Superfast Cranberry Pineapple Sauce

Ah, those gorgeous colors of fall. And I don’t just mean the trees! I love the saturated, contrasting color of autumn foods. I waited patiently for cranberries to re-emerge on the shelves, and excitedly picked up the first bag I saw. While it was the middle of the day and I should have been doing homework, I simply couldn’t wait any longer to make this year’s first batch of cranberry sauce.

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Now I know what you’re thinking: “I can find a recipe for cranberry sauce on the back of the bag.” Well that may be true. But I for one have a hard time ruining perfectly beautiful cranberries with refined white sugar. Sorry! Just can’t do it.

Anyway, I like a lot of cranberry sauce on my Tofurky, or whatever cranberry vehicle is on my plate. And that means a lot of cranberry sauce, considering everything is a vehicle for cranberries in my book. So around Thanksgiving each year, I search the web for a lightened up cranberry sauce, never to find one I like. This year I decided to get it down to a science and share it with you lovely people.

This cranberry is lightened up, but has such complex, bright flavors you’ll never miss all that sugar. It’s tangy, subtly sweet and gorgeously healthful. The maple syrup sets it up beautifully, and gives it that extra fall -esque comforty flavor. So quick to make, it’s an any- day affair.

Kabocha, kale, Barry's Tempeh (all 3 steamed out of laziness/hunger) and Superfast cranberry-pineapple sauce.

Kabocha, kale, Barry’s Tempeh and Superfast Cranberry-Pineapple sauce.

It’s perfect to accompany basics like squash, (I used kabocha here) and for complimenting any savory veggie protein staple. For me it was the incomparable Barry’s Tempeh, (so good it needs no marinade) but future plans include robust Apple-Sage Field Roast Sausages, and of course, Celebration Loaf. And I won’t judge you if you simply spoon it onto Tofurky slices in front of the refrigerator. (hmm, I wonder who has been doing just that?;)

The gorgeous, saturated color that makes cranberries so nice to look at is also why they are amazing antioxidants. In that red color are the polyphenols- phytochemicals that have some of the most potent antioxidant activity. Polyphenols may contribute to cardiovascular health, immunity, and play an important role in cancer prevention. So get those cranberries in- as usual, without dairy, as dairy inhibits antioxidant activity.

So get this sauce on the stove and listen to the music of the popping cranberries- one of my favorite sounds! Serve up the sauce with your favorites, and bask in the warm Thanksgiving-like vibe without feeling like you need to open your pants.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day filled with family, friends, joy and compassion. I consider all animals my friends, and I don’t eat my friends! Turkeys are no exception- my table will be full of delicious plant-based foods. Around this time of year I think about how special turkeys are- so does Karen Dawn. I hope you’ll watch this heartwarming rescue story – it shows how loving, warm and friendly these birds truly are- just like your cats and dogs.

Cranberry – Pineapple Sauce

Recipe notes: About stevia- make sure to get a good quality brand. Some are just crazy bitter, causing many to believe they don’t like stevia. It doesn’t have to be that way! I suggest Trader Joe’s organic, or 365 brand from Whole foods. If you know any other good ones, please share in the comments! If you’re not into stevia, don’t worry- just follow the no-fail tried and tested non-stevia sweetening directions below.

Ingredients:

12 oz package cranberries

1/3 cup water

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 tiny stevia spoonfuls (about 1/8 tsp)

3/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced

Method:

Add cranberries, water and maple syrup to a small pot. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce to low-medium and cover partially, just so that the cranberries don’t splutter everywhere! After about 7-10 minutes, add pineapple and one tiny stevia spoon-full of stevia, stir well to incorporate. Cook until pineapple is just soft enough and the water is fully incorporated. (in total, about 15 minutes) Check for sweetness, mix in the second spoon of stevia at this point if it’s too tart.

This sauce is a lightened up version of a classic, but if you’re not into stevia, sub in 1/3 to 1/2 cup maple syrup. (start with 1/3, add a bit more if needed. I find 1/3 cup is perfect, but you may like it sweeter.)

Health by Chocolate

Chocolate and I are old friends. But before I became vegan, chocolate was somewhat of a toxic friend. We loved hanging out, but I tended to call on her when I was bummed out, or bored, or angry, or, well, insert any adjective really.  And while I relied on her for help in countless situations, she would invariably make me feel bad about myself. Yet I went back to her at my most vulnerable times, again and again.

It wasn’t until I went vegan that Chocolate and I developed a much healthier friendship. At first I was skeptical about the new trajectory of our relationship, now that Chocolate was breaking up with dairy. I had known them as a couple for so long! But their breakup helped to magnify so many of her own magnificent qualities.

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And so I learned to appreciate chocolate in an entirely new context. No longer did I feel the need to categorize it as my vice, I started to look at the beneficial qualities and discovered ways to both enjoy and profit from the little bean. And because I was eating so many more nutrient- dense, satisfying foods, I didn’t automatically think about that something sweet after every meal. Or worse, in lieu of meals.

While I don’t get the daily chocolate pangs I once did, now and again a minor chocolate craving gnaws at me. Those are the times I incorporate chocolate into healthy concoctions or easy recipes. Cacao nibs or chocolate chips melted in my oatmeal. My new favorite nutella-esque nut butter, for which I shall soon post a review. Nibs and/or cacao powder in coconut yogurt. Hot cocoa. Raw desserts, like a chocolate pecan tart I brought to last Thanksgiving (a big hit.)smchoclayout_0572

Last week, while buried under many a nutrition textbook, the words “chocolate shake” began to echo in my brain. I suppose a hundred pages of the words protein, carbohydrate and fat just manifested themselves into a glass. And since I didn’t feel like a heavy dessert, I set upon creating a divinely chocolatey yet marvelously healthful shake.

The results? Super rich on the chocolate and just the right density- not too heavy, but not obviously light. And while it tastes unbelievably decadent, this shake is brimming with nutrients your body will love.

As you may know, cocoa itself is incredibly healthful. (it’s the stuff that’s sometimes mixed in with it, like dairy and refined sugar, that makes a lot of chocolate less so)  The cacao bean is packed with antioxidants- I mean, packed. Cacao boasts the highest concentration of flavonoids (a powerful class of phytochemicals) of any food! Loads of flavonoids means loads of antioxidant activity when you eat cacao. But not when that cacao is mixed with cow’s milk, as dairy inhibits antioxidant function.

Antioxidants are ridiculously important- they help reduce the risk of a panoply of common diseases, and simply help our cells carry on everyday functions. So get your daily dose of phytochemicals (from a variety of sources) and if you want them to actually do their job, don’t dump animal secretions on top of them.

Love  those nibs.

Love those nibs.

Another reason to avoid those milky chocolate bars- pretty much all of the major commercial brands source their cocoa from middlemen, who buy from slave plantations in Africa. Tens of thousands of child slaves work on cocoa farms in Guyana and the Ivory Coast to satiate our appetite. (not to mention the millions of cows also enslaved right here.) There is an alternative! Buy fair trade cocoa & chocolate bars- there is no dearth of delicious, vegan candy to go around. And don’t worry if you don’t like dark chocolate. There are loads that mix the cocoa with rice milk or nut milks.  A pretty comprehensive list of fair trade, vegan chocolates is here.

Back to the shake! This decadent drink doesn’t stop at the antioxidant love. You’ll also get a good dose of protein, fiber, B12, calcium, iron, and plenty of other important micronutrients.

Yes my friends, you can have your shake and drink it too. (or have your shake and keep your shape?)  So get out your blenders, and prepare for a divine chocolate experience.

Ingredients:

1 cup Nut or Soy milk (I used 3/4 unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Soy)
1 Medjool date (or 2, if not using stevia)
1/3 container vanilla coconut yogurt
1/4 cup vanilla coconut ice cream (or soy, or almond if you prefer.)
2 Tbsp (high quality organic) cacao powder
2 ice cubes
1/8 teaspoon stevia (about 2 of the teeny spoons in the stevia container) Note: If using sweetened milks, you may not need/want the stevia.

Optional: 1 Tbsp dried coconut
Cacao nibs for topping

Method:

Throw all your ingredients into your blender- one that can handle ice cubes, like the mighty Vitamix. Blend on high for 60 seconds, or until the ice cubes have stopped making noise. (but not more than 60 seconds!) Pour into a tall glass and top with Cacao nibs. Float skyward.

Note: the nutrient values will vary depending on the milk you use- for a similar profile, use an enriched unsweetened almond or soy milk. (or other nut milk)

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A Vegan Taste of Chinatown

Love this video featuring Jasmin Singer, half of the fabulous Our Hen House duo. While I avert my eyes at the duck-laden windows and tables of fish when roaming NYC’s Chinatown, when you gaze elsewhere it’s absolutely teeming with vegan options. Here Jasmin and Patrick Kwan of HSUS take a look at some of those options, and talk about the roots of vegetarian food/philosophy in Chinese culture. I’m ready for dim sum at  Buddhai Bodai right now!

A Compassionate Thanksgiving

This post began as a simple link to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s marvelous new Thanksgiving video. But since she is my patron saint of inspiration, it doesn’t surprise that it developed a tiny life of it’s own. (I’ll still get to the video, which you must check out.)

The spirit of Thanksgiving is obviously in it’s etymology- so each year I wonder, shouldn’t the day be just that- a day to give thanks? Like many others, I find it hard to feel thankful when a dead bird lies before me on a table, when the air is thick with the smell of her body and so many others in neighboring homes. Obviously the 45 million turkeys have nothing for which they need give thanks. And is the destruction of our planet a cause for thanksgiving? Turkey “farming” yields massive carbon emissions, thus substantially contributing to global warming. Are we really thankful for the foodborne diseases, such as avian flu, MRSA, and super-strains of Salmonella created through animal agriculture? And are the world’s hungry thankful that millions of turkeys are raised on grain that could otherwise keep them fed year-round?

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

On this day, as ever, shouldn’t we behave in a fashion worthy of thanks? Imagine the collective good we could accomplish in changing just one meal. It’s really quite easy to have a joyous, meaningful holiday and decadent meal without killing innocent animals.  When you think about it, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, so most of the foods are inherently plant-based. Why not build your holiday around these beautiful, nutrient dense foods? Below are just a few of the many fabulous vegan foods I have made or enjoyed on Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Garlic mashed potatoes

Coconut sweet potatoes

Mushroom gravy

Roasted root vegetables

Roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted butternut squash

Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Garlicky string beans

Cranberry sauce

Tofurky Roast & Celebration Roasts

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin cheesecake

Cookbook author extraordinaire, Colleen Patrick Goudreau makes a gorgeous, cruelty-free Thanksgiving easy to envision in this wonderful video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zljsYQ3jjWE&feature=share

What plant-based foods are you planning to make for Thanksgiving this year? I’d love to hear the menu!

What Everyone Should Know About Foodborne Illness

New drug resistant strains of salmonella have sickened hundreds of people this past week. While it’s all over the news, I hardly find this information new or surprising. We already know that widespread use of antibiotics in farmed animals promotes antibiotic resistant bacteria. And consuming low levels of these drugs through animals renders antibiotic therapy in humans less effective.

Antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella are increasing in prevalence each year. According to the FDA, nearly 45% of salmonella found in chickens and over 50% found in turkeys are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. Looking at these numbers, it’s no wonder that MRSA and other superbugs arise from animal agriculture.

Think “cage free” eggs  or “humane” meat offers a solution? Think again. The tainted chickens from Foster Farms are “American Humane Association Certified.”

 "Humane" labeling does not imply safety (or humanity.)

“Humane” labeling does not imply safety (or humanity.)

At times like these, many of us wonder how to prevent food poisoning. So I thought this might be a good moment to roll out ten important facts about foodborne illness.

1) Food-borne pathogens such as E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter can be traced directly to animal agriculture, and are responsible for over 48 million cases of illness (1 in 6 people) in the U.S. each year.

2) Salmonella is the #1 cause of food poisoning related death. Even the USDA precludes use of the word “safe” in egg advertisements due to the high risk of Salmonella. (also prohibited are the words “healthy” and “nutritious” for various health reasons)

3) 92% of poultry is contaminated with fecal matter containing E. coli.

4) Food borne pathogens can create life long complications including kidney disease, permanent brain damage, and insulin-dependent diabetes. Salmonella can trigger irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.

5) Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the U.S. 50% of Campylobacter strains can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome which leads to paralysis. Arthritis, heart and blood infections are other lasting effects.

6) E.coli from chickens and turkeys can cause urinary tract infections in women. 50% of chickens contain strains of UTI causing E.coli.

7) Salmonella and Campylobacter linger on surfaces, even after cleaning with bleach. The only way to avoid dangerous pathogens in your kitchen is to refrain from bringing animal products into your home.

8) Cooking eggs does not necessarily kill Salmonella. Handling chicken can result in food- borne infection before or even regardless of consuming it.

9) All food poisoning originates in animals. E.coli outbreaks in crops are caused by manure leaking into the groundwater, which is then used for watering.

10) Zoonoses such as mad cow disease, bird flu, swine flu, and a strain of MRSA have become public health threats due to modern animal agriculture. Recent outbreaks of bird and swine flu have heightened epidemiologists’ fears of a human influenza pandemic.

It was hard to resist a scary news treatment here.

It was hard to resist a scary news treatment here.

These diseases arise because animals are overcrowded and sick on both large and smaller scale farms. And don’t forget, all animals, (whether they ate organic feed, were “free range” etc.) end up in the same slaughterhouses where infections spread rampantly through feces and other fluids.
What can we do to stop the spread of these diseases? Each one of us has the power to affect change three times a day. Whenever someone goes vegetarian or vegan, the demand for these animals decreases. When we make more conscious food choices, we help make a safer, cleaner, more humane world a reality.

Wondering how to get started? No sweat!

• Try some Meatless Mondays for a start!

• Check out the Mercy for Animals starter guide 

•  Find important nutrition information on VeganHealth.org

• Try the 30 Day Vegan Challenge

• Listen to the informative and inspiring podcast, Food for Thought.

Find great restaurants in your neighborhood, and while traveling.

Please share this post widely! Informed people are the ones who make big changes.

References:

Freston, Kathy (2010, January 8) E. Coli, Salmonella and Other Deadly Bacteria and Pathogens in Food: Factory Farms Are the Reason. Nutrition Facts. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/e-coli-salmonella-and-oth_b_415240.html

Greger, Michael (2013, July 15) More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases. Retrieved from: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/more-than-an-apple-a-day-preventing-our-most-common-diseases/

Joy, Melanie. (2010). Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.

NARMS (2011) Retail Annual Meat Report. Retrieved from: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/AntimicrobialResistance/NationalAntimicrobialResistanceMonitoringSystem/ucm334828.htm

Grown Up Antioxidant Slushie

vvpLOGO*A big welcome to you, virtual vegan potluck attendee! Thanks for stopping by. This recipe, an ode to beets and sweets, fit in with the potluck’s featured ingredient. But please do have a look around my blog if you like what you see here!*

I had a ridiculous sweet tooth as a kid- so bad that I recall most of my juvenile activities in the context of the garbage I put into my mouth. I can still feel my feet on the warm concrete as I stood in line at the Scarsdale Pool snack bar. French fries and ketchup wafted around me in the queue as I tried to decide- Fun Dip or those greasy fries?  Fun Dip invariably won out- I mean, it’s an activity as well as “food!” I didn’t love Sugarbush ski school, but I did look forward to a break in the toasty lodge, a mammoth chocolate chip cookie and a cup of hot chocolate in my icy hands. And after weekly figure skating lessons, I recall teetering off the ice to inexplicably consume some sugary ice. I was a sucker for a Slush Puppie.

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For those unfamiliar- Slush Puppies are like Slurpees (and I had my fill of those too, once I got to high school)- the ingredient list likely reads: high fructose corn syrup, red dye # 3 and/or  Blue #2, water. Freeze that up, swirl it around in a machine, throw in a cute doggie mascot and the kids start tugging at mom for the cash.

Many slurps later I am decidedly more conscious as to what goes in my mouth. It’s been a long haul, but since I’ve been vegan, new and healthy foods  become part of my repertoire frequently- my last hurdle was to accept veggie juices & smoothies. I spent two years talking myself out of a Vitamix, but finally ran out of convincing excuses a few weeks ago. One charge later, I am the proud mama of that gorgeous invention.

Lovely organic beets from the Union Square farmer's market.

Lovely organic beets from the Union Square farmer’s market.

Back to those Slush Puppies. I’ve been fine-tuning my juiceblend procedure over the last couple of weeks since the Vitamix has resided on my counter. Let me tell you, there is a serious learning curve here people! On first attempt my beet-carrot- pineapple juice was reminiscent of borscht. Drinkable, and certainly tasty, but more food than drink. With the addition of ice, several successive attempts yielded what might be described as pink- tinged carrot dressing. (I consumed it, sans salad.)

But today, I am in juice heaven. Doubling up on ice and extra process time yielded the perfect texture and flavor. The happy surprise was that lovely icey nostalgia of what could be called a grown up Slush Puppie. (Slush Dog?) With a glass of this slushy juice in hand, I can hear the comical tunes of the skaterink organist in 1982. Gone is the syrupy sweetness of youth’s slush, but the dayglo color is still here! (Even more beautiful, I think.) I mean, just look at that gorgeous pink. That’s the phenomenal phytochemical power in the beets.

Did you know that beets rank highest of all veggies in antioxidant concentration? At least as far as we know- in the most recent study, beets won out over the previous ruling champion, spinach, in antioxidant content. Beets get their color from betacyanins, powerful phytonutrients that protect plants from UV exposure and disease. And guess what? Those same phytonutrients protect us from disease. Diseases like cancer.

 Just as yummy slightly melted. Love the layers of concentrated, pulpy and icey.

Just as yummy slightly melted. Love the layers of concentrated, pulpy and icey.

Beetroots are a stellar source of folic acid, fiber, manganese and potassium. But don’t forget about the greens attached to those roots! Both the greens and roots are great source of magnesium, phosphorus, some iron and vitamin B6. (However not all of the iron can be absorbed due to the high concentration of oxalates in beets, so you don’t want to count on this plant exclusively for iron.) The greens are even higher in nutritional value than beetroots – they’re richer in calcium, iron and vitamins A & C. So eat both the root and the greens- a quick steam or a toss in a pan with olive oil and garlic is all you need.

The sweetness and tang of the pineapple is a lovely compliment to the beet’s earthiness. And you can just feel your body taking in those anti-cancer nutrients, thanking you with every sip.
The first glass is full on slushy, but as it melts the texture and flavor becomes even more complex, yielding layers of frozen, semi-frozen and melted- it’s almost a slushy parfait. I just loved seeing the layers of vibrant pink.
It feels kind of decadent, but it’s just so good for you. And in a way taking care of yourself is decadent experience too. So indulge away!

Had to show you that beautiful texture close up.
Had to show you that beautiful texture close up.

A note on the (very simple) ingredient list. Go organic with your beets. This gorgeous magenta root will be pulverized raw, giving you a huge boost of nutrients, but if he’s commercial, you’ll also get a nice dose of neurotoxins. Organic beets are cheap anyway- here in price engorged New York City, I get a ridiculous bunch of 12 beets for a mere $3.50 at the farmer’s market, with so many greens they won’t fit in the crisper. That’s enough juice for more than a week plus 2 or more servings of greens! Don’t skimp on your body, people.
The pineapple is theoretically ok to buy conventional, as they have tough skins and are less desirable to insects, thus fewer pesticides are needed. But if you can find organic, that’s always ideal.

So here we go.
Yields 1 1/2 pints- enough for two, but certainly drinkable by one!

Ingredients:
1 large beetroot (preferably organic)
1/4 pineapple
1 1/2 to 2 cups ice

variation: use 1 cup ice and 1 cup frozen coconut water. It will be slightly sweeter, so if you enjoy the sweetness level as is, use less pineapple or more beets!

Remove the greens from your beetroot- if you like (and you should!) reserve the greens for dinner. No need to peel your beetroots. When cutting your pineapple, keep the core in there. (fiber!the crowning glory of blended juice) Cut the beet in a few chunks- same for the pineapple. Throw beets, then pineapple, then ice into a Vitamix.
Squish down ingredients with the tamper- the beets and ice will take a little pushing just to get them going. Process on high for about 60 seconds- not much longer or you’ll just have juice.

Pour into glasses and drink immediately! Yum. Pink mustache removal is optional.

ps. While I call this “grown up,” I’m certain kids will love this juice too! What kid doesn’t love a sweet, icy treat? A perfect way to trick them into super healthy veggies.

What’s your favorite juice? Would love to hear.

The buttons below will take you to the previous/next VVP blogs. If you wish to navigate to my other posts, please use the links below the buttons or the menu at the top of the page. Thanks for reading!

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Yet another chicken post (a tiny heartwarming followup)

I will never tire of watching this sweet video. Knowing these birds will have a happy life fills me with hope. And I get chills too- etched on my mind are the sights, sounds and smells of frightened chickens, crying from cramped cages. These 150 rescued birds were the lucky ones- no longer a commodity, they are individuals who can now live without fear.
Yet another reason to pay a visit to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary before they close to visitors for winter!

For the Animals

*Thanks so much to everyone who read and liked my first post, Days of Chickens!*

Rina Deytch, the unstoppable force behind the chickens. Behind her, hundreds of chickens in cramped cages await their fate. Community members pick them out and bring them home in garbage bags to perform the Kapporot ritual.

Rina Deytch, the unstoppable force behind the chickens. Behind her, hundreds of chickens in cramped cages await their fate.

As an activist, I can tell you that there is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed and watching it grow in someone’s consciousness. But just as in literal gardening, planting seeds is only possible under certain conditions. Changing the elements can mean killing the sprout at it’s most precarious point. A lot of sun helps plants grow – in the activist’s case, a sunny demeanor goes a long way too. Some additional conditions for planting seeds in activism are empathy, compassion, and intuition.

If I made any progress at the recent Kapporos demonstration it was through Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s podcast, How to Talk to Hunters (or Anyone With Whom You Disagree). I knew I was in for a challenge, and needed to head off any negative energy with inspiring ideas. I had listened to this podcast earlier in the year, and remembered the profound impact of her message. Colleen suggests that we have “compassion for people with whom we disagree or who participate in behavior we find abhorrent… It’s easy to be compassionate towards like-minded people; the challenge is choosing to have compassion towards those with whom we disagree.”

With these words on my mind, the demo became less about expressing my position against Kapporos, it was about expressing my position for the animals in the most positive way.

That's me, planting seeds!

That’s me, planting seeds!

For the most part it was a very successful event. But even a few ineffective people can derail any modicum of progress. There were some negative signs bearing strong, accusatory messages. A few people (on both sides) shouted when intelligent conversation might have helped. One activist who had very good intentions was often oblique or rambling and repeatedly lost her audience. These were all missed opportunities, and I found myself wishing that everyone at the demo had listened to Colleen’s podcast.

Activists and the moving lit van. I didn't love the homemade red sign, a less accusatory message might have worked better.

Activists and the moving lit van. I didn’t love the homemade red sign, a less accusatory message might have been more effective.

Over 90 degrees and surrounded by the fetid stench of feathers, excrement and decay. It was a tough night.

Over 90 degrees and surrounded by the fetid stench of feathers, excrement and decay. It was a tough night.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t express my joy for the successes of this year’s demos- the issue attracted considerable media attention, many chickens were rescued, and a few operations in Los Angeles were shut down. But I believe that with consciousness and awareness we can move toward a more productive advocacy, allowing us to win over communities.  Just a little more empathy and planning could help us end this thing once and for all.

A lot of kids were interested- the challenge was effective education.

A lot of kids were interested- the challenge was effective education.

Both the mishaps and my own small victories gave me more insight into what works and what doesn’t when facing people with whom we disagree.  A few practical ideas:

Familiarize yourself with the materials and the issues. We’re out there to educate, so be sure you are educated! This may sound obvious, but look closely at the information you’ll hand out and the signs you hold. You are the ambassador for this message.

No matter how your beliefs diverge, try not to think of anyone as an opponent. They are people just like us, who fear change as much as we all do, who want the best for themselves and their families. Try to see commonalities and focus on that.

Engage in conversation, not argument. Keep it positive!

Don’t use a canned response. Change your words depending out your audience. Kids respond to different ideas than adults do, for instance.

Be friendly. Smile, always smile.
Once again, you are the ambassador for the animals, and for the movement.

Have empathy even when it seems impossible. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of the issue, and what methods would impact you. Embody that empathy in your words and your body language.

When you find common ground, use it! I spoke to a woman who wanted to know more about where to swim in Brooklyn. No, it had nothing to do with the chickens, but a conversation about friendly topics opened her up to hearing what I had to say.

Find any way to bring an issue closer to someone, and use that too.
Often, in speaking to kids, I talked about how chickens like to play just like they do- they like to run in the grass and hang out with their friends. Letting them know that animals are similar to them is integral to their viewing them as individuals, not objects.

A smile goes a long way in advocacy!

A smile goes a long way in advocacy!

Is it easy to have empathy for those on the other side? Of course not. But the easy things aren’t necessarily right, it’s generally the opposite. It’s easier to eat microwave pizza for dinner every night, but it’s not healthful in the long run. It takes more forethought and consciousness to cut veggies and and cook healthful meals. But it’s not tough by any means and these simple actions make us stronger. It’s just a question of changing habits. Reacting emotionally rather than intellectually is a habit as well. It can be changed, and it often leads to growth. Your own growth, and the growth of many seeds.

What have you found effective in your advocacy efforts? I’d love to hear.

Why did the chickens cross the road? To escape torture and death, thankfully!

Why did the chickens cross the road? To escape torture and death, thankfully!

A volunteer loads rescued chickens into a van- There are at least 10, possibly 12 chickens crammed in that crate.

A volunteer loads rescued chickens into a van- There are at least 10, possibly 12 chickens crammed in that crate.

Close up of a rescued chicken, safe in the car. But thousands more are trapped in those tiny crates, removed only to meet torture and death.

Click to see this rescued hen more clearly. (or any of the photos)

Carting away a live chicken in a garbage bag. I can't imagine how frightened this poor animal was.

Carting away a live chicken in a garbage bag. I can’t imagine how frightened this poor animal was.

In the background, a man takes home a chicken in a dark garbage bag.
In the background, a man takes home a chicken in a dark garbage bag.

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Cop greets the moving lit van.

Cop greets the moving lit van.

 Masks helped only slightly- the air was thick with feathers and various wastes. Breathing wasn't really possible, for people or chickens.

Masks helped only slightly- the air was thick with feathers and various wastes. Breathing was tough for people and chickens.

Breathing was pretty much impossible. Many smiles regardless!

Breathing was pretty much impossible. Many smiles regardless!

Days of chickens

Dustbath, Farm Sanctuary. Copyright Lauren Krohn Photography

Dustbath, Farm Sanctuary. Copyright Lauren Krohn Photography

For the last week, I’ve been following the stories of the 3000 rescued “spent” layer hens through every conceivable media outlet. It’s my daily dose of giddiness- every time I see a new photograph of the chickens exploring at Farm Sanctuary, finally stepping on green grass, I smile so much that my face hurts.

While the rescue is an enormous inspiration, the upcoming Kaporos rituals deliver an equal measure of misery. I only learned of the Kaporos ritual five years ago, just after I went vegan. Performed by certain orthodox Jewish sects, Kaporos involves swinging a live chicken over one’s head- ritualistically transferring the sins to the animal. They are then butchered, often with dull knives.

Every Yom Kippur I’m overwhelmed with grief for the chickens, but regardless of how abhorrent I think the practice might be, I’ve simply been too afraid to stand up and protest in person. When I received the Meetup invitation for the demonstrations last week, I allowed myself to consider it sincerely. What would happen if everyone were afraid when it came to the animals? There would be no undercover MFA investigations and nobody would see inside factory farms. What if photographers like Jo-Anne McArthur were paralyzed by fear- we wouldn’t have the images that move us to action.

We need witnesses. I’ve let people do the dirty work for me for a long time, simply because I’m afraid to be a witness. I think about everyone else’s bravery, then relish in the rescues. But I’ve finally realized that I won’t feel right sitting around eating (vegan) bonbons while chickens are swinging over heads nearby in Borough Park.

I was also really scared to go vegan. Scared! Afraid that I would miss the foods that I liked- because they were the foods that I knew. And what happened? My life became about hundred times better- I simply didn’t know what was waiting for me when I conquered my fears.

I’m not saying that attending the Kaporos demonstrations will be enjoyable. But I do think that we have a tendency to build things up in our minds simply because they’re unknown, then miss the good we can derive from those experiences. So here’s where it ends, here’s where once again I live up to the words “animal advocate.” I’ll be thinking of my brave humane heroes, like Jo-Anne, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Susie Coston at Farm Sanctuary, and so many more incredibly active activists. I’ll adopt an open stance, as Colleen does, and do something.