Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegan MoFo 2011!

So I'm a few days late to the party. Last year MoFo really inspired me to write every day and it was wonderful. This year I have severe limits on my time and technology access due a change in the day job circumstances.

I almost didn't sign up this year, but I have been wanting a reason to write more regularly (even though I shouldn't need a reason), so here I am.

Last year I fantasized about a 2011 MoFo with a creative theme, amazing pictures, thrilling give aways, and all the internet praise I could stomach. But then I didn't really think about how I wouldn't be wasting away in a soul-crushing job that afforded me little except for long days with little to do and internet access. Given the choice, I'm happy to blog a little (lot) less and be much happier 8-10 hours a day. Also, since I'm in an unpaid internship, there will be no improvements that require money.

So I didn't really set any posting goals, and this first week of October has already sped by with little input from me, and I'm out of town all weekend - maybe that'll give me some material though, since I'm going to be at a festival and camping.

I will probably also have a pretty stellar post at some point about the lavish dinner I make to celebrate the return of Arrested Development. Or I'll sit and rewatch seasons 1-3, eating blueberry muffins and making I blue myself jokes. I've gotten some serious non-AD mileage out of that line as recently as this summer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SUFFERING RENDERED

If you're in the MD/DC/VA area, I recommend checking out Scotlund Haisley's exhibit, SUFFERING RENDERED at the Art Works Studio School gallery. The pieces are heavy representation of animal rescues - a look at individual animals' last moment before freedom.

I was able to attend the opening reception and speak with Haisley, who explained the mission of, successes won by, and setbacks encountered by his organization, Animal Rescue Corps.

I also got to speak with a lot of people who had never given much thought to the welfare of animals that are considered livestock. It was easy for people to express outrage and shock at the`idea of stray dogs being rounded up and shot to death, but coversations about pieces like the one depicting factory farmed pigs were puncuated by discomfort.

Maybe I've been in a bit of an angry vegan mood lately, but I felt no discomfort and was pretty blunt with everyone I talked to. The things you're seeing can end now with you. All you have to do is to live mindfully and with respect for all life in your heart. If you do that, your actions will effect change. Or you can continue to clutch your pearls at the sights depicted, and then continue to do things the way you always did. So let's see what kind of social change art inspires.

The exhibit will remain up through October, so do get in touch with the directors to stop in to see the works. In the meantime, check out this video tour.



For the record, I am affiliated with ArtWorks, and due to that fact, the opening reception featured vegan food exclusively. Future events will always include vegan options as well, but it's worth pointing out that the more vegans who drop a line to the school, the more likely and frequent vegan catering will be featured.

You should also know that I skipped the cocktail hour dress code and rocked my Arm The Animals T-shirt. I was assured by several fashion-minded people that this was totally OK, since the political message was apropros. It wasn't lost on Haisley or his wife.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Windmills Do Not Work That Way



"Windmills do not work that way! Good night!" has become the stock phrase in my house to indicate that someone is just not getting it.

I wanted to chant it last night at the Rise Against show at the Electric Factory. Of course, no one would have heard me over the loud chants of "USA! USA!"

It was baffling as Tim McIlrath changed guitars and in that silence people began their ridiculous chant. He addressed it saying that he had intended to speak about it after one more song, but he'd do it now. He said he gets that we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, but now we have to take all of that energy and emotion and channel it into bringing the troops home.

He was greeted with more "USA! USA!" Now maybe I was projecting a bit here, but when I saw him bring his palm to his forehead and wipe it down the front of his face, I could have sworn I saw disbelief.

Rise Against went on to play whatever it was that was on the set list before getting to play "Hero of War."



I don't listen to this song often. Say what you will, but it makes me tear up on a good day. It was satisfying to hear it live, though.

It was awful to hear the now-familiar chant, "USA! USA!" when it ended.

I don't have a problem with patriotism, but this isn't the goddamned Superbowl. To distill such a complex series of events to a stupid half-time chant is beyond ignorant and a Rise Against concert is really one of the most innappropriate places to break your arm patting yourself on the back for being a citizen of a country that got its revenge.

So is a vegan blog the appropriate place to complain about this? Of course it is.

Another huge disconnect occurred when McIlrath dedicated "Ready to Fall" to those who speak for "the voiceless" - for the animals. The crowd was mostly silent and some even booed when he said it, but not a single person held still when he started the song. It was like a moonbounce up in there with people jumping around, and no one held back from shouting "Now I'm standing on the rooftop" each time.

(I went with Vevo to get the video, even though this one is censored. If you want to have a terrible day, watch the more graphic version here. I've already done it, so you won't be alone.)

All in all, it was a good show and I'm glad I went. And I do hope that all those kids who memorized every lyric eventually start to think about those lyrics and make changes in how they engage with the world around them. I'm grateful that there are bands who use their music to promote social justice and to bring awareness to the sad state of so many things. I just hope that people start listening.

Monday, April 11, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 5: Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan

Look what I found lurking in the drafts! I wrote this, but never finished it. Well here it is now.

Week 5, Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan.

I may be a bit spoiled, because this is one of two books that I bought for the challenge, though it's been on my list for ages. (The other book I ordered was 500 Vegan Recipes).

On my first flip-through, I was feeling uninspired, but then I realized that a lot of the recipes are super easy, and I need more of that in my life. After actually preparing a few dishes, I'm in love. Everything is great so far. It's too early to say, but this book may join the ranks of desert island cookbooks.

Accordingly, the Teriyaki Quinoa came together super fast while I made a cake and cookies. Most of the time is downtime, and had I been on top of things, I would have made a lovely salad with mandarin oranges and ginger-lime dressing, but I wasn't. Luckily, it's filling and complete with steamed broccoli and I didn't feel the need to make extra sauce to cover the veggies.

It doesn't make as much food as most of the recipes I'm used to do, but I would say this is 3 main dishes (with a side) or 4 side dishes for two hungry adults.



The 5-Spice Cookies are likewise easy, but are definitely a grown-up cookie. I was skeptical about the use of barley flour, b/c I'd never baked with it, and I was afriad it would make the cookies too faux-health-food, but they turned out really well. (Note that this fear is not rooted in experience).

They have a slight licorice taste to them, and I really like that, but I know not everyone is a fan. This is also one of the few times I'll approve of nuts in cookies. Usually, nuts interrupt the texture of baked goods when baked in, but these work. I'll definitely make these when I hang out wih my tea-snob pals - they like unconventional desserts.



Admittedly, I didn't actually cook the next dish myself, so my report on the process is second hand, but I did eat quite a lot, so I can assure you authenticity there.

Apparently, the Lemony Cashew Pesto over linguine is a matter of boiling pasta and blending some stuff, then combing the results of each process. I guess all pasta is essentially that, but this was really easy! The lemon flavor is really mellow and adds sunniness without overbearing tartness to the dish. I love it. This is going to be my go-to when the CSA dumps loads of basil into my box this summer.

No Title, No Pictures, but It's Short!

You know grad school has really done a number on my willingness to write here. I kept up with the whole PPK Cookbook Challenge, even though I stopped taking pictures and posting.

Since then, I've been going simple. The semester is coming to a close, so deadlines are tight and I've made several bowls from Appetite for Reduction, and this week I've been on a Vegan Italiano kick. Donna Klein deserves more love from me because everything I've made from her book has been easy and super delicious.

The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen was the first gift I got for my sister when she went vegan, but I haven't gotten any reviews on that one. I would get my own copy, but I'm on a semi-self-imposed cookbook buying ban. Maybe my sister will give up hers, since she's into macro eating these days.

Speaking of which, she has raved about a book I gave her this year called The Saucy Vegetarian. Since she structures her meals a certain way, she can make sauces to add variety, especially when eating leftovers. I'm pretty sure my sister said that despite the name, the recipes are all vegan.

In other niche diet news, the weather is getting nice here, the farmer's market will be opening soon, and my mom got me two new raw food books for my birthday, so I'm ready to once again implement Raw Wednesdays ... except they'll probably be on Tuesdays or Sundays. I haven't decided yet.

Time to dust off some of my favorite raw blog links too and start planning.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 4: Vegan with a Vengeance

Week 4, Vegan with a Vengeance.

I have to admit, my non-vegan (at the time) mother turned me onto this book. When my sister and I went vegan, our mom did what she does best and got really into it. She bought a bunch of vegan cookbooks and during one of my visits home, she made the Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars. They never stood a chance, and I ordered the book right away.

For Week 4, I chose five recipes and made four of them on the same day.

Mocha Chip Muffins
I really like these, but they're more of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin. The coffee flavor isn't terribly strong, but I think the chocolate flavors are enhanced by the coffee. I do like them a lot though, and they're a wonderful afternoon treat. In the future I'll reduce the number of muffins I make to get bigger muffins.


Curried Split Pea Soup
This soup is great. It's super easy to make, with most of the cooking time being down time. The flavor is lovely, and mellow. It's wonderful comfort food for a cold day and pairs well with toast.

Spicy Indian Rice with Toasted Almonds
This rice is worth the bit of extra effort (and it is such a very little bit it's hardly worth saying). It's flavorful without stealing the show, which makes it perfect as an accompaniment. Next time, I'll make it to go with Aloo Gobi. I will also double the amount of almonds in the future because I really like almonds.

Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto
This is so good that I ate way too much of it the first night, became too full, and didn't want anymore. I tried it with the truffle oil, and hated that. It literally tastes like dirt, which I guess is what Moskowitz meant when she called it "earthy." I can see how some people might like it, and I'll try it again one day, but my dishes will be truffle oil-less and my palate unrefined for now.'

Out of the four dishes I made on that one day, this was the most time-consuming, but it comes together easily. The biggest deal is all the stirring, but since I was multitasking and stuck in the kitchen anyway, it didn't seem like a big deal. It won't be on the emergency dinner list, but it's great if you want something filling and fancy without a huge investment of time an effort. I also think it would be nice during a fall or winter holiday meal.



Orange-Rum Tea Cake
This cake is fabulous. It's so orangey and sweet. My sensitive teeth don't like the cornmeal, but it's actually great. It adds a lot to the very fluffy cake. The almonds on top also add a lot to the texture. Perfect with tea or coffee, I'll be sure to make this when entertaining guests.

Friday, February 4, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 3: Urban Vegan

Week 3, The Urban Vegan

The Pumpkin Daal Soup is definitely one of the best dishes I've made from this book. It tastes great and was crazy easy. It's pretty sweet, so next time I'll half the sugar, but it was great served over brown basmati rice. I also found the flavor mellowed by the next day and it was even better.

The Tuscan Braised Beans are great served as Balcavage suggests, with a drizzle of olive oil and some nutritional yeast, alongside a green salad and crusty bread. I found the lemon to be a bit jarring, and I'll reduce that next time, but the nutritional yeast really mutes the tartness, so it worked. This dish is wicked easy and will be in the regular rotation in the future.



I made the Microwave Satay Sauce to use in the Spicy Udon Noodles. The sauce was super easy and tastes good. I ended up eating it over steamed broccoli because I only needed a tablespoon for the noodles.



The Spicy Udon Noodles weren't spicy at all. They were super delicious, but you're going to need to add some extra curry paste and/or chili pepper if you want any heat. The dish came together really fast and is perfect for when you're short on time, and that takes making the satay into account. I subbed peas for the edamame, and they were great. Having the extra sauce on hand was nice since by the next day, the noodles needed a little extra.




The Portobello Burritos are easy to make and really excellent. They're filling and the stuffing is fairly flavorful. I used pineapple salsa and that proved to be wise. It provided a wonderful sweet contrast to the savory burritos, but next time I'll use two jars. I'll also marinate the portobellos, and add corn to the filling. Balcavage suggests vegan cheese as a filling option, and I didn't do that, but with the leftovers, I cut them in half and added a bit of Daiya before microwaving, and it's worth adding in the future.



Finally, I made the English Muffins. They took three days due to the rising times and my own schedule, but that was no obstacle with a little forethought. I had trouble getting them to cook through without burning them and had to play with the heat quite a bit. They ended up looking more like pancakes on the outside and were pretty flat, but the insides did look like the English muffins you might buy at the store. They were good with a bit of jam, but I don't think I'll repeat this recipe. It was a lot of work compared to the payoff.



















In the past, I've made the Raspberry Pound Cake and the Def Jam Bars, and I strongly recommend those if you're looking to try a dessert. Both of them were super sweet, and I have a sweet tooth that disgusts my family and friends, so you may want to reduce the sugar a bit in each.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spay and Neuter

According to the Humane Society, "Four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year."

Of course you know that adopting from shelters is an important part of preventing so many deaths, but even more important is spaying and neutering your companion animals. I have a feeling that most people reading this are already on my side with this, but while reading some of the myths about spay/neuter, I realized that I was painfully uninformed.

What I did not know was that people believe some things that are not true, but if they were to bring them up to me, I'd have no solid way to respond. So knowing the facts is helpful, even though my three pals are already fixed.



That doesn't mean, however, that I haven't spoken to friends and neighbors about it, and I keep information on free and discount S/N programs to help those who feel that they can't afford the surgeries. Check out Spay USA or Friends of Animals for a list of veterinarians who participate.

If you want to get more involved, the Human Society's Spay Day is Feb. 22, 2011. Even if you're not a veterinarian or don't own a huge corporation to provide sponsorship, you can volunteer at or organize events and help spread the word.

Quickie Book Review: Ethics into Action

I've written a bit about this book already, and I'm pretty sure I'll write about it again, but today I'm going to focus on giving it a quick review.

Peter Singer's Ethics into Action is not only worth reading, but should be required in Animal Activism 101.



The book serves to give an overview of the life and activism of Henry Spira, and I have to admit, I'd never heard the name before. However, he is without doubt a key figure in the animal rights movement not only because of his campaigns and victories, but because of his methods and attitudes.

The first chapter gives a brief history of Spira's life prior to his involvement in animal rights. It's easy to see how his early life experiences shaped his methods of dealing with people and his early political activism helped him to be effective in spearheading animal campaigns. Singer goes on over the next few chapters to outline the major campaigns Spira undertook, explaining the reasoning, methodology, tactics, and materials used to create change.

The final chapter serves to direct the animal activist. Though the reader may glean considerable wisdom throughout the book, Singer distills much of it into 10 ways to make a difference. Even if you only read this chapter, you would have much to gain. Singer closes by addressing the meaningful life, a concept that pops up in a lot of activist literature, but it's Spira's meaningful life that is the focus of these final pages.

Knowing the history of a movement you care about is important, as is knowing about the people who made a difference. Not only can you learn from the successes and mistakes of your predecessors, but you can better understand why things are the way they are now. The animal rights movement would not be what it is today without the work and influence of Henry Spira. His innovative way of approaching animal rights shaped the movement for the better.

Ethics into Action is informative and inspirational. Henry Spira is a man I wish more people knew about and his work became the model for effective change. Read the book, and you'll feel yourself getting wiser.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chipotle

OK, so Vegan Outreach's newsletter has provided a lot of fodder for posting (only two!), but I'm trying to stick to some of the really big ones.

That's why I need you to take a few minutes and contact Chipotle. I've had the Garden Blend at their DuPont Circle, Washington, DC location and I love it. But they never introduced it to all restaurants and from my understanding, didn't put it on the menu of those they did.

Fill out the form, tell them you want to try it. Repost the request to your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFace, or whatever. Let's get this done.

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 2: Veganomicon

Week 2's choice, Veganomicon, overlaps with the Cook. Vegan. Lover. Cookbook Club. I'll review the book in more detail by that deadline, but for now, here are my picks for the PPK Challenge

Mexican Millet and Black Beans in Chipotle Adobo Sauce
These were great and super easy. I've been looking for more bean/grain combos to add to my arsenal for busy nights and this is a combination I'll come back to again.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Potpie with Black Olive Crust
I'd been meaning to make this forever and my only regret is waiting so long. This is delicious and satisfying and I will most definitely be making it again and again.



Terry's Favorite Almond Cookie
I actually ended up making two batches of these because the first did not last long at all. These cookies are unbelievably good. They're perfectly chewy and soft, and the flavors are wonderful. My mouth is watering just thinking about them now.

Outreach Wisdom from Nick Cooney

Nick Cooney's book, Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change has been getting some good press out there. It's certainly on my list, but I still have a few books ahead of it in the queue.

In the meantime, I was able to take a few minutes to read some of Cooney's insights in a piece he did for Vegan Outreach. Check it out.

But expressing my own beliefs isn’t the reason I go leafleting. I leaflet because I want to change other people’s behaviors.
-Nick Cooney, "What Psychology Research Can Tell Us about Vegan Outreach Booklet Titles"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 1: Appetite for Reduction

The PPK Forum Cook Book Challenge began about three weeks ago, and I've kept up with it, but not with chronicling my endeavors. So here we go.

Check out my menu planning board! Week 1 was Appetite For Reduction. I didn't get pictures of everything, unfortunately.

Thai Roasted Root Vegetable Curry
This was great and I'll certainly make it again. The sweet potatoes especially made it creamy. I wasn't wild about the Brussels sprouts, so I'll leave them out in the future, but I know that's a personal failing and can't be blamed on the recipe.

Vegan Bowl with Caesar Chavez Dressing
I love the section on bowls. These dishes are cheap and easy. The dressing was really great. I subbed scallions for shallots, which I realize changes the taste, but I think either version would work really well.

Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole and Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples
The mole was a new set of tastes to me and I did really like it, but next time I'll half the recipe. It made so much and I found that a little goes a long way. They did go really well with the sweet potatoes though. That dish is certainly a keeper, and would be a really nice autumn holiday item.

Scarlet Barley and Mushroom and Cannelini Parprikas
I really loved the barley here. It was subtly sweet and so pretty to look at. The paprikas was good, but maybe could have used a little more flavor. I confess, I had to use great northern beans for it.

Library Activism

I love my cookbooks. Though I have nowhere near the number that some vegans boast, I'm actually on a semi-voluntary year-long cook book-buying ban. They're great, but owning them and using them doesn't always mean a lot to my efforts at activism.



That does not mean, however, that I can't find a way to make cook books a tool of activism.



You know how the library will often have a table displaying books that are unified by a common element? The last one I saw at my library caught my eye because it featured a work by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and then I noticed the display was called "We'll Miss You" and featured works by deceased authors. It was a little strange.

Whether the displays at your library are strange or not, you can put them to work for animal welfare. Consider asking your librarian is you can volunteer your time to set up a display. Select vegan cookbooks that are attractive and have a broad appeal, such as Veganomicon, 1,000 Vegan Recipes
Vegan Planet, Appetite for Reduction
, or Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Now if you are a bit crafty, your library may allow you to put up a board with information, and place pamphlets on the table as well. Cook books can be the draw, and your board can provide information on either vegan cooking, environmental concerns, or animal welfare, and then a stack of free booklets on the benefits of vegan cooking might just seal the deal.

Check out this great guide from Compassion Over Killing for more ideas.

Quickie Book Review: The Animal Activist's Handbook

Do you have a free afternoon? Then read this book.



All at once, this book upset me enough to feel that I had to take action, and gave me a profound sense of hope and optimism. The Animal Activist's Handbook is a concise primer on the art of animal activism through outreach. Initially, the prospect of approaching strangers about animal welfare turned my stomach, but after reading this guide, I felt not only that I could do it, but that I should do it.

Authors Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich provide background and justification for choosing to advocate for animals; methods, strategies, ideas and tips for animal advocacy; and a discussion on the the possibilities for animal liberation. The text is clear and concise, and I was able to move through this book in one sitting. When I went to leaflet, I found that I had confidence in my actions and in approaching other people. Though I ran into no opposition, I was prepared to discuss my position with even the angriest and meanest of adversaries.

At several points in my reading, I would think, "well, yes, that is pretty obvious," but the fact is that these were things I'd never thought about before, and though they made perfect sense when read, I don't know that I would have thought of them in preparing on my own.

This book is well-researched and in addition to offering tips on how to interact with people, Ball and Friedrich suggest other resources for the budding activist including The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Stumbling on Happiness . The authors recognize that activism is not just what happens when we're handing out leaflets, or volunteering our time, but rather, it is a component of a lifestyle. The most effective advocate is one who is prepared in mind, body, and soul to tackle these issues.

Even if you have no plans to do any outreach, I encourage you to read this book. The information is valuable, and it'll make dealing insufferable anti-vegans much easier. Besides, it's my hope that the overwhelming call to duty will hit you too, and you'll hop online to order some booklets.

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

I remember learning how to write a proper letter in 3rd grade. At the time, remembering the differences between personal and business letter headings seemed impossible. Of course now, everything seems to be done through email, which is convenient and fast.

However, letters still have their place. When I read about the successful campaigns of the past, I read about the hundreds or thousands of letters that poured in from concerned citizens. Those letters made a difference, and they still can. Consider writing letters to the editor of your favorite magazines and newspapers, to companies who engage in unethical animal treatment, or to lawmakers concerning bills that relate to animal welfare.

It is a simple and effective way to voice your opinion, especially if you join in larger letter-writing campaigns. Those are easy to find though your favorite animal organizations, or you could organize one yourself.

If you were to spend 20 minutes a week for a year writing a letter to one person, organization, publication, or company, that would be 52 letters. In fact, you could probably invest an hour in creating a few form letters, then edit them slightly and fire one off in a few minutes every Monday.

Form letter or not, you want your words to be effective, so be polite, clear, and concise. This letter-writing guide has some great tips.

For my part, I'm going to take my own suggestion and write some form letters, seek out some campaigns, and start voicing my opinion at least once a week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Share a Book

I have to do two posts a day for the rest of January to catch up to my goal, so get ready! I'll try to keep from going on too long in any one of them.

I love to read and have made reading several of the major AR works one of my goals for the year, but reading is much more fun and becomes an effective method of activism when you share.

You should be reading these books anyway. I thought I was pretty well versed in AR ideas, concepts, campaigns, and history, but I've already read two short books that changed my mind on that. The knowledge I've gained is invaluable, and I feel inspired and creative. Now I want to parlay the time I've spent reading into direct action for the animals, and here's the plan.

1. Buy two copies of one of the following:
Eating Animals
Ethics into Action
Meat Market
Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating
Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism


2. Donate one copy to your local library or school.

3. Read your copy, and take notes. Believe me, you'll engage with the text more thoroughly this way and it really forces your brain to work.

4. Lend your copy to someone (or several someones) you'd like to read it. Exact a promise from them to do so, and to discuss it with you after.

5. Have that discussion. Invite them over for tea and vegan scones, or pizza, or beer - you get the idea - and listen to their thoughts and ideas. Ask questions. Answer questions. In fact, I strongly recommend reading The Animal Activist's Handbook prior to the discussion to help inform your methods of interaction.

6. Ask for something. What you ask for depends on the outcome of the discussion, and the reaction of your chosen reading buddy, but come armed with a few ideas. You could try asking that they replace a particular product, like milk, with an analogue; that they try veganism for 30 days; that they go vegan for good; that they observe meatless Monday; that they visit a sanctuary with you; or that they spend a day volunteering with you somewhere. The key is to pick something that will be meaningful, that they'll be likely to commit to, and that you can provide alternatives or resources for.

Easy!

Saints and Sinners

I've been reading Peter's Singer's Ethics into Action and plan to review it once I'm finished, but there is so much material in this little book, and it's got me thinking a lot about how to go about effecting change.

If you don't know, Ethics into Action serves as an overview on the life of animal activist, Henry Spira. Though I haven't finished, I can tell you that this book is a must read for any who care to end animal suffering. Not only does it provide important history of the AR movement and the efforts of one of its key players, but it illustrates the attitudes and actions that are instrumental in reducing animal suffering.

One attitude that is repeated throughout the book is one that must guide all of our interactions. Spira's success with people, even before he was fighting for animal rights, can be traced to his ability to communicate with people, most notably, his adversaries.

When approaching the executives of companies like Revlon, Avon, and Proctor & Gamble, he tried to present a case for action that would benefit both the animals and the corporations using them in testing. Besides providing incentive, the option gave people the opportunity to do the right thing. Spira never cast his adversaries as the villain without giving them ample chance to choose their own role in his campaigns. He was said to understand the pressures that faced a business and its employees (Singer, 1998, p. 101) and that helped him to build a rapport with the very people he was fighting against.

Though these people were in direct opposition to Spira's goals, he knew that he would never reach them "by saying we're saints, and you're sinners" (p. 113). He understood that vilifying the people with the power to make change would get him nowhere, and thanks to this attitude, "he made it possible for all the people in the industry to respond to him and his ideas" (p. 100).

In fact, he took every chance to interact with the opposition. Some were surprised that he agreed to give an interview in Lab Animal, a trade magazine, but he saw it as the opportunity to "reach people who were in a position to to make a real difference to the welfare of the animals under their care" (p. 100). He also met with anyone he could from executives, to scientists, to politicians to get answers, to propose solutions, and to make his case known.

This model of meeting with people, listening to their ideas, and understanding their concerns is an important one. It's tempting to rail against those who commit or support the atrocities we're fighting against, but if you hail these people as monsters, you're doing a disservice to your own efforts.

People accused of atrocity will generally jump to defend themselves and defensive people tend to be dismissive of ideas that counter their own. Further, when people are viewed as monsters, they have no chance for redemption. To label a person as such dismisses their motivations and will keep us from understanding the roots of the problem we are trying to solve.

So get angry, and then channel that rage into positive actions. Talk to your adversaries, learn what moves them, and then make a change.

If you haven't, read Singer's works, including Ethics into Action. If you can't get to it right away, check out Ten Ways to Make a Difference as a primer.


Works Cited
Singer, P. (1998). Ethics into action. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meetups

I'm so behind! Amazing what missing a few days does to your steam. No matter; I'll catch up.

In that spirit, I'm going to keep it simple today. Sometimes, I feel a little guilty about easy things. It seems like if I'm going to make a difference, I have to do something huge every time. Every action, every post, every thought has to be a grand
gesture to be effective.

The fact is that the easy things are some of the most valuable ones. Trying to start something huge can be difficult, but if you take it one step at a time, before you know it, you'll be part of something much bigger than you thought you might.

For me, blogging has become an important part of activism because I needed a way to make it a part of my life every day. I can't always get the time off of work to leaflet, and sometimes after reading a hundred pages for class, I can't jump into the important animal right literature, but I've begun a pattern of thinking about activism every day.

Another step to making activism an every day activity is to have the right resources available. One of your best resources in your attempts to be a more active activist is support. Knowing people who are interested, who have good ideas and experience, and who can commiserate or celebrate with you is tremendously helpful. Meeting these people is incredibly easy too, thanks to Meetup.

I started using Meetup awhile back to keep an eye on what was going on in the local dance art scene, but I dismissed it as a passing fad. Who would want to meet up with a bunch of strangers from the internet?

Apparently, everyone. I have been to so many fun and successful Meetups organized around a variety of interests and have been lucky to meet some great people. So whether you're looking to find some vegan friends or to join a group of activists, consider this resource. Go to an event, make some friends, and see what new activism opportunities open up to you.

Animal Rights
Animal Welfare
Vegans
Vegan Drinks

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sponsoring Animals

If it were up to me, I'd have a huge parcel of land, and a family of rescued animals. Sadly it's not up to me, and I have limited resources. The dog and two cats that live with me are rescues, but bringing any more into my home would be irresponsible due to space, time, and finances.

That doesn't mean my adopting days are over though, and I sponsor several animals that live on sanctuaries. Adopting these animals allows me to contribute to their care, but it also puts a face on animal rescue efforts. While nice for me, it isn't a requirement, but it really helps me to talk to other people about ways to help. In addition to helping these particular animals, I can use my experiences to do some outreach.

I have framed pictures of my adopted animals from Poplar Spring Sanctuary . They sit on a shelf in my home and anyone who comes to visit sees them right away. I can refer to the animals by their names and talk about their personal histories. For one pig, I can tell the story of how I actually witnessed her rescue on my way to work one night and then saw her at the open house a few months later.

In addition to sharing my experiences, I can give people their own. It's not secret that I'm terrible at buying gifts for people. I never know what they want. Besides that, most people I know (myself included) have too much junk cluttering up their homes. That's why adoptions are an excellent gift item. Rather than wasting money on a potentially awful gift, you're making a difference and educating someone in the process. If you can take them to visit their animal, it's an added bonus.

Here are the sanctuaries from which I've adopted animals, but look into what's local to you too.
Farm Sanctuary
Poplar Spring Sanctuary

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Office Activism, In Theory

I'm back!

I work in an office and there are several people here who have loudly voiced their ignorance on a wide variety of subjects, and veganism has not been excluded. Of course the people in my department know and lover vegan baked goods. Some have even gone out their way to learn to make vegan dishes for me when we do department parties and things.

The people in the other department, however, remain in the dark. I've never corrected them when I hear their wildly incorrect notions because I've never had much of a cause to speak to them before, and feel strange about popping into their area because I was listening in, to educate them.

I should do something though, and my sister's suggestion may be just the ticket. I love to bake, and I've heard the other department lusting over my cupcakes in the past - too bad I wasn't the activist that I am today, or I would have seized on the opportunity to share food and ideas. I'd like to make a treat to share with my office mates and be sure they know what the ingredients are. My office is set up strangely, so I'll have to walk around and inform each person, but that's OK - it's a great opportunity to put a friendly face on veganism!

If yours is the type of place that has a shared treats spot, you could place your item, along with a list of the ingredients. If you think it's appropriate, you could also list a website that might be educational.

If you really want to go the extra mile, do what I used to do when I was a teacher. At all potlucks, I would include a stack of index cards with the recipe. People were always asking for my dessert recipes, and so the index cards flew off the table along with the treats. I would also list the book or web site that it came from. Web sites are especially effective because they take so little effort to access.

Food-based activism will always be important. If people weren't ruled by their appetites, we'd have no problem turning people vegan in droves. Expose people to your favorite vegan foods and help them understand why it's such a great choice.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Did Not Forget

Unfortunately, I've been ill and unable to do much of anything. I'm still not 100% yet, but I'm back up and about, so I'll get back to blogging about activism. It's my hope that I'll be able to catch back up by the end of the month.

Thanks for sticking it out with me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Year Appetite for Reduction

As I mentioned before, I gave my parents a copy of Appetite for Reduction and instructions that they were to cook through it in 2011. I'm really proud of them because they've barely had the book for two weeks and they've made quite a bit.

The other instruction they've been good about following is taking pictures and reviewing each dish. In return, I promised to make them famous by blogging their comments.

As a bonus, the Post Punk Kitchen forum is conducting a cookbook challenge and the first cookbook up is Appetite for Reduction, so I bought myself a copy and have started cooking from it myself. However, I don't want to steal their thunder, so here's what they've been up to so far.

Warm Mushroom and Cranberry Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing
It turned out great. Tasty and filling. We enjoyed it. It has just a little kick from the horseradish that gives it personality. I prefer the horseradish that is pure with no sauce additives.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Great texture light and moist, and much better the next morning. Next time, I think I will cut back on the nutmeg and increase the maple syrup.

Cool Slaw
Was OK, but not exceptional. I added Veganaise to the recipe and it made a big difference.

Pasta De Los Angeles
I believe it needs a little more kick. It was a bit bland. Next time I'll add red pepper flakes. It makes a generous amount.

Glam Chowder
WOW!!! This chowder is excellent. It is a keeper. Absolutely SUPERB!!!

Helping Haiti and Trepidation

For me, one of the hardest parts about activism is that I often feel helpless. It's easy enough when organizations are creating media, materials, and events to support. It's easy, and there's nothing wrong with that. Handing out fliers, sharing movies, engaging individuals, protesting, and going to events that support your ideals are all important pieces of the puzzle.

One project I'm supporting is 100 Shows For Haiti. This grassroots movement is to "raise $100,000 for direct action humanitarian aid for the people of Haiti."

I want to show my support by going to this show.

But today, as I sat here wishing for a show in Baltimore, it occurred to me that I'm not doing enough. I am a professional entertainer, though part time. I work with other entertainers. My friends are all dancers and musicians, and some of them have great connections to venues. Hell, I have great connections to venues.

So why did I fail to put something together? I could make a dozen excuses about being busy, but the fact is that I didn't look carefully enough at my resources and I was not confident in my ability to effect change.

This is our greatest enemy. Figure out what you can do, and then do it. Never be afraid to put something together. Sometimes, the best you can do is hand out an organization's literature, and that is a tremendous and powerful course of action. But if you have the resources at your disposal, tackle something big.

You don't have to do it alone. If I would have asked my friends, they'd have helped me.

In the end, it's my own doubt that was my downfall. I want to be an agent of change, but until I believe that I am an agent of change, I'll keep missing opportunities like this one.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quick and Easy Video Sharing

I have to say, if my sister weren't helping me, I would have failed at this activism posting thing days ago.

So here's her tip:

If you're at a library, cybercafe, the Apple Store, or any place that has computers for public use, leave your browser up. After you've logged out of Facebook, email, or whatever, pull up a video you think people need to see and leave it playing.

Meet Your Meat
Mercy For Animals' Ohio Dairy Farm Investigation
Inside Fur Farms
Earthlings

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Celebration Activism

Celebrations mark the moments in our lives that are important to us and they're usually spent with family, friends, and food. Why not throw one more element to the list with a little AR.

I'm not suggesting you take the podium to give a speech on the horrors of factory farming after the champagne toast has been made. In fact, please don't. Celebrations should be fun and happy, and though we all know about the grisly reality, your pals are going to think you're a drag all the time, and veganism is not like that.

In fact, I love events where I can show off that, in addition to a lovely sense of humor and charming banter, I make the best treats in town. Yet the party-goers never know that beneath those treats lurks a message of peace, love, and respect for all animals.

So short of passing around popcorn and tissues during a screening of Earthlings, how do promote an AR message at a gathering?

Focus the fun and the food, not the politics.

I'm not a big party-thrower, but I did have dinner with my parents recently to celebrate my birthday, and of course, I chose vegan-friendly restaurants to patronize. I knew everyone present would order all vegan, but if omnivores were in attendance, I would have chosen an all-vegan restaurant.

Before anyone even starts to wonder if that's me forcing my views on someone else, let me point out that it's no more so the case than if I, as the guest of honor, chose a Thai restaurant or a fast food joint. To celebrate the event, I would choose something that best reflected what I liked.

It's a great opportunity to expose people to new foods and challenge stereotypes, but if you have that one curmudgeon in your life who refuses to give vegan food any consideration, well then I encourage you to pull the My Special Day card. That person can suck it up for one meal.

Weddings, birthdays, baby showers, retirement parties - if you're inviting people to come eat in your honor, invite them to eat some stellar vegan food. Even better, invite them to make some stellar vegan food.

Hosting a vegan potluck is easy and much cheaper for the party-thrower. I'm the only vegan in my movie-night group, and yet all of our get-togethers have been all vegan. I hosted the first one and sent out an email that my home is a vegan one. I included links to party-appropriate vegan recipes, but told them to make what they wanted. They all ignored my links, but brought awesome vegan foods, and now, no matter who hosts, everyone just defaults to vegan cooking.

I'm blessed to have open-minded and adventurous friends, but remember that idea of cooking vegan foods is scary to some people. Provide ample resources without overwhelming. Choose simple recipes without ingredients that are probably unknown to them. Remind them that if in doubt, tortilla chips and salsa or a package of Oreos (in the US) is a great vegan contribution.

Besides, there are other vegan contributions people can make, if the food is too scary. Like food, gifts are often associated with celebrations, but maybe you have enough junk around your home, or maybe you don't trust people to get you something that you actually want. In that case, why not choose an animal organization and ask for donations in your name, or for an animal to be adopted in your name? In addition to the money helping animals directly, you'll be guiding someone to a website or organization that may teach them something new.

Now if you really want to teach someone something new, why not ask for a serious gift? Ask someone, or several people, to go vegan for your birthday month. Obviously, this suggestion is open to all sorts of tweaking. You might ask for one vegan meal a day, vegan until 6:00, or a totally vegan diet - do whatever you think they're most likely to stick with.

Also, you have to have done some groundwork on this one. You can't very well go to someone who abhors veganism and demand the change, but you can ask someone who is familiar with it and with how to eat. Pick someone who you've been priming for a bit and please support them as they do it. Check in with them, ask them how it's going, share meals and resources. Asking for this gift has the potential to be a great bonding experience in addition to the potential for creating a new vegan.

January 5th was my birthday, so I probably should have posted this then, but no use crying over spilled almond milk. Now I just need to decide to ask to go vegan.

If you're nothing like me, and love throwing a good do, there are plenty of good books to help:

Party Vegan

Vegan Table

Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shopping Activism

This one comes to you courtesy of my sister, an animal rights superstar.

I first witnessed it when she and I went out shopping on one of her visits. We had gone to a shoe store that had loads of vegan-friendly boots and were each able to get a nice pair to keep our tootsies warm that winter.

When she got to the counter, and the sales clerk asked her if she found everything alright, she surprised me with a loud, clear response. She thanked the clerk for having so many vegan-friendly options. She continued and gestured to me and my other sister and said something to the effect of, "We're all vegans and so when stores like this one have so many non-leather products, we make sure to return."

The manager was standing right there and turned around to join the conversation. My sister chatted with them a bit about animals and vegans and we left. I was a little stunned, but ready for it when we found non-wool pea coats at the next store. The clerks there also asked her a bit about animal products and rights, and there were several customers nearby.

It was a little odd to see, but she did it in such a congenial, and genuine way. I of course know that her day job is in the AR field, but the clerks didn't, and from that point of view, her gratitude did not seem like campaigning or activism. She looked like a customer who was happy that a store offered her options, and she was saying as much.

Saying as much is really the key to what my sister calls "shopping activism." You don't have to discuss your personal beliefs or politics to do it, but you have to speak up. If a store carries vegan-friendly merchandise, let the manager know that it's what draws you there and you'd like to see more. If a store doesn't carry what you want, tell them.

Animal ag wants your money, but stores want your money too and they'll carry what they need to in order to get it. Besides that, sometimes you'll have the opportunity to talk to people one-on-one about why you want vegan-friendly products. It's an opportunity to educate, and to normalize. By being in the store, you already have something in common with the clerk, so you can help them see that anyone can be vegan.

Accordingly, anyone can be an activist. Whether you're holding signs in front of city hall or encouraging businesses and people to take an interest in ethical products, you're using your voice to speak for the animals.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One-on-One Actvism, An Example

I keep referring to what I've done in the past and what I'd like to do in the future in terms of activism. Though I have a lot of new areas to explore, I won't abandon my old ways either.

Last week for my birthday, my parents took me out for a vegan dinner at Bus Boys & Poets followed by dessert at Sticky Fingers Bakery. My parents are not vegan, but they've changed a lot of habits to live kinder lifestyles and they have three daughters hammering away for change.

We exchanged holiday gifts too. I got them the gift cards they requested, but I also bought them a copy of Appetite for Reduction. My dad's been really into tracking his diet and exercise through his iPad, and AFR has all the necessary nutrition information. So I gave them that with the instructions to cook through it, in a year.

They're also required to document their efforts so that I can feature them in this blog.

Obviously, I can't make them do any of this, but I can, as it's a true family tradition, bug the hell out of them. My sisters will do the same.

I generally wouldn't recommend pestiferousness as a mode of activism, but they're my parents, and I still remember what it was like when I didn't have health insurance. They were hell-bent on my getting it, and so the phone calls, emails, and newspaper clipping of horror stories did not cease until I'd done so. And they still remind me from time to time of the importance, for good measure I suppose.

Besides, the more at-home, vegan cooking they do, the less they'll go out and forget their vegan manners. I have a feeling that they won't get through this year without converting totally, and this is just one of the ways I'm going to help them along.

***


Before I was even able to publish this post, they got started and made their first meal. It looks wonderful!

Warm Mushroom and Cranberry Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Things You Can Do Right Now

Watching the videos discussed in the last two posts takes a lot out of you. Maybe you've watched them and you're ready to hand out some leaflets or to join a protest, but what can you do right now? If you're looking for a way to channel your anger, and you need some comfort, why not do something right now (or once your comfort cupcakes are in the oven) to benefit animals?

1. Clean out your linen closet. Take any old sheets, towels, or blankets to your local shelter.
2. Sponsor an animal at Farm Sanctuary, or at a similar organization.
3. Adopt an animal from a shelter (assuming you can provide the appropriate care).
4. Ask someone to go vegan.
5. Hang a bird feeder.
6. Stop by an animal shelter and take some dogs for a walk.
7. Sign up for The World-Wide Vegan Bake Sale and start recruiting volunteers.
8. Contact your local chapter of Food Not Bombs and get involved.
9. Buy two copies of Eating Animals, Meat Market, or Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating and donate them to your library.
10. Audit your household cleaning and personal hygiene products. Make a list of what needs to be replaced with cruelty-free products and be ready when you run out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Videos, Part 2

To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.
—Samuel Johnson, English author (1709–1784)


Yesterday, I talked about the importance of vegans watching videos that expose animal abuse. They educate and galvanize us, but they also have a role to play in our conversations with non-vegans.

Of course, I wasn't so sure of that at first. After all, I make wonderful vegan foods, and my efforts to educate are pleasant. I make them cookies, and take them to sanctuaries. I can even count a full seven people converted. I show them a world where we cook up exciting dishes and hug animals and feel like everything is OK.

It's tempting to believe that the happy efforts are enough, but if that were the case, my vegan convert count would be much higher. People need to see the footage because it's easy to forget a phrase like "animal suffering" while pulling up to the dinner table, but it's much harder to forget the visuals and audio that videos like these burn into our minds.

However, some people react to the videos by getting angry at the people showing them or denying that this sort of thing happens all the time (as if once isn't one time too many), or accusing the film makers of sensationalism and clever editing. This attitude drives people further from compassion because it becomes important to defend their own position in the debate as not-a-monster.

So how do we strike a balance between exposing horrors and inadvertently condemning people?

By creating empathy.

The problem with videos that showcase such graphic images and sounds is that we have to cope with them. Some cry, some change, some lash out, some shut down. Just as soldiers have to divorce themselves from emotions during battle to carry on doing what they have to do, people try to deny that what they're seeing is wrong, that animals suffer, or that they are part of the problem.

And I can't blame them. I don't want to be a part of that either.

I also don't want to be a person who shows Meet Your Meat to someone and leaves them on the defensive. I won't post videos like that to Facebook with no explanation, even though every time someone posts about bacon or foie gras, I want to comment with a link to footage and hope that they feel like a murderer. But that only speaks to my rage, and is in no way a solution.

Sharing these videos is an important part of activism. They expose horrors and help engage the senses in a way that rhetoric sometimes fails to do. If we want to win people over to helping animals, then we need to show them beyond a shadow of a doubt that our help is needed. We also have to lay the appropriate groundwork.

Footage needs to be part of a broader conversation and before showing them, we have to be sure the the people we're reaching out to agree that animals suffer, that animal abuse is wrong, and that good people who don't know the truth are not evil. After showing them, we have to take the time to listen, and maybe to ask questions.

Videos should be a powerful moment in a conversation, not the period at the end of the last word.

Priming a person by getting her to think about animals and empathy will make it easier for her to make the right connections while watching. Likewise, engaging in dialogue afterward will help her voice and develop her own thoughts, which is a far more powerful method of teaching than lecturing is.

Further, we can better encourage people to embrace their innate compassion if we listen and encourage than we can by steamrolling them with our own ideas. We can't force someone to be kind, but we can cultivate kindness in others.


Earthlings
Ohio Dairy Cruelty Video
The Cove
Meet Your Meat

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Party Vegan Give Away

Check it out here.

The Videos, Part 1

Whenever people say “We mustn’t be sentimental,” you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add “We must be realistic,” they mean they are going to make money out of it.
—Brigid Brophy (1929–1995)

*All of the videos linked are extremely graphic. The embedded one is less so, but still disturbing.*

I have been known to complain about people who know the facts and yet continue to consume animal products. I don't know how much graphic footage you need to see before you to stop supporting an industry that's so decidedly evil.

But I haven't seen Earthlings, the Ohio Dairy Cruelty Video, The Cove, or Meet Your Meat. I know what's in them, more or less, and I keep saying that I can't watch, that I already know what's there, that I've seen and heard enough and those images and words still haunt me, still wake me at night, still bind up my stomach so tight that I'm sure I'm going to toss my cookies.

I watched a lot of this type of video years ago, that's why I'm vegan now. The ones listed above have come out since then. I've seen stills, and glimpsed moments. I've also watched the people close to me in tears after watching them. I'm already a vegan. Do I need to keep watching this footage? Am I wrong to avoid it?

I can't even watch all 3:51 of the Ready to Fall video without turning away in horror. (The link takes you to the unedited one on Peta2. The TV edit is embedded below). Can I really make it through so much concentrated carnage?



But the question I keep coming back to is this: what can I possibly suffer watching these videos compared to what the subjects went through?

Is it important for us to bear witness? Is it important to remind ourselves of what we stand for? Is it important to keep our anger hot and our conscience sick? Is it important to know everything we can about this movement?

Yes.

It's so easy to get comfortable. I have vegan friends and family, vegan online communities, vegan restaurants and bakeries, and vegan cookbooks that make it all too easy to live in a vegan bubble, but the reality isn't pretty and cupcakes at the potluck that knock the socks off the omnis are not enough.

One of my favorite AR activists told me that "you have to stay up to date to be effective" and that each video reminds us why we do things, and has something to teach us. They're part of our education.

So pick one this month, watch it, think about it, and then do something specific as your answer to it. Whether you sponsor an animal, order some leaflets, or hold a bake sale to raise donation money, do it because of what you saw.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Leading the Horse to Water

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
—Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist (1901–1978)

Vegan.com was what ignited my interest in activism. I've been working on living a compassionate lifestyle for over 15 years now, but my efforts to effect change have been mostly restricted to talking to the people around me.

It hasn't been for nothing. I have several friends who have gone vegan, and many more that have at least reduced meat consumption or made some other efforts. However, my approach changed after reading a post called Animal Advocacy and The Power of Asking.

I'd always offered up treats, information, and ideas, but I'd never outright asked anyone to try veganism. However, Marcus asserts that "the world would be a happier, more compassionate place if more people were more comfortable with making requests." So I took the plunge and asked someone. Granted, I went with a pretty easy first target. He was a vegetarian who I'd already turned on to Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and almond milk, but he was also a cheese lover. I asked him to got vegan for the month of August, since July was just petering out. He's been vegan since.

I was amazed at how easy it was. I was nervous to ask someone outright, but it wasn't hard. I was afraid he'd balk or have difficulties, but he was up for it and is going strong. Granted, I had known him for some time and had paved the way a bit by sharing food and information, and by introducing him to new things so that the jump to vegan didn't require much. But that's an important part of the process: "Any salesman will tell you that after you’ve made your pitch it’s time to ask for the sale. More animal advocates need to learn this lesson" (Marcus). Teaching, advocacy, and sales all share a similar process. This process requires you to pave the way by priming the student with knowledge to make it easier for them to grasp the big point.

Additionally, you can't ask someone to go vegan, wish them good luck, and go on with your day. Have resources at the ready, and make yourself available to help. If it's possible, offer to make or buy vegan dinner as a welcome. On the flipside, don't overwhelm. One of my flaws is that when someone expresses interest in anything, I get excited an bombard them with every bit of information I have. I've learned to start with a few items, and then supply more as questions arise.

When handing out resources, I like to suggest both web and book resources, as well as organizations. I tend to edit my lists based on what interests a person has. Everyone gets the basics on health and animal issues, but if someone is a an athlete, loves to cook, hates to cook, is an internet junky, is worried about money, or has other dietary considerations, I throw in a few extra links. I also look for an animal sanctuary near them and suggest they pay a visit.

My biggest concern is getting them the best basic information, but paying attention to details, and showing that veganism is suitable for anyone really helps to welcome a person into something that they may be a little afraid to do. I want this to be easy for them. They'll have to face the challenges that we all face, but having someone there to guide them and take some of the guess work out of it will make it more likely that they'll stick to it.

I don't go right for the heavier animal rights spots immediately unless I know that the person is interested in them. I keep the new vegan in mind and what's most important to them right now, which is food. As they get more comfortable, they'll delve into other materials on their own. Of course, they may never be interested in the animal rights side of it, so if it feels like a club requirement, they may give up their membership.

My list of favorites is below. It's not an exhaustive list of my favorite vegan spots, but a list of resources I copy into any email to those who want to know more about veganism. What did I miss? Let me know and I'll update!

Web Resources
21-Day Vegan Kickstart
Vegan Health
Vegan Outreach Starter Guide
The Problem with Animal Products

Books
Becoming Vegan
Eating Animals
Diet for a New America

Stores
Vegan Essentials
Herbivore Clothing Company

Extras
No Meat Athlete
The Post Punk Kitchen
Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen
Vegan on the Cheap
The 4-Ingredient Vegan
Veganomicon
The Gluten-Free Vegan
Appetite for Reduction

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Could It Get Any Easier?

Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.
—Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, Polish poet and aphorist


Leafleting was a lot easier than I thought it would be, but it wasn't my first and only attempt to distribute literature. Some time ago, I discovered Take 5 Save 5. I wish I could remember how I found it - I'm sure I landed there via another blog or vegan resource. Either way, I started doing it and it's really easy.

The way it works is that you go to Craigslist and post an ad for free vegetarian starter kits. People email you their address, you enter it on the Take 5 website and they do the rest. You don't even have to go to Craigslist yourself, the button on the Take 5 page will grab one for you.

I spend most of my work day screwing around on the internet and posting once to Craigslist doesn't even take 5 minutes, I've made this part of my morning routine (it's even one of 6 pages that loads automatically for me every day). Each time one gets flagged, or expires, I repost.

I also made signs with the website on tear-off tabs. I posted these in the health and grocery stores near me, as well as in the yoga studio I patronize.

So if it's too cold, or too hot to leaflet, or if you're just really busy, then take a few moments that you might have spent rereading the same boring Facebook posts, and post an ad for free vegetarian starter packs.

Since Craigslist detects identical copy, I have three versions of the message I use. Here they are if you want to get started.

#1
Free Vegetarian Starter Pack!
I have a free Vegetarian Starter Pack I'd love to send you - it has recipes, nutrition and health information, product tips, and a lot more! Just email me your mailing address and I'll put a Veg Starter Pack in the mail for you!

#2
Vegetarian Starter Booklet - Free
Send me your mailing address and I’ll mail you a booklet with information and recipes to get you started.

#3
Free Vegetarian Info and Recipes
I’ll put a booklet in the mail for you! I just need your mailing address to send the pack full of information and recipes.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leafletting

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

I don't like approaching people I don't know. In fact, I have trouble with people in general. I'm an introvert and find social interaction to be exhausting. It's not that I don't enjoy it, because sometimes I really do, but it's something that I have to work at and that leaves me ready for a lengthy nap.

Accordingly, I never fancied myself as a person who would do outreach with strangers. My sister is one of those people and has spent the past few years touring with musical acts and talking to kids and teenagers about animal rights. That sounds terrifying to me.

But really, how bad can it be? A few hours approaching strangers? Even if they're completely rude to you, that's about the worst you can expect to happen. That's why I committed to buying fliers from Vegan Outreach last August when Erik Marcus posted that month's list for Commitment Tuesday. I immediately and publicly committed to buying, reading and donating the books. That was easy.

It took a few days, but I settled on buying some fliers to have on hand when people asked me questions. But it didn't quite work out that way. The Vegan Outreach team got in touch to make sure that I knew what resources were available to me, and how to find on-going leafleting in my area. Then, I received an email from Jon Camp, Outreach Coordinator, saying that he'd be leafleting at Bowie State University, which is just down the road from my house, if I wanted to join.

That was the game-changer. I read The Animal Activist's Handbook, which was invaluable in its advice, but the opportunity to go with a veteran for my first time really motivated me.

In my email exchanges with Jon, he said something that made all the difference in the world:
I should also note that I'm not some great extrovert. But I found there to be a great need for those who do outreach and I've been overwhelmed by how positive it can be and what great feedback we receive as a result of it. So it's important to remember that the hardest booklet to hand out is the first. And it gets easier and easier from there. So if you don't think much about the first booklet, you should be good to go.

So I made arrangements to leave work early one cool November Monday, and set off to Bowie State with one of my favorite vegan buddies to join Jon.

Jon was a nice guy who gave us a few pointers. I think he could tell I was nervous, so he said, "I'm just going to let you go ahead and give out that first one." So I did. Jon relinquished his spot to us, and headed a few yards away to reach another segment of traffic.

Honestly, the first 20 minutes crawled by. I felt apprehensive and weird and kept glancing at the huge tower clock above me, hoping that the hour I'd promised would fly by.

But the source of my pain was not the passersby. Everyone was nice to me. The worst I got was an occasional, and polite, "No, thank you." One man did walk by, loudly saying, "Birds are such bastards and should be dipped in acid," but he wasn't saying it to us. He was being passive-aggressive and that doesn't upset me.

In fact, the response was largely positive. People took fliers happily, read them, talked about them, and a few even sought me out and asked about them. People expressed love for animals and dismay at the information in the pamphlets. It was a rewarding event in the end.

Honestly I don't think I'll become the star leafleter of any organization, but between the three of us, we handed out over 300 leaflets on that campus, and that's a start. Even if I never become comfortable with it, isn't an hour or two a month of discomfort worth it to educate people about the cause I love?

So how about you? Do you think you could approach strangers with a smile on your face and ask them if they'd be interested in some "info to help animals?" I think you can. So why don't you check out the resources below and give it a shot. If there's an organization you really like, why not ask them if they do leafleting and get involved? If the thought of leafleting leaves you queasy, why not order a few to have on hand for when someone asks about your ethics? Answering a few questions is great, but putting information in their hands is even better.

Even if you think you know what to do, read this first. The Animal Activist's Handbook will answer so many questions, give you good ideas, and help you understand how to approach and talk to people. I can talk to people well, despite being an introvert, but this book really opened my eyes to effective outreach techniques.


Handing out leaflets requires one thing above all others - leaflets. Vegan Outreach has a few different designs, so look for one that suits you. I really like "Compassionate Choices." A lot of people expressed adoration for the happy animals on the front, and then realized once they looked inside that such adoration made the reality of factory farming more difficult to face. I also handed out "Even If You Like Meat" and Jon gave me some "Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating" for people who had questions.

Spare farmed animals: Leaflet campuses! Adopt a college near you—it’s not just for students! Click here for details.

If working with Vegan Outreach is appealing to you, and you live near a college, check out their Adopt A College program. College kids have the time to stand around and talk to you, and so many schools have established programs that you can probably join some experienced leafleters.

As scary as leafleting may seem, it really is one of the quickest and most effective ways to spread your message. Give it a go once. Worst case scenario you decide not to do it again, but my bet is that you'll be happy to have done it and be looking forward to doing it again.

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