Hops & Hearts Event Kicks off $8,000 Festival Fundraising Drive

On July 25, we kicked off our campaign to raise $8,000 for Twin Cities Veg Fest with a fabulous party at Bang Brewing in St. Paul.

Over 85 guests contributed the first $1,200 that we need to raise by August 25. Please join in by making a gift today! Every gift is being matched by a team of generous donors.

Guests enjoyed delicious food from Reverie Mobile Kitchen and heard about the difference that their gifts to support the festival make.

For many of our thousands of attendees, this is their first and only exposure to animal rights. It’s a chance for them to think, ‘Wow, look at all these people, being vegan isn’t that weird–it’s awesome!’ or ‘Wow, this food is delicious! I can’t believe vegans can eat such good stuff’ or ‘Wow, I didn’t know they did that to animals, that’s not okay.’ It’s experiences like these that ultimately end up saving animal lives,” shared Nathan Gaut, who serves as the chair of this year’s festival committee.

Enjoy the photo slideshow of the event below, and view our progress towards our fundraising goal here.




Community Potluck a Huge Success

The ARC/CAA Vegan potluck at Minnehaha Falls was a smashing success. Over 120 people attended, enjoying great food and conversation.

I love how our potlucks build community. During the event I met brand-new folks who’d never come to a vegan event before and had a wonderful time, saw folks talking together about a variety of animal advocacy work, and got to reconnect with one of my former second-grade students, who is now vegan!

Enjoy photos from the potluck below. I hope to see you at one of our upcoming events!



Leafleting Makes a Difference

“I love seeing people reading the leaflets. Sometimes they’ll come up to me and tell me that they’re been thinking about going vegan, and the leaflet is going to help them actually do it,” said Sarah Matanah, one of the CAA volunteers leading our summer leafleting campaign.

Already this summer, over 4,000 leaflets have been shared with the public. Vegan Outreach, a national organization which provides many of the leaflets we distribute, says that one person goes vegan for every 77 leaflets given away. Every vegan spares thousands of animals over the course of their lifetime.

That means that one volunteer can spare thousands of animals with just an hour of their time distributing leaflets! There are still more leafleting opportunities this summer. You can get the details and sign up here.

“Leafleting is a positive experience. I think people are afraid that people will argue with them, or think they’re being rude by handing out leaflets, but that really doesn’t happen. Most people are interested and happy to get the information,” says Sarah.

After every summer leafleting session volunteers have gone out to eat and get to know each other better. Many volunteers mention this as a highlight.

Leafleting opportunities are chosen based on the ability to reach large numbers of people in a short period. So far this summer CAA staff and volunteers have leafleted at Grand Old Day, the Jazz Festival, The Stone Arch Bridge festival, The Basilica Block Party, the Aquatennial Parade, and the Warped Tour.


Sign up to leaflet!

The 2018 Animal Rights Conference

Four volunteers and I went to this year’s Animal Rights National Conference in Los Angeles. It was energizing and productive to connect with others in the movement. Here’s a taste of what we experienced.

Nathan Gaut

Wow, it was such an amazing experience being able connect with so many organizations doing great work in their communities around the world. I really appreciated the opportunity to hear about how others are employing unique and novel strategies to reach underrepresented groups in the vegan movement. I also loved hearing the views and perspectives on animal testing from SAEN‘s Michael Budkie and White Coat Waste Project‘s Justin Goodman since my field of study is so closely related to the biomedical industry. I look forward to my next opportunity to gather and connect with such an astounding group of like-minded and passionate activists.

Marina Kirkeide

The Animal Rights National Conference was a great opportunity to hear lots of passionate leaders in the vegan movement. My favorite presentation was given by Melanie Joy who said that although we have no choice in whether we want to be ambassadors for the vegan movement, we can control how we communicate with others about our convictions. Some of her helpful tips included meeting people where they are coming from instead of trying to force them to see your perspective, never shaming others because it will only put up walls, and encouraging people to be as vegan as possible for their lifestyle.

Abraham Rowe

The animal rights conference is a great way to build skills and make connections that help CAA help as many animals as possible. I love that we can meet with groups around the country to share ideas, learn about new approaches, and support each other’s work.

Laura Matanah

I really enjoyed the chance to connect with folks working to reduce the amount of meat served in cafeterias around the country and the world, including a conversation with two Brazilian activists. I know that we’ll incorporate some of the ideas we heard. The meeting for large vegan event organizers (e.g. veg fests and similar events) sponsored by VegFund was again useful. Friday night’s plenary, moderated by Dawn Moncrief with presentations by Harish Seithu, lauren Ornelas, pattrice jones, and A. Breeze Harper was especially inspiring. I encourage others to download the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List App, and to check out the book The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collision by pattrice jones, which I’ve been reading on my way home.

Why Veganism Is Not Enough

Thoughts on the Way to the 2018 Animal Rights National Conference

Animal rights is still a radical concept in our culture. I was reminded of this just yesterday while on the train headed to the Animal Rights National Conference.

It’s not often that I get to have conversations about animal rights with people of radically different perspectives, but there I was, having breakfast with an Amish farming couple and the wife of a suburban megachurch pastor.

When I mentioned where I was going, there was a split second when my tablemates froze. For those of us who are animal advocates, I think one important part of our job is to get conversations going with people who may not have considered animal issues before and to melt their hearts and minds. So, over fruit and oatmeal, I dove into what was sometimes a challenging conversation.

As I later reflected on what we talked about, I found myself glad we had a conversation about animal rights instead of veganism. Here’s why:

It’s true that people who eat animals will likely be uncomfortable and search their consciences at the mention of either veganism or animal rights. However, an animal rights position can give us more room to connect with those who are different, and it can provide an important framework for the broad change that is needed.

First, let’s talk about the way an animal rights framework, especially one that focuses on reducing suffering, allows us to connect with others. Check out the work of Matt Ball, who in this video explains the advantages of talking about suffering in advocating for animals. He also refers to studies showing that those who move toward veganism in gradual steps are more likely to stick with it.

It’s clearly useful to show that we can be vegan, healthy, and happy. It’s vital that we share our stories of connection to individual farmed animals, as Julie Knopp recently did in her Star Tribune piece about Wally the pig. It’s also important that we help people to understand the horrors that farmed animals endure, as we just did through outreach at Twin Cities Pride. Eating together is an important human activity, and a vegan identity gives us a way to build community with others around both shared food and shared values.

To attract people to a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to demonstrate its many appealing aspects and to keep our value statements positive. We can scare people off if we create a community that feels judgemental or puts down non-vegans. When we invite people to move in our direction with a welcoming attitude, rather than policing them, we create a nurturing community. Social science research also supports a “gradual move toward veganism” approach as the most effective for farmed animals.

The limitation of advocating veganism is the tendency to focus on personal choices. It’s very important to talk about the way our personal choices collectively make a difference, but we can’t stop there. If we look only at personal choices, we miss the opportunity to see what we have in common with those who still eat animals and to look at systems that harm all of us.

Being able to talk about animal suffering to non-vegans, and to eventually build alliances around common interests, may become the difference in whether or not we can truly make lasting change for the animals.

My Amish tablemates spoke about the ways that the industrialization of agriculture has diminished the lives of both animals and humans in their rural Iowa community. The pastor’s wife asked questions about how all of this had come about, what “humane meat” really means, and how we can build a better food system. (I was sure to debunk the myth of “humane meat.”)

Her last question about building a better food system is a vital one for those of us who care about animals to consider. I believe we can build a food system that gives more space to wildlife, helps turn back the climate change that is destroying life on our planet, benefits both rural and urban communities, and provides all people with good food.

Some of our breakfast conversation was uncomfortable. I wrestled with my feelings about their farming. I am clear that I don’t want to see animals farmed or killed, but I am also clear that the industrialization of agriculture is creating problems that negatively affect us all.

As we finished up our meal, one of the farmers said, “Well, I hope the folks at that conference can help us figure out a better way.”

I hope we can too. We owe it to the animals, non-human and human.

Away in a Manger: Pigs on Minnesota Farms

This time of year, we often hear the story of the nativity, with the baby Jesus surrounded by a donkey, camel, and other animals. Unfortunately, farmed animals today are hardly given a life that reflects the Christian values of kindness and compassion. Yet there is a growing concern for the treatment of farmed animals, and The Star Tribune’s article, “More Shoppers Demand Ethical Treatment,” published on December 19, was right in mentioning that.

Sadly though, the practices described in the article as “humane” don’t give pigs the lives they deserve. To make matters worse, Hormel is portrayed as a company supporting improved conditions for animals. The reality is that they have yet to make meaningful commitments to animal welfare. Let’s take a closer look at the video posted online with the article.

“We’re looking for farm partners that raise the pigs with integrity, raise the pigs with care,“ says the Hormel spokesperson. I am sure they are delighted to partner with families like the one featured in the article. But the truth is that there are no laws or policies at either Hormel or in state or federal law to stop suppliers from engaging in horrific abuse, such ripping out piglets’ testicles without painkillers. This is a standard practice in the industry.

Mercy for Animals has asked Hormel to commit to implementing the following practices throughout it’s supply chain:

  • Eliminate abusive and extreme confinement systems, such as gestation and farrowing crates, and replace them with less cruel group housing systems
  • End agonizing mutilations, such as castration and tail docking without pain relief
  • Provide a safe, sanitary, and cognitively stimulating environment by keeping all animal areas dry and clean and providing environmental enrichments, such as straw and other natural materials
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for animal abuse and install video monitoring systems that live stream to the internet to deter egregious acts of violence against animals

Hormel has not yet committed to these practices. Other large suppliers, like Walmart and Nestlé, have committed to ending the use of gestation crates, as well as ending castration and tail-docking without painkillers.

Let’s also be honest about the conditions pigs face even on the best of farms. “Industry practice is to house pregnant sows individually to protect them from aggression they may face,” explains Mr. Mogler, the farmer featured in the article. In fact, mother pigs are typically forced to spend their pregnancies, averaging 114 days, in “individual housing” (otherwise known as a gestation crates) where they can’t even turn around. This practice is apparently changing on the Mogler’s farm, but it’s unclear how much time the pigs get to spend in group housing. In the video, we regularly see the pigs in farrowing crates (where they still can’t turn around) to nurse. After the piglets are removed from all contact with their mothers at around 28 days, the moms will be caged to be artificially inseminated, and so the cycle of pregnancy and loss will begin again.

In nature, mother pigs find a private spot to build a nest for their piglets. Other moms don’t bother them; they’re too busy caring for their own young. And, needless to say, the pigs aren’t killed at six months old so that somebody can eat them. Instead, moms and piglets stay together in social groups for a full year. The young pigs then move out on their own, and adult pigs live four to eight years.

Libby sleeps comfortably at Spring Farm Sanctuary in Long Lake, Minnesota.

Obviously though, all of Minnesota’s pigs won’t be running wild. The good news is that farm sanctuaries here in our state such as Farmaste Animal Sanctuary, Spring Farm Sanctuary, and SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary take in pigs. In these loving and protected conditions, pigs can live up to 20 years, developing close bonds with humans and other animals.

There is much that concerned readers can do to help see that farmed animals have the lives they deserve. A great first step is to stop eating pigs. There are many bacon and pork alternatives found in grocery stores. Plant-based meats can be bought from The Herbivorous Butcher or ordered in dishes at many local restaurants.

Compassionate Action for Animals and other local groups can support the transition toward plant-based eating. Together, let’s make this holiday season meaningful. Let’s take compassionate action for farmed animals, and start taking them off our plates.

A version of this commentary was submitted to the Star Tribune but not published. We are sharing it here on our blog instead. If you’re interested in writing letters to the editor in response to breaking news stories, please let us know.

Give to the Max for the Animals!

Make a gift to CAA through GiveMN and support the students who are speaking out for the animals.

What makes an animal advocate? How can CAA best support people in their process? This is one of the questions we asked ourselves in creating our new strategic plan.

Advocates grow our movement by increasing awareness of animal suffering and building a welcoming community. The community supports people in moving toward a plant-based diet and developing effective advocacy skills.

CAA is systematically building more advocates through training, information sessions, and community building. Few things demonstrate that as strongly as the growth of our University of Minnesota student group. Yash and Nathan are two of its leaders.

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