Friday, May 27, 2011

Oreo.

Photo courtesy © Cameron O'Steen.

Oreo was a sweet, beautiful baby boy cow I had the honor of getting to know at Animal Acres. Oreo, along with his friends Cocoa and Peanut, had been rescued from what can only be described as hell on earth - a nearby veal and dairy facility. After being ripped away from their mothers, Oreo, Cocoa, and Peanut spent their first several months barely alive, and sadly, Oreo was so bad off that when the amazing people at Animal Acres found him, he had already developed a terrible lung infection. But despite all of this, Oreo acted like a happy, curious baby - like most babies - enjoying the beauty of each day and palling around with his fellow calves in their safe, comfy new home at the sanctuary. 
Last weekend, Steve and I took my dear friends from NYC, Molly Glenn (of The Vegan Everything) and Dan Truax, to Animal Acres, and I got to spend time with Oreo and his friends. Kisses, cuddles, and hair (aka "straw") nibbling abounded. I was in love with this little guy, so much so that after three hours at the sanctuary, Steve had to literally pull me away from him. I was hooked. And Oreo was to blame.

See, I'm a big fan of the underdog - the beings in this world who need the most love and support, and who happen to be the ones who receive the least of it. Be it a worm, a cockroach, a pigeon, or a pig, I love standing up for the creatures who most strongly need another creature in their corner. So, while Cocoa and Peanut were just as much fun to be around, I was most attached to little Oreo, and most hoping his weakened lungs would heal as he found more peace and health at Animal Acres.

Oreo passed away early this morning. And I'm still a bit of a mess over it. But I know this for sure - I will continue to live vegan for the rest of my life because of Oreo. I will continue to fight for the babies in this world who need our voices to help them and protect them. I will continue to tread as compassionately as possible. Oreo will be a daily reminder that my calling here on earth - to help people connect to their compassion and to go vegan - will never be finished. 
I will miss you, Oreo. Thank you for giving me kisses, nibbles, and cuddles. Thank you mostly for trusting me and everyone else at Animal Acres to treat you with kindness after you had been shown nothing but abuse and neglect at the hands of my species. Thank you for inspiring me every day to continue living my best life. I love you. 
Want to learn more about how to kick the dairy (and egg and meat) habit and live compassionately? Visit www.chooseveg.org to learn how, or, if you're a California resident, find a time to go visit Cocoa and Peanut at Animal Acres. To learn more about Animal Acres, visit www.animalacres.org.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oldie, But a Goodie: What Holly Taught Me

Jumper and veggies - a magical thing.
Hello lovelies! 

I still need help getting some public love for my Vida Vegan entry video, so if you haven't checked it out (or if you don't know about the contest), click here to learn more

In August, I wrote a blog completely dedicated to a rescue kitty named Holly that Steve and I cared for last summer. As Jumper, one of her babies and our fourth rescue kitty, grows up right in front of our eyes, I'm missing Holly and wanting to remind myself of her today. 

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing about it nine months ago.

What Holly Taught Me
August 6, 2010

I haven't really publicized much of it on the blog, but back in May, I rescued a little kitty.

I was going about my business one morning when I heard one of my cats making some very strange sounds on the sill of my bedroom window. When I went to see what all of the fuss was about, I peeled back the window's curtain to find two huge, beautiful eyes looking right back at me. A stray cat - which is a frequent occurrence in my Brooklyn neighborhood - somehow found one of my other cats in the window and decided to engage in a staring contest with it. 

Feeling awful about her situation, I decided to open the window and give her a little food and water, and immediately, her affectionate flips and desperate pleas for a belly rub enamored me more than I expected. I made a decision - to bring this little girl inside, but only as a foster, since I already have three other precious rescue kitties of my own. I figured that I might as well take care of her and keep her off the mean Brooklyn streets (Brooklyn is great for people, but not as kind to its stray cats), so that she wouldn't get pregnant and make more stray kitties. Boy, was I in for a reckoning.

Holly - moments before devouring a bowl of popcorn

About a month or so into it, this little rescue, who we named Holly, started looking somewhat heftier in the area around her belly. She was eating twice as much as my other cats and was increasingly hormonal and territorial as the weeks passed. After talking with Steve about it, researching on the internet, and talking to family and friends, it hit me. The kitty I brought in to keep from getting pregnant had been pregnant the entire time.

Steve and I were both scared and exhilarated by this news - I mean, finding a home for one cat had been difficult enough by this point, but more? How would we ever find a way to make this work? Having a deadline of Sept. 1st certainly didn't help either (which is the day we are planning to make the cross-country trek to our new home in Los Angeles). But for all of the fear and worry, we both decided this could be the best thing that ever happened to us - and even more so for Holly. Little did I know that the experience of watching and helping Holly give birth would completely change my life in a way I never expected. 

Holly hugging her first born.
On August 1st, Holly gave birth to five tremendously adorable kittens. The first three came out quickly and easily, with no complications (thank you, Mother Nature!). After about two and a half hours and no third kitten, I acted quickly and found a way to get a very tired Holly to push out a foot-first baby (one of the most difficult and least survived birthing positions for kittens) - a feat I look back on with so much glowing pride. After the fourth baby, Holly seemed finished and in good spirits as her kittens happily nursed. Steve and I decided to leave them all for a little bit - to be honest, we had been hovering over her like helicopter parents all day and this lady needed a serious break from us!

After consuming some much-needed comfort food at Foodswings, we came home to find, hiding under a towel in the bathroom, a fifth kitten. Completely cleaned but cold, we weren't sure if this baby got lost in the shuffle or was rejected by his exhausted mommy. None of that mattered to Steve or me - what mattered was it surviving. It seemed like an eternity of struggling to get little number five to latch onto a nipple, and when it happened, tears poured out of me as I realized that we saved a life that may have not been saved had we left our first-time mommy alone the rest of the night.

After everything was over, Steve and I watched in awe as these little babies, knowing exactly what to do, crawled over to Holly, who also knew exactly what to do, and nursed with abandon. For the most part, these little guys and gals have been only eating and sleeping, much like human babies. They've also been exploring the blanket they've lived on for their first six days of life, I've seen a few nipple fights between two hungry kittens, and mostly, they're enjoying the bliss of being innocent, comfortable, happy babies. It's pretty amazing.

What has been the greatest part in all of this? The beliefs within me that have grown insurmountably since watching Holly give birth - that every mother deserves the peace and respect of being able to give life on her own terms. That every mother deserves to nurse her babies for as long as needed to nourish them. That every baby deserves to be nourished, loved, and protected by its mother.

As I watched a beautiful and responsible feline mom do her thing with so much grace and inner wisdom, bittersweet feelings ran through me. Because while Steve and I were able to give Holly a safe place to make this transition, there are countless pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, and ducks - the list goes on and on - who are not given even a modicum of safety, peace, or respect as they experience the birth of their babies. We artificially place babies within these animals, then rip them away from each other soon after they are born, and for what? To consume the milk of another species that was never something we were supposed to take (and that we never needed in the first place). To eat the flesh of an animal whose natural born right should be to live and bear children peacefully. Why have we grown so distanced from that truth? Why did we ever decide as a species that it was okay to take that away from them?

Harrison and Loretta at Farm Sanctuary. Read their story here.
Holly has shown me that I want to fight until the end of my life for these mommies and babies, because there are far too many humans who either aren't fighting or don't even know that there's a fight to be had in the first place. More than the violent act of eating the flesh of an animal, we need to focus on helping people learn about the massive violence we are inflicting on the mothers and babies of this world. We have confused them, exploited them, and taken away a right that was given to them by something much greater than ourselves. By consuming the eggs and the milk of other species, we contribute on a daily basis to the deaths of baby male chicks, baby male cows, and mother cows, pigs, chickens and other farmed animal mothers on a massive scale.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a wonderful video about her thoughts on the female exploitation that occurs within the world of farming and consuming animals. I encourage you all to watch it, and, if you are still on the fence about consuming the by-products or flesh of animals, please reconsider. There are so many delicious, healthy, cholesterol-free alternatives to dairy and eggs, it's not even funny!


In May, a stray cat with babies in her belly was looking for a safe place to have them, and I decided to give that to her. I am forever thankful to have crossed paths with this extraordinary being. One day, I hope to be as good a mommy as Holly has been for her babies. In the meantime, I will continue to speak on behalf of animal mothers everywhere who deserve the same respect Holly was given. 

P.S. What a happy ending - we have managed to find homes for Holly and all of her babies. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word and to those taking in these wonderful cats! 

For anyone curious about plant-based alternatives to eggs and milk, please visit my "Three Steps" page for more info.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Help Send Lindsay to Vida Vegan Con!

Hey KMIVers!  Steve here!

Life as a vegan blogger for Lindsay has been one of the most rewarding opportunities in her life.  Mind you, the stress of having/wanting/needing to blog for all of our amazing followers has gotten to her before: while she was jobless and had to make Craig's List searching a bigger priority; while Blogger was on the fritz and our computer - with low-hard drive space - was making it virtually impossible to put up a post successfully (and then having to cross our fingers hoping it didn't get erased).  But, throughout it all, knowing that YOU, our amazing, compassionate, insightful, loving happy vegan followers were always there guided her to tough it out, get back on, and blog away for YOU.  We can't see our lives without Kiss Me, I've Vegan! and the KMIV family, and we thank you so much for always being there.

As a blogger, Lindsay always hopes to gain more followers and support doing what she loves, because the more the caring, cruelty-free word of veganism can spread in a delicious, easy, and helpful way, the more the animals benefit - the more you benefit - the more the world benefits!!!  So, that brings us to the event of all events for vegan bloggers, the very first ever: VIDA VEGAN CON!  (loud gong)

The Vida Vegan Bloggers' Conference is (will be...but already "is" in my mind) the premiere conference for vegan bloggers from all around the world.   It's professionally run and the absolute best forum for vegan bloggers to connect and enjoy two and a half days of workshops, speakers, class, panels, special events, and, of course, food & fun!   Five percent of all their registrations are donated to animal sanctuaries (isn't that great?!).  This year, it is being held in Portland, Oregon from August 26th-28th.  

Some of the speakers include (ready for this star-studded lineup?): our own KMIV interviewees Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Vegan Baking/Brunch Goddess), Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (Compassionista Gold Medalist), Jasmin Singer (Animal Activist Extraordinaire); also, Lindsay Shay Nixon (upcoming interviewee, from Happy Herbivore), Colleen Holland and Elizabeth Castoria (Co-creator and Managing Director, respectively, of VegNews), Bryanna Clark-Grogan (Vegan Chef and Author; our Country-Fried Tofu inspiration!), and Sunny Subramanian (from PETA2).  The founders, Janessa Philemon-Kerp (of Epicurious Vegan), Jess Scone (of Get Sconed!), Michele Truty (of Vegtastic Voyage), and Stephanie Redcross (of Vegan Mainstream) should be given a standing ovation and a big tin of Isa's Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows for creating this spectacular event and, in turn, a two and half day concentrated circle of the greatest compassion and foodie power you'll ever find.

Not surprisingly, Vida Vegan Con is already sold out!  And guess who doesn't have a ticket... :-(

But that can't be so! Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! yearns to be at Vida Vegan Con, dreams of being at Vida Vegan Con, belongs at Vida Vegan Con!!!  So, when Jess Scone (thank you, Jess Scone!), presented a contest to win a free ticket to VVC, I jumped at the opportunity.  KMIV must be there!  And Lindsay must go to represent!  The contest: Write a song.  The requirements: The mention of "vegan" and "Vida Vegan Con" somewhere in the lyrics, and the absolute intention to attend.  Well, thank the vegan gods that Lindsay was singing The Little Mermaid a few days ago, because my creative mind immediately went into action and we came up with this: "Completely Ve-gan", to the tune of "Part of Your World".

We've posted on the Get Sconed! webpage and YouTube already - the winner will be announced on May 20th.  All we ask of you, our loyal KMIV followers, is to show as much support as possible through views and comment posts on both Get Sconed! and YouTube.  As I mentioned before, it's an absolute dream for my bloginista of a wife to attend such a gathering of vegan minds - please help that dream come true!  Below you'll find the video, so have fun watching, have fun commenting, and thank you again for all your wonderful support.


If you want to go that extra distance, please make sure to visit the Get Sconed! link and comment positively about our video at the bottom!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm Grateful For...

Photo © Joanna Wilson Photography
Kale. 

The way my morning coffee seems to melt into the almond milk, agave, and cinnamon I pour over it. 

The curiosity of my rescue kitties.

Ellen Degeneres.

Cruelty-free toothpaste.

When a friend tells me about a new experience they had at a vegan restaurant.

Vegan Restaurants.

Vegan Restaurants in Los Angeles.

A free Sunday morning, because that means I can venture to Animal Acres.

Jumper  + local produce from the farmers market = Gratitude.
The combination of cashews, lemon juice, salt, garlic, a little water, and a Vitamix. 

Animal activists - you are my heroes.


Kale.

Protests. Because someone has to be their voice. 

Alicia Silverstone.

Farmed animal sanctuaries. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you some more. 

Openness, compassion, empathy, connection. Whatever it takes to get you to deepen that awareness and think of the animals when you eat/shop/ enjoy/rest/relax, and make just about any choice with your wallet/fork/time/energy/focus.

Animal rescue stories.

Specifically, Maxine's Dash for Freedom:


Rory Freedman.

Gene Baur. 

Kale.

Daiya cheese. Over nachos. Or lasagna. Or just about anything. 

How handsome my husband looks in a tee shirt that reads "Vegan". 

The wet, sloppy, and affectionate kiss of a cow's tongue on your cheek.


Vegan pot-lucks.

A safe, sleepy turkey.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Bold Native.

Forks Over Knives.

Earthlings.


John Robbins.

Homemade veggie burgers.


Kale.



You. And you. And you (yes, YOU!). 
Thank you for always.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jasmin Singer Has A Few Reasons To Smile...

Jasmin with her beloved dog Rose
Below, enjoy a guest post by activist and vegan superhero Jasmin Singer, responding to KMIV's favorite question, "What are YOUR reasons to smile?".  In addition to being a rockstar for farmed animals everywhere, Jasmin is the executive director and co-founder of Our Hen House, a central clearinghouse for all kinds of ideas and opportunities to create change for animals. As OHH's website reads: 

"Our Hen House produces resources that you can use in order to find your own way to change the world for animals. Using video, audio, interviews, reviews, and the written word, it provides daily updates on what you need to create change. No matter what your niche is, Our Hen House aims to give you what you need to be part of a new world for animals."

To learn more about this kiss-worthy lady, check out her Our Hen House bio Take it away, Jasmin! 


Remember that feeling you had when you learned about the horror of what is happening to animals behind closed doors? If you were like me, your initial thought was, “How could I not have known?” And I’d bet my tofu scramble that your next one was, “What am I going to do about it?” 

The goal of Our Hen House is to help you answer that question. I co-founded Our Hen House in January 2010 with my partner, animal rights law professor Mariann Sullivan, to act as a multi-media hive of opportunities for change. We have a daily blog, a weekly podcast, and a video production unit. We believe that changemakers come in all shapes and sizes – artists, grassroots activists, academics, lawyers, students, business moguls, media darlings, etc. – and it is our goal to help anyone who cares about animals find their niche, their own personal recipe to change the world for animals. Our style is indefatigably positive, and no matter what your interests, Our Hen House aims to give you what you need.

With the weather getting toastier, I feel newly recharged to step up my own animal activism. And based on the overwhelming attendance at some of the NYC activist events I’ve recently attended, I’m not the only one. In honor of springtime, I have handpicked my top 10 favorite inspiring activist stories we’ve featured on Our Hen House - in other words, Our Hen House's top ten  "Reasons to Smile" for April. I've also shared a round-up of our recent podcast episodes. Of course, given the multitude of changemaking avenues, narrowing it down feels a bit like Sophie’s choice, so be sure to visit Our Hen House daily, and join our Facebook and Twitter families, too.

Our Hen House's Top Ten Reasons to Smile for April:
1. Our Hen House Launches “The Gay Animal Series”: For the launch of our Gay Animal series, we created a video featuring Mercy for Animals’ Executive Director, Nathan Runkle, exploring the interconnections between gay rights and animal rights. This kind of advocacy – bridging social justice movements – is integral to creating social change.  

2. New Vegan Stock Photo Site: Calling Photographers and Advertisers!: Activists Chris and Crystal Tate have created a vegan stock photo website  anyone can use for their blogs or printed material. They are also seeking photographs and vegan advertisers. I love their entrepreneurial spirit. A source for vegan photographs was a tool that animal activists sorely needed, and they have filled that void beautifully.

3. Change the World for Pit Bulls: As the proud human companion to a sweet pit bull, I know all too well that the myths surrounding these precious creatures are unfounded and cruel. A new film, Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent, exposes the dark underbelly of breed discriminatory laws.

4. Writing for Animal Rights: As part of Our Hen House’s “Changemaking Series,” I have been working with Mercy for Animals to give workshops on activism. The last one, Writing for Animal Rights, was live-streamed, and the video is now available, along with links to the documents I distributed at the talk, summarizing the main points. 

5. YEA Camp: Yeah, I Wanna Go: The only problem with YEA Camp is that it was not around when I was a tyke. It’s a summer camp for kids who want to change the world.

6. “Animals Are Outside Today”: Artist Colleen Plumb has a cutting-edge, cerebral way of combining her talent as a photographer with her clear passion for animals. Her current exhibit, “Animals Are Outside Today,” is not only moving, but succeeds in speaking the truth about animals in one of the most profound ways possible: the arts.
7. Easy-Peasy Restaurant Outreach: The changemakers over at Compassion Over Killing are offering free restaurant manager cards that highlight the growing demand for vegan food, encouraging establishments to expand their menus in a compassionate direction. This is a no-brainer for anyone who wants an easy way to advocate veganism. 
8. Political Animals: Instead of just complaining about what elected officials are doing, and failing to do, about animal issues, two animal lovers in Canada decided to run for office. Perhaps this kind of political animal activism is something more of us should consider?  
9. Studying Human-Animal Relations, In Person AND ONLINE!!: Canisius College in Buffalo, New York is among one of the most recent universities to add a program in human-animal relations. Lucky for us, they even offer a graduate program that is mostly based online. Acadamic outreach for animals is A-Okay with us.
10. A Vegan Art Show in New York City (and Beyond?): Metropolitan Community Church of New York is hosting an art show this fall featuring animal and vegan-themed works by creative vegans. If you’re in NYC, submit your work, but if you’re not, consider organizing a similar show in your area that not only brings together community, but also raises awareness – and potentially funds – for animal issues.

Photo © Lauren Krohn
In addition to blogging every day, we at Our Hen House also produce one-hour weekly podcasts. Here are the four most recent episodes. Remember, you can easily listen on our website, or subscribe for free on iTunes
Our Hen House Podcast Round-Up:
Episode 67 – Featuring Joe Cross, filmmaker of Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
Episode 66 – Featuring James McWilliams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly 
Episode 65 – Featuring Delci Winders of PETA and Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary
Episode 64 – Featuring Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of CNN’s Headline News show, Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell
At Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

One of my all-time favorite quotes was also the title of our 67th podcast episode. Émile Zola said, 

The fate of animals is of greater importance to me than the fear of appearing ridiculous.” 

Though that certainly resonates with me, and as you can see from the ample opportunities outlined above (and the hundreds more on our website), appearing ridiculous isn’t even a prerequisite for getting involved with changing the world for animals anymore, since literally anyone can do it in a way that is both fulfilling and fun. I don’t know about you, but putting a positive spin on the absolute despair inherent in animal exploitation, and empowering ourselves to change the world in creative ways, gives me gusto.
Want to learn more about this amazing activist and Our Hen House? Visit www.ourhenhouse.org to learn more.