Saving Animals Through Various Means

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After the whirlwind that was Vida Vegan Con, it’s interesting to pause and reflect on the state of veganism in our country (rather, North America) right now. There was a small international contingent at the conference, but with the multitude of animal rights actions happening, it’s hard enough to keep tabs on what is changing domestically. To me, what’s exciting is seeing the idea of veganism, or a cause fighting to end exploitation of animals, appear in an unlikely place. Here are just a few examples that have made the news recently:

The Randy Radish food truck is Washington D.C.’s “first 100% vegan food truck,” whose owners were inspired after watching the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. The truck features a small but pretty interesting vegan menu – lots of sandwiches and baked goods – and is barely two months old. Run by two women who were looking for a way to serve vegan food to all ages, the truck’s goal is to spread healthy, plant-based fare to the greater metro D.C. area. Awesome!

Here’s a pretty neat story of a dude who took his OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and turned it into something good: David Klasfeld took the troublesome diagnosis and created Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, best known for “a product called Lip Tar that has become a cult favorite among the kind of cutting-edge makeup enthusiasts who also tend to favor the brands Urban Decay and Illamasqua” (NYT). While a vegan make-up company may be the norm if that’s your scene, OCC’s policy on it is splendid:

In a time when many cosmetic companies make the claim that their products are “Cruelty Free” simply because Animal Testing has become unfashionable and less cost-effective, OCC felt it was necessary to raise the bar on this issue. We pledge never to use animal-derived ingredients (including Lanolin, Beeswax, Carmine and more) in our products and accessories. Beyond any personal convictions, we simply believe that it’s unnecessary, especially when there are alternatives that are just as readily available, and equally effective in the formulation of our products. Further, you need not necessarily be aligned with animal rights issues to reap the benefits of a vegan cosmetic line: animal ingredients can be amongst the most allergenic and skin reactive, and prevent makeup from being considered Kosher, Halal or otherwise compliant with various dietary (and sanitary!) regulations.

Lastly, we have this short but brilliant piece from Élise Desaulniers that appeared on HuffPo Canada-edition, about a recent gathering of French-Canadian scientists and one man’s admission of guilt about only recently switching to veganism. The short story discusses our endless quest to satisfy nothing short of a selfish desire to eat meat (not necessary, in our privileged world, for survival), and blames the deep ethic of carnism. Desaulniers closes with this hopeful message:

The majority of humanity is not psychopathic. Our carnivorous behaviour is best explained by ignorance and denial. It is thus possible to convince people to change their habits by showing them the hidden horrors that our food choices entail, and by reminding them that exploiting animals is by no means a necessity.

These three examples illustrate the power of change across the country, but one need not start a food truck or a cruelty-free cosmetic company to effect better choices. Simply living positively will echo out the changes we want to see, through small but profound steps, every single day.

Misunderstood: A Foie Gras Follow-up

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Foie Gras protest

In the weeks after the foie gras protest, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the issues, the protest itself, and of course the immense amount of controversy it generated both online and off. The internet – mostly Facebook – was abuzz with status updates about the protest, often from people who care little about the animal rights issues I post so frequently about. This signified something “different” about this particular issue.

From my estimation, the criticism could be characterized into one of three categories: 1) attacking Game was unethical because they’re a small, locally owned and operated restaurant, 2) attacking foie gras is inconsistent because either a) all meat is bad or b) many other restaurants in Louisville also serve foie gras and have been doing so for much longer than Game, 3) protesting people’s food choices is inherently unethical and shouldn’t be done.

Point 3 was often contorted into various condemnations of PETA (“Going to come picket and do their disgusting displays of blood, etc, and how evil everyone is that eats meat, and in particular hunters and their taste for wild game.” link) or how we (the activists) shouldn’t force our views onto others, and that people should be “free to eat whatever they want.” In general I agree with that, although I think the understanding and acceptance of just how food is produced should be a prerequisite before it is consumed. And really, that was the whole point of the foie gras protest: understand how foie gras is produced, and then make a decision. For Game, I felt like the logical choice was to stop serving it, especially after speaking with Adam. For patrons, I feel it’s morally necessary to abstain from eating it unless a plethora of carnistic beliefs are firmly understood within your brain.

To the gawkers and “trolls” that said “well, isn’t all meat bad?!” – Yes, and we addressed that (both Loyd, the co-organizer and myself). In fact, they betrayed their own morality by admitting that point and then not following it up by adopting a vegetarian diet. But that’s not surprising, and we work to educate and combat ignorance in that area every day. Animal lovers, even those who resonate with just dogs and cats, would most likely (with a very high level of probability in my opinion) not be okay with the way 99% of meat is produced in this country. The only consistent choice after that is to abstain from eating it.

The other points I will let Loyd address, in his remarks below. Louisville.com journalist Collette Henderson was on top of things enough to write both an pre- and post-protest piece about the Game debacle that generated some much-needed press for our cause. Wave3’s coverage was laughingly docile, but once again the cognitive dissonance bled through: a man justified his eating of antelope by claiming that even though they are cute, so are cows, and he eats them. Watch it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Collette’s piece was cut short due to the website’s guidelines (not by her), so the full interview is below. My points made it online in their entirety, which you can read here.


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An Open Letter To Louisville’s “Game” Restaurant

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If you haven’t heard the news on Facebook or elsewhere, a new restaurant called Game opened last month in Louisville. True to its name, it serves mainly “game” meats, including some more exotic ones including kangaroo, ostrich, and wild boar. As disgusting as this is, it’s also insane to me why people have an obsession with weird meats like this. However, the inclusion of foie gras on their menu is a point of contention between myself and the owners. After talking with one of them, Adam, and learning about their source of foie gras, I felt it necessary to write openly about the problems of sourcing and serving foie gras.

Many will condemn this approach for being too narrow: “why don’t you go protest McDonalds too?” they say. We do. “Well, don’t you think all meat is inhumane?” I do, yes. But foie gras is expensive, unnecessary  and supremely cruel. Far beyond raising animals for their flesh, ducks and geese are force-fed and tortured to put them in a diseased state where their liver becomes so fat that it is – for some twisted reason – considered a delicacy. This isn’t right, and I’m urging Game to stop carrying the dish. Read on for why:

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Ale-8-One Still Not Vegan

Ale-8-One, still not vegan after all these years

Ale-8-One, still not vegan after all these years

For those of you who live in Kentucky, particularly the Outer Bluegrass or Cumberland Plateau regions, you know of Ale-8-One. It’s one of the few remaining “local” sodas, made from primarily from corn syrup & carbonated water, along with a secret recipe. Think of it as a unique kind of ginger ale.

Sadly, after all these years, Ale-8-One (“a late one”) is still not vegan. That is, the original formula, anyway. Diet Ale-8-One does not contain the offending ingredient: glycerine! Please see my update below! 

Oh, the bane of many vegans around the world. Glyercine, as you may know, can be both animal or vegetable derived and as evidenced below, is from an animal source when it occurs in Ale-8-One.

The following is an exchange between fellow vegan activist Loyd (who runs the totally awesome button company Button Badger!) and Ale-8-One’s PR rep, DeAnne Elmore. You contact e-mail her directly for more info.

Loyd: Is the glycerine in ale 8 animal derived?

DeAnne: The glycerine used in Ale-8-One is animal based. The company has explored the synthetic glycerine option but found two big problems. One, synthetic glycerine is in extremely short and supply; and two, even if we were able to purchase it, it is extremely expensive.

I hope this answers your question. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

No one wants synthetic glycerin, but why not switch to vegetable glycerine? Even if it is more expensive, vegetarians and vegans could actually buy your product then. Might make up for it. For instance, there is a vegetarian restaurant in Louisville selling ale 8. I emailed a couple years ago, and this email was just to check to see if anything has changed. Since it hasn’t, that restaurant will soon stop selling ale 8, because I will have to now inform them that it isn’t vegetarian.

I will check with our QC department regarding vegetable glycerin. I am not familiar with all the options, but was told when we researched it a couple of years ago that other options were in short supply and more expensive. More expensive is a is a big concern for us. As a family owned business we struggle to keep our costs in line to stay competitive. Our raw materials are increasing, utilities are increasing and Ale-8 doesn’t share the same purchasing power as national brands. We fight for shelf space at the retail level, and price drives position.

We understand the vegan preferences and respect their position, but changing the formula at any cost must be carefully weighed. I do intend to bring up the issue again with management.

I see what you are saying, but keep in mind that you are literally telling us that you don’t want our money. Also, I can’t think of any other sodas that even have glycerin in them at all.  Anyway, thanks for getting back to me.

What I’m saying is that our company can not offer vegans an Ale-8 that adheres to their principles right now — my hope is that in time, supply issues can be resolved and then cost issues will follow and that someday Ale-8-One will be acceptable to the vegan community.

I don’t know about other sodas honestly.  I do know that it is a binding agent and I’m happy to speak with you anytime.

Sounds like the Ale-8 crew needs the hook up on some vegetable-derived glycerine! Can anyone help them out? Until then, I’ll stick to regular old ginger ale, or Rockstar, which is 100% vegan!

Photo: eclectriclibrarian

Update 2/19 14:06: I received correspondence from Ale-8-One that this is untrue. Glyercine is present in the diet version as well, but in such minute amounts that it is not required to be labeled on the bottle. I appreciate the company disclosing this information to me when they could have easily not done so. Contact them and let them know you want a vegan Ale-8-One! Here is the e-mail I received today from DeAnne, above:

It is not [listed on the bottle], it is in the secret formula as a binding agent which falls under trade secret protection. Technically, those elements don’t have to be disclosed. The amounts are very small in a 12 oz bottle. However, I know that the amount doesn’t matter, it is the presence.

Additional glycerine is added to the process for creating Ale-8-One which is why it is listed on the panel. Glycerine is only present within the secret formula in Diet and Caffeine Free Diet. To give you an idea of the amount, a 100 ml test tube of the secret formula is just under a half cup measure, and it will flavor 600 bottles. Again, I know the amount doesn’t matter to you just the presence.

Veganism and Title VII Protection: Commentary & Guest Post

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If you haven’t yet seen the underreported story of the vegan refusing the flu vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the case is worth a glance. Essentially, vegan and ex-hospital employee Sakile Chenizra was fired from the hospital for refusing to get an employee-mandated flu vaccine at the request of her employers. It’s common for hospitals to impose this, as it is in nursing homes, schools, etc. If you’re not aware, the flu vaccine as it stands in 2012/2013 is not vegan: it’s egg-based and also tested on animals. A great dialogue regarding the ethics of this are located here at Choosing Raw.

Chenizra sued the hospital for religious discrimination under Title VII, claiming the veganism, or rather, her belief in it, is strong enough to be considered a religious belief. Surprisingly, the court is allowing her claim to move forward! They wouldn’t throw the case out, and it’s set for a July 9th date. This is good news! If veganism can be taken seriously as a belief “with a sincerity equating that of traditional religious views” (the court’s words) then our foot is in the door for taking animal rights seriously. Which means, well…I’ll leave that to your imagination! For a preview of that possible future, check out the Nonhuman Rights Project.

So, I’m very excited to see how all this develops. However, legal stuff isn’t my forte, so I had the privilege of getting the insight of a friend and longtime vegetarian Joe Dunman. He was kind enough to give some background on this issue, and other comments. His remarks are below. Enjoy!

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