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10 Veg-Friendly Spots to Dine Out for Life

Thursday, April 28 is the 22nd annual Dining Out for Life event in Minnesota. When you dine at one of the 200 participating restaurants on that day, a portion of the proceeds benefits The Aliveness Project, an organization that serves HIV-positive Minnesotans with a comprehensive array of programs.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite participating restaurants that offer good vegan options. We’ve included what percentage of proceeds will be donated to the Aliveness Project, which mealtimes apply, and what the restaurants have to offer.

  • Pizza Nea
    • 50%
    • Lunch, Dinner
    • Authentic Italian cuisine featuring pizza made with vegan meats and cheeses from The Herbivorous Butcher
  • Birchwood Cafe
    • 35%
    • Dinner
    • Fresh food with down-home appeal
  • Moto-I
    • 35%
    • Dinner
    • Ramen and sake house offering Japanese cuisine with many vegan options
  • Pizza Luce (all locations; dine in only)
    •  35%
    • Lunch, Dinner
    • Vegan pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and more
  • The Wedge Table
    • 35%
    • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    • Cooperative cafe and market with lots of vegan options
  • May Day Cafe
    • 25%
    • Breakfast, Lunch
    • Cozy cafe with awesome vegan scones, cookies, burritos, and more
  • Vo’s Vietnamese Restaurant
    • 25%
    • Lunch, Dinner
    • Vietnamese cuisine with very vegan-friendly menu
  • Ginger Hop Restaurant
    • 20%
    • Lunch, Dinner
    • Asian cuisine in swanky setting
  • Galactic Pizza
    • 20%
    • Lunch, Dinner
    • Vegan pizza and nondairy cheesecake
  • Hard Times Cafe
    • 20%
    • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    • Collectively owned diner with lots of vegan comfort food

Dining Out for Life offers a fantastic opportunity to support people in Minnesota living with HIV and to make compassionate meal choices at the same time. With 200 restaurants participating in Minnesota, you’re sure to find excellent vegan options on many of the menus. Use your dollars to make a difference!

Compassionate Times: Twin Cities Veg Living, Issue 2

We’ve just published the second issue of Twin Cities Veg Living, and we’re very excited to share it with the world.

This annual 12-page magazine is a way for us to share who we are and what we do. You’ll find that our campaigns, programs, values, and mission are represented in its contents. Along with that, the magazine is a useful resource for those moving toward a plant-based diet. It features information that’s especially relevant to those who live in the Twin Cities area, and it shows how veg-friendly our community is becoming.

If you haven’t seen the magazine yet, you can find it at our tabling events throughout the year or read it online.

Continue reading

The 2016 Annual Banquet in Pictures

Thanks to all who joined us for the 2016 Annual Banquet on Saturday, April 9 at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul. We had a great time celebrating 18 years of advocating for animals in the Twin Cities and hope you did, too.

This fundraising event featured a gourmet meal, a silent auction, live music, a presentation by one of our volunteers, and lots of schmoozing with others in the compassionate community.

Special thanks to the following individuals and businesses who helped to make this event a major success:

Also, thanks to the many individual volunteers who offered their time and talents in both helping to organize the event and doing the behind-the-scenes work that helping the event run so smoothly. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Enjoy the slideshow above with photos taken by volunteer Abbi Dempsey. Maybe you’ll see yourself in there!

Bridges of Respect: 40,000 Strong

Can you believe that as of 2015 Bridges of Respect has reached more than 40,000 students? That’s right! Since it was launched in 1999, CAA’s humane education program has reached 40,000 young minds, about 30 at a time.

Our presenters have been sharing the truth about what’s happening to animals in the food industry and elsewhere. When students feel comfortable, they contribute to the conversation and open up about their personal experiences. It requires a nonjudgmental atmosphere and patience. That’s how we get invited back semester after semester. Based on thousands of student surveys, we must be doing something right. When the students appreciate our efforts, the teachers do too. Presentations have to be tailored to fit the requirements of different classroom settings, from public to private schools, in magnets and charters, and from the inner city to the ‘burbs.

Bridges has been forging relationships with educators across the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. We’ve shaped curriculum, written assignments, and provided teaching materials for educators. We’ve had our lessons incorporated into classroom tests and have helped fulfill the learning targets of a variety of lesson plans. Here are a few examples:

  • Registered vegan dietitians visit health classes.
  • Students try vegan pancakes in their Family & Consumer Science classes.
  • College ethics students compare and contrast the leading perspectives on animal protection, and we demonstrate how we apply those perspectives to our daily lives.
  • We display steel jaw leg-hold traps, an elephant hook used by circus trainers, battery cages used in the egg industry, and then talk about alternatives to these harmful practices.

When I first started presenting for the program, I was nervous. Educating students is an important responsibility, and I knew I had to do my best. Share information and lifestyle examples, but don’t indoctrinate; make an impact, but don’t traumatize; leave them with a sense of urgency, but don’t come off as pushy or militant. It’s simple really: “This is what I do to help animals, and here’s why. And here’s how you can do it too if you want.”

One day, I wasn’t sure how the presentation went. I didn’t get a strong reaction from the students, except for a few bored faces (it is a high school after all). In between bells while everyone was heading out of class, a student approached me. She thanked me for coming in and told me that I was her hero. It’s a moment I reflect on when I need a little inspiration. Moreover, it was one of the moments when I realized how important it is to teach in underserved communities, and with regards to teaching about animal protection, that can feel like almost everywhere sometimes.

When I was in high school in the (gulp) ‘90s, I never had a lesson on the potential health and environmental benefits of veganism. It never came up in any way, in any class, in any year. We never had a guest speaker to provide the perspective that animals matter and to tell us what we can do about it. I’ve spent the last 15 years helping Bridges grow for this reason. Not only does humane education have the ability to transform our world into a more humane place, it allows students to develop into more critical thinking individuals.

I’m happy we have reached this milestone and look forward to seeing the program expand. There is still so much work to do in the schools, and there are still so many animals who need a voice.

A 14 year old inspired by our presentation 17 years ago is 31 now, perhaps with children. If what students from all walks of life have told us is any indication, our lessons about compassion will be passed on.

Meet the Newest Member of the Fundraising Team!

Hannah Marie Patzer just recently joined Compassionate Action for Animals’ Fundraising Team. We’re happy to have her on board. Let’s get to know this superstar volunteer!

Hannah grew up in a small town in southwestern Minnesota and then majored in music at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Guess what! Hannah sings opera. Her rich mezzo-soprano voice can be heard amongst the voices in the local choir Exultate. She also has a tattoo sleeve on her left arm featuring an array of fruits and veggies. And this tattoo-slinging opera singer is a volunteer for CAA. Now how did that happen?

A couple years ago, Hannah was dating a vegetarian guy who never talked with her about why he was vegetarian, but she wondered, “What’s that all about?” Then one day, she watched just a small portion of the documentary Food, Inc. Just seeing the image of live baby chicks moving down a conveyor belt, all squished and scared, Hannah resolved to go vegetarian. In the few days that followed, she read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and went vegan. Soon after, she moved to the Twin Cities, where she found lots of vegan options. Hannah says, “It’s been smooth sailing ever since.”

Not long after moving to the area, she began volunteering for CAA. One of her favorite volunteer positions has been server for the Annual Banquet because it gave her the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people. (By the way, you can sign up to volunteer at our Annual Banquet on April 9.)

Hannah looks forward to developing her skills for leafleting and pay-per-view, though she finds conversations in outreach situations a little more intimidating.

Of all of our CAA events, Hannah loves potlucks the most because they offer that vital sense of community. She says, “It can feel like there aren’t as many vegans around unless you purposely put yourself in a community of vegans.”

So why did she recently join the fundraising committee? “I just want to do more. All this is happening to animals, and what can I do? I understand that without fundraising you can’t have a nonprofit. It’s an integral part of CAA, and it’s fun to see the inner workings. I like being around people who are bouncing ideas off each other. Leadership and creativity are areas that I want to build on and being on the fundraising committee will open up opportunities for that.”

When she’s not advocating for animals, Hannah works as a receptionist at a private equity firm in downtown Minneapolis. In her free time, she loves reading, alternating between books about animal agriculture and novels. She also enjoys lifting weights, seeing friends, and going out to eat.

Speaking of food, what are Hannah’s favorites? Preparing food at home, she loves a standard stir-fry with whatever she has in her fridge. “Everything tastes good together. Throw in some Braggs Liquid Aminos and nutritional yeast and you’ve got a deliciously cheesy mess of vegetables.”

Her favorite restaurants include French Meadow (She recommends the Zen Salad, the Tempeh Reuben with fries, and the vegan special — always amazing!), Pizza Luce (Her favorite is The Rustler!), and the Thai restaurant Sen Yai Sen Lek (She loves any of their vegan options!).

When asked about her stunning tattoo sleeve showcasing fruits and veggies, Hannah says, “People look at my arm and say, ‘Oh, that makes me want to go and eat a raspberry.’” To them, she retorts, “Good, you should never eat an egg again.’”

Ha ha! We like her compassionate style and good sense of humor, and we’re so happy to have her join us on the Fundraising Team.

You’re welcome to join us, too! Our next Fundraising Team meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16 at the CAA Community Space from 7 to 8:30pm. You’re welcome to check out the meeting even if you’re not officially on the committee. If you’d like to attend, email Unny Nambudiripad at

Is it ok if I eat meat in front of you?

You’ve probably heard it before. You sit down to a meal with a friend, co-worker, parent, or classmate, and they ask, “Is it ok if I eat meat in front of you?” And you find yourself with mixed feelings about how to respond. Let’s talk about it.

When this happens, the first thing we can recognize is that the person who asked the question is being conscientious about you, your beliefs, and eating habits. This is great! But it gets harder from here. Their question was not “What happened to the animal before they died?” or “Should I start eating more plant-based foods?” The concern is about you and not necessarily about the animal. We can respond in a way that inspires the other person to consider the effects of their food choices and shift toward eating foods that cause less harm to animals.

First, acknowledge their concern about you. A simple “thanks for asking” will suffice. Second, you may also want to express how you feel. If you’re uncomfortable, you could say, “Yes, it’s difficult for me to be around this because I care about what happens to animals.” Third, reaffirm their choice. While we know very well the dire effects of individual choices on the lives of animals, in this context, showing your respect for the other person’s autonomy gives them space to make their own choices. When they don’t sense a demand (whether in the moment or in the ongoing relationship), it’s easier for them to consider changing the way they eat. Saying “I respect your choices” or “I want you to make your own choice about what to eat” will more likely inspire them to be open-minded.

Fourth, you may want to offer to be available for more conversation or assistance in the future. You could say, “I’d be happy to make food for you some time” or “If you’re open to it, let’s talk about animals and ethics” or “I’ve got this great recipe that I think you’d love.”  

Altogether, your response might sound something like, “Thanks for asking. It’s difficult for me to watch you eat animals because I care about them, but I respect your choices. How about I make you some vegan tacos next week?”

Of course, what you choose to say and how you choose to say it will depend on your relationship with this person and on how you’re feeling at the moment. Remember that your tone of voice and body language are also powerful communication tools.

Be forgiving of yourself if you can’t muster patience in every conversation or find the right words to say. When you consider the treatment of animals regularly and reflect upon your behavior, you’ll find it easier to respond positively and constructively. And you’ll make a huge difference for animals.


What Happened at the January Board Meeting

For CAA’s Board Meeting on January 21, we once again gathered remotely. The technology worked very well, and we’re thinking of continuing this format going forward.

After reviewing updates from the Executive Director and the Communications & Events Coordinator, we discussed the results of our year-end fundraising campaign. The number of unique donors and the amount raised were both up over last year. We also reviewed a donation history report that tracks donations over time. The board was pleased to hear that our new staff person, Brita Bengtson, will take over as our bookkeeper.

Next, we turned our attention to our upcoming strategic planning session. We will be taking time in late March to discuss what kinds of objectives we see as most important for the organization. Should we focus more on outreach or on community building? Or should we focus on both? Should we concentrate on helping those who’ve transitioned to a plant-based diet stick with it or should we work on getting people who eat animals to begin eating fewer of them? And how can we measure our progress once we’ve decided on our objectives?

We’ll also be working to articulate in some detail how exactly we see each of the programs we plan to engage in as connecting with our objectives, as well as how to assess them. As a way to help with the project of planning and evaluating programs, we will be reviewing the work of Humane League Labs and Animal Charity Evaluators.

If you find this kind of work interesting, please consider participating in our strategic planning session. We’ll be meeting on Saturday, March 26.

We are still looking for board members. If you’re interested, please contact Unny Nambudiripad at and plan on attending our next board meeting, which is tentatively scheduled to follow the strategic planning session on Saturday, March 26.

Meet Our New Bookkeeper!

Though Brita Bengtson just started a new part-time staff position as Bookkeeper with Compassionate Action for Animals, she’s been volunteering with the group since 2011 and a making a difference for animals long before that.

Brita went vegan in the 90s when she was about 15 years old. Looking back, she laughingly calls it “The Dark Ages of Veganism” and can relate to a buzzfeed-type list on the VegNews website called “You Know You Were Vegan in the 90s If…”.

Long story short, there weren’t nearly so many vegan specialty foods available back then. According to Brita, the only vegan cheese available was called “Vegan Rella” and was made out of Irish moss. (What?!)

When asked what made her go vegan, Brita says, “That’s a hard question for me because I don’t remember — and that’s not because of the B12 deficiency.” LOL! Did we mention Brita has a hilariously dry sense of humor?

No, she doesn’t have a B12 deficiency, but she does have a lot of compassion for animals. She’d always felt a sort of moral conflict about eating animals and naturally moved away from eating meat by the time she was 12 years old. Then at an Earth Day festival, she found a little booklet called What’s Wrong with Eating Animals, which also revealed the problems with the egg and dairy industries. That’s when she went vegan.

Fast forward about 15 years to 2011. Plant-based food options were on the rise, and veg fests were popping up everywhere, including right here in Twin Cities. Brita was inspired by the idea of the veg fests, as they reach thousands of people in one day and make compassionate living out to be what it really can be: fun and delicious. It was then that she jumped into volunteering for CAA, taking on the role of Advertising and Media Outreach Coordinator for our first annual Twin Cities Veg Fest.

Since then, Brita has been a vital organizer for the festival. She moved on to be the Social Media Coordinator a couple years later and has done a phenomenal job with the festival’s Facebook and Instagram pages. She sees social media as a good opportunity for free advertising, and, with her savvy approach to online communications, she has brought lots of positive exposure to Twin Cities Veg Fest and ultimately to our mission to help the animals.

When she’s not helping out with CAA, Brita has a job helping people with disabilities with their daily activities. She also enjoys finding creative ways to make vegan food and has three cats: Precious, Chibi-san, and Mr. Biscuit.

As an animal advocate, Brita is always contemplating how she can be more effective. That’s one reason she appreciates working with CAA; as an organization, we’re always thinking about how we can do better for the animals.

Her commitment to the cause has her always learning new things. It’s this passion that led her to apply for the part-time position as Bookkeeper for CAA. We’re grateful that she is taking on this new behind-the-scenes role; these kinds of administrative tasks are really instrumental to the stability and longevity of the group. It’s also wonderful when we can hire someone whose heart is so much in the work.

Welcome, Brita!

Meet Our New Intern!

Meet CAA’s new intern Sydney Terwey. Sydney majors in Media Arts and Animation at The Art Institutes International of Minnesota and will be helping develop a variety of our design materials for the next three months.

Sydney hails from Long Prairie, a small town in rural Minnesota. Growing up around farms, she had a behind-the-scenes perspective on animal agriculture. Even on small farms, she witnessed the inevitable suffering and slaughter that are part and parcel when animals are used for food. She formed friendships with pigs much like people do with their dogs and cats, but then one day, the animals she had grown to love just weren’t there. Such intense experiences led her to stop eating meat.

Now vegetarian for the past 8 years, Sydney was drawn to working with CAA for her internship. She appreciates that CAA is passionate about the issues but not pushy. She tries to bring this tactic into her design work and creates images that are warm and inviting, rather than gory or shaming. In this way, she hopes to make a difference for animals, grabbing attention and then getting people to think about their food choices.

Sydney’s association with CAA began before her internship. For one of her design classes, she created an informational 2D and 3D animated advertisement for Twin Cities Veg Fest. (We’ll be sharing the video in the next couple months to coincide with the announcement for this year’s festival date and location.) The video was so impressive that we welcomed Sydney as an intern and very much look forward to all that she will contribute to the group and for the animals.





10 Tips on How to Have a Productive Online Discussion

As advocates for animals, we want to reach people with our message of compassion for animals and help others make compassionate choices. We have many opportunities to engage in online discussion, but the conversations can be fraught with conflict, misunderstanding, and pain. However, we can do things differently.

The first thing to remember is that online discussions are not the best way to communicate. If you can talk about animals with other people face-to-face, then do so. Be proactive in starting those conversations, whether at an outreach table or by sharing vegan food with friends. When online discussions start and you find that people are interested in discussing the topic further, invite them to have a face-to-face discussion. In-person discussion allows for nonverbal communication, including gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice, all of which can increase empathy and understanding.

Sometimes it’s impractical to speak in person, and online discussions are the only opportunity to discuss issues. For those circumstances, here are 10 tips:

  1. There’s generally no need to respond right away. Give yourself time.
  2. Stop and breathe. Find peace in yourself before responding.
  3. Treat each person as an individual with their own needs, desires, and autonomy. You are much more likely to understand their perspective and also have them understand you.
  4. Listen to the other person. Start your comment or message by paraphrasing to show that you understand. Ask sincere questions to understand their perspective better.
  5. Show respect. Avoid sarcasm and condescension.
  6. Model open-mindedness. When people see that you’re listening and trying to understand, they are more likely to do the same.
  7. Since empathy works best in person, accommodate for the medium. When you communicate, imagine your words being interpreted in the worst light and then edit your comment to help the other person understand your perspective. And on the flip side, interpret their words in the best possible light.
  8. Speak from your own perspective. Don’t claim that your views are universal. And…
  9. When providing factual claims, cite sources that most people are likely to agree are reliable (e.g. industry or academic sources).
  10. Build bridges. Use the debates as an opportunity to find shared values and common interest that will keep the discussion going.

In public or group discussions, most readers (especially those who are undecided) never comment at all. This means that the people you’re most likely to influence are not the people who are commenting, and those people are more likely to listen to you and agree with you if you are respectful and seek to learn the truth.

None of this is to downplay the real anger we may feel about animal cruelty or the frustration we may feel when those we care about are engaging in animal abuse. Those feelings are real, yet acting them out is not helpful. Cool down and respond with compassion and goodwill for both the animals and your audience.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

January Dine-Out: Trio Plant-based

Saturday, February 9, 2019

February Dine-Out: Seed Cafe