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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twin Cities Veg Fest comes to Harriet Island Park on Saturday, September 16, and we hope you’ll be there to join in the fun.
We asked some of our planning committee members to tell us what most excites them about this year’s festival, and here’s what they had to say.
1. The Twin Cities’ community!
“I’m looking forward to connecting with the Twin Cities’ community about eating plant-based and making compassionate choices! Not to mention all the delicious food!” —Maggie Simmons, Assistant to the Committee Chair
2. New food vendors!
“I’m excited for all the new food vendors coming this year! We’re really gearing up to have our biggest Twin Cities Veg Fest by far! I love finding new local small businesses with awesome foods and drinks that I didn’t know were here in the Cities.” —Nathan Gaut, Twin Cities Veg Fest Committee Chair and CAA Board Member
3. The vegan vibe!
“I’m excited to feel the vegan vibe and to have my food choices, which are very important to me but often out-of-step with the world around me, be the norm for one giant party.” —David Paul Muench Huebert, Exhibitor Coordinator
4. The compassionate crowd!
“I am really looking forward to being part of a big, giant, compassionate crowd! Last year it was wonderful to be physically moving and working among so many people who are making the world a more positive, peaceful place. To see the excitement on faces, hear the passionate comments, feel the positive vibe, and be part of the group is empowering and reminds me that I make a difference and relieve suffering in this world every day through my choice to be vegan.” —Suzy Sorensen, Speaker Coordinator
5. The 21+ after-party!
“I’m excited to have more scrumptious food choices, music, and opportunities to connect with others that will last beyond the festival. And I’m pumped for the 21+ after-party too!” —Laura Matanah, CAA Executive Director
6. The new location on Harriet Island!
“What excites me most about Twin Cities Veg Fest is that it’s hosted by an organization that allows interested people like myself the opportunity to be involved and have input on making it happen. The new location on Harriet Island is also exciting. OK, but really the truth it’s the food that has me most excited.” —Mitch Thompson, Festival Logistics Coordinator
7. Innovation in plant-based food!
“For this year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest, I’m excited to see the innovations our local vendors have created for plant-based foods, which are skyrocketing in popularity. From imitation fried chicken to bee-free honey, it’s never been a better time to explore veg.” —Michelle Peterson, Media Outreach Coordinator
As someone with a hidden disability, I’d like to invite people with disabilities to contact us about accommodations you may be wondering about. I’m excited about TCVF specialty food items (like last year’s cheese curds) AND stocking up on coupons because, as many of you know, those are hard to come by in the world of plant-based eating.
Every year, CAA has a table at the Twin Cities Pride Festival, and this year was no exception. For two days in Loring Park, we leafleted and conducted video outreach on behalf of animals, and we reached a lot of people along the way. Over the course of the weekend, we gave away more than 1,000 leaflets and got more than 590 video views. Wow!
Pride is ideal venue for sharing our message of compassion. The festival itself is devoted to the idea of expanding the circle of compassion to include the LGBTQ community. The people we reach there tend to be especially open to the idea of opening their hearts to the plight of farmed animals. One festival attendee remarked, “This was the most important part of the day for me.”
Thanks to all the volunteers who helped with outreach and to Luke White for taking these photos!
I started volunteering for CAA in 2005, a few years after going vegan. I think my motivation was wanting to do more to help animals and also wanting to meet other vegans.
At the time, I was a professional dancer. Over the years on and off, while a dancer, I volunteered with CAA in various capacities, everything from helping out at a yard sale fundraiser to leafleting on the university campus to coordinating volunteers for CAA’s annual animal advocacy conference, Their Lives, Our Voices.
I jumped right in and found a supportive community where my vegan values were shared. I also found a positive outlet for my passion for helping animals.
“Passion” is a rather appealing word. Really, what I was feeling was sadness and rage, thinking about what animals experience on factory farms, as revealed by undercover videos. My passion grew out of my sadness and rage, and CAA gave me the opportunity to put that passion to good use, participating in a grassroots movement to liberate farmed animals.
CAA’s fundamental core values and strategy made sense to me, and I felt confident that CAA’s welcoming approach would achieve the best results in the long-term: getting the biggest number of people to sustain a move toward plant-based eating. That shift would gradually but surely ensure animals would be saved from needless suffering.
In 2014, I was about to retire from full-time dancing. Fortuitously, CAA was at the same time looking to hire their first-ever communications and events coordinator, a full-time position. I applied and got the job. (I had some previous experience in the area of communications and events planning, having written a vegan cookbook and produced my own independent performance work.)
Now my passion for helping animals was my profession. I got to spend my days writing for CAA’s blog, email news, and other communications. I also launched the annual magazine, Twin Cities Veg Living, and led the redesign efforts for a new visual brand identity. I’d like to think we’ve brought our communications up a notch since I came on staff four years ago. I also organized monthly dine-outs and potlucks, giving those in the Twin Cities area a chance to get to know others and explore vegan food options.
With a new strategic plan in place, we’ve been moving into a new phase that reflects the changing needs of the modern world, making our movement more inclusive and effective. I feel confident that this next phase will lead to another threshold, beyond which positive change for the animals will be even more tangible, more visible.
Personally, I’m entering a new phase as well, having been offered the position of associate director at Minnesota Dance Theatre. Having sustained a passion for performance as well as for helping animals, I’ll be taking that job in July, which means the role of communications coordinator will be going to someone else. Applications are due June 30, by the way!
My hope is that someone with enthusiasm and skill beyond my own will step into this role and help take CAA to the next level. I’ve seen how the changing of the guard can bring fresh energy and opportunity for new growth. Laura Matanah became CAA’s new executive director in December of 2016, and with her leadership we’re embracing a new strategic plan and growing in significant ways.
I also notice how our movement is thriving on a local level. With another vegan restaurant opening almost every other day it seems, the availability of vegan food options is increasing at exponential rates. Also, the region has a number of new farm sanctuaries that provide uplifting experiences for visitors who get to meet the rescued animals.
I see all of these new ventures as a great boon for the animal advocacy movement. Each of these advances will inspire and enable people to make more compassionate choices, and each is a component of the whole movement.
I recognize how CAA has been a catalyst for much of this action and continues to be a vital component. The work we do is not about feeling good simply for our own benefit. Our focus is on helping animals, and over the past twenty years, CAA has reached countless individuals with a message of unconditional compassion for those chickens, cows, pigs, fish, and other animals most commonly exploited as part of our food system. Through raising awareness, building community, and nurturing advocates, we’re serving our mission, we’re making this a more peaceful world for all beings.
For that work to continue, CAA needs you. CAA needs you to participate, volunteer, donate, and do what you can to support our mission to help farmed animals. Though I’m moving on from my position as an employee at CAA, I’ll be around offering my support in these ways as much as possible.
And speaking of support, I’d like to offer thanks to everyone who has supported me here at CAA over the past four years: Laura, the board of directors, and all the volunteers. You’ve been amazing! I’ve learned a lot that I’ll take with me, and I’ll keep advocating for animals wherever I go. The adventure continues.
Want to use your communications skills to make a difference for farmed animals? Consider applying for this exciting job. Applications are due by June 30.
Exciting news! Bridges of Respect, our humane education program established in 1999, now has a new visual brand identity.
Working with designer Danami Maurice Champion and a committee of CAA volunteers, we focused the redesign on reflecting the program’s attributes, which include being educational, inspiring, supportive, empowering, and helpful.
For the new logo, Danami took inspiration from vintage collegiate imagery and incorporated an abstract bridge design.
As the program reaches the general public with an overall focus on cultivating critical-thinking skills, we didn’t want the logo to include animal imagery, as a focus on vegan advocacy might deter some participants. Rather, the simple design is intended to be as accessible as possible, leaving room for interpretation and in turn allowing us to reach more people to discuss the interconnected issues of environmentalism, human rights, and animal rights.
The new colors and typography continue to reflect these motivations for the design, offering a new look and feel that is fresh, professional, and educational.
Finally, Danami made a variety of suggestions for how this new look could be applied. The mockup designs include polo shirts that could be worn by Bridges presenters to convey the team-like spirit of the program.
In the next few months, we’ll be updating the Bridges site and other corresponding materials to reflect the new design.
In the meantime, we are always looking to grow our team of Bridges of Respect presenters, and additional volunteers are needed to help share vegan food samples as well as to take photos and videos of presentations. If you’d like to get involved in Bridges in any of these ways, please contact coordinator Shannon Kimball at email@example.com.
Meet Marina Kirkeide, the chair of the CAA student group on the University of Minnesota campus. Marina is a pre-med incoming senior pursuing a degree in mathematics. When this born and bred Minnesotan isn’t working to encourage compassionate choices or studying for her degree, she likes to bike, read, play video games, and spend time outdoors.
After adopting a vegan lifestyle her freshman year and joining the CAA student group her sophomore year, Marina decided to take on a leadership position within the group.
“I decided to take on a leadership role after attending meetings for a while and feeling like I wanted to do more and be a bigger part of the planning and activities,” Marina says.
As chair of the group, she is responsible for planning and facilitating the weekly meeting, coordinating activities on campus, and picking up tasks here and there to ensure that things run smoothly. She also greets new and potential members, which is one of her favorite parts of being in the group.
The group primarily focuses on providing support for students who are making the transition to plant-based eating. “It can be really hard to make dietary changes when you don’t know anyone else who is doing the same thing. We try to fill in that gap,” she says.
The group also does a lot around campus and in the Twin Cities community to encourage compassionate decision-making. Student volunteers help with campus outreach, including pay-per-view, virtual reality, food giveaways, movie screenings, bake sales, and special presentations.
When asked what her favorite part of being in the group is, Marina says, “Meeting new people and hearing their perspectives and stories about veganism and related topics. A close second would be doing projects and making art for the group. Also, for every meeting, a member of the group brings plant-based food to share, and I really like baking vegan treats for everyone.”
Earlier this month, Marina and her sister marched in the MayDay Parade in Minneapolis, bringing to life a walking cow puppet that was crafted by the student group. Marina enjoyed the parade and thinks the message was well-received; they had a lot of people cheering for them.
The group has seen a lot of growth in the past few years. When Marina’s sister was a part of the group a few years ago, they had four regular members. This past year, the first meeting of the semester saw a turnout of 75 people! To manage the unexpected growth, they restructured student roles to maintain momentum.
Each new year, the group tries to organize and engage in more events and campaigns on campus. This year, they participated in the student government committee in an effort to improve the student dining experience for plant-based eating. For Earth Day, they had a successful display at an event coordinated by the Environmental Student Association.
For the future, Marina thinks having a network of college CAA groups across the Metro area would be a great way to connect student activists and enable bigger changes. Moving in this direction, CAA added a student group at Augsburg University this past year. Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota student group continues to take off. They’ve got big plans for their involvement in CAA’s Wholesome Minnesota program, ranging from better plant-based meal options to Meatless Mondays to an all-vegan dining hall!
If you’re a college student in the Twin Cities who wants to get involved in CAA student groups, visit our campus page to learn more. (High school students are welcome, too!) Weekly meetings are currently on hiatus until the fall semester, but if you’d like to get involved in the meantime, check out our upcoming volunteer opportunities.
People are often surprised when I tell them the Twin Cities has many vegan ice cream options. A few places have savory food as well, so you can enjoy a full meal all in one spot!
Crepe & Spoon | 339 22nd Avenue NE, Minneapolis
Crepe and Spoon is one of northeast Minneapolis’ newest hot spots, slinging vegan crepes that feature The Herbivorous Butcher’s meats and cheeses along with a nearly full case of coconut-cashew ice cream offerings. Flavors change regularly so you never quite know what you’re going to find, but don’t worry—you can sample before you decide. I’ve tried everything from Thai Tea to Popcorn to PB&J to Matcha. I’m convinced you haven’t lived until you’ve savored a scoop of creamy ice cream nestled inside a fresh, hot crepe.
J. Selby’s | 169 N Victoria Street, St. Paul
You’ve likely heard of J. Selby’s and their infamous Dirty Secret. My secret is that you can go for happy hour weekdays from 4 to 6pm and get $2 off appetizers and SoyClones (think: vegan Blizzard®!) and walk away perfectly satisfied. So nosh on a basket of Cauliflower Wings, then choose between vegan chocolate and vanilla soft serve; add-ins include house-made brownies and chocolate chip cookies, Newman Mint-O’s, peanut butter, and more. Or keep it simple and get a dish of soft serve on its own.
Milkjam Creamery | 2743 Lyndale Avenue S, Minneapolis
Offering five to six whimsical vegan ice cream flavors daily, Milkjam Creamery has not disappointed. If Black (dark cocoa) is available, it’s the perfect place to start, and I know many non-vegans that love it, too. The Wadi brothers who own Milkjam also own World Street Kitchen next door, so I’ve grabbed a Bangkok Burrito with crispy marinated tofu before snagging a scoop many times. In the summer, you’ll often find a line down the block, but it’s worth the wait and usually goes quickly. Also make sure to double check the Sundae Special because the offering has been vegan occasionally.
Wedge Community Co-op | 2105 Lyndale Avenue S, Minneapolis
Wedge Table | 2412 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis
If you’re looking for an inexpensive, small sweet treat, pop into the Wedge Co-op or Wedge Table and grab a kids’ coconut milk soft serve cone. Feeling more adventurous? Go for the Chai’s The Limit or Espresso Bomb shake. Both locations also have a selection of made-to-order savory food, and the Table has indoor and outdoor seating.
And that’s not all…
Izzy’s Ice Cream
- 2034 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul
- 1100 2nd Street S, Minneapolis
La La Homemade Ice Cream
- 3146 Hennepin Avenue S, Minneapolis
Loulou Sweet & Savory
- 2839 Emerson Avenue S, Minneapolis
MN Nice Cream (NEW!)
807 Broadway St NE #102, Minneapolis
- 4754 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis
- 1007 W Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis
- 4321 Upton Avenue S, Minneapolis
Sweet Science Ice Cream
- In stores only; no storefront
This article was originally published in the 2018 issue of Twin Cities Veg Living.
Want to make a lasting difference for farmed animals? Consider joining our Circle of Care and becoming a recurring donor.
With your monthly contribution, Compassionate Action for Animals can continue doing the work of raising awareness, building community, and nurturing advocates in the Twin Cities region. These activities have a powerful, cumulative effect, ultimately sparing the lives of farmed animals through creating a community of individuals who make conscious, compassionate choices.
We’re sharing the stories of five such individuals today. Meet Suzy, Abraham, Yunuén, Theresa, and Sanchez. All of them are part of the Circle of Care, and they’re happy to tell you why.
Occupation: Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator
What I love to do on a day off: Anything outside! Walking, working in the garden, watching birds and squirrels, reading on the porch…
Why I joined the Circle of Care: CAA has a growing positive impact on our community. Through varied activities, CAA achieves its mission of inspiring people to embrace their empathy and live more peaceful, compassionate lives. The world could use more of that. I know that being a monthly donor allows CAA to more effectively predict resources available for education, community building, and outreach efforts, allowing them to spread their message of hope and change.
Occupation: Campaigns at Mercy For Animals
What I love to do on a day off: Sit by a lake with a good book.
Why I joined the Circle of Care: CAA doesn’t only educate people about the tremendous cruelty in our food system; it also gives people a community to come back to, opportunities to continue learning, and resources for building skills. I strongly believe that CAA’s grassroots, welcoming approach is a fundamental part of what we need to build a more compassionate world.
Occupation: Human Services Representative at Hennepin County
What I love to do on a day off: Literally anything that involves spending time with my husband, Sanchez Brown, and my fur babies: Pinkie, Mai Sun, and Goose.
Why I joined the Circle of Care: I give to CAA because I honestly care about educating the public about veganism. CAA opened my eyes to veganism when I was a vegetarian and helped me take the next step toward a compassionate lifestyle. Thanks to them, I’m able to spread the same message to others.
Occupation: Community Education Manager
What I love to do on a day off: Long walk around one of the city lakes.
Why I joined the Circle of Care: I give to CAA because I feel strongly about its mission and its unique role in accomplishing very important work for the animals while helping people eat healthier for themselves and the planet. The work of CAA helps with many important issues that are interrelated, so I feel I can accomplish a lot with my donation.
Occupation: Director of Security with G4S Secure Solutions
What I love to do on a day off: Sleep in a bit, take my dog Pinkie to the dog park and then open up one of the probably eighty different vegan cookbooks I have, pick a recipe, add my own spin on it, and use my wife as the taste tester!
Why I joined the Circle of Care: I donate to CAA because of the mission and the passion. It’s the most noble cause to defend the most noble creatures. To stand up and fight for something you believe in is so inspiring and if my donation helps to allow people to do that, I’ll never stop giving.
Sign up to make a recurring donation of any amount and help create a compassionate community in the Twin Cities and beyond.