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You’re A Hypocrite, Thanksgiving

turkey hypocrisy

I just don’t get Thanksgiving.

It just seems like a big, fat hypocrisy to me.

Let me explain…

On this day, Thanksgiving, we gather with the ones we love to celebrate and give thanks for all the blessings we’ve received. And on this day, the star of the show, the creme de la creme, is the tortured and mutilated, yet perfectly basted, stuffed and roasted turkey.

The turkey, which, ironically, was not even a part of the very first Thanksgiving way back in 1621.

The turkey, which Ben Franklin argued would make for a much more appropriate national symbol than the eagle.

The turkey, of which one or two of its species are “pardoned” by the President each year. For what crime? Being born?

The turkey, which is genetically modified to grow so quickly and so unnaturally large that their bodies become too huge for them to move, leaving them with heart problems and painful deformities.

The turkey, which is crudely de-beaked and de-toed (without anesthesia) to prevent injuries to other birds while forced to live in filthy, cramped spaces.

The turkey, which is slaughtered at only 5 months of age — just a baby, and under no protection by any humane slaughter laws — for the sake of a damn tradition.

I just can’t wrap my head around that.

What is a tradition, anyway? Dictionary.com defines a tradition as “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice,” but, put more simply, isn’t it something you do just for the simple reason that you’ve always done it and those around you always have?

Think about that. How much sense does it really make?

I think this meme sums up the notion of “tradition” perfectly:

tradition

And you can replace “stupid” with another adjective, like, “cruel” or “wrong” and the point still sings very clearly. Just because something — a tradition — has been a certain way for so long, that doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t mean it has to continue.

Why can’t Thanksgiving traditions change and evolve to include showing thanks for all blessings and all life, instead of just some? During this time of year, we’re keen to the suffering of others and offer to help in the ways we can — we donate food to the hungry, we buy toys to give to kids who wouldn’t get Christmas gifts, otherwise, we gladly donate our outgrown coats to make sure the homeless stay warm through the winter — but we’re absolutely oblivious to the suffering that’s right in front of us, on our plates.

If we only stopped for a moment and really thought about our food — what it is and where it comes from — maybe things would be different.

This poem, written by my favorite poet — the brilliant Shel Silverstein — will do that for you, if you don’t want to do it yourself:

point of view poem

 

If only we sent our kids to animal sanctuaries for their field trips, instead of zoos, maybe things could be different.

If only we weren’t so reluctant to question the status quo, maybe things could be different.

If only we could look past our blind ignorance to the fact that every action we take — including the foods we choose to eat — affect so much more than just ourselves.

But instead, tradition continues. People go on eating turkey on Thanksgiving because, that’s just what you’re supposed to do. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say that they don’t really even like turkey, but they eat it on Thanksgiving, anyway, because it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if they didn’t.

Really? Really?! Is that really what Thanskgiving is about? The food?

Would Thanksgiving be any less special if it didn’t include a turkey? If you said that yes, it would, I think it may be time to reexamine your priorities. Any maybe consider getting a new group to celebrate with. Thanksgiving is about the memories, the conversation, the laughter, the moments shared with loved ones. Not about the food. And certainly, not about the turkey.

For me, Thanksgiving has never quite been the same since becoming vegan. Although a day full of time well-spent making memories with my loved ones, it’s incredibly difficult to look at the world through compassion-colored glasses and not have a different viewpoint on Thanksgiving. Truthfully, it makes me sad. My sadness is, first and foremost, for the turkeys, but also for those who just can’t see or who refuse to see how the choices we make affect each other, other species and our planet.

That’s why I’m incredibly grateful for the small glimmers of hope that show that things can and are beginning to change. Pieces such as this, on mainstream media, highlight the wonderful programs that animal sanctuaries around the country have been holding for years. Celebrations where guests feed the turkeys, instead of the other way around offer guests a chance to hang out with these incredibly social and friendly birds up-close. I haven’t attended one such celebration yet, but having spent time with turkeys during visits to sanctuaries over the last few years, I can assure you that if you got the opportunity to get to know a turkey, you would definitely think twice about digging into his/her cousin lying in front of you on the Thanksgiving table. Many sanctuaries are offering turkey sponsorships (we “adopted” Lennon, who lives at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. We met him during our visit last month and he is awesome!) and a collective art project called 46millionturkeys is raising awareness of the plight of turkeys in this country. Some awesome and compassionate people even open up their hearts and homes, adopting turkeys and allowing them to live out their lives, ensuring that they’ll never become someone’s Thanksgiving dinner.

So maybe, just maybe, things are slowly beginning to change. That will lessen the sadness just a bit on Thursday.

Lennon selfie

Someone close to me told me I shouldn’t post this piece. That I shouldn’t push my views on anyone else and that, frankly, no one wants to hear about this stuff. At first, I was taken back, but then I came to the realization that that is exactly the reason why I needed to post it. Because it’s true. People don’t want to hear about it and they’ll do everything possible to make sure that they don’t. They’re not going to stumble upon this information on their own, so if things are going to change, I’m going to have to put it out there for them to see. Present some facts. Spark some change. Change has never happened because someone stayed quiet. And that’s why I won’t.

So, if I come off as a zealot, maybe I am. If this sounds like a rant, I agree. It does. If it seems like I’m condemning all turkey-eaters, though, that was not my purpose with this piece. I’m not forcing anything on anyone. All I am trying to do is open a few eyes.

I make no apologies, though. I started typing this post and my heart just kind of burst open and spilled out into it. I can’t remain silent about the things I am most passionate about and sometimes I can come off a little intense. It’s how I deal with the feelings that I have that are so incredibly strong that sometimes they make me want to just curl up and cry and at other times, make me want to shake everyone I meet, bombard them with the truth and demand to know why they don’t seem to care at all. Compassion is a double-edged sword, both a blessing and a curse. I can’t find the words to describe it, accurately, but remarkably, stumbled upon them this morning in a post from the incredible Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, as she quoted social activist, Andrew Boyd:

compassion hurts

I’m working on it.

 

Consider making a new tradition this year. Try leaving turkey off your plate. I think you will find that dinner tastes a whole lot better without all that suffering, misery and hypocrisy.

May all beings know peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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I Talk To Animals

Quinn windy

I talk to animals.

As a dog-walker/pet-sitter, it’s part of my job, actually.

Most of the time, it’s senseless banter — oohing and aahing over their cuteness, venting about this or that, or just talking to break the silence a bit. Sometimes, but not too often, the animals actually listen to me and once in a while, they even talk back.

. . .

I’ve always been drawn to animals. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to relate to animals better than I can relate to humans. People often comment on how good I am with animals and how they can really feel my passion when I’m around animals or speak of them. Some even joke that I’m a bit of an “animal whisperer.” I always tend to laugh off those remarks, though. I’m passionate about animals, yes, but an animal communicator? I don’t think so.

But not long ago, something happened that changed my thoughts about animals and how the lines of communication between us and them work.

I’d been working for a client, walking their three dogs, for almost three years when one of their dogs was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery and was taking chemotherapy pills, but his prognosis was not good. I was saddened by the news, of course, but knowing dogs’ resilience, I hoped for much more time with my buddy. The months passed and his health seemed steady — you really couldn’t tell there was anything wrong with him. Then one day, about six months after his diagnosis, things started to change. He became slower and he seemed winded after even short walks. We modified his care needs to lessen the strain on his body, but his health continued to decline. He still seemed to have some zest for life left, though, and would use every bit of energy he had to get outside for a bit when I came for his walk. Eventually, his legs became so week, he had trouble standing and needed help getting up from the floor. A few days later, his breathing seemed different and I knew my time with him was growing short. Each time I visited with him, I wondered if it would be my last.

Then one day, I knew it was.

He couldn’t support himself at all anymore and was feeble and struggling. He’d lost the spark in his eye and looked uncomfortable and defeated. I sobbed as I carried him outside and laid him down in the grass. He couldn’t even stand to urinate, but I didn’t care. I just wanted him to be able to enjoy some time outside as he always had. He laid his head down in the grass and as a bright beam of sunlight hit his face, his eyes closed and a peaceful look washed over him. I actually thought he was passing away right then and there and quickly made sure he was still breathing.

He was.

After a few minutes like that, he seemed ready to go back inside, so I carried him in and sat with him for a while. Stroking his beautiful, long fur and telling him, through sobs, that I loved him and that it was okay for him to leave. I told him that I knew he didn’t feel well and that he was worried about his owners and the two other dogs in the house, but that it was okay. I told him everyone would miss him, but that no one wanted to see him suffering any longer. I asked him to go on his own so that his owners didn’t have to make the decision to let him go. I told him all these things, kissed him, pulled myself together and headed out. I knew that would be the last time I’d see him.

Sure enough, later that night, I received word that he had passed on his own, at home.

Was it just coincidence that he passed that night, after I had had that long one-on-one with him? Maybe. “Probably”, I tell myself. But a part of me thinks that maybe it wasn’t. I can’t seem to erase from my mind the signs that he gave me that day. They struck me as so profound and I think that was his way of acknowledging all I had done for him and thanking me for all the fun memories we’d made during our three years together. It was like his final farewell to me.

I used to think that animals listened, to an extent, to the words we speak, but after this incident, I realize that the connections we have with them and the ability for them to send and receive messages is greater than I could imagine. I picked up a book recently at a thrift shop, Learning Their Language, by renowned intuitive communicator, author and teacher, Marta Williams, in which Williams instructs readers on how to get in touch with the intuitive side that lives within each of us to connect with animals and nature in ways we never imagined we could. I don’t think it’s something you really understand, or even believe in, though, until you experience it for yourself. After my experience, I am definitely a believer and I now approach each interaction I have with animals with new appreciation and receptiveness. Maybe I really am an animal whisperer, after all.

Do you believe animals communicate with us? Have you ever received or sent messages from or to an animal? 


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Bombay Seasoned Cobra Corn: A Review

You’re welcome in advance, guys…

cobra corn bombay

Ridiculous.

That’s the only word I can think of to describe Cobra Corn‘s Bombay Seasoned popcorn. And when I say ridiculous, I mean it in a great way. Like, “Cobra Corn is so damn good, it’s ridiculous!,” ridiculous.

I’m not a huge popcorn fan. Don’t get me wrong — I’ll eat it — but it’s just not something I am likely to seek out as a snack for myself. So, had I not received a bag of Cobra Corn in a food swap box program I participate in on Facebook, I may have missed out on this tasty little snack. And that would have been a minor tragedy, in my opinion. But let’s not dwell on what could have been…

My husband — definitely a bigger popcorn lover than I am — spied the Cobra Corn as soon as we opened up our box of goodies and plucked the bag for himself to take as a snack at work one night. I asked him to save me a few pieces so I could have a taste. One taste was all it took to win me over.

This popcorn isn’t anything at all like your movie-theatre-style stuff. It’s bold, spicy and exotic. All three flavors that the manufacturer offers (Bombay Seasoning, Chai Caramel and Himalayan Mountain Salt) are made from natural, non-GMO ingredients and are vegan and gluten-free.

The concept’s not incredibly complicated: popcorn, a little oil and some common spices. I’m sure it could be attempted in any home kitchen, but I doubt it would turn out nearly as good. Sort of like when you get a new haircut. You can never get it to look quite as good as the stylist did. Or is that just me?… 

Crumbs. Delicious crumbs. All that were left before I realized I should snap a pic.

Crumbs. Delicious crumbs. All that were left before I realized I should snap a pic.

The food swapper that introduced me to my newest snacking obsession (I’m deeming her my new BFF), lives in Texas. I’ve never seen it in stores around me, so I’m not sure where to buy it but you can bet that I’m on a mission to find it! The website’s store locator didn’t produce any results near me, but the free shipping offered through the manufacturer is really tempting me, although I’m not so sure I can wait that long for some more of this stuff!

Do yourself a favor: get your hands on a bag of Cobra Corn, stuff your face with it, then thank me for telling you about it! I accept virtual hugs, signatures on my chicken petition and cute pictures of animals. Preferably cows.

Who’s tried Cobra Corn? Do you love it?


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Live Chickens In Casino Games: Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Right!

Two weekends ago, Anthony and I spent a glorious long weekend in upstate NY, with visits to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary, to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary (a recap to come, soon!), where we cozied up to cows, frolicked with goats and hugged chickens.

The chickens were friendly and curious and funny. It was my first time interacting with them on such an intimate level and I must say, I was blown away by their sweet dispositions and happy-go-lucky approach to life. If you’ve never hugged a chicken, I suggest you do so at least once in your lifetime.

ant chicken

 

jena and chicken

This past weekend, though, those memories of happy chickens were quickly marred by reality after I received a text from a friend with a photo similar to this one:

tic tac chicken

If you’re wondering what the hell this is, I’ll tell you what the hell it is. It’s a live chicken being exploited by humans (we humans are so good at that) in a “Man vs. Chicken” tic-tac-toe game at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.

Yeah.

I’m serious.

If you don’t get it, don’t worry — neither did I.

Apparently, it’s a throwback to casino games of old. The gist: you play against the chicken to see who is smarter. The chicken pecks to choose her spaces and if she wins, she gets food. If you win, which you are not likely to do — these games are notorious for being rigged — you win money.

If this sounds pretty innocent to you, you must not know a whole lot about chickens. Chickens are social, smart and curious beings with specific environmental and dietary needs. They have the same complex emotions as our beloved dogs and cats do. They feel pain. They get scared. They experience loneliness.  Placing them in a glass box inside a casino for the sole purpose of generating money from a few saps who want to test their smarts against a chicken is inherently cruel and goes against everything chicken-like in a chicken’s life.

If that’s not bad enough, how about this fact? According to everyone I’ve spoken to and what I’ve been able to garner from online research, this is a perfectly legal practice. The chickens receive food, shelter and are rotated throughout the day, so there is no case for animal cruelty.

Okay, so it’s legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s right! In this day in age, when technology rules the world, this kind of stuff just isn’t necessary and it certainly isn’t cool. Maybe it was back in the sixties and seventies, but it’s 2014, people!! 

If you’re sensing a tone in this post, you’re not mistaken. I am infuriated that this is happening and that no one is doing anything about it. I plan to follow up on some reports I made regarding this situation and if time allows, to set up some protests to bring about an end to this “game” quickly and completely. In the meantime, I’ve started a petition on change.org. If you feel that using live animals in casino games is wrong, please visit the petition, sign it, write to Tropicana and share, share, share!

The chickens are counting on us to be their voice!!!


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Friday Faves: The Little Red Mailbox

little red mailbox

North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a special place and one that I’ve visited several times. It’s home to a herd of beautiful, free-roaming wild horses (let’s make sure they stay that way!), it’s where I spotted a bald eagle in the wild for the first time and the star-specked nighttime sky as viewed from the beach may literally take your breath away (it did, mine) — it looks like something straight out of the pages of National Geographic.

It’s also home to The Little Red Mailbox.

The Little Red Mailbox was placed along the beach access at Glenmere Beach in Kill Devil Hills this summer by resident Sue Goodrich. Goodrich, who found solace by the sea when her mother passed away, hopes that the mailbox and its contents — a journal and pens — will help others to find that same peace. “It’s a place to share your thoughts, dreams, feelings or secrets or to just visit what others have left along their journey,” she says. “Everybody needs a little hope, and helping others also helps ourselves,” she says.

To say that I love this idea would be an understatement. I wish there could be a Little Red Mailbox in every town around the globe. This world so needs it.

Life is the craziest ride we’ll ever embark on. It can be wonderful and beautiful and happy, but at times, it can be incredibly lonely, scary and downright tough. When life gets you down, though, sometimes all it takes is a snippet or two of wisdom, a little note of hope, to keep you going and get you through the tough stuff. That’s what The Little Red Mailbox does. That’s what we all need to do.

mailbox first entry

The first entry, penned by Goodrich herself.

If you don’t live in or near the Outer Banks, you can still be a part of this wonderful movement to spread hope and happiness. Send a note to the following address and it will be added to the notebook inside the mailbox:

little red mailbox

Here’s my note, all ready to go:

mailbox note

Please take the notion of The Little Red Mailbox to heart. Everyone we encounter on a daily basis is fighting their own battles — some publicly and some privately — and all could benefit from a little extra kindness, love and hope. It’s up to us to spread it.

Much love and happiness, my friends.


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Black Cats are For Witches

black cats cartoon

 

Black cats are for witches.

And by witches, I mean “women.”

Or “financially independent persons.”

Or “someone who is married with no children.”

Or “someone who is married with many children.”

Or “someone who has a birthmark.”

Or, well… I think you get it. The list of reasons that would classify someone as a witch (in 1692, at least) are just about as bogus as the belief that black cats bring bad luck or that they’re somehow connected to witchcraft or devil-worship.

The truth is, black cats are the same as grey cats, orange cats, calico cats, tabby cats and even bald cats. Cats are cats. Sadly though, a lot of people let their superstitious sides take over, causing them to shy away from black cats (and black dogs, too) when choosing a new pet. It’s called Black Dog (or Cat) Syndrome and it’s a real thing.

And a serious thing.

A life or death thing. Black dogs and cats are often the longest residents in shelters and rescue groups which means — yep, you guessed it — they’re usually the first to be euthanized to make space. All because of the color of their fur. Come on, people, are we really still thinking with such narrow-mindedness in today’s day in age? I don’t get it.

Black cats make great pets. I have one of my own and while I admit I’ve been completely and utterly spellbound by her beauty, feisty personality and silky fur, she has not cast any evil upon me. Well, you know… Not anything above and beyond the usual jerkiness that felines tend to exude.

So, here’s a challenge for you all. The next time you’re looking to add a new furry member to the family, go to your local animal shelter and ask to see the black cats first. Or the black dogs. I dare you not to fall in love with one of them.

Oh, but Halloween is next week, so you’d better wait until mid-November since shelters are leery to adopt out black cats too close to Halloween since apparently, some sickos try to adopt black cats near Halloween and then torture them or use them in ritual sacrifices. Nice, huh? I can’t stand people, most of the time sometimes!

black cat auditions

 

Who has loved a black cat?! Tell me about him/her!


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Pumpkin Spice Dip

pumpkin spice dip

I have two words for you: Pumpkin. Spice.

They’re slapped on just about everything this time of year, aren’t they? Beer. Coffee. Gum. Lip gloss. Pringles (gag!!). (Non-veg) burgers (double-gag!!). Candles. Dog treats.

Something about that combination of creamy, tangy pumpkin and warm, robust spices just screams “AUTUMN IS HERE!!!” and puts everyone in a better mood while giving them the warm fuzzies inside. Okay, so maybe those last two are pushing the boundaries of wishful thinking, but you get my point, right? Fall just wouldn’t be fall without a little bit of pumpkin spice.

I hosted a small dinner party on Sunday evening and decided to jump on the pumpkin spice bandwagon with a dessert dip that was inspired by my walk past a display of spiced wafers. The black and orange boxes spoke to me and that was it — pumpkin spice dip it would be!

This dip is just the right amount of sweet and spicy, but not so much so that you can’t taste the star of the show — the pumpkin. And perhaps the best part: it takes literally seconds to prepare!

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • 1 16-oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 4 oz. vegan cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup agave
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice

To prepare:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. (I went the lazy route and whizzed it around it my Vitamix a few times).
  2. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  3. Serve with spiced wafers or cinnamon pita chips.

That’s all there is to it! This dip will satisfy your pumpkin spice craving and is super quick and easy to throw together in a pinch for a last-minute, festive get-together.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Pumpkin spice freaks (and I mean that lovingly, of course!), what are your favorite pumpkin spice things

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