Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ringling Protest

"It is better to light one single candle than to curse the darkness." 

Tonight, I hope we can say that we helped light the bulb in one person's mind to think about the suffering animals endure for their entertainment. It was an amazing feeling, to be surrounded by people - veg, non-veg, all compassionate - working to help protect future generations of animals from the suffering the ones enslaved by Ringling Brothers (or, as Dylan is now calling them, the Ding-a-ling Brothers) currently are living with. 

It's only our second protest, and I did have some reservations about bringing the kids (and thoughts of what the HELL am I doing? This is gonna cost me in therapy sessions for sure), but I am SO glad I did.  Kids are gigantically more persuasive than adults are, especially with other kids. It was fabulous to see people taking the pamphlets, reading our signs, and hopefully, considering their actions. In the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." 

Not to say advocacy is without repercussions. Some people, frankly, just suck. Dylan, my amazing, outspoken, righteous child had comments such as "damn, too bad I forgot my ivory knife at home" and "do NOT get in between me and my children" aimed at him.  Passionate as he is, he just said "Mom, that's okay, maybe the next one will listen". We were called "sharks", made teens cry, and parents hold their children close like we were Nazi's coming to kill them. And I reminded my children to smile, say please and thank you, and watched them like a hawk. We ran into friends, acquaintances, and school mates. 

Okay, honesty time. The first time I saw a parent from the school, I turned around to my mom and said, "Crap! (okay, maybe it was a different 4-letter word) Hide me!" I couldn't help feeling like one of those Jesus freaks standing on the corner shouting "G*d hates gays!" Then I realized that my children were watching me (do they always have to do that?!!). And I had an amazing opportunity to show them how to be strong, live by your convictions, and be kind. I took a breath, turned around, smiled, and said "well, guess we're on opposite sides of the fence!" She smiled (kinda), we exchanged niceties, and she said "so, why aren't you going to the circus?" And I had a fantastic opening to educate - both her and my kids. 

My daughter is much shyer than her brother, and she sat quietly most of the time. I checked in with her often to make sure she was comfortable with the situation we were in, and she was, but chose not to participate. And that's okay, too. It was a hard thing for me to do - much harder when you are 8 and looking at everybody's knees : ) 

I think if you're considering taking your own kids to a protest/demonstration/advocacy event, it's important to talk to them about it. I explained why I was going to the kids, showed them pictures and videos of the abuse the animals suffer (I viewed everything first to make sure it wasn't too graphic). I explained to them how I thought we could help, and I gave them the choice to come with me. Yes, I urged them to. I also explained why some people might not want us there, say mean things, and maybe even hurt our feelings. And they handled the little bit of adversity we had thrown at us well,  because they were prepared. 

We ended the night on a fabulous note; going to our favorite veg restaurant! What more can we ask for?? And yes, my kids and Mom DO rock! 





Saturday, August 14, 2010

Save the Elles!

Boooo!! We didn't make it to the Ringling protest last week, but we're set and ready for the San Jose protest! If you're in the area, please join us:

What: Opening-night demonstration against Ringling cruelty 
When: Wednesday, August 18, 6 p.m.
Where: HP Pavilion at San Jose, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose (Please meet at the corner of Autumn and Santa Clara streets; see this map.)

Materials will be provided. Please bring a friend along to join you. For any questions or to RSVP, contact me at 323-351-0188 or Please use the subject line of this e-mail when responding. Please also get in touch with me if you're interested in receiving information on leafleting and protesting at other shows while Ringling is in town!

The kids and I will for sure be there! A friend of mine who owns a shirt making business is making us some fantastic, kid-created shirts and I found elephant hats at in the dollar section at Michael's Craft store! (Yes, I have high delusions that I can get my little activists to actually wear them!) 

We're also working on two other projects: 

Chicago Soydairy, awesome amazing creators of the holy grails of vegan foods, keepers of the Dandies  vegan marshmallows, is having a contest (yahoooooo!) They're looking for creative ideas on how to use Dandies.... I submitted my ideas, but honestly, I'm no Isa Chandra  so I'm not sure how tempting they were! Stay tuned, cause if we get picked they'll be some sticky sweet treats coming your way.....!!

Dylan biting into a vegan s'more! 


Peta2 is also having a "Chain Yourself" photo contest! I'm still trying to tap into the super woman creative artistic photographer portion of my brain, but I do plan on entering. How about you? 



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Elephants Never Forget...

Stickers Montage

Circuses SUCK!   They are good for nothing but "entertainment", much at the expense of the animals - particularly the elephants. Even the SF Zoo (and many others)  has renounced keeping elephants in captivity due to the stress it causes them! And many countries have banned the use of animals for entertainment (woohoo! Comeon U.S.A, what is wrong with us?!) My boss just said that it's not a good situation for the people either, but I pointed out that the difference is that PEOPLE HAVE A CHOICE. Animals do not, and need human voices to help them (and yes, he was just messing with me!).

PETA enlightens us tot he plight of these beautiful creatures:

Ringling vs. Reality

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus paints a picture of happy animals performing tricks because they like doing them. Consider the following, then decide whether that’s true. Here are some of Ringling’s frequent claims juxtaposed with the facts about the circus’s treatment of animals:

Our training methods are based on continual interaction with our animals, touch and words of praise, and food rewards.

Video footage taken between 2001 and 2006 of Ringling trainers and handlers shows that elephants were aggressively hooked, lame elephants were forced to perform and travel, and a trainer inflicted a bloody bullhook wound behind an elephant’s ear flap. Former Ringling employees that left the circus in 2006 and 2007 describe violent beatings as well as the routine abuse of elephants, horses, camels, and zebras.

The ankus (bullhook) is used as an extension of the handler’s arm to guide the elephants.

The bullhook, by design, is intended to cause pain and puncture the skin. Despite its appearance, an elephant’s skin is as sensitive as humans’ skin. The sharp metal hook on the end of the bullhook bruises, punctures, and tears elephants’ skin easily and often. Former Ringling animal crew employees report that the circus keeps a bag of topsoil handy to cover up bloody bullhook wounds on elephants.

Ringling is a leading expert in the care of Asian elephants. Our staff is dedicated to meeting our animals’ physical and behavioral needs.

Ringling’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports are riddled with serious citations of problems that directly impact animal welfare. In 2006 alone, the circus was cited three times for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to a disabled elephant, to an elephant with a large swelling on her rear leg, and to a camel with bloody wounds. Also in 2006, Ringling was cited for causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and discomfort to two young elephants who sustained cuts and abrasions when they ran amok in an arena in Puerto Rico; improper handling of dangerous animals; and an enclosure in disrepair.

Ringling has never been adjudged to have violated the Animal Welfare Act.

Ringling attempts to confuse the issue with legal terminology. The USDA refers to a citation on an inspection report as a “noncompliance” rather than a “violation.” Each citation by the USDA is an indication that federal inspectors found that Ringling Bros. is failing to comply with the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.
In addition to being cited on inspection reports, Ringling has also been warned by the USDA for causing trauma and stress to two baby elephants who suffered painful rope lesions when they were prematurely pulled from their mothers and for improper euthanasia after a caged tiger was shot to death. Ringling also paid a $20,000 penalty to settle USDA charges of failing to provide veterinary care to a sick baby elephant who died shortly after he was forced to perform.

All circuses are subject to stringent animal welfare regulations at the local, state, and federal level.

No agency monitors training sessions, in which animals may be beaten behind the scenes. Most state and local agencies defer to the already overburdened USDA for matters concerning exotic animals in circuses. The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has no regulations that specifically pertain to elephants. For example, space requirements for animals ranging from elephants to zebras simply state, “Enclosures shall ... provide sufficient space to allow each animal to make normal postural and social adjustments.” Ringling consistently opposes proposed laws that would ban cruel training methods, such as bullhooks and the chaining of elephants. Although inspections by the USDA are supposed to be unannounced, several former Ringling employees claim that the circus always knows in advance when inspectors are coming.

Cruelty in "Teaching" 
   Our staff are experts in their fields.

Staff caring for animals in circuses may have little experience or formal training, increasing the potential for improper handling. Ringling regularly hires inexperienced people, some directly out of homeless shelters, and allows them to work with animals.

Ringling is attempting to save endangered Asian elephants from extinction.

Ringling breeds elephants solely to perform in its circus. None of Ringling’s elephants can ever be released to the wild. Of the approximately 62 elephants owned by Ringling in 1990, 57 were captured in the wild. And at least 24 elephants have died since 1992. Ringling has not been successful in breeding more elephants than it has captured and imported for use in its traveling show, and its elephants are dying at a faster rate than they are breeding. Ringling routinely pulls unweaned elephants from their mothers to train them and put them on the road.

The animal routines in our circus showcase our animals’ natural behaviors.

In nature, elephants don’t stand on their heads, walk trunk-to-tail, skip, crawl, or twirl, and adult female elephants do not mount one another. Tigers don’t hop on their hind legs and roll over in unison. In order to force wild animals to perform difficult and confusing circus tricks, trainers use whips, sticks, and bullhooks.

Ringling:The public display of exotic and endangered animals contributes to a heightened awareness of humans’ responsibility to safeguard and protect these animals.

Reality:According to David Hancocks, former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, “When [circuses] portray animals as freaks and curiosities, devoid of context or dignity, circuses are perpetuating outdated attitudes. Wild animals in the circus are reduced to mere caricatures of their kind, exhibited just for financial gain. In this way, they corrupt our children, promoting the notion that exploitation and degradation is acceptable, even brave or funny.”

We operate a 200-acre state-of-the-art facility dedicated to breeding, research, and retirement of Asian elephants.

The elephants at Ringling’s breeding compound in Florida only have access to a fraction of the property. When they are not chained, the elephants are confined to barns and small, barren outdoor paddocks. Ringling’s Williston, Fla., facility—also referred to as its retirement center—has several elephants who are infected with or exposed to a human strain of tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). In September 2006, two male elephants at its breeding center also tested positive for TB and three female elephants were pulled off the road because they had been exposed to diseased elephants.

Ringling:Our elephant care practices are in line with those set out in the “Elephant Husbandry Resource Guide” published by the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) with the support of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Elephant Managers Association (EMA).

Reality:As a founding board member of the IEF, Ringling helped develop the “Elephant Husbandry Resource Guide.” Ringling may have felt a need to develop this guide because the circus does not comply with the existing AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care. Ringling does not provide its elephants on the road with AZA’s minimum space requirements, and the elephants are subjected to prolonged chaining.

Ringling:Ringling Bros. elephants are healthy, thriving, vigorous, and content.

Reality:The USDA has noted on Ringling inspection reports that some of the circus’s elephants suffer from lameness, foot abscesses, and arthritis. At least eight of the 24 elephant deaths at Ringling since 1992 were attributable to either osteoarthritis or a chronic foot problem—a common problem in captive elephants caused by lack of space and forced inactivity. In a book titled The Elephant’s Foot, former Ringling veterinarian Gary West contributed a chapter about foot care. West wrote, “Foot-related conditions and arthritis are the leading cause of euthanasia in captive elephants in the United States.”

The revolting Ringling Brothers Circus is coming to the Bay Area, and I am sick over it.  There is a protest being held tonight that I really, really, REALLY want to go. And I plan to, just not sure I can make it from work in time!

But what about the kids? I've been to a few protests myself and always found them inspiring and largely peaceful. But is it appropriate to bring kids? My gut says yes, they should use their voices to express compassion for animals, and to offer information and education to others. I've not been largely involved with large animal rights protests, however I think this one is important. I think that the danger the animals are in is coming into light for many, and I think we are on the verge of an amazing win for the animals! I think NOW is the time to be involved. As far as the kids, if they get uncomfortable, we can always leave, right? Stay tuned.....


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vegan Baby Shower!

Oh, how I wish I knew a vegan having a baby! I would throw the most awesomest veg baby shower ever! How awesome is this article?!

(Stolen from Brooke @

Vegan Baby Showers

Throw the perfect baby shower bash with the help of VN’s must-read guide.
By Brooke Still
For some, the idea of a baby shower may call up the sweet sound of a baby’s coo and visions of daffodils. For others, the sheer mention of the two words together might trigger PTSD-like symptoms, haunted by towering diaper cakes and chocolate melted to look like baby doo-doo. Either way, chances are if you’re veg, you might need a little help planning a beautiful, non-lame baby shower. So tell the mom-to-be to relax, VegNews has the planning done. 
Like all parties, baby showers can be thrown with any theme you like. Stay away from decorations that will head straight to the dumpster after the party, such as balloons, paper plates, and crepe paper streamers. Instead, try embellishing with natural elements, such as organic flowers, or stack fruit from your local farmers’ market in vases. For a little something to spread on the table, vegan jellybeans are a sweet alternative to confetti. Once the party-planning wheels are turning, send out the invites—three weeks in advance to leave guests plenty of time to RSVP. For a unique take on the recycled paper invitation, try seed cards, like these from Bloomin’—the guests can plant the card after its arrival and watch it blossom. 
What’s on the menu for your shower is nearly as important as Mom herself. If you’re aiming for elegance, try hosting an afternoon teaCucumber finger sandwiches are an easy and refreshing way to provide some lightness to a meal. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, try the white bean bruschetta or California sushi rollsOrange sugar cookiespear and fig tarts or vanilla cupcakes with chocolate glaze are all sure to satisfy maternity cravings, and those of your guests as well.
There are plenty of fun baby shower pastimes to entertain your guests. Rather than signing a guest book, have an organic cotton onesie, like this one from Sweet Spud, for guests to sign with puff paint. Or have a onesie for each guest to personalize for Mom and baby. For more good wishes for the baby, use a larger flower or plant as a “wishing tree.” Supply guests with small, recycled paper leaves on which they can write wishes for the baby and safety pin to the plant.
For a mom-to-be, it can be a lifesaver to be showered with baby gifts to help her through the first few months of life with the little one. Luckily there are plenty of vegan and organic products out there for vegan babies. What’s cuter than vegan baby shoes? Or spring for organic baby clothes, such as this bunch that comes wrapped like flowers. To cut back on waste from wrapping paper, wrap your presents in baby blankets. For goodie bags, try vegan lip balm that you can personalize to commemorate the date of the shower.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mingling with Meaties

"Dylan, come sit down for dinner."


"Dylan! Come over here and sit down with everyone". 


There went the relaxing family BBQ. What the heck was going on? In an I-am-the-mom-and-you-shall-obey-me voice, I demanded to know what his problem was.  He looked up at me with big tear-filled eyes and the most heartbreaking, mournful look ever and said, "Mom, I just can't watch them eat the animals."

Well, shit. How does a mom respond to that??

So many things went through my head at once, with well, neither do I! being at the top of the list. Quickly followed by the anxiety ridden but how will he ever get along in the world? combined with practice what we preach... tolerance and compassion...

What would you have done? I totally understand what he means.... for the past 3 years, we've sworn off family time in which a sacrificial bird adorns the table (yes, I mean American Thanksgiving). I can't deal with eating at a table with a whole, dead bird's legs and body being fought over (and yes, I am a hypocrite because meat that doesn't look like an animal bothers me less). Maybe I've taught him this.

On the other hand, I'd have to go back out out and deal with my supportive but defensive non-veg family. The in your face demonstration that veganism impacts family negatively. The innuendo that what they were doing was bad. A literal reminder that veganism separates us.

In the end, I let him sit alone. I acknowledged his feelings, validated them, encouraged him to join us, but it wasn't gonna happen, and I wasn't going to force him. I, as gently as possible, explained to my family that he wasn't comfortable eating with meat on the table. And yes, it made them a little uncomfortable. And yes, it opened up a massive discussion about the issue. But I feel good about my decision, because as any parent knows, it's all about what's best for our kids and supporting their reasonable choices.

I have no stinking idea if I made the "right" call! So again, I ask - what would you have done?

Doesn't our non-dead dinner look delish?

(Pictured above: Bell pepper, portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and grilled pineapple with red onion. YUM!)