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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 And please “like” our new Bridges of Respect Facebook page.

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017 – Glorious and Ginormous!

On Saturday, September 9, more than 7,000 people came together to celebrate compassion at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017!

The sixth annual festival was held for the first time ever outdoors at Como Park. Attendance exceeded our expectations by thousands, which goes to show how the interest in vegan food is growing exponentially in the Twin Cities area.

The food surely took center stage, with vendors such as The Herbivorous Butcher and Root to Rise serving up their cruelty-free fare to a steady stream of hungry customers, which included vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.

Other highlights included cooking demonstrations with Steve Leinen, Feed Me Vegan, and Mistress Ginger, as well as a panel discussion on farm sanctuaries. Also, Christine Coughlin, Minnesota State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, was presented with the Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award.

The six-hour festival was an opportunity for our vegan community to come together and celebrate how we are thriving, and it was also a chance for new folks to get a taste of what vegan living is all about. We noticed lots more diversity in the attendees this year, which is another great benefit in taking the festival outdoors.

Of course, the outdoor space will also allow us to continue to grow the festival. We learned a lot in this first year at Como Park, especially how we can better accommodate the huge crowds. (If you haven’t already, please take our attendee survey and let us know about your festival experience.)

We had lots of support in making this festival happen, and we are deeply grateful to all of these individuals:

Our planning committee was comprised of sixteen volunteers who each dedicated many hours of their time over the past nine months to organizing the festival, and then we had more than 200 volunteers helping out last Saturday. We truly could not have done it without them.

If you’re interested in being on the planning committee for next year’s festival, please contact Laura at

Thanks also to everyone who donated to our Twin Cities Veg Fest fundraiser this past summer. You helped to make this happen, and we’re very grateful for your support. We were able to make the festival free for all to attend because of your generosity.

And thanks to our exhibitors, chefs, musicians, and presenters, all of whom added to what the festival had to offer its attendees. (We heard that many of the food vendors were surprised with the huge turnout, and some even had to return to their restaurants to get more food to sell! Next year, we’ll be offering many more vendors the opportunity to participate.)

Lastly, we want to offer a special shout-out to our festival sponsors:

We hope that you were able to join us for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017 and had an overall wonderful time. We also hope you’ll be inspired to stay involved with the compassionate community.

Compassionate Action for Animals has lots of public events throughout the year, including our big Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck in November. Come to our events, volunteer, donate… However you choose to stay involved, we hope you’ll continue to celebrate compassion each and every day.



The 2017 Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award Goes to…

We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award.

We’ve created this award to recognize a person, organization, or business in our community whose amazing work is pushing the ball forward for animals. This year, we’re giving the award to Christine Coughlin, Minnesota State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Christine has been active in the field of animal protection since 2002, with a focus on grassroots legislative campaigns and electoral advocacy. Christine has served on animal welfare policy task forces for the City of Minneapolis, initiated the biannual publication of Minnesota’s Humane Scorecard, and founded Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection, serving as president and executive director until 2014.

Christine’s legislative experience includes working with allies to pass state and local legislation. Her accomplishments include:

  • The Dog & Cat Breeder Regulation Law & Beagle Freedom Law (2014)
  • Making possession of animal fighting paraphernalia a crime (2010)
  • Defeating a pro-horse slaughter resolution (2009)
  • The ordinance to protect community cats in Minneapolis (2014)
  • A ban on recreational and commercial trapping in the City of White Bear Lake (2014)
  • Prohibition on the pet store sale of dogs and cats from puppy and kitten mills in Roseville (2017)
  • A ban on the use of bullhooks on circus elephants in Minneapolis (2016)

CAA will present Christine with the award at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2017 on September 9 at Como Park. The award presentation will take place at 2:15pm under the big tent just before the panel discussion on farm sanctuaries.

This award honors the memory of animal lover Kenny Feldman. He thought animals were to be cared for and allowed to a live a life with freedom. Kenny was a close friend of Compassionate Action for Animals co-founder and first Executive Director, Unny Nambudiripad. He inspired Unny to become an activist. Sadly, we lost Kenny to suicide 18 years ago. From that tragic loss, we were moved to establish this annual award to acknowledge the contributions of individuals who strive to create a more compassionate world.

The Feldman family wants to thank CAA, Unny Nambudiripad, and current Executive Director Laura Matanah for helping preserve Kenny’s memory and continuing his legacy of being an animal lover and activist in animal rights campaigns. To find out more about Kenny, visit the Remembering Kenny Feldman Facebook page.


2017 Twin Cities Veggie Awards – Winners Announced!

CAA strives to make going vegan as easy and accessible as possible so that we can help as many animals as possible. With that in mind, we started the Twin Cities Veggie Awards in 2016 to acknowledge the most outstanding vegan businesses in the Twin Cities area. (See last year’s winners here.)

Of course, we want you to know about each of these outstanding businesses so that you can benefit from what they have to offer. We also want to help these businesses thrive and to encourage other businesses to be more veg-friendly. Ultimately, we want to help create a community in which vegan options abound, where plant-based living is a more realistic option for everyone.

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Meet Our New Board Member – Abraham Rowe

We’re excited to have another passionate animal advocate on the team helping to guide our organization.

Abraham Rowe has a long history of advocating for animals, starting from his childhood in New Mexico. At a young age, he tried vegetarian and vegan diets, and then he began advocating for animals in high school.

Abraham moved to Ohio for college, where he studied analytic philosophy and history. His main focus was environmental ethics and agriculture. His career path has taken him in a variety of directions, from a tea-taster for Google to fundraising for a traditional dog and cat shelter.

Currently, he has a full-time position with Mercy for Animals, working on their corporate campaigns to improve conditions for chickens on factory farms. While the focus is animal welfare, Abraham acknowledges, “Ending the exploitation of animals as soon as possible is a priority, but that’s not going to be tomorrow. And there are animals on factory farms whose lives can be improved.”

Abraham moved to Minneapolis in December of 2016 and soon after became active with CAA, helping with outreach and then joining the planning committee for the Annual Banquet. After demonstrating exemplary commitment to the work, he was invited to join the board of directors.

What does Abraham appreciate most about CAA?

Volunteering for CAA, I get to advocate directly for veganism. And CAA is special because it’s community-based. If you look at the national groups, you’ll see they’ve been doing similar work to CAA for the same period of time, but because they’re national organizations, they’re not as integrated with the communities they’re reaching. CAA is in a unique position to connect with its community in a way that really addresses the critical issue of recidivism in vegan diets. We can follow up with folks after giving them a leaflet and invite them to join community so they feel support and continue moving toward a plant-based diet.

And what are his hopes for the organization?

I haven’t been here long enough to have a grand vision for CAA, but one of the primary things to address is building community, especially reaching out to groups of people who have not been represented as much.

And being new to the Twin Cities, does he already have a few favorite places to find vegan food?

Definitely Reverie, J. Selby’s, and The Herbivorous Butcher. Also, On’s Kitchen Thai Cuisine in St. Paul is excellent. The servers are really good with pointing out vegan stuff on the menu. And Pizza Lucé!

We’re glad that Abraham is making the Twin Cities his home, finding lots of awesome vegan food here, and putting all his compassionate know-how to good use for the animals.

Are you interested in becoming a member of our board of directors? For more information, contact Laura Matanah at

Vegan Food Justice: One Person Can Make a Difference

For those of us who’ve been vegan for a long time, it can be tempting to say “going vegan is easy,” suggesting that our passion for animal liberation should override all personal discomfort and that the choice should be obvious for everyone. But truly, transitioning to a plant-based diet is not simple for many, especially for those who don’t have access to wholesome plant-based foods.

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CAA Strategic Planning Report – Part 1

Photo of a person lovingly holding a chicken

CAA’s strategic planning is currently underway. So far, the process has had three components: an online survey, two town hall meetings, and a strategic planning meeting. Here’s more information about each segment.

Online Survey

The process began in March of 2017 with a survey sent via email to all of CAA’s contacts, including event participants, volunteers, and donors. We welcomed input, asking the primary question: What are the key problems that CAA should be addressing through its work?

Forty-five people responded to the survey and offered their individual perspectives. The results were reviewed, and the most common input was collected and categorized for future consideration as part of the strategic planning process.

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