Documentaries That Will Make You Go Vegan (Guest Post)

Maria Ramos contacted me awhile back about writing a guest post summarizing some of the recent documentaries that exist regarding eating a plant-based diet and living a vegan lifestyle. Enjoy!

Many people do not pay very close attention to what they eat. In fact, it seems that most Americans would rather not know anything about where their food comes from. This is no accident. The factory farm industry would rather you not know about the abuse and murder that animals suffer and how instead of treating animals humanely, they treat animals as disposable property. Many people have dedicated their lives to showing how the factory farm industry is harmful to both animals and people. The industry has responded by sponsoring many “ag-gag” laws across the country and trying to criminalize people reporting the truth about the conditions that exist inside these farms.

Despite this effort to silence those who would speak the truth, many important documentaries have been made to show people the conditions inside these farms. Many also are made to explain why going vegan is an important way that they can help stop the way farm animals are treated by industry. This list is by no means complete, but these are some of the most important works that have been done in recent time.

Food Inc. (2008)

Food Inc. is probably one of the most well-known documentaries around. This film looks inside America’s corporate-owned food industry and how it is unsustainable (both economically and environmentally) and inhumane. While filmmaker Robert Kenner does not expressly advocate going vegan or even vegetarian, his film shows a lot of the negative consequences that our factory farms have had on people, animals, and the environment. Food Inc. can be found on Netflix.

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home (2012)

We explore the horrible conditions of the factory farms that “food animals” are forced to live in in Peaceable Kingdom. This documentary follows several people who have been in the farming industry all their lives as they find peace through going vegan and seeing the animals as more than just sources of profit. You can buy the DVD with bonus material here.

Vegucated (2011)

Three New Yorkers give up meat and cheese for six weeks in this documentary. We follow them as they become influenced by what they learn about the meat industry and modern factory farms. By the end of the film, we find they have (mostly) kept up with their vegan diet, proving that by simply being open to what others have to say, you can make a difference. You can stream Vegucated on Netflix.

Cock Fight (2015)

One farmer became a whistleblower against the chicken industry and was set on showing not only the awful conditions that the chickens “live” in, but the dire poverty and suffering that the people who work on the farms endure as well. This documentary shows how big agri-business has developed virtual monopolies in each of their areas, preventing both humane conditions for the animals and the people that work the farms. You can watch Cock Fight on DirecTV’s Fusion channel.

Farm to Fridge (2011)

With undercover, graphic footage, this documentary shows what life is like for the animals that die for our food. Narrated by the actor James Cromwell, who played the farmer in the movie “Babe,” the film shows the work of the group Mercy For Animals. MFA’s groundbreaking undercover investigations have sparked legislation, both to help protect farm animals and to prevent the “ag-gag” laws that the large factory farms want to pass. Farm to Fridge has been uploaded to YouTube.

I’ll add to this great list Cowspiracy (2014), Speciesism (2013), The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013) and the classic Earthlings (2005). -Sam

Louisville’s Designer Vegan Bags: GRACESHIP

It’s always a good thing when vegan products make the news, because it puts the word vegan – and the beliefs behind it – in the minds of people who may not have thought about such an issue. Consumer goods, and in particular designer goods, often seem far removed from the animal rights activism that we engage in every day by choosing plant-based foods. But activism takes a variety of forms, and I’m happy to hear that GRACESHIP, a Louisville-based company making designer women’s laptop bags, has put this message at the forefront.

It’s with this in mind that I was excited to learn about GRACESHIP’s receipt of PETA’s “PETA-approved Vegan” logo, certifying them as a cruelty-free company:

GRACESHIP meets the high standards PETA sets for endorsement, and is the only Kentucky based company to have received the endorsement. GRACESHIP utilizes advanced technology in its manufacturing process to create premium products without sacrificing durability or style. GRACESHIP bags resist scratching, fading, and water damage. [press release]

I spoke with GRACESHIP’s Emily Gimmel about the company, and her thoughts on sustainability:

TNTSU: Congratulations on the PETA certification. Did you pursue this, or did they come to you after learning about the product?
GRACESHIP: Thank you, Sam! We learned about the new Vegan-Certified program that PETA was starting, and brought our line to their attention. We went through an extensive application process where they assessed our company and brand… and found out a few weeks later that they accepted us!

Can you talk a little about why you decided to make the line with vegan/synthetic leather?
At GRACESHIP, a primary reason our products are made from animal-friendly materials is because animals deserve to live and breathe free from suffering just as we do! Plus there are various other advantages to this alternative material. Our vegan leather is very low maintenance, so you can effortlessly remain stylish while maintaining an on-the-go lifestyle. Furthermore, choosing vegan products like ours mean you can remain confident that your bag won’t lose its impeccable and consistent color. Genuine leather is notorious for fading, becoming blotchy, and cracking. Our laptop totes will maintain their ideal shade and continue to look as if you pulled it right out of the box! Through our rigorous testing processes and compliance with the California Prop. 65, we also guarantee our products are both lead and chemical free. Using vegan leather also allows us to create a product that is accessible to a larger market. Our price point is well below many designer leather laptop bags, and we are able to offer a product that looks and functions as well or better for a more easily attainable price.

Does the sustainability factor of the brand play an important role in marketing, or is that a “bonus” and simply ethically satisfying?
Sustainability is something we feel very passionately about. We strive to be ethical in everything we do as a business, and think that our customers appreciate our efforts. The fact that the products are vegan is a great bonus for us. We want to educate consumers to let them know that good fashion does not have to be synonymous with waste, cruelty, or greed.

What are some things that women who travel frequently can do to be more sustainable?
There are so many things you can do! Be conscious of your choices. Limit fuel usage as much as possible. If you have the choice of whether to drive or fly to your destination, calculate the possible environmental impact of each choice, so you can make an informed decision. Where possible, take a non-stop flight. Pack lighter to limit the amount of fuel that plane or car requires to carry you. Once you have reached your destination, rent a bike or use public transportation instead of a car. If you have to rent a car, ask for a hybrid vehicle. While traveling, limit eating out whenever possible- bring your travel snacks from home, and if you have access to a kitchen, cook your own meals. If you don’t, try out some locally sourced restaurants to sample local fare and limit the environmental impact of your meal. Stay away from disposable “travel-friendly” products- bring your own water bottle and reusable silverware for eating on the go.

When choosing where to stay, research your hotel options, and stay in one that is environmentally aware. Some larger chains that focus on the environment are Kimpton, Hyatt, The Fairmont, and Marriott- but searching for a small boutique hotel can often land you in a greener spot. Treat the hotel like your home: turn the lights, air and electronics when you leave. Limit the length of your shower, and reuse your towels (they aren’t dirty after one use so there is no need to wash them). These actions may not affect you financially like they do at home, but they have the same environmental impact.

Do many of the employees of GRACESHIP follow a vegan lifestyle?
The employees at GRACESHIP follow varied lifestyles when it comes to food choices, but we all recognize the needless harm (both for animals and the planet) involved in using leather for fashion products. We are huge animal lovers, and our office mascot Harper, the dog, brings joy to our lives every day!

Are there any plans to develop a “budget” or less expensive line?
We have a lot of pride in the craftsmanship of the GRACESHIP products, and feel that we offer them at a fair price point. The GRACESHIP brand was created in part to offer a less expensive, well made alternative to very expensive designer bags. We have been known to offer occasional giveaways or discounts on social media, so savvy shoppers should keep an eye out for those!

Where do you see GRACESHIP in five years?
GRACESHIP aims to become an authority for mobile professional women. Our goal is to be a top of mind, go to brand for women who work and travel. We constantly strive to expand our customer base and international reach. We have plans to expand the product line, using input from our customers to create products that truly fulfill their needs, and offer them more fashionable and functional products that add value to their busy lives. We will continue to focus on sustainable growth and ethical practices as our business grows and our goals are achieved.

Thanks to GRACESHIP for their time!

Oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline And Support the Blockade

Tar Sands Protest

“On November 19 2012 in East Texas, Lizzie Alvarado, Ben Reynoso and Julie Henry climbed up sixty feet into trees to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and prevent the destruction of a swath of forest. The lifelines supporting their platforms were tied to construction equipment, preventing any work from being done. After a nine hour stand-off with police and workers, a cherry picker arrived. A crowd of local supporters surged into the road to block the truck but were dispersed when a sheriff emptied an entire can of police-grade pepper spray into the crowd. Police used the cherry picker to take all three tree-sitters into custody. Ben, Lizzy and Julie were each charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, felony mischief, and felony use of a criminal instrument. Altogether, these charges could lead to imprisonment for several years and fines of tens of thousands of dollars.”

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a game changer; a behemoth of oil and carbon-emitting nightmares that our own president approved the construction of, an about-face on his supposed fight of climate change that still leaves us reeling. Amid the protests, controversy, and massive scientific evidence that building this thing will do nothing but destroy our earth, a motley crew of individuals have taken to direct action put a stop to this menace.

That would be the Tar Sands Blockade, and I’m proud to call one of their activists, Julie Henry, my friend. As you read above, she was involved in an action last year that could result in massive fines and jail time, and I encourage those who support her cause, and the cause of protecting our country and earth from the woes of fossil fuel, to donate.

The construction of this pipeline will not reduce gas prices, it will not reduce our foreign oil consumption, it will not create jobs, and it will destroy sensitive lands throughout the US, drive native tribes and other residents out of their homes. It will also spill (as these pipelines are built to), and release more than enough carbon into the atmosphere (through drilling, transport, and burning) to wreck the earth for good. See more facts and figures here.

I don’t know about you, but I would like a livable earth in 50 years. For that to happen, we have to fight today! As CrimethInc says, expect resistance! 

Powering Your Devices Without Power

What do you do when there’s no power?


Fast Co. recently highlighted this pretty awesome hand-crank cell phone charger called the “BoostTurbine.” While hand-crank devices have been around for some time, this one actually looks slick, and has both USB and micro USB ports (presumably to charger the charger?). In the wake of Sandy and no power, this could come in quite handy in a disaster.

Fast and efficient, in one minute the hand  turbine power generator can produce enough  power for a 30-second call or a few critical  texts. When fully charged, BoostTurbine2000 fully charges most smartphones.

Imagine if you’re sitting around bored, watching things float by, and crank this thing for a few hours! Why, you’d have enough juice to power a whole game of Words With Friends. Of course, solar chargers are pretty swell too (when the sun comes back out), but they’re plagued by inefficiency. Consider the Revovle XeMini Plus, which can take up to 13 hours for a full charge! As the review points out, hot sun is bad for any phone, so you have to find a way to get direct sunlight, for a long time, without heat. Those Alaskans could benefit…

So what’s a disaster-prone, eco-conscious citizen to do? Well, if you’re willing to shell out $200 you can build up a charge just by doing, that is, walking, running, biking, or just moving around. The nPower PEG (Personal Energy Generator) claims to build up battery life by just hanging out in your backpack and converting the small kinetic energy shifts that occur from every day life into straight-up cell phone juice.

The nPower PEG. (From Fast Co.)


This YouTube review claims that after three days of heavy walking and bumping around in the car, the PEG could only deliver about 40% of the juice for a full iPhone battery. Wired echoed these sentiments in their review. Not very impressive. But, what if you took it jogging? Or cycling (in the jersey pocket)? Or attached it to the bottom of a drum head? Washing machine, outside of a blender, trampoline antics…the possibilities are endless! We waste energy constantly, and if you were able to salvage some of it for free, that’d be nice. With a $200 price tag (not to mention the adapter for your specific phone), I’m not sure it’s worth it, but I’d love to hear some stories from users.

Dive! The Film: Powerful Message But Misses The Mark

Just finished watching Dive! The Film at the suggestion of a friend who shares my love for “dumpstering” waste, be it food, electronics, hardware, or milk crates. While the film was entertaining (mostly due to main character’s children), I felt it missed the mark on two levels: one, that eating meat and dairy, whether hormone-free, out of a dumpster, or from your local farmer, is somehow effective in the food movement, and two: that eating dumpstered meat and dairy is a good idea at all. Since this is a pro-animal rights blog those viewpoints aren’t exactly revolutionary here, so allow me to explain:

Jeremy Seifert’s documentary follows him and some cohorts around Los Angeles, blasting Trader Joe’s and other groceries for wasting tons of food, while highlighting the necessity of fixing our logistical waste nightmare so we don’t have 11 million people who go hungry each day in this country. This is an admirable task, and I agree with it. TJ’s and their ilk should be held accountable, in fact, all groceries, and people should: waste less, people! Seifert’s tie-in with sustainability from the WWII era was great, and I, like him, are stoked to see a resurgence of this.

But when facts are displayed on the screen about how much grain and water it takes to produce a pound of beef, what is the viewer supposed to think? That we should only eat dumpstered meat? Or buy it from a local farmer? There’s no good solution here: eating local meat is often worse for the environment due to the huge about of carbon emissions grass-fed cows produce. Eating dumpstered meat is just bad for you, and I felt the movie lacking that Seifert didn’t address this once. Surely, a conscious consumer in LA has been exposed to the arguments of veganism. Meat and dairy intake are linked to increased risk of all major diseases, and improperly cooked chicken is a huge risk, especially for children. I’m not arguing that dumpstered food is somehow “unclean” – I’d eat it myself, just not stuff that comes from another animal.

How can we argue for a less wasteful society, one that prizes sustainability and conscious consumerism, but allow rampant meat and dairy eating, whether it comes from the farm, grocery, or dumpster? Meat just doesn’t make sense to feed the world, it’s simply inefficient. Cow’s milk and its by-products, being the result of gluttonous humans (milk after infancy? why?), isn’t a health food either – Harvard realized this just a few months ago. And producing dairy takes the same cruel, wasteful approach as meat; fatten up cows, impregnate them, and steal their milk for human use. Let the cows live in peace and use that extra grain and water for starving humans!

So while I deeply appreciate Seifert’s look into the world of dumpstering, and I agree on all counts regarding waste reduction, to simply offer the option of eating nearly unlimited quantities of chicken, beef, yogurt, or whatever foodstuffs he finds in the dumpster – merely because they are trash/wasted – is short-sighted. We have to choose food wisely, regardless of the source. “Freegan” is a lame term – nothing is truly free, and eating animal products comes at a price. A vegan lifestyle, and a diet centered around plants, is the optimal one for health, sustainability for our earth, and for alleviating the suffering of billions of animals.