On Saturday, hundreds of hungry foodies converged upon the Funky Buddha Lounge in Chicago for the premiere of the Vegan Chef Showdown, during which a dozen chefs battled it out for the coveted title of Best Vegan Chef. By the end of the event, thousands of vegan food samples had been devoured and people began casting votes for their favorite dish.
The rules were simple: the dish had to be vegan and it had to incorporate delicious Upton's Naturals gourmet seitan. Guests circled the lounge amid the colored lights and upbeat music, sampling Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza, "Beef" Curry, Jamaican Patties and more.
Winning by just two votes, The Rootsy Vegan's "Rootsy Jerk Muffin," a jerk-style seitan sautéed with cabbage and cornbread muffin crumbled on top, took home the grand prize. Coming in at a close second were Josh and Greg with their amazing Pesto Calzones. Third place went to Meagen and Blythe with an incredible "Cheese" and "Sausage" Ravioli dish. All the winners received gift cards to The Chicago Diner, El Nuevo Mexicano, ReUseIt.com, and more.
The first-ever Chicago Vegan Chef Showdown was a tremendous success, highlighting local chefs, promoting delicious vegan fare and raising vital funds for MFA's lifesaving efforts to expose and end cruelty to farmed animals.
This morning, Kirt Espenson, owner of E6 Cattle Company in Texas, was handed down one-year probation and ordered to pay a $4,000 fine after the judge entered a deferred adjudication on the Class A Misdemeanor cruelty-to-animals charge. The sentence stems from chilling evidence gathered earlier this year during an MFA undercover investigation that captured on hidden camera workers bashing in the skulls of calves with hammers and pickaxes, dragging them by their ears, standing on their necks, and neglecting them to die without proper veterinary care.
Arturo Olmos, the E6 foreman, has been arrested on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, and five former employees of E6 Cattle are facing felony-level charges of cruelty to animals. All five workers have fled, however, and have yet to be arrested.
During the undercover investigation at E6 Cattle Co. in Hart, Texas - a factory farm that rears nearly 10,000 calves for use on dairy farms - MFA's investigator documented:
Workers bludgeoning calves in their skulls with pickaxes and hammers
Beaten calves, still alive and conscious, thrown onto piles to slowly suffer and die
Workers kicking sick or injured calves in the head, and standing on their necks and ribs
Calves confined to squalid hutches, thick with manure and urine buildup, and barely large enough for the calves to turn around or fully extend their legs
Gruesome injuries, including open sores, swollen joints and severed hooves
Sick, injured and dying calves denied any medical care
Espenson's punishment is a slap on the wrist compared to the unimaginable suffering endured by the animals who were victims of malicious abuse and neglect under his watch. This case should serve as a wake-up call to all compassionate citizens that Texas must do more to strengthen its animal cruelty laws.
While the conviction signals some progress for farmed animals, compassionate consumers nationwide can prevent cruelty to animals at each meal by adopting a vegan diet.
Mercy For Animals is rolling out a provocative new anti-milk campaign in response to controversial and sexist PMS-themed ads by the milk industry, which were yanked last week after drawing criticism from people nationwide. In a bid to set the record straight about the milk industry's true relationship with the female reproductive system, MFA has created an edgy parody of the highly maligned and recently scrapped dairy industry PMS ad campaign. The clever ad exposes the dark side of milk production: egregious animal abuse.
The ad, endorsed by leading feminists, including Carol J. Adams, will run in the next issue of Ms. Magazine, the popular women's rights journal that helped lead the charge to retire the misleading and offensive dairy industry ads.
Mimicking the style of the milk industry campaign, the anti-dairy ad features an angry woman holding blood-splattered milk cartons, exclaiming, "PMS? No, I'm livid with the milk industry for abusing and killing cows. Most Cows in Dairy Production Are Painfully Mutilated, Intensively Confined, and Mercilessly Killed" and directing consumers to the newly launched MFA website, MilkIsCruel.com.
MFA wants consumers to know that milk comes from exploited, abused and grieving mothers. Like humans, cows only produce milk when they are pregnant or nursing. In the dairy industry, cows are forcibly impregnated in what the industry refers to as a "rape rack" and then kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy and lactation. So that all of their milk can be sold for profit, baby calves are ripped from their mothers' sides when they are only a few days old. "Surplus" calves, including almost all of the males, are shipped to slaughter or sold for veal production.
The constant cycle of pregnancy, birth and often artificially elevated milk production takes a huge toll on the cows' bodies and most are considered "spent" at six years of age, when they are shipped to slaughter for low-grade hamburger meat. Cows would normally live 20-25 years. Worn out by the cruelties endured in milk production, many cows, called "downers," are too sick or injured to walk to the kill floor. Workers often use forklifts and chains to push or drag these helpless animals to their deaths, tearing ligaments and breaking bones along the way.
Luckily, conscientious consumers can get more than enough calcium and other nutrients from healthy, plant-based foods without all of the saturated fat, animal cruelty and dishonest marketing from the dairy industry. Visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
On Monday, Chicago MFA volunteers helped passersby cool off from the July heat with free samples of delicious Temptation vegan ice cream made by Chicago Soydairy. Hundreds of people were given a taste of veganism, along with a copy of MFA's eye-opening 25 Reasons to Try Vegetarian brochure, outlining the many benefits of plant-based living!
Having never tried it before, many people were amazed that they could get the same tastes and textures they know and love from vegan ice cream without all the saturated fat, cholesterol and cruelty associated with dairy products.
MFA's latest feed-in was a huge success. Whether it's frozen treats or mock meats, feed-ins are a great way to show people how easy and delicious vegan eating can be. As the saying goes, "The best way to win people's hearts is through their stomachs."
Interested in sharing the delicious side of veganism with your community? Click here to find out about local MFA events and how you can get involved.
Tens of thousands of indie rock fans from around the world converged in Chicago this past weekend for the sixth annual Pitchfork Music Festival, a three-day event showcasing over 40 of independent music's best bands. During the popular festival, MFA volunteers were out in force raising awareness about the plights of farmed animals and distributing MFA's powerful new 25 Reasons to Try Vegetarian brochures.
Throughout the festival, people packed into MFA's "Paid-Per-View" tent to earn a dollar by watching a 4-minute segment of the eye-opening documentary Farm to Fridge. With the generous support of VegFund, the Paid-Per-View event was a resounding success. Shocked and horrified by how farmed animals are treated, many festival-goers pledged to go vegetarian on the spot, swearing never to eat animals again. With several vegetarian-friendly restaurant booths nearby, including the Chicago Diner and Temptation vegan ice cream, their timing couldn't have been better.
Want to get involved in spreading a positive message of compassion for farmed animals? Click here to find upcoming MFA events near you.
Meat and dairy products require more energy and resources to produce, and generate more toxic waste and pollution than equivalent amounts of potatoes, rice, beans and other plant-based foods. According to the EWG, if everyone in the U.S. chose vegetarian foods over meat or cheese for just one day a week, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road per year.
To make the findings easier to swallow, the EWG published them online with colorful and informative graphics and an interactive guide that enables Americans to more easily understand how food choices affect their environmental footprint. The interactive guide also includes a "How much do you know about the meat you eat?" quiz, helpful tips on reducing meat consumption, and even a pledge to eat less meat.
Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee giant and forerunner in offering compassionate-minded consumers soy milk in their gourmet beverages, has added another vegan-friendly option to its growing menu. Last year, Starbucks introduced the refreshing and vegan-friendly Frappuccino to its lineup, and now the company has added a vegan Sesame Noodles, "to-go" meal box, deliciously described on Starbucks' website:
"Sesame noodle salad tossed with broccoli florets, carrots, red peppers, sugar snap peas and a creamy peanut dressing is served with a cucumber carrot salad, crunchy sesame peanuts and baked tofu with lightly spiced lime glaze. For dessert, a premium Starbucks dark chocolate."
One of the most powerful and transformative forms of animal advocacy is simply sharing delicious vegan food with others. Tasting is believing, and setting up food sampling stations on busy downtown street corners, outside fast food establishments, and at festivals and special events can help bring the best flavors veganism has to offer directly to the public. Once people realize how delicious and satisfying vegan food can be, making a shift toward a compassionate and animal-friendly lifestyle seems much more accessible. But feeding the masses isn't cheap! That's where VegFund comes in.
Since 2009, when the group was named "Non-profit of the Year" by VegNews Magazine, VegFund has been empowering animal advocates and helping them to raise awareness about healthy and humane vegan living by generously funding more than 1,100 feed-in events and other inspiring outreach activities around the world.
VegFund also gives financial grants to activists willing to set up extremely effective Paid-Per-View exhibits where viewers earn $1 for watching a 4-minute version of MFA's powerful new documentary Farm to Fridge.
With a straightforward online grant application process, VegFund makes it easy for anyone who cares about animals to help change the world - one vegan food sample at a time.
Click here for more information about holding an effective vegan feed-in.
Click here for more information about hosting a Paid-Per-View screening.
Josh Tetrick at Huffington Post recently shocked his readers by describing in detail the cruelty uncovered during a recent MFA investigation at a dog factory farm.
According to the article, the investigation "documented horrific abuses such as workers ripping out puppies' testicles without a single drop of painkillers" and "cutting off the tails of puppies with clippers." The author describes a gruesome process called thumping, "where workers picked up puppies by their back legs and slammed them to the ground bashing their heads in order to "euthanize" the ones who weren't growing fast enough. Some of the most disturbing footage is of animals suffering as a result of standard, routine breeding practices."
As detailed and accurate as his article is, Tetrick did make one tiny mistake: instead of mother dogs and their puppies, he meant to describe the routine cruelties inflicted on pigs and their piglets as documented at Iowa Select Farms and other factory farms across the country. Of course, it wasn't really a mistake. In a clever tongue-in-cheek way, Tetrick was making the point that factory farmers routinely get away with treating millions of pigs and other farmed animals in ways that would warrant felony-level cruelty charges in most states if even one dog or cat were the victim instead.
As if taking a cue from MFA's popular "Why Love One But Eat the Other?" ad campaigns and thought-provoking brochures, Tetrick has likely inspired countless thousands to consider why they see some animals as cherished companions worthy of love and protection, while others are confined, mutilated and killed with barely any legal protection from even the most egregious abuses.
As a civilized society it is our moral obligation to protect all animals, including farmed animals, from needless violence and cruelty. And the easiest way to help animals is simply not to eat them. Please visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
It's summertime, which means plenty of opportunities for fun-in-the-sun backyard barbecues and picnics with friends. With so many convenient and tasty vegetarian foods available nowadays, it's easier than ever to banish beef and other animal products from your barbecue in favor of colorful fruits, vegetables and great-tasting vegan versions of your favorite foods.
Here are a few ideas to help get your gathering off to a great, lip-smacking start:
Looking for a hearty, crowd-pleasing hot dog? Serve the kids Tofurky's Franks and save the Tofurky Beer Brats for the adults! Top the dogs with some chili non-carne and serve with vegetarian baked beans for a complete meal.
What summer barbecue would be complete without corn on the cob? For that great buttery flavor fix, generously slather on Earth Balance or your favorite non-dairy butter alternative.
If high temperatures are making it too uncomfortable to cook, consider making several cold side dishes like cole slaw, creamy potato salad, or egg-less salad. These summertime favorites can all be made with egg-and-dairy-free mayonnaises like Vegenaise.
With a little planning and creativity, anyone can turn a backyard summer barbecue into a "to die for" event that nobody had to actually die for.
Please visit ChooseVeg.com for more delicious vegan recipes and helpful cooking tips.
New Englanders learned a thing or two about the benefits of making healthy, humane food choices over the 4th of July weekend, thanks to dedicated MFA volunteers who hosted a free vegan hotdog giveaway in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Egg-laying hens are perhaps the most abused animals on the face of the planet. This is something MFA undercover investigations in numerous states have illustrated time and time again. But, after over a decade of intense campaigning by animal advocates, change might soon be on the horizon.
Obviously worried by the growing awareness among consumers of the cruelties inherent in modern egg production, nervous about the increasing number of states that have curtailed the intensive confinement of egg-laying hens, including California, Michigan and Ohio, and reeling from the current efforts to ban battery cages in Washington and Oregon, the egg industry has agreed to come to the table to negotiate a phase-out of some of the worst factory farming abuses.
According to an agreement reached today, The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers, a trade group that represents the vast majority of egg factory farms nationwide, will work together to seek federal legislation requiring landmark animal welfare reforms, including:
A federal ban on battery cages for egg-laying hens--cramped, barren wire cages so small that hens are unable to stand up, spread their wings or engage in any natural behaviors. More than 250 million hens are currently confined to battery cages in the United States.
A requirement for egg producers to gradually increase the amount of floor space each laying hen is given to a minimum of 124 square inches per white bird and 144 square inches per brown bird (a larger breed). This would effectively double the amount of space that each laying hen is currently provided.
A requirement for environmental enrichments for birds, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas for all hens.
A prohibition of forced molting through starvation, an inhumane practice that involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to shock their bodies into another laying cycle. Tens of millions of hens in the country still endure this cruelty today.
A requirement that ammonia levels be reduced in henhouses to below 25 parts per million.
A national prohibition on the sale of eggs and egg products that don't meet the above requirements - meaning eggs from battery-caged hens in Mexico or elsewhere cannot be imported for sale to the United States.
A mandate that all egg cartons disclose the method of production. For example: "Eggs from Caged Hens," "Cage-Free," and "Free-Range."
If passed, these modest but meaningful reforms would be the first federal legislation to provide any protection to chickens used for food, as well as the first federal legislation relating to the treatment of any animals during their lives on factory farms. Existing federal laws pertain only to the methods of transport and slaughter of mammals, despite the fact that birds comprise more than 90 percent of the land animals raised and killed for food in this country.
Below is undercover video from a Mercy For Animals investigation into the largest egg farm in New England, exposing what the inside of most modern day battery cage factory farms look like:
In addition to the potential for these precedent-setting regulations to alleviate needless animal suffering, the agreement also sets a pathway to improve the treatment of hens in many of the largest egg-producing states, including Iowa, Indiana and Pennsylvania, that do not allow citizen-led ballot measure campaigns. Until recently, ballot measure campaigns have been the primary way animal advocates have been successful in advancing meaningful legal protections for farmed animals.
If passed, these nationwide reforms would be important strides in the right direction, but the agreement is far from perfect and consumers should be warned that "enriched cage" or "cage-free" systems are not cruelty-free systems. Male chicks, considered worthless by the egg industry, are still killed, often by being ground up alive in giant macerators. Hens will still have the tips of their sensitive beaks painfully seared off with a hot blade and when their egg production slows, they will still be cruelly slaughtered for meat or gassed and dumped in a landfill.
Consumers still hold the greatest power to alleviate the needless suffering of egg-laying hens and other farmed animals. We can choose to support kindness over cruelty at each meal by adopting a healthy and compassionate vegan lifestyle. Please visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
MFA's latest investigation into Iowa Select Farms, the largest pork producer in Iowa and fourth-largest in the nation, has garnered tons of mainstream media attention and raised awareness among millions of people about how the majority of pigs are raised and killed for food in the United States.
From national and international media juggernauts to local print, TV and radio stations across the country, here is a quick roundup of some of that coverage:
While all of the violence documented at Iowa Select, including management training workers to throw piglets across the room before slicing into their sensitive skin and ripping out their testicles with their fingers, is unconscionably cruel and unnecessary, subjecting intelligent and social animals to a lifetime of confinement in narrow metal gestation crates so small they are unable to turn around or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives is perhaps the cruelest form of institutionalized animal abuse in existence.
Sadly, grocery giants Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Hy-Vee condone confining animals in crates barely larger than their bodies by selling pork from producers who use gestation crates - including Iowa Select Farms. These corporations have both the power and ethical responsibility to ensure the products in their stores come from producers that have committed to ending the cruelest factory farming practices. Please take a moment to contact these grocery chains and urge them to take a stand against animal abuse by requiring their pork suppliers to phase out gestation crates.
As MFA works to expose and end the exploitation of animals at the hands of the meat, egg and dairy industries, consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless suffering of farmed animals by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet. Visit ChooseVeg.com for great-tasting recipes and helpful tips for making the transition to a vegan lifestyle.
Marching behind a striking banner bearing the MFA logo and the message, "No one is free when others are oppressed," activists in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, New York City, Syracuse and Chicago took to the streets this month to promote compassion, diversity and social justice for all during the annual gay pride parades.
Since MFA's inception more than a decade ago, the parallels between the gay equality, animal rights and other social justice movements has been an important theme in our philosophy and message. This was MFA's sixth year marching in pride parades, and as in years past, the crowd response was overwhelmingly positive.
MFA's volunteers in Chicago were out en masse this past weekend promoting healthy and compassionate vegan living by giving out free food samples and eye-opening literature, and exhibiting at popular street festivals.
At the 39th annual Custer's Last Stand Festival, MFA's exhibit booth was packed with festival-goers picking up free copies of MFA's Vegetarian Starter Kit and the Vegetarian Guide to Chicago. Many visitors also took part in MFA's Paid-Per-View campaign, which challenges people to watch a short clip of MFA's life-changing documentary Farm to Fridge in order to earn a dollar. After watching only a few minutes of the eye-opening film that takes viewers behind the closed doors of modern farms, hatcheries and slaughter plants, many people walk away swearing never to eat animals again.
While individual vegetarians save lives every time they sit down to eat, we can exponentially increase the number of animals we help by taking it to the streets and encouraging others to try vegetarian living too. If you would like to volunteer with MFA and help spread our message of compassion for animals, please consider filling out our volunteer form or applying for an internship. If you live near one of Mercy For Animals' chapters, we highly recommend that you join other members at our public outreach events.
Because consumers have a right to know how animals are treated on factory farms and video footage is the most powerful tool the animal rights movement has, MFA ramped up its efforts to expose the plight of farmed animals to people across the country with our popular Farm to Fridge Tour. From New York City to Los Angeles, New Orleans to Bozeman, the tour garnered tons of attention, including great mainstream media coverage alerting consumers to common agricultural practices that, while deemed legal in most states, shock and horrify most Americans.
While these bills failed to pass this year, it is certain the powerful factory farming lobby is already hard at work ensuring they will be introduced again next year - making it even more vital that animal advocates continue to distribute undercover videos of factory farms, hatcheries and slaughterhouses and expose consumers to the cruelty inherent in animal agriculture. Now is the time to speak out!