Saturday, November 22, 2014

A perfect time to stop eating animals

This deliciously-seasoned, nutritious,
colorful holiday stuffing is just one

of thousands of recipes that prove
giving up meat isn't a sacrifice. 
Would you be able to kill an animal? If not, and you still eat meat, you're not living in alignment with your values.

I know, I know. People sometimes say, "Animals kill and eat each other. We're no different."

Well, as one of my heroes, Harvey Diamond, first pointed out to me in his brilliant Fit For Life books, could you kill an animal yourself? Could you do what other animals do—chase it down, strangle or smother it, tear it apart with your bare hands, and swallow it raw?

If you react to this question with disgust—and couldn't or wouldn't yourself actually go through with killing a living being—you're already a vegetarian in belief, if not yet practice. In addition to the growing number of health and environmental reasons to turn exclusively to plants for nutrition, many vegans and vegetarians stop eating animals because they would not ask someone else to do for them what they themselves would not do.

"I would not kill a creature," said another of my heroes, Peace Pilgrim. "And I would not ask someone else to kill it for me, so I will not eat the flesh of the creature."

Other signs that you might "already" be a vegetarian or vegan include:

  • You find the sight—or even idea—of a butchered animal or slaughterhouse unsettling
  • You sometimes sense a "vague uneasiness" when you buy, order, or eat animal products
  • You sometimes feel like you're not living in alignment with your "true self" 
  • You've wondered why some cultures eat certain animals and not others, and why they're not always the same animals
  • You've stopped and thought about how eating horses, cats, pigs, dogs, chickens, fish, or cows is any different—especially if this happened when your beloved pet was gazing at you

After Thanksgiving 1997, I realized I no longer wanted to have others kill on my behalf, and I declared that Holiday the last time I'd ever eat turkey. A month later, I made Christmas the last time I'd ever eat ham. That New Year's Day's became a natural time to celebrate the "good luck" tradition of pork and sauerkraut with the resolution to never eat animals again. (In the years since then, delicious vegan alternatives for all of these products have become available.)

You know, the Holidays are the perfect time to give yourself, the planet, and animals this gift. It's already a time of reflection, of renewal, of gratitude, of introspection, of compassion, and, of course, of commitment. If the thought of killing your dog or cat—or any animal—gives you a lump in your throat and a knot in your stomach, you're already a vegetarian in belief, and you're ready to take this exciting next step.

Best of all, there's no sacrifice at all in being vegetarian or vegan—only the rewards of a rich variety in food, improved health, and a much lighter spirit.

A version of this article originally appeared on this site on November 21, 2011.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

U.S. tour for Growl author Kim Stallwood

Later this month, longtime animal advocate Kim Stallwood is returning to the United States—almost exactly 24 years after his first speaking tour here—to promote Growl, his widely-praised new autobiography (Lantern, 2014).

In the Introduction to the book, Stallwood writes that, while animal rights is "about our relationship with nonhuman creatures, it's also about locating meaning in our lives and finding out who we truly are." Many passages in the book mirror my own experience as I went vegetarian in my 20s, then fully vegan in my 30s (for example, "being squeamish about certain forms of animal bodies and relishing others was illogical and inconsistent").

Though I've followed his LinkedIn updates for a few years, I was surprised to learn about his culinary training, and I appreciated his hope that future chefs would be able to pursue their creativity without having to use animals—indeed, that they wouldn't even have to use the word "vegan" to describe their entirely cruelty-free cuisine. It'd be a future where vegan food is just food—kind of like "Italian food" is just "food" in Italy and "Indian food" is just "food" in India.

Much of Growl is a personal chronicle of Stallwood's work within organizations—the infernal and exhausting work of managing infighting, politics, power struggles, internal disputes, and bureaucracy. He describes how some vegans simply give up and retreat to spending too much time in what Stallwood calls our "Misanthropic Bunkers"—our safe havens, our vegan sanctuaries, our vegan blogs. 

To hear Stallwood speak in person, visit the most updated list of his upcoming U.S. appearances in the Events section of his website. The list below is a guide, but please confirm before attending.

October 30
Presenting ‘The Animal Rights Challenge’ at a public meeting hosted by NYU’s Animal Studies Initiative

October 31
Interview with Caryn Hartglass of REAL Radio

November 4
Presenting ‘Growl’ at Professor David Cassuto’s Animal Law Class, which is followed by making the same presentation to Professor Len Mitchell’s Business Ethics Class at Pace University

November 5
Second ‘Growl’ presentation for Professor Mitchell’s Business Ethics Classes at Pace University, which is followed by a meeting with Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House

November 6
Speaking at the launch party for the anthology, Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals & the Earth, at Bluestockings bookstore, NYC

November 7
Meeting with attorneys Sarah Griffin and David Wolfson about Minding Animals International

November 10
Presenting ‘Growl’ at the vegan cafe, Grindcore House, hosted by The Humane League in Philadelphia, PA

November 12
Presenting ‘Growl’ at Red Emma’s bookstore and vegetarian cafe in Baltimore, MD

November 13
Lunchtime presentation of ‘Growl’ for the staff, volunteers and trustees of Alley Cat Allies, Bethesda, MD, which is followed by presenting ‘Growl’ at a public meeting hosted by ACA at the Washington Humane Society’s Behavior and Learning Centre

November 14
Consultation with Dawn Moncrief, A Well-Fed World, which is followed by an afternoon presentation of ‘Growl’ for the staff of the ASPCA’s Washington DC office

November 15
Evening presentation of ‘Growl’ hosted by Maine Animal Coalition at University of Southern Maine

November 16
Evening presentation of ‘Growl’ at the vegan Grasshopper Restaurant hosted by the Boston Vegetarian Society

November 17
Evening reception hosted by GREY2K USA Worldwide at their offices in Arlington, MA

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Interview: Paula Sandin and Jennifer Sandin Adams

Jennifer Sandin Adams & Paula Sandin
After the publication of Why aren't more Christians vegan?, I met Paula Sandin and Jennifer Sandin Adams, vegan sisters who were "totally healed from a litany of incurable diseases" by adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet.

The sisters' transformation was so successful that they co-founded A Litttle Light, a Christian t-shirt business with designs that make the Christian/ vegan connection and inspire healthy eating. They're also writing a book about their individual journeys from debilitation to excellent health.

New Vegan Age: Tell us about your lives. Where were you born? How did you come to be vegan? When and how did you come to start your business?

Paula: We grew up in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. In 2006, I got very sick with a number of debilitating conditions and, as a result, lost my job. (I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and its many accompanying corollary illnesses). After having been denied disability insurance, I was thinking about how to make an income. It was nearing Christmas, and I had gone on-line to look for uplifting Christian tee shirts as gifts for my sister and best friend. I could find none that appealed to me. Most were a little scary, to be frank. It was at that time that I thought there might be a market for tee shirts with positive and loving Christian/ inspirational messages. Thus, A Litttle Light, LLC was born. My sister was very involved from the beginning and eventually decided to officially become co-owner with me. 

In May 2008, Jennifer suffered from a complete collapse resulting from heart problems and seizures. After many months of doctors’ appointments, she, too, was diagnosed with a litany of chronic and “incurable” illnesses. After a few years of research and still suffering with the “incurable” illnesses, my sister and I adopted a whole food, plant-based diet leading us both to completely restored health. The food did for us what no doctor or medicine could. We are now both healthier than we have ever been in our lives.

As a result of our vegan lifestyles, and our belief that our food choices should reflect deeply held Catholic Christian values about respecting all of life, we created a "Change the Food, Change the World" line of tee shirts that inspire healthy eating.

NVA: I love the name of your business—that the "misspelling" of "Little" with three ts is intentional, to symbolize the three crosses on Calvary. How did you settle on specializing in t-shirts, and not another product?

Paula: Seeing the great success of Life is Good tee shirts and their uplifting messages, we knew there was broad public interest in inspirational tee shirts with cute designs. A Little Light, LLC appeals to a somewhat narrower niche market. Our inspirational tee shirts are also uplifting and whimsical, but they point specifically to God, our true Inspiration.

NVA: In addition to the impetus for starting it, what makes the business vegan? Sourcing? Materials? A percentage of profits to vegan charities?

Jennifer: We aspire to be able to support a number of charitable organizations, including farm sanctuaries and vegan food/water charities that feed the poor and hungry. In 2014, A Litttle Light, LLC donated to Esther the Wonder Pig’s Indiegogo animal sanctuary campaign. Our ultimate goal is to create a foundation that supports farmers who want to switch from animal-based to organic, plant-based agriculture.

We are also very interested in partnering with non-profits to which we would donate a percentage of t-shirt sales. The types of organizations with which we are most interested in working are those that are Catholic (and other Christian denominations), as well as those organizations that support animal welfare and other pro-life issues.

NVA: You've found a way to combine your closeness as sisters with your strong personal beliefs, business passion, and life experience. Where and how do you market and sell your shirts? How do most of your customers find you?

Paula: A Litttle Light, LLC is an internet-based company, so our commerce is primarily done on-line. However, we did exhibit at the 2013 DC VegFest trade show and may exhibit at the Northern Virginia Christmas show at the Dulles Expo Center in mid-November.

NVA: Tell us about the design and manufacturing processes.

Jennifer: Together we develop the ideas for tee shirt messages and designs and sketch (read: scratch) them out on a piece of paper. My husband, Steve, then uses his own creative talent and graphic design skills to create something beautiful for us. We use a local company to print our tee shirts.

NVA: Do your offerings rotate seasonally? Annually?

Jennifer: We do offer seasonal designs, which also include holiday designs. For instance, we have created designs that are more appropriate for spring and summer, and we also have specific designs for Christmas. Right now, we are featuring our Fall collection of crisp apple tees. They celebrate the season and its abundant harvest of delicious, healthy foods.

NVA: What's been your most popular product to date? Why do you think it resonates with your customers?

The Bee Still design
: We have three very popular designs: (1) our Bee Still shirt, featuring a whimsical bumble bee with the words “Bee Still” underneath, (2) our Green Apple shirt, with the words, “Every seed bearing fruit shall be your food,” surrounding a green apple, and (3) our American Flag shirt with the words “In God We Trust” below the flag.

Jennifer: The Bee Still shirt may be popular because it reminds people to slow down and give God the reigns. It has a double meaning, as well. It subtly reminds us about our need to protect bees from extinction. Aside from their own value as God’s Creatures, they also help us to maintain our food supply through pollination. We want the bees to still be around for future generations, hence “Bee Still”.

Paula: Our Green Apple shirt is popular with vegan audiences because it points back to God’s original plant-based eating plan for humanity.

Our In God We Trust Flag tee is popular because it points to the foundation upon which our nation was founded. As well, the three stars represent The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, any tee that features “three” of something is our way of pointing to The Trinity.

NVA: Congratulations on finding a much-needed niche! We hope it will continue to find new markets and hearts as veganism grows. Will you offer any discounts or promotions for the upcoming back-to-school and holiday seasons? If so, how can readers take advantage of them at checkout?

Paula: We regularly offer discounts and promotions. We try to widely communicate them by announcing them on our website homepage and on Facebook and Twitter. Our best communications come from our satisfied customers who tell others about A Litttle Light, LLC.

NVA: Anything else we haven't yet discussed? Any other upcoming projects or plans you'd like to mention here?

Jennifer: We have just finished writing a book, Pick Up Your Mat…And Follow God to Divine Health, which chronicles our journeys from debilitating sickness to extreme good health by following God and adopting a whole food, plant-based diet (God’s eating plan found in Genesis 1:29). The book is currently with our publisher undergoing an initial editorial review.

Paula: In conjunction with the book, our vision is to be able to speak to audiences, including churches and colleges, about our health and spiritual journeys and share the incredible health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. So many people are sick (or will be), and we want them to know there is a way out of illness and debilitation.

NVA: Thank you so much, Jennifer and Paula. All the best to both of you as you continue your important work, and please stay in touch! We look forward to reading your book when it is ready.