What I Want For My Birthday

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Tomorrow is my birthday, and the thought of that makes me smile.

 I’ve always loved my birthday.  There was always something about it being the one day that was “mine”.  When I was younger, I enjoyed being showered with attention and presents.  When I was raising my three children I celebrated my birthday by shifting attention to myself and doing exactly what I wanted to do.  Sometimes that meant celebrating with my family, and sometimes it didn’t.  The freedom was the real gift.  As I’ve gotten older, I still have some of that feeling that November 5 is qualitatively different for me than every other day of the year, however, what I enjoy most is getting birthday wishes from my kids, friends and family.  It warms my heart to know I am remembered.  I don’t need gifts although I am touched when someone chooses to give me one.  Bottom line?  I have enough stuff.

This morning, when David asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I realized that things feel a little different this year.  Just about a year ago (the actual date was October 24) we went vegan, and this past year was different than any of the previous 55 in ways I could never have expected.  I have had many “momentous” years in my life.  Getting married (twice) and the births of my three amazing children created shifts that I could not have anticipated, in terms of both struggle and pain and intense love and joy.

At this point though, I am passionate about something outside of myself.  I learned about the suffering and violence inflicted on billions of animals used for food, clothing and entertainment.  I learned about the relationship between animal agriculture and the destruction of the earth and oceans.  I learned that eating animals is related to the nightmarish state of our collective health.  I vowed to stop eating and using animals for all of these reasons, and I decided to dedicate myself to educating others about these issues and provide support to those who want to also make changes in their own lives.

As any animal activist will tell you, this is quite an uphill battle, one that can feel isolating and discouraging.  For me, the most difficult part of this activist journey is that the vast majority of people simply do not want to learn or be challenged to look at themselves in any way and this makes healthy, substantive discussion very difficult.  I feel like I know so very little about how other people see this issue because it seems that only the vegans are willing to talk about it!  I understand the psychological goings-on better than most, but I never get used to how little people “wonder” about their motivations and their behavior.  And what I know is that “wondering” is the precursor to change.  Wondering if something is true.  Wondering if we are culpable or hypocritical or doing the best we can.  Wondering if there’s another way.  Going vegan doesn’t mean I stop wondering.  What is my role in the defensiveness?  How can I say things better?  How can I be more compassionate?  Am I being realistic?  Am I being true to myself and is that always the most important thing?  I don’t have answers to all these questions but I’m working on it.

So what I want for my birthday is for people to start wondering.  I believe that most people are kind, decent and compassionate, and there are defensive walls and blind spots that get in the way of people acting in a way that is truly in line with their values.  It’s all about connecting the dots.  Here are some questions that might get your “wondering” juices going:

–  If I believe that it is wrong to torture and kill animals for pleasure can I be true to this belief while continuing to eat animals?

-Can I be an environmentalist while ignoring the issue of animal agriculture?

-Do I believe that I need to take responsibility for my own health and wellness?

If you’re wondering up a storm and want to talk about it, please leave a message and let’s get a discussion going.  If you don’t want to engage with these questions, I can accept that too.  After all, even in grown-up birthday world, we can’t always get what we want 🙂

Nobody Says It Better Than Gary Francione

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This morning I am stuck in my house because the air conditioning guy is here doing a check up on my system.  This ends up taking hours because we have three different oldish AC units, and it’s never really just a simple check up. You know how that goes.  In order to pass the time, I decided to watch a video of animal rights activist/abolistionist, Gary Francione debating about why animals have rights.  Once again I am blown away by his brilliance and uncompromising moral stance.

I became vegan after watching movies (Vegucated, Speciesism) and hearing Howard Lyman (The Mad Cowboy) speak here in Tucson.  Shortly thereafter I began immersing myself in many books on the subject of ethical veganism, and this strengthened my resolve to stop supporting animal exploitation in any way I could.  But no single person or book had quite the impact on me that Gary Francione’s “Eat Like You Care” had and continues to have.

While watching Gary debate (you can watch it here), I am reminded of the simple clarity that underlies Gary’s “veganism as a moral baseline” position.   In this debate, he suggests that if we believe that it is immoral to torture and/or kill animals for our pleasure then we ought not to be eating or otherwise using animals. Billions of animals are tortured and killed annually simply because we like the taste of animals.  We know now that it is not only possible to live healthfully without animal products, but there is ample evidence to suggest that eliminating animal products from our diets will do much to improve our health.

Gary Francione illustrates his position by talking often about Michael Vick, the NFL player who was convicted of running a dog-fighting operation.  The American public went wild around this issue, understandably vilifying Vick for torturing and killing animals for his pleasure.  The name Michael Vick became synonymous with dog-fighting and torture, and the public will probably never forgive him even though he paid his debt to society and expressed remorse.  I, and everyone I know, was sickened by the images that emerged from this story.  It was truly overwhelming that anyone could inflict this kind of torture on innocent animals for entertainment.

Yet isn’t this what happens when we eat meat, dairy and eggs?  There is at least as much suffering inflicted on farmed animals (factory-farmed or “happy”) as there was in Vick’s dog-fighting operation.  These are all sentient beings.  Any distinction we make between the dogs and the cows, chickens or pigs is speciesist and self-serving. And there’s no comparison when it comes to the scale of the torture and death.  Admittedly, when we eat animals we are usually paying other people to do the torturing and killing for us, but as we know from the law, there is no moral distinction between murdering someone and paying someone else to do it for us.  As Gary says, “we are all Michael Vick”.  In 2009 Gary wrote an Op-Ed entitled “We’re All Michael Vick” and you can read his compelling words here.

Gary Francione is a passionate, outspoken champion for the rights of animals yet he is often seen as a polarizing figure because he actively campaigns against single issue welfare campaigns (SICs).  His belief is that our time, energy and money are better spent educating people about veganism.  I happen to agree with this which is why I choose to take my advocacy in that same direction.  In addition, Gary is against any effort on the part of activists to promote “happy” animal products, because a) he doesn’t believe there is such a thing and b) he believes it enables people who might otherwise be vegan to continue to consume meat, dairy and eggs without feeling guilty.  I agree with him on this point as well.  To me, the term “humane slaughter” is a complete oxymoron.

As I continue to educate myself on all the issues pertaining to veganism (in order to be a more effective vegan coach), I often find myself mired in details surrounding nutrition facts and cooking techniques.  I anticipate that many people I work with will be going vegan “for health”, and being a resource for all of this information is certainly important.  I happen to believe that a plant-based whole foods diet is optimal for health, but it’s not difficult to find staunch proponents of other ways of eating to optimize health.  We can always find our own “expert” willing to tell us exactly what we want to hear, and at a certain point, when it comes to nutrition it’s all about who we choose to believe.

Yet this is not the case with ethics, and spending this morning online watching Gary Francione provided a much-needed and timely reminder that I do this for the animals.  If you are someone who cares about animals I strongly recommend that you read Gary’s work.  I believe it will change your life. You can get started by visiting his website here.

Thank you Gary, for speaking the words in the just the way I need to hear them.

Meatless Monday, A Closer Look

I’ll just say this straight out.  I’m not a fan of Meatless Monday.  As an ethical vegan, I believe that it is wrong to use animals for our pleasure.  It’s a black and white thing.  So measures such as Meatless Monday which tout the benefits of not eating  animals some of the time asks me to believe that animal exploitation and murder is okay at other times.  To my way of thinking it most certainly is not.  But, okay, no one claims that Meatless Monday is about the animals.

In society and even in the vegan community there can be a knee-jerk positive response to efforts like this one.  On the one hand it doesn’t really sound so bad.  In terms of animal suffering, isn’t any effort/reduction in consumption worth celebrating, even if there’s no intention vis-a-vis the animals?  Well, I don’t know.  I decided to put my cynicism aside and look a little closer at the Meatless Monday website to actually learn more about what they are up to.  The following is a quote from their “Global Movement” statement:

Meatless Monday is now active in 36 countries and growing because every nation can bring its unique culture, customs and cuisine to the table in meat free and vegetarian dishes.  Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet!

So the message is to incorporate more vegetarian dishes–like today’s featured recipe, Kadai Paneer, an Indian Cheese dish:

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(Photo from the Meatless Monday website)

 Never mind how much animal suffering was needed to produce this dish.  This dish is loaded with cheese and yogurt. I seriously question whether eating this way is “good for you”, “great for your nation’s health” or “fantastic for the planet”. We know that dairy is incredibly unhealthy and I have no idea what environmental resources are saved by chowing down on cheese rather than beef or chicken.

While I think it’s tempting to think that when folks remove meat from their diets the result might look something like this:

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when I think it might actually look more like this:

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During our transition from omnivore to vegan, David and I spent a few months being vegetarian.  While I would say that we did increase our consumption of fresh vegetables (all good) many of our meals looked like this cheese-laden eggplant parmesan.  And I had a great time creating delectable egg dishes like this quiche:

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Plenty of cheese and butter in that one as well.  Oh, and I remember very clearly that this mozzarella sandwich was a lunch staple of that period:

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Now I can completely cop to having had limited imagination and even less understanding of vegan cooking during that time, but I also think this is pretty typical.  And I look back on that stretch as not only contributing to animal exploitation and abuse (possibly even more than I did as an omnivore considering the level of abuse in the dairy and egg industries), but also eating in a way that was hardly ideal healthwise.  Consequently, promoting vegetarianism as a positive alternative to meat-eating (a la Meatless Monday) doesn’t make sense to me.

I transitioned to veganism when I had enough education to fully understand that by eating a vegetarian diet I was continuing to support the torture and killing of other sentient beings as well as the destruction of our planet.  I believe that others have the capacity to understand the facts and make similar changes.  Education and information will make this possible, but we need to tell the truth.

Every day of the week.

Unintended Factory Farm Drive-By

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David and I spent the weekend visiting his parents in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs is about six hours from Tucson, a straight shot on the I-10.  We decided to take a slightly different route on the way back in order to avoid the downtown Phoenix area and to get a little change of scenery.  The first leg of this Phoenix by-pass route takes you on route 85, a rural highway.  We were actually enjoying the relaxed driving and desert views (lovely palo verde trees this time of year) when I spotted what appeared to be a series of large buildings set way back off the highway.  My now- trained eye knew instantly that this was a factory farm complex.  But it didn’t take an expert (or vegan as the case may be) to clue us into the fact that we were in factory farm land.  The stench wafted into the car even with the windows closed.  I cracked the window just to get a sense of what this actually smelled like.  It was truly overwhelming and we were really nowhere near the place and driving 80 miles an hour.

Interestingly, along this same stretch of highway we also passed a large prison complex and a nuclear power plant.  You know, the places we don’t want in our neighborhood so we can all be safe (and maybe ignore that places like this exist?)

When I got home I went online, and it didn’t take long to figure out that the factory farming operation belonged to Hickman’s Family Farms, Arizona’s largest egg producer.  You can take a look at Hickman’s operations by checking out their website here.  It looks like such a happy place and such a sweet history with grandma and all.  Smiles all around.  They seem particularly proud of their incredible efficiency.  Is this what you envision when you think of an egg farm?  They are also anxious to share how impressively they have grown since those early days in grandma’s yard.  Here’s what it looks like today (in their words from their website):

Our buildings now cover 2 million square feet, equivalent to 7 football fields;
Our processing capacity for shell eggs is ¾ million eggs per hour;
We are able to will be able to break, pasteurize and package 100,000 eggs per hour;
We can boil, peel and package 50,000 eggs per hour;
We have hens and pullets in Arizona and Colorado, egg processing and distribution in Iowa, and distribution warehouses in Las Vegas, Nevada and El Centro, California;
We service customers located from Iowa to Hawaii;
We consume the production of approximately 50,000 acres of grain products a year. (That is 78 square miles.) Another way to think of it is, we use a train of grain, one mile long, every month;
Our feed mill makes a 26-ton semi-load of feed every 18 minutes;
We repurpose everything possible – including 800,000 lbs. per day of chicken manure. Our fertilize division ships organic, dried, pelletized, bagged or bulk fertilizer throughout the state and southern California;
We have about 300 full-time employees.

Oh, they are working very hard here not to say much about the chickens.   My particular favorite is “we consume the production of approximately 50,000 acres of grain products a year”. Who is “WE”?!  Well, turns out, as best I could glean from the internet (couldn’t find the info on their site), they have some four million chickens that are crammed floor to ceiling in their “lay houses”.  These chickens have their beaks sliced off and are put in “battery cages”where they stay until they die or are killed.  Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary wrote an excellent and compelling article describing the plight of the battery-caged chicken here.  He points out that 95% of egg-laying hens are housed this way in factory farms like Hickman’s.

Buying and consuming eggs directly supports this horrendous industry.  Hickman’s and others like them can crow all they want about their efficiency.  I call it a travesty.

 

 

 

 

Do You Have 12 Minutes?

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I finally watched the PETA video, “Meet Your Meat”, a compilation of undercover footage taken from factory farms and slaughterhouses.  Alec Baldwin does the narration. I went vegan after learning about the cruelty to animals in factory farms where the vast majority of the animals used for food in this country are bred, confined and killed.  I’ve watched many movies and read countless books on the subject but until today I couldn’t bring myself to watch this short video.   It is as graphic and sad and disturbing as I feared it would be.  I’m glad I watched it, and I want to encourage you to do the same.

These factory “farms” and slaughterhouses are tucked away in rural areas for good reason.   Visitors are not welcome at factory farms and slaughterhouses for good reason.   The factory farming industry is banking on the fact that if we can’t see what is happening behind the windowless walls we’ll assume that nothing is happening.  They know an awful lot about human nature.    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. And the poor animals continue to suffer in the most horrific ways.

But I also know that it is in our human nature is to be kind to animals.  Most people I know profess to love animals.  We naturally turn away when we see animals being mistreated or in pain because it hurts our hearts.   But refusing to see or acknowledge the truth about where our food comes from doesn’t make the cruelty any less horrific or real.

Please watch the video.  It will only take twelve minutes of your time.

The link is here.

 

 

 

The Veal/Dairy Connection

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Do you know anyone who eats veal?  I don’t.  Consumption of veal in the United States has indeed fallen dramatically over the last few decades.  Back in the 1980’s  horrendously cruel veal farming practices were broadly and publicly exposed.  Once the public learned of these atrocities many people gave up veal for good.  This is excellent.  The fewer baby cows torn from their mothers at birth, crated or penned, fattened up and inhumanely slaughtered the better.

I imagine that many folks reading this opening paragraph are nodding along and feeling glad that they at one time decided to stop eating veal.  It surely does feel good to connect with our compassionate natures.

Before going vegan I never ate veal, mostly because I didn’t like it.  What I’ve learned over the last several months, however, is that the veal industry is a complete by-product of the dairy industry.  Not only did I not know that, but I’m realizing that most people I share it with don’t know it either.  And several of these people stopped eating veal for ethical reasons years ago.

Here’s how the system works.  In order for female cows to lactate they need to continually become pregnant and give birth.  I know that seems obvious but who really thinks about it? The cows are forcibly impregnated and they give birth approximately once a year.  So, what happens to their babies?  In factory farm operations where most of our milk is produced, all of the babies are removed from their mothers (their milk is for our consumption after all) right after they are born.  The female calves will live the same lives as their mothers giving birth and producing milk until they can’t physically do it anymore (they will then probably become hamburger meat), and the male babies will most likely be sent to veal farms where conditions may be only marginally better than they were back in the 1980’s.

I read a bunch of articles about the dairy/veal connection and it’s incredibly bleak and sad.  Ultimately there’s no avoiding the fact that every veal calf is born to a dairy cow mother.  In my online search I found that some veal producers actively promote the dairy/veal connection suggesting that by eating veal we are indeed supporting the dairy industry. Check out this excerpt taken the Strauss Farms website (click here for the link)

Q: How does group raised veal support the dairy industry?
A: Dairy cows must calve every year in order to maintain milk production. Heifer (female) calves, are raised to re-enter the herd as milking cows. Bull (male) calves, provide little to no value to dairy farmers. The formula-fed veal industry evolved by utilizing a by-product of the cheese industry (whey) and a by-product of the dairy industry (bull calves). The flavor and texture of meat from dairy breeds is not desirable, and therefore they are not typically marketed as beef. Raising them as veal supports the dairy industry, which provides us with delicious ice cream, lattes, and cheese.

Happy veal and lots of lattes.  I’ll pass on the whole unholy alliance.

No More Show and Tell

I made an adorable baby sweater and I started to write a post about it.  Here’s a picture of the sweater:

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I loved making this sweater for my friend’s new granddaughter.  I’m sure the baby will look adorable in this.  I hope they all love it.  Enough said.

As I was writing the blog post about the sweater I realized that it wasn’t what I really wanted to write about.  It’s fun to make something, post about it and have readers offer up compliments.  That feels great.  And while I still spend a great deal of time in various creative activities, this is not what I’m thinking about.  I’m thinking about veganism.  Regular readers of this blog probably do not think that this is a great big “reveal”.  After all, veganism is pretty much all I’ve been writing about for months.  And here’s why…

My veganism is not a “diet”– it’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle centered around the idea that it is morally wrong to enslave, torture and murder animals.  It is a lifestyle that reflects a true concern for the environment and sustainability. It’s a lifestyle that means I take responsibility for my own health to the very best of my ability.  Veganism is about kindness and compassion.  And I want to write about that.

So far in my own journey I’ve learned how to cook great vegan food, and I’ve shared many favorite dishes.  While there’s an element of “show and tell” about that, I will continue to do this with the hope that others might feel inclined to give veganism a try.  My dearest friend, Lisa, followed my vegan journey on this blog.  She started reading books and watching movies and in a matter of months went vegan.  I feel very grateful that both my husband and best friend are vegan.  The support is invaluable.  I hope to provide that support to others who might not have their nearest and dearest on board.

So far this all sounds pretty “kumbaya” but being vegan in the world often feels nothing like that.  With the exception of my daughter, members of my immediate family and family of origin have expressed little to no interest in my being vegan even though it is central to my life.  I have one friend who, upon hearing I was now vegan (no details, just that), completely shut down the conversation.  I haven’t heard from her since.  I want to write openly about this painful reality and help others navigate these challenges.  Understanding is not always found in the places we expect but it is always worth seeking.

I know I want to make a difference for the animals and the planet.  Being vegan and encouraging others to do the same is how I can do that today.  Topically, I’m not sure what I will be writing about next, but I do know that I will write from the heart and speak my truth.  And I doubt it will be all sweetness and light. After all, what’s happening with the animals, the environment and our collective health is painful, destructive and scary.

As I write about these things I expect that I will often feel very vulnerable.  And at times my words might unintentionally cause defensiveness in others.   I’m willing to accept that reality.

I hope you will join me on this journey toward greater kindness and compassion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Price Tradition?

David and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the third year in a row, and three of our five children and our grandson will be there.  As new vegans, we had a few discussions about how we wanted to handle the meal.  We decided that wanted to be true to our convictions as ethical vegans and have a vegan Thanksgiving.  And I admit that I had some trepidation about sharing the news with my son, Sam, who I thought might feel disappointed to not have his favorite “traditional” foods (cheesy au gratin potatoes for example) at the meal.

Through a text message (giving me the space to deal with my and his reactions) I shared the news.  He responded predictably–“what no cheesy potatoes?!” although he did add “lol”.  After a bit of back and forth chatting peppered with “lol’s” (mine and his) I assured him that he would be served a delicious meal and be healthier for it.  He agreed to keep an open mind as long as I didn’t tell him the specifics about exactly what he was eating.  Well, okay, I can live with that.  I am incredibly excited to see the kids and share the best my vegan culinary skills have to offer.  It’s going to be a great time.

And that brings me to a feature article I read in the Huffington Post this morning entitled, “I’ll Take Turkey Over Tofu, Thank you” and you can read it for yourself here.  The premise of the article (I think) is that tradition matters–and tradition (for this family) seems to be eating the turkey, the stuffing made with gobs of butter, and the pecan pie a la mode.  And the author emphatically (defiantly?) states that she and her family “will enjoy every bite”.  WOW.  Now I know that most people this Thanksgiving will be eating some version of the aforementioned meal (and enjoying it) but I couldn’t help but wonder about her defensive tone.  Perhaps she doth protest too much??

The author states that she is happy to eat vegan or gluten-free concoctions but others shouldn’t judge her for wanting to keep her traditions.  I agree that no one likes to be judged, and vegans, like people passionate about any cause, can ruffle plenty of feathers.  But this is not simply a matter of tit for tat or about our cooking skills or palate.  It is a matter of conscience.  I doubt I’m exaggerating when I say that millions of turkeys will be inhumanely fattened up and slaughtered so that American families can keep up this tradition.  I can work my way down the Thanksgiving menu but I won’t bother.  It’s all so very sad that as a country this is where we are at.  On some level, I wonder if the author of this article, who is making her assertions with some pretty intense energy doesn’t deep-down have her own concerns about the animals, the environment, her health and the health of her family.   I think it’s hard to live in our culture without there being some uneasiness about our values and how we live.

Regarding traditions, I do understand that family rituals can keep us feeling connected to one another, and this author alluded to an”empty chair” at her table.  I could feel the sadness in her words. The rituals around holidays (and food) are some of the most powerful we experience in our families and culture.  And one way we connect one generation to another is through rituals like these.  But even so, I believe that some traditions and rituals are worth rethinking even if the transitions feel uncomfortable.  As we all know, at one time, “being true to one’s heritage” meant owning slaves.

On a slightly lighter note (but still on the subject of tradition and ritual) I barely got my own mini-ritual started when I had to change it.  Remember this?

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That wool yarn was not animal-friendly and the macaron is full of butter.  Here is my updated spread:

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This is acrylic yarn from my stash that I am using to crochet a “snuggle blanket” for an animal shelter.  I got wind of this idea from an internet pal (thanks Barb!) who was wondering what to do with her (non-animal friendly) merino wool and she was considering making blankets for animal shelters.  I like the idea of making some mini reparations in this way as well.  The wool from the sweater above (if it’s washable) will probably be slated for shelter blankets as well.  If you want to know more about this wonderful effort you can check it out here.

As for the cookie:

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This delectable oat jam thumbprint cookie came with me from home.  I made a batch yesterday and you can find the recipe here.

While I made some changes to my mini-ritual, I still chatted with other folks at Whole Foods and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.  And here’s the thing–traditional foods are nice but they are nice because of the meaning we assign to them.  Turkey on Thanksgiving means connection and love and family.  While we can swap out one food for another, the people sitting around our tables are and will always be the main event.

New traditions await.

Not Just About The Food

Being a vegan is about how I want to show up in the world.  It’s about pulling my money and participation from the unnecessary torture of animals and raping of the planet.  It’s about taking responsibility for my physical, emotional and spiritual health.  An obvious first step in this transition has been to adopt a vegan diet which I’ve shared for the past few months in this blog.  What I may not have shared is that as I have changed my diet I have begun to experience a feeling a peace that I believe is about making life choices that are more in line with my values.

But there is still more work to do and more to think about.  What about animal testing in personal care products and cosmetics?  The torture of rabbits in  the cosmetics industry is well-documented.  How about leather products?  Is eating the meat of cows different from wearing their hides? (NO). That pile of wool yarn I bought to knit a sweater is weighing me down.  The sheep in Australia (where most wool comes from) are wholly unprotected and routinely abused and maimed.  Goose down in my comforter and jacket makes me uncomfortable. The feathers of the poor animals that are fattened up for their liver are mercilessly plucked. Of course, the fur industry is so atrocious that I won’t even go there, but I don’t have any fur, thank god.

My commitment is to phase all of these products out of my life, and I am currently researching ways to do that.  What I am learning is that it is absolutely possible to find vegan cosmetics and personal care products.  There are manufacturers of vegan shoes.  I can knit with cotton, linen, bamboo and acrylic.  As I learn I will share, and that brings me to this:

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LUSH cosmetics is a retail and online manufacturer of  personal care products.  If you live in an urban or suburban environment there is probably a retail store near you.  I happened on our local LUSH store when we were waiting for the Apple store to open the other day.  I have probably walked by this store a dozen times but never went inside.  The store’s exterior signage let me know what they were about as they are involved in active campaigns to eliminate animal testing.  You can read about their extraordinary efforts here.

I bought some moisturizers and brought home some shampoo and conditioner to sample.  Because these products are minimally processed and are plant-based they look a bit different from the products I’m used to. Here’s what I got:

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The Skin Drink is a daily facial moisturizer made from sesame oil (I was tempted to take a taste!).  The bar is actually an overnight moisturizer.  You warm it up in your hands, and as it “melts”  it becomes more oily and easier to apply to the face.  Many LUSH products exist in bar form in order to reduce  packaging.  I think it’s brilliant.  The shampoo sample I brought home (aptly named “curly wurly”) is a coconut based moisture-rich concoction;  the conditioner has a strong smell of orange blossom and is very creamy.

OK, so do these products work?  Well, I’ve only just started so the honest answer is “I don’t know yet”.  My first impression of the moisturizers is that they feel wonderful on my skin but I’m not sure they can fully combat the dryness of my fifty-something Arizona sun-drenched skin.  I am trying to be more cognizant of drinking more water because I know how important that is for hydrating the skin.  I will continue with this regimen for a while before I make a final assessment.  I may need to try a more intense LUSH formulation or look into different animal friendly manufacturers.

I can say though that my hair is already loving the shampoo and conditioner although the orange blossoms may be a bit too intense.  I’m trying to get used to it.  If I can’t I will definitely see what else LUSH has to offer.  I also plan to try out some of their cosmetics.

If you are interested in knowing whether the cosmetics and/or personal products you use are made by companies that engage in animal testing (and that’s most of them folks!) you can visit the PETA website here.  I have already jettisoned many of my favorites–Great Lash Mascara, Bobbi Brown everything and Natura Bisse skin care products. Little by little I will replace them with products that I can feel good about using.  On a happy note, my signature scent, Liz Claiborne Realities is animal-friendly.  So you never know until you check it out.

Years ago my dear friend, Fernando  said about fur-wearers, “you have to wonder about someone who wants to drape themselves in dead animal”.   The turn of phrase made me laugh at the time and I fully agreed with his sentiment.  But back then I didn’t feel compelled to wonder about myself. I felt somehow superior to those fur-wearers even as I was eating my burgers, using products tested on animals and shopping around for new boots.  Yuck.  The truth is this is no laughing matter.  I can and will do better.