Wishing Everyone an Animal-Friendly Halloween!

Halloween may be different this year, but safety and compassion should be the hallmark of every holiday every year. Listen to medical experts about coronavirus safeguards and follow these additional tips for a happy Halloween for everyone, humans and non-humans.

If you’re eating or distributing candy, make it vegan candy. Candy made from milk, eggs, gelatin (made from animal skin, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and bones), confectioner’s glaze (made from the resinous excretions of certain insects), or carmine color (red pigment made from crushed cochineal insects) contribute to animal suffering. I like Twizzlers but click here for a list of some other lip-smacking cruelty-free candy.

Keep candy out of reach of animals, and make sure that kids know not to share their goodies with pets or other animals. All candy (and wrappers!) can cause animals to become sick, and chocolate, which contains an ingredient that is poisonous to dogs, can kill. A simple cat or dog treat will make your animal companion’s’ Halloween great without making them sick.

I’ve seldom seen an animal happy in a Halloween costume, but if (and only if) yours is, make sure those costumes are pet friendly. Costumes that restrict vision or movement are no good. Costumes that are kept in place with tight rubber bands can cut off circulation. Costumes made of flammable materials are likewise out of the question. Pets can be curious about flickering candles and lit jack-o-lanterns – don’t make Halloween a life-threatening proposition for them. Keep those things away from animals, costumed or not.

Keep other decorations away, too. The ink that is used in some brightly colored decorations, such as orange streamers and paper pumpkins, is toxic to animals, and swallowed balloons or party favors can block an animal’s digestive tract.

Keep your pets inside. For cats—especially black cats, who have been unfairly associated with “evil forces”—the days leading up to Halloween can be dark indeed as sick people go on the prowl for cats to torture and often kill. In fact, many animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats during the entire month of October. It’s a sad commentary on humans that it has to be this way.

Dogs should be kept indoors too. Halloween can be a terrifying experience for dogs, who often run from the noise and the strangely dressed people and can become lost.

When Halloween is over and those pumpkins on your doorstep are looking tired and sad, don’t throw them in the garbage. If there is a wooded or wild area nearby where animals live, bring your pumpkins there. Not only will hungry animals eat them, but smaller animals like chipmunks and squirrels will hollow them out and move in. Old pumpkins and gourds make warm and comfortable homes for the cold months ahead. Note: If you have deer in your area, cut hollowed-out pumpkins up before leaving them in the woods so that feasting deer don’t get their heads caught in them.

Happy Halloween, and peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

 

The Well-Stocked Vegan Fridge

One of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact and live a more sustainable life is to adopt a vegan lifestyle, free of animal products. Animal agriculture has a devastatingly negative impact on the environment from immense water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and ground and water pollution. Around the world, people are increasingly unwilling to support an industry that treats animals in such cruel, inhumane ways, and there’s been a rapid growth in high-quality vegan food products, recreating popular dishes like pizzas and burgers with vegan-friendly ingredients, showing that you can literally have your delicious vegan cake and eat it, too. Reducing meat consumption and replacing popular dishes with plant-based options is a great stepping stone to living a more sustainable, healthy life, for you and the planet. To get you started, here are some of the best vegan food products to keep in your refrigerator. All of them are easily found in most supermarkets.

JUST Egg

One of the biggest conundrums for non-vegans considering a switch is eggs: So many recipes require them, so many delicious dishes are egg-based, and yet vegans don’t eat eggs due to the exploitative nature in which mass-market eggs are produced. JUST eggs are made from 100% plant-based proteins like mung beans, as well as other vegetables and seasonings like turmeric and carrots to add flavor and natural coloring. Available as a liquid for scrambled eggs or as a folded patty that’s perfect for breakfast sandwiches, the taste and texture are just like actual eggs. And, since JUST Eggs is cholesterol-free, it’s also great for non-vegans looking to cut their cholesterol intake.

Beyond Meat

One of the first companies to wake the general public up to the fact that vegan replacements of their favorite meals could actually be good or even better than the real thing, Beyond Meat has continued growing and making an impact since its launch in 2009. The LA-based company focuses on creating vegan-meat products like burger patties, sausages, ground beef, and more, using plant-based “protein, fat, minerals, carbohydrates,” and water to make their faux-meats. Their proteins consist of mung beans, fava beans, peas, and brown rice; fats are sourced from the likes of coconut oil, cocoa butter, and canola oil; minerals like salt, iron, calcium, and potassium chloride are added; and then extracts of beet and apple juice and natural flavors re-create the taste of meat for burgers, meatballs, taco filling, and other vegan dishes.

Oatly Oak Milk

In veganism, milk is a no-go. I enjoyed almond milk until I learned just how much water is used in it’s production. That’s bad for the environment. Now oat milk is my choice. It’s smooth, creamy, and delicious – and I find I like it better than almond milk. There are many oat milk brands out there, but Oatly is consistently touted as the best of the best and has even been given the unofficial-official stamp of approval from people who have to work with and worry about the taste of milk every day: baristas. In fact, baristas are so enamored with Oatly that they even made an Oatly Barista edition, so you know it’s good.

Miyokos Cheese

People tell me they could never become vegan because they could never give up cheese! With Miyokos, you don’t have to, and you honestly won’t miss it. There are many excellent plant-based creameries coming to market, but Miyokos rises about the competition with the impeccable flavor and mouthfeel of its imitation-dairy cheeses. The brand also has one of the most diverse product lines around, with the highlight being its line of artisan, European-inspired cheese wheels. Aesthetically pleasing for cheese plates and charcuterie boards alike, the line features classics like herbs de Provence, chive-encrusted, and aged, with the exact smell, taste, and appearance you’d expect from each. Miyokos also makes vegan mozzarella, cream cheese, and butter, and has new, upcoming products like cheddar and pepper jack.

Nuggs

It’s widely known that fast food and mass-produced chicken nuggets are just plain bad for you, and the poor chickens whose meat is used for chicken nuggets are so badly abused and gruesomely slaughtered. Thankfully now there’s Nuggs. These non-chicken nuggets are made using a pea-protein base, along with different ingredients and seasonings to create that perfect crispy coating and tender, chewy interior we all know and love. They certainly look as mouthwatering as any fast-food chain nugget, and the internet raves about the flavor and texture. So “don’t be chicken,” as the brand’s slogan says, try them!

Amy’s Kitchen Frozen Pizzas

There’s always something from Amy’s Kitchen in my freezer. Amy’s Kitchen was one of the trailblazers of the organic food movement and began making food for the vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan crowds long before it was a thing. So the company really knows its stuff, especially in the frozen pizza department. So you’re looking for vegan frozen pizzas to have on hand, give one of its ten kinds of vegan pizzas a try. There are classics like plain cheese, margherita, and those loaded with veggies and vegan meats. Amy’s also has lots of other products as well, like burritos, bowls, pastas, and more – check for “vegan” on the package.

Lightlife Smart Bacon

Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can’t have bacon for breakfast or enjoy a mouth-watering BLT for lunch. Making a worthy vegan-bacon that is comparable to the real thing is a lofty goal, but Lightlife, a plant-based meat company, has the formula down. Its Smart Bacon is fantastically crunchy and the bacon flavor is authentic. Plus, as it’s plant-based, it’s so much better for you, with no nitrates and no cholesterol.

Tofu

Tofu is a staple of any vegan or vegetarian diet; it doesn’t contain any animal products and it’s incredibly versatile, suitable for cooking in a lot of different dishes, so it’s a fantastic meat substitute and addition to soups and salads.

Make Your Super Bowl Party Animal Friendly!

Growing up, I wasn’t a big football fan, but in 1969 I got to visit the Los Angeles Rams training camp for a photo shoot to promote the movie, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” We recreated Lucy’s favorite gag – holding the ball for Charlie Brown to kick then pulling it away at the last moment. Rams kicker Bruce Gossett, filling in for Charlie Brown, was a good sport, and we had fun.

This weekend is the Super Bowl, and football fans everywhere will be gathering to watch the game and devour untold tons of snacks at Super Bowl parties. My heart breaks when I think of all those chicken wings and other animal products laid out on snack tables. Every wing, sausage, and cold cut reminds me of the innocent lives who suffered and were slaughtered to become snacks. It’s heartbreaking.

There are many mouth-watering vegan alternatives that can make your Super Bowl party 100% cruelty-free. Have you tried Beyond Sausages from the Beyond Meat company? They’re juicy and delicious, and they smell and cook great on the grill. There are plant-based Buffalo- and barbecue-style “chicken” wings that your guests will tear into and ask for more of.

Like coleslaw and potato salad? Make it with dairy- and egg-free Veganaise. I enjoy it on sandwiches, and it’s so much healthier for you.

Offer your guests a beautiful and delicious cheese plate using vegan cheeses. I like the ones made by Daiya, but there are many others. Treeline has a scallion soft spread cheese that is delicious, and Myokos has a good smokey-flavored hard cheese. Supplement your cheese plate with fruits, nuts, and crunchy vegetables. Vegan queso is great, there’s guacamole, and coconut yogurt makes a great base for all kinds of dips. Vegan cheeses are great on pizza, too!

There are vegan meatballs and vegan burgers. I like a hearty vegan chili. Recently I had a great Kung Pao cauliflower. Be creative!

You can find some great recipes for vegan appetizers, dips, and other snacks here.

A lot of people think eating vegan means a steady diet of salads and raw carrots. Get over it! In the 21st century, an amazing and delicious variety of vegan foods are available everywhere. Make your Super Bowl party truly super and 100% cruelty-free.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet.

 

The Cruelty Behind “Cruelty-Free” Laboratory Meat

In the very first episode of Blondie, Cookie won’t eat her eggs. Who can blame her? Eggs are the product of a cruel and deadly industry. I like to think Cookie grew up to be vegan, just as the girl who played her did.

Millions have gone vegan in response of the horrific suffering imposed on animals, as well as for health and environmental reasons. For that reason, the merciless meat and dairy industries are running scared. Now they’ve come up with laboratory-grown, or cultured, “meat” as a substitute for the flesh of cows. They’re trying to peddle this lab-grown meat as a “cruelty-free” alternative, and it’s not just “cultured” beef vying for space restaurant menus – they’re also attempting to clone chicken breasts and fish fillets.

What they don’t want you to know is that growing meat in a lab requires a product known as fetal bovine serum, or FBS. FBS, as the name implies, is a byproduct made from the blood of cow fetuses. Dairy cows, who are kept pregnant throughout their miserable lives to ensure constant milk production, are slaughtered when they’re no longer productive enough to justify their upkeep on factory dairy farms. To get this FBS, these cruel meat producers take pregnant dairy cows to slaughter and bleed them out. The fetus is removed and brought into a blood collection room. The fetus, which remains alive during the process to ensure blood quality, has a needle inserted into its heart, and the blood is drained until the fetus dies, a slow death that takes about five minutes. This blood is then refined, and the resulting extract is FBS. This is hardly the cruelty-free future meat producers want you to believe in.

The bottom line is, meat made in a lab still requires the slaughter of cows and the killing of and extracting blood from the cows’ fetuses. Add to that all the same health risks associated with consuming animal flesh: high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you want truly cruelty-free alternatives to eating animal flesh, don’t be duped by the monstrous meat and dairy industry and their lab-grown beef. There are hundreds of clean, healthy plant-based products on the market. Visit a Whole Foods or other full-range grocer and ask to be introduced to the wide selection of vegan burgers, vegan ground round (great for tacos!), Gardein vegan meatballs, and on and on. Sample the many delicious milk substitutes, vegan ice cream sandwiches, and even vegan apple pie!

Here’s a great site that will answer all your questions regarding healthy and delicious vegan alternatives. You’ll be surprised at how many there are and how much fun and easy – and tasty! – it is to go cruelty-free!

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

For the Holidays: Delicious and Cruelty-Free Turkey Alternatives

As a very young child I had a speech impediment. It was a developmental impediment shared by many children, but as an actor it sometimes put me at a disadvantage – except for one time when it turned out not to be a liability, but an asset.

Cast in a commercial for Swanson’s frozen turkey dinners, I struggled with all the R’s in the name of the product. My big line in the commercial came when I was to look up at the actress playing my mother and ask, “May I have some more turkey, please?” Try my hardest, the best I could do was “May I have some maw tuhkey, please?” Expecting to be admonished for messing up the line, I was surprised and relieved when the director thought my delivery was adorable. Not only did he and Swanson’s keep the line in the commercial, they cast me in two more commercials, provided I spoke the line just the same way.

At the time, I thought of turkey as something that came in a tin foil tray or surrounded by stuffing on a platter at holiday time. I had no idea that turkeys are beautiful, intelligent, and loving birds. Neither did I know of the excruciatingly painful lives they lead at factory farms or on oxymoronically-named “humanely-raised” farms.

Turkeys are very family oriented. In natural conditions, turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their babies. Young turkeys, known as poults, learn crucial survival information from their mother, including what to eat, how to avoid predators, the layout of the home range, and important social behavior.

Did you know?

Turkeys like to eat breakfast and dinner together as a family. They have two main meal times, one mid-morning, the other mid-afternoon. Family units often come together for meals.

Mother turkeys are fiercely protective of their young, and will risk their lives to save their babies. If she senses a threat, a mother turkey sounds a specific warning cry to her brood that means only one thing: run for cover. She may also attack, or pretend to be wounded to distract the predator from her offspring.

When trust has been established, turkeys love to be stroked, snuggled and petted for long periods of time. When receiving such affection, many turkeys make a sound that can only be described as “purring.” Turkeys rescued by sanctuaries, even those who have known great cruelty at human hands, will happily sit for hours having their tummy rubbed.

Turkeys enjoy listening to music, especially classical, and will often sing along!

It is difficult to sneak up on a turkey. They have excellent vision and hearing, even though they have no external ears.

Male turkeys, called toms, love to feel noticed and admired. Toms at sanctuaries are known to follow busy human caretakers from chore to chore, standing off to the side, puffing out their exquisite feathers in a blast of scalloped ruffles, quietly and patiently anticipating the prospect for attention.

We must as compassionate people reevaluate the merciless killing of billions of farmed animals in the name of tradition, and a particularly poignant victim of tradition at this season of the year is the Thanksgiving turkey. The poor bird, lifeless, lying exposed on her back, decapitated, limbs severed, feathers ripped from her body, and organs ripped from her belly through her anal cavity, has suffered, along with millions of her kind, a horrible fate in the name of tradition. Masking violence with the euphemism of gratitude does nothing to ease the turkey’s misery.

Turkeys have been bred to grow so fast and to become so heavy that their bones are too weak to support their weight. They suffer from leg deformities, arthritis and joint pain just in their first few months of life, resulting in lameness so severe that they are sometimes forced to walk on their wings to reach food and water.

Commercial turkeys are artificially inseminated. the industry euphemism for roughly restraining female turkeys, turning them upside down, and violently shoving tubes or syringes of semen into their vaginas.

Turkeys are packed into long, windowless buildings by the thousands. Much like chickens bred for their meat, turkeys are overcrowded on floor systems and forced to live in their own waste. Breathing ammonia fumes and irritating dust causes them to develop respiratory diseases; forced to live in their own urine and excrement, they develop grossly ulcerated feet, blistered breasts, and ammonia-burned eyes and throats.

Although turkeys have claws, if they are treated with kindness and given plenty of space, they will not use their claws against others. With the tremendous overcrowding and brutal handling at commercial turkey farms, stressed turkeys use their thick nails to defend themselves. Because of this, turkey farmers use shears to cut off – without anesthesia – not just the nails, but the first and second section of the turkey’s toes so they will not grow back. Disregard what you may believe about “humane” farms or “free-range” turkeys; the same painful surgery is performed on those birds. The open wounds often get infected and swell, making it incredibly painful for the turkeys to walk. I’ve visited with rescued turkeys at sanctuaries and seen for myself their terribly deformed feet and the swollen stumps of what used to be their toes.

The similarly cruel practice of debeaking is also routinely performed, in which a large portion of the beak is burned off while the turkeys are still chicks. Debeaking is performed using sharp shears, a heated blade, or a high-voltage electrical current. Turkeys’ beaks are loaded with sensory receptors, much like human fingertips, and this painful procedure severs and exposes nerves. Some turkeys starve to death before they are able to eat again; others die of shock on the spot. Not only are debeaked turkeys painfully mutilated, but turkeys use their beaks to preen, to groom, to peck and to eat, natural activities impossible with a disfigured beak, and the cause of lifelong suffering for those who survive the procedure.

At the slaughterhouse, turkeys are shackled by their feet and dragged upside down through an electrified water bath designed to stun them before their throats are cut. But in commercial slaughterhouses, the killing lines move so quickly that many of the turkeys are not properly stunned. The next station consists of an automated blade that cuts their throats as they pass by, so that the turkeys slowly bleed to death. Those turkeys not properly stunned suffer a slow, painful death or continue to flap and writhe, and miss the blade. Tens of thousands of fully conscious turkeys whose throats were not slit proceed to the next station on the assembly line – the scalding tank, which loosens their feathers for removal. Those turkeys who survived are boiled alive.

 

I urge you watch these short clips I have personally selected, then continue on to learn about some delicious alternatives to serving the flesh of this noble bird this holiday season.

The first is a wonderfully uplifting short video about Hildy, a turkey rescued from a commercial farm who was lucky enough to live out her life with people who loved her:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSDCrL6eSvY&sns=em

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMx7w9DD7Xk&sns=em

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRxNj3bbqyc&sns=em

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxpGdcFvKxo&sns=em

There are numerous delicious vegan options for holiday entrees, such as Tofurky Roast, Field Roast’s Celebration Roast, and Gardein’s Savory Stuffed Turk’y, just to name a few. A stuffed pumpkin or other large squash can also make a beautiful main course. All the traditional side dishes can be made vegan easily with non-dairy milks and other plant-based alternatives. There is even vegan eggnog, and I can personally attest that it is delightful! More info about these yummy alternatives follow.

Please remember, it’s not just turkeys who suffer and die needlessly. Nearly 10 billion land animals are slaughtered for food every year in the U.S. alone. Three million of those animals are young dairy cows killed when their overworked bodies stop producing as much milk. Please visit this Guide to Going Dairy Free (https://freefromharm.org/food-products/your-guide-to-going-dairy-free-plant-based-milks-cheeses-and-more/) to learn about amazing plant-based milks, whipped creams, cheeses, yogurts and much more. And please learn more about the cruel dairy industry here: https://freefromharm.org/videos/farm-animal-investigations/the-spiked-nose-ring-a-symbol-for-all-dairy-cruelty/

Now, whether you’re looking for store-bought, order-online, or make-your-own options, it’s easy and delicious to veganize your favorite holiday main dishes. Here are just a few:

  1. Tofurky Roast: available in stores, and many stores will special order for you. http://www.tofurky.com/what-we-make/holiday/feast/
  2. Maple-Apple Cider Tofu with Stuffing and Apple Cranberry Chutney; recipe from Vegan Dad. http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2010/10/maple-apple-cider-tofu-with-stuffing.html
  3. Vegan Pastrami Roast; recipe from The Vegbergers. http://vegbergers.blogspot.com/2012/03/superior-vegan-reuben.html
  4. Native Foods Wellington: A long, loaf-shaped, elegant puff pastry filled with savory seitan, stuffing, orange-glazed sweet potatoes, kale, and herbed mushrooms. Served with mushroom shallot gravy. http://vegetarian.about.com/od/specialoccasionrecipe1/fl/The-Native-Foods-Wellington-Vegan-Thanksgiving-Option.htm
  5. Amazing Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks; recipe from Isa Chandra, The Post Punk Kitchen. http://www.theppk.com/2011/11/seitan-roast-stuffed-with-shiitakes-and-leeks/
  6. Match Meats Stuffed Holiday Roast: Match Meats creates some of the most authentic, realistic-tasting vegan meats out there. At only $13.99, the Holiday Roast, which serves six, is one of the budget-friendlier options. Available in some stores and for order online. http://matchmeats.com/wp1/match-premium-vegan-stuffed-holiday-roast/
  7. Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute: available in some stores, and many stores will special order for you. http://fieldroast.com/product/hazelnut-cranberry-roast-en-croute/
  8. Savory Country-Fried Seitan Cutlets with Spiced Breadcrumbs and Maple Marinade; recipe from Kathy Patalsky. http://blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/2011/09/05/labor-day-country-fried-seitan-cutlets/

PLUS:

Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-Less Roast is so delicious! This is actually my favorite of all of the turkey alternatives I have tried. It’s delicious, and a bargain! Here’s how Trader Joe’s describes it: “A few years back, we teamed up with innovators in healthy and convenient, plant-based foods to create a turkey-less stuffed roast. Made with seasoned soy protein and organic ancient grain flour, it was touted for its remarkable texture and flavor. But rest on our roasts, we do not. Driven to make this main course as delicious and desirable as possible, we’ve punched up the wild rice stuffing with bursts of cranberries and coated the roast in crispy breading, seasoned with herbs and red pepper flakes. Now breaded, our Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy has never tasted or looked better.”

Gardein Holiday Roast. The deservedly popular plant-based meats company, Gardein, offers a knock-your-socks-off-delicious vegan Holiday Roast. Look for it in the frozen section of your grocery store. Many retailers like Target and Wal-Mart carry Gardein products as well. You can also ask your store to order the product for you. Visit the Gardein site to find out which stores nearest you carry their foods. http://gardein.com/products/#where-to-buy

The Pardon, from No Evil Foods. Now shipping nationwide in the U.S., The Pardon, from the popular plant-based meats company No Evil Foods in Asheville, NC, is a savory, hand-crafted artisanal plant-based roast. Once baked, the herb-rubbed exterior takes on a crispy, golden-brown sheen that breaks through to tender, succulent, juicy plant meat. This protein-packed roast carves magnificently, and the combination of ingredients and technique allow The Pardon to uniquely recreate the experience of eating a traditional turkey dinner, without any of the cruelty. The Pardon serves eight and runs $25. http://www.noevilfoods.com/product/preorder-meats-of-strength-the-pardon-mail-order/

Vegan Herb Roasted Chik’n from The Gentle Chef Cookbook. Check out this mouth-watering recipe gallery from Chef Skye-Michael Conroy’s The Gentle Chef Cookbook. Chef Conroy has pretty much veganized every meat, egg, and cheese dish on the planet, in an effort to make it as easy (and delicious) as possible for animal food lovers to go vegan without feeling deprived. His plant-based meat recipes are made from seitan, and include easy, step-by-step instructions for all the traditional holiday meat centerpieces, including vegan versions of Baked Ham, Herb Roasted Chicken, and Carving Board Roast Turkey. Other recipes include vegan bacon, sausage, sandwich meat slices, nuggets, meatballs… the list goes on and on. See for yourself! http://thegentlechef.com/SeitanandBeyondImages.php

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!