Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yay, vegan tattoos

I did some research into the inks that my tattoo artist uses and found that one of the three brands of ink he uses is vegan: Starbrite. I am now happy in the knowledge that my January tattoo will be vegan!

Oh, you probably want to know why most inks aren't vegan. The liquid that the ink is suspended in (the transport mechanism) is often animal based glycerin rather than vegetable based. Some inks use crushed insects to get color, and some use bone char.

Which Clinique items are vegan?

I emailed Clinique to find out which of their cosmetics contain animal ingredients. Their initial reply was encouraging:

"Very few animal derived raw materials are found in Clinique products. Animal ingredients are used only when their efficacy cannot be duplicated by any other source of ingredients. When an ingredient can be obtained from either animals or plants, we use the plant derived material. "

But, they asked me to provide a specific list of items I was interested in to get more information. I sent them a list of every item of theirs that I have ever used. Their reply is below:

Not Vegan:

Different Lipstick - acetylated lanolin alcohol & lanolin oil (wool grease) and beeswax

Colour Surge Bare Brilliance Lipstick - does contain beeswax

Colour Surge Eye Shadow Duo - does contain beeswax

Pair of Shades Eye Shadow Duo - zinc stearate (bovine)

High Impact Mascara - contains melanin from a marine animal's ink sac. (sepia officina) and for extreme inquiries, also contains sodium
hyaluronate (from yeast or bacterial fermentation)

Lash Doubling Mascara - beeswax

Vegan (no animal products):
Quickliner for Lips
Blushing Blush Powder Blush
All about Eyes Concealer
Quickliner for Eyes
Soft Finish Makeup - cholesterol (wool grease) animal ingredients replaced. The Soft Finish Makeup ingredients no longer contain animal ingredients.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Is honey vegan? No.

This is a tough question. Even some vegans debate this amongst themselves. But, in the end, honey is an animal product and vegans believe that animals are not here for our use. We don't need their products to live and therefore we just don't use them. This includes honey.

Here is a link to a great article about whether honey is vegan or not. All quotes below are from this article.

According to the article above, most honey doesn't come from the backyard honeybee farmer that we all picture in our heads, but rather it comes from honeybee factory farms. Bees are killed. A lot of people think that bees are not killed by the process of humans collecting bee honey. Bees are often killed by being stepped on by the beekeeper or crushed by the frames while the beekeeper is taking the honey. Beekeepers control the hives and keep them from swarming so that they can't just leave if they are unhappy.

The hive dynamics are regulated by the beekeeper, not the bees themselves.

"A successor queen is selected by a human instead of the reigning queen--both of whom may have been "artificially inseminated." "Queens can live for as long as five years but most commercial beekeepers replace them every two years" (Shimanuki & Sheppard, 181) (and often yearly). Yes, "replace" is a euphemism for killing the old queen. Backyard beekeepers also regularly kill their queens. This is done for numerous reasons that all boil down to exerting control over the hive."

Queen Bees often die in transit:
"Queens come from commercial queen suppliers. The image is hundreds of queens with a few nursing bees in individual cages waiting to be flown around the country (Beekeeping). Travel can be rough on the queens; according to Eric Mussen, a UC Davis Extension Apiculturist, "Once at the post office or shipping depot, nearly anything can happen. Queens can be over heated, chilled, left out in the sun for hours (desiccated), banged around in baggage compartments, and exposed to insecticides. Often, the post office or shipping hub fails to contact the customer when the queens arrive and they may sit in storage for days. It is surprising that the queens come through as well as they do" (Mussen). Finally, colonies (hives) are routinely split in half according to what the keeper wants, not the queen."

So basically, when in doubt, leave it out.

Agave Nectar (easily found at Whole Foods or on the web)
Suzanne’s Specialities’ Just Like Honey Rice Nectar
Maple Syrup

Here are some other good articles to read on the subject:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A holiday quote...

"Our turkey is so big that it must have been growing for about 8 years"

Yes, even though I am vegan, my family still says things like this to me. So, let me clear up any delusions that people may have about how long their turkeys actually got to live before going to be killed at the slaughterhouse: 14 to 18 weeks. Yep, that's it.

Read more.

Turkey Cruelty

A New Compassion Over Killing Investigation Uncovers Cruelty at a North Carolina Turkey Hatchery that Supplies Butterball and includes video footage.

From the Charlotte Observer article that covers this investigation:

"The videos involve turkeys being hatched for this week's holiday. Since October, the company has been a corporate affiliate of Butterball LLC, and its turkeys are sold under the Butterball name."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Tale of Two Turkeys

I was going to post about honey today, but Turkey seems more appropriate.  I read several articles in Satya Magazine this week about Turkeys and honestly it broke my heart.  Turkeys are intelligent, curious, social creatures and they are treated horribly.  

Turkeys have been genetically modified to grow very large breasts, because that is what people like to eat the most.  The result of this is that their breasts are so heavy that they can no longer breed normally.  Turkeys have to be artificially inseminated.  And really, it is not as nice as it sounds.  Once or twice a week, the male turkeys are held down and manipulated or "milked" and their sperm is collected.  Someone actually has a job where they do this to turkeys all day long.  Meghan Beeby in a Satya Magazine article wrote:

"In describing the milking process a worker explained, “It’s totally different than what people imagine. I can tell you right now—you’re gonna be shocked… Basically I’ll give you the short run down of it. We got a tom bench in the barn. The guys pick the toms up and put them on the bench and they rub them up, squeeze them, and it ejaculates the tom. The semen is sucked up through the filtration system and sent through a valve...” "

The females are held down and inseminated.  The workers who do this often injure the turkeys.  They are essentially raping turkeys.  Beeby also wrote:  

"Each laborer inseminates an average of 1,200-1,400 hens within two hours."

The other side effect of the extra large turkey breast is that the turkeys have a lot of problems walking.  

Turkeys, like chickens, also have their beaks "trimmed" to prevent them from pecking each other in their overcrowded pens.

Turkeys are slaughtered inhumanely.  Peta says "At the slaughterhouse,turkeys are hung upside down by their weak and crippled legs. Their heads are dragged through an electrified stunning tank, which immobilizes them but does not render them unconscious.Many dodge the tank,meaning that they are fully conscious when their throats are slit. If the knife,too,misses its mark,birds are boiled alive in the tank of scalding water used for feather removal."

For more information, see this Satya Magazine article or this Peta brochure.

And if you think that your turkey was humanely raised, read this Satya article.

This Thanksgiving, I ask that you consider not eating turkey.  Serve something else.  Consider serving a vegetarian main course instead.  Consider adopting a turkey from the Farm Sanctuary.  Your $20 adoption fee provides the funds for the Farm Sanctuary to care for one of the lucky turkeys for the year.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Go see Fast Food Nation, the Movie

Fast Food Nation (the Movie - there is a book too) starts Nov. 17. Go see it. Here is a flash animation called Backwards Hamburger that promotes the movie and shows a hamburger deconstructed in reverse. The dog un-pooping is funny.

Here is a trailer for the movie.

The movie stars: Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Avril Lagine...

Vegan Apple Streusel Muffins

I took a recipe that my friend Liz likes and veganized it, added a topping, and used a lot more apple. They turned out really well. They are up in the top of the list of best muffins I have ever made. We can't decide if these are better than my hippy muffins or the pumpkin muffins we make a lot. Really really good. You must make them.

Apple Streusel Muffins

Vegan Apple Streusel Muffins

1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp safflower oil * (or canola oil)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Granny Smith Apple ***, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts **
4 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan margarine, softened
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup natural granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Topping Ingredients
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp rolled oats
1 tsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan margarine, softened
2 1/2 Tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with muffin papers. You might want to lightly spray the muffin papers with non-stick spray (I didn't and had 2 different types of paper liners and the muffins stuck to one kind, but not the other).

Add all topping ingredients to a small bowl. Mix them together by mashing with your fingers. It should create a crumbly topping. Set aside.

Mix the flax seeds and water in a small bowl with a fork. Set aside for about 3 minutes. Stir again just before adding to other ingredients.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the oat bran, applesauce, soy milk, flax seed/water mixture, safflower oil, and vanilla. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the walnuts, apple, brown sugar, margarine, and cinnamon. Stir in flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the liquids to the flour-apple mixture and stir until just blended.

Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins (you may have a little batter left over - this makes about 13 muffins). Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of topping over each one and lightly tap it down.

Bake for about 18 minutes. Let cool for about 3 minutes in the muffin tins. Then remove the muffins to a cooling rack.

* Safflower oil is a polyunsaturated fat containing omega-6 fatty acids. Safflower oil is also less processed and less refined that canola oil and is better nutritionally.
** Liz, don't skip the walnuts. They are yummy and good for you. You can also replace them with chopped pecans.
*** Granny smith apple is a must. Don't substitute another kind of apple. The tartness of the granny smith is really great in these muffins.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Is Domino white granulated sugar vegan? No.

I emailed Domino sugar to get clarification on whether their granulated sugar and brown sugar were vegan. The answer was a definite no and honestly was much more information than I really wanted. Here is my email to them, followed by their response:

From: kristin
Sent: Sat 11/4/2006 3:08 PM
To: Web Mail
Subject: Consumer Question or Comment

Consumer Question or Comment

Can you please tell me if your products are vegan? Do they contain any
animal products? Is the sugar bleached using any animal products?

Specifically I am wondering about the regular granulated sugar and the
confectioners sugar.

Kristin Thomas

Dear Kristin,

Thank you for taking the time to contact Domino Sugar Co. regarding our use of natural charcoal. Natural charcoal is a sterile material used to remove color, impurities and certain naturally occurring minerals from sugar during the refining process. It acts similarly to a coffee filter and is not in the sugar itself. There are no animal products in Domino Sugar. Domino sugars are certified kosher, pareve.
The safe and long-standing use of natural charcoal in the sugar refinement process is the best available in the sugar industry and is approved and certified safe by both the FDA and USDA. Consumers can be assured that all materials used in the Domino Sugar's refining process are fully approved as required by the federal government’s strict manufacturing standards.

The natural charcoal we use is made exclusively from the bones of non-European cattle. These healthy bones are incinerated for 12 hours at temperatures reaching over 700 degrees centigrade. This burning process destroys all organic matter (including viruses, bacteria and proteins), leaving only an inert granular substance called natural charcoal that is about 10% elemental carbon and about 90% calcium hydroxyapatite.

We take pride in the fact that our sugars are 100% pure cane and do not contain fillers of any kind. We do not bleach our sugar. Our brown sugars contain no added flavoring or coloring as the molasses flavor is derived naturally from cane, through crystallization.

We also produce a natural Demerara Sugar which is crystallized from pressed cane juice and is not filtered over natural charcoal. Many consumers enjoy this natural turbinado sugar for its crunchy texture and its rich, subtle molasses flavor. You may also prefer to purchase our Domino Pure Cane Certified Organic Sugar; this sugar also does not pass through the natural charcoal filter.

I sincerely hope that the foregoing answers your questions and addresses your concerns.


Connie C. Hunter, Domino Foods, Inc.


Note that cane sugars (they look light brown but taste the same) are a vegan alternative to white granulated sugar. Here are some cane sugars you can look for in your grocery: Florida Crystals, Domino organic cane. Florida Crystals also makes a powdered sugar. I think the Whole Foods store brand 365 also has a natural cane sugar.

Are Free Range Eggs OK? No.

I was recently asked whether free range eggs were "ok". I am not quite sure what the person meant by "ok", but I think they wanted to know whether I still considered it to be cruel to eat free range eggs. I do. There are many reasons that I will not eat any eggs and why I think you also should not eat eggs.

1) Free range is a crock of shit. The egg industry wants you to picture a nice little farmhouse where chickens come and go and nest in nice clean bundles of straw. In fact, I saw a Perdue commmerical today where they showed their chickens living in a nice little farm with lots of room. In the real world, free range just means that they are not living in cages. This is definitely better, but is still awful for the chickens. In general, they don't get to go outside. They are still overcrowded with very little room to move around. The standards for free range are so lax that if there is a little window in the barn or a little porch where chickens can go outside, farmers can call the chickens free range. No one is checking to see if the chickens ever do actually get to go outside. The conditions for these chickens are still horrific. Don't be fooled by commercials by companies like Perdue. Read this article for more information.

2) Debeaking. Because chickens live in such crowded conditions and they normally peck at each other to eastablish a pecking order (which would be fine if they had some space) chicken farms de-beak the chickens. This means that they slice off the beak of the chicken with a searing hot blade. This is extrememly painful for the chicken. Some even die from this procedure. They do not get any pain-killers. They do this to the chicks when they are still tiny babes. More on debeaking.

3) Male baby chicks are discarded or ground up for fertilizer. There are two type of chickens bred in this country. The chickens have been genetically modified to produce one type that grows really fast (broilers) and another type that lays lots of eggs and does not get very big (layers). When layers have chicks, half of them are male. The male baby chicks are useless to egg producers and they will not grow fast enough or big enough to make broilers so they are discarded. They are simply thown away in big black trash bags full of baby chicks (just born) or they are tossed live into a grinder and are ground up for fertilizer.

4) Hens are still sent to slaughter after their egg production drops off. They become pet food. Being a vegetarian is not enough here if your purpose is to prevent animals from being killed. These hens are still killed. They do not move to some nice farm in the country to live out the rest of their lives. They are sent to slaughter just like broiler chickens.

This is why I do not eat eggs and why free range eggs are not a suitable option. Most foods can be made with egg substitutes (enerG, or flax seeds). You do not need eggs.