Vegan MoFo #1: Reflections on an Internship with Compassion Over Killing and a Summer in DC (Part 2)

vegan mofo 2013

Allow me to begin by wishing you all, dear readers, a very happy Vegan MoFo! This virtual festival of vegan yumminess unites food bloggers from all over the globe for one month each year, during which bloggers attempt to post as often as possible, if not every day. Clearly, I’ve started off my MoFo-ing on a rather lackluster note, having failed to post on the very first day of the event (yesterday). Additionally, my first post of Vegan MoFo, rather than featuring a healthy dose of veggie food porn, serves as the second in my series of reflections upon my summer internship with Compassion Over Killing. Rest assured, however, that you can expect many posts, recipes, and tantalizing photos in the upcoming month. Vegan MoFo, onward!

The first batch of DC summer adventures I regaled to you ended with the successful Rehoboth VegFest and the completion of my first week interning with Compassion Over Killing. Predictably, the month of June held many more escapades, both related to my internship and as part of my own personal undertakings. To maintain sufficient organization (a top priority for yours truly), let’s recount my summer tales chronologically, shall we?

June 3

After a whirlwind weekend at the Rehoboth VegFest—one during which I unintentionally abused my feet with sunburns, hours of standing, and plenty of running around—I and my fellow intern Katie received the following Monday off of work. COK struck me as quite committed to ensuring that they didn’t overwork us interns, seeing as they never once during the summer failed to compensate us with adequate rest time after our various outreach endeavors. Considering the very real phenomenon of activist burnout, I duly appreciated this measure of care.

The evening of our COK-free day, Katie and I met for dinner at Sticky Rice—in part to celebrate a job well-done on our first major veg outreach event, but mostly to enjoy a fabulous array of vegan Asian-fusion food. Don’t miss my review of Sticky Rice for a full recap of our overflowing peanut-soba noodle bowls.

sticky rice (5)

Soba noodle bowl with tofu and veggie in peanut sauce at Sticky Rice.

Katie and I at Sticky Rice.

Katie and I at Sticky Rice.

June 8

A mere week following the Rehoboth VegFest, COK participated in yet another large-scale outreach event—the Capital Pride Festival. One of the largest pride festivals in the country, Capital Pride fills two days with ever-present rainbow flags, tons of queer solidarity, a massive parade, and an all-day outdoor festival complete with food vendors and musical performances. Luckily, since COK only participated in Sunday’s festival, Katie and I had the fortune of fully enjoying Saturday’s parade. (Apparently, COK has joined the parade in past years, but everyone at the office seemed incredibly excited to not take on that rather overwhelming responsibility this year). Boasting a seemingly never-ending stream of colorful floats and beaming individuals throwing bead necklaces into the cheering crowd, the parade lasted for about three hours and attracted a crowd that completely overran the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

PETA’s float in the parade.

Because we faced a good seven hours of tabling for COK during the next day’s festival, Katie and I opted not to leaflet the parade. The vibrant and inspiring animal activists Aaron Ross and Kate St. John of Vegan Outreach, however, took full advantage of this hugely valuable outreach opportunity and handed out over 3,000 leaflets to the Pride Parade crowd. Katie and I happily ran into Kate and Aaron as we departed from the parade, reminded of the committed community of animal activists in the DC area.

Katie and I with our beads at Capital Pride.

June 9

Early on Saturday afternoon, I biked over to Pennsylvania Avenue where the Capital Pride Festival filled two street blocks with over 150 exhibitors, music stages, and food carts. I found the COK table located adjacent to a queer Shakespearean theatre company and across from PETA (what a corner of animal advocacy, eh?). Elena, COK’s fabulously competent Special Events Coordinator, allocated to me the task of handing out free samples of Field Roast vegan frankfurters and sausages sliced, toothpicked, and served on a platter with the option of ketchup. Standing next to me, Katie provided an educational leaflet to anyone who took a sample, ensuring that we accompanied the “how” of veganism (with delicious and hearty plant-based foods) with the “why” (to combat animal exploitation).

COK’s table at the Capital Pride Festival.

Festival attendees responded to COK’s outreach with overwhelming positivity; many self-proclaimed “carnivores” admitted that they probably would not have identified the Field Roast products as plant-based if we hadn’t informed them beforehand, and a generous handful of festival attendees enthusiastically revealed to us their own burgeoning journeys toward more compassionate food choices. I mentioned in my summary of my internship endeavors during the month of May that I most enjoyed the aspects of working with COK that allowed me to directly interact with the public, for I still view basic, good-natured grassroots activism as the most effective form of social change…plus, I thrive in any situation in which I can converse thoughtfully about the ethics surrounding veganism.

The Capital Pride festival also provided me with my first sampling of the top-notch vegan soul food offered by Woodland’s Vegan Bistro, formerly known as Everlasting Life Café, my extensive review of which you can find here.

everlasting life cafe capital pride (1)

Vegan BBQ chick’n wings, sweet kale salad, and baked mac n’ cheeze.

June 11

With COK’s two major outreach events of the early summer behind us, I began to focus on more individualized duties in the COK office, including contacting possible exhibitors for the upcoming DC VegFest and launching my restaurant outreach project, in which I attempted to work with various non-veg eateries in the Capital Hill neighborhood to help them incorporate more veg options onto their menus. Restaurant outreach can serve as a hugely valuable form of animal rights activism, since it harnesses the power to maximize the availability of veg menu items and shows non-vegans diners that veg*nism is fast becoming a mainstream movement. You certainly needn’t secure an internship with COK to engage in restaurant outreach, though—with a bit of planning, communication skills, and a visit to COK’s online guide, just about anyone can team up with restaurants in their community to inspire lasting change for animals.

Most days after work, I would retire to my apartment and whip up a fabulous dinner with the farmers’ market produce I’d purchased that Saturday, but I also visited my fair share of the finest restaurants DC’s veg eatery scene has to offer. On the Tuesday after Capital Pride, I embarked upon my third DC dining adventure with my newfound friend Emily, which transpired at Busboys and Poets and involved a plate of the most magical tofu I’ve ever put into my mouth (be sure to check out my review of B&P here).

Coconut Tofu Bites at Busboys & Poets.

Coconut Tofu Bites at Busboys & Poets.

June 14

Much of my internship work this summer involved organizing and carrying out various leafleting and feed-in activities. After researching public events around DC, Katie and I would decide which events would attract a large, receptive, and generally young crowd. We’d then write a description of our leafleting/feed-in to post on COK’s “Upcoming Events” page and advertise the outreach on COK’s various social media platforms to attract volunteers.

Our first formal leafleting endeavor took place at the monthly Truckeroo festival, a showcase of DC food trucks held at the fairgrounds next to the Nationals baseball stadium. Before planting ourselves on a bustling street corner in front of the fairgrounds to hand out leaflets, Katie and I purchased our lunch at the newly opened all-vegan food truck known as The Randy Radish. Offering such hearty hand-held items as jackfruit BBQ sandwiches, tofu reubens, and iced cinnamon buns, truck owners Nancy and Sharon debuted The Randy Radish at a flower and garden show in Virginia and have since taken to the streets all over the DC metro area. The ladies plan to feature their on-the-go plant-based fare at COK’s DC VegFest on September 28, so be sure to visit the festival if you live in the DC area.

Katie and I in front of The Randy Radish all-vegan food truck.

June 18

COK seeks to tailor internships to best serve and contribute to the activist growth of their interns, and my boss Erica Meier ensured that during the summer I would have many an opportunity to practice the skill I view as absolutely indispensable to my activism: writing. Not only did I produce blog posts for three of COK’s major websites (VegDC.com, TryVeg.com, and DCVegFest.com), I also drafted a number of sample letters to the editor to aid the Humane Society of the United States in their fierce campaign to defeat the nefarious King Amendment.

My most major writing accomplishment this summer, though, came when the Washington Post published my letter to the editor, which responds to a very veg-positive article entitled “Vegetarian children in omnivorous households” by recounting my family’s own collective journey to veganism. Erica first introduced to me the notion of writing an LTE in response to the aforementioned article, and in doing so demystified the process of writing and submitting an LTE.

June 23

While Katie and I embarked upon a handful of additional leafleting ventures after our first at the Truckeroo festival, we hosted our first feed-in less than two weeks later by distributing free samples of Field Roast frankfurters at a Nationals baseball game. After devoting the morning to cooking, stuffing inside hot dog buns, and wrapping in tin foil about 400 veggie dogs, Katie and I metro-ed our caravan of food and supplies to the stadium, where we met our team of enthusiastic volunteers. We set up right in front of the stadium’s main gate with two people holding our “Free Vegan Food” banner, two holding the trays of veggie dogs, and the rest handing out leaflets to attendees of the game. In our prime location, we handed out veggie dogs at an impressive rate for about 30 minutes before security ordered us to shift our setup outside of stadium grounds since nearby vendors had complained about us encroaching upon their business.

Katie and a volunteer holding our feed-in banner.

Katie and a volunteer holding our feed-in banner.

Because foot traffic severely decreased in our new location, we couldn’t hand out all of the veggie dogs we had prepared, but donated the remaining food to DC Central Kitchen, a prominent organization in reducing hunger in America and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise. While dropping off the veggie dogs at DC Central Kitchen, Katie and I met a director of food recycling who had been a vegetarian since childhood and a chef who eagerly asked for our advice in adopting a plant-based diet. A valuable day of outreach, indeed!

June 27-30

The last major (and largest…and most involved…and most exhausting) veg event of June, the 2013 National Animal Rights Conference prompted four days of COK tabling, constant mingling with passionate activists, and note-taking in various panel discussions. I recounted the conference in detail in a previous post, so check that out for further details.

Katie, myself, and our friend Alan (who works for MFA) at the AR Conference.

Stay tuned for the third installment of my summer adventure tales, as well as the amalgamation of vegan deliciousness that is Vegan MoFo.

Until next time, Ali.

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Reflections on an Internship with Compassion Over Killing and a Summer in DC: Part 1

Way back in May, I embarked upon a summertime adventure in Washington, DC for an internship with the fabulous national animal advocacy organization Compassion Over Killing. 85 days, 7558 distributed leaflets, 3 feed-ins, 1 veg fest, 1 national conference, 1 letter to the editor published in the Washington Post, 1 animal sanctuary visit, and an innumerable amount of stuffed envelopes later, I’ve returned home to Madison to enjoy nearly two weeks of repose before heading back to New York to commence my sophomore year at Vassar.

I largely refrained from posting about my DC shenanigans during the past three months—save for my restaurant and farmers market reviews—since I wanted to reflect upon my summer outreach as a whole before sharing my experiences in the public realm. Now, after having the opportunity to gather my thoughts in a space physically divorced from my internship, I can confidently deem my stay in DC an overall positive one, though certainly not without fault.

In this and the next three posts, I’ll first narrate the highlights of my summer chronologically before elaborating on my general views of both my internship and life in DC. This particular post will focus on my experiences during the month of May.

After arriving in the nation’s capitol on the 25th and settling into my apartment, I began my foray into the world of DC-area animal advocacy and vegan living by attending a Memorial Day vegan potluck-barbeque with my boss, Erica Meier, and fellow intern, Katie. Star-struck even before setting foot in the COK office, I disbelievingly hob-nobbed and shared veggie burgers with prominent figures in the animal advocacy movement whose work I had followed since the early days of my veganism—COK executive director Erica Meier, journalist and author of “Green is the New Red” Will Potter, Sticky Fingers Bakery founder Doron Petersan, and co-author of “The Animal Activist’s Handbook” Bruce Friedrich, to name a few. The next day provided a “welcome-to-DC” lunch with Erica at Sticky Fingers, while the day following marked the first of my actual internship.

Sticky Fingers storefont.

Sticky Fingers storefont.

During my preliminary week with COK, I met five of the organization’s nine full-time employees (the other four work in COK’s LA office), learned basic nonprofit tasks such as fulfilling requests for merchandise and literature, and stuffed an office full of goodie bags in preparation for the Rehoboth Beach VegFest that weekend.

VegFest goodie bags, stuffed by yours truly! Image courtesy of COK.

Not but four days after the onset of my internship, I and the rest of the COK team ventured east to Delaware for the first-ever Rehoboth Beach VegFest. The first large-scale AR event I had ever helped to organize, the VegFest attracted over 600 attendees who spent the unexpectedly windy day browsing the wares of 35 exhibitors and listening to entertaining and informative speakers like The Humane Society of the United States’ Paul Shapiro and vegan cookbook author John Schlimm.

Image courtesy of COK.

VegFest speakers tent.

VegFest speakers tent.

My role at the festival included staffing the Tofutown table to offer event attendees samples of Viana sausages and soy- and rice-based whipped creams—though, the aforementioned wind complicated this task by completely overturning my table’s tent on multiple instances throughout the day. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed my time at the VegFest, where I first discovered my love of interacting with the public while tabling. While I spent much of my summer internship completing important assignments and projects in the COK office, I reveled most in the occasions during which my outreach assumed a more tangible form, such as leafleting, tabling, or hosting a feed-in. For me, no other endeavor—in terms of the positive impact for both animals and the environment as well as the immense satisfaction of having truly made a difference in an individual’s life—surpasses aiding said individual in transitioning to a compassionate, vegan lifestyle. Every leafleting, tabling, and feed-in opportunity this summer provided an ideal venue for doing so, and the Rehoboth VegFest proved no exception.

Tabling with Katie at the COK booth.

Tabling with Katie at the COK booth.

Handing out free vegan sausage samples to festival attendees. Image courtesy of COK.

Dinner on Friday as well as lunch and dinner on Saturday came from a veg-friendly to-go café called Root Gourmet, located across the street from the festival, which specialized in freshly prepared deli salads, made-to-order sandwiches and flatbreads, and packaged dips like hummus and guacamole. Root, along with such beachside restaurants as Hobos, (a)Muse, and Cake Break (which supplied vegan cupcakes for the festival’s cupcake-eating contest) served their vegan menu items at the festival, to the annoyance of a small handful of attendees who complained about seeing non-vegan restaurants featured at an all-vegan event. However, I see the inclusion of such establishments as yet another form of activism; non-vegan eateries can meet and interact with the vegan customers they’ve already at least somewhat acknowledged, thus solidifying the importance of offering animal-free menu items.

Nage & Root Gourmet festival menu.

Nage & Root Gourmet festival menu.

(a)Muse festival menu.

(a)Muse festival menu.

Cake Break cupcakes.

Cake Break cupcakes.

Cupcake-eating contest in action! Image courtesy of COK.

After bidding goodbye to the last few festival goers, disassembling the last tent, and wiping down the last table, I and the rest of the exhausted COK team retired to Nage, the more upscale sister restaurant to Root that would host the VegFest benefit brunch the next morning. Though Nage’s usual menu only features a small handful of vegan dishes, our party enjoyed a sampling of appetizers including shoestring sweet potato fries, hummus and flatbread, and chickpea fritters with lemon marmalade. While my fellow intern Katie and I thankfully could partake in our three square meals on the day of the festival, even amidst the behind-the-scenes chaos integral to event-organizing, many other COK members had not eaten anything more substantial than vegan cookie samples all day—apparently, the hecticness of vegfests frequently leads event organizers to forget to nourish themselves, as our COK co-workers would inform us. I, however, fully intend to never allow this phenomenon to affect me, for I believe that taking the time to tend to one’s personal needs proves necessary in avoiding activist burnout, even if only on one particular day.

Hummus & flatbread.

Hummus & flatbread.

Chickpea fritters.

Chickpea fritters.

Shoestring sweet potato fries.

Shoestring sweet potato fries.

Before heading to brunch at Nage the next morning, Katie and I journeyed to the Rehoboth beachfront in order to experience the real draw of the largely touristy town. With the sand in our toes and the clear water lapping at our ankles, we spotted a dolphin swimming close to shore—a picturesque way to end our weekend at the beach.

rehoboth beach veg fest (9) rehoboth beach veg fest (6)

Nage’s vegan brunch featured an impressive array of vegan pastries, pancakes, grilled veggies, fresh fruit, oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, tofu scramble, curried coconut cauliflower and peas, and mushroom scrapple—the latter two items absolutely knocked my metaphorical culinary socks off. Plus, as COK interns, Katie and I enjoyed the normally $35 brunch for no charge. Ah, the benefits of nonprofit internships.

Brunch buffet line.

Brunch buffet line.

My plate of mouthwatering brunch fare.

My plate of mouthwatering brunch fare.

After a whirlwind week-and-a-half in DC, I entered into June with bountiful optimism toward the following month of my internship. And that, dear readers, will have to wait for another blog post.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant & Yoga Exploration: Yoga District & District Tea Lodge

For those of us lucky enough to have the funds, geographical access, and physical ability necessary to engage in a frequent studio yoga practice, moving to a different location can prove difficult, since doing so means bidding good-bye to a well-loved studio community and seeking out a new one in which to hopefully foster the same sort of connections and support group. Granted, cultivating a fulfilling yoga practice certainly does not require a studio membership or even a mat, necessarily—indeed, during the school year I happily practice yoga alone in my room, either guiding myself through the asanas or following along with a free podcast provided by Jivamukti teacher Jessica Sage Stickler, since I can’t easily access a studio near campus without a car.

That’s yours truly in the bright blue tank top with the short brown hair at my hometown studio.

While I find that a solo practice does minimize distractions and eliminate any tendency of judgment or one-upmanship toward other yogis, it lacks a sense of community, of “We’re-in-this-together-even though-this-advanced-arm-balance”-ness, of powerful energy only generated by a room full of individuals united in a physical manifestation of peace. Not only can yoga studios provide a supportive group of oft like-minded people, they also play an integral role in developing the base of a safe and joyful yoga practice for newcomers, as well as in offering the advanced yogic knowledge (physical, mental, and spiritual) necessary for longtime yogis to continue to find excitement in their practice.

Returning to the notion of finding a new yoga studio after moving to a different area, I’ve shifted between three studios in the past year thanks to moves from my hometown of Madison, WI to Vassar College in New York, and from Vassar to my summer home of Washington D.C. Madison offers the heated, fast-paced intensity of Inner Fire, at which my love of yoga first blossomed; New York offers the deep spirituality, advanced physicality, and vegan philosophy of Jivamukti (though I don’t visit the studio as often as I’d like since it requires a two-hour train ride from Vassar to get there); and DC offers the unpretentiousness, activist-oriented programming of Yoga District.

Boasting six brightly sunlit, immensely welcoming studio spaces around DC, Yoga District features a variety of classes from beginner to advanced, vinyasa to kundalini, and yogalates to AcroYoga. The studio strives to render the innumerable benefits of yoga financially accessible to as many individuals as possible with its yoga work/study program, sliding scale fees, and donation-based classes, providing a refreshing reminder of yoga’s humble roots—an aspect of the practice so often forgotten in an age of $20 drop-in classes and expensive yoga gear advertised as necessary for a “proper” practice ($40 for a mat towel? No thanks).

Yoga District’s vision of spreading the yogic message of peace, health, and overall wellbeing to those who may not otherwise find the practice manifests itself no better than in the studio’s Yoga Activist program. A nonprofit that partners yoga teachers with social service organizations, Yoga Activist runs on the notion that “every being deserves the  holistic benefits of yoga as a practical tool of empowerment, self-soothing, self-healing, and coping.” Yoga Activist currently partners with organizations that support cancer survivors and patients, domestic violence survivors, eating disorder patients and survivors, homeless communities, communities affected by HIV/AIDS, prisons, seniors, trauma survivors, veterans, and youth—and they’re ever willing to partner with more.

Image courtesy of Yoga Activist.

I would consider the Yoga Activist program social justice outreach at its finest, since it provides an effective method by which largely disenfranchised groups can cultivate a sense of autonomy in a society that’s toxic cultural norms previously overpowered them—this program functions as the antithesis of a Band-Aid solution. Indeed, a 1980 social study by Michael Dillbeck found that “during periods when large-scale Transcendental Meditation groups numbering more than 1% of the population were holding regular meditation sessions, researchers did find a statistically significant reduction in the rate of fatalities resulting from automobile accidents, suicides, and homicides in the United States.” The phenomenon discovered from this study, known as the Maharishi Effect, helps to prove the societal value of spreading yoga and meditation practices well beyond the affluent group to which the modern, Westernized realm of yoga primarily caters. Thankfully, programs like Yoga Activist accomplish just that.

Image courtesy of Yoga Activist.

Not only does Yoga District engage in hugely beneficial community outreach, it also succeeds where so many yoga studios fall short of fully embracing the integral yogic tenet of ahimsa (nonviolence)—it advocates veganism. Unlike Jivamukti in NYC, Yoga District does not directly incorporate discussion of a vegan lifestyle into the inspirational prose offered by its teachers, but the studio outspokenly supports a vegan lifestyle in other manners. For example, at the beginning of the summer, Yoga District students had to pay a $100 membership fee in order to participate in the studio’s unlimited monthly yoga program (to my understanding, Yoga District does not require membership anymore). However, in the spirit of offering maximally accessible yoga, the studio waived the membership fee for students, non-profit workers, and vegans. The fact that Yoga District legitimizes a vegan lifestyle in such a manner further highlights the studio’s commitment to truly fostering a just, equitable society for all.

Additionally, the I Street location of Yoga District features an all-vegan, high-raw café known as District Tea Lodge on the studio’s lower level. The wood-paneled, warmly lit dining space features a long communal table; a bar with kombucha on tap, behind which the cafe’s friendly chefs prepare fresh, seasonal, organic, and hugely nourishing fare; and a case displaying a daily selection of raw desserts. While the café certainly lives up to its namesake, boasting a wide selection of handcrafted tea blends, District Tea Lodge also knows a thing or two about handcrafting wholesome vegan noms. A creamy, optionally green smoothie; a fruity chia pudding; a “big daily bowl” with whole grains, plant-based protein, greens, veggies, and dressing; and raw cookies and puddings always grace the District Tea Lodge menu, though the specifics of these dishes varies according to produce seasonality and availability.

Tea Lodge communal table.

Tea Lodge communal table.

My experience at District Tea Lodge happened to fall on the same weekend during which my parents visited me in DC, so I had the pleasure of enjoying the humble café with my dear mother. The “big daily bowl” that day featured quinoa, steamed tempeh, lightly cooked kale, sliced cucumber, and julienned beets and kohlrabi in a choice of dressing (my mother and I both chose the creamy tahini dressing, but they also offer Asian amino and apple cider vinegar & oil). While I’ve long adored the blissful simplicity of the vegan bowl, this one erred on the side of ersatz rather than pleasantly uncomplicated. The bowl certainly showcased the fresh crispness and bold flavor of each individual veggie, but with its unseasoned tempeh, a fairly scant drizzling of tahini dressing, and an oddly disproportionate amount of quinoa to veggies (one can only eat so much plain quinoa without becoming bored, after all), I found myself quite underwhelmed with the dish.

Big Daily Bowl

Big Daily Bowl

Other offerings that day included a raw almond hummus with sliced cucumbers, a raw tomato-basil bisque, and a kohlrabi slaw in a creamy sunflower seed-basil dressing—my mother and I opted to split the latter. The kohlrabi slaw proved much more dynamic and enjoyable than the bowl, highlighting the earthy brightness of the kohlrabi and beet batons, yet harboring enough dressing to provide interest and textural contrast.

Almond hummus with cucumbers.

Almond hummus with cucumbers.

Kohlrabi slaw.

Kohlrabi slaw.

Though perhaps the newly opened District Tea Lodge’s savory offerings require a bit of improvement, its selection of nourishing, wholesome raw sweets has already reached top quality. Equally as simple as the cafe’s savory fare yet much more satisfying and gastronomically captivating, District Tea Lodge’s daily dessert variety includes artfully prepared raw cookies, brownies, tarts, mousses, and chia puddings in dynamic yet familiar flavors. On the night of our visit, the café featured a mango pudding tart, a chocolate avocado mousse, a pecan brownie, and almond cookies with either cashew-chocolate or raspberry frosting. My mother and I partook in the first two options, reveling in the creamy, healthful decadence of our strawberry-topped dessert selections. While I harbor absolutely no qualms with the impeccable pudding-y portions of our desserts, the very small criticism that I must make regards the somewhat dry, crumbly texture of the mango tart’s crust—an issue easily remedied by a more thorough blending of nuts and dates in the food processor.

Raw dessert case.

Raw dessert case.

Mango tart.

Mango tart.

district tea lodge (1)

Chocolate mousse.

Relatively in keeping with Yoga District’s mission of affordability, District Tea Lodge’s fare proves quite inexpensive ($8 for a generously sized daily bowl, $3-5 for a side such as the almond hummus, and $4 for a dessert), especially when compared to most all other high-raw restaurants I’ve visited, as well as to other DC-area restaurants of the cafe’s caliber—the daily bowl closely parallels the cost of a Chipotle entrée, for goodness’ sake! District Tea Lodge’s teas, however, cost a much prettier penny: $5 for a single mug of tea. I do understand the expense, though, seeing as the café ethically sources the teas, herbs, and spices featured in its blends.

Needless to say, I’ve developed a close kinship with the Yoga District community, both with its yoga classes and teachers as well as its support of a vegan lifestyle. I’ll fondly remember my immensely positive experiences with the studio after returning to Vassar this upcoming weekend, and intend to return for a drop-in class if I ever find myself in the DC area again.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Woodland’s Vegan Bistro (formerly Everlasting Life Cafe)

Ask anyone familiar with the veg-friendly eatery scene in DC for restaurant recommendations and they’ll invariably mention two restaurants: Sticky Fingers Bakery (which I reviewed about a month ago) and Woodland’s Vegan Bistro. These two establishments have long reigned over DC’s veg restaurant kingdom, and any DC-area vegan, vegetarian, veg-curious folk, or person who enjoys eating fabulous food should prioritize patronizing both of them—perhaps three times each, if they and I share any commonalities.

As I’ve already introduced you, dear readers, to the delights of Sticky Fingers Bakery, I’ve reserved this post to discuss the delightfully unexpected fusion of comfort and health food known as Woodland’s Vegan Bistro. Formerly named Everlasting Life Café, Woodland’s specializes in 100% plant-based versions of traditional soul food dishes including barbeque seitan ribs, fried “fish” sandwiches, mashed maple sweet potatoes, smoky collard greens, and “the best mac & cheese I’ve ever eaten,” according to Katie, my fellow intern at Compassion Over Killing. While I’d definitely consider some of Woodland’s more novelty items (veggie country fried steak made of fried yuba skins, anyone?) as occasional treats rather than everyday fare, the restaurant also features a wide array of veggie-heavy prepared salads, green juices, wheatgrass shots, and fruit smoothies that more closely parallel my daily eating habits. Needless to say, Woodland’s eclectic blend of vegan noms will astound even the most skeptical of parents who insist upon their adult child’s veganism as a “phase,” as well as health-conscious folk who scoff at the term “too much kale.”

Woodland’s warm and inviting dining room.

Though I’ve become a die-hard fan of Woodland’s thanks in part to its deeply satisfying fare, the primary reason I ardently support the eatery comes with its success in rendering nourishing, compassionate food accessible to a community most often barred from making such choices. Located in an area of DC populated largely by people of color and low-socioeconomic status, Woodland’s offers a welcome alternative to the fast food joints and liquor stores littering this almost-food desert, providing healthful vegan options at affordable prices. Seeing that about 2.3 million Americans live more than one mile away from a grocery store and do not own a car, that wealthy districts boast three times as many supermarkets as do poor ones, that white neighborhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as do primarily black ones, and that the grocery stores in black communities usually lack an adequate selection of fresh produce, taking action against such atrocities to food access has become absolutely imperative, and Woodland’s has nobly done so. (Stop by the Food Empowerment Project’s website for more information on food justice issues.)

In food deserts, liquor stores often function as the only establishments at which residents can purchase food.

First introduced to Woodland’s by their booth at DC’s annual Capital Pride festival, I immediately fell head-over-heels in love with the restaurant’s sweet kale salad and sticky BBQ soy chick’n drumsticks. This preliminary sampling of Woodland’s cuisine ensured that I would venture to their brick-and-mortar establishment with my parents (now vegans of eight months) during the weekend they visited me in DC. Fast-forward a couple weeks, and my parents and I passed through the warmly hued, welcoming atmosphere of Woodland’s spacious dining room on our way to the eatery’s cafeteria-style food service area. Boasting a hot foods bar, a cold case of prepared salads, a sandwich-ordering station, a dessert display, a juice and smoothie bar, and a soft-serve ice cream machine, Woodland’s ready-to-order selection certainly does not skimp on variety or volume.

A glimpse of the hot foods bar.

A glimpse of the hot foods bar.

Beautifully colorful cold case of prepared salads.

Beautifully colorful cold case of prepared salads.

My father, the true southern boy he is,  positively swooned over the restaurant’s cornbread muffins and tender collard greens, while I struggled to refrain myself from breaking the glass of the cold case and stuffing my face into the dish of sweet kale salad. (You guys. I’m not kidding around. This kale salad=pure magic.) Meanwhile my mother, understandably overwhelmed by Woodland’s tantalizing array, heeded my recommendation of their famous baked mac & cheese.

My plate from bottom clockwise: sweet kale salad, chewy seaweed salad, curried tofu salad with bell peppers, brown rice.

My plate from bottom clockwise: sweet kale salad, chewy seaweed salad, curried tofu salad with bell peppers, brown rice.

My mother's plate from bottom clockwise: baked mac & cheese, smoky braised collard greens, spicy "live stir fry" with brassicas and carrots.

My mother’s plate from bottom clockwise: baked mac & cheese, smoky braised collard greens, spicy “live stir fry” with brassicas and carrots.

While undoubtedly scrumptious, the food at Woodland’s comes in hefty portions—one plate can easily provide two meals for a single person, thereby rendering Woodland’s fare even more cost-effective than do their already quite fair prices. So impressed with his meal of comforting favorites that harkened back to his childhood in Arkansas, my father eagerly purchased a pack of three homemade peanut butter cookies to maintain his energy during our full day of trekking around DC—please enjoy the comical picture of him and his beloved cookies below.

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I would encourage anyone in the DC area to sample the impressive fare at Woodland’s Vegan Bistro, and to support their endeavors to improve food access in their community. Woodland’s latest project, the Woodland’s Vegan Bistro To-Go food truck, launches TODAY! (Saturday, August 3) at the 2013 Mustock Festival in Lignum, VA, and plans from then on to serve the streets of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.

Woodland’s Vegan Bistro To-Go food truck.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Founding Farmers

While researching the veg-friendly restaurants in the DC area that I would have to visit over the summer, I came across sustainability-centric Founding Farmers on both HappyCow and VegDC. My deep adoration of the farmers market and all it represents (more on this in an upcoming blog post) initially attracted me to the fact that a nationwide group of farmers collectively owns the modern American eatery, as well as to the restaurant’s devotion to environmental sustainability. Moreover, I wholeheartedly appreciated the acknowledgement on FF’s website that “it isn’t always about ‘local’, or ‘organic’ — sure, when it makes sense, those are great things, but local doesn’t always means the smallest carbon footprint, and ‘organic’ can also refer to broccoli that comes from China.” Too often do advocates of farm-to-table cuisine ignore the fact that only purchasing food produced within their 20-mile radius does not always constitute the most environmentally friendly decision, failing to holistically consider the other energy-consuming aspects of food production unrelated to transportation.

Unfortunately, when I surveyed the FF menu, I discovered a barrage of bacon, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, meatloaf, chicken and waffles, steaks, and “sustainably caught or raised fish” (as if that even exists). Appalled by this veritable ode to all things meat and dairy, I sincerely questioned the decisions of both HappyCow & VegDC to award FF the title of “vegan-friendly,” even considering the generous (please sense my sarcasm) 4.2 percent of the menu that didn’t contain animal flesh and secretions. Clearly, FF (like a countless number of other farm-to-table establishments) neglects to acknowledge the environmental, ethical, and economical complications associated with small-scale, non-industrial animal agriculture, as well as the fact that all animal agriculture, regardless of size, poses “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale from global to local.” Their commitment to sustainability thus falls quite short of its potential range.

Of course, as an animal activist first and foremost, my grandest complain stems from FF’s claims of animal welfare: “Animals are treated humanely and respectfully and are well cared for. They are permitted to carry out their natural behaviors — such as grazing, rooting or pecking — and are fed a natural diet appropriate for their species.” Sound familiar? This harmless-sounding rhetoric parallels that of many other proponents of small-scale animal agriculture—individuals who recognize the egregious suffering endured by non-human animals on factory farms, yet, thanks to cultural carnistic conditioning, refuse to reject the notion of animal agriculture as necessary. However, the rhetoric lacks meaning. For example, FF touts the eggs they use as “cage-free,” which simply means that the hens laying said eggs live uncaged among up to thousands of other birds in barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. The cage-free label even permits forced molting. In regards to animal welfare, the meaninglessness of terms such as “free-range,” “small-scale,” and “family-owned” extends far beyond the mistreatment of chickens. Indeed, during a recent visit to the magnificent Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary, I received the intriguing information that every single one of the sanctuary’s nearly ten rescued cows came from so-called “small-scale family farms.”

Jason–an Angus steer rescued in 2000 who now lives at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary.

Even on farms that receive praise as employing the most humane of practices when raising animals for food, quite ethically questionable procedures take place. Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich offer a succinct summary of this idea in The Animal Activist’s Handbook:

“For example, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2007), Michael Pollan endorses eating animals from Polyface farm, where ‘animals can be animals,’ living, according to Pollan, true to their nature. But what is Polyface really like? Rabbits on the farm are kept in small suspended-wire cages. Chickens are crowded into mobile wire cages, confined without the ability to nest or the space to establish a pecking order. Pigs and cattle are shipped year-round in open trucks to conventional slaughterhouses. Seventy-two hours before their slaughter, birds are crated with seven other birds. After three days without food, they are grabbed by the feet, up-ended in metal cones, and, without any stunning, have their throats slit. This is the system Pollan proclaims praiseworthy. In the end, Polyface’s view is the same as Tyson’s—these individual [animals] are, ultimately, just meat to be sold for a profit.”

 

Not only does FF aid greatly in perpetuating the myth of humane practice and environmental sustainability surrounding small-scale, non-industrial animal agriculture, it also (no matter how unintentionally) alienates and delegitimizes its vegan customers who recognize and work to combat the carnistic system that allows the pervasiveness of such a myth. Upon arrival at the restaurant, I sensed rather awkward an unwelcome. The entrance foyer’s bookshelves featured literary titles that extoled the virtues of “humane meat,” such as Temple Grandin’s Humane Livestock Handling, immediately othering the restaurant goers attracted to the meatless section of FF’s menu. Actually, deeming it a “section” of the menu proves rather false, as customers must specifically request that their server bring them a separate meatless menu, as if to warn the FF staff of an outsider’s presence. The heading of the meatless menu reads “developed for those who enjoy true food,” but the fact that FF has relegated its’ vegan and vegetarian entrees to an entirely different menu implies that the restaurant does not regard these dishes as on par with their real notion of “true food.” The lack of hospitality FF displays to its vegan customers extends even to the silverware—every diner’s napkin encases an ivory-handled steak knife and a fork decorated with cattle brand designs. Needless to say, I harbored much wariness toward FF by the time our server appeared to take my family’s order.

Pickle jars in the FF entrance.

Pickle jars in the FF entrance.

Rather by default ordering the only two vegan items on the main menu as our appetizers, my mother, father (both vegans of almost eight months now!), and I began our meal with the Pickled Seasonal Vegetables and Johnny’s Nuts. Considering ourselves somewhat of pickle connoisseurs thanks to the pickle platter of daikon, kimchi, escabeche, beets, and sometimes even blueberries offered at Graze back in Madison, my father and I did not regard the standard dilly cucumbers and their one-note flavor as too impressive. However, my parents and I all quite enjoyed the crunchy-chewy-sweet-spicy combo offered by the roasted peanuts and golden raisins tossed with a BBQ spice mix.

Pickled Dilly Cucumbers.

Pickled Dilly Cucumbers.

Johnny's Nuts.

Johnny’s Nuts.

Daringly opting to modify one of the meat-centric main menu items, my mother ordered the Farmers Salad without parmesan cheese, looking forward to a fresh, texturally contrasting salad of baby lettuce, avocado, dates, tomatoes, red grapes, and almonds in a champagne vinaigrette. Upon hearing that my mother did not want cheese, the waiter informed her that the dressing may contain dairy, and proceeded to inquire, “Well, how vegan are you?” As the phenomenal ladies at Our Hen House discussed on a recent podcast episode, veganism explicitly denotes the avoidance of consuming, wearing, or in any way using animals in one’s daily life. There exists no “spectrum” of veganism that includes the “sometimes vegans,” “half-vegans,” and “vegan-before-6:00’s” of the world—one is either vegan, or they aren’t. Period. That our waiter committed this now-common fallacy further demonstrates FF’s unwillingness to understand or truly serve their vegan customers. Whatever, my mom liked the salad. They dressed it with olive oil and vinegar instead.

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My father and I both chose the Many Veg Meatloaf from the meatless menu as our entrée. A thick slab of veggie meatloaf slathered with wild mushroom gravy lay upon a pile of mashed potatoes, accompanied by a ketchup-y tomato-cider glaze and grilled broccolini, and topped with crispy fried onions. While the presentation promised an enjoyable dish, I found the meatloaf mushy and lacking in depth of flavor, the mashed potatoes oh-so dry and flavorless (I couldn’t even finish them, and that makes quite a statement considering my monumental appetite), and the broccolini vastly undercooked. The unctuous mushroom gravy, tangy tomato-cider glaze, and crispy fried onions saved the dish from complete failure, but only served as small portions of the entrée (besides, who could mess up deep-fried onions?).

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The halfheartedness with which the FF team composed this dish again spoke to their implicit feelings toward vegans—inconveniencing, illegitimate, and ideologically completely wrong. Reflected by the fact that sorbet (the most uncreative vegan dessert of all) served as FF’s only dessert in which my father would happily partake on his birthday, FF’s marginal, almost antagonistic consideration of vegan customers proves wildly tangible.

Lemon-Cassis Sorbet.

Lemon-Cassis Sorbet.

After hearing rave reviews of FF from various native Washingtonians and glimpsing a line out the restaurant’s door while walking by, I truly wanted to enjoy my experience at FF. However, as do vegans in many other daily interactions, I felt judged and belittled, even in this so-called “vegan-friendly” establishment. I often experience the most hostility from non-vegan proponents of the sustainable food movement—a phenomenon that confuses me immensely considering the fact that both the vegan and sustainable food movements seek to preserve the environment, improve the lives of animals, and foster healthy living through diet. Why must there exist such an enormous chasm between two ideologies that harbor the same goals at heart? I yearn for a dialogue—a truly thoughtful conversation during which to discuss the differing definitions of “humane,” the notion of animal agriculture as necessary, and environmental implications of raising animals for food. I know that my review of Founding Farmers may indeed read as a frustrated rant, but this is only because I sincerely feel that any chance for dialogue disappeared as soon as I set foot inside FF’s doors. I do hope, however, that FF and restaurants like it prove me wrong. Let’s talk, with an open mind, heart, and spirit.

Until next time, Ali.

DC Restaurant Exploration: Le Pain Quotidien

Though I haven’t featured a restaurant review on the ol’ blog for nearly a month, rest assured, dear readers, that I’ve engaged in some serious DC restaurant-perusing since recounting to you my enjoyable experience at Busboys and Poets. If you recall my list of veg-friendly DC eateries, perhaps the featured restaurant of this post, Le Pain Quotidien, won’t surprise you. Though not a part of my aforementioned list before I arrived in DC, Le Pain Quotidien became a desirable meal destination after I discovered its adorably rustic storefront while first exploring the neighborhood I’ve called home for nearly six weeks now.

Image courtesy of runinout.com

As a young Belgian chef who had worked at a number of highly esteemed restaurants, Alain Coumont fruitlessly sought the perfect bread to feature at his own establishment. Dissatisfied with the quality of bread available in Belgium, Alain decided to open a bakery rather than a restaurant as he had originally intended. The city of Brussels soon became ardent fans of Alain’s sourdough-style levain bread, inspiring the young chef to expand his bakery menu to include pastries, tartines, and simple salads. Today, Alain’s bakery-café has exploded with success, boasting over 185 locations in 17 countries, yet maintains its original integrity by offering simple, high-quality, organic, and wholesome food, as well as by supporting local charities in NYC and LA. Unfortunately, they also proudly sponsor an annual sheep-shearing festival in upstate NY, which I’m sure the sheep involved in the event would not appreciate. Perhaps if I had adequately researched the destinations of LPQ’s finances (as well as their ridiculously high prices, which I’ll cover later) before patronizing one of the DC locations, I would have chosen to enjoy dinner elsewhere.

Oblivious to these two downsides to LPQ, Katie, my fellow intern at Compassion Over Killing, and I ventured to the European-style eatery after a long, rewarding day of leafleting. After seating ourselves at a pleasantly unpolished wooden table and gushing over the fresh simplicity of the menu, impressively vegan-friendly for a European chain restaurant, Katie and I paged through Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook that lay upon one of the long communal tables on which LPQ prides itself.

Image courtesy of runinout.com

Our waitress delivered our dinner selections in a quite timely manner, which I will eternally appreciate considering the alarming volume of my stomach rumblings on this particular evening. Katie and I both began our meals with a salad of impeccably fresh mesclun, surprisingly flavorful tomatoes, crisp cucumber and radish slices, and a small wedge of juicy cantaloupe in an intensely herby vinaigrette.     le pain quotidienSoon after scarfing down our salads, Katie and I each received another colorful plate featuring our respective entrees. Katie opted for the six-vegetable vegan quiche—an almost mosaic-like layering of various vibrant veggies in a gluten-free buckwheat crust and topped with a grilled artichoke heart. While the savory tart packed a delightful punch of flavor, I can’t imagine that the miniscule slice on Katie’s plate adequately filled her hungry tummy. For $12.75, Katie should have received easily triple the amount of quiche than she actually did.

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For my entrée, I chose to partake in one of LPQ’s seasonal specials—a springtime platter of sweet pea hummus, beet tartare, peppery arugula dressed lightly with olive oil, fluffy quinoa, thinly shaved ribbons of carrot and zucchini, and French lentils, all served alongside two slices of LPQ’s famed levain bread. Every component of the dish tasted wonderfully fresh and burst with flavorful simplicity, while the moist sourdough bread provided the perfect vehicle on which to enjoy the spreads featured on the plate. I again, however, must complain about the amount of food I received in relation to the amount I paid for it. Relatively scant portions of each of the dish’s components cost me $13, whereas the infinitely more filling Tempeh Panini and side salad that I enjoyed at Busboys and Poets set me back only $9.

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Though already frustrated at LPQ’s arguably unfair prices, I awarded priority to my still unresolved hunger over my miserliness and ordered two desserts to split with Katie. Surprisingly, LPQ offers a couple of dairy-and-egg-free pastries alongside their more traditional European baked goods, including an apple cannelé, a hazelnut flute, and a cupcake-sized carrot cake. Katie and I opted to sample the carrot cake—a dense yet moist cylinder of not-overly-saccharine cake flecked with brightly orange shreds of carrots and plump raisins, lightly frosted and sprinkled with sunflower seeds.

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Only a scoop of ice cream could have improved the carrot cake, though the creaminess of our second dessert certainly provided adequate contrast to the dense cake. Though listed with the other breakfast items, the “crunola” parfait provided a quite delightful conclusion to our meal. A sweetly tart mash of magenta-hued raspberries layered atop a raw granola of buckwheat, almonds, and raisins begged for Katie and I to mix it into the thick blend of bananas and coconut milk swimming at the bottom of the parfait glass. I quite enjoyed that LPQ didn’t fully puree the bananas and coconut milk together, maintaining a couple lovely chunks of banana in the dessert.

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All in all, I happily savored LPQ’s fresh, light, and simple fare, but don’t plan on returning to the eatery in the near future due to its stingy portion sizes and astronomically high prices; indeed, I spent nearly $30 on a meal that just barely filled my growling belly. Lesson learned: don’t trust the Europeans (JUST KIDDING!).

Next up on my DC restaurant exploration list: Founding Farmers.

Until next time, Ali.

The 2013 National Animal Rights Conference

Last Thursday, June 27 marked the onset of the four-day animal advocacy extravaganza known as the Animal Rights National Conference. Organized annually by Farm Animal Rights Movement, the 32-year-old AR Conference unites passionate vegans, activists, and leaders of the animal rights movement for an extended weekend of educational workshops, discussion sections, networking opportunities, and eye-opening glimpses into the inner workings of the AR movement. As an intern for Compassion Over Killing, a sponsor of the event, I had the immense privilege of attending the 2013 AR Conference for the infinitesimal (and quite enjoyable) price of staffing the COK table for a couple of hours. I found it profoundly rejuvenating to reunite with some of the truly wonderful individuals whom I’ve already met since plunging headfirst into the AR movement, as well as to become newly acquainted with a whole host of others, including those whom I’ve long deeply admired—Colleen Holland of VegNews, pattrice jones of VINE Sanctuary, and Melanie Joy of the Carnism Action and Awareness Network (CAAN), for example.

Manning the COK table.

Staffing the COK table.

COK sold t-shirts, Sticky Fingers baked goods, & the Vegg at the conference.

COK sold t-shirts, Sticky Fingers baked goods, & the Vegg at the conference.

However, I also noticed some quite troubling aspects of the conference that speak to a lack of awareness about intersectionality in the larger AR movement: 1.) The fact that prominent members of the AR community couldn’t attend the conference because of the high financial cost (privileging of the wealthy). 2.) The fact that I couldn’t have spied more than two Black or Latino individuals during the entire duration of the conference (privileging of the white). 3.) The fact that the comedic interlude of Saturday night’s banquet boasted a largely unquestioned and problematically well-received marginalization of the LGBTQ community (privileging of the heterosexual). 4.) The fact that some organizations feel comfortable playing directly into gender norms with their advertising and outreach materials because of its supposed efficacy (privileging of males). 5.) The fact that the conference provided the opportunity for formal discussion of these issues with a mere 50-minute panel presentation crammed into the smallest workshop room available (privileging of the…already privileged?).

Thankfully, the hugely complex and ongoing discussion of privilege did not prove entirely absent from the conference. The aforementioned panel presentation—entitled Commonalities of Oppression and easily the most valuable, thought-provoking presentation of the entire weekend, in my opinion—featured Baruch Ben-Yahuda of Everlasting Life Café, Lisa Kemmerer of “Sister Species,” and pattrice jones of VINE Sanctuary. Ben-Yahuda spoke of his mission with Everlasting Life Café to bring healthy vegan food into impoverished communities so as to combat the fast food-pharmaceutical alliances that perpetuate poverty by rendering unhealthy food easily accessible. Kemmerer insisted upon dualism’s role at the root of social inequalities (black vs. white, male vs. female, straight vs. gay, etc.), and offered the fabulous quote, “Eating meat is something you do to somebody else’s body without their consent.” Finally, jones bravely broached the uncomfortable yet urgent topic of structural racism and sexism within the animal rights movement, urging the audience to educate themselves on the intersectionalities between animal rights and other social justice movements; after all, we can most effectively combat all oppressions when we work at these intersections. Along with these three speakers, The Sparrow Project gave nod to the necessary questioning of privilege with the fabulous t-shirt pictured below, now a treasured item in my wardrobe, and the National Museum of Animals and Society featured their “Uncooped” exhibit, which in part examines the patriarchal language that draws parallels between women and chickens.

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Part of the NMAS' "Uncooped" exhibit.

Part of the NMAS’ “Uncooped” exhibit.

Though I may have until now painted the conference as a spectacle of privilege and problems, I did find the event highly educational in terms of optimizing the efficacy of individual and organizational animal advocacy, as well as illuminating in terms of the valuable role that welfare campaigns play in advancing the ultimate abolitionist goal of animal liberation (perhaps more on the convoluted dichotomy between welfarist and abolitionist approaches to animal rights in a later post). Below you’ll find a summary in list form of the panel presentations I attended and the highlights from each of them.

  • Lessons from Companion Campaigns: Scoutlund Haisley of Animal Rescue Corps explained that rather than defining companion animal shelters as either “kill” or “no-kill,” we should denote them in terms of their municipal or private funding. Neither “kill” or “no-kill” shelters prove inherently more or less humane than the other; rather, the welfare of the animals primarily depends upon the vision and efficacy of the shelter, which varies considerably between municipal and private shelters.
  • Understanding the Mentality Behind Eating Animals: After touching upon the main points of her fabulous book, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows,” Dr. Melanie Joy explained how animal advocates can most effectively “transform denial into awareness” by creating a non-threatening environment in which to engage in discussion with the huge number of individuals who fall victim to the hidden ideology of carnism. She extolled the virtues of sharing our own stories of discovering the truth behind our veganism, finding common ground with those whom we engage, and avoiding both reductive (“that person eats animals so they’re a bad person”) and “all-or-nothing” (“if you don’t go vegan, you’re not making a difference at all”) thinking.
  • Personal Advocacy: Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary provided the top five tips for fostering the most effective personal advocacy possible. 1.) Confront negative interactions with kindness; after all, we can catch more flies with agave than with vinegar. 2.) Don’t relegate veganism to a “personal choice” when explaining your reasons behind adopting a vegan lifestyle. 3.) Look similar to those with whom you seek to interact, since people will more likely trust you the more you look like them. 4.) Plaster your every belonging with vegan messages in the form of bumper stickers & messages tees. 5.) Channel Socrates by asking questions instead of lecturing at people.
  • Lessons Learned from Agricultural Campaigns: pattrice jones again spoke with profound insight about capitalism’s integral role in fostering the “happy meat” movement, a clever ploy by animal ag to encourage consumers to pay more for animal flesh and secretions by making them feel good about doing so.
  • What About Abolition and Welfare?: This debate between so-called “welfarist” Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary and Gary Francione of the Abolitionist Approach attempted to further examine the most effective tactical approach behind creating a just world for non-human animals. While Francione vehemently disagreed with the current trajectory of the animal rights movement, which he believes focuses on reducing rather than eliminating suffering, Friedrich argued that not supporting welfare reforms such as phasing out gestation crates proves speciesist since doing so does not adequately consider the interest of the animals currently suffering on factory farms. Friedrich also noted that the major animal advocacy organizations devote the vast majority of their time and energy to promoting veganism, not to supporting welfare reforms.
  • The Science of Animal Advocacy: Nick Cooney, author of the activist must-read “Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change,” explained the necessity of implementing conclusions from studies of behavioral science in animal advocacy. Some of Cooney’s main take-aways from his extensive research on behavioral studies include the efficacy of encouraging change that seems significant yet doable, making people think that everyone is engaging in a certain desired behavior, and focusing on educating people about how to go vegan rather than why to go vegan.

Though a whirlwind of emotions, contemplations, and never-ending schmoozing, the 2013 Animal Rights Conference proved a hugely valuable experience that I hope to have annually for years to come. Until next year’s event, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any and all of the topics I mentioned in today’s post.

Until next time, Ali.