Category Archives: animals

AUSTINITES: Call your local representatives *today* to help animals

The Cruelest Show on Earth

For years a group of animal lovers in Austin have been trying to stop some of the worst forms of cruelty to animals in our time. Yes, I am talking about the damn circus where they regularly control elephants and other animals through shackles and pain. Austin For Cruelty Free Entertainment is working to ban bull hooks and chains and they can win this campaign if you take five minutes to call your city council members today. I hear time and time again that the best way to actually make political change is to work at the local level. Just a handful of calls can completely sway a council member because not that many people are engaged so don’t put it off! I don’t want to call either but they even made a script for us so it will be super easy. Here are the details:

Hello Everyone. Thank you for supporting our campaign to protect animals in circuses all these years. We are now at the most important and critical phase of this years-long process to pass an ordinance that will ban painful devices used on animals in circuses, as well as banning chains used on elephants in circuses.
We need your help right now to help us pass this ordinance. Here’s what you can do today to help us out:

1) Call our city council members and mayor today and ask them to support this campaign. It only takes about 60 seconds to make each call. You will be speaking to a council member’s aide who may ask for your name and phone number; please give that information to them. Here’s what you can say when you call:

“Hello. My name is (your first name, last name). I live in Austin. I’m calling to ask Council Member (name) to support Council Member Tovo’s proposal asking the city attorney to write an ordinance that will ban painful devices used on animals in circuses, one that also includes a ban on chaining or tethering elephants.”

Our city council wants to hear from you about important issues so please call them now so they’ll know how important stopping animal cruelty in circuses is to our community. One last thing: Our city council is very busy so please make your call very brief.

Here are the city council names and phone numbers and email addresses:

• Mayor Lee Leffingwell – 512-974-2250
• Council Member Mike Martinez – 512-974-2264,
• Council Member Bill Spelman – 512-974-2256
• Council Member Sheryl Cole – 512-974-2266
• Council Member Laura Morrison – 512-974-2258
• Council Member Chris Riley – 512-974-2260

2) You may also email our city council and mayor all at once by going here Your email will be sent to all of them once you click the SEND button.

Here’s what you can write in your email:

“Hello. My name is (your first name, last name). I live in Austin. I’m emailing to ask Council Member (name) to support Council Member Tovo’s proposal asking the city attorney to write an ordinance that will ban painful devices used on animals in circuses, one that also includes a ban on chains or tethering elephants. Thank you.”

3) Join us at 10:00 a.m., on Thursday, December 11th, at City Hall where the city council and mayor will vote on a proposal asking the city attorney to write a law to protect animals in circuses in Austin.

We’ll need you to do the following once you arrive:

• Register your support for this proposal by voting at one of the kiosks located in the lobby of city hall. Two of our members will be stationed next to the kiosks to assist you with this step. This takes 2 minutes to do so please do this.
• If you feel comfortable speaking in support of this proposal then sign up to speak for 3 minutes during the city council meeting. You do not need to speak for the entire 3 minutes but you cannot go over 3 minutes either. Please be polite when speaking, give your full name and simply ask the city council to protect animals in circuses by banning painful devices used on animals in traveling shows as well as banning chains on elephants.
Follow Austin For Cruelty Free Entertainment on facebook or twitter for updates.


Vegan Bake Sale for Austin Pet’s Alive this Sunday at Wheatsville South

It’s time again for this year’s Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale and out Austin contribution gets bigger and better every year!

me & Kristen at the Counter Culture sale last year

If you like you can still sign up to bake here

But if you want to help the leaders of Austin’s no-kill movement and thousands of pets find forever homes the best way is to let everyone know about the sale this weekend! Share our Facebook event! Harass your friends! Dedicate songs to us on the radio! Whatever it takes!

We will be at Wheatsville South this Sunday April 27 from 11:30am – 3:00pm

There will be gluten-free, soy free and savory items at the sale. And maybe even some dog treats.

The most exciting part is that we will also have treats from Sugar Mama’s, Happy Vegan Bakery, Red Rabbit Bakery, Mr. NaturalPatticake CupcakeryUnity Vegan Kitchen, and of course Capital City Bakery.

Help us make this sale this best yet!

Making the world more awesome through tortoise cozies & bake sales.

At our SXSW conversation a few weeks ago one thing we talked about a lot was that, for us, the best way to stay vegan & help animals is by doing things that make you happy. Protests and political actions are so important but it’s really easy to get burned out and they just aren’t for everybody. For me, I found that I like writing about awesome vegan food, rescuing dogs, and having bake sales.

But there is a million other things you can do if you can just think of them. I saw this story this morning on The Mary Sue and I had to share. A woman named Katie Bradley got involved with tortoise rescue and rehabilitation and then realized she had the talent to crochet tortoise cozies and sell them on the Etsy to raise funds for International Reptile Rescue. So inspiring and so fun. I love it.

Also, we need more bakers for the Austin World Wide Vegan Bake Sale coming up April 27, if you haven’t signed up yet, get to it!

Thanksgiving for the Turkeys

For years I have had my office rally around the cause of adopting turkeys and the adoption certificates are now hanging up all over the place. It leads to a lot of interesting discussion. Most of the time people crack a joke about how the turkeys deserve to be eaten or something but, as time has gone on, I’ve learned to always say “well these turkeys were abused” and it changes the conversation. When people first hear about food animals being saved they picture a healthy robust animal on it’s way to get processed for the super market getting stolen off the assembly line by some rouge vegans who want to rob people of their holiday bird.

I think this is the story folks really want to believe. They choose the Utopian farmer story so they don’t have to think about factory farms and monstrous slaughterhouses. When you tell them the reality of these turkey’s lives, well people don’t joke about it again after that. Maybe these turkeys were abused or fell off the truck. Maybe it was too sick to be taken into the slaughterhouse so it was abandoned in a dumpster outside to die slowly. I usually mention how all turkeys are confined to tiny spaces and their beaks are cut off.  It really makes people think and sometimes they throw in a couple dollars to our adopt a turkey fund or at least they think it’s a pretty great thing to do. It can be tough to have these conversations though. It took me a long time to be able to realize that arguing the “meat is murder” point will never get you anywhere but nobody wants to see animals tortured and abused. It’s a much easier starting point.

I do love telling people, after that, about how Farm Sanctuary has a Thanksgiving party *for* the turkeys. Once people feel bad for a turkey’s tough life they love hearing about little kids feeding turkeys sweet potatoes and apples to celebrate the holiday. It’s a great program.

I encourage you to adopt a turkey too, and to tell all of your friends about it. It’s a great way to honor the holiday in my experience. If you live in Austin Capital City bakery is going to be having our own little party for the turkeys. Kristen is cooking up tons of stuff, both sweet and savory and she is going to be sampling all of her Thanksgiving pies. 10% of all sales are going to Farm Sanctuary and if you pledge TODAY to sponsor a turkey you will get a totally free 4″ turkey cake. You have to order today though at or 512.666.7437.

You also have to get your orders in today for Thanksgiving pies from Capital City Bakery and also Thanksgiving Dinners from Happy Vegan Bakery or Counter Culture. Check out the Thanksgiving roundup for more info.

SXSW eco misses the most important thing we can do to save the world

This year organizers of South By Southwest Eco were nice enough to give me a free pass to attend the conference. Although I’ve been to the interactive, music, and film conferences quite a bit over the last few years this was my first time attending the new-ish eco. I went full throttle into attending as many panels as possible on everything that I am interested in. I loved learning about the potentials of 3D printing, technology that’s helping wildlife, the importance of storytelling in the movement, and how the first refugees and victims of climate change are trying to save their own lives.  The eco conference is supposed to combine scientists with technologists and industry leaders to create solutions to climate based problems. In the past, people have asked me to do a panel on veganism and the environment but I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert on the topic…until I went to sxsweco.

At first I was surprised by the lack of programming on the topic of veganism, especially since there was a whole theme of food and agriculture. I was even more surprised that the v word hardly came up! Only one panel I went to mentioned eating vegan to help the environment, and that was the panel about in-vitro meat, beyond meat, eating crickets for protein and 3D printing. I guess one of the best parts about the whole experience was learning how naive I am about what people actually know about meat production in our world and that there are so many opportunities for education. At one panel they showed just one image of the pollution caused by one factory farm and the entire room gasped. I wanted to just print out articles, studiesstatistics, and infographics and start handing them to people.  I heard over and over again about urban farming and vertical farming and plans to not over fish the sea, and plans to detox the sea, and that there is so much plastic in the sea, and that throwing out a half of a pound of ground beef is the same as taking a 90 minute shower, and how the tides are rising are displacing so many people, and weather uncertainty, and what can we do to make a difference. And then I heard the chatter from out-of-towners about how much they loved Texas barbecue and which place would they try next. I saw them lining up at the cheap hamburger stand across the street. I expect that at interactive and the rest but I really thought people traveling to a conference on the environment knew about the impact of cheap beef.

I didn’t know it was a secret that the easiest way anyone in the world can make a difference is to give up eating animals, at least most of the time. Livestock production accounts for over 50 percent of greenhouse gases on the planet! People are losing their homes because we can’t give up hamburgers.

I was reminded the population is growing at a staggering rate. We have to make as much food in the next 40 years as we did in the last thousand. Urban farming will never solve this problem, there are too many people and not resources in urban areas. At one panel I went to an engineer said that vertical farming was a pipe dream, an idea that is perpetuated by cool graphics. I learned that the poorest people in the world are farmers and that 50 percent of them go hungry while the urban farm movement here in the US encourages this as the only possible direction. I’m not saying urban farming doesn’t have a place, I love going to the farmer’s market and I grow kale in my backyard but it will never be enough to make a global difference.  Especially when it comes to animal “farming”. Raising animals for food takes infinitely more resources. If people could happily live on subsistence farming those same people wouldn’t be cutting down the rainforrest to make way for cash crops that feed animals. The model of grass fed cows will never work to feed our growing population. As long as people are eating meat at the rate we do there will be factory farms and ag sprawl which is much worse for the environment than urban sprawl.

The only way we have a chance to continue life as we know it is eat a lot less meat. Most people on the planet have to go vegan most of the time. The sooner we stop being so selfish about our traditions and tastes the sooner we will be able actually start saving the planet instead of just deluding ourselves that someone else will come and save us.

The biggest threat to the planet is business as usual.

Vegansaurus & Lazy Smurf to present at SXSW with your help!

vegansmurfusSouth by Southwest Interactive is one of the most amazing conferences I’ve been to.  Every year I’ve gone I’ve been shocked to become hopeful again about the future after attending. Last year I went to so many panels about sustainability and community that I started to believe a future where we are all peaceful and happy is possible. One thing missing from all the talk about creating a better world was our attitudes towards animals and last year it was the darkest spot for me. I truly believe that if people really understand how animals are treated in our society change is possible. A couple of years ago Laura Beck from Vegansaurus & Jezebel and I did a talk at SXSW about Internet Activism. We had a great conversation with vegans from all over the world and we have learned a ton since then. We are hoping to do a full on presentation this year! I know it’s a pain to vote for things but we would love a thumbs up or a comment on our proposal to make it happen. Our plan is to present original research on what kind of activism campaigns are the most effective and which ones are huge failures. It’s not just about likes! Except for when it is….as in right now…voting for us. So please take a second and DO IT.

Our SXSW reunion won’t be as great as the following story, but it will be pretty damn great.

Stop The Austin Aquarium! Come to the Rally!

A couple of weeks ago I was contemplating the vegan stance on aquariums after a trip to Monterrey California.  I only recently learned about the bay at of Monterrey and how it is full of so much marine life including blue, grey, humpback, and killer whales that people refer to it as the Serengeti of the sea. Or that’s what I read anyway, I certainly didn’t hear anyone call it that! As I researched more I learned that the bay used to be a disaster. First fur hunters came and killed all the baby sea otters which lead to the sea urchins multiplying rapidly and ate all the kelp. Hunters came through and killed the larger marine animals. With no predators the sardines flourished. Tons of canneries moved in overfishing the sardines and dumping their refuse and fish guts until all that was left was a bunch of the muck of  a destroyed eco-system and one of the most polluted places on the Pacific coasts.  Then, local activists started to turn things around. Through the  MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) they were able to learn how to help. The funding of visitors to the aquarium led to the ability to completely transform the bay from a wasteland to wonderland where I recently got to see 10 humpback whales jumping for joy.

So I started to think a lot about the vegan stance after this trip. Abolitionist vegans believe that you should never exploit animals but putting them in a cage and I can certainly see that point. But I love seeing animals. Sticking my face underwater and seeing corals filled with fish and sea turtles gracefully lumbering by is maybe my favorite activity on this planet. Watching whales and dolphins frolic in the open sea is as close as I will come to a religious epiphany. A humanist epiphany! So if aquariums and zoos can protect the animals that I love maybe I do want to support them.

But of course that isn’t the typical story. As usual in our society there is more often a money grubbing dark side. After reading all about what good can come out of aquariums I am deeply saddened to learn about the plans to build an Austin Aquarium. This is no research institution. In fact, their educational partners have pulled out after the controversy around the Covino family came to light here in Austin. These people already have a couple of for-profit aquariums and the one in Portland has been under fire ever since The Oregonian uncovered a death log that showed all the ways animals had been killed at the aquarium.  The animals died while the aquarium was operating without a veterinarian since the vet had left. The Oregonian reported

“The exotic animals veterinarian who left in February, Mike Corcoran, blames the animal deaths on a variety of cost-cutting measures, particularly improper quarantine procedures.

“I feel those animals were subject to undue pain and suffering to save money,” he told the Oregonian.”

Since the family has been working on the Austin Aquarium their have been numerous code violations. Culture Map has done a great job reporting and now even PETA has gotten involved.  Yesterday the Chronicle’s Jordan Smith wrote a very thorough piece that I highly recommend.

Local activists have already formed a boycot group and Ernest Samudio of Action for Animals is mobilizing a protest for this weekend to stop the aquarium. Here is what he says:

You’ve read the bad press about the planned Austin Aquarium. They sound like criminals. They don’t care about animals, they don’t respect the law. Let’s stop them!

Here’s what we know about Vince and Ammon Covino, owner’s of the planned aquarium, so far.

– In a 3-month period this spring, 200 aquatic species died at their Oregon aquarium (The Oregonian, Aug. 19, 2013)
– Ammon was indicted in Florida under federal law in November 2012, for illegally obtaining aquatic species for their aquariums in Oregon and Idaho.
– While out on bond for the above charge, Ammon attempted to illegally purchase 4 nurse sharks from Florida, in violation of state and federal law.
– The former vet at their Oregon aquarium has spoken out against the brother’s treatment of their aquatic species.
– Neither of the brother’s two aquariums in Boise, Idaho and Portland, Oregon are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
– The Covino Brothers have started construction on their aquarium in Austin despite having no building permits from the city’s Planning and Development Review Department. (No construction of any kind is allowed without building permits from the city.)
– The Covino Brothers are storing aquatic species at their proposed Austin Aquarium despite having no permits to do so.
– Officials with Austin’s Code Compliance office have issued two notices of violation to the Covino Brothers for failing to have occupancy permits at their proposed aquarium.
– The aquariums website states that the facility will have sea otters and sea turtles, both species protected by federal law but guess what? They have no permits for these animals.
– The Covino Brothers have no federal license to exhibit the one lone kinkajou they have, a violation of federal law.

There is no evidence that the Covino Brothers will responsibly care for all or any of the aquatic animals at their proposed aquarium. There is no evidence that the Covino Brothers will follow any of the state and federal laws required obtain or care for any of their animals. There is no evidence that the Covino Brothers will follow city laws required to safely and legally open their aquarium. Let’s stop them before they kill more animals. And, let’s send a strong message that Austin will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and criminal activity.

We will have signs available at the rally but you may bring your own. Please keep them simple (like billboards) and with BIG BOLD LETTERS.

So please join the rally this Saturday! The animals need your help. Places like this are what happens when people exploit animals for profit and together we can stop them. It’s this Saturday, from noon to 1:30 at 13,530 N Highway 183. And please invite your friends!


You can help Lucky the Elephant!

Sometimes it feels like I read nothing but bad news.  I read all week (month? year? my whole lifetime?) about the republicans attempts to deregulate everything and help ruin all life on earth. Today I read they are working hard on destroying  the rest of the manatee in Florida. I also learned that “conservatives” are less likely to buy the same lightbulbs if you tell them it will help the environment.

Instead of wallowing in depression I’m going to try and raise some awareness for Lucky the elephant. Lucky was a wild elephant who was captured in Thailand and brought to the San Antonio zoo. Over the years she has watched as her companions have all died and now she is the last of her kind. Female elephants aren’t supposed to ever be alone. In the wild they always travel in packs. When they pass a spot where one of their number died, they stop and take a moment to mourn. Here is a video where you can watch them. Even many years later they will stop at the same spot. Elephants are giant animals and they also need a lot of space. In the jungle they actually make the paths that all the other animals follow on their never ending quests for food.

The San Antonio zoo doesn’t really have enough room for one elephant, much less two. It could be that these substandard arrangements have led to the death of so many of Luck’s companions. They are trying to petition their own trade organization to break it’s rules and keep Lucky by herself from now on.

 One World Conservation says “According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) guidelines, elephants should not be kept alone in captivity. It’s emotionally traumatizing. That’s why we’re asking that Lucky be removed from the San Antonio Zoo and sent to a facility that offers social grouping, natural substrates, strictly enforced protected contact management, high-end veterinary care, and the space to better meet the needs of her species.”

If you would like to help the first step is to sign the petition. There is also a link to call and email the AZA directly because they are going to be making this decision on whether or not to grant the San Antonio Zoo’s request very soon. There is also going to be a demonstration outside the zoo in San Antonio this Saturday, if you can make it they will even have signs and stuff available. You can also invite your friends on facebook to join the cause.

This is an animal that we can help.