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08/15/2011

Earthlings available for free streaming, get your hankies ready  »


Whether you want to convert your omnivorous friends, need renewed vegan resolve, or just want to cry (catharsis—look it up, people), the latest news from Nation Earth is good news: You can stream Earthlings for free from its website.

This is, to me, the saddest and most convincing documentary about using animals for human purposes. It’s sickening, but it’s effective. Maybe I’m just a big baby. If you ever find yourself or someone else questioning your vegan choices, pop this in for movie night and call me in the morning. I also recommend supporting Nation Earth by purchasing a copy of Earthlings as well. The bright spot: narrated by super-hottie Joaquin Phoenix.

07/05/2011

Kevin James and “Zookeeper” can kiss my ass   »

[Can see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com]

Tai the elephant “actor” is in this new movie Zookeeper. I call WTF: what are these movie people thinking? After the above footage came out depicting Tai getting abused in “training” for Water for Elephants, how can people just release a movie with that same elephant without at least a billion-dollar donation to an elephant welfare group? Not that a donation makes it OK, but I’m assuming they filmed before the Animal Defenders International footage was released, so maybe they didn’t get what elephant “training” actually looks like. Now that the reality of Tai’s abuse is out for everyone to see, people who have worked with Tai should be defending her! Right? If they really liked working with her and she’s such a great animal and all that? These Hollywood people get on my nerves. They actually could do something to help Tai and they don’t!
There are some people who aren’t celebrating the mistreatment of Tai; she was supposed to appear in a July Fourth parade in Sierra Madre, CA, but people flipped! Go people! The city got a ton of letters from people asking that Tai not be in the parade and blammo! She’s not. Besides taking a stand against the abuse we know Tai suffered, PETA also points out that elephants and fireworks maybe don’t go together that great. Fireworks are scary! A scared elephant is no joke! People get stomped! It’s dangerous.

So that’s the good news—kudos, Sierra Madre! I just wish Kevin James would say something about this Zookeeper bullshit. Like, at least a “my bad! Here’s a zillion dollars for the elephants!”

06/01/2011

Movie review: Forks Over Knives  »


It was probably a good idea to see Forks Over Knives the night before starting an
elimination diet that’ll help me figure out my allergies; I left the theater feeling like I should just eat kale forever.

Okay, that’s not 100 percent true; I went to Whole Foods afterwards and got a pre-diet chocolate bar. But I bought some eggplants too! And the documentary’s presentation of the evidence supporting a diet that eliminates animal products—or at the very least, greatly reduces them—was pretty compelling.

Forks Over Knives isn’t from the Morgan Spurlock-school of documentaries—there are no gimmicky experiments here, just the stories of real people who are seeing some of the doctors interviewed in the film, and information from decades of research. So you know, it sometimes feels like you’re watching something educational—you are, but maybe sometimes we like to be tricked into that? Stick with it, though. It’s still a satisfying viewing experience, just in a different way.

The United States spends more per person on health care than any other country in the world. They also have some of the worst health outcomes among industrialized countries. There are former Soviet bloc countries with lower rates of infant mortality, and that is kind of messed up. It’s undeniable that there’s access to a lot of health-related good in the U.S.—world-class medical facilities, cutting edge treatments, delicious and healthy American-grown produce, great land for farming. But even with all that at their disposal, Americans are gaining weight, becoming diabetic, getting cancer—at alarming rates.

Forks Over Knives claims that we can prevent—and even reverse or cure—the majority of what ails us by getting the animal products out of our diets and switching to plant-based eating. This case is built largely on the work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Campbell is likely best known as the co-author and lead researcher of The China Study, now a popular book that outlines his research of the diets and causes of deaths of thousands of people in China. Esselstyn works at the Cleveland Clinic, where he counsels heart patients on halting and reversing their diseases with a plant-based diet.

Campbell and Esselstyn’s work is fascinating, and their findings are some serious food for thought, but what really stuck with me were the personal tales of lives that were changed with a plant-based diet. Most of the people highlighted don’t present the image that pops into your mind when you think “vegan”: they included a diabetic mother of four, a meat-loving middle-aged man, a company of Texan firefighters, and a mixed martial arts fighter. But they all switched to a plant-based diet for one reason or another, and they all had impressive results that included serious, life-extending changes to their health.

I was impressed that the people featured in this doc had clearly made some health related choices that they shouldn’t have, but they weren’t treated like they were dumb or lazy or gross or failures. They were just following what they’d always been told about how they should eat, and trying to get through the day in an environment where the worst of food is always immediately available. The overall message of control over our own destinies was balanced with a realization that our environments have changed drastically in just a few decades, and it can be hard to make good choices even with the best information and intentions.

The film can get a bit repetitive at times—though admittedly, they were kind of preaching to the converted in my case. I’d like to see it with someone who is new to most of its information, who has never seriously considered that all this protein we’re told we should eat is maybe not the best idea. The message that meat and milk are the best way to go for protein—the only way to go, as many people see it—is so pervasive in our society that it can be hard to shake people of it. The first thing most people asked me when I stopped eating meat was “How will you get protein?” I think the tales of these healthy, vital people—some of whom were near death before going vegan—could change some minds.

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, Ont., where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues.

05/10/2011

The ele-star of Water for Elephants did not have the magical gentle training her owners claim. Shocking! Did I call it? Did I mother-loving call it?! People kept telling me, “Oh they had people on set to monitor the elephant’s treatment, no animals were harmed,” and I’m like BULLSHIT. And regardless of training methods, elephants should not be in movies! Simply having a wild animal in a movie is bad, even if you pay her in hugs and kisses. Elephants should be living out their lives in peace with other elephants taking baths and playing around, not doing “tricks” or “acting.”

Second, EXACTLY! This is how elephants are trained! I don’t care what happened on set, this is the reality of training elephants. Can you imagine that these ginormous animals actually want to do headstands? I really doubt gymnastics is a popular elective at the various elephant after-school programs. And just like with people, you don’t have to keep beating an animal to get it to submit, you just have to threaten the beatings again. You think Tai doesn’t remember the stuff on this tape when she’s “acting” on set? Yeah right. Electric shocks and bullhooks are not easy to forget.

Last time I posted a scary video, someone said maybe I should just write out what goes on in case they don’t want to see the actual footage. From Animal Defenders International:

  • Elephants including Tai are repeatedly given electric shocks with hand held stun guns
  • Tai cries out when being shocked into performing a headstand
  • Elephants including Tai are beaten about the body and legs with bull hooks
  • A baby elephant is hooked in the lip and cries out
  • An elephant is pinned with bull hooks whilst her tusks are sawn down, close to the bone

Also from ADI, what you can do:

  • Please contact ADI today and find out how you can speak up for Tai and all animals being abused in the entertainment industry. If you live in the UK, please contact info@ad-international.org, if you live in the U.S. please contact usa@ad-international.org and ask for a Water for Elephants Letter Writing Pack.
  • Boycott this film and tell your family and friends to take a stand against animal cruelty by only supporting films without animal actors.
  • Leaflet moviegoers at a theater near you to educate them about the abuse of Tai and other performing animals. Contact ADI to order leaflets.
  • Contact your local theater with a copy of the DVD we can provide you, and politely ask them to make the right choice and stop showing the film.
  • Contact ADI for a letter writing pack with sample letters to Water for Elephants actors and movie makers, and sample letters to the editor to help you raise your voice for Tai and the other animals abused for entertainment.
  • Write a letter to your local paper about Tai’s abuse and educate the public that animal suffering is never romantic and it is never entertainment. (Sample letters available in our letter writing pack.)
  • Contact the Director and Producer and politely ask that they make Water for Elephants the last film they will use live animal actors. (Contacts and sample letters available in our letter writing pack.)
  • Share the link to the video on your Facebook and other social networking sites, to spread the word to family and friends.

ADI has sent a copy of the footage to stars Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. We’ll see what they say. They better be PISSED! My dream is that they will totally buy Tai and the entire Have Trunk Will Travel herd and build them an awesome sanctuary in Hollywood where all the performing animals can retire! Right? What else?! They would feed them vegan cupcakes for dinner and Robert Pattinson would read them Good Night Moon every night! Right?! What else!? They would sleep on 900-count Egyptian cotton sheets on mattresses filled with dandelions! What else?!

05/06/2011

SF Bay Area! Go see Forks Over Knives for FREE on Monday, May 9!  »

You know you wanna. Just head to this link and RSVP. BAM! You’re in! We’ve reported on the documentary (which is about treating illness with food rather than surgery) before but if you’ve missed it, this is your last chance to see it for free before it hits theaters next week!

Here’s the trailer because we like to make things easy on you around here. Please remember that when it comes time to send out your holiday cards filled with cash.


[Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com]

04/25/2011

Tomorrow is the NYC premiere of Forks Over Knives!  »

Hey New Yorkers! Tomorrow, April 26*, Forks Over Knives will be debuting at Sunshine Cinema! Whole Foods and the Engine 2 Diet are co-hosting the event and there will be a panel following the film that includes Gene Baur from Farm Sanctuary. Sounds like a party!

I haven’t seen the movie yet but according to Laura,** it’s all about how going vegan is totally rad for you. I’ve been saying that for years! Those jerks totally stole my idea. Everybody steals my ideas! Check the site for how to purchase tickets.

*I said May before—THAT WAS TOTALLY WRONG! I can’t do anything right. Except be awesome.
**The only news source I trust these days

04/21/2011

Opening night of Water for Elephants—it’s time to educate the disgusting sea of humanity! Your help needed!  »

Megan needs a break from the elephant beat so I’m stepping in because I think they’re fucking awesome, too. I’m just a worse and less-motivated human being than Megan. Ugh, I hate talking about my many failures as a human being. Let’s also just say I have a nice rack and a cool dog. Okay, even-stevens!
IDA is setting up leafletting events around the country for opening night of Water for Elephants. You should go for two reasons. 1) Megan already proved that it’s a terrible movie for ellies and it’s getting terrible reviews, anyway! Eff that noise!; and 2) You’ll already be at a theater you can go see Your Highness because it’s fucking in and Water for Elephants is fucking out! Or, see Rio (either sober with kids or high without kids or high with kids OMG YOU’RE A TERRIBLE PARENT)! Or, you know, you can read my movie previews over at SF Appeal and find out what I think about even more things! That’s right, I’ve got opinions on shit besides vegan stuff! Like movies! Plus, you should support me, you know I would totally give you a kidney, the least you can do is READ MY DAMN MOVIE PREVIEWS.

One more time with the real point of this whole post I am so very tired: Tomorrow night, do a solid for the ellies of the world by educating the masses! You’re the best! I’m taking off my top and shimmying in your direction!

Rio: not just another stupid kids’ movie!  »


I just went to see the new animated movie Rio and you guys? Go see the movie! It is so insanely cute! So cute, other things that you once considered cute will now look just averagely cute in comparison. Like, my own kid suddenly looked kind of ragged after we saw the movie and I was like “Dude, you better step up your cute game or I might have to rent your room out to a cuddly little blue pelican who talks like Mark Zuckerberg and does the samba and drinks hot chocolate with a straw.” Whatever, wouldn’t you?

But, there’s more to this review than how damn cute the movie is. Yes, it gets better! I won’t give anything important away, but the basic premise of the movie is that Blu (the Mark Zuckerberg-voiced* bird) is savagely ripped from his beautiful home in the Brazilian rainforest as a little baby and taken to freezing cold, depressing Minnesota to be sold in a pet store. Sorry, Minnesota peeps, I’m sure it is a very lovely state but not for a bird from Brazil. I mean, have you ever been to Brazil? I haven’t either but damn it looks beautiful.

Blu is like the last male of his entire species alive on the planet, which is not really an exaggeration because we just love to destroy birds’ natural habitats, don’t we? So he has to go back to Brazil. When he goes back, all sorts of shenanigans occur. Of course, along the way he meets all kinds of little bird friends and they sing little bird songs because hell, this is a kids movie, and some of them rap. Little rapping birds? ESSENTIAL. In typical Disney-esqe fashion there is an all-encompassing moral which is basically: Hey kids! It may seem cool to have exotic animals as pets, but really? Animals don’t like to be in cages! They have feelings just like us! They want to be free and fly around the rainforest and rap and stuff!

I think this is fantastic. First there was Wall-E, which was all, “Humans are destroying the planet! Stop!” And now the animal rights movement gets a Disney movie too. And I really think movies like Rio can be a great tool to increase awareness about animal rights issues in children. I was even surprised that the movie chose to so bluntly illustrate (pun not intended but, bonus!) the evils of the animal trade, even making a point to show some sad-looking injured birds that were rescued from trappers and being rehabilitated. The viewer really feels strongly for the all of the animal characters in the movie, and wants them to break free of the cages and live out their lives in the wild where they belong and are obviously happiest, and for children this is an incredibly important lesson, creating a basis for rejecting current socially accepted forms of entertainment/animal abuse like the circus

Go see Rio. If you don’t have a kid to bring with you and you feel like a mega-creeper going to kid’s movie, borrow someone else’s! Just make sure you ask permission first.

Full disclosure: I was not compensated in any way by the creators of Rio for this review. But I would totally accept it if offered because I’m broke. Twentieth Century Fox, what up? Call me.

*Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t actually provide the voice of the bird. It’s that kid that played Mark Zuckerberg in the Facebook movie. I think. But whatever, I don’t even know his name but I do know Mark Zuckerberg’s name so that is how I am referring to him because I am efficient like that. [Ed.: it’s Jesse Eisenberg, my total boyfriend.]

Rachel Gary is from Connecticut, where she spends most of her time pretending to be a ninja with her son, hiking, tricking her family into eating delicious vegan baked goods and avoiding doing laundry. As her responsible adult alter ego, she gets paid by a major grocery chain to educate its customers and employees about the benefits of a plant-based diet and how to cook awesome vegan food. IShe is kind of a slacker so she has no website or Twitter account to refer you to. But she will soon, she promises! Maybe!

02/23/2011

Chow Down and All-Star Veggie Panel! It Was Crazy!  »


[Can’t see the video? Watch it at Vegansaurus.com!]

Like I mentioned on Friday, I went to a screening of Chow Down on Saturday. The movie was good; I liked it. It was hokey as fuck with all these cartoons and shenanigans but it was informative and comprehensive despite the scientific subject matter. The film focuses on two men who are faced with surgery for heart disease. Instead of surgery, both men opt to work with Cleveland Clinic doctor Caldwell B. Esselstyn and follow a “plant-based diet.” The results are very impressive; both men hadn’t had a single coronary indecent since changing their lifestyle even though they were told they would die without surgery.

The other aspect of the movie that was very interesting is it really goes into the business of nutrition in America. It has a lot of information about the hold that the milk and dairy lobby has on the USDA and the huge conflict of interest the government organization has when it comes to being a.) responsible for national nutrition recommendations and b.) in charge of promoting American agriculture. The film interviews the woman who created the first food pyramid and even then, the main component of the recommended diet—the bottom of the pyramid—was supposed to be fruits and veggies. The government rejected that and replaced the bottom with good old American grain. Ultimately, the first food pyramid was bagged altogether under pressure from the meat industry. What a tangled web we weave!

Guess what else: it was made by some Philadelphians! I knew the one guy in the movie was Philadelphian as soon as he opened his mouth. Hilarious.

So that’s the movie; it was fine, good even. But THEN! It was time for the Q&A with the all-star panel! This is when things took a turn for the awful. OMG I think I hate vegans! I know, I can’t believe I said that but these people were kooks! And so like cocky and self-promoting! Maybe I’m overreacting; it wasn’t really the panel that got to me, it was more the Q than the A. The panel included Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary; Michael Parrish Dudell of Ecorazzi; Simone Reyes, some chick that’s on Running Russell Simmons (haaa, that was a hilarious inclusion); Victoria Moran, super-author; Alexandra Jamieson, super-author, Top Chef veganizer, and co-star of Super Size Me; and Gary Null, crazy-ass mofo. Also on the panel were Julia Grayer and Gage Johnston, the filmmakers.

I really liked Jamieson and Moran; Dudell was good and I liked him, but he said he would be a strict moderator and ended up being a total nancy. That was the problem: crazy people in the audience kept hijacking the discussion! They would make these barely understandable rants with the only question being like, “What are your thoughts on my rant?” I forgot how much I hate Q&As! I used to go to them for films all the time when my mom worked at the Philly Film Festival. You have these really interesting people there but all you end up hearing all about are the trials and tribulations of various audience members trying to get funding for their own projects. It’s the same with authors: “But how do I get my book published?” Oy! Give me a break.

The crazy audience was only half the problem; the other half? Crazy-ass Gary Null. Oh my god, I did a face-palm whenever he started talking. He’s a complete nut. Like Christopher Walken on crack. He only made sense half the time and he kept talking about getting people to be vegan through spirituality, which just isn’t my bag. The worst was that he was like making sermons with dramatic pauses and bringing in Martin Luther King and crap. And he kept directing his rants at the panel too—who the eff are you to lecture them? If I were the panel, I’d be like, Screw you, bro. And he barely let anyone else talk.

One theme that emerged in the questions was about inclusion and how to unite vegans; THEN at the end, this woman who organized the event came up to speak about this initiative she organized called NYC Goes Vegan. The whole event was supposed to kick off the start of this 21-day challenge. Granted, she was not the most eloquent and she really didn’t promote her initiative very well, BUT! The same people who were talking about uniting vegans and asking what we can do to reach the mainstream started talking straight-up shit on this woman WHILE she was talking! She was a very attractive, model-looking woman and she looked about 26—though she’s actually 38—and made a comment about facing old age and the older women around me like ‘bout had a mutiny! And they were talking trash on her “Valley Girl” speech. Is that how you spell inclusion?! Just petty. I was shocked. I wanted to stop being a vegan just to spite these people! Don’t worry, still vegan (I know you were worried).

Basically, your friend Megan was about to bust heads. It was a shame. I wanted to hear more from the filmmakers, like why they avoided the word “vegan” in the movie, and if the doctors are hesitant to talk about veganism and deliberately stick to “plant-based diet.” I would have also liked to hear a lot more from Moran, she was kind of awesome but didn’t speak much.

The movie was pretty good though and you can actually watch it RIGHT NOW on hulu. It’s only an hour long, you can handle it.

11/12/2010

Harry Potter causes Indian owl craze, of course  »

That damn Harry Potter! His movies have given rise to a pet owl fad. At least that’s what Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh says: "Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls." He made these statements at the launch of Traffic India’s report, “Imperilled Custodians of the Night.” That’s quite a title!

A request for a white owl for a Harry Potter-themed b-day party is what initially inspired the research but from what I’m reading on Traffic’s site and the BBC piece, it seems that Harry Potter may be less of a culprit than beliefs surrounding the power of owls in Indian culture. The sacrifice of owls and their body parts are recommended for all sorts of magic and rituals. Even though hunting and trading of all Indian owls has been banned since 1972, Traffic thinks thousands are being trapped and traded every year. This time of year in particular has Ramesh and Traffic concerned as they believe the sacrifice of owls increases during Diwali, a five-day religious festival that began on Nov. 5. “Diwali should be a time for celebration across our nation, not one when our wildlife is plundered to feed ignorant superstition. India’s wildlife already faces many pressures; the additional burden of being killed out of ignorance and fear is not one that has any place in our modern society,” said Ramesh.

I’ve actually never seen any of the Harry Potter movies. I wanted to but now there are so many, it seems like such an endeavor. But jeez louise, these movies do NOT seem very vegan-friendly! I guess there are a lot of animals in the movie; you can read all about Gizmo, the owl that played Hedwig, and some of the other animals in this interview Scholastic did with animal trainer Gary Gero. He swears it’s all positive reinforcement but then again, so does Ringling Brothers. But it doesn’t matter how this bro treats his animals; portraying animals in popular culture in totally unrealistic ways gives people totally unreasonable ideas about them. People blame all these movies that act like chihuahuas are hot accessories rather than actual, living animals for the chihuahua invasion of California’s animal shelters. Guess what! Dogs have needs and don’t just pop up for comedic relief. I mean they do pop up for comedic relief, but they also pee all over your house and eat your shoes. And it’s not just movies, that’s a big criticism of zoos too; they aren’t educating children about animals, they are completely miseducating them. Nothing about a zoo is natural and it just gives people crazy ideas like those freaks that buy “exotic” pets. Like, yeah! I’m getting a tiger! And then BAM! the neighbor boy gets eaten. IT HAPPENS.

If the lives of wild animals and wild animals in captivity were portrayed realistically in popular culture, people wouldn’t be buying obviously poached owls for an eight-year-old’s birthday party. And people DEFINITELY wouldn’t be lining up for the circus if they saw what goes on behind the scenes. However, I don’t think realistic movies will ever be as popular as movies with adorable owls delivering mail. I’m saying, I seriously doubt we’ll be seeing The Cove party packs any time soon.

Click here to download Traffic’s report [pdf].

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