Category Archives: Animal Rights

Love Dolphins? Then Please, Don’t Swim With Them.

As I write, it is dolphin slaughter season in Taiji, Japan. With this on my mind, it was particularly poignant to see a Facebook post about a family’s experience swimming with dolphins over their vacation. The outpouring of support for the post via “likes” and comments reminded me that most of us are in the dark regarding the origin of these dolphins.  I was in the dark as well, until I saw the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove.

Each killing season, the Cove in Taiji is quite literally a bloodbath.

Swimming with the dolphins seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, and most think it’s an innocent enough activity. Sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. That’s because supporting dolphin swims, shows and aquariums finances the bloody dolphin killings in Taiji.

Each year, fishermen descend on Taiji to slaughter and capture dolphins. Roughly 20,000 dolphins are killed each season for meat, which is considered a delicacy. (a poisonous, mercury laden delicacy at that.) Because live dolphins fetch far more money than dead ones (between $100,000 and $200, 000 each) the same dolphin killers brutally catch and confine additional dolphins who are sold and transported to zoos, aquariums, amusement parks and resorts, such as SeaWorld, Atlantis and countless others. The money these facilities pay dolphin fishermen directly funds the continued killing excursions. The resorts themselves make millions of dollars each year at the expense of these animals.

Image result for taiji cove

Bucket list of blood.

Once in these facilities, dolphins live shorter lives during which they suffer trauma, depression, (as in Blackfish) and physical harm. Their biology makes them appear as if they are enjoying themselves (they’re not actually smiling, it’s just the way their their bodies look) but they face tremendous anxiety, confinement, and lack the usual social connections these mammals generally enjoy in the oceans. You may have fun swimming with them, but their experience is an entirely different story.

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Ostensibly people swim with dolphins because they enjoy these intelligent creatures. I completely understand this- at one point in my life, I visited aquariums and zoos in attempt to be close to the animals I adored. It took many years for me to realize that I was funding the animals’ misery.

If you do not wish to cause suffering to the animals you admire, please consider other activities that do not harm them. Want to get up close and personal with animals? Visit a farm sanctuary such as Farm Sanctuary, both in upstate NY and California, or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. If you’re set on seeing more exotic animals, visit Best Friends Sanctuary, or Deer Run Resort in the Florida Keys. I’ve spent time at all of these amazing locations (with the exception of Best Friends) and believe me, it’s a blissful, educational experience for adults and children alike.

You can also observe animals at your local parks- even here in Brooklyn we have hundreds of species in Prospect Park. Or adopt an animal, volunteer at an animal shelter, and hang out with your friends’ pets!

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Please, do not support the criminal animal use industries. There are myriad ways to experience nature and be inspired by animals without harming them; sometimes we just need to challenge ourselves to look outside what we already know.

Learn more about this issue, what’s being done to stop the dolphin slaughter, and what you can do to help in links below:

@CarnivalCruise @CoveMovie_OPS @RichardOBarry Don't sell swimming with dolphins excursions. #dontswimwithdolphins

YOU Can Help Reverse Climate Change- Don’t Pass the Buck

400,000 people turned up to the People’s Climate March on Sunday here in New York City. The consensus is clear- we don’t want to drown under rising oceans or burn up under depleted ozone. But how many of those marching really want to do what it takes to turn this thing around?

I salute the thousands who took to the streets. The vegan contingent was impressive, and I sincerely hope that their signs were a beacon to the rest of the march. But sadly, my vegan brethren were just a fraction of those marching. The majority ate the very meat, dairy and eggs en route that are responsible for an estimated 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.

I don’t doubt that the marchers are concerned for the state of the planet. But I do question whether the majority are truly willing to be part of the solution.

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's Instagram feed

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Instagram feed

The marchers wanted to inspire the U.N. to take notice of the environment. But to me this seems like passing the buck. Rather than acknowledge their own respective roles in the environment’s decline, it was simpler to blame climate change on “world leaders.”

In any case, giving the U.N. this task does not absolve us of responsibility as individuals. Any potential U.N. action would mean little if the rest of us are unwilling to affect change. Activism does not end with holding a sign. In my mind, activism implies taking real action, and in the case of the environment, the most important action we can take is abstaining from eating meat, dairy and eggs.

 While it’s hard to avoid hearing of animal agriculture’s devastating environmental consequences, few seem to make the connection that their personal food choices impact our planet. Perhaps it is denial, perhaps laziness. Nevertheless, throughout the day Sunday I saw countless posts from proud meat eaters on the march. In some cases, literally holding a picket sign in one hand and a burger in the other. Anti-fracking signs notwithstanding, they simply continued the behavior that keeps climate change on it’s current, deadly trajectory.

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

Which is why Sunday left me feeling skeptical. This is the same skepticism I reserve for campaigns like pink ribbons adorning buckets of chicken. KFC wants us to think they’re fighting breast cancer, but in reality they’re selling carcinogens (like PHIP and HCAs) in big greasy buckets. The same principle applies to many of the marchers. Saying you want to rid the world of a scourge is great, be it breast cancer or global warming. But back up the idea with action. Don’t sell or consume the product that contributes to it’s very creation.

In other words, if you want to affect change, BE that change.

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

But who knows, there could be hundreds of thousands who went to the march and didn’t have an inkling about the dark side of the meat, dairy and eggs they eat. So let’s just say you went to the People’s Climate March for the fun of it. And perhaps, for the first time, you made the connection- it’s not just the transit sector, fracking, the factories and generally other people in other places far beyond our control. Suddenly you realized that global warming is the result of our collective behavior, beginning with what we eat every day. That’s a lot to take in. So where do you go from here?

Where to go next? How about your local farmer's market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Where to go next? How about your local farmer’s market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Look at it this way. You’re in a really powerful position- you can play a part in reversing climate change RIGHT NOW! You can contribute to a better world by voting with your pocketbook as well as your fork. It’s in our hands, and the longer we tell ourselves it’s someone else’s problem, the bigger the problem gets.

And if you’re reading this post when it’s hot off the press, you’re in luck. It’s Monday, which means it’s Meatless Monday! Clearly there’s no better place to start. So try one meatless day, or one meal if that’s all you’re ready for. (mind you, there’s no sin in making it a Meatless Tuesday if that’s the day you’re reading. Or you know, in general.)

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they're even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they’re even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

And don’t forget, while animal-based meat fuels global warming at an alarming rate, plant-based meats such as Tofurky, Field Roast, Beyond Meat and Gardein are sustainable foods that use a tiny fraction of the resources used for animal-based “foods.”

Listed below are some of my all time favorite food blogs, each of which demonstrates that animal-free food is diverse, decadent and fun. It’s not all salad people, believe you me. In this day and age, any dish you can imagine can be made vegan.

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry  on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Not only will you help our earth by ditching animal flesh and secretions (yup, that’s what eggs and dairy are,) you’ll be helping yourself to a life with a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and so many other diseases. There are quite a few other reasons, including ending world hunger, and, oh yeah, the welfare of billions of exploited animals.

So let’s eat. If you want to get lunch right now, check out Happy Cow. Find vegetarian & vegan food anywhere you travel, or right at home!

Or get cooking with some of my favorite

Recipe Blogs:

Or maybe your interest is piqued on this issue, and you’re ready to learn more about animal “agriculture”‘s place in global warming. Then check out the powerful documentary Meat the Truth.

Here are some great places to learn more about veganism, the why’s, how’s, and who’s-


Nutrition& Health

I leave you with a great video from the people at Chomping Climate Change, where you can find everything you need to know about the link between animal agriculture and the environment. For our planet, for our future, for the animals, for health- so many reasons, just one solution. Be that change. What do you have to lose?

Questions? Please feel free to ask in the comments! 

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.

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

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.


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.