Optimistic Vegan

Dr. Jane Goodall
April 4, 2011, 11:26 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , , ,

This is long overdue, but I wanted to make it sound right. I actually turned this in with an application. Ask me any questions you might have about my experience!

On March 9, 2011, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. My dad and I took three days off from our busy lives to fly to Houston, Texas to see Dr. Jane Goodall give a lecture about her life with chimpanzees. “Dr. Jane,” as she is affectionately called, is one of the finest I’ve had the opportunity to see. She realized her childhood dream of visiting Africa by taking advantage of all of the opportunities that came her way, working hard and never giving up hope.

Her first 26 years with chimpanzees were spent in Africa researching and making discoveries about their behavior. You can tell how fond her memories are; she speaks passionately and lovingly of all her chimpanzee friends. She even gave us a demonstration of how chimpanzees greet each other, and gave her call to the audience. I was reading the introduction of her book, Harvest for Hope, and she talked about how nervous she used to get giving public speeches (even Jane Goodall gets nervous!). She said that the way she calms down is by people watching, because she sees so many similarities between our behavior and the behavior of the chimpanzees she spent so many years studying. That’s why she decided, in 1986, that she couldn’t just stand by while their habitat and chance of survival was being destroyed. Since then she’s spent three hundred days of every year traveling around the world, spreading awareness and a message of peace and hope. She’s one of the most optimistic and inspirational people I’ve come across. Although faced with much adversity, she maintains a serene composure and an unwavering optimistic outlook.

When she realized that the habitat in Gombe was disappearing, she knew she had to do something to try and save it. One of the main reasons their habitat was being destroyed was because the villages around it were chopping down the trees for themselves. The people near Gombe were very impoverished and there was no way she would tell them they had to stop cutting trees (and lose their livelihood, warmth, etc.) so her chimpanzees could live. So she found some people in the villages that were interested in working with her to improve their quality of life. While working on this Jane got an invitation to a fair trade coffee conference and she mentioned the coffee production that was going on near Gombe. Turns out their coffee is pretty awesome (Green Mountain Coffee) and it completely turned around their quality of living. They set aside some protected land for the chimps with their new surge of profit and now their prospering as well. I love this story because it shows not only how animal lovers are human lovers as well, but that the best solutions can be very innovative. It also shows Jane’s ability to take full advantage of all her opportunities.

Dr. Jane started a program called Roots and Shoots, which is designed to give kids the support they need to change the world. Her goal is to inspire the next generation to care for the planet in all ways, and she does this by convincing them that each individual can make a difference. One of the great bits of advice she gave was to experience everything and take every opportunity that comes your way. Through these experiences, ideas and opportunities to make a difference will begin to manifest. She’s an inspiration to everyone, and the world is a better place because of her. I hope that I can make a fraction of the difference that she has.


I’d like to add that Jane Goodall is also a vegetarian. She even wrote a book about it, Harvest for Hope.


Bob Parson’s Elephant Hunt
April 1, 2011, 9:28 am
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

I’m sure some of you have seen the video that Bob Parson, CEO of GoDaddy.com, has posted on his website depicting a hunt of “problem elephant.” According to Parson, Zimbabwe has an elephant overpopulation problem and they’re trampling farmers’ crops. The only way to solve this problem is to kill them.

This could potentially be a tricky situation. The people of Zimbabwe need to eat, and the elephants shouldn’t be allowed to trample their only source of food, but I’m not sure killing them is a good solution to the problem. If it were just the residents that were killing elephants to protect their food source, and due to a lack of resources they couldn’t do something like build an electrical fence then I think we would have more sympathy. The problem that I see is that a wealthy American is doing this “great” service for them by killing their little infestation problem. If he has enough money to take time out of his life and fly to Zimbabwe to go on a killing spree, then I’m willing to bet he has enough to responsibly solve the problem more humanely.

Another thing that really bothers me about Parson is that he thinks he’s doing such a great thing. He talks about how impoverished the people of Zimbabwe are and how dependent they are on him and his rifle. Without him, these people would starve! If he actually cared about them, he would help solve the problem in a way that solves it long-term, by providing the resources to build a fence or by providing them with food. All he actually cares about is the opportunity to kill an elephant, which is illegal most everywhere else.

Finally, he turned his video into just another commercial for his business. At the end he zooms in on a GoDaddy.com hat that one of the Zimbabwe residents is wearing. In an interview he says that he always “grab[s] whatever I have in swag and give to these guys, because they have nothing.” Really? You’re such a humanitarian. If you actually cared, bring some fresh food and water next time.


Baby elephant!

Kudos to You, César Chávez

I am going to try and blog once a day for the entire month of April! Wish me luck, and have fun reading. I’ll start it off with a tribute to a wonderful activist:

As many of you know, yesterday was César Chávez Day. Unfortunately it’s not yet a state holiday in Washington state, but it is in California, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin! I’d like to discuss this phenomenal man and the great things he’s done for our country.

César Chávez lived in Arizona until his father made an agreement to clear 80 of his acres in excange for 40 more and that agreement was broken. They were unable to afford the interest on a loan to buy it back and they lost their house and land forever. This injustice made a big impact on Chávez and was only the first of many more. This is one of his famous quotes that relates to this, “The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature.” I love this! It reminds me of the common phrase children like to yell, “But it’s not fair!” Fairness makes sense to children, and we believe that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. It’s only until we learn how the “real world” works that we slowly give that up. For injustice that is willful (compared to unfortunate events like car crashes) we shouldn’t be satisfied, and we should fight until it has been made right. Chávez did just that.

Anyway, Chávez and his family moved to California to make a living as migrant workers. To sustain his family he stopped attending school after 8th grade and devoted himself to migrant work.

He later founded the National Farm Workers Association to mobilize farm workers to enact change. He modeled his actions after Zapata, Gandhi, Nehru and Martin Luther King, using nonviolence to create awareness. You may have heard of the Delano grape strike, in which Chávez motivated grape growers to stop working and later for consumers to boycott buying them. He worked with the longshoremen who loaded the shipments of grapes and convinced them to not load any nonunion ones, resulting in a lot of spoiled grapes. His efforts ended in gaining union contracts and higher wages.

The list of accomplishments that Chávez had is vast, as well as the number of people he affected. He saw something that needed to be changed and he worked his hardest to make it happen, which I’m sure we can all find inspiration from.

I feel it necessary to add that César was a vegetarian. He included animals in his attempt to bring justice to all, which isn’t uncommon with nonviolent activists. Note that Gandhi was a vegetarian, and Martin Luther King’s family is vegan (his son is vegan and his wife was). I’m seeing a trend!

I hope you all took the time to think kindly of César and I thank him for all the steps forward he has taken for our country.


*This information was found on United Farm Workers of America

Food Revolution
March 31, 2011, 8:21 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

We are living in an exciting time: we’re living in the middle of the Food Revolution. More and more people are examining their relationship to food and more and more people are finding themselves dissatisfied. Little by little we are changing our messed up food system.

A little while ago I started a Twitter so that I could stay more up to date with news, specifically vegnews. I love it and think it’s a great way to stay connected. I feel more up to date that I’ve ever felt, and I feel a community that I didn’t know existed before.

Just in the past couple of months:

  • Oprah’s show had a vegan special
  • Martha Stewart had a vegan special
  • An article in the Seattle Times about a vegan blogger
  • Seattle Vegfest
  • An article in Time about moral issues surrounding food
  • As well as many people in the spotlight who are becoming food conscious (my favorites: Olivia Wilde, Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Emily Deschanel, Ellen DeGeneres)’

I don’t know about you guys, but this makes me really hopeful. I don’t think the problem is convincing people to care about the environment, worker and animal rights or the difficulties small farmers face, but letting them know. Recently it’s been talked about in the media and I think this is the first step.

I know I’m excited, and I love that it’s happening now. I believe we can revitalize our food system, we just need to keep up the good work!



Oprah’s Vegan Challenge
February 4, 2011, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , ,

For those of you who missed it, Oprah had a show described her challenge of going vegan for 1 week, including 378 of her staff members. How exciting is this?! I’m sure that Oprah’s influence will help change the image that vegetarian/vegan diets currently have. I haven’t watched the entire episode, but there are some segments available online.


I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but in 1998 a group of Texan beef producers filed a lawsuit against Oprah after she had a show that talked about BSE (mad-cow disease). After hearing about the dangers of it, she said, “I’ll never eat hamburger again.” Apparently this comment affected a lot of viewers and sales of meat products decreased. This group of Texan beef producers didn’t want Oprah saying anything bad about their products, so they sued her. Even though Oprah won (thank goodness, ever heard of the freedom of speech?) I think it scared her from talking about it any more. (Lawsuits take time and money!) So when I heard she was doing this vegan week I couldn’t believe it.

If her comment about hamburger can have such an influence, what do you think something like this can do? I don’t think all of those staffers are going to go vegan, nor do I think Oprah’s fans are. Although I do think that the seeds have been planted. This was a very positive picture of veganism, and I think that this was a great introduction to a lot of people, especially to those who’ve never heard the term before.

I’d like to point out a few things that were talked about on the show. Michael Pollan was one of the guest speakers, who I have a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, he does raise a lot of awareness and advocate for more conscious eaters, but I think he could be a little more optimistic. One of the things he said was (I’m paraphrasing) that this vegan challenge is a moral challenge, an ethical challenge, a challenge to tradition and that it could be viewed as an insult to your mother. I could say a lot about this, but the part where he said it was an insult to your mother I couldn’t handle it. I think he views veganism as giving up “great food” and saying no to a way of life. While this is true, you’re also giving up your support for the unnecessary suffering of animals, the environment, etc. Your mother should be proud that you’ve seen this connection and you’re willing to change your way of life to align with your values (I’m just assuming compassion and a rejection of cruelty are some of your values). He is seen as an authority figure for vegetarianism for those who don’t know about it and I think he could be using his influence in a more positive way. But anyway…He did talk about how 75% of our health care spending is linked to diet. This needs to change. AND he said that you shouldn’t eat meat if you aren’t willing to look at how it’s produced. I think this is a great idea. He knows how it’s produced but still eats it a couple times a week (but not from feed lots or industrial factory farms).

Last thing, sorry this has gotten so long! They got a chance to get into Cargill, the largest beef processor in North America (after being turned down by 20 others). Obviously I don’t know, but I suspect that they made sure everything was clean and smooth so they could get a better image for all of Oprah’s fans. But it was good for people to see nonetheless. At one point the investigator asked her “tour guide” what she would say if animal activists told her they didn’t support the consumption of animals. She  said that she would respect their opinion, but that they value the dignity of animals and that it’s the natural order to eat them. OKAY. I’m sorry, but I’m not sure how dignified it is to treat every animal like a piece of machinery, from birth to death. I missed that part somehow. And I’m not sure which part of it is “natural” either. Well then.

Well, if you’re reading this, you got through that whole thing! Thanks! And you should check out the vegan show. And you should become a conscious eater. And make me vegan brownies.

I’ll give you a picture of Oprah AND a cute animal, how’s that?


Bold Native

Hello world!

It’s been a while. I am here, at the Let Live Conference and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to be around so many like-minded people. This conference (which I’ve never been to!) works to give animal rights advocates the skills to become animal activists. It’s this weekend, Saturday and Sunday but I got confused and thought it started tomorrow, (oops!) so we’re a day early.

However, I wouldn’t have had the unique opportunity to see the film, Bold Native. This is a movie (not a documentary) about an animal liberator, Charlie, and what lengths he goes to, and what dangerous situations he puts himself in to give animals a better home. It describes the different ideas floating around the animal rights community, and the different kinds of people that commit themselves.

It was a very refreshing film, and honestly quite terrifying. While looking through the agenda for this conference there are many speakers prepared to talk about security and how to avoid jail time; all of which I passed for other, safer talks. This movie cemented the unnecessary dangers that animal liberators go through, and the real threat that is jail time. For saving cramped chickens and fearful calves, (and for destroying factory farming property) Charlie is faced with a life sentence. (It’s also easier to feel sympathetic towards Charlie as he is quite attractive! Ha.)

I’m so glad we got here a day early and that we were able to see this film in a theatre. I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed for crying—instead I felt comforted by my neighbors who are the most active animal advocates I’ve ever met. At the end of the film the applause was unanimous and lasted for quite a while—no one wanted it to end. In that moment there was an unspoken feeling of gratitude for bringing us all together and reopening these ideas but also a feeling of sadness for the reason that we all had to come.

This conference is one of the stops on the tour of Bold Native, and because of this the directors, one of the producers and a couple of the actors came along with it. This secured the togetherness of the crowd, of the “choir.” (Not to mention how cool it was to see Charlie—Joaquin Pastor—in real life! AH!)

The next stop of Bold Native happens to be in Seattle, as part of the Northwest Film Forum, so you should all go and see it. (And maybe Joaquin will be there)

ALSO. You should vote for Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s video to be put on Oprah’s network!


May 30, 2010, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Films | Tags: , , ,

While at Folklife yesterday, one of my wonderful table mates raved and raved about the movie, Earthlings. A wonderful film narrated by vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix (soon to be my husband) of movies like Walk the Line and Gladiator, this film describes animals and humans alike as “earthlings” or “those of the planet earth.”

Wow. Believe me, this movie is not for the faint-hearted. The 95 minutes of it were almost unbearable (and at times, they were unbearable) to watch. The utter disregard we have for animals’ lives is disgusting.

The documentary discusses 5 ways that we exploit animals: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and science. It describes how many animals are killed each year because of the refusal to spay/neuter pets or animals that are abused or given up by their owners. Hopefully how they are exploited for food is clear to you, but the film discusses each main type of animal briefly, with very graphic imagery. When the film talked about clothing, it focused on leather (but that isn’t to say wool and other types of clothing aren’t as brutal) and that was very enlightening as I hadn’t known much about that before. Zoos and circuses and the abuse these animals endure, as well as the horrible tests that animals go through, unnecessarily (I’ll blog about that a different time) are also all discussed in this film.Earthlings

I probably spent about 80 out of the 95 minutes of the film bawling my eyes out, but I couldn’t make myself turn it off. It’s so horrific but I can’t bring myself to put it out of my mind, like so many others do. It is the least that I can do to watch what these poor animals go through, and shed tears for the blood they have lost. I don’t think anyone can watch this movie and continue to eat meat. Like Paul McCartney said, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” I’m convinced that no one (the majority at least) would want to continue to inflict that kind of harm on other living, breathing, feeling beings.

Watch it. Force yourself if you have to. If you haven’t already given up the tradition of eating meat, you will.