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.

Maximizing your impact

I’m always trying to help animals. I adopted a dog and three cats. I give to animal organizations, and I don’t wear or eat animals or support companies that exploit them.

keys

It bothers me to see animals suffer; I even save worms if I see them struggling on the sidewalk. I haven’t gone to the gym in a while, but my keychain gym card makes a great worm scoop. I can’t walk away without doing something.

Still, I find myself thinking about how to do more. I write letters, fill out petitions, and I sometimes volunteer with NARN, a local animal rights organization, so I can tell others about a vegan life.

With ten billion animals killed for food in the USA every year, it’s easy to see why being vegan is the biggest way to make a difference. Well, that and getting others to go vegan!why vegan

That’s why I like to support Vegan Outreach. They’re a group that distributes booklets around the USA–and around the world. NARN gives out Vegan Outreach booklets at tabling events too. Leafleting makes a big difference and is changing hearts and minds. Here’s how:

People who get booklets often reduce their meat consumption, and sometimes go vegetarian or even vegan. For every two booklets handed out, about one animal is spared. And since each vegan doesn’t eat about 30 intensely confined animals a year, handing out 60 booklets gets results equivalent to one vegan.

With all the expenses of running the organization included, Vegan Outreach gets one booklet distributed per every 32 cents they receive. So based on the data that has come back so far, for about 64 cents, you can spare one animal from suffering. For less than $20, you can help get booklets in enough people’s hands to make the difference that one vegan makes. It’s safe to say leafleting is a great way to help a lot of animals.

If you’ve tried and tried to get your friends of family to go vegan, take a break, and hand out leaflets to strangers. They might be more receptive! Or, send a few dollars to Vegan Outreach so they can supply their awesome volunteers with booklets.

The future is vegan!

Hoot for Chimps

I recently attended Hoot, benefit gala for the residents who live at Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW. The gala was at Bell Harbor, an event space on Alaska Way in Seattle, with views of Puget Sound. What a wonderful excuse to dress up!

My husband and I started the evening by buying raffle tickets from our friends Carol and Rachel, who were volunteering at the event.

raffle

We listened to a live band while perusing the auction items and learning about the chimps’ interests and habits at interactive stations. I visited all seven stations and had my chimp passport stamped so I could enter a drawing.

At the stations we learned about Foxie’s love of troll dolls. That Jodie likes to make nests out of blankets. Jamie is the boss. Burrito loves food. Negra is besties with Burrito. Missy loves playing chase. Annie likes to wrestle.

Friends of ours bought a table’s worth of tickets so we could all sit together. In exchange for their generosity, and instead of paying them back, they asked only that we spend money at the gala. Done and done!

I bid on several items at the silent auction and won a Lush gift certificate and a gift certificate for Café Flora. During the live auction, which happened during dinner, I won a two nights’ stay at Someday Farm vegan B&B! I can’t wait to go.

Speaking of dinner, the all-vegan feast was scrumptious. I was happy that there weren’t meat dishes. People helping some animals by eating others doesn’t make sense to me. Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW got it right. We ate a wonderful tomato salad, lasagna, and best of all, cake from Violet Sweet Shoppe.

vegan dinner

Dessert was offered in a contest of sorts. The table that pledged the most money got to pick first. There were 20 tables and 20 cakes. We were 10th in line, and we got our peanut butter chocolate cake! But honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything Violet Sweet Shoppe makes.

Violet Sweet Shoppe's vegan cakes

The entire evening was smoothly run. There were lots of opportunities to contribute, but it was all fun, and never felt like a sales pitch. The wine was flowing, which I think was an effective way for people to loosen their purse strings! When all was said and done, we raised $179,000.

It’s important to remember that the evening was about seven wonderful animals who suffered for decades as research test subjects. I wrote about them in an earlier post. Please read their stories. The least we can do is provide some semblance of normalcy in their golden years. Humans made their lives a living hell and we owe it to them to give them the best lives possible. The gala raised a lot of money for the chimps, but with voracious appetites and regular vet needs, running the sanctuary is expensive. If you can, please make a donation. The gala is over for this year but the bills won’t stop coming in.

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

 

Horse racing: dying to win

If the Kentucky Derby and other horse races conjure up images of fancy hats and mint juleps, it’s time to take off the blinders.

Horse racing is big business, with no regard for the well-being of the horses.

Kentucky Derby

On average, 24 horses die on racetracks in the US every week. Even more are injured and killed before they ever see a race. About 30,000 foals are born every year, in the hopes that they’ll be a winner. Not all have what it takes. As a result, 10,000 thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico every year. The situation in other countries, like the UK, Australia and Israel, is just as grim.

Horses are routinely doped up on performance-enhancing medications and pain-masking drugs. For example, many horses are given thyroxine, a thyroid medication that amps up metabolism–whether they have thyroid issues or not. Lasix, meant to prevent bleeding in the lungs during extreme exercise, is used to dehydrate horses and make them lighter on race day. Conveniently, it masks other drugs in the horses’ systems too.

These young horses are exhausted, overworked, and often train and race with painful injuries. They aren’t rewarded for winning–even though their owners can pocket over a million dollars in a big race. One sad example is Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner. He died in 2002, in a Japanese slaughterhouse, after an unsuccessful stint as a stud. Horse Racing: Where winners are eaten.

The horse racing industry enslaves these horses and forces them to be athletes. Some don’t make the cut, but even the fast ones face a short, miserable life.

As with so many industries that exploit animals, humans are exploited too. Stable workers are often undocumented and work long, hard hours for little pay and often sleep in the barns and tack rooms, not the staff quarters.

What to do?

  • NEVER attend or bet on a horse race!
  • Support humans events (where people choose to compete) like track and field.
  • Watch this short exposé by PETA (warning: graphic language).
  • Read about the similar plight of horses in the UK.
  • Use this form to send a letter to your US representatives and senators urging them to increase penalties for doping. (Please click here if you live in the UK, here if you live in Canada, and here for all other international locations.)

Speciesism: The Movie

A few months ago, I got tired of waiting for Speciesism: The Movie to come to Seattle so I ordered the DVD from the Speciesism website.

speciesism imageWell, the joke is on me, because on Thursday, April 3rd, the Seattle premier of Speciesism: The Movie will be showing at Varsity Theater.

I’m going to the premier anyway. Director and star, Mark Devries, will be at the screening and will be leading a Q&A session afterward.

The film follows Devries across the country, as he sets out to figure out why humans see ourselves as the most important species and how we decide which animals are “food” and which are “pets.”

Devries was a college student when he made the film. He wasn’t a vegan; just a curious young man. He learned a lot on his journey, and you’ll get see his awakening as he talks to animal rights experts, people on the street, and people in the “food animal” industries. It’s an eye-opening film–sometimes harrowing, and surprisingly funny.

You won’t want to miss it! Hear first-hand how making this movie shaped and changed his ideas. Maybe it will change yours too!

When: Thursday, April 3rd at 7 pm
Where: Varsity Theatre, 4329 University Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98105

You can get tickets online.

Not in the Seattle area? Check out the Speciesism website for upcoming screenings or to get a DVD.

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.

The humble goldfish

Most people probably don’t give goldfish a lot of consideration, but I think the humble goldfish represents a lot of the animal issues vegans and animal activists are trying to solve.

Thomas Benjamin Kennington FishbowlFirst domesticated in China in the 10th century, goldfish aren’t captured, killed and eaten like their wild cousins, the carp. But pet goldfish don’t always have it easy either.

For a lot of kids, a goldfish is a first pet–the “test” animal to see if they’re ready for a dog or cat. Goldfish are seen as a simple creature with minimal needs, but the reality is they are smart and complex. They can recognize people, be trained to perform tricks, and can identify shapes and colors.

They are social creatures who enjoy other goldfish, and need at least 10-20 gallons of water with an enriched habitat and water filter, but they often languish alone in small, dirty fishbowls.

It may seem like goldfish are short-lived animals but they will live up to ten years if looked after properly. Inadequate care is likely the cause of most of their early deaths.

Unlike other pets, when a goldfish dies, he or she is often simply flushed down the toilet. Why grieve such a “disposable” pet? Some people don’t even wait for their pet fish to die. The toilet or local pond is seen as a good way to deal with an unwanted fish.

There are very few animals that a person can win at the fair, and the goldfish is one of them. It’s easy to see why people wouldn’t give proper care to a fish they didn’t plan on having.

Goldfish swallowing contests might conjure up frat prank from the 1950, but it’s still sometimes practiced. And though I think it’s an urban legend or attempt at humor, the goldfish platform was supposedly a style in the ’70s. Fortunately I’ve seen only replicas, complete with plastic fish.goldfish shoes

A large percentage of goldfish are raised as feeders for bigger fish and other animals like turtles. So while we might not eat them, goldfish are still raised for food.

Selectively bred for color, shape, and other unique characteristics. Like other domesticated animals, turkeys for example, some types of goldfish have been so modified that they cannot breed on their own. Humans have intervened to such an extent that they need to keep intervening for certain subspecies to continue to exist. Ironic, eh?

It’s not just goldfish who are mistreated, ignored and trivialized. Our attitudes toward all animals should be questioned. The goldfish symbolizes a bigger problem with our relationship with animals.