Taking Our Cue from the Animals

Often in the animal protection movement, we’re encouraged to be the voice for the animals, speaking up for them. And the animals are sometimes referred to as “voiceless.”

But animals call out for their freedom in a variety of ways. Maybe it’s with their actual voices, such as a mother cow calling for her baby once he’s been taken away. Or maybe it’s through their physical actions, with their obvious struggle to get free from what ties them down or keeps them caged.

Every now and then, one of them is able to free themselves, and the world takes notice.

This happened last week in Brooklyn. A calf managed to escape from a slaughterhouse and ran through the streets of New York. The media grabbed onto the story, and people of all stripes, vegan or not, were rooting for the baby bull, hoping he wouldn’t have to go back to the slaughterhouse.

And good news, there’s a happy ending for Shakar, the baby bull. He now lives at Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue, where he is gradually adapting to his new surroundings.

Those of us in Midwest aren’t unfamiliar with these types of stories.

Wally (photo by Brooke Reynolds)

Last April, Wally the pig made big news when he jumped from a moving truck on his way to a slaughterhouse. And the truck was going 70 mph! Now, what does that say for Wally’s desire to be free?

Fortunately, Wally survived his tumble and now lives at SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary in Wisconsin, where he’s free to enjoy his life. (And we can visit him!)

Yes, animals have voices. And they take action however they can. We can take our cue from them when we listen and when we watch. They’ll tell us and show us what they want.


Q&A with Coco & Lala

We want to let you know about Coco and Lala, two Minnesota residents who are making plant-based eating fun and accessible through their Facebook page, Keeping up with Coco & Lala.

Coco and Lala’s live Facebook videos showcase recipes, taste-test products, and explore the questions that often come for people going vegan. With humor and honesty, they give an entertaining look at plant-based cuisine that’s sure to inspire people on their journey to a more compassionate lifestyle.

Tell us about yourselves. How long have you lived in the Twin Cities area? What brought you here?

Coco: I was born in California, lived in South Dakota for a while and then moved to Minnesota in 1998 for a change of pace. Now, I’ve been here long enough to know how cold, cold really is!

Lala: I am proud to be a Minnesota native, grew up in the Crocus Hill area of St. Paul, and graduated from Central High School. I don’t care for the winters but love being a Minnesota native!

What turned you onto plant-based eating?

Lala: I grew up around a lot of vegetarians so I was very familiar with the vegetarian lifestyle. After watching the documentary What the Health, I decided to try going vegan. I’m still on my journey, but I incorporate a lot of vegan foods into my daily lifestyle. The media makes it seem like it’s so easy to go vegan or transition, but not all communities have the access to vegan and vegetarian alternatives.

Coco: My transition to eating vegan is still ongoing. I grew up eating meat and never really thought about going vegan until I watched What the Health. It was then that I decided to cut out meat. Two and a half months later, I still did not miss meat and looked for ways to become vegan. I was not only looking for meat substitutes but also dairy substitutes. Going out to eat with family and friends who are not aware of my lifestyle change can be challenging. What I find surprising is how many of my favorite foods I can still enjoy while being vegan. I love sharing about that on our show. And getting together weekly with Lala to cook recipes for the first time ever on live video definitely makes for some good comedy!

Speaking of your Facebook show, how did that get started?

Coco & Lala: We found the transition to being vegan somewhat daunting and not so easy as it’s portrayed in our society. We wanted to educate our community on healthy and fun vegan options–with a little spice from us! We enjoy sharing our recipes and giving unfiltered reviews of our food experiences.

I love the candor in your videos. Very refreshing! How has the response been?

Coco & Lala: Great! We get viewers from all over the country, and when out and about we’ll have people we never knew were watching tell us how much they enjoy it. We hope to continue educating others on the healthy vegan lifestyle. We want people to know that it’s okay if you come across a recipe that doesn’t suite your taste buds. Don’t give up! There’s going to be recipes that could use some improvements, and when we’re cooking on the live videos we’ll make those improvements on the spot. Essentially, we want people to be more healthy. We really enjoy what we do so we would love to write a cookbook with some of our favorite recipes.

That would be awesome! And tell us about some of the food you’ve made so far on the video.

Coco: I like the chocolate pudding made primarily with avocados. My kids have been eating this for years without knowing that they are eating avocados (LOL!).

Lala: My favorite would be the General Tso’s cauliflower chicken, strawberry banana ice cream/swirl and the Beyond burger. Since we are newbies to vegan foods, we still have so many more recipes and foods to try!

Coco & Lala: Of course our very favorite vegan food so far is the BBQ pulled Jackfruit sandwich, which inspired our challenge, Coco and Lala’s Jackfruit Challenge!

Ooh, tell us about that!

Coco & Lala: The Jackfruit Challenge is about getting people to try something different as a meat replacement (and jackfruit is also a fruit!). We would like people who eat meat to do a blind taste test, trying BBQ pulled chicken or pork alongside BBQ pulled jackfruit. We tried this on our families and friends, and the jackfruit won every time! No one can believe that a fruit can taste just like meat.

We invite everyone to join us in the Jackfruit Challenge! You can find the recipe and more detailed directions on our Facebook page. And you can help us spread the word and get people to eat more fruit by getting your family and friends involved. Those with the best videos will receive a special prize!

Sounds fun and fantastic! Tell us what you’re doing when your not sharing about the wonders of vegan food.

Coco: I enjoy making YouTube videos with my family. We have a family YouTube channel called Laud Family Vlogs, where we do fun food challenges. It’s great family time for us. I also enjoy baking and mentoring our youth.

Lala: I enjoy singing, genealogy, and spending time with family and friends. I’m a gospel singer and have an album that was just released in July. You can check out my new music at thysongbird.com.

Thanks to Coco and Lala for sharing their story with us. We’re really excited about how they are sharing their transition to plant-based eating and at the same time educating their community, family, and friends. They’re also talking about very critical issues of affordability and accessibility for plant-based food. So inspiring!

We encourage you to “like” their Facebook page, share their videos, and take part in the Jackfruit Challenge!

Meet Our New Board Members – Theresa and Nathan

Theresa Zingery and Nathan Gaut recently joined our board of directors. Learn more about these two dedicated animal advocates here.

Theresa Zingery has lived on and off in Minneapolis for more than thirty years. She is currently the director of the Adult Academic Program of Robbinsdale Area Schools, a school for adults who want to learn English or get a High School Credential.

Nathan Gaut was born and raised in San Diego. He moved to the Twin Cities in 2016 to pursue a PhD in biochemistry and is currently a graduate student researching biotechnology and synthetic biology.

What motivated you to get involved with animal advocacy?

Theresa: In 2015, I heard more about what happens to animals on factory farms, and I went vegan after thirty years as a vegetarian. I was motivated to get involved in animal advocacy because it’s important to me to live my values and to share them with others. I think education is key to changing the world and believe that if people know the truth about factory farming they would change how they eat.

Nathan: I never liked the taste of meat, so I was raised vegetarian almost my whole life. In college, I started thinking more about my diet’s impact on animals and three years ago decided to make the switch to being vegan. After moving to the Twin Cities, I felt comfortable with my new diet and wanted to get more involved in animal advocacy, which was when I got involved with the CAA student group at the University of Minnesota. I attended a few of their weekly meetings and from there joined the Twin Cities Veg Fest planning committee as Exhibitor Logistics Coordinator.

What about CAA appeals to you?

Theresa: I feel that the mission and vision of CAA are in keeping with my values. I very much value our pay-per-view and virtual reality outreach programs and have focused a lot of my volunteering with CAA in those areas.

Nathan: I’m always excited to see how CAA creates a sense of community and supports people moving toward plant-based eating. The organization also maintains a positive and encouraging tone with all of its outreach. The fact that the CAA community has been growing in the past few years shows that this welcoming approach is really working.

What are your hopes for CAA and for the animal protection movement?

Theresa: The time is ripe for people to embrace compassion. The world is open to the vegan message, and I think the tide has turned. Through my work at CAA, I want to help this momentum to accelerate, growing the compassionate community right here in the Twin Cites.

Nathan: My hope for CAA is that it to continue to grow and reach more people. It is astounding how far the animal advocacy movement has come in the past few years; there are fully vegan restaurants, plentiful vegan options at most other restaurants, and the word “vegan” is part of everyone’s vocabulary. As it becomes easier and more socially acceptable to be vegan, I think that CAA will be instrumental in helping more and more people make that shift to a compassionate lifestyle.

Speaking of compassionate living, what are your favorite vegan foods?

Theresa: My favorite vegan foods are usually Indian, Middle Eastern, or Asian food, but vegan pizza is a favorite too. (Pizza Luce!)

Nathan: I’m always choosing new favorite recipes, but right now, my favorite is a simple tofu and veggie stir-fry over rice.

How do you spend your time when you’re not advocating for animals?

Theresa: I’m active in the Svaroopa Yoga community and am a social activist on various causes, including immigrant rights, equity for all, ending racism, death with dignity, and the environment. I live with my husband, David Breeden, and two furry kids of the cat variety.

Nathan: I enjoy exploring nature, reading, motorcycling, and checking out local breweries.

We’re honored to have Theresa and Nathan join the board and look forward to working with them to end the exploitation of animals.

If you’re interested in joining the board, please read our letter to prospective board members and board member responsibilities. Also, familiarize yourself with the CAA core values and bylaws.

Board meetings are open to the public. If you’d like to attend a board meeting or would like more information about the board member selection process, contact Laura Matanah at laura@exploreveg.org.


The Impact of Bearing Witness

There is nothing wholesome about animal agriculture. It is a brutal, bloody business that treats sensitive animals like objects.

Nothing speaks more to this fact than the firsthand accounts shared by undercover investigators. In addition to the videos that are released following their investigations, the stories they tell as individuals who bear witness to the horrific abuse of farmed animals are decidedly powerful.

I realized the power of their stories when I first attended the Animal Rights National Conference. I had been aware of the issues, had seen the videos, had heard many lectures on why animal agriculture is a problem. And even after all of that, I was particularly moved by keynote presentations by former undercover investigators Taylor Radig and TJ Tumasse. (Follow the links to hear their stories.)

More recently, former investigator Elizabeth Pachaud told her story of being traumatized by her experience working on a factory farm.

I remember one mother pig especially. She was physically worn out and very sick. She was sprawled out in her crate, her snout resting in a mound of stale feed, and she had stopped eating. Workers had spray-painted a red “X” on her back to indicate she would be “culled,” or more simply, killed. Eventually, every mother pig who could no longer give birth received this designation.

I knew that things would never be better for her. She had known nothing but pain and suffering for her entire life, and by the look of resignation in her eyes, I could tell she had given up. Over the course of a week, when I was sure I was alone, I’d stop by her cage, sit down next to her, and quietly talk to her — a risk I barely ever let myself take.

Heartbreaking. Through our empathy, we’re able to feel not only for Elizabeth’s experience but also for the mother pig.

It’s hard to read that and not feel powerless. But there are steps we can take.

We can choose to withdraw our support for a system that abuses animals. We can choose vegan food options whenever possible, gradually eliminating the meat, dairy, and eggs from our diets. We can rest assured that lots of delicious, nourishing plant-based food is available.

If it feels overwhelming to make the switch, start with one meal a day or one meal a week. Join us for a dine out or a potluck. Explore the options and get to know others in the community. We welcome everyone, no matter where you are in your process.

We are grateful for the brave work of undercover investigators, exposing the industry for what it is so that we all can make more compassionate choices. We can listen to their stories and be moved by empathy to take action for animals in our everyday lives.


The When and Where of Twin Cities Veg Fest 2018

We’ve already got a spot reserved for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2018. Save the date now for our seventh annual celebration of compassion!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Harriet Island Regional Park

Last month, we had our annual festival outdoors for the first time, and it was a huge success with more than 7,000 in attendance. That’s 3,000 more than the year before!

We look forward to riding this momentum for continued growth into the next year, and we’ll be working to ensure that we can provide all of the resources needed to satisfy the bigger crowds. That means we’ll have more exhibitors and a different layout that allows for shorter lines.

And though Como Park was a lovely, we’ve decided to take the festival to Harriet Island for the coming year for a number of reasons. Harriet Island offers:

  • More room to grow
  • Easier load-in for exhibitors
  • One large, better-equipped kitchen
  • More accessibility via light rail to shuttle service at Union Depot
  • More parking for people with disabilities

We’ll also get to move away from the zoo at Como Park, which increased traffic and felt in conflict with our mission to help animals.

And so, Harriet Island it will be, next year and forevermore!

We’re already recruiting for new planning committee members, and soon we’ll be on the lookout for sponsors and exhibitors. If you’re interested in being a part of Twin Cities Veg Fest 2018 in any of these ways, please contact Nathan Gaut at nathan.gaut@exploreveg.org.


Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017 in Pictures

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017 offered an abundance of smiles, sunshine, food, and fun. See for yourself!

Thanks to all of our volunteer photographers for capturing these memorable moments!

CAA Adventures at AR 2017

A number of CAA staff, board members, and volunteers attended the 2017 Animal Rights National Conference in August, and we want to tell you all about it.

This annual conference offers a chance to grow as animal advocates through inspiring presentations, hands-on workshops, and networking opportunities.

In my fourth year attending the conference, I realize that I find it most enriching to explore the wide variety of approaches to animal advocacy that are present at the conference. I learn a lot in hearing from those who take a different strategy than the one used by CAA, and I appreciate connecting with those larger organizations who mirror our values. All together, I’m reminded how big our movement is and what we ultimately share: a desire to help nonhuman animals.

Here are some other conference experiences and observations that we’ve taken back with us to enrich our local AR community:

From Sarah Badger, CAA Volunteer

This was my first AR Conference. I learned about current issues and the animal rights movement by attending sessions that discuss animal abuse in food, fashion, science, and entertainment. I also learned how to ​be a better advocate, what it’s like working in animal rights, and what activism approaches are most effective.

However, the best part was meeting awesome animal activists and making connections with the community. Bonding with people through the banquet, networking events, and closing night party was the most memorable part of the conference!

From Dave Rolsky, CAA Co-Founder and Board Member

The best thing for me about the conference is connecting with people who care about animals as much as I do. It’s great to see old friends from other parts of the country and to meet new people as well.

The most interesting session I attended was about getting people new to the issues to stick with diet change. The way groups like FARM and MFA are approaching this is something I think we could emulate on a local scale with CAA.

Of course, the real highlight was going to Poplar Spring Sanctuary on Monday and meeting the animals who lived there!

From Laura Matanah, CAA Executive Director

It was my first time at the conference, and I enjoyed hearing from so many folks in the movement. I especially appreciated the Engaging Inclusively workshop led by people of color. It was also great to build connections with fellow veg fest organizers through a networking session sponsored by VegFund.

During that session, I met organizer Dave Swarts, who founded Voice for Animals in Kansas City. We also got to connect on the trip to Poplar Spring Sanctuary. It was wonderful to see him again a couple weeks ago when he joined us to volunteer at Twin Cities Veg Fest.

I look forward to continued contact with many people I met during the conference.

From Abraham Rowe, CAA Volunteer and Board Member

One of my favorite things about attending the conference is the opportunity to hear from so many experienced advocates. It’s powerful to hear what strategies organizations working on a local level, like the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, to national organizations like The Humane League are doing for animals. Sharing this information makes all of our organizations more effective and stronger. Plus the food was really good.

From Brita Bengtson, CAA Volunteer and TCVF Social Media Coordinator

This was the fifth year I have attended the conference. My main interest is discovering new and increasingly effective ways of advocating for animals.

I have made a point of experiencing the newest virtual reality technology these past three conferences. It is heartbreaking to see all this violence in virtual reality, but I want to be able to experience it for myself so that I can assess new outreach ideas for CAA. This year I experienced a portrayal of the open rescue of two piglets from Smithfield Foods.

You may have seen the story in the New York Times. The great thing about the video was the happy ending for these two lucky individuals. I hope it gives young activists hope for fighting for the rest of them.

Bridges of Respect – Reaching Kids with Compassion

As the new school year begins, our Bridges of Respect humane education program gets into full swing again. The program provides free presentations for middle-school, high-school, and college students in the Twin Cities metro area.

Check out the new video below and, if you’re inspired by what you see here, please make a contribution to support this and other CAA programs. Since 1999, Bridges of Respect has been reaching young people and showing them how they can use critical thinking to make kind choices.

This program is also in need of volunteers to give presentations, develop curriculum, distribute vegan food samples, and take photographs and video. If you want to get involved, please contact Shannon Kimball at shannon@bridgesofrespect.org. And please “like” our new Bridges of Respect Facebook page.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

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Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Vegan Recipe Club at East Lake Library