Tag Archives: compassion

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

Snowstorm Staple Miso Ramen

Are you ready for the storm? I braved the crowds at the Park Slope Food Co-op yesterday and made off with all of the kale about a dozen Amy’s Vegan Breakfast Burritos. But most importantly, as ever, I have a stash of Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods soups on hand.


I buy bulk packages on Amazon– my favorites are the Miso Ramen, Soy Ginger Noodle and Pad Thai. They’re all delicious, healthful and satisfying. And of course vegan, and certainly not fried like those awful blocks I ate as a kid.

While they’re marvelously flavorful, I rarely eat them as-is. I need me some greens, and a lot of broth. So to extend the broth I add additional miso paste. Then I jazz things up with some tofu, seitan (Uptons, of course!) or TVP. Sometimes several of the aforementioned items.

The kale from the Park Slope Food co-op shines above all other kale!

The kale from the Park Slope Food co-op shines above all other kale!

These soups are winter staples so I’ll try to post more of my quick and dirty “recipes” for each soup. (and perhaps, my favorite convenience meals in general.) Let’s begin with the Miso Ramen. The easiest, fastest comfort food around!



1 Cup Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Miso Ramen

White and Red Miso Paste (I prefer Miso Master)

1 tsp dried Wakame seaweed

Upton’s Seitan

TSP (Texturized Soy Protein)

1 tsp sesame seeds

Lacinato kale


Steam kale, reserving the cooking water. Boil some additional water in a kettle, about 2 cups.

Get thee a large bowl. Add about 2 tsp white miso and 1 tsp red miso in the bowl (beware- if you don’t like salt or have high blood pressure, skip the extra miso and water!) Add 2 Tbsp hot water to the miso paste and whisk with a fork.

Add contents of soup cup (noodles and flavor packet,) 1 Tbsp TSP and dried seaweed to your bowl.

Pour your (just boiled) cooking water into the bowl. Stir and check the flavor. If too thin, add more miso. If too strong, add more water. Cover with a plate or lid. Let stand for 1 minute or till noodles are soft.

Chop the kale while noodles soften, then uncover and add your kale and sesame seeds. Slurp.


Stay warm and dry people!



Support Research, Not Vivisection

I love the Vegan Zombie’s take on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Well, why wouldn’t I, as I love EVERYTHING they do. They could just do laundry on their zlog and I’d watch.) It’s great that they’re supporting awareness of the disease while simultaneously bringing attention to the plight of lab animals in medical testing.

In addition to being cruel and unnecessary, animal testing is terribly outdated, expensive and ineffective. In the age of the genome,we have far more advanced and effective technology in conducting medical research. Read more about progressive, humane methods on the Anti-Vivisection Society’s website.

Sure, I’m speaking as an animal rights advocate, but I also have CRPS, an as-yet incurable nerve disease for which I would like to see a cure in the future. While I often have unrelenting pain, I would never pass on that pain to dogs, monkeys or mice through futile animal research. Particularly when there are more effective, humane research methods available. Torturing animals won’t get us where we need to go, in fact it slows us down. While scientists are wasting time on archaic, misleading animal research techniques, they could be sequencing genomes and making strides.

So please, if you wish to further the course of research, consider a contribution to one of these progressive charities, and not the ALS Association. And if you want to further ALS research, send their foundation an email, or call, urging them to stop testing on animals.

Oh, and did I mention that I met the Vegan Zombie crew at The Seed here in NYC last weekend?  Here I am with my favorite zombie slayers, just a little starstruck. zombie

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.