Turning Point: What Inspired You to Start Advocating for Animals?

Over the weekend, we asked our Facebook followers, “What inspired you to start advocating for animals? What was the turning point for you?” We received nearly 200 heartwarming comments, some of which we will share with you here. 

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My mom taught me from a very young age to treat animals with compassion, and when I was 16 I decided to stop eating meat because I couldn’t justify the disconnect between the dead animal on my plate and the living cat at my feet. I went vegan at age 19 after taking an ethics class in college and reading the insightful work of Peter Singer and Tom Regan. My senior year in college I started an animal rights organization, Mean Greens for Animals. Now I’m about to start working with Hampton Creek Foods to make the egg industry obsolete. Working for animals is my passion, and they need every single one of us.” – Alexandria Kaye 

As a vet I felt that I cannot eat my patients. Started off as a vegetarian and am a vegan now.” – Vanaja Panickar

My parents killed my pet chicken on July 12, 1962 and served him for dinner. It was the first time I consciously understood what meat was.” – Samantha Curtis

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I was involved in animal rescue work, mostly with dogs and cats. A little girl, whose parents were divorcing, brought me her pet turkey, “Turkey Lurkey” and I promised she could visit any time. I fell in love with that bird and when Thanksgiving rolled around, I thought WTH am I doing, caring for the beautiful creature and now thinking about cooking one? That was the end of meat for me (my family soon followed). This happened in 1994 – my regret in life has been that it took me way too long to be where I should always have been.” – Holly Kathleen Stevens-Bondy

A video that my husband brought home. He is an animals rights lawyer. I couldn’t stop crying and that was it. Being an endurance athlete I wasn’t sure if I can go Vegan. Reading, Scott Jurek, vegan ultra runner and Brendan Brazier pro ironman, helped me to turn into vegan athlete. I appreciate my diet every single day, I recover way faster than I did before, no injures, sicknesses ever. I love to wear vegan shirts during races to show people that vegans are awesome.” – Gamze Kircalioglu

I was being attacked by a former boyfriend, and my dog Brady got him away from me and saved my life. I made a vow that day that I would forever fight for animals in every way. GO VEGAN!” – Nicole Furlan 

I worked about three days at a small town slaughterhouse. That was enough to make me reconsider a lot of issues: animal welfare and rights; personal health and diet. Slowly over the course of years I evolved into a mostly vegan diet.” – Stephan Caldwell

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We are all united by our compassion for animals and our commitment to helping them. Many people have said that their only regret is not learning about animal suffering and taking action sooner. The good news is that it’s never too late to change, it’s never too late to go vegan, and it’s never too late to speak out for our animal friends.

Click HERE to read all the responses on Facebook.

Photo credit: JoAnne McArthur / We Animals

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From PETA to Food Network: Exclusive Interview with Vegan Chef Kristina Addington

“How does it feel to lose to a vegan?” quips Chef Kristina Addington as she takes her position among her competitors on set of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” This bold statement ends up being delicious foreshadowing as Kristina became the first vegan chef to win the high stakes show known for its sabotaging twists! FARM was lucky to catch up with the talented “Vegan Temptress” about the show and vegan living.

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Growing up in a small rural town in Kentucky, Kristina was raised on typical Southern comfort foods. “I grew up eating everything fried in bacon grease,” she said. She never thought twice about it until 7 years ago, when she happened to stumble upon some information about factory farming online. That led to more research on animal agriculture, which then led to her epiphany. “It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Kristina said. “I knew I couldn’t support that [industry] anymore. I went vegetarian overnight.” Knowing she had to do more to help animals, Kristina started volunteering with animal advocacy groups as much as possible. Within a month, she was fully vegan.

And how did her “country” family take the news? “They thought I lost my mind,” Kristina said with a laugh. Though it was a big shock to the way her entire family had always lived and cooked (“My mom cooks just like Paula Deen!”), eventually they came around to the vegan side of things. Now when Kristina comes to visit, everyone enjoys preparing and eating vegan meals together.

Cooking was always a passion of Kristina’s. Before learning about factory farming and embracing a vegan lifestyle, she had already enrolled in culinary school. When her classes began, Kristina thought she could handle cooking non-vegan foods for other people, even though she herself wouldn’t be eating those animal products. That mentality changed the day the students were to “break down a chicken.” “I nearly had a panic attack. I knew there was no way I could do it,” admitted the vegan chef. From that point on, Kristina only worked with vegan foods, with which the school was very accommodating, bringing in tofu and tempeh.

But after a few semesters, Kristina’s other passion – helping animals – was calling, and she left culinary school to work with animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). For five years, Kristina promoted veganism and advocated for animals in the clothing industry. Throughout her time with PETA, Kristina taught vegan cooking classes on the side. Eventually, she realized she could combine her love of cooking and her dedication to animal advocacy full-time, and she returned to the kitchen.

Back in Kentucky, Kristina helped open a café and served as the executive chef, creating a vegan menu for the establishment. She created wholesale vegan and gluten-free baked goods. Her vegan cooking classes continued, as well as some small scale catering gigs. Wanting to do more to promote veganism, the Vegan Temptress looked toward national television. Specifically, Food Network.

While checking out the national cooking channel’s website, Kristina saw that they were taking applications for their competitive, high-stakes show, “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Kristina saw this as a way to really give veganism a spotlight and she applied right away, specifically stating on the application that she was a vegan chef, cooking only with vegan ingredients, and that she really wanted to highlight healthy, cruelty-free eating. “My ultimate goal [for appearing on “Cutthroat Kitchen”] was to promote veganism. Going on national TV would be the best way for me to reach the most viewers and eaters with this message,” Kristina explained. The very next day, the network called her, and a couple days later, she was booked for the show!

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Despite some “light, friendly teasing” from her opponents, as well as that jaw-dropping “sabotage” on the show where she was forced to bake gingersnap cookies with pickled sushi ginger, Kristina emerged a triumphant winner! Kristina proved that no matter what, delicious vegan food is always possible.

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The future looks bright for Chef Kristina. With her $18,500 winnings from “Cutthroat Kitchen,” she’s scoping out restaurant space for her future vegan restaurant. Until then, she has vegan catering and a possible vegan food truck on the horizon to showcase her delicious and cruelty-free Southern-style cooking. The more platforms for her food, the better; the world needs more vegan sausage gravy! Congrats again to Chef Kristina. We can’t wait to see what she whips up next!

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You can see the full “Cutthroat Kitchen” episode, titled “Two Chefs, One Toga,” on Food Network, XFinity TV, and Amazon.com.

To keep up with Kristina’s success, follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Kristina J. Addington / Vegan Temptress and Food Network

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Earth Balance is Bringing Cheesy Back

Vegan cheese isn’t a brand new creation, but in the last few years, the vegan cheese scene has exploded with delicious, animal-free options. Vegan cheese shreds, slices, blocks, and crumbles abound, leaving endless possibilities for vegans who miss the cheese they ate in their pre-vegan days. However, there’s one vegan company in particular that has been elevating vegan cheesy foods to a whole new level lately: Earth Balance.

Earth Balance has veganized a lot of dairy staples: mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, and milk. In the last two years, Earth Balance has waved their magic wands and turned favorite snacks vegan, with much rejoicing!

First came their cheesy popcorn and puffs. Former fans of Smartfood found delicious comfort in EB’s Vegan Aged White Cheddar Flavor Popcorn. Give Chester Cheetah a break and try that same flavor in puff form.

Next came the kettle potato chips. Available in three flavors, the cheddar-style arguably outshines the original and sour cream styles, and easily gives non-vegan cheesy chips a run for its money.

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If you spend any amount of time on the Internet, you no doubt caught wind of Earth Balance’s release of their vegan cheese crackers. Resembling popular non-vegan crackers, such as Cheez-Its and Cheese Nips, EB’s version packs that cheesy punch without any animal products. Social media was abuzz with the news and the crackers were flying off the shelves of vegan grocery stores across the country!

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Now, Earth Balance is blowing our minds and tastebuds again with the news of their new macaroni and cheese. Packaged in that slender box that many of us associate with “the blue box blues” (Kraft dinner), EB’s version contains no animal products, meaning no one gets the blues, not us or the animals! The new mac & cheese comes in classic cheddar and white cheddar flavors. The mac & cheese is available at select vegan grocery stores (such as Food Fight! in Portland, OR) and will hit Whole Foods in July.

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With more and more vegan options becoming available, it just makes me think of that T-shirt slogan: “Anything You Can Eat, I Can Eat Vegan!” It also makes me wonder, “What will Earth Balance think of next?!”

Photo credits: Earth Balance & Food Fight!

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From the Road: Everything is Bigger in Texas, Including Compassion Toward Animals (Part Two)

Students baring witness to the atrocities that take place every day on animal farms.
Students bearing witness to the atrocities that take place every day on animal farms.

Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) spent several weeks in the great state of Texas, educating hundreds of people about the treatment of animals and encouraging people to adopt a vegan diet. We recapped the first half of our time in Texas in Part One. Now, in Part Two, we’re highlighting our last Texas stop and also sharing some of the great vegan eats we enjoyed statewide.

Our time at the University of North Texas in Denton was memorable, to say the least. UNT is home to Mean Greens, the first all-vegan college dining hall. It was very helpful to refer students interested in vegan meals to an all-vegan cafeteria right on their campus. Andy and I ate at Mean Greens multiple times and were happy to recommend it! The food at Mean Greens is a fantastic representation of vegan fare. From cozy comfort foods like pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and stews to fun foods like pizza and soft serve, they really cover it all. Their salad bar is fully stocked and offers a couple different housemade salad dressings (their ranch dressing is the best we’ve ever had) and the Panini station is always open during lunch and dinner, offering pressed veggie sandwiches or a housemade black bean burger. We met with Ken Botts, the man who started Mean Greens, many times while we were at UNT. Ken was greatly enthusiastic and supportive about the 10 Billion Lives tour being on campus and cheered on our work every day.

Andy, Amanda and Ken Botts, the man behind Mean Greens (from left)
Andy, Amanda, and Ken Botts, the man behind Mean Greens (from left)

UNT also has a recently-formed animal rights group called Mean Greens for Animals. This group arranged fantastic volunteers to join us throughout our three days on campus. It was great to connect with these young activists, and their group was yet another on-campus recommendation we gave to viewers who were eager to start helping animals. There’s no doubt in our minds that MGFA will be doing great things for animals!

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Truck Tour Cuisine with The 10 Billion Lives Crew

Mashed sweet potatoes, BBQ Beyond Meat, slaw with Beyond Mayo, and Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Amy's mac & cheese.
Brussels sprouts, BBQ Beyond Meat, slaw with Just Mayo, and Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Amy’s mac & cheese.

Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) love finding vegan meals in restaurants everywhere we go with the 10 Billion Lives tour. And while there really are vegan options everywhere, most of the time we cook our own meals. Though we lack a full kitchen as we’re touring the country, we’re able to whip up some gourmet meals with limited equipment. Since we talk to a lot of people who themselves have limited (or no) kitchen space, are short on time, and are cooking on a budget, we wanted to share some of our favorite meals we make while on the road that use affordable ingredients that can be found in any supermarket, can be made in a rice cooker, and don’t require much prep work.

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From the Road: Everything is Bigger in Texas, Especially Compassion Towards Animals (Part One)

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When Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) told our friends that we would be bringing the 10 Billion Lives program all around Texas, we were usually met with pity laughs or dropped jaws. Everyone seemed to picture us going into a “Meat Country” war zone. On the contrary, our several weeks in Texas proved that the Lone Star state is full of surprises. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes compassion toward animals.

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“Never Too Late to Go Vegan:” An Interview with Virginia Messina

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Virginia Messina, also known as The Vegan RD, has a few books under her belt including “Vegan for Life” and “Vegan for Her;” both which I highly recommend. In her latest installment, co-authored with Carol J. Adams and Patti Breitman, “Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet,” Messina provides essential nutritional information pertinent to folks who are over age 50. In addition, the trio of authors tackles some of the challenges facing folks who are interested in transitioning to a vegan diet later in life and help guide their readers towards a goal of ultimate health.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to interview Virginia Messina regarding her latest book. My interview is posted below. Messina will also be speaking at this year’s Animal Rights National Conference held July 10th-13th in Los Angeles, California.

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Earth Day 2014: Activists Encourage the Public to Evaluate the Impact Their Food Choices have on the Planet

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Vegan Earth Day 2014 was one of our best yet! More than 154 activists from all over North America distributed our new brochures at local events to encourage people to make the environment-diet connection. While most people leafleted, others gave out food samples or held pay-per-view events. Volunteers in 40 states and 3 Canadian provinces participated in Vegan Earth Day this year, distributing nearly 15,000 of our brochures to the public.

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Skip the Easter Ham and Skip the Cruelty

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An Easter tradition here in the US has been to celebrate life and new beginnings by sitting down to a meal with a honey-baked ham as the centerpiece. Thing is… if most folks took a moment to reflect on the true meaning of this holiday, they might notice that consuming the body of a dead animal doesn’t align with the life-affirming spirit of Easter.

Pigs are highly intelligent animals, with advanced learning and problem solving capabilities. They can use tools, understand commands just like dogs do, they respond to their name only after a few months of being born, and they have a high sense of social recognition, which help them form strong social bonds. Pigs can even learn to play video games!

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All Our Water is Going to a Plant We Don’t Eat to Support a Diet We Don’t Need

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The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir as seen on Feb. 7, 2014 in San Jose, California.

2013 went down as the driest year in California’s recorded history.  A major reservoir outside of Sacramento has been reduced from 83% to 36% capacity in just over 2 years.  In the Central Valley, 1,200 square miles of land is sinking at a rate of 11 inches a year from the drilling of groundwater.  And the annual measure of the Sierra Nevada snowmelt done every April 1st indicates that the end isn’t in sight.

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