Upcoming Events in Atlanta
Sunday evenings, Chef Amen Raw will serve a live, organic meal to a small group at Dough Bakery. Enjoy an intimate, relaxed raw dinner bursting with fresh flavors. Dinner begins at 7pm and is $30 per person. Tea & filtered water included. BYOB. All dishes contain nuts. Call to make your reservation (404) 380-1400
Vegan Pizza Party
Tuesday, June 24 6:00-9:30 pm
Special Vegan Menu (in addition to regular vegan menu items, will include gluten-free options)
RSVP only - firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a vegan event, class, cooking demo in the Atlanta area? Let us know and we'll get you on the list! Email email@example.com
Book Review - My Gentle Barn
Everyone deserves a second chance – a chance to heal from the past, a chance to overcome abuse and neglect, a chance to learn to trust and even to love again. The Gentle Barn provides this chance not only for the rescued animals who call the farm home, but also for at-risk kids who visit them. While there, the kids learn the stories of the horses, goats, chickens, cows, pigs, and many others who came from horrible circumstances, but now live a peaceful life where they are safe and loved.
Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn, didn’t set out to start a sanctuary. In her memoir, My Gentle Barn, she tells her story of a traumatic childhood, a difficult early adulthood, and her journey with animal rescue. Knowing how difficult her start in life was makes Ellie’s story of rescue and hope that much more poignant.
Because of her past, and her recovery from it, Ellie relates to those who are most in need on a visceral level. She’d always had a strong connection with animals and began rescuing the least adoptable dogs from shelters, rehabbing them, and when possible, finding loving forever homes for them. This grew, rather accidentally, into The Gentle Barn.
My Gentle Barn tells this story – from the rescue of a goat named Mary, her first farm animal, to the unexpected notoriety resulting from the farm coming to the attention of Portia DeRossi and Ellen Degeneres. The stories of the individual animals and their recoveries from the abuse and neglect they suffered are stories of hope. They are as impactful to the reader and they are to the at-risk kids who visit the farm. Ellie made it a point to open the farm to programs who help these children because she understood the hope that would come from seeing firsthand that true healing is possible.
Ellie honestly and openly tells the stories of her struggles of learning to care for these animals who needed her help so desperately, the financial difficulties of the farm, and her personal heartbreaks along the way. The reader falls in love with each of the animals and sees them through Ellie’s eyes as the amazing and beautiful individuals they are. We worry for them when they are ill, and celebrate their recoveries. It’s easy to see why, despite struggles along the way, The Gentle Barn has succeeded – Ellie’s heart is as big as the farm she now shares with her family of humans and animals alike. My Gentle Barn is a must-read for anyone who loves animals and who believes in amazing power of hope.
Special thanks to Harmony Books for sending us this book for review.
Movie Review - The Ghosts in Our Machine
On March 1st and 2nd, GARP (Georgia Animal Rights & Protection) hosted screenings of The Ghosts in Our Machine at the historic Plaza Theater. This event was possible thanks to the efforts of two local bloggers, Alison of Running on Vegan, and Holly of Traveling Pink Lips. Thank you ladies for bringing it here, and thank you GARP for hosting, and of course, the Plaza Theater for showing this important film. After each screening, there was a Q & A session with Dr. Lori Marino, who was quoted in the film and was also featured in the movie Blackfish. We will be posting a video soon of both the Saturday and the Sunday Q & A sessions soon.
The Ghosts in Our Machine follows photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur as she shoots powerful photos of animals being used in the industries of food, fashion, research and entertainment over the course of a year. Her focus is addressing the notion of animals as property versus as living beings. The photos are often heartbreaking and haunting. There are several shots that will be etched in my mind and heart forever. Having said that, it is not overly graphic, which I was very thankful for and there was only one scene that I simply could not watch. One wonderful aspect of the narrative is the time Jo-Anne spends at Farm Sanctuary, recharging emotionally and working on her book, We Animals. These scenes of animals joyfully living their lives in a loving environment offer a powerful juxtaposition to the scenes of the suffering of their counterparts.
I greatly appreciated the subtly of the film, which allows the viewer a glimpse into the worlds of these animals without being unbearable to watch. Unlike the “vegan-maker”, Earthlings (which I can't watch), The Ghosts in Our Machine will not leave vegans traumatized, but it will shed light on a topic most people try to avoid, and hopefully, change hearts and minds of not-yet-vegans along the way.
Movie Review - GMO OMG
Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, have been in the news a lot in the last few years. Are they safe? Are they dangerous? Do they harm human health? Are they killing the bees? When we received an invitation to the Atlanta Premier of the movie GMO OMG, we accepted immediately.
Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert was inspired to learn more about the food we eat after the birth of his first child, much as Jonathan Safron Foer of Eating Animals fame was. At the age of three, Jeremy’s son became enamored with seeds and learned his alphabet by copying letters out of the Seed Savers catalog. Around this same time, the horrible earthquake in Haiti occurred, and upon hearing that there were Haitian farmers burning Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds rather than planting them, Jeremy set out to learn why. Why were these people, starving and desperately impoverished, burning the very seeds that would feed them? And so the journey began.
The film chronicles Jeremy - now the father of three of the cutest children ever born - and his family as they travel the country to talk to as many people as possible about GMOs and to try to answer the questions about their safety. It features interviews with farmers who grow GMO crops, organic farmers and activists who oppose the use of such crops, and former congressman Dennis Kucinich who addresses the politics of GMOs and Monsanto. Jeremy also traveled to Europe, where many countries have either put strict regulations on GMOs, including tough labeling laws, or have banned them altogether.
Filled with humor, humility, excellent music, and the aforementioned positively adorable children, GMO OMG will keep you engaged and entertained while providing invaluable information on this controversial topic. It will be screening in several cities around the country in the coming weeks, and will be available on DVD and iTunes in April. If you can catch it in the theater, please do. The screening here had an excellent panel discussion afterwards which was extremely informative, and at times, rather funny.
My Two Cents on GMO Crops
Companies like Monsanto, who produce these seeds, have told us for years that GMOs will feed the world, but in GMO OMG, experts from Rodale Institute point to a 30-year study debunking this crop yield myth. In addition, as one expert mentioned in the film, we already grow enough crops to feed approximately 12 billion people - almost double what the world’s current population is. Now, as a vegan, what is disturbing to me about that number is that 70% of the grain grown in the US is fed to animals, who will then be killed and fed to humans.
The sheer power of companies like Monsanto is daunting, infuriating, and even terrifying. Between their control over the seeds (seeds which you must buy every year as they are patented and therefore cannot be saved for the next year), the lawsuits against farmers whose crops are contaminated by neighboring farms (this constitutes an illegal use of Monsanto’s patented seed), the influence on lawmakers and threats to sue states who try to require GMO labeling, it’s hard to see what can be done to stop them. The answer, I think, is multi-faceted. Voting with your wallet is minimally effective given the sheer scope of GMOs in our food supply, but it is definitely worth doing, if for no other reason than the health of your family. Buying organic food from farmers markets, or even a local CSA, is not only better for your health, but also supports small-scale farms who want to provide quality, organic produce. Activism in the form of marches, petitions, letter-writing and similar activities is important and makes the issue more visible. The most important thing is to let elected officials know that you support stricter regulation of GMO crops and voting for representatives who follow through on these promises is essential.
One truly frightening aspect of this issue is how deeply impacted our ecosystem is by GMO crops. The very insects and weeds these crops are engineered to thwart have developed resistance, and are now more problematic than ever. For example, weeds in fields of Round-Up resistant crops have become resistant to Round Up. There are crops engineered to produce their own pesticide – which cannot be good for humans in my opinion – and now certain insects that it is supposed to kill are not only resistant, but they’re stronger than ever.
Labeling of GMO products is absolutely essential. Monsanto insists they’re safe, but won’t release their data for study, and remember this is the same company who gave us Agent Orange. As important as labeling is, as animal law expert and vegan activist Lee Hall, said to me the other day, it simply isn’t enough – the contamination of non-GMO crops into non-GMO fields is already widespread. This statement, and the resistance of certain weeds and bugs brought to mind some concepts articulated in, of all things, the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Yes. Jurassic Park. Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcom, was the voice of reason and the conscience of the story. His statement that “life finds a way” proved to be true, with disastrous results. I fear that we too are headed to disaster with GMOs unless we act swiftly. As Dr. Malcolm said, “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
In Defense of Animals 5K
OK, so we are not what you could call health-food vegans, and we’re certainly not runners. We try to eat healthy and we go to the gym 4 or 5 times per week, but neither one of us is going to win any marathons. Still, we decided to go to the In Defense of Animals 5K. We walked the route instead of running it and we weren’t alone in that, which was nice. We ran into several friends, and a few dogs we knew at the race. There were over 200 people total, and a whole bunch of dogs. It was a chilly morning, but by the end of the race, we were toasty warm.
All of the funds raised went directly to IDA, with race expenses covered by sponsors. There were several tables with brochures and information, a bake sale, and a raffle table with prizes that included gift baskets and a copy of Betty Goes Vegan. I was very sad that we didn’t win. Still, it was all for a good cause. IDA is an international organization working to protect wild animals, animals in captivity and have rescue operations and sanctuaries.
Japan Dolphins Day in Atlanta
On September 1, Japan began the annual dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, Japan. This horrific event was brought to the awareness of most of the world through the Academy Award winning documentary, “The Cove”. The hunt lasts for six months, during which time dolphins and other small whales will be rounded up, sorted and their fates decided. The younger, prettier dolphins are sent to live out their lives at aquariums and marine parks, where they will be forced to perform tricks for human amusement - in exchange for dead fish. Their lives will be dramatically shorter in captivity than in the wild, 25 years in captivity versus 40-50 years in the wild. These will be the lucky ones. The rest will be slaughtered in the cove, turning the clear blue waters red, and their bodies will carved up and sold off for meat. The Japanese government issued almost 20,000 permits to kill dolphins and small whales in 2011 alone.
Most people know how intelligent and beautiful dolphins are, and these factors can cause them to be horrified when they see images of the slaughtered dolphins. They know how closely knit dolphin families are, how much like human families, and hearing stories mother dolphins trying desperately to protect their babies and escape the cove make everyone weep. While the relative cuteness, human-like qualities or intelligence of an animal should not determine whether or not his or her life has value, the argument is often more easily accepted for animals like dolphins. India, for example, has recently recognized dolphins as non-human persons and has banned the use of them in captivity and in performances. If only all animals held in captivity for “entertainment” were so lucky.
So, with this idea that people want to save dolphins in mind, we attended the Atlanta Japan Dolphins Day event. There were over 100 events worldwide, all with the goal of raising awareness of the dolphin industry and how horrific the hunt and captivity are. Save Japan Dolphins created the event, and the Atlanta group was organized the amazing Martha Brock, who works tirelessly on behalf of marine mammals and against the captivity industry. She was instrumental in the efforts to thwart the Georgia Aquarium’s plans to import 18 wild caught orcas for display in aquariums and marine parks. Please visit her blog to learn more about this issue, and keep up to date on all things marine mammal. Armed with pamphlets, signs, armbands and determination, activists set out to the very heavily travelled intersection of Virginia Avenue and North Highland Avenue. Wait. Where?! It was actually genius. This intersection has a lot of foot traffic and a pretty long light. Perfect for talking to pedestrians and drivers alike. Many, many people took the information, listened to the demonstrators, asked questions and honked their car horns in support as they drove by. Hopefully, hearts and minds were changed.
Please, support marine animals by not visiting aquariums and marine parks and by urging your friends and families to do the same. The revenue generated through ticket sales funds this barbaric hunt. Help keep the cove blue.