Monday, May 30, 2011

Vegan T-shirt Day

Vegan scientist and author Jonathan Balcombe has created Vegan T-shirt Day, in which we're are encouraged to wear pro-vegan shirts on the first Saturday of every month.

This venture began a month ago, so you can take part in the second Vegan T-shirt Day on Saturday, June 4. Of course, it's great to wear shirts with vegan messages any day, but I think it's cool to have one day a month when all vegans wear these shirts. Not only does it allow us to recognize fellow vegans, but perhaps meat-eaters will be prompted to research veganism if they see a couple people wearing these shirts.

Don't have a shirt with a vegan message? Check out this blog post for links to great shirts. In addition, you can shop for shirts and benefit farmed animals at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Farm Sanctuary.

Of course, if you live in a hot climate like me, you ladies may have to hold off on T-shirts for the next few months. But never fear -- cute spaghetti-strap shirts also proclaim pro-animal messages.

If you have links to other cool shirts, please post them in the Comments section.

Be sure to "like" the Vegan T-shirt Day Facebook page and upload a photo of yourself wearing a pro-vegan shirt on Saturday.

(The beautiful Jenny Brown models a pro-vegan T-shirt, courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.)
(You can find the In Defense of Animals spaghetti-strap shirt here.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Plant-Strong Memorial Day

Keith and I are going to celebrate Memorial Day with Rip Esselstyn and Gene Baur!

No, we don't know either of them personally. I'm Facebook friends with Rip, and he issued an open invitation for a potluck at his house in Austin. Gene Baur will be in town as part of his cross-country trip celebrating the 25th anniversary of Farm Sanctuary.

For those who don't know, Rip Esselstyn is an Austin firefighter who wrote "The Engine 2 Diet," a book that advocates a "plant-strong" diet, which means a diet consisting of whole, plant-based foods. That may sound familiar, as that's what the film "Forks Over Knives" advocates.

Rip's father, former heart surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn, was one of the two primary experts "Forks Over Knives" focused on. And Rip was in the film, too. He's the buff firefighter who can climb up a firepole without using his legs. The next time someone skeptically asks me where vegans get their protein, I'll tell them to look him up.

In addition to the potluck, there will also be a barbecue cook-off. I've never made barbecue, so I won't be entering that, but I'll have to decide what to make for the potluck. I'm thinking macaroni and cheese.

I'll try to take lots of photos of the food and festivities for those of you not able to attend. Whatever your Memorial Day plans are, please leave animals--at least the dead kind; your dogs and cats lounging around the house are fine--out of them.

(Photo of Rip Esselstyn courtesy of
(Photo of Gene Baur courtesy of

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adopt--Don't Shop

I joined Toastmasters a few months ago. It's a group that helps people become better at public speaking. Of the 15 or so members of this particular group--it's an international organization with groups all over--I'm vegan and two others are vegetarian. Still more are dog lovers.

I've decided to share my second speech with you. I gave it a couple of weeks ago. My next speech will be on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and I'll post that here after I give it.

This speech was titled "Adopt--Don't Shop." Enjoy!

In the first speech I gave at Toastmasters, I mentioned that my husband and I share our home with three dogs. But in my nervousness I forgot to mention that all three of our dogs are rescue dogs. That doesn’t mean that they’re trained to find people in a collapsed building or in the wilderness--or that they’re superheroes. For Poncho, Cooper, and Snickers, work means going outside to use the bathroom. What I mean by rescue dogs is that Keith and I adopted them from animal shelters or rescue groups instead of purchasing them at a pet store.

I'm sure you all know that song "How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?" Well, the actual cost of that puppy at the pet store is higher than the dog's monetary value. Puppies and kittens in pet stores, like Petland, come from puppy mills. At puppy mills female dogs are confined to cages and are kept pregnant, churning out litter after litter, to be shipped off to pet stores. When the breeding dogs' fertility wanes, they're often killed, abandoned, or sold cheaply to another mill to try to get one more litter out of the dogs.

I used to foster dogs for a rescue group, and you would not believe the physical and emotional states of the dogs who came from puppy mills. These were breeder dogs who would have been shot if the rescue group wouldn't have taken them in. The mill owners had used them until their bodies were spent. They were no longer profitable, so they were expendable. Their fur had to be cut short because it'd be matted with urine and feces. They smelled awful. But the worst thing was how afraid some of these dogs were. For example, one of my fosters, who I named
Straggles, was scared to walk outside because she'd never been on grass before. Most dogs at puppy mills spend their whole lives in wire cages. And, of course, she was scared of people. The one bright spot is that, after these dogs are given some love and some time, most make dramatic recoveries. Straggles, while still timid, was adopted by a couple who had another dog whom Straggles took to.

It's understandable why people buy puppies from pet stores. Who can resist a cute, wiggling dog who flashes his puppy eyes at you? Some people also rationalize their purchase by saying that the puppy needed a home just like a dog in a shelter does. But by purchasing that puppy, that person has created demand for another puppy to take its place. So the puppy mill will continue cranking out more puppies. It’s a never-ending cycle unless we stop patronizing these stores.

Animal shelters take in six million to eight million dogs and cats each year, and half of those are euthanized because there simply aren't enough resources to care for them. Most of these animals are healthy and adoptable. But when someone decides to purchase a dog or cat from a pet store, that leaves one fewer good home for an animal who really needs it.

My husband and I adopted Cooper from a humane society back in Illinois. He was 2 years old and housebroken. He's a miniature pinscher/Chihuahua mix. We adopted Poncho--a Chihuahua/rat terrier mix--from a rescue group in Illinois that specializes in placing older dogs and cats. Adopting an older animal was perfect for me because he was past the hyper stage of being a puppy or young dog. He is content to lie on my lap and nap while I read. But if you want a puppy, shelters and rescue groups have those, too.

Like I said, both Cooper and Poncho are mixed breeds. But if your heart is set on a purebred, you can find those in shelters, too. About a quarter of all dogs in shelters are purebreds. Another great place to find purebreds is a breed-rescue group. There are organizations across the country that each specialize in one particular breed. Snickers is a Cairn terrier whom I adopted from a breed-specific rescue. Some organizations even allow you to foster a dog for a while to see if he or she is a good fit for your household.

Older dogs have a more difficult time getting adopted than younger ones. Oddly large black dogs also have a hard time. Maybe it's because they seem scary. Maybe it's because they don’t photograph as well as lighter-colored dogs. Shelters often run one or two photos of their animals in Sunday newspapers.

The same is true about black cats; shelter workers will tell you that the other colored cats get scooped up first. Like black dogs, perhaps black cats don’t photograph as well. Their low adoption rates could also be due to the superstition that black cats bring bad luck.

Keith and I don't share our home with any cats right now. But sometime in the future we'd like to. When we do, we’ll get two of them, so they have someone to play with when we're not home. We’ll adopt them from a shelter or rescue group, and at least one will be black.

It's easy to locate shelters and rescue groups nearby. There are several shelters in the Georgetown area. In fact, you've probably seen two of them at local festivals. The Georgetown Animal Shelter is, of course, in Georgetown, and the Humane Society of Williamson County is located in Leander. is also a great resource to find shelters and rescue groups. Just type in your ZIP code, and you'll be surprised at the numerous organizations from which you can adopt. You can also search by the type of animal, the breed, the age, the gender. It's very user-friendly.

If you want to open your heart and your home to an animal in need, instead of purchasing one from a pet store, please consider adopting from a rescue group or from your local animal shelter.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Forks Over Knives" Gets to the Meat of Our Health Crisis

I actually had tears in my eyes as I watched the new film "Forks Over Knives" -- not because it's a sad movie but because the simple method of becoming healthy is reaching more Americans.

The title of the film refers to the notion that it's more palatable to eat our way to good health than it is to go under the knife to fix what a poor diet has caused. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when former surgeon Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn says that some people think a plant-based diet (ie. a vegan diet) is extreme. The film cut to the inside of one's leg, where an artery was being removed to be inserted into the heart in bypass surgery. With tongue in cheek, he said some people consider having one's chest cut open, heart exposed, to be extreme.

Indeed it's a lot easier to eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet than it is to undergo medical test after medical test, pay for and consume pills, and contemplate and recover from surgery.

The film focuses on Caldwell and nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell, the latter of whom wrote "The China Study." In his studies Esselstyn found that heart disease could be stopped -- and even reversed -- by switching to a plant-based diet. In his research Campbell found that animal protein triggers cancer.

The benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet are clear, yet it's so frustrating how brainwashed most people are. They'd rather mock vegans than admit that we're onto something. And they're brainwashed because of the meat and dairy industries, which have a lot of money and political clout.

A former president of the American Dietetic Association, Connie B. Diekman, appeared in the film, and given the scientific evidence that meat and dairy aren't needed to be healthy -- and, in fact, lead to poor health -- she appears shallow and stupid by saying that those two "food" groups are beneficial. Not surprisingly the film said she has ties to the dairy industry.

Film producers also interviewed an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who accused Caldwell and Campbell of being biased toward plant-based diets. Both grew up on dairy farms, and Caldwell's family also raised cows for beef. But the USDA is biased. It's an agency that's supposed to regulate the meat and dairy industries, yet it also markets for them and buys their products.

Here's a quick rundown of the health benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet:
- It can reverse heart disease.
- It can reverse Type 2 diabetes.
- It can stop the growth of cancer.
- It can lower blood pressure.
- It can help people lose weight.
- It can reduce or eliminate arthritis.
- It can lower cholesterol.

We know cigarettes are bad for us. We know they cause cancer. We know tobacco executives lied to us for years -- and are still doing so. So we never started smoking, and we're raising our kids not to smoke. Well, now we know that animal protein -- whether it comes in the form of meat, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. -- leads to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and even more than that. Don't be like those people still puffing on cancer sticks. You have the facts. You have the power. Stop feeding yourself and your kids foods that are harming your bodies.

For a much better review, check out film critic Roger Ebert's.

"Forks Over Knives" is playing in select theaters.