Monday, March 27, 2017

6 Ways to Distribute Vegan/Animal Rights Literature (besides leafleting)

Leafleting is a good way to get the vegan/animal rights message to people who otherwise might not see it. However, to those vegans who might not want to stand on a street corner and hand out literature to strangers, there are still other ways you can spread vegan/animal rights literature! Here are some ideas:

1. Place some brochures for your local vegan association, or some Vegan Starter Kit booklets, in the rack of free magazines and newspapers at your local grocery store. When people are grocery shopping, they are already thinking about food, and will probably be more likely to pick up a vegan starter guide than they would be at other times.
2. Place some leaflets, booklets, or brochures around your school or at your workplace.
3. Go to your local health food stores, eco-friendly stores, and other like-minded shops and ask if they will set out brochures for your local vegan association at the cash register. Now that veganism is becoming increasingly mainstream, you may find them very willing—or even eager—to see your literature!
4. Stop by the local library or community centre and ask if they will set out the literature.
5. Put up “Go Vegan” posters on telephone poles around your city.
6. Bring booklets, leaflets, and other literature with you when you go out—you never know when you’ll run into someone who might want some vegan/animal rights information!
PETA's Vegan Starter Kits can be ordered for free by activists who wish to distribute them. Just e-mail PETA to let them know how many you'd like, and they are likely to send you the amount you want!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ten Things You Can Do To Help Animals Today

  1. Print out posters advocating for veganism, and put them up on telephone poles and public bulletin boards around your city or University campus. Make sure to be aware of your local postering laws first! You can find printable posters online, or make your own, or order some for free from an animal rights organization.*
  2. Order some leaflets promoting veganism* (or print them off your computer-- have you seen the ones I've designed?). Once you have your leaflets, hand them out to passersby on a busy street corner!
  3. Write a letter to a local grocery store, restaurant, or cafeteria asking them for more vegan options. Remember to give them specific examples of vegan foods that will be used instead of animal products! One thing you could ask for is the new VeganEgg, for example.
  4. Bake vegan treats and give them to your co-workers, classmates, friends, and/or family. Don't forget to tell them that it's vegan!
  5. Order some animal rights stickers to stick on your laptop, wallet, or water bottle.* When you take these items into a public place, people who see them will be reminded of the animal rights and vegan ethic.
  6. Write a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed on a recent vegan-related or animal-related issue, particularly if it's something about which the newspaper has recently published a story. Even if your letter doesn't get published, the newspaper staff will still see it and may be influenced by your message in some way.
  7. Get some sidewalk chalk and write pro-vegan messages on the pavement outside (in places where it's legal to do so, of course). Bonus: if you take a photograph of your chalk creation, you can send it in to Vegan Chalk Challenge and they'll post it on their Facebook Page!
  8. Put together a little booklet of your favourite vegan recipes to give to family and friends. Alternatively, you could make the recipes into an e-book, and then send the e-book to people by e-mail and/or post it on Facebook! Bonus: include photographs of the foods in your booklet!
  9. Send a nice note or e-mail to your favourite vegan activists to thank them for the work they do. A thank-you letter can really make someone's day, and encourage them to keep working for animal rights.
  10. The ideas I've given above are just a few ways to inject some activism into your everyday life, but there are also more long-term projects that you can do to help animals. If you have the time and energy for long-term activist projects, why not take some time out of your day today to brainstorm about how to combine your talents, skills, and interests for animal rights? For example, you may wish to start a blog, host a podcast, give presentations at local schools, write a book, start a vegan business or organization, or run vegan cooking classes.

* PETA sends free literature out to activist in North America. Their literature can be seen in their online store. Just send them an e-mail and tell them how many of which materials you'd like, and they will most likely send them to you for free! I'm not a fan of PETA, but some of their literature can be useful to activists, especially since they send it to you for free. I'd recommend their Vegan Starter Kits in particular; in terms of posters, they have these ones; and here are some stickers (for students, for kids, and for everyone) that you could order!
If you'd rather avoid using materials from PETA or if you live outside of North America, there are other organizations that send out free literature in some parts of the world. I prefer PETA's Vegan Starter Kits because they advocate for veganism (and not "flexitarianism"), and because their Vegan Starter Kits are so comprehensive and colourful.

If you're really keen to dive into animal rights activism, you could try doing one of these things every day for ten days! Or, just pick and choose from this list whichever activities you'd like to try. Thank you for working to create a kinder, and more just, world.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Animal Rights and Vegan Conferences!

Every year, several conferences and events for vegan/animal rights activists take place across North America and around the world. These events can provide a forum for activists to network, learn about issues and advocacy strategies, and be inspired to make a difference! Below is a list of some of the animal-rights-related conferences that will be held in 2017. Please note that this is not a complete list, and, as I haven’t been to any of these events in previous years, I can’t say which ones are the best/most worthwhile to attend!

Animal Rights National Conference 2017: According to this conference’s website, the Animal Rights National Conference is the largest and longest-running animal rights gathering—the first one was held in 1981! It is organized by the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). If you can go to only one conference this year, consider making this the one you go to. Here’s what they say you can expect:

The Animal Rights National Conference is designed for people who wish to improve their animal advocacy skills or simply to network with other animal activists. The Conference offers a number of educational and networking opportunities, including:
  • Sessions on animal advocacy, organizing, tactics, and issues
  • More than 100 speakers from 60 organizations
  • Eyewitness reports on key campaigns
  • 100+ free exhibits
  • Video premieres
  • Newcomer Orientation
  • Nightly networking receptions
  • Awards Banquet on Saturday evening
  • Closing celebration on Sunday evening
  • Post-conference protests on Monday”
When: August 3 – 6
Where: Alexandria, Vermont (just outside of Washington, DC), USA

Vegetarian SummerFest 2017: This is an annual vegan festival and conference. The 2016 conference was jam-packed with world-renowned vegan speakers, cooking classes, fitness classes, vendors, and more!
When: July 5-9, 2017
Where: last year it took place in Pennsylvania.


 
 
International Animal Rights Conference: This conference took place in Luxembourg in September 2016. Their website does not yet mention if there is going to be a 2017 conference, but I speculate it is likely that there will be, as they have had six of these conferences to date.

International Animal Rights Conference 2016 in Luxembourg

 

Conscious Eating 2017 Conference: This conference, hosted by United Poultry Concerns and Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy, will focus on the ethics of eating and the role that religions play in the issue of animal liberation.
When: Saturday, March 11, 2017, 10am-6pm
Where: Berkeley, California, USA
Cost: $15/person (free for students)


The Anti-Fur Society Vegan Conference: This conference is focused on promoting vegan alternatives to fur in clothing.
When: Saturday, April 8, 2017
Where: Manhattan, New York, USA

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine "Food For Life" Training: Interested in getting certified by PCRM to teach healthy vegan cooking in your community? Anyone interested in this can register to attend the next training! This isn't a conference, but I've included it because vegan activists may be interested in it anyway.
When: Wednesday, May 3 - Friday, May 5, 2017
Where: Washington, DC, USA


 
Your local VegFest: Don't forget to find out when your local VegFest will be taking place this year!

There's also:
There is also an animal welfare conference taking place in Ottawa, ON, Canada in 2017. It doesn't look like it's related to animal rights at all, but if you live in Ottawa, it might be good to bring your vegan voice to that conference, to raise awareness! 

The events that I've listed above are the ones that I believe are the most relevant, but you can find a list of some other events at All-Creatures.org, and a list of some major vegan festivals at Vegan.com.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February Issue of "alive" Magazine is About Being Vegan!

Alive magazine is a Canadian magazine that is supported in part by the Natural Health Products industry. It is available for free in health food stores across Canada, and I used to read it.

I stopped reading alive magazine about a year ago, as I found it disturbing that they had so many animal products in their recipes.

However, today I went to my local health food store and saw the latest issue of alive on the counter. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this month's issue of alive is all about "Being Vegan"! The Guest Editor is Brendan Brazier, a vegan Ironman triathlete, author, and co-founder of the "Vega" health products. And so, for the first time in about a year, I picked up a new copy of the magazine.

Unfortunately, there are still non-vegan advertisements in this issue of the magazine, and I am not going to go back to reading their magazine on a regular basis unless they stop including dead animals in their recipes, but I find it heartening to see that veganism is entering the mainstream more and more.

This issue has tips about vegan substitutions when baking, provides lots of vegan recipes, and includes stories about vegans.


Keep speaking up for the animals, everyone-- I think the logic of veganism is being heard with a greater intensity every year. :)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Veganism in Politics-- Britain's new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism

Good news-- in the UK, an "All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism" has been formed. This group will be made up of politicians from various UK political parties, and it will aim to promote legislative change that will have a positive impact for vegetarians, vegans, and the issues that matter to us (which may include "food and medicine labelling, vegetarianism and veganism as protected beliefs, impact of diet on climate change, and institutional catering provisions", according to the group's website,).

Photo from the Vegan Society's website.
The Vegan Society, the Vegetarian Society, and Vegetarian for Life are collaborating to form this group. The groups has four "Officers": Christina Rees (Labour MP), Kerry McCarthy (Labour MP), Henry Smith (Conservative MP) and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Green Party Peer).

I don't know whether all the Officers of the group are vegan or not, but I do know that Labour MP Kerry McCarthy is vegan, according to The Vegan Option podcast (see link below).

According to the Vegan Society,
"The APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism will be a great platform for discussion and learning, with the aim of encouraging legislation change.
This will be a forum for exchanging ideas and concerns relating to vegan and vegetarian issues. Speakers will be present at each of the quarterly meetings, providing an insight to their various expertise. Experts, leaders in their fields and parliamentarians are all welcome to join."
As the Vegan Society mentions, "The APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism is an important opportunity to get veganism on the political agenda."

I think that it's extremely important for veganism to be acknowledged in political forums. If we want to create a world in which all animals are free from abuse and exploitation, it's important for veganism and animal rights to enter all major areas of society, including (but not limited to) popular culture, industry, media, commerce, law, education, and, indeed, politics.

I'm glad that this group plans to put a focus on veganism, rather than farm animal "welfare" reforms. Although I respect my fellow vegan activists who take a "welfarist" approach to farmed animals, I never spend my time advocating for farmed animal "welfare" reforms. The problem with simply enacting more farmed animal "welfare" reforms (such as putting chickens in bigger cages, etc.) is that "welfare" reforms don't work to eradicate the underlying exploitation of the animals, and they often don't translate into a big change for the animals, anyway. Rather than encouraging people to go vegan and therefore stop the inherent cruelty of exploiting and killing our fellow sentient beings, arguing for farmed animal welfare reforms is ignoring the fact that exploiting and killing animals is fundamentally wrong. Although I would never advocate against farmed animal welfare reforms, I believe we can save more of these animals and transition to a vegan world faster if we focus our energies on veganism and animal rights. I hope, therefore, that this group will keep the focus on vegans/vegetarians and veganism.

If you're interested in learning more about vegan politicians and how veganism has begun to make its way into the political realm, The Vegan Option podcast has a three-part series called "Veganism in Politics". Part 1 includes interviews with some vegan or vegetarian MPs from Britian, the US, and India who were in office at the time the episode was recorded. Part 2 has a Q & A with three vegan British MPs, and Part 3 is the recording of a debate in the British House of Parliament on World Vegan Day. You can also read about two more vegan politicians in a blog post on The Vegan Option's website here.

If you are a member of the British public and would like to attend the first meeting of the APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism, you can RSVP on the group's website. If I lived in Britain, I would be very keen to go!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fixing the Problems on Canada's Food Guide

Some of you may remember the blog post I wrote for the NCVA blog a little while ago, on teaching kids about healthy vegan nutrition. In that post, I mentioned how the dietary recommendations of Canada's Food Guide were influenced by the dairy, meat, and egg industries, according to this CBC article. For example, the 2003 version of the Food Guide was revised by a panel that included food industry lobby groups. More shockingly, when the 1992 revision of Canada’s Food Guide was released, the meat, dairy, and egg industries successfully lobbied the government to increase the recommended number of servings of these products, according to the CBC article. You can see the effect that these lobby groups had on the government-endorsed dietary recommendations in the article "Canada's Food Guides from 1942 to 1992" on the Government of Canada's website-- in 1982, the Food Guide had 2 servings of "Meat and Alternatives" and 2 servings of "Milk"; but in 1992, these numbers increased to 2-3 servings of "Meat and alternatives" and 2-4 servings of "Milk". These new, increased recommendations continue to exist on the most recent Food Guide to date.

Canada's current Food Guide consists of four food groups: Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. In school, children are taught that the recommendations on the Food Guide comprise the fundamentals of a healthy diet. Growing up, I, too, assumed that the Food Guide was based upon scientific fact. More recently, however, science has been finding something different: meat, dairy, and eggs actually increase the risk of many chronic diseases, while a vegan diet is a very healthy way to eat and can prevent certain diseases.

Although many vegan activists are already spreading the message about the healthfulness of veganism, it isn't just activists who are willing to point out the health benefits of an animal-free diet. Here are some statements on veganism and plant-based diets from just a few high-profile organizations around the world:

  • Dietitians of Canada: "A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer."
  • American Dietetic Association: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
  • World Health Organization:
    • "Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
    • The WHO has declared some types of meats to be Group 1 carcinogens (right up there with cigarette smoking) and Group 2 carcinogens.
  • According to a study conducted by students at the University of Oxford, if the world went vegan, millions of human lives would also be saved due to dramatic reduction in the incidence of chronic disease: "A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (US)... ...They found that adopting diets in line with global dietary guidelines could avoid 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050. Even greater benefits could come from vegetarian diets (avoiding 7.3 million deaths) and vegan diets (avoiding 8.1 million deaths)."
  • British Dietetic Associaton: "Well planned vegetarian diets [including vegan diets, which they mentioned as a form of vegetarianism] can be nutritious and healthy. They are associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels."
  • United Nations Environment Programme: "A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products." (Found on page 82 of this document, or page 84 of the PDF)
Based in the United States, an organization of medical professionals called the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine more actively promotes a vegan diet as a way to prevent and reverse chronic disease. They've devised a new food guide made up of "The New Four Food Groups", which include Fruit, Vegetables, Legumes, and Whole Grains.

Click on the image to see it in full-size!



When one combines the health, environmental, humanitarian, and, of course, animal-related reasons to live vegan, it becomes obvious that the government ought to start supporting it, too!

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, Health Canada is now working on its next revision of Canada's Food Guide. From October 24, 2016 to December 8, 2016, Health Canada is holding an online public consultation on the Food Guide to get the public's input; all Canadians are welcome to submit their opinions through the Government of Canada's website.

In Mid-2017, the government will present a revised version of the Food Guide to the public, at which time Canadians will have another opportunity to provide their feedback on the revisions. After that, the new materials will be published.

I've already completed the questionnaire. On one page of the questionnaire, I was asked whether I find the current four food groupings in the Canada Food Guide helpful. I clicked "no", and then a box came up asking, "Why do you say that?"

Here was my response:

"I don't bother using the Food Guide, because the current recommendations simply doesn't apply to vegans like myself. The Food Guides' current food groupings are actually promoting ill health among Canadians. Furthermore, the current Four Food Groups are not at all accommodating for vegans and others who follow a dairy-free diet.
Dairy is not essential to the human diet. Although it is the perfect food for baby cows, it simply was not designed for human consumption. Some may claim that dairy is healthful because it contains calcium and protein, but the fact is, there are plenty of healthier plant-based sources of protein and calcium available. According to the Dieticians of Canada, calcium can be found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, fortified soy products, tahini (sesame seed butter), and many more vegan foods; protein can be obtained from soy products, beans, grains, nuts, and nut butters, to name a few.
According to the Dieticians of Canada, “A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.” (Source: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vegetarian-Diets/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx)
I would like to propose 4 new food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes/Nuts. The latter category combines the current two food groups of “Dairy and Alternatives” and “Meat and Alternatives” into an overall “Plant-based Protein” food group. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization of medical doctors in the United States, also promotes this idea (Source: http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vsk/vegetarian-starter-kit-new-four-food-groups).

I hope that Health Canada can start promoting healthy eating in the ways I’ve mentioned above. I also hope that Health Canada can specifically mention the word “veganism” as a healthy diet on the Food Guide itself."

I also gave more information, such as statistics on the environmental benefits of veganism, in response to another one of their questions.

In addition, one thing that Health Canada seems to be focusing on in this revision of the Food Guide is reducing sugar consumption. If you are going to be filling out this survey, you may wish to point out that dairy products are actually quite high in sugar-- for example, there are 13g of sugar in one cup of 1% M.F. cow's milk. It is a good idea to focus on the health and environmental benefits of veganism in your response, because the government is more likely to be interested in those things than animal rights (although animal rights is extremely important, of course!). That being said, don't hesitate to voice your ethical views about veganism, either-- if Health Canada is aware that people are vegan for ethical reasons, they may be more likely to accommodate vegans in their next version of the food guide.

If you believe that veganism should be better represented and promoted on the Food Guide, please consider taking a few minutes out of your day to fill out the questionnaire. Feel free to copy and paste the quotations from the organizations I've listed above in your responses.

Thank you for believing that we can create a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable world.

Printable Vegan Environmental Brochures!

Hi everyone!

I've created some more brochures that promote veganism; these ones have a focus on the environment this time. Please feel free to print them and give them out to your environmentally-conscious friends, and/or hand them out while leafleting at environmental events!

The brochures can be downloaded (for free, of course) here.

Photo Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals