Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tattoo video!

Shame on me for not hunting for it sooner, but I've finally found the video shot by the Towson University (go Tigers!) TV station during the Rescue Ink tattoo-fest in October. In my defense, the reporter, Valerie Bragg, did say she would email me when it was edited and ready to air. No matter: she blogged about the day here. Video follows the story, for those who want to see me half-naked and getting inked with Lucy's pawprint. Or, you know, see me talk about the importance of animal rights and making a public commitment to compassion.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Putting my English degree to good use.

Since the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is holding a press conference today here in Baltimore to announce the recipients of this year's Courage Award, I thought I'd post the letter I sent to their CEO and manager.

Dear _______:

As an animal-rights activist and caretaker of a rescued pit bull, I’m writing to express my dismay at the decision of the Philadelphia Eagles to honor Michael Vick with the Ed Block Courage Award. While I understand that the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation has nothing to do with the selection of recipients, I urge you to question Mr. Vick’s merit for this honor.

I don’t need to remind you of Mr. Vick’s history of dogfighting and subsequent incarceration. I acknowledge that he has served his time and complied with the terms of his parole, yet I have seen no indication that he regrets his past cruelty and truly wishes to make a difference. During his appearances with the Humane Society of the United States, he has expressed remorse, but for getting caught, not for mistreating and murdering the dogs in his care. His hubris in suggesting that he has “overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can handle or bear,” and that “nobody had to endure what [he has] been through” bespeaks someone who has not yet taken responsibility for his actions, let alone shown the courage befitting a Courage Award recipient. If, as your website states, a deserving player “symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication” and “is also a community role model,” then Mr. Vick is a staggeringly poor choice. How can he be “an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect,” when he committed these same crimes against similarly vulnerable beings, the only difference being that they weren’t human? His selection cheapens the Ed Block Courage Award and makes a mockery of the virtues extolled by your organization.

I applaud the work of the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation and will be following the award process with interest. As Ed Block himself said, “Compassion is the noble way of life, a great guide for the truly noble of heart.” I encourage you to continue your compassionate work on behalf of victims of child abuse, but also to extend that compassion to other abused beings and to realize that we are all interconnected.

Vegan Burnout
Make no mistake, the Block Foundation has already gotten an earful and is trying to distance itself from the clusterfuck. At a meeting called to discuss the outcry that the Eagles’ selection of Vick generated, a board member admitted to being “surprised” and “taken aback,” adding that “[w]e are innocent in all of this.” I know that, but I expect the Block Foundation to step up and do something about it. They may have never had reason to reconsider a team’s chosen recipient before, but there’s a first time for everything. They hold the purse strings, so if they decide that Vick isn’t deserving of their award, they don’t have to give it to him. As Red would say (oh! He's blogging again!), it’s a basic application of the Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rules.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Michael Vick wins award; world yawns.

You know how I hate wasting ink (well, pixels) on Michael Vick, so let’s recap: he’s been convicted for heinous violence against the dogs in his “care,” served two years, been allowed to play pro football again, sucked up to the HSUS, wished he could have dogs again, repeated that he’s sorry he got caught, and now been chosen by his teammates to receive the Ed Block Courage Award. The mind, it boggles.

Because I’m totally unwilling, out of sheer disdain for Vick, to spend more than 20 minutes on this post, the award is named for a former Colts (that’s Baltimore, not Indianapolis) trainer who worked to prevent child abuse. It also professes a “commitment to celebrating players of inspiration in the NFL.” I can’t but think he’d be less than pleased.

Guilty by Ian Kim.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Badass blog alert!

Stephanie of is now Stephanie Formerly of This saddened me for about half a minute, because her posts really galvanized me to explore my veganism in a broader sense and eventually launch this here blog. Then I realized that she has started her own superblog with some of my other favorite bloggers! It’s a happy day for mouthy vegans everywhere!

Animal Rights & AntiOppression (which Microsoft Word ironically wants to change to “Ant Oppression”) promises to be a large creative space where crazy lefty thinking can bubble over and infuriate those who still believe that animals are ours to use however we like. I’m especially thrilled by the broader focus on other oppressions as well—everything is interconnected! I think that animal rights advocates sometimes feels constrained because there’s not always room for them in other activist clubhouses, even though they may share overlapping goals. For example, I’d feel uncomfortable going to a feminist meeting where meat and cheese were served, because female animals are brutalized and exploited for their bodies and secretions. Try and unpack that, though, and you get chastised for even daring to compare women and animals, or suggesting that advocating for the rights of one does not require trampling the dignity of the other. (There is an interesting post about this on, I think, Feministing, and it led to quite the lengthy comment string, but damn if I haven’t just spent the last half-hour trying to find it.) The same goes for suggesting to environmentalists that eating fewer animal products (or none at all) would go a long way towards solving our energy and climate crises. Al Gore, sack up and go vegan already!

Ahem. So, yes, I am very excited about Animal Rights & AntiOppression. Blog long and prosper, Stephanie and Co.!

Mr. Spock is excited, too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nothing doing.

I think I'm in a blogging rut. That, or nothing of sufficient vegan note has come to my attention lately. Perhaps the holidays are slowly swallowing me. As long as they wait until after Solstice, I'm good with it. Or perhaps I'm succumbing to the hibernation instinct.

Oh, here's something: Red and I took Silk Soy Nog to my parents' house this weekend for (local, organic, family-farmed) tree decorating. It was a sweet, cozy afternoon, with snacks and pretty lights and Christmas tunes on the CD player. I can't remember if anyone else drank the soy nog, but my mom had originally offered to buy it for us, so that's a plus. That, and it's delicious with rum. I'm told it's good in coffee, too, but I haven't tried that yet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Walking the line.

Just to be clear, I do not intend to make this an abolitionism vs. welfarism debate. I think that dichotomy often needlessly divides the animal-activist community, which is made up of so many wonderful and dedicated people who all have intense passions and many different areas of focus. (Google will take you straight to all the infighting.) As far as I’m concerned, every step forward is in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to help pay for each of them.

Last week, I received a Facebook invitation to a fundraiser for Maryland Votes for Animals, a newish political action committee. I was psyched, because it was being held at a just-opened vegan café, Emily’s, and Dan Piraro would be there. Action for animals, yummy food, and guaranteed vegan hilarity—what more could I ask for?

As it turns out, a stronger message. While excitedly telling Red about this party, I realized that I hadn’t really checked out Maryland Votes for Animals. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to promote killing kittens, but I’m not made of money, so I thought it best to see what the goals of this PAC were. (I already had apocalyptic visions of my contribution helping wine and dine high-powered members of our state government.)

I learned something about myself as well as about MVFA: I’m only comfortable financially supporting animal-advocacy groups that take an abolitionist stance. If anyone’s just joining the party, this means that the ultimate goal is animal liberation: They’re not ours to eat, enslave, experiment on, use for entertainment, or anything else. MVFA takes a welfarist position, meaning that they advocate for the humane treatment of animals, but still see nothing wrong with using them for human purposes and desires. (Think “happy meat.”) Under their Farm Animal Issues section, they state the following: “We produce food on an industrial scale, [sic] that means farm animals too. Does that fact that an animal is being raise [sic] for slaughter mean that it can be raised by torture?”

Umm…I don’t want animals to be either tortured or slaughtered? I can has vegan?

I was also discouraged by the number of “link coming soon” messages next to issue topics. If you’re gonna launch an animal-welfare site encouraging people to join and donate, don’t you think you should post your positions on the issues first? Then, I searched “vegan” just to make sure I wasn’t discriminating against a less-than-professional website with grammatical errors. You guessed it: zero hits.

So, that’s how MVFA lost me. Again, I applaud the work of any group that organizes for the benefit of animals. I realize that not all these groups will be my cup o’ java, and that not all of them will promote veganism as a way to lessen animal suffering. But damn, I was hoping that MVFA would.

I wish you luck, MVFA, and I’m sorry I can’t stand with you.

Copyright Dan Piraro. Lousy crop job by me and Photoshop.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vegan Sanibel.

As you know, the mister and I spent the post-Thanksgiving days lounging on a tropical beach, waking at noon to a breakfast of fresh fruit and vegan pastries served with fair-trade coffee and organic soymilk. When we weren’t licking sustainable melted chocolate off each other, we pored over the room service menu, bemoaning the fact that only three tofu dishes and one flavor of non-dairy ice cream were on offer. I tell you, the privations we endured.

I JEST. The beach part is true. The rest is not. Certainly not the melted-chocolate part, but even if it was, I’m not telling you, random Internet people. While we did spend a happy mini-moon down in warm, sunny Sanibel Island, it was not the effortless vegan paradise of our dreams. With some planning, it definitely exceeded vegan purgatory, though, so read on.

The view from our room.

I didn’t become vegan yesterday, so my first order of business upon planning any trip is to ferret out where I will eat. Seriously, sleeping can come second. Like most vegans, I am well-versed in the joys of scouring the local 7-Eleven knockoff for something edible. It’s not a pretty experience. It smells like desperation and feels like you need a shower. I would not have that experience during my first vacation with my new husband.

This website saved my tempeh bacon: I had already checked HappyCow and VegDining, to no avail. You’d think Sanibel didn’t even exist. Then, Google prevailed. I really lucked out with, whose menu PDFs proved highly reliable. Menu PDFs for the win! They made my job a million times easier. If I didn’t see anything vegan-friendly at first glance—salads didn’t count—I moved on to the next restaurant. At the end of an afternoon, I had a master list of 14 places where Red and I could either order or buy food. Considering we were only staying for three nights, we were in excellent shape. Bonus: the Sanibel/Captiva Dining Guide, a printed version of’s restaurant listings and menus, was handed to us at our hotel. It was our constant companion as we planned our meals.

We did a lot of this.

We’ll start with lunch, as that’s the meal we were jonesing for when we got to the resort and were told it would be another two hours before our room was ready. The lady who checked us in helpfully pointed us to a nearby restaurant, declaring that if we’d never had alligator, then that was the place to go. I tried to demur, but she pressed it and I had to play the V-card. “Well, that’s okay,” she said, rather bafflingly. Once we established that I didn’t eat fish or dairy either, and that Red didn’t eat anything that had a face, I assured her that I had done my research and was pretty sure we’d be able to score some lunch for ourselves. The island is 12 miles long and three miles wide. Our options may not have been legion, but they were all close by.

We hit the jackpot at the Twilight Café, a scant mile or two from the hotel. At that point, we were so hungry the tablecloth probably would have tasted good, but our lunch seriously did not disappoint. Red chowed down on a Caprese sandwich, while I had a portabella wrap with sweet potato fries. A dedicated vegetarian section of the menu was a nice bonus, and the funky, sunlit décor was relaxing. We ended up at the Twilight again on our last day, when we ordered the exact same things for lunch. We were hungry and not inclined to be adventurous before sitting for hours at the Ft. Myers airport.

After much deliberation—pizza? pasta?—we went to the Great White Grill for dinner. This was a surprise indeed, as we realized that we had traveled 1,100 miles to end up in a Steelers bar. Steelers! In Florida! I could care less about football, but I was excited to take pictures for a friend. We loved the Great White. It had the chill feel of a neighborhood bar, with a million beers, laidback staff, and awesome pizza. Red had a massive garden salad and, I think, a cheese pizza. I ordered the Jean’s Garden Pizza (no cheese), and it was a veggie delight. We boxed up the leftovers and ate them for breakfast the next morning.

Steelers fans, behold your tropical outpost! Ravens fans, I know you're coming for me.

After a morning of sightseeing, we hit up The Sanibel Bean around brunch time. I wasn’t hungry, but enjoyed a soy latté. Red had a bagel. Exciting, I know. I tell you what, though—the place is popular. Being one of only two coffee shops on the island is a pretty good place to be. We visited twice more before we left. I never ordered anything more thrilling than a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter, but the fact that they had soy milk was reason enough for me to love them. Carry on, Sanibel Bean. Next time I’ll get the tabouli and hummus platter.

Hey there, Hungry Heron. The fresh vegetable penne was bursting with artichoke-y goodness, and was hearty enough for two meals. A ton of pasta, I tell you. The leftovers were thoroughly enjoyed. I forget what Red ordered, but I think it was a salad. We returned another evening before we left, and we both had the teriyaki stirfry skillet. A small misstep, that. The vegetables were good and the sauce tasty, but it just didn’t work with the noodles, which were basically thin spaghetti. Soba or rice noodles would have been better, or even rice, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

[I must digress here to call out the worst example of customer behavior I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. The Internet is cluttered with “You’ve Got Good Customer Service When…” lists, but rarely have I seen a similar guide for customers themselves. So listen up, lady on vacation with her extended family. You fucked up good. It looked like all of you ordered seafood specials, which run about $20 a pop. $20 x eight of you = $160. Add drinks and it’s a little more. The Hungry Heron’s menu states explicitly, as do most restaurants, that the gratuity—in this case 18%—will be added to the bill for groups of six or more. Most diners appreciate this, as it saves them the trouble of figuring out the tip and dividing it amongst the group. Eighteen percent of $160 is $28.80. And yet you had to go and ask the waitress if you could write in the tip amount yourself, because she did a nice job and everything, but…but…your utter contempt for everyone who’s not you prevented you from even deigning to tell her what you really thought of her, which is that she wasn’t worth 18%. Of course she told you that was fine, because she had to. When you left, I saw her glance at the amount you’d written in. She was pissed, and justifiably so. It sounded like she muttered something about 15% to the busboy, telling him that it wasn’t even the point. She’s right. It wasn’t the point. The point was that you are a tightass bitch with an equally tightass family who couldn’t be bothered to politely follow restaurant policy and tip your waitress what she’d earned. You are why customer service employees burn out. I hope a bird shit on your car. Red and I could do little more than gape at each other as we tried to comprehend your disdain for common decency, which actually does extend to service industry professionals. To hopefully make her night a little better, we left her a massive tip. Fuck you very much.]

Then we went back to the Great White and had a drink because I was so very grossed out. We left before the football game started, though, because the regulars (we remembered them from our last visit) started trickling in, and we didn’t want to suffer the fate of Baltimorons in a Steelers bar.

Red was very excited about the prospect of ice cream, so we made time during our stay to head to Pinocchio’s. I was excited about the prospect of mango sorbet. I can’t remember what he got, but it was some fancy sundae and he reported that it was very delicious. Alas, my mango sorbet did not fulfill its promise. Their website says it’s made from fresh mango puree, but it tasted like it was made from fresh Fla-Vor-Ice syrup. Y’all know what I’m talking about. After a few bites, I accepted that the mango goodness just wasn’t going to kick in. Red was sad that he had a good dessert and I didn’t, but now I appreciate Trader Joe’s and Haagen-Dasz’s mango sorbets that much more.

Our last dining adventure was at Doc Ford’s, famed Sanibel rum bar. After a day of lounging on the beach, fruity rum drinks sounded like the way to go, and we were not disappointed. We each had a Sanibel Sunset (think orange juice, grapefruit juice, and some boozy awesomeness) and a mojito. The menu was a tough sell, but Red had the veggie burger and said that it was definitely better than the average restaurant’s frozen-hockey-puck offering. We split some fries, and I had the Tropical Salad (sans fromage). Greens, oranges, dried cherries, sugary-spicy pecans—it was really good. I don’t even like onions, but the fried ones that topped the salad may change my mind.

My mojito, with boozy gummy alligator.

Our resort had no room service, not that I’ve ever stayed in a hotel that did. Continental breakfast was included, of course, but it was just…sad. Bagels, muffins, coffee, and orange juice. Not a piece of fresh fruit to be had. I was bummed, but I had stashed some apples and Clif bars in my backpack before we left for just such an occurrence. They, plus leftovers, made sure I started the day off right.

Well, there you have our culinary tour of Sanibel Island. If you made it all the way through this massive post, you deserve a vacation of your own!

My buddy the gopher tortoise. He just cruised around the resort, snacking.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving with the Turkeys…and company.

I know I’m a week late, but when you’re talking baby animals, better late than never. (Full disclosure: there are only two baby animals. The rest are adults.) I refer, of course, to Poplar Spring’s Thanksgiving with the Turkeys, that annual celebration of cruelty-free food and interspecies companionship. The weather was perfect, the food plentiful, and the animals (mostly) happy to see us. Because I am a lazy vegan, I made cornbread. Other people made insanely intricate dishes, rigging up crock pots and even a microwave, but Red and I mostly went for the cold stuff. Even after we split up and scavenged different tables, we still weren’t able to taste everything. And desserts? Please. I had no room left. Except for the rich chocolate-mint pie. If you made that or know who did, please please please send me the recipe. I’ll bake you biscotti as a thank-you.

The goats and sheep were pretty meh about human company. The pasture was closed this year—maybe they were given too many treats last year? Too many nosy humans? Either way, they seemed happy to keep to themselves.

Eh, I guess you can scratch my ears.

Several enterprising roosters went after the food before it was put down for them. Way to look out for #1, guys.

There was nothing on that table I wouldn't have eaten myself.

The turkeys were in fine form, strutting and preening. Opal, as usual, accepted all the love and pets people were willing to give her. I doubt she was without company all day.

Top: Opal holding court. Bottom: small human, large turkey.

This handsome fellow is Morty. He and his brother Izzie have lived at Poplar Spring since they were a day old (he’s about eight weeks here). They crashed the potluck and, as you can see, Morty made the most of his opportunity. Invisible Voices has chronicled Morty’s and Izzie’s lives at Poplar Spring, and the videos are enough to make you die of cute. If you’d like anyone in any of these photos identified, she’s the one to do it. I feel bad not knowing all their names, but I’m sure they probably don’t mind. You should just go look at her photos anyway, since she takes really good ones. We were using Red’s camera (aka our good one) but…yeah, hers are way better.

Om nom nom.

A sika deer came to join the party. We saw two or three—either they were born inside the sanctuary fence, or they hopped over. If they were born there, I suppose they’ll jump the fence when they’re big enough and/or so inclined. Being a deer in a farm animal sanctuary seems like a pretty sweet life to me.


I found myself weirdly fascinated by geese feet.

There was a swan.

Before we left, I walked out to the far pasture where the mules and horses and a few cows were hanging out. I made friends with Darcy, a sweet blind horse. A woman about my age was trying to feed him an apple, but she was so nervous she asked me to do it. I showed her how, and in three bites the apple was no more. Red didn’t come with me, so there are no photos, but I loved meeting Darcy and nuzzling his soft nose. His friend Tally wears a bell so Darcy knows where he is and can get his bearings.

Red took many more photos—check them out here. I can’t wait until next year’s celebration!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I have been busy, darlings.

Please forgive my absence this past week. You see, my lazy ass went on a post-Thanksgiving honeymoon. A lovely one, to Sanibel Island, Florida. I did my best to ignore reality while we were there; hence, no bloggy goodness. I’ll do my best to make it up to you.

Oh, we had a wonderful time, thanks. It was warm and sunny and we lay on the beach and collected shells and found what is probably the only Steelers bar in Florida. I met a gopher tortoise, too. As usual, I am in one place and my camera is in another, so I’ll post those pictures soon. I also plan to do a “Vegan Sanibel” rundown, since I had a hell of a time figuring out where we might eat when we got there. If I can save another vegan the trouble of scrolling through dozens of websites and squinting at menu PDFs, it will all have been worth it.

I know, I owe you a Thanksgiving with the Turkeys post, too. For now, content yourselves with Deb’s awesome recap. Her photos are better and she’s a regular sanctuary volunteer who knows all the animals, so she’s pretty much cooler and more authoritative than I am in every way.

Thanksgiving? We did that too. It was surprisingly not fraught with angst and sadness over the murdered turkeys. I noshed on steamed asparagus and roasted butternut squash with shallots with Red’s family, washed down with plenty of Asti and a nameless drink that involved green apple rum and Sprite. (I might start calling it an “Uncle John,” since he mixed it for me.) At my parents’, my garlic mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie were well received. My mom made the stuffing with vegetable broth and I brought Sweet & Sara’s marshmallows for the sweet potatoes. I even introduced my family to the joys of Earth Balance! Two menu omissions yielded unintentional hilarity: my sister made a fabulous gourmet bisque, including vegan servings, and we forgot all about it until we were halfway through dinner. It has since been frozen, to be thawed and enjoyed this weekend. Shortly after that, my mom realized that we’d also forgotten to prepare the portabella caps I’d brought for Red and me. They were to be broiled with stuffing, but we didn’t miss them at all. Enjoy the free shrooms, Mom.

As I may have mentioned, Thanksgiving also marked Red’s first day as a vegetarian. Go, husband! I’m proud of him, so if you want to say hi, hit him up. I’m going to try to persuade him to post his thoughts on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

On the Go Max Go front: We have since devoured both the Buccaneer and Mahalo bars. I was never a big Three Musketeers fan, so the Buccaneer was fine. I did love Almond Joys, though, and found the Mahalo a bit sticky and gummy. I mean, I’m not going to turn my nose up at almonds and coconut, but I won’t be longingly pining for one anytime soon. Look at that, I’ve gone and given myself a chocolate craving.