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Alongside the growing popularity of backyard chickens and rabbits comes the horror of mobile slaughterhouses, which kill and butcher animals in local communities. These rolling torture units help make small-scale breeding and local animal agriculture viable by offering backdoor “meat processing.”

“Mobile slaughter trucks bring the sounds and smells of animals suffering and dying, disease, scavenger animals and the high risk of contamination to our creeks and land,” says Marcy Berman, founder of SaveABunny, a Marin County nonprofit that rescues and rehomes rabbits. Berman says Marin County is on the verge of allowing mobile slaughtering units, and she’s leading a campaign to get the proposal scrapped.

Image courtesy of the Rabbit Advocacy Network

Image courtesy of the Rabbit Advocacy Network

“Even if a rabbit is cared for decently in a meat-breeding operation, there is no guarantee that they will be killed in a humane manner,” she says. “Simply because rabbits can survive in a small cage, rabbits are classified by the FDA as poultry. As such, they can—and are—slaughtered alive. Screaming in terror and in great pain, they are skinned and eviscerated while conscious.”

Berman says that the proposal to allow mobile slaughter trucks is offensive not only because of the cruelty to animals, but because of the unacceptable costs and risks for public and private animal service organizations, for public health, and for the environment.

What You Can Do:

1. Sign and Share the Petition

2. Attend the Meeting. If you are local to Marin County, please try to attend the County Planning Workshop on Monday, November 28, and speak out.

Marin County Planning Workshop – Monday, November 28, 1:00pm
Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Dr, Suite 328
San Rafael, CA

3. Send Letters and Emails. See this link for sample wording. Please be polite in your communication. Send to:

Marin County Community Development Agency Planning
3501 Civic Center Dr, Suite 308
San Rafael, California 94903

Brian Crawford, Director of Community Development Agency

Jeremy Tejirian, Planning Manager

The Marin County Board of Supervisors:

Supervisor Damon Connolly

Supervisor Katie Rice

Supervisor Kathrin (note spelling) Sears

Supervisor Steve Kinsey

Supervisor Judy Arnold


Thank you!!



Last weekend I had the privilege* of attending the People of Color: Animal Rights, Advocacy and Food Justice Conference atcovac the California State University‒Northridge (CSUN) campus in Los Angeles. The event’s organizer, Coalition of Vegan Activists of Color (COVAC), billed this as a first-of-its-kind conference in Southern California, and considering how white-centric most vegan and animal rights events are, this is both sad and encouraging.

One of the aspects of the conference I really appreciated was that all the presentations were consecutive, so attendees weren’t left having to decide between two or three speakers they really wanted to hear.

Every speaker was a person of color, and the issues they addressed ranged from food as a tool to social change to the very language we use in our activism. The day was long and the presentations in-depth, so I won’t go into a deep dive here, but I will offer a brief summary of this important activism event.

David Carter discusses veganism, activism, and health.

David Carter discusses veganism, activism, and health.

The day kicked off with a panel of three vegan athletes—former NFL defensive-end-turned-activist David Carter, professional bodybuilder Torre Washington, and triathlete Dominick Thompson—all of whom debunked many of the health myths surrounding veganism and spoke about the role compassion plays in their lives.

Sarah Woodcock, founder of The Advocacy of Veganism Society, followed with an examination of what veganism means, and she discussed intersectionality, suggesting that one way to support the Black Lives Matter movement is to stop saying “All lives matter,” however well-intentioned you may be. Not surprisingly, this got an enthusiastic response from attendees.

Next up was a presentation by lauren Ornelas (full disclosure: my partner), who founded Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) nine years ago in part to bring together many of the issues discussed at the conference: animal rights, human rights, veganism, and the environment. lauren spoke about access to healthy foods in communities of color and low-income communities. She often reminds people that just because something is vegan, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cruelty-free, and she drove this point home, saying, “We can’t say we have a compassionate diet if we know humans are suffering for what we eat.”shameonsafeway

She also discussed F.E.P.’s new campaign against Safeway, a company that often blocks other grocery stores from moving into their former locations when they move out of a building, thus limiting a community’s access to healthy foods. (See more details and sign the petition here.)

A presentation by Chema Hernández Gil of San Francisco Rising followed. Chema addressed how colonization has worsened the diet of Indigenous peoples in Mexico and Central America. He explained, for example, that corn tortillas are a heritage food for Meso-Americans, and that because of how tortillas were traditionally created by hand with limewater, they have been the main source of calcium. With tortilla production now industrialized, however, and corn coming from the U.S., this food is no longer as nutritious.

Linda Alvarez, assistant professor in the Central American Studies Department at CSUN and a co-organizer of the conference, talked about her interviews with Central American workers in the U.S. food system. This was a deeply moving presentation, as many of the people she’s spoken with work in slaughterhouses. None of them enjoy this work, she said; they are only there because the violent conditions in their home countries forced them to flee to the United States. They are doing work few will do just so they can support their families. Linda characterized these people as refugees who left home in fear for their lives.

I really enjoyed the next segment, presented by Brenda Sanders, executive director of Better Health, Better Life. Brenda—who is also the co-creator of Vegan SoulFest, an annual celebration of culture and the vegan lifestyle in Baltimore City—spoke about how white activists can be better allies to activists of color. One of the mistakes some activists make, she said, is to take their activism into a new community and try to tell members of that community what they should or should not be doing. You’re more likely to have success in your own community, she said, where you are known and trusted.

Brenda Sanders gives a shout-out to Aph Ko and Black Vegans Rock.

Brenda Sanders gives a shout-out to Aph Ko and Black Vegans Rock.

She also stressed the importance of only using delicious food in your outreach. Brenda brought a lot of humor to her talk, which everyone appreciated.

Next was a short documentary, Vegan Noir: Black Vegans in Los Angeles, which focuses on different perspectives of veganism via several Black vegans who live in Southern California. The film was followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker, Toni Bell, and Liz Ross, who appears in the film and is founder of COVAC and co-organizer of the event.

AshEL Seasunz Eldridge, founder of The Urban Farmacy and coordinator at Hip Hop Green Dinners – the 10th Element of Hip Hop in Oakland, brought his usual charm to the event. Hip hop performing artist, writer, emcee, music producer, teacher, and entrepreneur, AshEL is a multi-talented activist who began his presentation by chanting a beautiful Shinto purification prayer called Amatsu Norigoto.

He talked about Kujichagulia (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah), which is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa and celebrates African heritage. It’s about self-determination, he explained, and it creates a focus on creating solutions rather than complaining about what doesn’t work. “When we focus more on solutions than the problems, we are less distracted and frustrated and more confident and on path with our purpose,” he says.

He also talked about the Hip Hop Green Dinners he helps organize, which blend entertainment with free vegan meals, and he showed his music video Food Fight, which attendees loved.

The final presentation, called The Hood Food Movement, featured Eugene Cooke, veganic urban farmer and founder of Grow Where You Are. He gave a truly inspiring talk about the power of food and reconnecting with the environment. The soles on our shoes insulate us from the earth, he said, suggesting that we take the time to occasionally feel the grass under our feet and the resulting vibrations through our bodies. With photos from the Standing Rock pipeline protest behind him, he asked, “Why is Standing Rock so important? Because we aren’t doing it. They are. If we don’t value the land, we can forget about any movement we think we have.” Eugene said, “I got my mind blown and my heart washed” by all the amazing folks who came together at the event.

Liz and Linda then took to the podium to say that each conference will recognize a leader in the activist community and honor them with an award. The inaugural honoree of this Leadership Award was lauren Ornelas, who in her thank-you speech spoke about the foundations of Food Empowerment Project and the importance of supporting grassroots groups.

David Carter wrapped up the day with a very brief keynote, and then Linda and Liz ended the conference by saying they will be organizing another one—after a well-deserved rest.

It is beyond the scope of this modest blog to give this event the full attention it deserves. I merely wanted to give it some additional visibility and let potential attendees know what future conferences from COVAC might look like. The atmosphere was very welcoming, the presentations excellent, and the messages more relevant than ever. Moreover, as a white activist with a lot to learn, I found this to be a great experience toward building more solidarity in our movement. If you have a chance to be part of their next conference, do try to make it.

Speakers gather on stage at the end of the day for one last photo op.

Speakers gather on stage at the end of the day for one last photo op.

*I mean this in every sense of the word. It was a privilege to be there, and I recognize what a genuine privilege it is to be able to travel and have free time for events like this one.



bop-3For vegans serving time in federal prison, among the biggest challenges has long been access to plant-based foods. It’s especially hard on animal activists and ethical vegans, for whom consuming even small amounts of dairy products or egg whites is anathema.

Well, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons will be quietly rolling out its new menu on October 2, and I am pleased to tell you that every day, every meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – will offer a vegan option  for its main entrée.*

“The Bureau of Prisons’ National Menu is reviewed at least annually to assess responsiveness to inmate eating preferences, operational impact, product pricing, and nutritional content,” Justin Long, spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, told me. “The Bureau seeks to provide a variety of options, including vegan options, which also support religious dietary accommodations.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is that this dramatic menu change only impacts the 102 federal prisons in the United States, not the inmates serving time in the 1,719 state prisons, where veg options vary by location.

This change is the direct result of inmates and their advocates speaking up and demanding that the Federal Bureau of Prisons offer vegan food. Now let’s try to do the same state by state.

Note: I am well aware that our country’s prison industrial complex is corrupt and rife with problems, including racist policies (as I discuss in A Vegan Ethic), and I am not suggesting that we give them a big pat on the back here; I am merely passing along some good news for vegans.

*I cannot vouch for how strict the food preparation will be, however.



As many of you know, last summer Toronto activist Anita Krajnc was arrested and charged with criminal mischief after giving water to a pig inside a truck bound for a slaughterhouse. Video of the alleged crime shows pigs on the lower deck of the truck panting and Anita reaching in to give one water from a bottle while the truck is stopped at a traffic light in Burlington, Ontario. It shows the driver getting out and telling Anita not to put water in the truck. She responds by quoting Jesus: “If they are thirsty, give them water.” The driver replies, “You know what? These are not humans, you dumb frickin’ broad.”

Anita is a co-founder of the nonprofit Toronto Pig Save, whose members bear witness to animals arriving for slaughter, often stopping trucks and giving water to thirsty pigs. She says offering water to a thirsty pig is an act of compassion. “It is not only a right, but a duty we all share. Causing the pigs to suffer in the first place is what is wrong. I face these criminal charges with dignity, knowing that truth and justice are on my side.” TPS-bearingwitness1

She faces up to 6 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Anita’s trial begins August 24, and in a show of solidarity, activists will be gathering for a vigil outside the Ontario Court of Justice courthouse at 8:30 am on the 24th and 25th: 2051 Plains Rd E, Burlington, Ontario L7R 5A5.

What You Can Do:

Attend the vigil. For further information or to confirm attendance, please contact Anita Krajnc or Jenny McQueen, co-organizers of Toronto Pig Save, at 416-825-6080; email:

Sign the Compassion Isn’t a Crime Petition

Support Toronto Pig Save (TPS)

Order a Compassion Is Not a Crime t-shirt

Visit the TPS Facebook page

Share this post with family and friends

Go vegan


LaunchDayI have been a vegan since 2001, and a social justice activist for about a decade longer, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to understand how systems of oppression interact with one another. Shortly after going vegan, I threw much of my energy and time into the animal rights movement, and like many activists, I held a narrow view of how we should agitate against speciesism.

After reading The Sexual Politics of Meat—Carol J. Adams’ pioneering book exploring the link between the (literal) consumption of animals and the (visual) consumption of women—I had to consider our movement’s approach to activism. I began to recognize that all the “isms”—sexism, ableism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, classism, sizeism, etc.—are inexorably tied to speciesism.

My understanding of this has been augmented over the years by the work of Lori Gruen, Breeze Harper, pattrice jones, Marti Kheel, lauren Ornelas, and many others. Their efforts are sometimes referred to as “intersectionality,” a term coined in 1989 by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to illustrate how feminist issues and Black issues overlap. (Today the term is also used rather broadly to express how multiple forms of discrimination and oppression are experienced.)

It was the work of these activists that inspired me to write A Vegan Ethic: Embracing A Life Of Compassion Toward All, which was officially published today by Changemakers Books (they also published my two previous books). A Vegan Ethic serves as a concise introduction to animal rights and veganism, but with that as a foundation, it examines how other devalued groups are oppressed, and how their oppression is linked to nonhuman-animal exploitation. I devote an entire chapter to the environment, and another chapter to answering some of the questions vegans are commonly confronted with.

I also produced a short trailer for the book, which you can view on YouTube.

Woven throughout A Vegan Ethic is my acknowledgement of privilege, and I give full credit to the many activists who have influenced me. I hope you’ll give this book a read and, if you like it, a review on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes, etc. And, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, I hope you’ll come to Herbivore Clothing in Portland, Oregon, on August 27 for the official launch of A Vegan Ethic. All proceeds from book sales will benefit one of my favorite nonprofits, Food Empowerment Project. Click here for details about the launch party.

Finally, I did a short interview with The Huffington Post this month, and it provides more details about the book.

Thank you.

AVE_lowresJust a quick post to let you know that the official launch for my new book, A Vegan Ethic, will be Saturday, August 27, in Portland, Oregon. (It lands in bookstores on July 29.) Because the focus of the book is veganism, I can’t think of a better city to celebrate the publication than Portland, and I can’t think of a better venue than Herbivore Clothing.

This launch party will also be a benefit for my favorite nonprofit: Food Empowerment Project, a vegan organization that fights for the rights of animals and humans. The proceeds from all books sold at the event will go to F.E.P. Here’s a recent article detailing just some of their work.

If it’s convenient for you to come, I’d love to see you there. Check out the Facebook event page.


Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

If you have been actively involved in the vegan movement during the last year, you’ve likely heard about Aph Ko. Aph is a social justice and media dynamo. She founded Black Vegans Rock in 2015 after becoming the first person to write an article listing 100 Black Vegans, and she is the founder of Aphro-ism, a website devoted to black vegan feminist analysis that she runs with her sister, Syl Ko. They advocate what Aph calls an “epistemological revolution” through their writing about animal oppression and racialized oppression. “We believe that we might do more for animals and ourselves by changing the ways we actually understand why oppression is happening to begin with,” she explains in this outstanding talk she gave at the Intersectional Justice Conference in Washington State, where I had the privilege of meeting Aph and many other remarkable activists in March.

Aph is also an indie digital media producer and the creator of the comedy web series Black Feminist Blogger. Needless to say, Aph is extraordinarily busy, so I am very grateful she took time out to respond to some questions about her activism via email. I think you will really appreciate her thought-provoking answers.

You are versed in so many forms of digital media — blogging, videos, social media, online articles. Do you think there’s a form that is especially powerful for social justice activism?

I think they all serve a unique and specific purpose. Videos help propel certain narratives in a way that blogging doesn’t; however, blogging is personal. It helps me to explore my own voice while simultaneously offering resources to others. I think your strengths will dictate which medium you use, so if you’re better at articulating your thoughts and making connections through speaking, you might want to make a video. If you are better at organizing your thoughts through writing, you might want to write a post.

I don’t think many vegans would argue that digital media has helped advance the vegan message. Do you think digital media has been helpful in making progress for issues affecting marginalized groups?

I would say yes and no. It took me awhile to realize how I wanted to use digital media to amplify my voice while feeling a sense of community. I think that digital media and the Internet as a whole is merely an extension of the real world that we live in, so racism and sexism still govern these digital spaces. Because of this, certain voices get more exposure than others. Certain versions of reality get circulated, and others get shoved to the side.

This is why Eurocentric thinking and whiteness plague almost all social justice movements, even online. White people largely write the literature that’s been circulated. Their view of oppression and liberation is seen as the only or dominant perspective. Because they have the most resources, they have the ability to become the dominant authors of social change and activism which has had horrible consequences.

I used to spend all of my waking hours fighting the ways that white folks did their work until I woke up one day and realized that I was bored of doing this. Constantly fighting white reality only suggests that it’s the only reality out there. I needed to validate my own experiences by talking to people of color, by writing for and to people of color, and reading work by people of color. This is how digital media has helped me. It has absolutely revolutionized the way I approach oppression and liberation. I must credit a lot of black radical writers who relentlessly work online to provide quality, groundbreaking analyses.

It’s hard for minoritized people to have conversations with one another online without the white gaze constantly peering in and appropriating. As soon as some minorities know that white folks are watching, they change or they start tailoring their articles to white audiences.

I can’t tell you how many vegans of color write essays and articles TO white people online while totally forgetting audiences of color.

This is why I think depending upon where you’re at in your activism, digital media can either be a liberatory tool to help connect you to people who are invested in changing the world, or it can help you reproduce the white version of reality (regardless of your skin color).

It’s hard to have real change online when the digital territory we’re standing on is white-owned.

What advice do you have for people who want to begin using digital media in their activism?

My answer largely depends upon who is asking me the question. Context definitely matters. If you’re a white person who wants to create a website or digital project about animal rights, or feminism, or anti-racism, stop and interrogate why you feel the need to do this when there are already so many spaces created by white people. Are you actually offering a perspective that’s not out there, or do you just want to own some digital land?

If you’re a person of color, I would also caution you before you start putting your ideas out there for free. More and more research is showing that ideas created by people of color online are increasingly being stolen. This means people of color aren’t being credited or compensated for their ideas, which means activists of color need to be really careful when using digital media to share their thoughts.

I would say don’t put all of your faith in the Internet or social media. For example, it’s not a coincidence that white men create some of the most popular social media platforms that we use today. That should signal something to activists of color who are using these spaces to create racial liberation projects. The raw materials we use in our activism matter.

I’ve had to learn the hard way. I’ve had my ideas stolen, re-packaged, and I’ve seen others get financially compensated for basically saying exactly what I have written (even activists of color have taken my work). It’s made me much more cautious about writing online. When you’re saying something new or interesting, people have a tendency to gravitate towards you and then literally take what you’ve written. This has made me re-think blogging as a whole to be quite honest.

I think people of color need to understand the business of activism before they join the digital world and start trusting it … because activism is largely a business. White folks tend to own the largest non-profits and corporate activist sites and spaces, and people of color aren’t as aware of this because we tend to come to activism for survival purposes, not business purposes (obviously not in all cases).

So, when you have marginalized people using digital media for survival, and you have folks from the dominant class using digital media for business purposes, you can start to imagine how the digital territory can become predatory and violent for some of us.

I’m increasingly distrustful of the online world as a vessel for social change. This is why I’m starting to explore more opportunities when it comes to print. I think minoritized activists should invest energy into writing books, or creating zines … something tangible that they can own rather than using white digital land to cultivate their intellectual thoughts.

BVRBesides and, are there any Black-centered spaces online you would recommend activists check out–particularly ones that have had an impact on you?

Absolutely. I am impacted by spaces like The Sistah Vegan Project and Striving with Systems. I also like to venture into digital spaces that don’t necessarily talk about animal rights, but other systemic issues. I love For Harriet, Black Girl Dangerous, Crunk Feminist Collective, anything Dr. Brittney Cooper writes, and Autostraddle (which has some great Black queer writers).

You’ve said elsewhere that the AR/vegan movement relies too much on imagery and not enough on critical thinking. Can you expand on that?

I’m known for saying: People weren’t shocked into eating meat and they won’t be shocked out of it.

Let’s back up a little: The biggest issue the white animal rights movement has is that they can’t properly locate WHY animal oppression is happening. They see the aftermath of oppression—they see the victims—but most of these activists have no conceptual clue as to why animals are systemically being hurt. Sometimes it’s painful to watch activists from the dominant class try to create campaigns to stop animal oppression (without realizing how they are perpetuating it) and other times, it’s comical.

White folks don’t seem to realize that white supremacy systemically harms animals. White folks don’t want to move out of their leadership positions, but they want to stop animal oppression, which basically means they don’t’ want to change behaviors that are discursively hurting animals.

Because a lot of uncritical people are the leaders of the movements, they rely on really basic, surface-level tactics to “shock” people into a political lifestyle. That’s why veganism gets such a bad name … it’s surface-level and sensationalist. Imagery can work, especially if it’s attached to a new framework … but creating new conceptual frameworks is usually the part that’s overlooked.

Imagery tactics remind me of the ways some feminists rely on sexualized imagery of women to shock people into caring about sexism … it’s like … if you don’t provide a new framework for people to understand problematic behaviors through, then all they’re looking at is more imagery of objects being objectified.

I’m not suggesting that people can’t change their behaviors when they see imagery like that; I’m saying that I don’t necessarily think long-term change will happen. In our movements, we focus way too much on the victims without understanding why these bodies are victims in the first place. They didn’t become victimized overnight, and we have to do the work conceptually to solve this problem as well. So many people don’t realize that thinking is actually part of our activism. For too long, thinking has been co-opted by academia, so we assume that theory and thought is for ‘those’ elitist people … when in reality, this should be a part of the public domain.

In large part, animal oppression isn’t so much a story just about animals, it’s a story about white human supremacy, so we have to uproot that part of it and examine it before we hyper-focus on the victims with no context. That’s what ends up happening though: we are supposed to examine animal oppression imagery without any context for who the real oppressor is, which produces so much confusion about strategies to end animal oppression.

There’s a lot of infighting within the AR/vegan movement, and it seems to have gotten worse in recent years. Do you have any advice for a newbie to the movement who may be confused by this?

I actually don’t think infighting is getting worse … I think white supremacy in the movement is getting easier to pinpoint. I think that people in the dominant class who never had to worry about marginalized people and their perspectives (because the game has always been rigged) are now realizing that minoritized people are leading their own movements and this makes them really uncomfortable.

A lot of white folks feel an unquestionable ownership over animal rights (and animals generally), so when black people start incorporating animal bodies into their anti-racist movements, white people flex their social power by trying to comment on our spaces or interrogate our intentions.

A lot of activists in the dominant class use their privilege to silence other activists with dissenting viewpoints, which is horrible because real change will happen when there are plural movements and voices. We need to get all ideas on the table because animal oppression is a serious issue.

The act of silencing people who have different perspectives or strategies has nothing to do with liberating animals and everything to do with preserving the same systems that oppress animals.

If you’re new to the animal rights movement, I would urge you to leave (lol). You don’t need this corporatized, whitewashed movement to help animals. The idea that you have to go through big movements and organizations to make change is capitalist nonsense. If you’re a person of color, I would urge you to stay in your anti-racist movements and find ways to incorporate animal bodies into your analyses … don’t try to join the white mainstream AR movement because it will only leave you feeling frustrated and confused.

In fact, part of the inherent problem with the AR movement is the fact that whiteness is the framework for it. We need people who are fighting for other social justice causes to incorporate animal activism into their work rather than joining this nebulous “animal rights” bubble of a movement. This is why I don’t really call myself an animal rights activist. I’m an anti-racist activist who fights for animal liberation. I don’t know how to fight for animal liberation without my lens of being a black woman … I don’t currently know how white people are able to fight for another group without taking into account their own standpoint … which is why their movements are suffering.

What do you do to avoid getting burned out?

Burnout comes with the territory of being a conscious political woman of color, regardless if you’re an activist or not. I largely became an activist because I was fatigued with being oppressed and having the dominant class write my narrative and tell my story. That was burnout. I didn’t become an activist out of choice. It was an act of survival. I became an activist because I was burned out by racism and sexism in my everyday life.

I don’t know if there’s ever a real way of avoiding burnout as long as white supremacist patriarchy is still intact. Most of the time, it helps to get off the Internet, to be completely honest. Having space from the digital world helps in terms of priorities. It’s easy to get sucked in and to start stressing about things that literally don’t matter at all. So, I ensure that I spend a large amount of time offline.

Another thing I’ve learned about avoiding burnout is to stop being impressed with the fact that white people like my work. When you live in a white supremacy, getting white attention as a minority can feel like you’re on top of the world … like you’re doing something right. However, I would urge minorities to be really cautious of this feeling because it can lead you into exploitation and doing things for free for white folks. I had to learn how to say “no” to opportunities from white people that were not offering financial compensation for my work. Hollow fame and representation has been used as a tool on brown bodies to get them to believe that doing free work will yield a big payout and it usually doesn’t.

As a woman of color, I’ve also learned to stop listening to and engaging with those in the dominant class who critique my work and me. I’ve learned how to change the channel and continue working. As Toni Morrison said, distraction is a large part of racism so I’m learning how to avoid distraction. Rather than respond to every person who writes a slanderous, untruthful article about my work, or me, I just keep moving forward. I have no need to entertain petty shit.

Lastly, I think it’s important to think about the future when doing the work today. It’s really easy to forget why we’re working as hard as we are every single day. This is why I love Afrofuturism. It made me realize that there will be a day when I will be able to breathe and relax, but it comes at the cost of fighting hard today, which I will continue to do.

My sincere thanks to Aph. Check out her work at Black Vegans Rock and Aphro-ism, and visit her Facebook page.

peanut_butter_jelly_sandwichApril 2 is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, one of the tastiest days of the year.

Anyone who knows me knows peanut butter is my favorite food, so I’ll be celebrating by making one of my patented three-tiered gobstopper PB&J sandwiches.

Peanut butter is much older than most people realize, dating back to the Amerindians of South America, who ground peanuts into a paste 3,000 years ago. In the United States, it was considered a delicacy in the early 1900s and was only served in New York City’s finest tea rooms. In a May 1896 article published in Good Housekeeping magazine, a recipe “urged homemakers to use a meat grinder to make peanut butter and spread the result on bread.” That same year, the culinary magazine Table Talk published a “peanut butter sandwich recipe.” Perhaps the earliest mention of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was in the November 1901 issue of the Boston Cooking-School magazine.

To the folks at A Well-Fed World (AWFW), National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day is an opportunity to turn April 2 into a day of awareness. Through their PB&J Campaign, they’ve found a fun and delicious way to highlight how vegan foods can benefit human health, reduce animal suffering, and help the environment.  (The campaign was created in 2007 by Bernard Brown and is now a project of AWFW.)

While we may think of peanut butter and jelly (or jam or marmalade or vegan honey) as going on bread, there are a host of other ways these foods can be enjoyed, such as:

Peanut butter and jelly pie

Peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies

Peanut butter and jelly pancakes

Peanut butter and jelly bars

Peanut butter and jelly muffins

French toast peanut butter and jelly

So what are you waiting for? Get creative and spread some compassion.

While you’re munching on the goodness, be sure to check out the PB&J Campaign page on Facebook!

James DeAlto and friends

James DeAlto and friends

Like many of us, animal activist James DeAlto always wanted to do something more. So he recently began chalking simple vegan and animal rights messages on public pathways and other prominent spots around his home in Raleigh, NC. The positive response from people on his “chalktivism” led James to launch the #VeganChalkChallenge, inspiring others to spread messages of compassion, peace, and hope. “This is not about creating a masterpiece,” James says, “it’s about fostering a sense of empowerment for activists who, like myself, are still apprehensive about wearing a vegan t-shirt for fear of ridicule or rejection.”

I caught up with James between chalkings to ask him about this unique form of activism—and how others can get involved.

What is the Vegan Chalk Challenge?

The Vegan Chalk Challenge is an idea that sprang out of the many positive experiences I had after I began writing vegan chalk messages in my own neighborhood and along nature paths in Raleigh. I decided to see if I could use social media to challenge others to do the same in their own community. So, I created a Facebook event with the goal of getting 100 other people to sign up. To my surprise, nearly 1,200 signed up. The overwhelming response has led me to wonder just how far we can take this as a movement.

What inspired you to use chalk in your activism?

For a long time, I had mostly been a student of the vegan/animal rights movement. I spent most of my time reading books, James6scouring websites, desperately trying to convince friends and family to go vegan, having fruitless debates online, and not actually doing much real-world activism. I felt guilty for not doing more, so I started to think about ways that I could incorporate simple, effective activism into my everyday life.

I walk my dogs every day on a paved greenway where there’s quite a few walkers, runners and bikers. I figured it would be simple enough to write a vegan message on the pavement. So, I bought a box of chalk and did just that. I began posting pictures on Facebook and the response I got was amazing. People absolutely loved what I was doing.

I was motivated to keep going with my “chalktivism” largely because my messages seem to offer a sense of validation in a world where the word “vegan” often carries a stigma. Putting my chalk messages out there gives me a sense of empowerment. It allows me to stand up for animals in a way that minimizes the emotional risk, while still giving me the satisfaction of knowing that what I’m doing is effective.

What kinds of responses are you getting from people who see these messages?

My neighbors and people I meet tell me they love what I’m doing. I’m sure there are some who aren’t thrilled with it, but I’ve only had one person ever tell me they didn’t like my messages. She was rather curmudgeonly and could only answer, “I like meat” when I asked what she didn’t like about it.

My next-door neighbor is a Trump supporter and a rabid meat-eater. He loves it. He always asks me when I’m going to do my next one. That tells me this works. Other people I regularly see on my walks tell me they take pictures and love the positive, creative messages I leave.

Why do you think this form of activism works?

James-FEPI’ve weighed out the costs/benefits of so many forms of activism and I find that chalking works for so many reasons.

First, it’s simple. It requires so little time. I can literally write a message like “Vegan Is Love” in 15 seconds inside a busy parking deck and it will be seen by hundreds of people.

Second, it’s unexpected. Just seeing the word “vegan” in a public space, written as a personal, artistic expression of one’s beliefs, is unexpected and makes people curious. When people see these messages in nature, especially in parks or greenways, they’re in a headspace to actually contemplate the message, to discuss its merits with their walking partner or to reflect on a time when they may have previously been vegetarian or vegan. In parks and on greenways, the distractions are much fewer and because my messages are appearing in spaces where political expression is unexpected, the messages are memorable.

Third, it’s emotional. People who read my messages intuitively understand there’s an emotional element that inspired me to take action. People are interested in not only the message, but in the person behind the message. The mystery for those who haven’t yet figured out it’s me has become a very interesting aspect of this story which keeps people’s attention and leaves them interested to see what I’m going to write next.

Fourth, since it’s not an in-person solicitation, viewers are less likely to be defensive. Chalk is usually associated with childhood and people are naturally curious. My neighbors, when they find out it’s been me leaving the messages, have often told me they thought it was a little girl! Because I’m usually absent when people read the message, the focus is squarely on the words themselves, removing any negative bias the recipient may have otherwise had based on my appearance or body language.

Fifth, chalk messages lead to conversations. People have told me they’re thinking more about their food choices because of my actions. Knowing my audience is already concerned with health and environmental issues, I like to leave messages that will encourage them to talk about these particular issues. I’ll often use statistics from Cowspiracy with the message “Watch Cowspiracy on Netflix.” Or, I’ll write something health-related and write “Watch Forks Over Knives on Netflix.” If I can get people to watch these movies over a span of an hour and a half, I feel that’s a great payoff for taking a few minutes to write a chalk message.

Sixth, effective activism strengthens the vegan community. Public chalk messages offer other vegans a sense of validation. I have a vegan therapist who runs on the greenway where I leave my messages. She told me that the first time she saw one, she threw her arms up in the air and yelled, “Yes!” What we’re doing provokes a sense of excitement in “closet vegans,” offering the assurance there are others out there like themselves. This can go a long way toward normalizing veganism, which I think is one of our main tasks as a movement.

Seventh, the afterlife of a chalk message is much longer than what we leave on the pavement. When people post their pictures Facebook, the love and appreciation that pours out in the comments fuels my desire to go out and do more. When others post pictures of their own chalk messages and share their personal experiences, it makes my entire day. What’s most exciting is the growing community of activists who are starting to see the potential in what we’re doing. The Vegan Chalk Challenge has become an unfolding story, which makes it very exciting for me personally.

What other types of activism are you engaged in?

I’m a professional videographer and amateur photographer, so I sometimes lend my skills to our local animal sanctuaries, James1Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, and Triangle Chance for All.

I also do a lot of online activism, helping new vegans find their footing and sharing valuable resources. I’ve found a good deal of success planting seeds with people who are already interested in things like environmental protection, compassion and concern for animals.

This year I founded a new group in Raleigh called “Vegans for Peace.” Our focus is on bringing people into the vegan community through the use of low-cost advertising like chalking, highway signs (like the ones you so often see for queen-sized mattresses) and leaflets. We’re finding new ways to get the vegan message out there via simple means we’ve not capitalized upon in the past.

I’ve started doing some community organizing as well. On February 13th, I’m organizing a “Vegan Moral March on Raleigh” as part of the much larger 10th-annual “Mass Moral March on Raleigh.” We’ll be marching alongside thousands of other progressives, bringing attention to the plight of nonhuman animals and the devastating human and environmental impacts of animal agriculture.

Do you see this form of activism catching on within the animal rights/vegan movement?

I see a lot of potential for this simple, creative form of resistance. If we were to do engage in this type of action with regularity and in big enough numbers, I believe there’s a lot we could accomplish.

I’m very drawn to the concept of collective action that will get these critical issues on the table as quickly as possible. I admire groups like Collectively Free who are building communities based on public disruptions of speciesism. We need collective actions that are newsworthy. In this sense, I believe collective chalking is very much worth considering. “Chalk-bombing” public spaces with positive vegan messages of hope, empathy, peace, and love could potentially get the media talking if we do it in big enough numbers. Like the ice-bucket challenge, it’s so innocuous and fun that we can likely get vegan celebrities to join us.

Another major advantage I see with chalking is that non-active vegans are more likely to join in. As opposed to other forms of activism, when I ask people to come out chalking with me, there’s rarely any hesitation. This is a simple, fun, unthreatening form of disruption that is very unexpected in public spaces. Entire families can come and have a good time doing it. There’s no need to organize or to discuss strategy or tactics. There’s nearly zero risk of getting into trouble. I think it’s a great look for our movement.

I feel confident this approach will, at the very least, get the issue on the pavement. With enough people doing it, I believe we could easily get the issue into mainstream discussion in a way that would be very interesting and inviting.

What advice do you have for other animal advocates who might like to use chalk messages in their activism?

James-ChalkChallengeFirst, I would say don’t worry about messing up or if you don’t consider yourself a great artist. I’ve been told I have nice handwriting, but I’m hardly an artist. If you mess up, it doesn’t matter. The animals don’t care too much about penmanship or spelling. They just want us to speak out for them as loudly, as effectively and as often as possible.

Second, I would recommend writing messages centered around empathy, compassion, kindness, love, mercy, hope, peace, etc. Non-vegans tell me they find my messages interesting and approachable even if they’re challenging. Also, parents are far more likely to complain if their kids are confronted with messages that imply meat-eaters are murderers, rapists, slave-owners, or Nazis.

Third, if you’re interested in trying this, work on ways to integrate it into your daily routine. It’s easy to forget and it does require developing a new habit. You might try keeping a box of chalk in your car and a Post-it note on your dashboard reminding you to write messages. If you’re a student, you might consider keeping a few pieces of chalk in a plastic baggy inside your backpack. If you’re a runner or a biker, it’s easy enough to carry some chalk with you when you hit the trails.

Fourth, figure out what you want to say ahead of time. This makes it easier and less stressful when you find the perfect spot to leave your message. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple message like “Vegan Is Love” is perfect.

Fifth, consider leaving a web link like, which offers people a call to action. Many times, I’ll just write, “Watch Cowspiracy on Netflix” since Netflix is something people are already familiar with. This lends more credibility to the message. I’ve cultivated a list of messages that I feel are effective. I have them posted on our Vegan Chalk Challenge Facebook page for anyone interested.

Sixth, take pictures and video and share them on social media! This is perhaps as valuable as the messages themselves. The traction I get from posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram is what inspires others to go out and do the same. Images of people walking by and engaging with the message are especially effective. Videos of people expressing positive reactions are incredibly valuable.  When taking pictures, try to take them from an angle that gives a good sense of the surroundings. For example, try to get a shot of the message along with the long empty pathway in the background.

Seventh, smooth pavement is much easier to write on.

Eighth, consider organizing a vegan chalk party as part of your local activist group’s regular activities. Going out with friends to do this is an effective way of strengthening community. You can all get out into nature together and help animals at the same time.

Ninth, don’t overthink it! The animals really don’t give a damn whether or not our chalk messages are museum-worthy. As with anything, practice and you’ll get better quickly. Unleash your creativity for animals! Be proud to take a bold stance!

Tenth, just have fun and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing your messages are making a difference!


Do check out James’ Vegan Chalk Challenge Facebook page for more information and inspiring photos.



As I reflect on 2015, I am reminded of many wins for animals. Countries banning animal testing. Cities prohibiting bullhooks. Airlines pledging to not transport animal trophies. Activists liberating animals. Is it just me, or do these victories seem to be happening more and more often? Yes, we still have a long way to go, but let’s take time to celebrate some of the many positive changes animal advocates were able to enact.

  1. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announces it will phase out the show’s iconic elephants from its performances by 2018 (March)

This is one of my very favorite stories of the year, not just because it’s great news for elephants, but because it demonstrates Ringling-elephantsthe power of activism. Animal advocates have been staring down circuses that use animals for decades, and this year, the biggest circus in the world blinked. In the wake of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which exposes the plight of orcas in captivity, and ongoing outreach by activists, public sentiment has gradually been turning in favor of animals, and Ringling Bros. no doubt saw the writing on the wall. Alana Feld, the show’s producer, admitted as much, telling the AP that “a lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

The move was also prompted by municipalities across the United States—including Austin, Los Angeles, and Oakland—banning the use of bullhooks, which circuses, zoos, and other animal exploiters use to punish and control elephants.

  1. San Francisco becomes largest U.S. city to ban animal performances (April)

The ordinance, which took effect on May 21, is designed to “protect wild and exotic animals from cruel and inhumane treatment and to protect the public from the danger posed by the use of wild and exotic animals for entertainment.” It bars any public showing, carnival, fair, parade, petting zoo, ride, race, film shoot, or other undertaking in which wild or exotic animals “are required to perform tricks, fight or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement or benefit of an audience.”

The Motion Picture Association of America argued that the ordinance would prevent animals from working in movies filmed in San Francisco, even if the shows had proper permits and animal handlers approved by the federal government. Supervisor Katy Tang, who proposed the ordinance, said film and TV productions were not exempted because “we don’t want to undermine the underlying message of our legislation that animal abuse is not going to be tolerated.”

  1. Activists liberate 9 lobsters from restaurant in Dublin, Ireland (May)

Dublin-lobstersIt was as quick as it was brazen. Just before 8:00 pm on Friday, May 8, a group of activists walked into Ka Shing Chinese restaurant in Dublin, Ireland, and while some of the activists distracted employees, several others reached into a large fish tank and removed nine lobsters, placing them into plastic bags. As recorded on video, the activists later released the crustaceans into the sea at Clontarf.  Laura Broxson, spokesperson for the group, told news media, “For us it was an act of compassion, and we are willing to face any legal consequences brought to us because now these lobsters have a chance of living instead of being boiled alive and eaten.”

While this may not have been the biggest news of the year for animals, I appreciate the courage of the activists and how the story helped raise awareness about the suffering of crustaceans.

  1. India’s High Court rules birds have a fundamental right to freedom and dignity (May)

It began with a complaint filed by the Indian nonprofit People for Animals (PFA) against a pet shop owner in 2014 and ended with Justice Manmohan Singh declaring, “Birds have fundamental rights, including the right to live with dignity, and they cannot be subjected to cruelty by anyone. Therefore, I am clear in mind that all the birds have fundamental rights to fly in the sky and all human beings have no right to keep them in small cages for the purposes of their business or otherwise.”

PFA said the pet shop owner was selling the birds in tiny cages without enough food or water. But a trial court released the birds back into his custody on the grounds they were his “pets.” Appealing to a higher court, PFA demonstrated that the owner was selling the birds for profit and neglecting them. “This court is of the view that running the trade of birds is in violation of the rights of the birds,” said Justice Singh. “They deserve sympathy.”

You may recall that in 2013, India banned dolphin shows, saying that because dolphins are by nature “highly intelligent and sensitive,” they ought to be seen as “nonhuman persons” and should have “their own specific rights.” Now the country seems to be on the verge of banning elephant rides.

  1. For the first time, China agrees to phase out its ivory industry to combat elephant poaching (May)

In 2014, we reached a tragic tipping point: There are now more elephants being killed than being born. At this rate, conservationists say, we could lose these animals entirely within 20 years. Driving this slaughter is ivory, which is seen around the world as a luxury item. Many consumers don’t realize the toll this product takes on the lives of elephants and other animals, such as hippos and walruses (whose teeth are also used). China represents one of the world’s largest markets for ivory, so their announcement that they will be banning all sales and manufacture of ivory products is good news indeed. What remains to be seen is exactly how and when they will do this.

  1. New Zealand amends law to recognize animals as ‘sentient’ beings, bans animal testing on cosmetics (May)

It’s been a good year for animals in New Zealand. The government proposed a ban on the use of animals in testing cosmetics in March, and then enacted that ban in May by amending its 1999 Animal Welfare Act to formally recognize animals as “sentient beings that can experience pain and distress.” This is the first time this shift in perception and policy has been extended to all animals, not just chimpanzeesorangutans, or dolphins. The decision to ban animal testing comes after the Green Party and animal rights advocates lobbied for a year to criminalize cosmetics testing on guinea pigs and rabbits.

On the downside, this new law does not include a ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics imported into the country.

  1. Federal judge rules Idaho ag-gag law unconstitutional (August)

Photographic and video images are some of the most powerful tools in the animal activist’s toolkit. Undercover videos of animal agriculture workers violently abusing animals and images of farmed animals living in deplorable conditions are as heartbreaking as they are horrifying, yet they serve an important role in educating the average consumer about where their food comes from. But as more ag companies are being caught on camera and called out for their cruelties, they have teamed up with legislators to make capturing unauthorized photos and videos on farms a crime in many states.

One such state to attempt to enact a so-called “ag-gag” law was Idaho. In February 2014, the state’s governor signed the “Agricultural Security Act” into law, which imposed fines and jail time on activists who secretly film abuse on Idaho’s commercial farms. (This was in response to a video taken by Mercy For Animals that depicted animal abuse by workers on Bettencourt Dairy farms, including the sexual abuse of cows.) On August 3 of this year, a U.S. District Court struck down the Act as unconstitutional.

  1. Airlines ban hunters’ big-game ‘trophies’ (August)

In the wake of the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, major air carriers including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa, Qantas, and United Airlines pledged they would no longer transport buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, or rhino “trophies.” In other words, a well-heeled hunter who travels overseas to kill an animal will have no stuffed carcass or head to display on his or her wall at home. This should remove at least some of the incentive to shoot these remarkable beings.

Not surprisingly, Safari Club International is doing its best to get these bans reversed.

  1. Whole Foods Market ends sales of rabbit meat (September)

GoodNewsRegular readers of this blog know I have a huge soft spot for rabbits. But what I especially love about this story is it demonstrates the power of activism. (Read more about this in a previous blog.) Kudos to everyone who stood outside their local Whole Foods Market to leaflet and educate consumers, who let store managers know how they felt, who signed petitions, and who reminded others that advocating on behalf of rabbits didn’t mean we felt they were more deserving of protection than cows, chickens, pigs, fish, or other species—only that the last thing Whole Foods needs is another animal to exploit and kill. Moreover, we knew that as a retail trendsetter, if Whole Foods succeeded in creating a market for rabbits, other store chains would follow.

  1. EU Parliament takes last step to ensure WTO compliance of seal products ban (September)

After years of legal challenges by Canada and Norway, the European Parliament voted to strengthen the EU ban on trade in commercial seal products. The ban was introduced in 2009 amid public outrage at the cruelty involved in seal “hunts.” International observers have witnessed seals as young as three months old drowning with gunshot wounds and being bludgeoned to death. But seal hunt nations Canada and Norway had attempted to overturn the ban ever since in a series of legal challenges.

The vote deleted the so-called “Marine Resources Management” exception—extending the ban to products resulting from hunts to protect fishing stocks—and made minor modifications to the Indigenous Communities exception. It brings the EU embargo into line with World Trade Organization rules, and campaigners say it will protect millions of seals from commercial slaughter.

  1. Vietnam pledges to end use of bear bile within 5 years (September)

Although the use of bear bile for traditional medicines in Vietnam is now technically illegal, bear-bile farmers take advantage of loopholes, and authorities lack resources to enforce the law, so the practice continues. According to the nonprofit Animals Asia, there are now some 1,245 Asiatic black bears being held in Vietnam, down from about 4,000 in 2014, as more medicine practitioners make use of non-animal alternatives for their curative powders, ointments, and pills.

Yet the bears who remain in captivity suffer unimaginable pain and stress. According to Animals Asia, bears either undergo a crude surgery every three months to remove the bile from their bladders―usually dying from infection after the fourth operation―or they are restrained and repeatedly jabbed with long hypodermic needles until the gallbladder is located. A pump is then attached to the needle and bile is drawn into a large glass bottle. Though the surgical method is no longer widely practiced, the latter procedure is as terribly unhygienic, and bears often suffer a lingering, agonizing death from peritonitis (abdominal inflammation).

Now, thanks to negotiations with Animals Asia, Vietnam’s Traditional Medicine Association has promised to completely end the use of bears by 2020. This won’t completely end the bear-bile industry—other cultures have a long tradition of using bears—but this is certainly a huge step forward.

  1. 2 years after retiring most of its chimps used for research, the NIH is ceasing its chimp program altogether (November)

I love how author and publisher Martin Rowe summed up this news on his Facebook page, so I am just going to reprint it here: chimp-NIH

“This is how social change happens: not with a bang but a whimper. The government is effectively saying that any medical advances that may be achieved by using apes are irrelevant; the scientists are effectively saying that using apes is not worth the trouble; and society is heaving a big shrug and assuming this was all figured out a long time ago. Only the activists who worked for decades on this issue—who were vilified as anti-science, anti-human, and unrealistic—know how hard it was to move us to this point. It is to them, and not the government or the scientists or society as a whole, that I offer the deepest of bows. All of us are in your debt.”


Finally, I had every intention of listing the news from July that Nepal will no longer sacrifice animals at its massive Gadhimai festival—a victory activists have been working hard on for years—but there are conflicting stories about the status of the ban, as you can read here. The next festival will be held in 2019, so let’s hope we get confirmation the ban is indeed in place well ahead of that.


Other stories of the year worth noting:

Luxembourg bans fox hunting (January)

For a few hours, two chimpanzees were recognized as legal persons in New York (April)

Argentina proposes animal testing bill (June)

Turkey ends animal testing for cosmetics (July)

Mexico’s ban on wild animals in circuses goes into effect (July)

The Netherlands’ ban on wild animals in circuses goes into effect (September)

Hawaii likely will become the first U.S. state to ban the use of elephants, bears and other exotic wild animals for entertainment purposes (November)

Guinness to go vegan (November)

The Netherlands’ ban on fur farming has been upheld by the appeal court in The Hague (November)

Colombia’s Senate approves bill that defines animals as “sentient beings” (December)


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