During a recent trip to North Carolina I was excited to visit Farmshire Animal Sanctuary located in Clyde, just outside of Asheville. It was awesome to visit with the animals, and to sit down with Sarah and Calen to talk about this beautiful sanctuary and…
This is a question that is asked often, and I believe there is more than one answer. Becoming/ being vegan looks different for each individual person, and I feel very strongly that we are to respect where everyone is on their journey. I know that some vegans feel adamant that you absolutely do not wear leather or any other animal product, but that’s not where I stand. Personally, I don’t wear anything leather, fur, with feathers, etc. but that’s my personal decision and it took a little while for me to phase out those things.
I still wore leather for a little while after becoming vegan, but wasn’t fully comfortable doing so. My favorite boots (pictured above) were the hardest thing to stop wearing, but every time I put them on, all I could think of was the cow that they came from. I now have strong bonds and relationships with rescued cows and can’t imagine wearing their skin. Another thought is that I don’t want to wear something that someone else would see as appealing and want to go out and buy the same thing. For example, my leather boots were purchased (years ago) solely on the fact that my friend had a pair and I loved the way they looked, so I bought a pair. I wasn’t vegan yet and had no connection whatsoever to what had happened to the animal I was buying…. I just knew I wanted the boots. This is one of the reasons that my personal decision is not to wear animal products. In no way am I judging anyone else for wearing animal products. My friend Kelsey who is vegan, is a business owner of a wonderful vintage shop in Wilmington, NC, (The Wonder Shop) and sells vintage leather, silk, etc. This is a great way to shop and not buy into fast fashion, while also supporting small businesses. There has been controversy in the vegan world about selling these products, but again, I believe we all need to respect where people are on their journey and not judge. Buying into fast fashion is worse on many levels than buying used/ vintage clothing, and this is something to think about before going out and replacing everything we have. There are many ethically sourced cruelty free products, but we have to be diligent about finding those companies.
In 1944 Thomas Watson wanted to come up with a word other than vegetarian for those who didn’t consume dairy or eggs. He coined the term “vegan” along with some friends from The Vegan Society, and they defined the word as this: “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” – The Vegan Society
When we become vegan (unless we are born vegan) we usually have products that are not cruelty free. For most people it can be a process to eliminate things from our wardrobe, our pantry, and our household. It’s not conducive to everyone to just get rid of everything “non” vegan right away. The words “as far as possible and practicable” are important to remember, as well as the fact that no one is perfect and hopefully everyone is doing their best with what they have to work with. We live in a world where we can find a cruelty free item to replace anything made from animals, yet some of these products can be pricey, and worse, some are not environmentally friendly. Not everyone can afford to replace everything they have with vegan items, and to shame them for not doing so doesn’t exude compassion, which is to me, the tenant of veganism.
What do we do with items that are not vegan? This too can be a very complicated subject. I once heard someone say they burned their leather sofa when they became vegan. I’m not here to judge anyone for their choices, but feel strongly that I personally do not want to waste, burn, or throw away something that was made from an animal. To me that is just throwing more disrespect to the animal that has already been exploited and killed for human use and deems their life totally worthless. There are so many thrift stores that we can donate items to, and finding a homeless shelter to donate old coats, boots, and blankets is also a great way to pass on the items you no longer wish to use.
In a nutshell, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. The bottom line is to do our best and to be compassionate and non-judgmental towards all living beings.
After years of experience working with animals at different sanctuaries, Rebecca started her own “micro-sanctuary,” Institute For Animal Happiness. She and I sit down in her home in Woodstock, New York to discuss micro-sanctuaries, Hudson Valley Vegfest, and much more! Rebecca explains what a “micro-sanctuary”…
In this episode, Lindsay and I talk about V-dog which was founded in 2005 by the late Dave Middlesworth, and his wife Linda, two vegans with two rescue pit bulls, who wanted an ethical vegan dog food for their dogs. They started V-dog to provide…
Lately, I’ve heard so many people talk about the word “vegan” and how it is overused. I talk about this with Jonathan Brant in episode 3 of Sanctuary Tour Podcast. The term “go vegan” is said so often by so many people in so many places. What does “go vegan” mean?? In my mind “go vegan” means to live as compassionately as I possibly can, not exploiting animals in any way. This means not eating them, not drinking their fluids, not using them for clothing, not using their feathers in pillows or blankets, not using their fur or feathers to stay warm, not wearing or using products that use animal testing or that have animal products in them. WHY?? because we don’t have to and because there are so many products available on the market without cruelty and harm to animals. Do we really need to say “go vegan” so often though? There are so many ways to promote compassionate living. So many ways to plant seeds…
How did I get here? That’s a long story, but I’ll try to put it in a nutshell. I read a book years ago called “Skinny Bitch.” I read this book to see what all the fuss was about, and how to lose weight (even thought looking back, I didn’t need to lose weight). After reading this book, which promotes not eating animals, I looked in the back at the resources, and saw links to videos. Of course, I had to watch and was forever changed. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t consume meat anymore. The videos I saw, I could never un-see and they were horrific. What happens to animals before they get to our plate is horrible and I didn’t want to be a part of that torture ever again. HOWEVER, I continued to eat fish, and cheese, and eggs. At the time, I didn’t see fish as animals. I didn’t have a clue about the egg and dairy industry and to be honest didn’t give it much thought because chickens naturally lay eggs, and cows naturally produce milk. Right??? WRONG! It wasn’t until a few years later, when I started doing more research after my friend and acupuncturist Tricia Miller said to me that not eating dairy could help me with some symptoms I was having. I also hugely credit my friend and yoga mentor Kristin Cooper-Goulak for her support and knowledge while I had so many questions. As I began to learn more about the dairy industry and animal agriculture, and what happens to the cows, I was completely shocked at what they go through in the dairy industry. I learned that dairy is directly linked to veal, that all male calves are slaughtered for veal because they are not milk producers, and that ALL babies are taken from the moms so humans can drink their milk. (the babies get a “milk replacer”) I learned that the female cows are slaughtered after they are “spent” and don’t produce milk anymore. I am heartbroken to know that every single day billions of cows are suffering and being killed just so humans can drink milk and eat cheese. :(. I wish I could say I stopped consuming/ using animal products over night. That wasn’t the case though and I have tremendous respect for anyone working toward the goal of making more compassionate choices. I believe that everyone is “pre-vegan” and that by learning about the cruelty that happens in these industries using animals for food, so many people will make the decision to end this torture. You will never hear me bashing someone for “just being vegetarian.” I will however ask questions and hopefully provide them with food for thought that will eventually lead them to completely eliminating any animals from their diet. This is what humane education is all about. But I strongly believe is has to be done in a compassionate and understanding way. Planting seeds is essential.
Anyone who isn’t “vegan” might think to themselves, “I could never do that, there are so many rules” …. or “I don’t know where too start” …. or many other things. At this point, there are unfortunately different groups of vegans who have different guidelines for being in their ‘group’- their ‘vegan club’ – or whatever you want to call it. I’m astounded that people who say they are vegan can be so cruel to people who are not yet vegan. Levels of Veganism, different rules, infighting, judgement of other vegans, negative comments on posts from people who are “just” vegetarian…..and more, are turning people away EVERY day from the idea of Veganism. I am VEGAN! I am not saying don’t use this word, but I do want to question when and how we use it. Is it a club? Do people who aren’t “vegan” feel that way? As a vegan, my sole purpose is to live with compassion, in a way that doesn’t exploit animals, to live in alignment with my moral compass and ethics, in a way that doesn’t cause suffering to animals as much as humanly possible. My answer when people ask me “what DO you eat”…. I say “I don’t eat anyone who has a mom, who has eyes, or who has endured suffering in any way.” This pretty much says it all. I eat SO many amazing foods. It’s truly a myth that vegans don’t have much to choose from. There are so many labels we could put on this way of life. “Compassionate” “ethical” “moral” “plant based” “whole food diet” “healthy living” “health conscious” “for the planet”….etc. Do we really need a label though? This is a big question with a lot of answers. The word Ahimsa best describes my way of life. Ahimsa is respect for all living things and causing no suffering to anyone. (in a nutshell) “Be Love” is my motto.
I recently listened to a podcast episode with Colleen Patrick Goudreau who speaks about this very subject. I agree with so much of what she said. We do not have to label EVERY thing “vegan.” (I’ve done this, by the way). One of my favorite sweatshirts has the words “go vegan” on the back. I have used these words so much, but have definitely become more aware of when and how I use them! My daughters have both said to me, “mom, we know it’s ‘vegan’ cheese, you don’t have to say it’s vegan”….
I’m not in any way saying not to use the word vegan, I am just pondering the idea that we don’t need to say it so much. I want everyone in the entire world to “go vegan” but I also want them to feel included and comfortable and to feel like they can be honest as they are on the journey to veganism. I am here for anyone who has questions or needs support. If you are curious or on the path to compassion/ plant based living/ veganism/ LOVE/ and would like a mentor to talk to, New Leaf Vegan Mentor program is amazing! I am a mentor with this program and there are so many mentors to choose from who will meet your needs. Check it out HERE!
My mantra every single day is “LOKAH SOMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU” which translates to “may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts words and actions in my own life contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.” I say this 108 times each day.
Amy Burkman is a professional artist, activist, philanthropist, a cancer survivor, and advocates for animals and humans through her art. She does live painting for events and galas to support and raise money for different causes, charities, and non-profits. Amy has traveled around the world…
In this episode, Brece Clark (The Humane Cowboy) and I have an authentic, raw conversation about his journey from horse trainer, bull rider, rodeo participant, to the “humane cowboy” who works full time at a farm sanctuary who rescues animals. Brece talks about growing up…
In this episode Rachel McCrystal and I sit down in the grass pasture with the turkeys at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. Rachel introduces the beautiful turkeys and tells us that Beatrice is nine years old, which is very uncommon for turkeys to live this long. Beatrice is severely de-beaked and had to be fed by a syringe when she first came here. Rachel tells the story of how Beatrice came to the sanctuary. In addition to de-beaking, Rachel explains that turkeys are also de-toed which is done without anesthesia and is legal in the industry, as there are no guidelines and rules to protect birds (fowl). We discuss Loren and her issues with bumble foot, her beautiful wrapping (fancy shoes) done by caregiver, Brooke Burbee, and how they came up with a special plan just for her to address her foot issues. We discuss the care that is given to the turkeys due to all of the issues that come up from being born into and exploited in animal agriculture. They are units of production in the industry, and they endure so much cruelty and trauma as babies -all to be used as food for a quick meal. All of the turkeys at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary were meant to be used for food at Thanksgiving or another holiday.
Rachel talks about how turkeys love spending time with people and how their caruncles change colors depending on the mood that they are in. Turkeys are very territorial and have to be separated into the groups that DO get along! They have so many human like qualities. People that visit the sanctuary expect to connect more with a goat or a sheep or pig, but so often visitors connect most with the turkeys once they see how affectionate and loving they are.
We discuss the amount of turkeys killed all year (which is about 100 million turkeys) and how that number goes up during the holiday months to about 45 million JUST during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Turkeys killed for meat are just babies “poults” when they are killed.
One of the awesome and most anticipated events at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary is ThanksLIVING!! This year it will be on November 9th. Rachel talks about this event and how to get tickets or to volunteer. Held on site at the sanctuary, this is a celebration of life and honoring of the turkeys at the sanctuary, and a way to pay honor and respect to those who are not yet, or will never be liberated. Beatrice is the covergirl for this event! The turkeys eat their pumpkin pie and treats before the humans are served! (I love this)… They will also recognize advocates and activists who are making a difference for the animals. This year’s honorees include musician-filmmaker Rob Zombie and actress Sheri Moon Zombie, – animal rights advocates and activists who use their careers as a platform, and Lauren Ornelas, the founder and executive director of the Food Empowerment Project.
This year, the food is being prepared by Lagusta Yearwood of Lagusta’s Commissary in New Paltz, New York and desserts are by Maresa Volante of Sweet Maresa’s. It’s going to be amazing! Tickets are going fast, so get your tickets soon! You don’t want to miss out on this exciting event! Lucky for us, Lagusta has just written a new cookbook SWEET + SALTY and it is fabulous! Lagusta’s cookbook has been featured in the holiday issue of Veg News magazine as one of their top picks for today’s latest and greatest cookbooks! How awesome is that??!
Rachel and I discussed different options and alternatives for thanksgiving dinner, ways to replace traditional dishes, and to create new traditions. Compassionate Cuisine, a cookbook written by the chefs and Kathy Stevens (founder) at Catskill Animal Sanctuary is a great cookbook with lots of good vegan recipes.
Rachel also mentions the New Leaf Vegan Mentor Program started by Catskill Animal Sanctuary. I am personally a vegan mentor with New Leaf Mentor Program, and would love to connect with anyone who has questions or needs support.
Rachel discusses the organization, Peace Advocacy Network, (PAN) which gives lots of resources and support for going vegan.
Volunteers are always needed on thanksgiving day. If you are near Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and would like to volunteer, please sign up!
Woodstock, along with Barn Sanctuary in Michigan recently rescued 98 chickens who are now called the “Hudson Valley Hundred” and have adopted out some of the chickens to other sanctuaries. We discuss the egg laying industry, and the meat chicken industry. Please visit the site for the new campaign “Consider the Egg” and learn more about the egg laying industry.
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary has openings for interns in all areas if you are interested in learning about working at a sanctuary. To find out more, visit their website.
Adit Ramano is the co-founder of Freedom Farm Sanctuary in Olesh, Israel. She and Ruth Levy Abramson, humane educator and translator for the farm sit down with me to discuss the work they are doing, the animals they have rescued, how the sanctuary was started,…