Site for awesome people, Videogum, has the starting lineup for Puppy Bowl VII and WE ARE SO EXCITED!! Perhaps MORE EXCITED THAN LAST YEAR? Hard to say, we just REALLY LOVE PUPPIES. Especially puppies who all come from different adoption organizations! Who can’t wait until Feb. 6? NOT US!

Who do you like for Most Valuable Puppy? Some of your Vegansaurus writers have made their picks, as follows, in no particular order (except my favorite is first because I wrote this).

Jordan and Meave like Charlie of United Hope for Animals; he’s got a mischievous look in his eye that clearly says he’s down for scrappin’, yellin’, and mixin’ it up.

Megan Rascal’s going for Calvin of Catawba County Animal Services, because “he means muther-loving business.”

Laura’s vote is for Big Red of Butch’s Place Animal Rescue, because “it’s self-explanatory. And also, he’s not a Shepherd mix, that little dude is a super-cute pit bull mix. Maybe with Rhodesian Ridgeback? God, I cannot wait to see his adorable ass in action!”

Man of few words Jonas supports CB of Underdogs!

Which super-puppy-athlete (pup-thlete? BARF) wins your vote? It is VITALLY IMPORTANT that you choose! Or at least look at all the puppies and not die of cuteness, although that part is probably impossible.

[photos from Puppy Bowl VII, via Videogum]


It’s Vegan Happy Hour tonight in San Francisco!  »

Just like the second Friday of every month, today is Vegan Happy Hour [Ed.: join the Facebook group so you always know when it’s COMIN ATCHA]! VHH is a monthly gathering of vegans and people who love vegans at the Hemlock Tavern (1131 Polk St. in San Francisco). It’s a potluck, so bring some vegan eats and come on down to meet and mingle with other laid-back vegans over a beer—or a ginger-and-cranberry if that’s more your style. You can also enjoy the DJ AND VJ stylings of Mike Desert, spouse of this Vegansaur, who will be spinning records and showing off his latest seasonal video mashup! Don’t worry if you don’t have time to make something fancy, swing over to Trader Joe’s and get some sweet potato fries or baguette and hummus to share.

This is the first VHH of 2011, so let’s make it a good one, vegans! Come on down and meet some new people, eat some delicious food, and roll home happy.


GIVE! Vegansaurus’ favorite charitable organizations  »

Your Vegansaurus loves giving! Especially with the internet, it is as easy to give money to an organization doing awesome work that you can’t do as it is to buy a bunch of hot-stuff underpants (for example. Nothing’s on my mind!), and really, do you need fancy new things more than people need to learn to read, or elderly animals need rescue and support? OF COURSE NOT, YOU MONSTERS.

In between the Christmas-present-buying and cookie-inhaling, let’s get spirit-of-the-season-y and donate to some extremely worthy charities. Charities don’t care whether you celebrate a religious holiday in December! They want your money, maybe your time, nothing else. So, as we finally put an end to 2010, annus horribilis, Vegansaurus offers you a short list of charities we especially love.

We each chose one local and one inter/national group, which was difficult! They all accept monetary donations online; all you have to do is choose an amount and your method of payment, and BAM, you’ve helped. Give $10, give $100, whatever you can—it’s so easy and so wonderful, and it makes you feel like $10 million.

Brianna Kaufman
My mom is on the board of directors for this wonderful organization called Haven Hills that provides immediate shelter for victims of domestic violence as well as longer-term transitional housing programs, a 24-hour hotline, counseling, etc. It’s something that both my mother and I really believe in, and since the financial crisis the organization has been struggling a lot and unfortunately might have to cut back on some services.  It’s located in Los Angeles. Donate here.

In Defense of Animals is an animal welfare advocacy organization that campaigns against animal cruelty worldwide. One of their causes that is especially close to my heart is their marine conservation campaign against the senseless dolphin slaughter in Japan. You may recognize this conservationist effort as the impetus behind the “controversial”/mind-blowing movie The Cove. Currently, all donations up to $100,00 made here will be matched. Otherwise, donate here.

Jonas Madden-Connor
Rocket Dog Rescue is where Hazel’s from and Laura is vice president and so I love them. It’s a fine and venerable institution and the dogs! They are cute! Donate here.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition helps make biking in the city safer and more accessible. Bikes and veganism go together like Laura and beauty [Ed.: they’re always like this!]. Donate here.

Jordan Pattern
Home At Last Animal Rescue is a local animal-rescue that rescues animals from shelters where they’re likely to be euthanized. That means that they have a lot of older animals or ones with behavior problems. My husband and I adopted our dear problem cat, Lucy, from Home At Last, and they were a pleasure to work with. Lucy, who is so shy she spent her first month with us hiding under our bathtub, only emerging when we were asleep, needed someone to advocate for her and make sure she got a loving home, and Home At Last did that for her. I know I’m grateful! Donate here.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund do great work. They are a group of lawyers, legal professionals, law students, and volunteers who use the law to improve animals’—and animal activists’—lives. Some examples of the good work the ALDF has done includes filing a petition to prevent the permit renewal of a truck stop that kept a live tiger in inhumane conditions; filing a suit against BP to prevent the burning of live sea turtles as part of the BP spill clean-up efforts; petitioning the Department of Transportation to require airlines to report on the deaths of companion animals who fly as cargo; providing scholarships and internship opportunities to law students interested in animal law; and filing countless legal briefs in cases involving animal cruelty or the unfair prosecution of animal rights activists. Donate here.

Laura Beck
The Southern Poverty Law Center basically uses legal jujitsu to fight for everything good and against everything bad, and are super effective. basically, they go into areas where it’s still all mississippi burning (figuratively and literally) and attempt to set shit straight. Also, they’re matching donations up to $800,000 through the end of the year, so do it up! Donate here.

There are lots of really great rescued farm animal sanctuaries to choose from but this year, Harvest Home Sanctuary will get my dough. They’re superheroes; I can’t believe how much they do with so little. Plus, it’s in Stockton, so it’s close enough to visit and cuddle those cute-ass animals! Donate here.

Maria Diaz
The Women’s Community Clinic in San Francisco offers what is perhaps the Holy Grail: free health care for uninsured women delivered by a team of fantastic female practitioners. They focus on gynecological health but also have acupuncture and counseling for you hippies and sad girls. Donate here.

I know there’s controversy about micro-loans, but personally I think it’s a great idea and I love lending money to small businesses in developing nations through Kiva. It takes a very small amount to become a lender—the minimum is $25—and it’s so rewarding to get reports of how the business is doing. Some vegan suggestions: A Cambodian lady grows soybeans and produces tofu; an Ecuadorean man grows cocoa beans; a Lebanese man runs a coffee shop; a group of eight Ugandan people sell bananas. Find a partner here.

Meave Gallagher
I nominate Save A Bunny: you know I love a bun! They’re local, so their ambassadors get to go to all the awesome events, like VegFest, which is where I petted my first rabbit. Like cats and dogs, rabbits have unique personalities and make wonderful companion animals; like cats and dogs, rabbits are very frequently impulse-bought and quickly abandoned, making them the third most frequently euthanized animals at shelters. SaveABunny rescues rabbits from death rows all over the Bay and places them in loving homes. If you can’t adopt me a bunny for Christmas, help out some of their biggest supporters. Donate here.

Room to Read works in developing countries—so far, seven countries in Southeast Asia, and two in southern Africa—to establish libraries, and publish children’s books by local writers and illustrators in their local languages. They build schools, and focus especially on helping girls successfully complete secondary education. Vegansaurus: we love animals, food, and literacy. Reading is the best! And all kids deserve access to great books. Donate Here.

My ma gives to Opportunity House; she likes that it offers homeless people in her town both shelter and the chance to change their lives. Donate here.

Megan Rascal
Founded in SF in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia (the name AND the address!) is a nonprofit program that helps kids with writing! Writing is very important! Plus, San Francisco’s 826, the OG, has a Pirate Supply Store! ARRRR you paying with cash or credit? (Ha!) I know 826 is super-awesome because it is my friend Lizzy’s favorite charity and Lizzy is a genius and probably our future ambassador to China. I wish I was kidding! Lizzy, come home! The program has proven very popular and now there are 826s in eight different cites, so we can donate on the national level, or locally in San Francisco and New York.

I like Born Free USA because I HATE circuses and I LOVE elephants! The circus abuses elephants who are the super-sweetest, awesomest animals ever. They are family animals but the circus takes the babies when they are just two years old; in the wild, they aren’t even weaned until they’re four to six years old, but the younger they are, the easier they are to bully and beat into submission. You can read more about how great elephants are and how they shouldn’t be held in captivity in my previous posts here, here and here. Donate to the elephant defense fund or the organization in general; I’ll be happy with either!

We give money out of love, guilt, hope, terror, habit—not for recognition or praise, of course. We love you if you give $1 to one place, $50 to all of these organizations, and if you’re just too broke, send this link to all your friends and family with money to spare. Add your own favorite charities to this list in the comments! Thank you for being caring, thoughtful activists. We’d cover all of you with baby animals and delicious vegan baked goods if we could. And kisses, big wet grateful kisses. Happy winter holidays, everyone!

[photo by Lawrence OP!]


Get Thee to East Bay Alternative Press Festival in Berkeley TODAY!  »

If you live in the Bay Area, then cram another thing onto your already-overflowing calendar, for today is the East Bay Alternative Press Festival! Why is this of interest to vegans, you ask? Well, for one, it’s location puts it in quick walking distance from Saturn Cafe, Cinnaholic, and Green Papaya, but also, Friend of Vegansaurus, Erika from Soyfucker comics is going to be there, so you can stock up on her cuss-laden vegan comics zines to give to all your friends and family this holiday season. Huzzah! Plus, our Jonas will be there with Family Style, Jen Oaks, Susie Cagle, and many more veg favorites!

What’s more, Erika came up with her own list of reasons you should check it out:

  1. It’s free to attend.
  2. Local writers and arteests.
  3. Zines and the such make great holiday presents.
  4. We have 100% less burning sage than the Telegraph Holiday Street Fair.

So, come on down! Meet some folks! Buy some presents! Eat some stuff! It’ll be a grand old time, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Ever wonder what Yelp would be like without all the “I looooooooove meat” reviews?  »

Wonder no more! Vegan Corner is here!

Vegan Corner is a brand new (as of December 1) website that is basically vegan Yelp. Since it’s brand new, and since its content is largely user supplied, things are looking a little bare there right now, but that’s okay, because we just KNOW that lots of awesome vegans are going to be heading over there are reviewing their little hearts out, RIGHT?

Featuring not only reviews, but also sections for local vegan events, classified ads, a forum, and special offers, the site looks poised to be a seriously useful tool. Plus, instead of having to either click the “vegetarian” button and severely limit your search results or scroll through literally hundreds of raving reviews about chicken wings and sausage, like you do on Yelp, Vegan Corner handily provides categories like “airport life-saver,” “organic produce delivery,” and even has a review section just for animal sanctuaries. NEAT!

This Vegansaur is expecting great things from this little website, so sign up and tell me where to eat!


Artisan cheesemakers: Don’t hold us to FDA standards! A little listeriosis is fine!  »

It’s the retort of many a locavore/slow-foodie: “But I only eat meat/dairy/eggs from small, usually local producers who produce it ethically and safely.” There are a million reasons that that isn’t true, but most of them take a long time to explain, and people won’t agree with you anyway, so I’m happy (sort of) to report that today, finally, we can just say, “oh yeah?”

As it turns out, “small, local, artisan” food is no guarantee of either quality, safety, or a caring producer, looking out for his/her customers. The New York Times ran an article the other day about the Estrella Family Creamery, and their defiance of the FDA. The people at Estrella make artisan cheese. They make it in relatively small batches, and then (sustainably, one assumes) ship it all over the U.S. to snooty restaurants where people who really care pay lots of money for it, eat it, and feel superior—before they start to feel sick.

You see, in February 2010, F.D.A. inspectors found listeria in Estrella’s cheese, and all over the building where the cheese is produced and aged, including in the humidifier that blows air all over the production and aging area. Gross. Kelli Estrella, owner and principal cheesemaker at Estrella, recalled some cheese and cleaned the production facility. Later, follow-up tests by the F.D.A. showed there was still listeria in Estrella cheese. Listeriosis causes fever and muscle aches and vomiting. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can also cause miscarriages.

This time, though, Kelli Estrella’s fighting back. She refuses to throw out the contaminated cheese, saying essentially that regulators should go after bigger operations and leave small producers like hers alone—despite, apparently, the fact that her small operation has now twice tested positive for a bacteria that can cause serious illnesses. It turns out this kind of entitled attitude is pretty common among artisan cheesemakers, which isn’t all that surprising considering that it’s also pretty common for them to fail their inspections. In the last year, nine small cheesemakers have had to recall their products due to contamination. From the Times:

“If the F.D.A. wanted to shut down the U.S. artisan cheese industry, all they’d have to do is do this environmental surveillance and the odds of finding a pathogen would be pretty great,” said Catherine W. Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese of the University of Vermont, referring to the listeria testing at cheese plants.

So, wait, WHAT? Artisan cheesemakers think they should be exempt from the standards imposed on all other producers, even as they admit that most artisan cheese is probably contaminated with something gross? How does that make any sense at all? Yeah, yeah, you’re all raw-milk crusaders, and we should be allowed to put whatever the damn hell we want in our mouths, and blah, blah, blah, but come on! You are really fighting for your down-home, small-batch right to sell a product that you know is contaminated with a dangerous bacteria?

OK, small, artisan cheesemakers, let me tell you about how food contamination works. I’m not a microbiologist, but I’ve taken a food safety class and had a whole glass of wine, so I think I’m qualified, particularly given how you guys all apparently interpret it. First, bacteria doesn’t give a shit whether you are a faceless corporation or a chock-full-o-personality-and-gumption artisan. Second, bacteria doesn’t give a shit if your customers are wealthier foodie assholes as opposed to poorer, food-desert nomads; they will get EQUALLY SICK—though I suppose you could argue that your rich foodie customers probably have more money for doctors and so are less likely to die from the listeriosis they contract from your artisan cheese. Third, bacterial contamination (particularly by bacteria that causes fever, vomiting, and MISCARRIAGES) is bad! It’s not folksy or character-building. It’s bad! It’s also gross! In sum, artisan cheesemakers, your failing inspection grades are neither government persecution nor badges of honor. Food safety regulations are important because it’s important to NOT KILL PEOPLE WHO EAT YOUR FOOD.

Reading this whinefest made me wonder how many other “artisan” food producers think they should be exempted from food safety regulations. I’d sure think twice before putting that “small batch” brie in my mouth.


Vegan Happy Hour at the Hemlock tonight!   »

A quick post to remind you that tonight (as is every second Friday of the month) is Vegan Happy Hour! I know some of you know the drill, but for the uninitiated, what you do is grab/make some food (Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods stuff is fine, as long as it’s vegan!), grab your eatin’ pants, and head on over to the Hemlock Tavern between 6 and 9 tonight. Never been before? Don’t know anyone? NO PROBLEM! Mike, who usually DJs the event, is making a rare appearance hosting the food portion of the event today. Look for the big guy with the tattoos plating vegan food, and say hello! You’ll be mixing it up with new and exciting vegans before you know it. Oh, and be sure to follow Vegan Happy Hour on Facebook, so you can stay up to date on the monthly themes, and get easy, portable recipes to try!

Need some quick and easy recipe ideas? Look no further! I’m bringing pumpkin pie. Just sayin’.


Hayes Valley Farm is making improvements! Can you spare some change to help?  »

We’ve written before about cool things happening at the Hayes Valley Farm. While it’s not an exclusively vegan farm (they have a bee colony that produces honey), their main focus is growing food sustainably and teaching others to do the same. They have a variety of classes, from yoga at the farm to Soil 101, and you can stop on by and visit the farm during their visiting hours to get involved, or just to see what’s up. It’s pretty awesome; when I first moved to San Francisco in 2008, the spot on Octavia and Laguna where the farm now lies was just an abandoned chunk of old freeway off-ramp. Now, in under two years, the area has been completely transformed and is now a functional, sustainable farm. Pretty inspiring for anyone who has ever tried to get a project off the ground in San Francisco!

Now, the Hayes Valley Farm is trying to raise money to improve the farm and expand their outreach and education programs. They’ve put together a Kickstarter package (Kickstarter is an online fundraising tool), and with three days left to pledge money, they’re just $3,000 short of their goal. If you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, consider donating to the farm!


The next frontier in green: vending machines?   »

If you’ve ever been to Japan, chances are you’ve seen some pretty bangin’ vending machines. Ever on the cutting edge, a company in Japan has now developed a vending machine that not only vends but grows fresh produce! The “Chef’s Farm” runs about $90,000 to purchase, but with the ability to harvest/vend 60 heads of lettuce per day (without sunlight even), the initial investment can be recouped in about five years.

Now, I don’t know a lot about food-access issues in Japan, but I know that in the U.S., access to healthy, fresh food is a real issue, particularly for a lot of people in low-income urban environments. It’s a complicated issue, and one that obviously won’t be solved by a vending machine that spits out lettuce, but the implications of this type of both farming and selling could, this Vegansaur thinks, be pretty awesome for some of our underserved communities. Where space, especially space suitable to grow food, is at such a premium, and where time is so short, having vending machines that double as gardens providing fresh, nutritious vegetables at any time of day or night seems like a pretty great idea.

Hopefully, the developers of the Chef’s Farm will be turning their attention to more of these creations. I, for one, would be stoked to be able to run out in the middle of the night and grab a head of fresh organic kale, plucked just for me by a robotic appendage. Ah, the future is delicious!

[image of “Chef’s Farm” vending machine via Tech-On!]

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