’ve always talked to animals, and I love stories involving talking animals, so suspending my disbelieve came easily.

The animals’ own stories are complex and gripping and I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a great book that gets one thinking about the lives of animals, their emotions, and our relationship to them. But it’s also a great story that will keep you reading to see what’s next.

Vegan profile #8: Jonathan Rosenberry

Name: Jonathan Rosenberry
Age: 27
Occupation: Freelance videographer

How long have you been vegan? I’ve been vegan for 1 year and 1 month.

Jonathan's 50-mile run

Jon, finishing his first ultra marathon (50-mile run)

Why did you choose to be vegan?
I chose to be vegan when I learned that it was the best thing to do for my health, the animals and this planet. I just see it as a win-win-win situation. I’m nervous about what will happen to our planet in 20 years if the majority of society does not adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet. Therefore, I want to spread the message by leading as an example.

Biggest challenge:
The biggest challenge for me was facing belief differences with my family and friends and in social gatherings. But once I overcame that fear, I realized I could embrace those moments of discomfort to spread awareness to others. Someone always asks, “so why don’t you eat meat?” And I can’t wait for that question because it’s such a good conversation starter and a great way to casually inform others about the issues of factory farming and what challenges our planet faces in years to come. My second favorite question is “so where do you get your protein from?” I get so much joy from this question and love educating people about the nutritional value of a vegan diet.

Best reward:
The biggest reward is to see those around me become influenced by my diet and beliefs. For example, after educating my dad more about the health benefits of veganism and having him watch Forks Over Knives, I got a text from him saying he had just thrown away all the dairy in the fridge and was going to try being vegan. He used to eat chicken, fish and dairy products, so to hear him say that made me so happy. And he’s been mostly vegan for several months now. Even just hearing from an omnivorous family or friend that they ate a vegan meal or made a vegan dinner is really exciting to me.

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.?
I’ve been a little hesitant to go full force into animal rights participation and vegan outreach because I was nervous about being confrontational, but I have taken baby steps into activism and leafleting and I do it in my own style and it feels really good be a part of it. Now I volunteer about once a week and have been on a leafleting tour through Vancouver, Canada with The Humane League.

Advice for new vegans:
There is so much advice I would like to share with new vegans or those thinking about becoming vegan. I jumped from being a pescetarian to being a vegan overnight which worked for me, but it may not be for everyone. I have found that if I give myself a rule or deadline to do something then I will actually do it. I made a rule that on my birthday, I would become vegan for one year, then after that one year I could change back if I felt it wasn’t right for me. But once I made the jump I never looked back, and now over one year later, I plan on staying vegan for the rest of my life. I like to think that not everyone needs to be a militant vegan if they’re afraid about the switch, just do what you can and do what you feel is right. I highly recommend getting a Vitamix or a decent blender, because making smoothies is so fun, easy and delicious! Just make sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in your diet.

Parting words:
Being vegan has been the best and most life changing decision I’ve ever made. It has positively affected my relationships, athletic abilities, achievements, and now I have a better outlook on life.

Keep up with Jonathan and check out his:

facebook page
instagram
cinematography portfolio

~

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

Vida Vegan Con 2015

Two years ago, I wrote about Vida Vegan Con II, the vegan blogger conference I attended in Portland.

This past weekend was VVCIII, the third–and final–conference. Last time I learned so much and met so many great people, and I couldn’t wait to pick up where I left off.

I flew into Austin, Texas on Thursday and met up with friends at Counter Culture, a vegan diner. I loved walking onto a restaurant in a new city and seeing familiar faces. During our meal a few others from the last VVC said hello. The city was buzzing with vegans already!

counter culture meal

A burrito and potato salad to kick off the weekend

Friday, vegans from around the country–and world–convened on the Vegan Bazaar. We nibbled on vegan cheese from Miyoko’s Creamery (and got to meet the wonderful Miyoko herself). We heard Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, speak at a breakout session. And we got to shop!

I finally met Nikki, the owner of CykoChik Custom Handbags (and yes I bought a tote I’d been eyeing for a while).

cykochik

I also met Kat, creator of Kick Butt Boots–custom, handmade vegan cowboy boots. Everyone had their eye on a striking red pair. How cute would they be with jeans or a fun, flowy dress?

kick butt boots

We sampled food (The Vegan Nom and Cool Beans food trucks stole the show), bought clothing, jewelry and beauty products and then headed our separate ways. I ended up having drinks at a T.O.F.U Magazine-hosted album release party and then dancing the night away with friends at a bar playing 80s dance music.

Saturday was the first official day of the conference. We picked up our swag bags and we were all treated to a delicious breakfast buffet and coffee bar with so many creamer options: coconut, almond, hemp, soy–awesome!

I attended sessions on science, feminism, health, entrepreneurship, and activism. Lunch was also fantastic. We filled up on the most delicious foods. The day was so inspiring. I learned so much, met new people, and was motivated to do more with blogging and veganism in general.

That evening, we attended Capital City Bakery’s third-year anniversary. I’ve never seem so many people in line to buy cupcakes, and I’d never seen people so happy to be in a line!

capital city bakeryUpton’s Naturals was also on hand, serving up BBQ jackfruit sandwiches. I’ve never had pulled pork, and you’ll never need to, with this cruelty-free version.

Upton's BBQ Jackfruit sandwich

After eating sweet and savory goodness, a few of us bar-hopped until, one by one, we faded. Our crew got smaller as the night got later and eventually I also retreated to my apartment.

Sunday was another packed day of conference sessions, buffets, and socializing. The conference ended in an emotional goodbye and heartfelt thanks to the three founders who turned a dream into a reality and changed the lives of so many others. It was bittersweet to say the least. I’m sad to see VVC come to an end, but I’m excited for what’s next. There’s a new vegan economy springing up and I can sense a change for how people eat, how people think about animals, and the types of businesses that will grown out of this conference.

I loved seeing how bloggers had evolved and progressed. Several attendees had written cookbooks or started vegan businesses since I’d seen them last. VVC played a big part in that, I’m sure. It helped so many of us grow.

After a teary farewell, we ended on a high note. Burgers at Arlo’s! Austin, with its warm nights, knows how to do patios. Days were indoors at the conference but nights were for being out. Sunday evening was no different. We socialized, drank margaritas, and ate burgers and ice cream (from Sweet Ritual) on the patio of Cheer Up Charlie’s.

kale margarita

Monday, I squeezed in one last breakfast with a group from the conference and then hopped over (see what I did there?) to Rabbit Food Grocery to check out the vegan nibbles and wares (rumor has it I bought another bag, but you’ll have to check my fashion blog to see if that’s true).

vvc goodbye breakfast

The weekend was as fun as this post is long. But unlike a too-long post, I didn’t want the weekend to end. It might seem like us bloggers were food obsessed. Perhaps. But it’s because we are enjoying and promoting a world that could be. A world without animal exploitation. It’s a marvelous goal and it makes us passionate and keeps us motivated.

Special thanks to Janessa, Jess and Michelle, without whom none of this would be possible.

Wool-free carpets

When extending veganism beyond your diet, you might think about alternatives to leather shoes and bags. An often overlooked home décor product is carpeting.

Rugs are often made of wool (here’s why wool isn’t an ethical product). Sometimes, you’ll even see leather or leather-trimmed rugs. And sheepskin and cowhide rugs are not byproducts! Fortunately, it’s easy to find alternatives. Let’s look at some options for area rugs and broadloom:

Wall-to-wall

Wall-to-wall wool carpet is more cost-prohibitive that synthetic broadloom so isn’t as common. When shopping for carpet rolls, you’ll notice that most carpeting is synthetic.

Looking for natural alternatives? Wall-to-wall sisal is available at places like sisalcarpet.com, Sustainable Lifestyles, and Fibreworks. It’s available is a range of prices, but seems to be more expensive than synthetic wall-to-wall.

Area rugs

Wool is a common ingredient in area rugs. A simple swap would be to buy a synthetic version. If you see ingredients like nylon, latex, polyester and polypropylene, you’ll know the rug is synthetic.

If petrochemicals are a concern, there’s a host of animal-free natural fibers to choose from too. Cotton, hemp, jute, seagrass, sisal, bamboo, and linen rugs are great options. Some will look more rustic and, well, natural, but you can find a style and color to suit your décor.

Flor carpets

I’m a fan of Flor, a system of carpet squares that you can use to create rugs in any size or shape you’d like. Most are nylon (some are wool, so check the specs). They’re made with recycled backing and meet or exceed VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions standards. If pets, kids, or sloppy guests make a mess, you can replace a tile, not the entire rug. They come in a myriad of styles and colors—from solid, to stripes, and even animal prints. If you crave sophistication, their Better than Wool collection will impress.

Overstock.com has a huge selection of area rugs that you can sort by size, color and material (including synthetic versions of Persian/Oriental styles). Home Decorators has sections for natural and synthetic rugs too. You can even check out Target and Ikea’s sites for ideas.

Wall-to-wall

Wall-to-wall wool is more cost-prohibitive, and isn’t as common, but it’s considered the gold standard. Most wall-to-wall carpeting is synthetic.

Looking for natural alternatives? Wall-to-wall sisal is available at places like sisalcarpet.com, Sustainable Lifestyles, and Fibreworks. It’s available is a range of prices, but seems to be more expensive than synthetic wall-to-wall.