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Several years ago my now 59 year old father had a heart attack. It wasn’t a major heart attack, but it has definitely caused him problems. He’s been on medication since it happened, and has regular stress tests to see if the damage to his heart has progressed. Thankfully, up until this last time, his heart showed no additional signs of damage….but his test a few weeks ago had a different result. His cardiologist told him that another part of his heart that previously hadn’t showed any damage now was. The doctor gave him 2 choices: proceed with an angioplasty now, or take 6 months to change his lifestyle and see if his condition improved. After asking what the latter would mean, he decided to take that option.

So, what lifestyle changes did the cardiologist recommend? First, he said my dad needs to lose weight, and that he should do this in two ways: 1) by walking at least 2 miles every day, and 2) by changing his diet dramatically.

Let me explain to you exactly what I mean by “dramatically” in the case of my father:  this was a man who ate beef at least once a day, if not more, for the majority of his life.  He ate high fat, high cholesterol meats and other animal byproducts.  Butter, ice cream, cheese, steak, pork, eggs – you name it, he ate it.  He would stop at fast food restaurants and get 2-3 burgers to eat over the course of a few hours.   At this last visit, however, his doctor told him that his diet should be primarily plant-based – 80% at a minimum, but the more the better. He said no more red meat, no more high fat dairy products, etc.  This prescription would be a hard for a lot of omnivores, but for a farm-raised, country boy like my dad, it was a pretty tall order.

In the past month, however, he and my mother have been eating almost exclusively vegetarian, and have even switched from using butter (a staple for them) to using Earth Balance.  My mom asked me for healthy vegan recipes, and has been cooking completely differently than she had been.   My dad has taken to walking and is getting in some cardio almost every day. And guess what?  In about a month, he’s already lost 16 pounds, and he feels great!  And probably most amazing of all is that he says he doesn’t even really miss meat.  Usually I say that when people start eating healthy vegetarian food, they WON’T miss meat, but my dad was just such a meat lover that I didn’t know if that would be the case. I am thrilled that it is.  I’m thrilled that he’s feeling good and losing weight, I’m thrilled that both my parents are eating fewer animal products, and mostly I am thrilled that he’s making this effort for his health. I want him to be around for a long time, and unless he does this, that just won’t happen.

And maybe, just maybe, if he keeps this up and works hard, these new lifestyle  changes can even reverse the damage already done to his heart. I am hopeful that it will!

Barnivore – This website can help you determine which beers/wines/alcohols are vegan and which aren’t.

The Recycled Retriever – Here you can find eco-friendly gear for your fur-kids.

The Discerning Brute – “food, fashion & etiquette for the ethically handsome man”; a website that shows men they can still be fashionable and vegan!

The Girlie Girl Army – “your guide to glamazon living”; a website featuring eco-friendly news, food & fashion for women.

A Scent of Scandal – Buy 100% soy wax candles.  There are a few scents for which part of proceeds even benefit Farm Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Tails – This is a blog written by some of the people who care for animals at Farm Sanctuary. They talk about animal cruelty issues, but also profile rescued animals – my favorite part.  There are some very touching stories, and it’s so nice to read about animals being well cared for when it seems like all you ever hear are horror stories.

I hope you enjoy these sites as much as I do!

At the end of April I went to Hawaii with my boyfriend and my family. We had such an amazing time, and I have meant to post some pictures ever since!  Now it’s JUNE and here I am finally doing it.  Anyway, there are still some wild chickens in Hawaii, and I snapped a few photos of them.  The first one of the hen with her chicks is my favorite–could they BE any CUTER??:

Wild hen & her babies in Haleiwa

Wild hen & her babies in Haleiwa

A gorgeous rooster in Haleiwa

A gorgeous rooster in Haleiwa

As for food, I was glad I did my research on where to find vegan food on Oahu. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Oh. my. gosh.  The last day we were there, we drove around Honolulu trying to find this hole in the wall deli called the Wellbento. I am SO glad we did, because this Cajun BBQ tempeh served with roasted root vegetables, rice & gravy, and vegan macaroni salad & coleslaw was seriously a major highlight of my trip. Forget all the beaches, bring on the tempeh! 🙂  It was ridiculously good, and I’ve since tried to recreate the tempeh with some success, though mine’s not nearly as good as theirs.  If you ever go to Honolulu (or if you live there), you HAVE to seek this place out!

Cajun BBQ tempeh with root vegetables from Wellbento in Honolulu

Cajun BBQ tempeh with root vegetables from Wellbento in Honolulu

Also, if you are a sushi fan, check out Banzai Sushi Bar in Haleiwa on the north shore. It had a few different veggie sushi options, which you could order without seaweed! This sushi was wrapped with soy paper. I can’t stand seaweed, so this was much better! I’m still not a huge sushi fan, but this was much better than a lot of other sushi I’ve had!  And it’s pretty to boot!

Veggie sushi from Banzai Sushi bar in Haleiwa

Veggie sushi from Banzai Sushi bar in Haleiwa

Now might be your chance!  Compassionate Action for Animals in Minneapolis, MN is now hiring!

caa-logoCompassionate Action for Animals is a nationally-recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Minneapolis, MN focused on eliminating cruelty to animals through vegetarian outreach, education, and community building.

CAA volunteers lead all our campaign efforts and daily operations. The volunteer leadership holds primary decision-making authority over the direction of the organization. The Director of Volunteer Programs is responsible for engaging and empowering volunteers to make a difference for animals.

CAA is a growing, dynamic nonprofit with a great group of passionate volunteers. This is your chance to shape the future direction of a highly effective organization and participate in work that you care about. You will grow your skills at organizing, leadership, and networking, and help make a better future for animals.

For more information, or to apply, check out their website here.

Kathy Bauck

Kathy Bauck

Kathy Bauck, owner of Pick of the Litter Kennels in New York Mills, MN, was recently found guilty of four misdemeanors: one count of animal cruelty, and 3 counts of animal torture.  Her crimes involved dunking dogs into vats of insecticide and performing surgery on dogs without a license. Several dogs at the kennel were too weak and thin to stand up, and this woman has up to 1300 dogs in her “care” at a time. An officer of the ASPCA reported her to the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act back in 1998 and no action was taken.  Eleven years later, we finally get some kind of justice.

However, you might have noticed above that she was only convicted of misdemeanors – not felonies. In fact, she was cleared of all felony charges. Apparently animal TORTURE only ranks as a “misdemeanor”. In case you’re wondering what the definition of a misdemeanor is (as I was):  A crime punishable by less than a year of imprisonment in a county jail and/or a fine is considered a misdemeanor. Examples of misdemeanors include shoplifting, simple assault, disturbing the peace, and driving under the influence (provided no one is injured).

This monster tortured innocent animals, and will likely see no more than 20 days inside a jail cell. She is still allowed to keep her kennel and keep breeding animals. The only stipulation is that she has to agree to unannounced inspections.  By whom, I am wondering?  Clearly the USDA isn’t “on the ball” (yes, I realize they are understaffed, but it is their responsibility, and they let this go for 11 years!), so who exactly will be inspecting her and reporting her?  Who will do anything to make sure she doesn’t torture any more dogs?

I don’t have a lot of faith that any justice has actually been served and it is incredibly frustrating. It feels like the “victories” are so small sometimes, doesn’t it??

Source: NY Times online

Source: NY Times online

The pig you see here being dangled by the leg is still just a baby, and by now he is already dead and thrown away for absolutely no reason, as are the rest of the 300,000 pigs in Egypt.  According to the New York Times, “Egypt ordered the pig slaughter even though there hasn’t been a single case of swine flu there and no evidence that pigs have spread the disease.” I find this so frustrating.  How typical that we humans blame this epidemic on pigs, and kill them without a second thought!  Because they’re expendable!

How can people be so ignorant?  This virus was created by HUMANS when we put thousands and thousands of pigs into small quarters (breeding grounds for disease), it is spreading human to human, and we are killing pigs?  Does this make sense? It seems to me that we are being shown a giant, flashing sign that is begging us to stop factory farming, and instead of listening, we are killing sentient beings who have nothing to do with this disease beyond being innocent victims of it.  I don’t have the words to describe my shock, anger, and frustration with this whole situation. All I know is that if humans don’t wake up soon and smell the tempeh-bacon, we’re all going to be dead, and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

This is one of my favorite responses from omnivores when they find out that I would love it if the whole world stopped eating animals. “But what would we do with all the animals that are currently on farms? They’d have to die–we can’t possibly keep them all around if they’re going to serve no purpose.*  Is that what you want? You want all the farm animals to just die?”

Um…okay, really?  Yes, that is why I’m vegan – because I’d like all the farm animals to DIE!  Does that even make sense?

First of all, people aren’t going to go vegan over night – at least not the entire population. These kinds of things don’t just happen like that.  If they did, I guess I’d have to give some pretty serious thought to what would happen to the billions upon billions of animals that are currently suffering on farms everywhere.  Until that’s a real possibility, I’m not really going to stress too much about what we’d do with all the now “useless” animals.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that many farmed animals could likely survive if they were left to their own devices.  Those that couldn’t – like “broiler” chickens – would only find it difficult because of human intervention in their breeding.  Chickens who are bred for meat grow so large so quickly that even with the best of care, they do not live long.  My sister lives in Tampa, FL and she sees wild chickens all the time.  They live like any other normal wild bird, and are happy and free. Many farmed animals would be able to do the same if given the opportunity.

The last thing I’d say on this issue is that sometimes people say that these animals wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t breed them and eat them, and isn’t it better to have existed just for a little while than to never be born at all?  To that I’d like to say a BIG FAT NO.  If an animal never existed, s/he would never know s/he never existed, but when an animal lives in pain and fear every day of his/her short life, and then is brutally slaughtered at the hands of humans, s/he knows it.  That’s no way to live.  So, do I want pigs, cows, and chickens to exist?  Of course I do – but I want their existences to be ones of joy and comfort. And I don’t want them to die just because humans like the way they taste!

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* Someone actually told me that animals would “serve no purpose” if humans didn’t use them for food, clothing, etc. I did not do a very good job of hiding my shock.