Guest post: Support California’s foie gras ban!  »

On July 1, the production and sale of foie gras will be illegal in the state of California.

There is only one foie gras farm in California, Sonoma Foie Gras. This place is a factory farm and a total nightmare for the animals that are tortured there. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

In 2011, I was one of the Animal Protection and Rescue League’s (APRL) undercover investigators inside Sonoma Foie Gras. We documented horrific conditions. The ducks were absolutely TERRIFIED of humans. There were ducks that could not get up, and ducks that had difficulty standing walking and breathing. All of the ducks were panting, which is a sign of extreme stress. They were covered in their own waste, blood, and regurgitated feed. There were dead ducks inside the pens and ducks that were on the verge of death. We saw trashcans that were filled with dead ducks, thrown away like garbage. You can watch footage of our undercover investigation here.

Most people don’t support this cruel treatment of animals anymore. In the state of California, only about 300 restaurants are continuing to serve foie gras (less than 1 percent of all restaurants). Foie gras production is supported by only a handful of chefs who lack the creative vision to create delicacies that aren’t produced by extreme animal cruelty. Not only are these chefs continuing to serve foie gras, in spite of the impending ban, a small (but vocal) minority are holding foie gras benefit dinners and raising funds to try to overturn the foie gras ban. A couple of these chefs have even been so bold as to say that they’ll defy it. They’re acting like little children throwing a temper tantrum.

Opponents of the ban have given a lot of false information to the media lately. A few chefs have stated that they’ve been to foie gras farms and have seen ducks running up to be fed! Are you kidding me? The ducks at Sonoma Foie Gras were TERRIFED at the very sight of humans!

Foie gras supporters have also stated that ducks would naturally gorge themselves. However, the particular breed of duck—a hybrid of Muscovy and Peking—used for foie gras production is not a migrating species, and these ducks would not gorge themselves. Moreover, even migratory ducks certainly wouldn’t gorge themselves to the point of organ failure, as is done in foie gras production. If ducks gorge themselves naturally, there shouldn’t be a need to force feed them, and there shouldn’t be a problem with a law against force-feeding.

Ban opponents claim to be working on a “humane” way of producing foie gras, but they’ve had eight years to come up with an alternative to force-feeding and they’ve come up with nada.

The San Francisco City Council, along with eight other city councils, including L.A. and San Diego, have passed resolutions calling on restaurants to stop serving foie gras. In that vein, I’ve started a campaign, United For Animals’ Foie Gras Fight, along with my fellow undercover investigators, to get foie gras cruelty out of the Bay Area! We’ve been organizing protests at Bay Area restaurants (mainly in San Francisco) that are serving foie gras and holding these ridiculous benefit dinners.

We have two recent victories under our belt: BayWolf Restaurant in Oakland (which removed foie gras from the menu four days after we protested there), and Taj Campton Place (which removed foie gras from the menu a few days before our scheduled protest). We need to keep the pressure on the restaurants that are continuing to serve foie gras.

The media have taken an interest in our cause, and have been sending crews to report on our protests, in which we seek to educate the public about the cruelty involved in foie gras production. We’ve recently done interviews with KTVU-2, NBC-3, CBS-5, and ABC-7.

If you would like to become involved in our campaign, and take a stand for the ducks that are tortured for this cruel delicacy, please check out our Facebook page, where you can find our upcoming events and links to our media coverage. You can also email me. We provide all of the signs, banners and leaflets. All you have to do is show up! It’s super easy and effective.

Dana Portnoy spends most of her “spare” time volunteering at Animal Place and Harvest Home Sanctuaries, baking treats for vegan bake sales, running half-marathons (to raise money for animals) and attending and organizing protests. She lives in the Bay Area with three rescued cats, who pretty much rule her life.


Update on the 50,000 chickens left to starve in California  »

The news site wouldn’t let me embed their video…come join us in the 21st century, KTVU! This is a still though—they can’t stop my screengrabbing! Can’t stop won’t stop.

Here’s an update on the 50,000 chickens that were left for dead in Stanislaus County. Apparently, while most of the 50,000 chickens were euthanized because of their poor condition or they were already dead when rescuers got there, 500 chickens have been rescued. Still, 2000 chickens have to stay over night without food again. I’m not sure if that means they are being rescued tomorrow or just that they definitely aren’t being rescued tonight. 

A petition has been started on Care2 to let the shelters rescue the surviving chickens. It takes a minute to sign and certainly can’t hurt the situation! Happy petitioning. 


Paul Shapiro presents: Animal News You Can Use!  »

This is from the mighty and awesome Paul Shapiro, the senior director of the Farm Animal Protection wing of the Humane Society of the United States. Paul is not only the raddest and very hilarious and kind and good and a fucking force to be reckoned with, but he’s always a wealth of animal news. We’re gonna publish his updates so that you’re as blessed with new information as we are. YOU ARE WELCOME. Now, pass this info on to all you know, and be better informed, smarter, and more good looking for it. BAM:

I’ve got a piece on the Atlantic site about foie gras and the myth that farm animals love to be abused. Please feel free to leave a comment on the site, since it seems like those of, let’s say…a different view don’t appear to be shy about leaving their own comments!

The LSU paper has a nice story about HSUS’s Meatless Monday efforts. (Remember that awesome video you loved?)

The DC ABC news affiliate had a cool segment about Bill Clinton’s near-vegan diet.

The U.S. Supreme Court had a hearing yesterday on the California downer law that was passed in the wake of HSUS’s exposé at a Southern California dairy cow slaughter plant. You can read Wayne Pacelle’s thoughts on the hearing at this link.

P.S. Video of the week: Dog and pig wrestling. Yep, that’s right.


Californians: Call to help sharks TODAY!  »

From the HSUS website because I’m too lazy to read and paraphrase:

Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year to supply the cruel and wasteful trade in shark fins used for shark fin soup. They’re obtained by cutting the fins off the shark and throwing the animal, often while still alive, back into the ocean to die a slow death.

Sharks are our ocean’s top predators [Ed.: SO COOL/TERRIFYING] and are important for the health of all other marine species and our entire ocean ecosystems. 

Fortunately, the California legislature is considering a bill to stop the trade in shark fins — and a vote in the Senate Appropriations committee will occur early next week. 


Please make a brief, polite call to your state senator and urge support for A.B. 376. Look up your senators and their phone numbers. You can say, “I am a constituent and urge support for A.B. 376 to prohibit the sale of shark fins in California.”

After making your phone call, fill out this form to reiterate your support for A.B. 376. Be sure to edit your message so it stands out.

So do those two things! Right now! It’s fast and easy and can help save lots of sharks who are the fucking coolest and also the fucking scariest. Remember: STAY OUT OF THE OCEANS. The oceans are for sharks, just like the woods are for bears and serial killers. HUMANS DON’T BELONG THERE. 

Here is a cool/terrifying shark to stare at during your call. He’s all, “come at me, bro!” and you’re all, “I just shit my pants.”


Your government loves puppies again!  »

Everyone loves puppies. Politicians love puppies! Or at least, they hate them less than they hate you, because California Governor Jerry Brown signed S.B. 917 into law this week, and now the puppies are saved! Or at least, puppies and also kittens and also other pet-type animals can no longer be sold from public property like parking lots and streets. This is supposed to cut down on puppy mills and puppy-mill-type operations, which are obviously terrible and disgusting.

The law also increases the penalties for perpetrators of animal abuse! Now being convicted of cruelty to animals “is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison, or by a fine of not more than $20,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.” Better than before.

California is full of chickens living in horrible conditions laying top-quality California eggs and also cows being forced to produce milk to make California cheese that must be the most amazing food on the planet, considering the way people go on about it. It does seem that, incrementally, our representatives are making it less terrible for our domesticated animals; maybe it’s not all bad everywhere all the time.

[Apple and Lil Jack are both totally adorable and totally adoptable, if you are looking for a puppy on which to lavish all your affection]


Get out of town: The vegan charms of Northern California!  »

I should start by saying that California’s North Coast is a lot like San Francisco: often cold, foggy and filled with people who smell like a dirty pair of underwear. But, what the North Coast has that the City don’t is a whole lotta peace, quiet and ocean views for days. And this incredibly intoxicating smell of earth and fresh rain that I’ve never smelled anywhere else.
Vegan eating and food options are nowhere near as prevalent on the coast as they are in more urban areas, but they are available here, you just have to know where to look! But don’t all you city-dwellers move your asses up here, otherwise it’s going to get overpopulated and then where will all the wild turkeys, deer, and bunnies go?

As you’re making your way up to the coast, you’ll probably get hungry. I mean, driving’s EXHAUSTING right? My favorite place to stop for road food is High Tech Burrito in Windsor. They have three burritos sure to leave any vegan feeling fat, sassy and ready to continue the drive. Because seriously, you’re not even close to getting here yet. I highly recommend taking Highway 128 off of 101 North versus taking Highway 20. Highway 128 takes a little bit longer, but there’s much more to see, and much less switchbacks that make you feel like you want to puke all over your lap. Highway 128, trust me.

While you’re cruising up 128 and remarking over all the incredible beauty (because if you don’t find Anderson Valley beautiful, turn around and go home because I don’t want you tainting the coast with your shitty attitude), keep your eye out for signs for Boonville. Right before the town is Highway 253. Take a right on 253, and Anderson Valley Brewing Company will be on your left. Stop here. Drink beer. Eat free pretzels and peanuts. Yes, they will give you a basket of both if you ask. Buy beer. Take beer with you. Play disc golf! According to Barnivore, AVBC’s entire lineup of beers is vegan-friendly, so try them all. Just don’t get back behind the wheel until you’re sober, you lush.

Once you arrive on the Coast, you’re probably ready to eat more, drink your beer, or pass out drooling onto a pillow. Where should you stay? The Stanford Inn. Ok, yes, it’s not the cheapest option on the coast, but how can you go wrong with a place that not only serves vegan food at their Ravens Restaurant, but also has an organic garden, a strong focus on sustainability, is pet-friendly, and has ocean views? Quit being such a tightwad and go there already. They have resident horses you can pet! Horses!

[Photo by the Stanford Inn]

If you want something a little less upscale but still nice, check out the Coast Inn and Spa. It’s just south of Fort Bragg, right on Highway 1, and their CapHe restaurant menu is 80 percent raw, organic and focuses on alkalizing and energizing. If you’re into that kind of thing.

After your restful sleep imaging you can hear the ocean’s crashing waves, the options for breakfast are plentiful. Head south to the Little River Inn to enjoy some of their delicious vegan rancheros. And if you’re there on a Sunday, a free glass of champagne to boot. Woot free booze! If you’re looking for more “big-town” action, head to Fort Bragg, where you can find a vegan omelet at the Homestyle Cafe, or a bunch of vegan options at the organic eatery Cafe One.
[Photo by Little River Inn]

Lunch and dinner is really where you can start to party down. I highly recommend the Thai Burrito at the Mendocino Cafe—just don’t let them forget the peanut sauce on the side. I’m assuming you won’t be sick of burritos at this point, since loving and appreciating burritos is a requirement for living in the Bay Area. Frankie’s in Mendocino makes a mean vegan pizza (they use Daiya cheese, which is the bizness) and their falafel is fantastic. And they serve beer and wine.
[Photo by Frankie’s Mendocino]

If you’re feeling like a fat ass but still want an afternoon snack, look no further than the Living Light Cafe. Raw, gorgeous foods, and juices that will clean you right out. And yes, I’m referring to pooping. Don’t be embarrassed; everybody poops.

One of the best spots for beer on the coast is the North Coasting Brewing Company. I can’t lie-their vegan food selection is somewhat lacking, but the veggie burger is indeed vegan, it’s big and it comes with french fries. Which is good, because you’re going to need substantial food to soak up the awesome selection of beers on tap. I am a big fan of their IPA and the Old Rasputin. Fair warning: Rasputin packs a punch, and isn’t for the lightweights.

For dinner, stumble a couple blocks down the street to Mendo Bistro. Upstairs in the same building where you discovered Living Light, Mendo Bistro is good place for nicer vegan dinner selections. Their menu changes seasonally, but I’ve had a great root vegetable stew and pasta dish there, and they always have tofu and portobello mushroom on their “choice” menu.

Listen up y’all, because I am about to let you in on possibly the biggest insider vegan tip for the North Coast. Two words: Vegan potluck. You heard me, a potluck where every single dish is vegan. PIG OUT! Not only that, but it’s a group of really nice people too. They meet every second Saturday of the month, in Little River. It’s public knowledge and in the local papers, but I’m not going to tell you more than that. If you want to join us, do your homework and make a phone call. And bring something delicious, dammit. [Ed.: We found this! We are master sleuths!]

Now that you know the scoop on getting your vegan grub on in one of quite possibly the most beautiful places on earth, come visit. Bring your dogs, because if your dogs are anything like mine, attacking seaweed ropes and hauling ass along the beach are some of the most fun activities on earth.

As you’re schlepping around, beware of wild male turkeys hollering at you. It’s mating season and they’re looking for company. Bow chicka wow wow!

Tara Barnes is a writer, running and cycling nerd and vegan foodie currently living in a teeny, tiny town on California’s North Coast. She talks a lot about food and dogs at her blog VeganRahRah. Loves: Her hometown of Oakland, popcorn, and sleeping. Dislikes: Rude people, giant spoons, and not getting enough sleep.


To do: 1) Save 300 bears; 2) Start bear army!  »

Say it with me: BEARS RULE! Sadly, they’re always getting punished for, you know, being bears. The California Fish and Game Commission votes soon on expanding black bear hunting, but the silver lining to perpetuate bear awesomeness is that three out of four California citizens oppose it.

To get you amped up: Black bears are the smallest bears in North America. They power through bee stings for honey, swim for pleasure, and can make more than 20 sounds in eight different contexts to communicate. Also, black bears hardly attack humans, which is probably why the teddy bear was modeled after this breed (awwwww).

This expansion would increase the bear-hunting quota (there is a quota for how many bears must be killed in a year?!) from 1,700 to 2,000 bears. THREE HUNDRED MORE BEARS, people, being murdered by packs of dogs. That’s enough to start a bear army. I have a few choice words for the 17 percent of Californians who are assholes and support the increase: Majority (should) rule!

Here in California, we like to think we’ve got a leg up on civilized behavior. Why, then, are we one of only 18 states that still allow packs of dogs to chase the poor bears? This puts not just the bears, not just the dogs, but the entire forest at risk of serious harm.

So yeah, oppose that shit. Spam the hell out of your congressperson’s and the DFG's mailboxes; make 'em listen to their constituents. Then come with me, and we'll conquer the world with our bear army. Cuddle at your own risk.


Guest Post: Help ban importation and distribution of shark fins in California!  »

As a volunteer and activist for Sea Stewards, I was thrilled to attend the official press release for AB 376 at the California Academy of Sciences. What’s AB 376 is and why do you care? It is the California Shark Protection Act, which would stop the importation and distribution of shark fins throughout the state. The time is now California! Hawaii already passed a similar ban and other states are starting to move towards a ban.

First I want to commend and thank Assemblymembers Paul Fong and Jared Huffman for backing this bill. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Senator (and mayoral candidate) Leland Yee of San Francisco came out swinging against it, calling the bill an attack on cultural heritage.

I call bullshit, Mr. Yee. I find it disgusting that we are even having this debate. This movement has the support of many Chinese people, including celebrity Yao Ming and Master Chef Martin Yan, and of the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance. These people and groups realize sustainability is more important than a bowl of soup. They want their heritage to be saving this species, not damning it to extinction.

Finning a shark alive is torture. Once the fins are removed the shark is thrown back into the ocean and sinks to the bottom, where it either bleeds to death or drowns because it can no longer swim. Because the entire body of the shark is not brought on board the fishing vessels can load their boat up with fins, which can fetch up to a $1,000 apiece (what I hear is the going rate for a whale shark fin).

Sharks play a vital role in the ocean. They are the tigers of the sea, and when you take the apex predator out the whole ecosystem collapses. They are being fished at an alarming rate. About 100 million are killed annually and about a third of the species are now threatened. In the last 15 years, species have declined by 50 percent. This has to stop. Either take it off the menus now or be forced to when there are no sharks left.
So what can you do to help? Please call or write your district representatives and ask for their support on AB 376. If you’re Asian American, you can also join the group Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance. Please check out Sea Stewards and Wild Aid for more info, and attend the Ocean Lovers Film Festival! [Ed.: And check out previous shark coverage on Vegansaurus! Because sharks are fucking rad and we love them.]

Caitlin Ryan is a supporter, volunteer, and activist for local conservation group Sea Stewards where her focus is on shark conservation as well as creating a healthy ocean. Photo from SeaPics.


Take a QUICK survey and/or send an email to keep hunting down in California!  »

This is the last day to do this so please, please, please take a minute. It’s a very real possibility that many of the game refuges in California will be delisted and opened to hunting. If you can, please take this survey or send an email (emails carry more weight and only take a moment!) and say that you emphatically oppose the delisting of California game refuges! Let’s not let this happen, and the best way to do that is to send smart, polite emails TODAY! You’re all the best!


Humane Society investigates Cal-Maine battery cage farm: surprise, it’s a hellscape  »

Rows of cages stretch alongside a pile of overflowing chicken manure.

This is absolutely the least disturbing photo of the 12 released today by the Humane Society as part of its 28-day undercover investigation at a Cal-Maine factory farm in Texas. Each hen is allowed “67 square inches” of space in which to live and die; the cages are stacked on top of each other; and there are approximate 1 million hens laying eggs at this place.

The investigation showed dead hens left in cages with living hens. It showed hens covered in manure from the hens in the cages above them. It showed hens with massive wounds left untreated. It showed eggs covered in the hens’ blood and manure. Eggs: “nature’s perfect food!”

Cal-Maine recalled “24,000 dozen,” which is to say 288,000 eggs on Friday, Nov. 5, because one of its suppliers had had its eggs test positive for Salmonella Enteriditis! This supplier, Ohio Fresh Eggs, LLC in Croton, Ohio, presumably still keeps its hens in battery cages, as the agreement reached in January of this year prohibits the building of new battery cages. Looking at the photos of the Cal-Maine facility in Texas, it’s not hard to see how naughty Salmonella might hop from the hens’ excrement to their eggs. California’s egg-eaters and its chickens are so lucky for Prop. 2, right? Except that one of the recalled brands sells eggs all over California, ha ha ha.

The detailed report from HSUS [pdf] is a very good, if nauseating read. It’ll be nice/depressing/appalling to see the omnivorous (food) world’s reaction to this. Meanwhile, anyone for a nice cruelty-free dessert? Or maybe wait a little while until you’ve recovered from that horror show.

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