Time Magazine, Martha, Oprah….Oh my! It seems that everywhere I turn these days, people are talking about veganism. Just a few weeks ago I was shopping with my Mother and we stumbled into a bookstore on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. Mind you, we were in Berkeley, but much to my delight the front table was covered in vegan cookbooks. Not just vegetarian books, but vegan books. After flipping through the books and salivating over all the tasty recipes, it dawned on me how far veganism has come.

I have been vegan for nearly twelve years and have seen the movement grow and evolve.  Over the years hundreds of vegan products have landed on the market, restaurants are popping up all over the country, not just in the cities, and an increasing number of cookbooks have been published. We vegans have been celebrating the expansion of our lifestyle, but something else is changing.

It seems the mainstream media has either just figured out what vegan is or more likely they have come to realize how much money they can make off the market.  In the last month or so, vegan shows have been appearing in the least likely places. In early February, the head mogul herself, Oprah hosted a “Vegan Challenge” show where she and her entire staff went vegan for one week. She also had high-profile guests such as Kathy Freston discuss the issues of food and veganism. To see a piece of the show, see below:

Then just a few months later, Martha Stewart produced her own vegan show, which she so thoughtfully titled “The Vegan Show.” On her show, she interviewed the lovely Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur about animal rights and tried out some of Kathy Freston’s tasty dishes. But the deluge of all things vegan didn’t end there. Time Magazine published the article “The Morality of Mealtime” where they discussed factory farming and spoke to Gene Baur. And finally at the end of last month Animal Planet released information that they would be producing a reality TV show around the vegan bakery in PA, Vegan Treats (which we have had the pleasure in gorging ourselves in).

Now you may think to yourself, does this mean the vegan lifestyle is growing and becoming more mainstream? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. While I think it is terrific veganism is getting so much attention, I hope it isn’t just a media fad, much like the Atkins or Blood Type diets. It seems the media seeks out about something interesting, focuses on it for awhile, and moves on. This may be the reason for all the coverage, however, all this attention is bringing awareness not only to the movement but to the abuses in the meat and dairy industries. The more people understand the many reasons behind going vegan, the less we will seem like extremists and the more options there will be for us.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter why people are covering the vegan world, but it matters how it will affect the movement. If people turn to their TV, their magazines and newspapers for answers, we might actually see some change for the animals and acceptance of those who chose to live their lives as vegans.

-Gina Williams

American holidays are wrapped with tradition, from the foods we eat to the decorations and even our activities.  Nothing is more traditionally American than Thanksgiving. The holiday is meant to bring all together and to give thanks for everything in our lives. But let’s face it, most Americans focus on the feast, which consists of traditional fall foods including sweet potatoes, cranberries, walnuts, and apples. However, the center of all these foods for most Americans is the turkey. Unfortunately, the turkey industry is nothing to be so thankful for.

In the US, 72 million turkeys are slaughtered for holiday meals! And these turkeys endure serious pain and suffering. A whole host of suffering is put upon turkeys including painful de-beaking, overcrowding, and over anti-biotic injecting. Honestly, this is not what I would consider an American tradition.  Fortunately, there is something you can do about it! Instead of purchasing a turkey for your table, you can adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary! The program rescues thousands of turkeys that would have ended up on the dinner table, and finds stable and loving homes.  People will property and room farm animals adopt these intelligent and caring animals for the rest of their lives. If you have room, consider adopting a turkey today. If you can not take on raising a rescued turkey, please consider sponsoring a turkey. With a donation of $30 you can sponsor one of the rescued turkeys that live on the Farm Sanctuary.

This year, you can make a difference and save a turkey’s life. Trust us, they will be thankful for your choice. For more information of the turkey industry and Farm Sanctuary‘s Adopt-A-Turkey Project take a look at this eye-opening video:

Have any vegans on your list and aren’t sure what to get them? We have compiled some quick hints and suggestions for great vegan holiday gifts! Whether your shopping for a new vegan or a seasoned veteran, here are some great ideas for this holiday season!

There are awesome online vegan stores that carry tons of vegan products ranging from food to clothing. Some great ones worth checking out are  Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, Vegan Karma, Sidecar for Pigs Peace, Moo Shoes, Pangea and Vegan Essentials. That is a great place to start when choosing gifts for a vegan loved one!And if you aren’t quite sure what they would love, a gift certificate to any of these stores would be wonderful!

We put together a short list of great ideas to give vegans come this holiday:

1)Vegan Treats: The true and fastest way to a vegan’s heart is through their stomach! You can easily put together a basket of vegan products such as cookies, candies, or fake jerky. You could even include some vegan wines. If you make a trip to your local food co-op or natural food store there are plenty of great snacks to fill a basket with. Also, you can find pre-made vegan goodie baskets at many of the websites listed above. If you prefer to make your own goodies, we suggest you bake or cook a delicious vegan treat. There are many easy and fun recipes you could make! Check out some of our own vegan recipes.

2) Vegan Cookbooks: As we mentioned above, vegans LOVE food! And they really love new recipes they can try out for home or for entertainment. A few great books that we suggest are Vegan Planet, Vegan Vittles, and How It All Vegan . There are tons of other great vegan cookbooks out there as well! And who knows?? Maybe they will thank you by cooking YOU some scrumptious vegan goodies!

3) Basket of Vegan Beauty Products: When someone says the word vegan, most people think of food. But there are so many other products that could contain animal products, including bath and beauty items.  Another great gift idea is to put together a basket of bath and beauty items like lotions, bath salts, make-up, and even shampoos! You can most likely find these products at your local food co-op, natural food store, and any of the sites listed above! Make sure to read the label and look for items that say “Does not contain animal products,” “Not tested on animals” or “Certified Vegan.” There are a number of brands that are known to be vegan, check out this guide to help you know which ones are okay. Also, you can find pre-made baskets at most of the vegan stores above or check out Vegan Pimp and Garuda International.

4) Gift Certificate to a Vegan Restaurant: Another great and quick gift guide is to buy a gift certificate to a local vegan restaurant! Again, any vegan would love to enjoy a free meal! You can buy one for your loved one’s favorite restaurant or maybe a new one they haven’t tried yet. Find your local vegan and vegetarian restaurants at Happy Cow!

03215) Donate in Their Name: You can always make a contribution to an animal rights organization such as Vegan Outreach Farm Sanctuary,Pigs Peace Sanctuary, PETA, or Action for Animals for them. You could also adopt a rescued farm animal or an endangered species in their name. And finally you could give them a subscription to a vegan magazine such as VegNews or Vegan Magazine.

Most people understand a vegetarian’s choice to avoid meat products, but many are baffled by a vegan’s choice to avoid eggs. So, why are vegans not eating eggs? The answer to this question of course is not that simple, as people choose to be vegan for many different reasons. However, to understand one main reason vegans abstain from indulging in egg products, let’s take a look at a life of an egg laying hen.

As children we are raised with the idea that our eggs come from happy cute chickens that live in a big hen house and are tended to by the family farm. This is a fantasy that couldn’t be further from the truth for most American hens. Increasingly eggs are harvested in factory farms, much like the meat industry. Chickens used solely for eggs are referred to by the industry as “laying hens.” The laying hens are kept in ultra tight quarters, depending on the factory, but the USDA reports the average floor space provided is somewhere less than a half a foot per hen.

Being this close together causes many hens to have severe health problems. A report conducted by Compassion Over Killing revealed that these hens do not have enough room to even flap their wings and health problems such as osteoporosis, uterine prolapse(the uterus is expelled from the body), and Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome. Also due to the tight quarters, hens are known to damage themselves and others by overpecking. But don’t worry the factories have found a way to solve this: they burn off their beaks with a headed blade!!! This is quite possibly the worst injustice and an incredibly painful procedure, as it is done without anesthetic most of the time.

Now these hens are only valuable during their egg laying span. The farms try to keep the hens for maximum egg production and routinely are involved in a practice called “forced molting.” This practice is when the chickens are intentionally starved for up to 14 days, body fat is lost, and egg production begins again. Sometimes they are even kept in complete darkness. This can have severe psychological and health problems for these hens, as well as horrible suffering.

So what happens when the hens can no longer produce eggs? They are shipped off to slaughterhouses to end up on people’s tables. But because of brittle bones and mistreatment, they often are bruised and their bones snap easily. Thus the industry grinds them up and uses them in products such as soup and pot pies, as well as chicken meal. More often, slaughterhouses have enough abused chickens to fill the low grade meat quota, that the egg farms need another way to dispose of the hens. There have been reports of farms using wood chippers, often while still alive! And one part of this whole process that is often forgotten about is the baby boy chicks that  hatch at the factory farms. Since the egg laying chickens are the only part of the puzzle these farms care about, they are discarded as soon as they are born. Some of the more common ways to “dispose” of these poor souls is being thrown into a dumpster until they suffocate or dehydrate, ground up alive, or gassed.

Clearly , the American practice of factory farming is not only cruel, but unnecessary. In fact the European Union has banned the use of these “battery cages” beginning in 2012.  So what can we do about it here in the States?

First step, hit them where it hurts: their money! GO VEGAN and start boycotting the egg industry! If you just can’t give up those eggs, only purchase eggs from small organic local farms that still use humane practices. Or get involved! Most have heard of PETA, but there are a number of other great organizations that could use your help including: Compassion Over Killing, Action for Animals, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary and a host of others.

So next time someone asks you, “why don’t you eat eggs?” or “what’s wrong with eggs?” you’ll not only have a complete answer, but be able to send them resources.

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