Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Shannon!

Shannon Kimball has been the Program Coordinator of Bridges of Respect since 2005. He became involved with CAA around the time he met Freeman Wicklund, former Program Coordinator of Bridges of Respect, when Freeman came into his store to print and laminate some posters for the program in 1998. Shannon became involved with CAA’s outreach and the Bridges Program gradually, before becoming a Humane Educator in 2003.

“Once I took over as coordinator [in 2005], I could see that I needed to learn all of the presentations and I started to develop a few that we didn’t have,” said Shannon of the transition, which included a focus on growing the program further and reworking some existing presentations. Their focus was on narrowing the presentations down to a strong core of topics that would be sustained by a growing team of volunteers.

Bridges of Respect provides free humane education presentations to schools and community groups of all ages in the Twin Cities metro area. The current Humane Education Team includes Christine Coughlin, Kathy Coughlin, Freeman Wicklund, and Shannon Kimball. The team brought 38 presentations to over 1100 students in 2018, presenting six out of their seven presentation topics. Circle of Compassion, Our Food Our World, Beyond Violence, and Animals in Entertainment were the most popular presentations in 2018.

Thinking Critically

The presentations encourage students to critically think about the use of animals in our society and honoring humanity’s values of compassion, responsibility, mercy, and empathy. Shannon has presented to students from middle school to college and tailors each presentation to the group’s age, curriculum, and amount of time available for the presentation.

“I want to leave people with a sense of urgency without destroying their outlook on the whole world,” said Shannon with a little laugh. “I get kinda tired sometimes of being the bearer of bad news. I can see the looks in some kids faces––no matter what age group I’m with––when they start to get a grasp on the realities of how bad it is out there and that we really do need their help.”

Mike Bieniek, a Bridges of Respect volunteer poses by the Blaine High School sign before three classes that morning.

Each presentation Shannon gives ends with a brief overview of plant-based nutrition along with ways to eat more plant-based if the students are interested in giving it a try. This information is typically something students will not receive in class, and if they do, it’s usually a very brief overview. After each presentation, Shannon shares additional resources with students. “We want to be accessible for students who may have further questions and we want to be approachable.”

Shannon makes sure that each presentation ends on a positive note, reminding students that their decisions can make a difference. “I want to make sure that students are empowered and leave happy.”

“We always come back to ethics and compassion as our main message, but we also include health and environmental issues.” Shannon has presented for several health classes and shifts the message to more of a dietary focus. While he’s comfortable answering many of the standard vegan questions like, “Where do you get your protein?” he looks at being asked new questions as an opportunity to learn more and makes sure to have a number of additional resources discussing topics like maintaining a plant-based diet while gluten-free, soy-free, or diabetic. “The best resource I can recommend for these questions is veganhealth.org––there are a number of physicians that are in a better position to answer these questions than I am.”


For a presentation at the School of Environmental Studies, students watched the documentary Cowspiracy, learned about veganic agriculture, and looked at how living lower on the food chain can be the most sustainable for us all.

A Tasty Message

The end of each presentation also includes another favorite: samples of vegan meats, cheeses, and milk. In 2018, Bridges gave shared over one thousand food samples, reaching 570 students. Food samples really help show how easy (and how delicious!) plant-based eating can be.

One of the questions he frequently gets in classes is ‘What about conscientious omnivorey? If we’re nice to animals, isn’t that good enough?’ To which Shannon answers, “Any action is commendable if we’re trying to reduce suffering for animals but it’s more of a milestone than an endpoint. The vegan community has built more infrastructure than conscientious omnivores. What I mean is that if I hop on a plane and ask for a vegetarian or vegan meal, chances are they’ll know what I mean whereas if I said I was a conscientious omnivore they wouldn’t know what I was talking about and that’s because groups like Compassionate Action for Animals have been there building structure and community that makes it easier for people to move in the plant-based direction.”

For more information or to schedule a free presentation for your students or organization, please email info@bridgesofrespect.org. You can also support Bridges of Respect’s outreach and longevity by making a donation to our year-end campaign.

Why Give this December?

1. Giving supports lasting change for the animals.

A gift to Compassionate Action for Animals continues to support CAA’s approach to change for farmed animals through our focused programs:

  • Increasing Awareness with our Wholesome Minnesota, Bridges of Respect, and ExploreVeg Mentorship Programs
  • Building Community through our dine-outs, potlucks, documentary screenings, farm sanctuary visits, and Twin Cities Veg Fest
  • Nurturing Advocates through leafleting, Pay-Per-View, and more
  • Ultimately, Making Change!


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Photos from the 16th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving

Thanks to all who attended our 16th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving this past Saturday at Matthews Park! After selling out all of our (free) tickets for the event, we plan to look for larger spaces for future Thanksgiving potlucks to invite everyone in our growing community.

Each year, our annual Vegan Thanksgiving 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 for the event! We’d also like to thank the University of Minnesota for their support with this event.

This event would not be what it is without volunteers––many thanks to those who volunteered event last Saturday. Special thanks to our Thanksgiving Planning Committee, Henry Patterson, Rae Hermeier, and Taylor Borgman, for their time and dedication in planning, advertising, and hosting this year’s potluck!

If you attended the event, we invite you to fill out this brief survey to let us know about your experience! Your feedback helps us to continue to improve our events.

Big thanks to Nathan Gaut for photographing this event!

Who is Dr. Milton Mills?

Dr. Milton Mills is coming to the Twin Cities to speak at the Cut the Cheese event at French Meadow on December 6. Learn more about his extensive career in plant-based nutrition, dairy-free advocacy, and more here!


A Medical Career

Dr. Milton Mills is a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine.

Milton transitioned to a plant-based diet when he was a teenager and noticed physical benefits almost immediately.

He is the Associate Director of Preventive Medicine with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

Throughout his career, he has published several research journal articles dealing with racial bias in federal nutrition policy and co-authored PCRM’s report on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

He serves as the Race & Nutrition Specialist and Board Adviser for A Well-Fed World.

He trained as an internal medicine physician and now works as an intensive care unit doctor in Washington D.C. and Fairfax Hospital in Virginia.


An Advocate for Plant-Based Eating

Dr. Milton Mills was interviewed by Marla Rose, Vegan Feminist Agitator.

He was featured on What the Health, a documentary from Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, the same directors of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.

Today he shares his perspective on the effects of eating animal products as well as a variety of other topics including what the Bible says about Veganism, Are Humans Designed to Eat Meat? and more.

He was interviewed by Responsible Eating and Living about Rethinking Food.

He’ll be appearing at the 2019 Plant-based Prevention Of Disease Annual National Conference.


Meet Dr. Mills in Person

Milton Mills, MD is a prolific and passionate influencer and advocate for plant-based eating for athletes and non-athletes alike and we’re so excited to have him visit the Twin Cities this December! Learn more about him on Switch4Good’s website and be sure to mark your calendars for the Cut the Cheese event on December 6 at French Meadow!

Meet the Vegan Thanksgiving Planning Committee!

Behind every event is a team of folks who are working to make sure every detail is set––and we’re so grateful for year’s team! Meet Henry, Rae, and Taylor, members of this year’s Vegan Thanksgiving Planning committee. We’ll let them tell you a bit about their involvement with the event and what they’re grateful for this season. If you got tickets and attend the event this Saturday, make sure to stop by and meet them!


Henry Patterson

When was your first CAA Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck?

This will be my first CAA Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck.

What have you focused on planning for the event?

I’ve worked on Social Media updates via Facebook primarily and have focused on how to create a successful and fun event.

What’s something you’re looking forward to about this event?

To be around a like-minded community of vegans with compassion for animals.

When you’re not volunteering with CAA, what are you doing?

Consulting and project management for manufacturers mostly. My clients are pretty broad from a steel company who makes grain bins to a caterer who prepares school lunches, meals on wheels, etc.

What’s one thing you’re grateful for this year?

Good friends and family.


Rae Hermeier

When was your first CAA Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck?

This is my first CAA Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck and I’m really excited to be a part of the planning.

What have you focused on planning for the event?

Since this is my first time helping to plan a CAA event, I’ve been focused on learning how past events have been run, and what has worked in the past as well as what needs improvement. I’ve enjoyed working as a team to accomplish everything that needs to get done.

What’s something you’re looking forward to about this event?

I’m really looking forward to connecting with members of our local vegan community. I’m also excited to try all of the yummy vegan foods!

When you’re not volunteering with CAA, what are you doing?

When I’m not working or volunteering with CAA, you can usually find me in the kitchen. I love cooking up creative vegan dishes and trying out new recipes! I also like to play video games in my spare time.

What’s one thing you’re grateful for this year?

I am extremely grateful to be a part of our local vegan community. It reminds me that I am not alone, and makes me feel empowered to help the animals in any way that I can. I’m also incredibly grateful for my boyfriend, who is always supportive of my vegan lifestyle.


Taylor Borgman

When was your first CAA Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck?

This will be my first one and I’m so excited!

What have you focused on planning for the event?

I have been gathering the supplies for the event, and I’ve been putting together a music playlist for the event.

What’s something you’re looking forward to about this event?

Seeing everyone together and enjoying the different foods and each other’s company!

When you’re not volunteering with CAA, what are you doing?

I am currently a student at the University of Minnesota so most of my time is spent studying for midterms, but in my free time, I like to explore the great outdoors and spend quality time with my dogs, friends, and family.

What’s one thing you’re grateful for this year?

I am most grateful for my close friends and family. They support me in everything I do (including my volunteer work with CAA and choice to be vegan) and push me out of my comfort zone. They also serve as wonderful role models and I’m thankful to have them in my life.


Although tickets to the event are sold out, we’ve got a couple of open volunteer spots open for this year’s 16th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck this Saturday! Bring a dish to share and have fun at the event! Sign up to volunteer here.

Dotsie Bausch is coming to the Twin Cities!

Dotsie Bausch is coming to the Twin Cities this December! For those who don’t know about Dotsie, we put together a little introduction for you.


A professional cyclist

She originally took up cycling while she was on a healing journey from an eating disorder and a drug habit, leading to her love for cycling.

Dotsie had a long and prolific professional cycling career, winning a medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, eight US national championships, two Pan American gold medals, and setting a world record.

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Thank you for your support on Give to the Max Day!

Thanks to you, we surpassed our original $6,000 goal as well as our $10,000 stretch goal and raised $10,340 for the animals on Thursday!

Your gift supports our work of creating lasting change for farmed animals through sharing their stories and how plant-based eating helps them on social media, e-newsletters, and direct outreach done year-round by our volunteers through our programs and events, including Twin Cities Veg Fest.  

Your gift will go toward supporting creating lasting change for the animals through:

  • Our Wholesome Minnesota program, which focuses on increasing the availability of plant-based food in institutions
  • Launching a mentor program that will provide one-on-one diet change support for individuals
  • Training volunteers who will continue to expand our educational video outreach and leafleting programs
  • Bringing over 10,000 people to Twin Cities Veg Fest 2019!

Thank you for your generosity and support in creating lasting change for individuals and institutions in our communities.

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Phil!

Meet Phil Martens, a strong advocate for the animals who is always up for a conversation. He’s the founder of G-Werx® Fitness and has been a volunteer with CAA since 2008. 

Phil started volunteering with CAA because he hoped to make a difference. “I wanted to do something and looked for a volunteering community promoting vegetarianism––I was a vegetarian at the time––and I reached out to CAA and said, ‘Hey, do you guys need any help? I’d like to do something more than just not eat animals, maybe help other people figure out what I’ve learned.’”

He’s enjoyed volunteering with Veg Pledge, a program encouraging people to try out living plant-based for a week. “You get to encourage people and ask, ‘Hey, what do you have to lose? What’s this going to hurt for you to just not eat animals for one week?’ and talk to them about it,” said Phil of the program. “People say, ‘Hey, I’ll give it a shot, why not?’ and that’s a lot of fun and rewarding.”

In addition to Veg Pledge, Phil has also volunteered with pay-per-view video outreach, Bridges of Respect, Twin Cities Veg Fest, and more. He considers video outreach to be an important part of animal rights activism, noting, “[an outreach event] doesn’t get everybody, but there’s always somebody who walks away from it that is changed forever.”

“I think most of us think or thought, ‘I could never give up cheese,’ or, ‘it would be hard to give up eggs,’ or whatever, but in the end, the price that’s paid for these is not worth it,” said Phil.


Developing advocacy

Throughout his plant-based life, Phil’s advocacy for the animals has changed. “Back in the day, I didn’t talk to people [about being vegan]. I kept it to myself, because often people would lash out or ask questions and I didn’t feel I knew enough about to give answers to.” 

“But then something changed. I started educating myself on every aspect of animal agriculture,” said Phil. Everything indeed––from environmental impacts including resource use, climate change, species extinction, deforestation, pollution, and superbugs, to cruelty and abuse inflicted on animals, health impacts, and more. “It is the most horrific industry in every way.”

Today, Phil is ready for any question and conversation. After extensively researching the whys to live a plant-based life, “I can talk to anybody whether hostile or friendly and remain calm and unflustered. There’s an answer to anything anybody has to say and it leads to the same conclusion––we shouldn’t be eating animals.”


Supporting a plant-based fitness community

As for his community at G-Werx Fitness, “Everybody knows I’m vegan,” said Phil. Throughout the years as a trainer, Phil has enjoyed hearing about his clients’ lifestyle changes and plant-based adventures. He now enjoys answering any questions they have. “I’ve had many clients who have come and said, ‘You know, I’m doing a meatless Monday or I’m vegetarian now,’ or they come and say, ‘Oh my goodness I made a cashew casserole. It was 100% vegan and I can’t believe how good it was!’” Phil loves joking back, “Vegans eat more than grass and it can be great!”

Although living a veg-friendly lifestyle isn’t the primary focus of his business, when asked by clients looking for a protein boost, Phil recommends plant-based protein brands like Vega or Garden of Life and says stay away from whey. “The whole delusional protein craze started in the fitness industry,” Phil explains. “It started based on a symbiotic relationship between the fitness magazines writing stories hyping protein to help whey distributors who were taking out full-page ads in their mag. It had nothing to do with reality. The meat and dairy industry picked up on this tactic and high protein requirements become part of the national health narrative, but nobody was talking about protein 20, 30 years ago. It wasn’t an issue. And nobody has ever been hospitalized for a protein deficiency unless they were starving to death.” 

Phil’s passion and expertise in the fitness industry shine. He developed and patented a unique workout system and machine that are used at three G-Werx locations. And he definitely utilizes the platform, making sure to keep himself available to answer questions his clients may have about being plant-based. “I have the opportunity to talk with people about it regularly because of what I do,” said Phil. 

He has advice to those looking to make more plant-based choices in the long term, and to those coaching others make the change. “Learn more about all of the reasons to be vegan because the more facts you know, plant-based choices become clear as the right choices.”

Are you interested in volunteering? Sign up for our volunteer list today and keep an eye on our website and social media for more events and ways to get involved with the growing Twin Cities plant-based community.

What is World Vegan Month?

Kicked off by World Vegan Day on November 1st, World Vegan Month is celebrated globally as a time recognizing how far the vegan movement has come, how accessible living plant-based and vegan can be, and as a time to encourage veg-curious to adopt or explore veganism further through trying new restaurants, recipes, and exploring ideas. It’s also a time to consider and acknowledge how beneficial this lifestyle can be to the environment, our communities, and the animals.

The celebration of World Vegan Day began in 1994, in commemoration of the Vegan Society’s 50th Anniversary.

The Vegan Society was founded in November 1944 by David Watson, Elsie Shrigley, and four other non-dairy vegetarians. The group felt that there was a need for a more accurate word to describe them, finally settling on ‘vegan’, or “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” In 1949, Leslie J. Cross noted that the society lacked a definition of veganism (separate from the definition of veganism that was already in existence), leading to the definition of veganism as seeking “an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.”

The definition underwent another evolution in the 1980s, now being:

[…] a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

–– The Vegan Society

The earliest practitioners of vegetarianism and veganism lived over 2,000 years ago, including Pythagoras of Samos and the Buddha. By the time David Watson died at age 95 in 2005, there were 250,000 self-identifying vegans in Britain and 2 million in the U.S.

Today, veganism continues to spread. As of 2017, six percent of Americans identify as vegan (that’s roughly 16 million people). Compared to one percent in 2014, that’s a huge growth! The number of plant-based options available in the market is also increasing dramatically.


Celebrations are happening around the world


How can I celebrate World Vegan Month?

  • Incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet! Try out a new recipe for lentil chili, pumpkin mac and cheeze, or create one of your own!
  • Have a plant-based potluck with friends and mark your calendars for our 16th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck on December 1.
  • If you’re working on reducing or limiting your own animal product intake, try out a plant-based analog to dairy or meat––there are a number of awesome makers of vegan cheeses and meat-free meats today, including our local The Herbivorous Butcher and Punk Rawk Labs. You could even try some tempeh by Tempeh Tantrum!
  • Connect with those most impacted by the farming industrial complex by visiting a farm sanctuary. We’re lucky to have a number of sanctuaries local to the Twin Cities doing important rehabilitative and educational work, including Farmaste Animal Sanctuary, Spring Farm Sanctuary, Rooster RedemptionSoulSpace Farm Sanctuary, and more.
  • Watch a documentary with friends! There are so many documentaries out there today covering topics like our societal dependency on consuming animals, the health impacts of a plant-based diet, and the environmental impact of our consumer tendencies, including The End of MeatCowspiracy, Earthlings, and Forks Over Knives.
  • Share your story of compassion and change with us this season!
  • Raise awareness. Lend a book on plant-based living to a friend or leave a few leaflets or a magazine in a public waiting room. You never know who might pick it up!
  • Download the VeGuide app, developed by the Vegan Society to get you started (or to continue) on your vegan journey!
  • Support local, plant-based, Twin Cities businesses! One great way to get to know the Twin Cities vegan scene and celebrate fall is coming up this Sunday––come to the Plant Based Showcase at Lake Monster Brewing! Read more about the vendors on our blog.

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Abraham!

You may have met Abraham Rowe at one of our events or on our blog. Since 2016, Abraham has been heavily involved with CAA, volunteering at our annual banquet, our chili cookoff, postering, potlucks, town halls, Twin Cities Pride, pay-per-view video outreach, food giveaways, and more. In April 2017, he joined our board and then became Board President.

Abraham found out about CAA through a vegan speed-friending event held in a basement in Minneapolis about a week he moved to Minnesota in 2016. “I actually met Laura Matanah (CAA’s Executive Director) there and we started talking about CAA and really connected.”

Throughout his time with CAA, he’s had a chance to see the many faces of outreach and impact CAA has on the Twin Cities community. He’s also helped shape our work.

“As a volunteer, I always liked pay-per-view because you could talk with people about what they saw. Many people are deeply impacted by seeing cruelty footage,” said Abraham. “The reality is that around 90% of the meat sold and consumed in the United States is factory farmed and seeing that up close is super shocking for people.”

“I like the idea of us having a model for food policy work [with Wholesome Minnesota] where we train people who already have trusted relationships with people with institutions to basically make the change themselves in their own community. It’s been really cool to see so many advocates in that space and people get really excited about ways they could bring it into their schools and hospitals.”

Something CAA did last year was a giant strategic planning process led by Laura as she joined the organization as Executive Director. “I think now, we have a very clear vision of what our path is moving forward and where we’re trying to be and what that will look like. I look forward to that being implemented and realized.”

This November, Abraham will move to New York City for his work with Mercy For Animals. He will, however, continue to be involved with CAA.

Abraham runs Mercy for Animals’ US and Canadian Corporate Campaigns Program. His work focuses on getting restaurant companies to adopt animal welfare policies in their animal supply chains to ban cruel practices used on farmed animals.

“The reality is that corporations have the power over the lives of hundreds of millions of animals and an individual company choosing how to source its animal products can completely change the lives of these animals and reduce their suffering and that’s really important to me. It’s not the end goal, but it’s also important to do what we can in the meantime for these animals,” said Abraham.

Animal rights groups noticed that they were targeting corporations individually with separate campaigns throughout the 90s and early 2000s with little action on the corporations’ part.

“One would be going after Costco to try to get them to ban gestation crates, one would be going after Domino’s to try to get them to add vegan cheese––and none of them worked,” said Abraham. “The thing that ended up getting these companies to make these massive transitions was every single animal rights group getting together and saying, ‘We’re all going to do this one thing right now and focus on that,’ and we successfully did that in the US with battery cages for egg-laying hens. The vast majority of the supply of battery caged egg-laying hens will be gone by 2025 when the companies follow through with their pledges and now we’re doing it with chickens raised for meat.”

“Right now, we’re arguing against corporate greed and that’s not an argument that is won often. We can’t become too complacent and just assume that things will work out because there’s cheap plant-based meat in the future,” says Abraham. “It’s going to be a hard fight to get there.”

Personal or consumer boycotts as well as larger campaigns targeting corporations add up to massive collective change for the lives of animals.

“It’s incredibly important to support local community animal advocacy groups like CAA that are interested in nonviolence and are meeting people where they’re at, being compassionate and kind towards others, and demonstrating that this is an accessible, cheap, and pleasant lifestyle,” says Abraham.

“Something that CAA does that’s really unique is it’s focus on empowering individuals to become leaders in their community, to step up and organize events for themselves or host events or take on a committee role. Twin Cities VegFest this year was entirely organized by this volunteer committee, and that’s really cool to see that many volunteers come together to put on this massive event. I like that CAA does individual outreach and then institutional outreach with programs like Wholesome Minnesota because I think that can have a really big impact too.”

“I think the reality is that the blame for factory farming existing lies in for-profit companies wanting to become more efficient and make more money, ultimately, but I also think we have to recognize that we both have to be pushing against that corporate power and one of the best way to do that is consumer boycotts which is essentially what veganism is, it’s a boycott of corporate structures that profit off of using animals in that way.”

His advice for students looking to start a student group? “Get connected. Email a national group or an organization like CAA and ask for resources because there’s a ton of people around who are excited to help and will help. Don’t try to do it alone.”

Abraham plans to visit the Twin Cities regularly and will continue being involved with the CAA Board. He’s looking forward to learning more about the NYC vegan scene and trying out new restaurants, but he’ll miss the Twin Cities scene as well, including May Day Café, Muddy Waters, The Herbivorous Butcher, and On’s Thai Kitchen.

We’re so glad to have Abraham on our board of directors and look forward to seeing how his work in animal advocacy shapes a kinder, happier future for farmed animals.
Are you interested in becoming a member of our board of directors? For more information, contact Laura Matanah at laura@exploreveg.org.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

December Holiday Potluck: Hotdish

Thursday, January 10, 2019

January Dine-Out: Trio Plant-based

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Wholesome Minnesota Advocacy Training