Compassionate Action for Animals

Photos from the 17th Annual Vegan ThanksLiving Potluck

Thanks to all who attended our 17th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving at Coffman Memorial Union!

Each year, our annual Vegan ThanksLiving Potluck gives us a chance to come together as a community and celebrate plant-based, holiday food. For some of us, this is our one opportunity during the holidays for an entirely plant-based celebration and for others, this is one of many. We are grateful for this yearly opportunity to celebrate with our plant-based family––YOU!

Thank you to The Herbivorous Butcher for donating their delicious vegan stuffed turkeys and Innate Foods for donating their savory scones for the event! We’d also like to thank the University of Minnesota and all of our donors for their support with this event.

It took over 20 volunteers to make the event run smoothly––many thanks to those who helped out! Special thanks to Rae Hermeier and Haley Hastings, who planned the potluck with staff.

ThanksLiving 2019

Home for the Plant-Based Holidays!

Happy November! For many, it’s the month to kick off a season filled with friends, family, and the coziest dishes our Earth has ever produced. But for many veg folks, it can also be a time of unpredictable social situations, especially when attending a predominantly omnivore celebration. But fear not! All of the vegan holidays I’ve spent have been stuffed full with a classic green bean casserole, the creamiest dreamiest sweet potatoes, a pillowy pumpkin pie, and long post-nourished food-naps.

The best part: these dishes are incredibly fun and easy to make with one another! Whether you send them out to friends and family or whirl them up in your own kitchens, these recipes and swaps are the perfect opportunities to bond with your loved ones through scrumptious plant-based cooking. I’ve found that when others are provided with swaps and recipes, they’re usually very accommodating and excited to try something new!

Lentil Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie via the Minimalist Baker

Plant-based sides and main dishes to wow everyone

The first question on your mind might be how to swap the centerpiece that’s usually comprised of meat. My family has always loved the side dishes more than the main course, so our go-to is to pile the dinner table with lots of smaller dishes. This means more food! Our table is never complete without sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits, freshly cooked cranberries, green bean casserole, and, of course, the desserts!

If you’re looking to wow the whole family with an impressive main course, I might suggest making your own vegan “turkey” roll with tofu or a homey sweet potato shepherd’s pie! Some classic swaps for the main dish are hearty squash and potato dishes (e.g. shepherd’s pies and stuffed squashes), meat substitutes (e.g. Tofurky or other tempeh/tofu/seitan-based roasts), and heart-and-soul warming soups.

The Best Damn Vegan Mashed Potatoes via the Minimalist Baker

Here are some other festive mains that give me heart eyes just thinking about them:

As I said, my family LOVES the holiday sides, so let’s get right into them! And they form the perfect color palette on your plate. The recipes that we use yearly are:

Simple Vegan Dinner Rolls from the Minimalist Baker

Here are a couple of other fantastic additions to any holiday dinner table:

Let’s talk desserts! My mom comes from a long line of bakers and has almost never let a week escape without magically producing a dessert on the table, so this point of the meal has always been the most special for us.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cookies via Making Thyme for Health
Vegan Pumpkin Roll via Fooduzzi

Some of the favorites that we try to make throughout the holiday season are:

Detox Crockpot Lentil Soup from Pinch of Yum

Swap one ingredient to veganize your holiday favorites

Do you already have some favorite family-cherished holiday recipes that aren’t plant-based? No problem! Luckily, many dishes can be made just as delicious with a few simple swaps. For pies, coconut oil/vegetable shortening are great replacements for dairy butter. For baked goods, 1 tablespoon of flax meal sat with 3 tablespoons of water for five minutes makes a great egg-replacer (and so does a ¼ cup of applesauce for cakier items). For egg whites, aquafaba makes an amazing binder that can also be whipped up for meringues and marshmallows!

Plant-based milk, butter, cream cheese, whipped cream, and other plant-based dairy staples make 1-to-1 substitutions super simple (brands like Silk, Daiya, Earth Balance, Miyoko’s, Pacific, Califia, Follow Your Heart, and So Delicious are some of the most popular brands in grocery stores). If you need the perfect cream cheese frosting for your pumpkin bars but can’t seem to find any vegan cream cheeses in stores, this cashew frosting will do the trick. Whipped cream can also be made easily with coconut cream (try out this recipe!).

In savory dishes, don’t be shy around spice! Dishes can be easily elevated with generous spices and sauces, so no one will be left craving more. Rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice will be your best friends! If you’re looking to transform your tofu/tempeh/meat substitute into something the whole family will find familiar, trying out liquid smoke is a great idea. It’s made from condensing the smoke from wood to provide a richer, meatier taste. Use it sparingly!

Vegan Heaven’s Vegan Thanksgiving Lentil Loaf

Sharing a message of compassion at the table

Equally important as knowing how to swap recipes for the holidays is having the confidence to say why we’re doing so. Especially during holidays like Thanksgiving, these family gatherings can be wonderful times to answer questions about why there’s no meat on our plates or cow’s milk-based butter on our potatoes. Starting these conversations can be tricky, so letting questions come naturally and approaching everyone with empathy can make these situations more comfortable and enjoyable for you. Plus, you’ll be surrounded by plenty of proof that plant-based cooking is undeniably delicious! 

One idea to invite friends and family into the plant-based movement is to encourage them to take the 30 Day Vegan Pledge or sign up for the free Explore Veg Mentor Program to receive support from a vegan mentor! Also encouraging them to take small steps toward a vegan lifestyle (ex. exclude meat from dinners or prepare plant-based breakfasts) while letting them know you’re here to support them through recipes, education, and accountability can be a fun way to grow your relationships.

Stefanie with residents of Farmaste Animal Sanctuary

Finally, spark the idea of ThanksLiving! Laura Matanah wonderfully described this holiday as “a way to refocus our celebration on the lived experiences, and resistance to oppression, of both human and non-human animals. Our goal is to retain many of the positive elements of the traditional holiday while expanding its meaningfulness with greater knowledge and action.” ThanksLiving consciously acknowledges the brutal mistreatment of both marginalized indigenous communities and seeks to celebrate the traditions of the holiday that are life-giving. Read more about ThanksLiving here!

Most of all, remember to enjoy your time spent surrounded by friends and family this holiday season. Soak up the craziness of the kitchen and embrace the process of making new holiday traditions, even if that’s unsuccessfully stuffing your first butternut squash. You’ve got this and happy holidays, friends!

Stefanie Amundsen is a member of the Compassionate Action for Animals chapter at the University of Minnesota.

Veganism at the Holiday Table: Four Tips for Talking with Family

Going home for the holidays often involves finding a balance between celebrating with family, answering questions from relatives about veganism, and finding a seasonal vegan-friendly dish to eat with everyone. Read on for some of Ava’s tips to effectively share a message of compassion for animals at any holiday celebration while keeping your own wellbeing in mind.

Continue reading

Making Minneapolis the Next Fur-Free City: An Interview with Matt Johnson

I met with Matt Johnson, the campaign director for Fur Free Minneapolis, which is an initiative to ban the sale of new fur within city limits, to talk about the campaign.

Following in the footsteps of LA and San Francisco, Matt believes Minneapolis will be the next fur-free city. The campaign has gathered more than 2,000 letters to City Council Members and the Mayor and more than 13,000 signatures on their online petition. Read on to learn more about this groundbreaking campaign, Matt, and what you can do to help.

How did you get involved in animal advocacy?

As a boy, I was lucky enough to be able to spend most of my time outside in the north woods of Minnesota. I grew up in the sticks, in a part of the state that is abundant in small farms and nature. I knew where the beavers in the area had their lodges and regularly saw other animal neighbors like raccoons, foxes, and even a wolf pack once.

I was fortunate because my father did not hunt and he did not teach me to hunt nor condone it. I mention this because so many of my neighbors and the other boys I knew did not have that experience, most hunted and trapped, and even though they were interested in wild animals it was with exploitative designs that they engaged with them.

As a young person, I felt a connection to animals and would speak up for them regularly. On one occasion my dad took me to O.C. Mangold’s, a local farmer and entrepreneur, wild animal auction to see the strange animals carted into northern Minnesota: crocodiles, peacocks, bison, zebra… you name it. I became fixated on an arctic fox and while I was standing by their cage another boy came up and let me know his dad would be buying that fox, that they intended to skin them for their beautiful white fur. I was shocked and explained the situation to my dad! He told me I could buy the fox, and I did for a mere $6. We built them an enclosure under a stand of white pines but within a week they had escaped, foxes are excellent at climbing fencing! For years we would see this arctic fox running in the wild around our home.

I didn’t become vegan until I was in my early thirties and, like so many people have stated, it’s been the best decision. It really has allowed my animal advocacy to come into power in a deep and meaningful way.

Why did you decide to run this campaign?

I had three reasons for starting the Fur Free Minneapolis Campaign.

  • This is a winnable campaign for animals. Since there are hundreds of issues we can invest time in we need to be selective, even if that means saying “no” to some important problems. We owe it to animals to pick campaigns that we can actually win. Minneapolis is a progressive city with a City Council that wants to take action on import issues: justice and equity issues related to humans, environmental issues and animal issues. Let’s give them the chance to do something great and historic for animals!
  • This campaign will make a measurable difference for animals. When Minneapolis passes their fur ban 5,000-10,000 animals will not be sold within our city fur their fur. I believe it’s very important that the animal rights movement start to seriously focus on winning measurable victories for animals, without them how can we know if we’re truly making progress?
  • We are part of a larger movement and keeping that momentum going is crucial. We have been working closely with some of the activists and groups that banned fur in California. We know that right now there is a lot of pressure on the fur industry and we want to use that momentum to pass our ban, help NYC and Portland pass their bans, and assist other cities and states that also want to ban fur in their area. If you’re reading this and want to ban fur in your city, reach out to us and we’ll help!

Many of CAA’s supporters have a big heart for animals farmed for food. Why do you think they should care about the fur-free movement?

Supporting our fur-free ban undoubtedly helps animals used for food, although it’s not immediately obvious how.

Rabbits are the most highly killed fur-bearing animal, it’s estimated that over a billion are killed annually. Rabbits are often overlooked because they are used for both their fur and their flesh. Additionally, because raising them is not as environmentally damaging as raising cows, pigs, chickens, etc, humans have not talked about their plight nearly as often as some other animals raised for food.

Bringing an end to the fur industry will greatly reduce the number of rabbits raised for food production since the profits from raising them will be sharply reduced. By supporting our Minneapolis fur ban you can be sure that fewer rabbits will be sold for their fur in our city and therefore fewer rabbits will also be raised at all.

Launching a political campaign for animals as a volunteer sounds intimidating and time-consuming. What steps did you take to make this happen?

First of all, I have by no means done all of the work myself. This is a completely unfunded and volunteer-run operation. Without support from amazing and dedicated volunteers, we could not have completed what we have so far. Before starting this work I spoke to the people closest to me and confirmed that we would form a core group to get the work done. That is crucial, you must have at least a small group of people that are dedicated to working on this with you, committed for the long haul.

I went to a political grassroots lobbying course in 2018 that inspired me to do the work that would be necessary to succeed in a campaign like this. I highly recommend checking out Midwest Academy for anyone that wants to train in political organizing. The animal rights movement has a lot to learn from other movements (black liberation, environmental protection, gender equality, women’s rights, etc) that have been organizing longer than we have. Train with them and learn from their expertise.

What’s next for the campaign? When can we expect to see a fur-free city?

At this point, we have the votes to pass a fur ban in our city! We now need to work creatively and collaboratively with key City Council Members to get it introduced. Without that introduction it will never be debated or voted on, i.e. it will never pass.

When the time comes we need supporters to show up in mass for rallies, hearing dates, chances to testify and other events. Most of the City Council Members want to do the right thing but they are going to have to be pressured into it, that’s all of our responsibility to make sure we show up and apply pressure and support.

What can readers do to help make Minneapolis the next fur-free city?

I can’t emphasize enough how important each of these steps are. City Council Members would love to hear from you on making Minneapolis a fur-free city.

At the city level politics are very different than the state or national and each one of you can use your voice to make a big impact. Please take the time to do each of the things described below.

  1. If you live in Minneapolis, look up your ward and which City Council Member represents you, you can do this on Fur Free Minneapolis. There are also talking points and a script for calling/emailing your City Council Member:
    • Call your City Council Member.
    • Email your City Council Member.
    • Work with us to schedule a meeting to talk to your City Council Member about this issue, we will support you and attend these meetings with you if you need. This is the single most important thing you can do and it’s a great way to learn more about the legislative process.
    • Fill out a postcard at one of our kiosks: The Herbivorous Butcher, Vegan East, Ethique Nouveau, The Cafe Meow. Signed postcards/letters to Council Members from Minneapolis residents are a powerful way for us to show local support for this ordinance.
    • Call/Email the Mayor’s office.
    • Sign up on our website to stay informed.
    • Follow us on Instagram and Facebook and Like and Share our posts.
    • Sign the online petition
    • Get as many people as you can to do all of the steps above.
    • Plan to come out to future events that we hold, the most crucially important being the hearings at City Hall.
  2. If you don’t live in Minneapolis:
    • Sign up on our website to stay informed.
    • Call/Email the Mayor’s office.
    • Follow us on Instagram and Facebook and Like and Share our posts.
    • Sign the online petition.
    • Get as many people as you can to do all of the steps above.
    • Plan to come out to future events that we hold, the most crucially important being the hearings at City Hall.

To learn more about Fur Free Minneapolis and get involved, visit their website and reach out to them at to ask how you can help. They need volunteer help on a variety of issues and would love to have your expertise and effort in passing this ordinance.

November Eats | Vegan Recipe Club

From carrot dogs to seasonal stews, we hope you’ve enjoyed trying out new vegan recipes that push the boundaries of what plants can do. We hope you’ll join us for the last Vegan Recipe Club meeting of the year! Recipe selections for November include:

  • Pure Vegan (Joseph Shuldiner, 2012)
    • Hummus w/ Tahini
    • Basmati Rice Pudding
  • Vegan Soul Kitchen (Bryant Terry, 2009)
    • Open-Faced BBQ Tempeh Sandwich with Carrot Cayenne Coleslaw
  • The Wicked Healthy Cookbook (Chad Sarno, et al., 2018)
    • Banh Mi w/ Lemongrass Tofu and Ginger Aioli
    • Corn Dumplings in Coconut Corn Broth
  • The Easy Vegan Cookbook (Kathy Hester, 2015)
    • Indian Style Potato and Peas (Aloo Matter)

You can download this month’s recipes here.

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2019

We welcomed an estimated 10,000 people to Twin Cities Veg Fest in Harriet Island Park on September 15, 2019!

We ate, learned, and celebrated compassion under beautiful blue skies beside the Mississippi River.

Here are just a few of our favorite quotes from the 10K attendees, over 150 volunteers, and over 120 exhibitors who joined us:

  • Most valuable was being around like-minded people and people who are doing truly great things in animal rescue or welfare and learning more about plant-based/vegan eating. I’m moving to this diet.
  • I loved that there was an ask a dietitian booth—amazing.
  • I enjoyed: trying out new-to-me restaurants and learning about new-to-me vendors; learning about/connecting with different organizations working locally and beyond; and connecting with other people around food and compassion.
  • We really enjoyed the event and the crowd. Beautiful location! Great people to work with!
  • Thanks for all your great work preparing for, implementing, and now following up after such an outstanding event. This was my first Twin Cities Veg Fest and I was so impressed by the scale, the variety and diversity among presenters and vendors, and how kind people were in handling challenges that arose while I was volunteering.

We want to express extra appreciation to all who joined us later than planned due to the shuttle mishap, and apologize for the issues with transportation that arose at this year’s festival. Our statement on accessibility and transportation provides additional information and ways to contact us, and also outlines plans for improvement in these areas next year. 

What will next year bring? Be sure to subscribe to our email list to stay in the loop.

Many thanks to the donors, sponsors, volunteer committee members, day-of volunteers, exhibitors, presenters, musicians, and attendees who were part of Twin Cities Veg Fest 2019. Together we broke attendance records, helping a growing community to take action on their empathy for animals and to move towards a plant-based diet.

If you have any photos from the festival, be sure to @tcvegfest and #tcvegfest on social! We’d love to hear what you thought about this year’s festival (and take a peek at any of the foods you tried)!

Get Involved

Subscribe to our weekly update:



Veg Resources

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library