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CAA’s August board meeting began with a report from our Executive Director, Unny Nambudiripad, about some recent successful outreach events CAA has been engaged in. We leafleted at the Warped Tour and ran a pay-per-view event at Twin Cities Pride. Unny also reported on CAA’s presence at the national Animal Rights Conference in Washington D.C..
As we transition to a new internal website used to plan events and projects, a lingering worry has to do with whether we will be able to export content from this site if we find ourselves needing to make a change down he road. While there is no built in option to do this, it appears that Dave Rolsky (our treasurer) will be able to write a software program that can do this for us. Good thing we have someone with computer programming skills on the board!
We next turned our attention to the complex business of evaluating the effectiveness of our programs. Unny and Justin (our Communications and Events Coordinator) had discussions around these issues with leaders in this area at the Animal Rights Conference. One of the suggestions we look forward taking up was the idea of engaging in dialogue with members of our target audience about how to help them make more compassionate food choices. Once we have good information about those needs, we can tailor our programs to meet them. We also decided to continue making use of existing research (for example, Nick Cooney’s excellent book Change of Heart) to inform our outreach and communication efforts.
We revisited the question of board member recruitment and we decided that we will announce opportunities for volunteer board members through the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. We also decided to explore the possibility of recruiting folks from across the country who work successfully on the kinds of issues that are central to CAA’s mission.
Our next board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, November 5 at 6pm. You should consider being a part of that meeting if you’re interested. If you’d like to participate, contact Unny Nambudiripad at email@example.com.
Opening Hearts, Changing Minds
written by Linda Pope, CAA Volunteer at Twin Cities Pride 2015
My 13 year old son and I were among the many CAA volunteers and staff working the pay-per-view table this June at the Twin Cities Pride Festival. We offered attendees one dollar to watch a short segment of the documentary, Farm to Fridge.
It was a very successful event in that 540 attendees watched the video. One reason we were able to reach so many people was because volunteers had multiple tablets set up for viewing, and they were continuously in use.
In between viewings, we had many heartfelt conversations with viewers and other attendees who were curious or wanted to learn more about the disconnect between what happens on factory farms and industry’s heavily funded efforts to manipulate the public’s understanding of factory farming. Others were eager to share that they were vegetarian or vegan too. Some people simply thanked us for what we were doing.
Thanks to the work of organizations like Mercy for Animals and Last Chance for Animals, many people are now at least somewhat aware of the horrors of factory farming. At the Pride Festival, our viewers were moved to take yet another step toward personal change by watching the four-minute video.
Some viewers were truly shocked by what they saw. They were visibly disgusted. Many were deeply moved and said they were ready to make changes in their own lives. About 9% of viewers refused the pay-per-view dollar.
We listened to viewers articulate their reactions, and then we discussed steps they felt they could take right away. Nearly everyone agreed that Meatless Mondays would be an easy way to start putting values into action.
My volunteering experience with CAA also “bubbles up” in unexpected ways on my own time. Recently, for instance, while checking out at the grocery store, the cashier remarked that I must like to cook since the vast bulk of my basket was fresh produce. I mentioned that we were vegan and vegetarian at our house. With that, the cashier unleashed a wave of sentiment about his own efforts to eat less meat. We chatted about that for a minute or two. I had clearly sparked something positive in him. For my willingness to start a small, but important conversation, I credit volunteering with CAA. It strengthens my values by giving me an opportunity to put them into action, and for that, I’m a better advocate for animals.
We’ll also be offering pay-per-view at Twin Cities Veg Fest on November 1. Pay-per-view at this festival is particularly effective because, in addition to seeing the video, participants have an opportunity to sample a variety of delicious vegan food. In that way, they get a very tangible experience of how they can move towards a plant-based diet to make a difference for the animals.
Please consider making a donation to support Twin Cities Veg Fest today. Our crowdsourcing campaign continues just a few more days through August 24. Your support allows us to make the festival free to attend, inspiring thousands of people with a celebration of compassion.
Two staff members and four volunteers from Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA) traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this month for the Animal Rights National Conference. Over the course of four days, we got to experience all that this annual conference has to offer, including a variety of inspiring presentations, lots of delicious vegan food, dozens of exhibitors, and the opportunity to network with others who advocate for animals.
As CAA’s Executive Director, I gave a talk about how to plan a veg fest. Referring to our guide to plan a festival, I showed others how they can start a festival in their own city. I also helped organize a lunch for veg fest planners from around the continent. Dozens of festivals were represented, and we were able to share our experiences so that we can improve the quality of festivals everywhere. We’re undertaking this collaboration to ensure that our own Twin Cities Veg Fest can have the biggest impact for the animals. It’s also great to share what we’ve learned, to help other festivals overcome their obstacles. Collectively, these festivals can make a big difference for animals, reaching hundreds of thousands of people and showing them how fun and meaningful compassionate living can be.
CAA volunteer and co-founder Dave Rolsky gave a talk about how to use collaborative technology to run an animal advocacy organization. Dave is a professional software developer, and his experience includes making user-friendly websites. He’s an expert on the variety of simple and useful online tools to get our work done, and he was able to share his technical know-how at the conference.
While our participation in the conference was exciting, so was witnessing the state of the Animal Rights movement. This year’s conference was the largest one yet, with more than 1,600 attendees. It’s also exciting to see how strategic, results-oriented farmed animal advocacy organizations are growing, and we were able to develop meaningful relationships with activists around the country that will help us do our work. These activists are creating videos about factory farming, publishing leaflets, and conducting research on how to make our movement more effective.
Following the conference, I took a trip to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary where I got to spend the day meeting rescued animals. It was perhaps the most inspiring part of my trip, getting to see the life behind the eyes of these animals, my reason for being on this path and for speaking up for their right to be free. I’ve returned to Minnesota feeling motivated to bring what I’ve learned to our Twin Cities community, to strengthen our group, to get our message out there, and to make a difference for the animals that still need our help.
The Minnesota State Fair is coming up soon, and they’re hosting their 4th annual Vegan Main Dish Competition. Your favorite original vegan recipe could be the winner. This is a fun way to participate in the fair while sharing how awesome vegan food can be. Register to enter the competition by tomorrow, August 11 at 4:30pm.
The judges are looking for tasty, easy-to-prepare dishes that supply a complete protein. The entries will be on display in the Creative Activities Building, and the winner will receive a ribbon, a check, and vegan cookbook.
The category is listed as lot #1110 on page 39 in the Creative Activities Booklet. Check it out and enter to win!
We began CAA’s June board meeting by briefly reviewing and unanimously ratifying the budget for the coming fiscal year. We have a growing interest in assessing our work as an organization, so we decided to have a look at donation history to begin to get a better sense of the impact of our fundraising efforts. We’ll take a look at that history at our next meeting.
Board members were then introduced to the new website where organizational information will be collected. Because of its ease of use and integration with Google services, we feel this new site will offer lots of advantages over our current wiki for everyone involved in CAA’s work.
Our discussion then turned to the difficult task of assessing the extent to which CAA should get involved in campaigns like promoting Meatless Mondays. Traditionally, CAA has focussed on organizing outreach events (like leafleting and pay-per-view) and community building events (like the Chili Cook-off and the Twin Cities Veg Fest). We see campaigns like Meatless Monday as potentially powerful ways to help reduce the amount of suffering animals endure on factory farms as well. While these campaigns can generate a lot of energy, it happens that support for them among volunteers can fade over time. In view of this, we considered the possibility of allocating more staff time to work on these efforts and drawing up contracts between staff and volunteers that lay out clearly in advance the amount of time being involved in these campaigns will require of volunteers.
We also discussed board recruitment. Board members are central to helping shape CAA’s work and we are currently looking for new board members to join us. You should consider coming to a meeting if you’re interested. Our next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, August 25 at 6pm. If you’d like to attend, contact Unny Nambudiripad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2015 Twin Cities Pride Festival comes to Loring Park on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28 from 10:00am to 6:00pm each day. As you take part in the festivities, you might like to know where you can find the vegan food options. Here you go!
All of these food options appear to be vegan or vegan upon request. We recommend that you check with the vendor if you want to be sure that all ingredients are plant-based.
Wide World of Foods
- Falafel (deep fried patties from ground chickpeas and fava beans served in a pita) $6
- Lebanese Salad (garlic, oil, mint and lemon tossed in lettuce served in a pita) $5
- Tabouli Salad (cracked wheat bulgar, parsley, tomatoes, green onion served in a pita) $6
- All sandwiches are available in a bowl for those who are gluten-free or do not want pita bread.
- Vegan Cobb Salad Wrap $12
Wholesoul: A Lavender & Sage Eatery
- Organic Sweet & Red Potato Fries
Que Viet Concessions
- Bubble Tea (mango, passion fruit, strawberry)
- Vietnamese iced coffee
Whole Foods Market
- Bento Boxes (veggie & hummus or fruit & yogurt) $5
El Burrito Mercado
- Walk A Taco (vegetarian option available) $6
- Mango (freshly peeled and on a stick) $5
- Roasted corn $4
Juice So Good – Green Nelly the Juice Truck
- Cold-pressed juices
As we honor the diversity in our community and consider how we can treat others with kindness, it’s a good time to widen that circle of compassion to include farmed animals. We’ll be doing pay-per-view outreach all weekend, offering festival attendees a dollar to watch a short video about factory farming. You can find our booth between the dog park and the tennis courts. Stop by and say hello! If you’d like to volunteer to help out, contact Unny Nambudiripad at email@example.com.
I recently interviewed vegan runner Aaron Zellhoefer about his experience competing in the Ragnar Relay Race with an all-vegan team on May 8 and 9, 2015. Their success goes to show how a compassionate, plant-based diet can fuel top-notch athletes.
JL: Congratulations on winning the Ragnar Relay race! Is it true that your team of vegan runners took first place?
AZ: Out of 526 teams, our team, the Strong Hearts Vegan Power (SHVP) A Team came in 4th place. In our coed division, there were 332 teams, and we came in 1st place.
JL: Tell us more about the race. Where is it and what’s the course like?
AZ: Ragnar Relay is an overnight running event for teams of 6 or 12 runners. There are 15 courses spread across the United States, and each of them is around 200 miles long. Our team ran the Cape Cod course, which is incredibly beautiful. We started in Hull, Massachusetts and ended in Provincetown. We ran through very quaint towns that date back to the early 1600’s and still resemble that time period.
JL: How was your team formed?
AZ: A call was put out on Facebook for vegan runners. SHVP has done two previous Ragnar races, but they really wanted to make a mark this time. There was so much interest that we were able to sign up 36 vegan runners and make three teams. Each team had two drivers, so there were a total of 42 of us. We were all vegan. Because we had so many runners, the team captains decided to put together a competitive team. Hence, the SHVP A Team was formed. We had some really amazing runners. I felt intimidated by the level of strength on the team. Two of our team members, Scott Spitz and Micah Risk, had been on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine in the months leading up to the race. We also had our strongest runner, Laura Kline. Laura is soft-spoken and kind, the sort of person who does not generally make her presence known. Yet she is a beast on the race course; representing the United States, Laura won the gold for her age bracket in the International Duathalon Competition in Australia. She averaged six-minute miles.
JL: Wow, sounds like an powerful team. Plus, they had you! How do you train for an athletic event like this? What do you eat to help support your stamina and strength?
AZ: I have always trained by trying to do as many miles as possible before a race. I think most runners will agree that miles matter most. Then, there is recovery from those miles. The night before the race, the Boston Vegetarian Society hosted a talk with Matt Ruscigno, a dietitian and nutritionist. Matt talked about the health benefits associated with vegan running. His main point was that there is not one specific food that vegan runners should eat. He said that all you should be doing is eating a variety of healthy vegan foods and that the rest will follow.
JL: When and why did you go vegan?
AZ: I went vegan in December of 1997. I was involved in the punk rock movement, and, despite the yelling and screaming, there were a lot of messages in the songs. It was great to go to punk rock shows and see so much activism. Environmentalists, feminists, wobblies (workers rights activists), and animal rights activists would go to shows and share information about issues of concern. I was already vegetarian and read up on why someone should go vegan. I saw it as a natural continuation of my reasons to be vegetarian. The reasons were spot-on for the environment, human rights, health, and especially animal welfare and animal rights.
JL: How did you get into running?
AZ: I got into running my freshman year of high school. I enjoyed nothing more than getting out on a running trail and leaving all of my worries behind. I enjoyed the natural beauty of my surroundings. It would make me appreciate what I have.
JL: What was the race like for you? How much of it did you run?
AZ: Each runner had three legs to run. I ended up running a fourth leg for a teammate who was not feeling well. I ended up running 16 miles at roughly a 6:30 pace. I have another Ragnar race in Utah coming up. This will be my eighth 200-mile relay race. I think I’ve been able to do these races so well partly because of healthy eating and training.
JL: What was it like winning the race with your team?
AL: The SHVP A Team all wore shirts that read “Vegan for health, the environment, but most importantly, for the animals. VEGAN POWER!” We wanted to get the name out there and we did. We got a lot of chuckles when we showed up. But, after some of the other runners realized how well we were doing, those chuckles turned into conversations. The race was a 189.3 mile race. Our team did it in 21:54:46. That’s a 6:56 pace for almost 200 miles. It was a fantastic time, and we got the word about veganism far and wide.
We celebrated 17 years of advocating for farmed animals last Saturday night at our Annual Banquet. For the first time ever, we held the event at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul. Attendees enjoyed a gourmet vegan dinner, drinks, dessert, silent auction, and a presentation. In addition, they had the chance to spend an evening with other members of our compassionate community. Good times!
Thanks to all of our volunteers who helped in various capacities throughout the evening. Special thanks to volunteer Jared Rolsky, our head chef, who created the menu and supervised food preparation. Also, thanks to all of our food donors: John Thompson, Ben Kutscheid, Joan Rolsky, Betsy Born, EG Nelson, Muddy Paws Cheesecake, Peace Coffee, and Fairview Wine & Spirits. And thanks to everyone who donated good and services to be sold in our silent auction. We raised $1,590 with your contributions and received a $1,000 matching contribution for that. We extend our gratitude to The Herbivorous Butcher, who sponsored the event and supplied a magnificent main dish for the dinner.
Lastly, thanks to all who attended the event and support our work with your contributions and participation. We hope you had a wonderful time and look forward to seeing you at more events in the year to come.
Here’s a slideshow of photographs taken by volunteer Kealy Porter at the banquet. Enjoy!
When I first started on my plant-based journey, my focus was on my health and wellness. In the back of my mind I knew that by eating a vegan diet I would also be helping the animals and the environment, but it wasn’t the driving force for my lifestyle change. However, after I saw a friend’s post about a goat she met at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, I realized that the impact of my changes had a much farther reach than my own dinner plate.
That’s why when the opportunity came to read the Farm Sanctuary founder’s new book, I was ecstatic. The book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, is much more than just a cookbook or memoir – it’s a practical guide to living a more compassionate life.
One of the things that endeared me most to this book was the detailed history and journey of Gene and Farm Sanctuary and the personal stories from various plant-based people scattered through the book. Reading about his journey to creating Farm Sanctuary is a reminder that we all start somewhere and that one step leads to the next.
His story about how Farm Sanctuary began with him and a friend keeping some rescued animals in a backyard is a testament to how small actions can be a catalyst for greater things. I also enjoyed the anecdotes about the animals that some of the employees of Farm Sanctuary provided throughout the book.
Beyond the personal stories, the main premise of this book is what Gene calls the Five Tenets of Farm Sanctuary Living. These tenets include things such as eating plants for the earth, eating plants for your health, and eating mindfully.
The tenets are straightforward and each section is written in such a way that is easily digestible and actionable. Baur lays out simple steps you can take to successfully follow each tenet, and with sections such as how to eat vegan on the cheap and ‘10 Small Steps’ guide, he makes the entire lifestyle incredibly approachable.
The second half of this book is dedicated to a variety of vegan recipes. The recipes were provided by a number of well-known plant-based chef and celebrities including the owners of The Vedge restaurant, Farm Sanctuary employees, and Biz Stone (founder of Twitter).
While some of the recipes are a little too reliant on pre-packaged vegan foods for my taste, they are accessible for someone who is just transitioning to a plant-based diet. Aside from those few recipes, the majority of them are some of the most inventive I’ve seen.
I personally was able to whip up several of the recipes, and I enjoyed each one immensely. From the Spring Cioppino, which is filled to the brim with fresh veggies, to the Walnut and Date Cookies, which have just the right amount of crunch and sweetness, the recipes are easy to follow and delicious.
I would consider this book an essential guide for anyone beginning on their journey toward a more compassionate lifestyle, as well as an asset to any long-time vegan’s library. While changing our diets may be the most challenging part of the journey, it is only one piece of the happy and healthy life puzzle – this book reminds us why living compassionately is so important, and it gives us the tools to do so.
Gene Baur will be signing copies of his book on Wednesday, May 20 at Common Good Books in St. Paul. Visit the event page for more details.
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book free of charge, however, all opinions expressed are my own.
Mercy for Animals recently initiated a #NoAgGag campaign designed to bring attention to the laws proposed in various states that would ban documentation of the routine cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses.
In Minnesota, an ag-gag bill was proposed in 2011 that would ban photos and videos at livestock facilities. Fortunately, the bill did not move forward. Yet, ag-gag laws have been passed in four other states, and there’s currently one on the verge of being passed in North Carolina, a state with many factory farms.
The videos obtained through harrowing undercover investigations make us aware of the horrific conditions on factory farms. Through raising awareness in this way, more people are compelled to consider their food choices and move towards a plant-based diet. The meat industry sees this trend, and their business is hurting. Rather than addressing the animals abuses, they are putting energy into silencing whistleblowers by passing these unconstitutional laws.
As part of the MFA campaign, people are sharing photos of themselves with the hashtag #NoAgGag. At our most recent Compassionate Action for Animals potluck, a bunch of us decided to participate in the campaign with a NoAgGag photo shoot. You can see a collage of the photos on this page and all of the individual photos on Flickr. Through sharing these images with the hashtag #NoAgGag, we hope to raise awareness for this critical issue, which affects animal welfare, food safety, workers’ rights, and the environment.
We believe that it’s our constitutional right to know where our food comes from and that it’s important for consumers to be aware of what life is like for animals on factory farms. Without these videos, the meat industry cannot be held accountable for the abuses they routinely inflict.