Can Animal Agriculture be Humane?

Are “happy,” “ethical,” and “grass-fed” the trendy animal agriculture buzz words vegans have been waiting for?

Unfortunately, even if cows are fed grass of the lushest jade pastures and slept on their own personal clouds, the animal agriculture industry will infinitely be the farthest thing from happy or ethical. Humans have terrorized and abused animals so horribly and consistently that now it’s a hipster farming miracle just if the cows eat food that’s actually supposed to be in their diets. Is choosing not to feed cows to other cows really the best we can do when it comes to our treatment of our furry friends? Grass-fed and cage-free has never meant violence-free (as the rise of internet videos of these farms has led us to understand), but what are we saying about our own ethical conduct if not torturing animals before we kill and eat them is our end-all be-all? Of course not torturing animals before they’re killed is obviously better than a combination of the two, but letting animals live without being the receiving end of human violence should just be common, standard ethics rather than the phenomenon it is made out to be.

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The violence used in industrialized farming is only a part of the problem. It goes without saying that the animals raised in ethically marketed farms probably will be happier and healthier in comparison to animals encaged and being fed food that’s not meant for their bodies. However, happier and healthier doesn’t mean the animals will actually be happy or healthy. Regardless of the environment or conditions of these farms, the animals are still being used as machines to pleasure a human’s taste buds. Animals in dairy and egg farming will still get diseases from being used for their bodies beyond their natural capacity, as well as have their reproductive systems damaged, immune systems deteriorating, and their children torn away from them almost immediately after they first lay eyes on them. In farms that supply meat, animals are literally bred to be killed as babies so we can eat their flesh. There is no ethical hierarchy when it comes to the treatment of animals, but we as humans can choose to do better. Not to mention, grass-fed cow farms are still not slacking on the environmental destruction, and the glass of pus-filled, cow-blood-infused milk and plates of chicken periods (eggs) is definitely not our best look!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Second City in America Initiates Fur Ban

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In 2013, West Hollywood became the first city to put a ban in place against the sales of fur, and last week the city of Berkeley became the next! The Berkeley Coalition of Animals has worked and rallied for this new legislation that serves up a hefty fine for those who attempt to not oblige. Minks, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, beavers, chinchillas, bears and even dogs and cats are victim to the fur trade. Several countries in Europe have already picked up on the cruel and violent practices of the fur industry, and have chosen to remove themselves from participation in it as well.

Fur has been a constant hot topic in the media, seemingly being one of the most commonly concerning animal rights issues among omnivores and vegans alike. Celebrities and Fashion Week are continuously responding to the unceasing criticism of sporting and supporting such industries. Given the current astronomic downfall of fur sales even where it is legal, it sounds like it’s only a matter of time before fur suppliers go faux!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Is Dairy Cheese Vegetarian?

“Vegan? I could never give up cheese!” has become the classic go-to line for every vegetarian – and I don’t think I’ve met ever a vegan who hasn’t said the same! Cheese has been proven to be addictive, after all, due to it containing casein that triggers receptors in your brain that are linked to addiction. Surprisingly, even cheese can use parts of animals! The coagulation of the milk is the result of the use of rennet, the stomach of newborn baby cows. Eagerness to eat baby cow stomach is far and few between, and personally, eating it in cheese is definitely no less appealing! Rennet is vital to this process, because only the stomachs of young cows contain the enzyme “chymosin,” which would typically allow the calf to absorb and digest milk. The use of rennet forms curds. These curds are inevitable for several varieties of cheeses, particularly cheeses like Parmesan and Gorgonzola. In rarer instances, cheeses can be curdled with fungi as well. If the cheese is vegetarian, the maker will tend to specify on the packing that it is vegetarian or rennet free. In addition to using the stomachs of baby cows, after the dairy industry no longer has a use for the animal, the animals are sold to the meat industry for an added profit.

Even though the meat industry is heavily interlaced in with the dairy industry, there is a whole world of alternatives out there! The vegan cheese industries have picked up astronomically within the past couple of years. After all, V-Grits does what we do in order to make giving up these addictions just a little bit easier! Dairy-free cheese products are on the rise since practices of animal agriculture are coming more and more into light. Find some cruelty-free alternatives at a grocery or health store near you!

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Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

How to Celebrate Your Veganversary

Veganversary?! Say that again?

A “Veganversary” is  a monumental moment for any vegan. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, PETA describes a veganversary as:

Veganversary (ve·gan·ver·sa·ry) n.
1.      The annual celebration of the date on which you decided to stop eating animal flesh and be a super-awesome human being
2.      The date on which you stuff your face with vegan cake and veggie burgers in order to celebrate when you decided to go vegan.

We hear ya, PETA! Here are some ways to guarantee your veganversary will be as blissful as it sounds!

  • Eat. Everything (cruelty-free, of course): Today is not the day to follow through with that oil-free diet you’ve been reading about. 😉 Stuff your face with vegan fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts, and everything else you were convinced you could never eat again in the name of kale!

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  • Volunteer at/Visit/Donate to an animal sanctuary: Visiting animal sanctuaries can be vital moments in any vegan’s journey. There’s no better feeling than knowing all your obstacles, awareness and activism are rescuing the sweetest little fur babies from a life scarier than a horror movie.
  • Rock your vegan apparel: The more vegan clothing you can pack into one outfit, the better! Days like this are what your Compassion Co. or Herbivore Clothing shirt are made for. Don’t hold back with the vegan leather, sassy pins, and other cute cruelty-free gear that will turn morality into the trendiest fashion statement.

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  • Talk about veganism even more to normal: “I can’t find my phone, can you call it?” “Sure, I’m vegan.” “Do you know where the bathroom is?” “All the way down to your left, but did you know you’d have healthier bowel movements when you’re vegan?” “I’m feeling a little sleepy.” “You’d definitely feel more energized if you went vegan!” There is never an inappropriate time to exclaim your veganism from the rooftops! Today is your day to be loud and proud.
  • Make a blog post about it 😉 : Or an Instagram post, or a Facebook post, or a post on any other kind of social media! Even your favorite meme from the Vegan Sidekick can go a long way. A surprising number of people, myself included, found veganism as a result of social media. The power of a single post is definitely underestimated! You never know what seeds you could be planting so animal liberation can grow!

As supporters of any social justice movement know, awareness and activism can come attached to some overwhelming moments, but nothing can compare to the happiest feeling of knowing you’re keeping our furry friends safe and protected as they deserve! Spend your next veganversary the way you earned to, or decide on the start date you’ve been planning all this time!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Are Dogs Healthier Vegan?

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Plant-based pups… Say whaaat?!! Trust me, no one was more alarmed than I was when I first heard about dogs on vegan diets. I mean, they do have actual canines after all, right? With their glossy, soft and shiny fur, all the plant-based doggies I have encountered looked as healthy as could be, but I still needed far more convincing. It wasn’t until I came across the story of a little four legged doggie named Bramble when I started to reconsider that veganism could really in fact be better for dogs. Bramble’s diet regimen of lentils, rice, and organic vegetables landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as the 27 year old longest living dog! But Bramble was not the only doggo to thrive from veganism; other vegan dogs have gotten rid of ear infections and improved allergies, excessive shedding, kidney and bone problems. Some modern veterinarians are even starting to recommend plant-based diets to combat some of these issues. Part of the reason dogs might benefit from going plant-based is that a majority or dog food is made up meat from animals who were dying, diseased or disabled. By USDA standards, the meat in mainstream dog food is not even fit for human consumption! If humans could potentially get extremely (or even lethally) sick from certain meats, there is a good chance dogs bodies will react the same way. There are several vegan options when it comes to brand dog food, including V-Dog, Halo, Natural Balance, Ami Pet Food, and Nature’s Recipe. Dog food is always optional, though! The veggie-loving pups I’ve met go bananas for sweet potatoes, peanut butter, mangos and watermelon! With all the health benefits and knowing feeding our puppy loves will not harm any other animals, there’s pretty much no reason to keep dogs from going plant-based, right?

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Veganism: Coming to a School Near You

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Veganism is the newest social justice movement on the block, and kids of all ages are starting to get the memo! Each new generation of kids is growing in awareness and feels more inclined to take interest in political issues. Recently, countless videos of children protesting eating animals in their households have gone viral, and it’s astounding amazing to watch kids as a whole grow in understanding and give a voice to the voiceless. The anti-animal violence front is at its peak: colleges were the first to take on guest seminars informing young adults why to go vegan, now veganism is spreading to kids all around the USA as young as sixth grade! Food or Friends is a new program backed by Vegan Outreach. This educational presentation reminds youngsters to give into the voice that tells us to love and protect our furry friends, despite how different social trends urge us to put those thoughts on the back burner for our taste buds. Vegan Outreach worked to establish an interactive and fun classroom experience, while also urging kids to push their critical thinking (and critical empathizing) skills; as they question if deterring their health, the earth they live on, and the well being of animals is worth that cheeseburger. The Food or Friends project currently is small-scale and in just a handful of cities across the United States, but I can’t wait to see this project grow so more and more kiddos can get on board and help to put an end to animal cruelty!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Surprising Store Finds for the Vegan Junk Food Enthusiast

After going vegan, you might start to realize that grass and greens can be the least of a vegan’s concerns! With so many sweet and salty, animal-approved temptations out there, the “Potato Chip Vegan” even began circling around the vegan world for the herbivores dedicated to animal ethics who don’t mind indulging on some cruelty-free treats. If only kale tasted as good as chocolate frosting! Here are some surprising store finds to satisfy the Potato Chip Vegan in you!

  • Lay’s Classic Potato Chips
  • Lay’s Regular (unbaked) BBQ Chips
  • Kettle Brand Maple Bacon Potato Chips
  • Betty Crocker Baco’s & McCormick Bac’n pieces (and some other vegan bacon bit brands)

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  • Oreos
  • Popcorn at Regal Movie Theaters and sometimes AMC Movie Theaters
  • Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos
  • Junior Mints
  • Bugles
  • Airheads
  • Swedish Fish
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Skittles
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
  • Krispy Kreme’s Glazed Cherry Pies
  • Duncan’s Chocolate Frosting
  • Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix

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  • Unfrosted Strawberry Poptarts
  • Xtra Tangy Buffalo Wing Pringles
  • Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • Nutter Butters
  • Thomas Blueberry Bagels
  • Smucker’s Marshmallow Topping
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Burger King’s French Toast Sticks

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  • Earth Balance Cheddar Squares (vegan Cheez-Its)
  • Auntie Anne’s pretzels (with no butter)
  • Fruity Pebbles
  • Reese’s Puffs
  • Cap’n Crunch
  • Original flavored Pretzel Crisps
  • Dark Chocolate Pretzel BarkThins

If you’re feeling like indulging, save the grass for our cow friends 😉 and show omnivores what they’ve been eating vegan all along!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Atlanta VegFest

I don’t know what that “Panda” song was talking about, we were too focused on all the vegan shenanigans in Atlanta! We were so lucky to be a part of the 2016 Atlanta Vegfest! Vegfests are generally an overwhelmingly happy time for any plant eater, especially in a big city! I mean, being surrounded by thousands of vegans and eating some of the yummiest food around? Count me in! And of course, no vegan road trip is complete without checking out some of the best spots in town along the way!

Cashew in Chattanooga, Tennessee was our first stop. Donut breaks are the best kind of breaks, am I right? It was placed fittingly in a cute, trendy part of town and had some beautiful plant-strong art! We grabbed raspberry jelly filled powdered donuts and chocolate donuts with sprinkles before hitting the road again. I also got a beet and kale juice because you know, have to at least pretend I’m trying to eat healthy! The cake donuts were super moist and delicious, I would definitely recommend checking them out if you’re ever in town!

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Once we arrived in Atlanta, for Kristina and Jeff it was practically a no-brainer where to go for dinner! Cafe Sunflower brought on the class! It was a beautiful place that had vegan scallops (texture was spot on!), ah-maze-ing vegan chicken wings with sugar cane “bones,” vegan chicken enchiladas, vegan steak fajitas, and a mouth-watering dessert plate to choose from! At some point into the three appetizers, entrees, and dessert that passed on the table, I seriously questioned what tastes people think vegans could be missing out on! The next day I topped my vegan chicken enchilada leftovers with our V-Grits Mild Cheddar sauce, talk about the perfect combo! We all agreed the trip to Atlanta was worth it just for that amazing meal alone! We were even lucky enough to meet the sweetest vegan Uber driver afterwards! What are the odds!

Atlanta VegFest was beautiful, to say the least! An overcrowded room of vegans and the vegan-curious is my own personal happy place. We brought samples of Mac and Cheese, gooey with our Mild Cheddar Sauce, and crackers with our southern Pimento spread. We’re happy to say that we felt everyone there shared our same enthusiasm about our cheese line, and we even sold out of the 250 jars we brought in three bustling hours! The festival made us even more excited to be selling on Vegan Essentials hopefully by the end of next month! After we filled the vegfest-goers cheese needs, it was time to partake on the fun ourselves! We got to see the friendly face of David Carter (wearing a shirt I need in my closet), an NFL Lineman and animal activist! Carter acknowledges that veganism overlooks people of color and food deserts, and works to overcome those divides! How rad! Not to mention, he clearly puts all the vegan protein questions to shame! We also indulged in hot fudge vegan sundaes (too bad I ate mine too quick to take a picture!) and a range of vegan products from protein-loaded quinoa bites to yummy vegan meats! I couldn’t leave without snagging a new member to my vegan wardrobe, a grey scarf covered with animals by Compassion Company. On our way back home, we stopped at the Chattanooga Whole Foods for snacks and were surprised with super creamy and super pink sorbets of the fruity variety! All in all, it was a great day! We’ll definitely see you again next year, Atlanta! Thanks for the loveliest vegan noms!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

V-Grits Heads to Chi-Town!

This past Saturday, the V-Grits crew had a rad time selling our vegan cheeses at Chicago Veganmania! We came, we ate (a lot), we sold, we left. Here are some highlights from our trip (mostly food, of course).

  • Rocket 88: Out first stop was in Indy! We needed some donut/coffee power to get us to Chicago, so a stop at a local coffee shop with a lovely selection of vegan options was definitely needed! Some veg-friendly menu items included Apple Pie Donuts (delish!) and savory Tempeh Waffles. If you’re in the neighborhood, I would definitely check it out!
  • Chicago Diner: I ordered a Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip Milkshake with whipped cream Saturday night. How’s that for plant-based? 😉 Chicago Diner is doing it right, with their awesome slogan “Meat free since ’83!” Meat free is how we like to roll! Of course, no diner is complete without country fried steak, spicy chicken sandwiches, and Reubens, right? This spot had it all, and was packed from wall to wall when we visited! We love to see vegetarian spots thriving, and this one kept our bellies full (for a couple of days) and our taste buds content!
  • Pick Me Up Cafe: Another vegan-friendly diner we ate at was Pick Me Up! This diner had everything from vegan jalapeño poppers, to french toast, to steak pizza grinders! The portions will not disappoint! Not to mention, a killer tea selection! I opted for a dark orange cinnamon clove tea, and regret not asking for another tea bag!
  • Chicago Veganmania: We had such a blast at this event! While selling cheese out the wahzoo, we met some inspiring folks, including Jasmin Singer, co-host of podcast “Our Hen House” and Senior Editor of Vegnews, cookbook author and YouTube star the Vegan Black Metal Chef, and NFL vegan David Carter, aka the 300 pound vegan! Talk about starstruck! The day was completed with some amazing food (mango lassis, ribs, typical vegan stuff), educational seminars and cute vegan apparel! It was a great day all around, we can’t wait until the next one!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

The Buzz About Honey!

It might come as a surprise to many that along with not consuming animal meat and animal products, honey is also not a contributor to a vegan’s diet. Why not? Mostly because these tiny, intelligent, pretty little insects want to keep their food! Beyond being against cruelty to animals, veganism is also built on the belief of not exploiting animals for human benefit, or taking what is not ours to take. In common commercial cases of bee farms, Queen Bees are artificially inseminated, and honey the bees use as food is taken from them and replaced with High Fructose Corn Syrup. I think it’s safe to say that stuff can’t be good for anyone! Many times, the bees are even smoked away to make the honey from the hive easier to access.

More than just ethical problems with honey, there are environmental problems with honey as well. The environment needs bees to keep thriving, and the continuation of honey farms are forcing bees to die at an alarming rate. Without bees, we couldn’t have apples, mangos, kiwi, cotton, plums, peaches, onions, avocados, cocoa, cashews, strawberries and more! I don’t know about you, but a world without avocados and V-Grits cashew cheeses sounds like a modern-day nightmare!

Almost as alarming as ethical and environmental issues with honey, there’s also the fact that honey is actually bee puke! Yikes! Here are some much more tempting alternatives that are guaranteed to keep your sweet tooth satisfied!

  • Bee-Free Honee: Yep, you heard right! Everything can be made vegan! Apples make this sweet sticky treat so easy to replace honey for our buzzing bee friends to thrive, and it can be found at Whole Foods!

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  • Maple Syrup: Natural maple syrup tastes good poured on nearly anything (and by that, we really mean anything)! It’s rich and yummy and comes from trees!

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  • Coconut Nectar: Coconut Nectar is a super healthy alternative sweetener to honey or even refined sugar! It will add a little sweetness without feeling like you’re indulging!

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  • Agave Nectar: Agave Nectar is one of the most popular vegan sweeteners, and comes from the same plant Tequila is made out of! 😉

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We hope you give these modern, bee-friendly sweeteners a try! Let us know what your favorite alternative sweetener is!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi