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Feature Profile: Interview With Salt Lake Local About 10 Day Plant Powered Challenge

It has been about 1 month since 10 people finished the 10 day Plant Powered Challenge. Inspiration came from a film Sage Mountain, the Park City film series, and Vegfund hosted called “What The Health”. If you haven’t seen the film it can now be viewed on Netflix. The challenge, led by Kent Maurer, entailed consuming a whole food plant based diet for 10 days. All animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish were removed from their daily food choices. Everyone learned how and what to buy at the grocery store, how to order vegan meals at restaurants, watched educational films, attended a community potluck and met the animal ambassadors at Sage Mountain’s animal sanctuary, experienced a loving kindness meditation, went on a few hikes in Park City, received new recipes and daily emails from Kent about the momentum of this movement along with answers to any questions.

Lauren Lockey recently had the opportunity to interview one of the participants, Michelle Sharer. Michelle is 26 years old and  grew up just outside of Boston. She moved to Salt Lake to be near the mountains, worked as a web developer for 3 years, and now is a yoga instructor.

LL: What sparked your interest and commitment to do 10 day challenge? 

MS: I follow a lot of food blogs and Instagram accounts, and those had been inspiring me for a while to try this way of eating. I loved the idea of eating whole plants because even before I knew about the challenge I was already excited about avoiding processed foods. I also watched the Forks Over Knives documentary on Netflix. I knew the challenge would be a good way for me to be able to ask all of the questions I had about going plant based.

LL: What foods were you consuming before the challenge?

MS: Mostly everything. Lots of eggs. Dairy and meat too. I avoided processed foods and I was already a little bit     crazy about reading ingredients on food labels.

LL: Did you notice any immediate changes within the first few days? negative or positive

MS: The very first thing I noticed was that coffee with almond milk tastes better than coffee with cows milk! Within the first few days of the challenge, I felt different, a little tired, because I was still learning what to replace the animal foods I’d been eating with, so I ended up consuming less overall. Now I eat more snacks and add more toppings and that helped a ton.

LL: Give a few examples of some new foods/meals you discovered during the challenge

MS: Banana ice cream completely blew my mind (one ingredient – frozen bananas). I still eat it every day and every time I want to cry tears of gratitude to nature and the existence of bananas. And there are so many choices for add-ins too! Dates, peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, mango. My favorite breakfast is oatmeal. I literally go to bed every night excited for my peanut butter oatmeal in the morning. Another current obsession is toast – my two favorites are toast with hummus and raisins, and toast with avocado and salsa. 

LL: Did you ever find yourself unsatisfied during the challenge?

MS: Actually, what’s cool is I eat my favorite foods every day now. Before, I felt like I had to limit myself on things like pizza, ice cream, etc. Now I feel like I’m indulging in every meal. I stuff my face with banana ice cream every day and it feels great.

LL: what activities do you enjoy? Did you find you had more or less energy during the challenge?

MS: I love rock climbing, yoga, and mountain biking. At the beginning of the challenge I think I had less energy, but I still attribute that to not eating enough calories, but now that I know how to manage that better I feel great in terms of energy level!

LL: Are you presently plant powered?

MS: Yes I am!

LL: What was the highlight during the 10 days?

MS: The pot-luck! It was really inspiring to see and taste all of the delicious home-cooked plant-based food, AND be surrounded by amazing, like-minded individuals!

LL: Do you plan to stay plant powered?

MS: Absolutely. I wish I had started sooner

LL: What would you say to those considering this lifestyle?

MS: It might feel hard or extreme, and there’s kind of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it comes as naturally as ever. You’ll discover new and exciting things to try! Honestly, I enjoy eating more now than I did before. If someone is hesitant I would encourage them to start out by just changing one thing. Switching to almond milk or soy milk for example. Or try cooking one plant-based meal a week. Or jump in on Meatless Mondays. There are so many recipes and ideas out there and so many people who want to help you. The community embracing this way of eating is amazing right now.

 

You can follow Michelle on her plant powered adventures on instagram and facebook . Thank you Michelle for making such a positive impact on your health, the planet, and the lives of farmed animals and  please continue to share your experience with everyone around you!!
Stay tuned for another challenge this fall. Also mark your calendars for Plant Based Utah’s first annual Nutrition symposium this October featuring Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Ann Esselstyn, and producer of “Cowspiracy” and “What The Health”, Keegan Kuhn!!

The Reluctant Vegan

By: Alisha Niswander 

I grew up on a farm. I was surrounded by animals. Animal products had a place at the table nearly every time we sat down to eat. This was Ohio. My family had animals. I remember watching my grandpa butcher chickens and seeing them flying around headless. I also remember feeding baby cows out of a huge baby bottle. Looking back I was probably feeding them hormones so they could grow big, quickly and be sent to slaughter.

In fourth grade, I joined 4H. I was in both Girls 4H, where I took a nutrition and cooking class, and Boys 4H where I had pigs and rabbits that eventually I took to the county fair. I loved my pigs and rabbits. They were pets. I taught my pig to walk around our property, guided by the gentle tap of a cane on her jowls. Her name was Elvira. I learned how to care for her, by feeding her, washing her and cleaning her pen. One time she and some others escaped the pen and went haywire in my Grandpa’s apple orchard, eating all the fallen apples that had fermented. They got quite tipsy! The fair came. I showed Elvira, with pride. I walked her around the arena and was awarded 4th place. I showed my bunnies too. I remember what I was wearing. I was wearing bright blue pants and a white shirt with ruffles and a silky ribbon. The bunny kept trying to eat the ribbon and I thought that was so cute. I wasn’t concerned what the judge thought. This was my pet and she was being funny.

Toward the end of the week it was time to sell Elvira. I remember standing in the middle of this huge arena, by myself, and the auctioneer giving the specs on Elvira and then the bidding began. The bidding was a price/pound. I think she went for about $250.00 which at the time was a lot of money! After I paid my parents back for her food, I had a decent amount of money I could put in the bank for college. This was really exciting. However, I didn’t have Elvira. I never saw her again. I was sad but I had to get over it. This was what we did in the country. One thing you learn in the country is where you food comes from. You realize quickly that chicken or hamburger doesn’t just show up on a piece of styrofoam wrapped in plastic in the grocery store. This peculiar package in the deli section was an animal.

In high school I worked at a chicken farm. I don’t know how many thousands of chickens were in the barns. I literally could not go in there. The dust, ammonia smell, feces and noise was overwhelming and would send me into an allergic reaction. I worked out front packaging the eggs. This was my first (and luckily only) experience working at a factory farm.

I experimented with vegetarianism in high school, mainly for shock value. I quickly traded in the pot roast for romaine lettuce with fat free ranch dressing. I had no idea how to be a healthy vegetarian, but it felt liberating to say “I’m a vegetarian.” In college I started eating meat again, because it was easy and I didn’t really know how to do anything else. Years later, I only ate fish. Then, I only ate meat where I knew the source. A while ago, I gave it up all together. The last meat I was eating was the free range chicken that my parents raise. I would say I was probably about 90% vegan for quite a while. About a year ago, I gave up all animal products. It is not hard. I feed my body with plants, fruits and legumes. “WHERE do you get your protein?” Once in awhile when I do track what I’m eating on average I’m getting about 80-100g of protein per day.

Why am I a reluctant vegan? I hate labels. I don’t like to put myself in a corner where I’m being watched. I remember someone saying “You’re vegan right?” my response was “Uh… I don’t eat animal product.” He said, “Come on! We need you!” I realized then, that my food choices make others take note. I should seize this opportunity to be a good example and to inspire others to make different food choices. My hope is that people will realize vegan food is amazingly good! I am constantly complimented on my cooking so that’s a start! Vegan food is the best choice for our planet and for our health. Plant based diets are quickly gaining speed and I can’t think of any other way I want to fuel my body.

Alisha Niswander is an endurance athlete and the owner of Mountain Vista Touring. She guides clients through different mountain activities fueling them with her plant based protein bars and energy bites. www.parkcityhiking.com

Follow Alisha on instagram @mountainvistatouring to see her latest adventures

Did God say it’s OK to eat animals?

By: Kent Maurer

This is a justification for eating meat that I’ve heard many times; “God says it Ok to eat animals” or  “God put animals on this earth for us to eat”. Since the subject of plant only nutrition is not controversial enough, in this blog I thought I’d throw in religion just to spice things up.

Just a precursor, I wasn’t raised religious or am I affiliated to any religions; as a matter of fact I never really paid attention to religion until I was first confronted with this justification about 15 years or so ago. So like I do with every question I get about a plant only diet and lifestyle, I researched it, and here’s what I’ve learned.

Since I’m in Utah, I’ll start with the Mormons.

Are you Mormon? If so why do you eat meat? In the Doctrine and Covenants 49 reading verses 18 and 19, your faith specifically says not to east meat unless in times of famine. There is no famine, Costco, Wal-Mart, Target all have an abundance of inexpensive beans, grains and potatoes to base all your meals around. The only places on earth where there is a food shortage is in impoverished countries where food is literally taken out of starving peoples mouths to feed to the animal agriculture industry, so the “privileged” human can have their steak.

Are you a Christian? If so why do you still eat meat when in Genesis 1:29 God tells Christians exactly what to eat right after He created man; “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.” After God flooded the planet and there were no plants to eat, he gave permission for some meat to be eaten (a time of famine) in Genesis 9:3. He didn’t change our anatomy from His original plant based design to that of a meat eater. I also found that the early editions of the Bible stated when Jesus fed the 5000 on the hillside fish and bread; it was actually written that it was ‘fish weed’ or ‘fishmeal’ (dried seaweed) instead of fish. Makes more sense seeing how there was no refrigeration and the fish would have rotted before they could eat them.

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How about Judaism? Are you one of the chosen ones? Genesis 1:29 and the Old Testament is what you should follow as well when it comes to your food choices. Squeezing the blood out of a piece of meat to make it Kosher, does not make it healthier or justify eating an animal.

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all practice a life of not harming other beings. The word they use is, “Ahimsa”, a term meaning ‘not to injure’. This great word encourages followers to aspire to cause no injury, or do no harm to you, the planet or ANY living creature.

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The Seventh Day Adventists here in the United States follow the Bible to the letter (Genesis 1:29) and consequently live an average of ten years longer then the most Americans and are now considered the longest living humans on planet earth; doing so in smog infested Loma Linda California just east of L.A. The book ‘The Blue Zones’ is an excellent read on the secrets to longevity.

When it comes to eating animals most people throw all religious beliefs out the window, and eat animals of all types three times a day.

I live with the belief that we are ALL creatures of God and that God resides in each one of us. So killing animals, just like killing a human, or destroying the planet He created, is really killing one of Gods creations or a piece of God Himself.

Dominion’ Humans were given “dominion” over this earth and all the creatures that reside in it.

Meaning: we are supposed to be the protectors, the overseers…not the eaters and destroyers!

Why is it so hard to give up eating animals when every act of eating an animal is death and destruction; death to the animal, destruction of the planet, and the slowest form of voluntary suicide through the act of eating animals (heart disease, cancer, diabetes)?

Why does all logic, health concerns, environmental concerns, as well as compassion, get discarded when it comes to eating animals?

It’s time every religious person as well as every non religious person walks the walk, and not just talks the talk. Be kind; treat others like you’d like to be treated, which include ALL creatures!

By the way my religion, “My Religion is Kindness!”

eckhart-tolle-guardians-of-being-60-728Kent Maurer

www.OneSingleAct.org

A Higher Intelligence

By: Lauren Lockey

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with someone about a particular experience he had while visiting a park near by his family’s home. He witnessed a person picking up a young duckling and chucking him across the park like a football. I proceeded to ask if he did anything about it or tried to help in any way. He answered that he felt bad for the animal but continued to say, “do you know how small a duck’s brain is? Not the smartest in the bunch!”                         ” So that makes it okay?” I asked. If the duck had a large brain and was “smarter” then he wouldn’t be thrown across the field?

This question comes up a lot for me.  While I am always fascinated learning about the science behind the cognitive abilities of non human animals ranging from chimpanzees to elephants to pigs to chickens,  does it matter when it comes to the most important aspect all human and non human animals share? That being the simple desire to live and be free from suffering. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to make our own choices. We want to take care of our families and friends and be social. We want to be happy and feel joyous. Are humans the only ones deserving of that and what gives us the right to take that away or do what we please with those whom we deem “less intelligent?” And if higher intelligence is what matters, are humans at the top? Because I am not sure confining, using, or slaughtering animals is intelligent when it comes to the negative impact it has on everything around us and our own health.  You can not help wonder whether our intelligence is overrated! Perhaps our non human animal friends are truly the intelligent ones as they take only what they need and live in harmony and balance with the planet. The ranges of intelligence will vary according to species. No, a chicken or rat isn’t going to drive a car, go vote, or create some app for iphones. BUT they do have jobs, tasks, and knowledge within their daily lives that works and allows for growth within their communities and families. The definition of intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.  I would add to that, “within any given species”.

OR is it that we honestly believe that all nonhuman animals are here FOR us and not WITH us?  I think we can all agree that the young duckling was most likely minding his own business being a duck. I think we can also agree he had no interest, nor does anyone for that matter, in being thrown across the field to then be injured and scared for his life. So why then? Why do non human animals, no matter their level of intelligence, continue to be caged, abused, eaten, experimented on, used, and worn by our species? Can we shift our perception just slightly and get out of the way so others can live their lives freely? Isn’t that what we want for ourselves?

Again, I am simply asking questions with the ultimate hope that you, readers, will share your thoughts. Maybe it requires uncoiling where we came from and where we picked up our beliefs. Because perhaps a higher intelligence comes from the ability to live in harmony with the planet without intentionally harming others, to take care of ourselves and each other.

Tillikum, the Orca the documentary “Blackfish” was based on, just died after 30 years in captivity. He was ripped from the wild and his mother at just 2 years old. Why? For entertainment and profit at Seaworld.  Orcas stay with family and friends for life in their natural habitat. Tilly was kept in solitary confinement for the majority of his life except for when he was forced to do tricks and entertain the public. Very similar to those animals confined in the circus and at the Zoo.  When he passed, he had scratches all along his body and his teeth were worn down from biting the cages out of frustration.

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Another Orca named Granny is also presumed dead but at 105 years old. She lived and died with freedom unlike Tilly who was never given the chance even after science continued to back up how abusive it is to keep these animals in solitary confinement.

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Luckily the documentary “Blackfish” opened our eyes to profits made from captivity and abuse and  fortunately less and less people are buying tickets to Seaworld.  More people are becoming aware that non human animals are tortured, abused, used, and slaughtered more than any other being ever in the history of mankind.

All over the world animals are suffering from human hands whether it’s for flesh, product, entertainment, ivory and skins, fur, testing, feathers, religion and ceremony. These animals range in intelligence. They speak languages that we can’t even understand. However, what is most important is that they share the ability to feel pain and suffer immensely.

So let’s take a moment, step back and observe how we treat others, what we project to be intelligent and what we can learn from those around us. Listen and observe more,  uncoil belief systems, and let others live in their own right, their own intelligence, and perhaps we can learn something. A way that brings more peace, more love, and ultimately a collective higher intelligence.

Here’s to the animals and all they teach us! Patience, forgiveness, simplicity, love, joy, and intelligence. Let’s honor them more, help an individual in need, and make the world a little better for all.

 

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Remember Me: I am You

By: Lauren Lockey

A few days ago I stood  in front of the mirror, naked in the flesh with the desire to FEEL the rawness of my own heart. I needed to be with it. Be myself, with me.  With tears rolling down my face and my heart aching for all the injustices in the world now amplified with my fear of our soon to be president elect, I struggled. I asked myself how and why? The questions rolled through my head. I thought of my 5 young nieces and what this meant for them as young women. What will this mean for young men and their view of power? Will minorities be alienated even more? Will the lives of  animals  matter even less? Will mother earth and her signs of depletion be denied even more than before? The oppressed now significantly more oppressed? Our country and our world divided, depressed, and enraged?

I reminded myself that the people of our country spoke and whether we are celebrating or running for the hills we MUST remember one thing, authenticity. The transparency and alignment to what is. For me that means never apologizing again for being  an emotional feeling being who has the capacity and desire to empathize with others. Yes I wear my heart on my sleeve but is that a bad thing?!  Perhaps that is what has been lacking this whole time. Our ability to empathize, feel compassion, and then take action. Do something!  That is what made this election more devastating AND more motivating than in years past.

The last few weeks have been rough  to say the least.  My work and perhaps my rent for inhabiting this beautiful planet is speaking up for a large percentage of the oppressed, animals.  Everywhere I look they are either being exploited, used, abused, or eaten by humans. Men in orange vests surrounded the outer limits of my property looking for their next victim. 300 cows with number tags in their ears stared through my windows every morning because they knew I wouldn’t harm them. I observed and spent time with them and learned that they have daily joys and fears. They communicate, form very strong friendships, and share the responsibilities of watching over their young. The bond between a mother and her calf is absolutely beautiful. So of course I feel tremendous sadness when that bond was broken after only a few weeks. I watched them  get rounded up and separated. Their cries were heartbreaking. Next stop? Feedlot then slaughter. A trust broken and families torn apart.

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I  bore witness to pigs in a transport truck that was pulled over. Their bodies crammed  so tightly together that they couldn’t move. Some frothing at the mouth because they were so dehydrated. Their breathing heavy from fear and exhaustion. I voiced to them that I was sorry for what we had done to them and that I will do everything I possibly can to stop it. I pet their ears and peered into the slots of the truck while I told them I loved them. Tears welled up in my eyes and at that moment, the driver returned and confronted me while saying “yup they will be bacon and pork chops tomorrow!” Right there and then I ask myself “how did we get here?” “What happened to empathy?” Is this lack of connection why the US is considered the most depressed country in the world?  In my opinion empathy may be the only way forward.

I studied all the blemishes on my body, the lines in my face and  felt proud and empowered. It takes tremendous strength to carry the weight and sadness of the world. Let’s be honest, we messed up as humans. True power comes from recognizing that and moving forward from a place of empathy and compassion. I picked my stomach up off the bathroom floor and re-membered who I am. A woman who feels deeply.

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From Activism Blooms Friendship

By: Sahna Foley

Be gentle to yourself, animals, and others.

By Natalie Blanton

 

What has always remained so confusing, frustrating, and surprising to me is the bad taste in the mouth of our collective society when words such as “vegan” or “animal rights” are brought up.

I will most likely field some criticism for this — but I need to say something about living compassionately:

Yes, we live in a society that is built upon the backs of the most marginalized. Including animals.

Living compassionately should include the active elimination of harm, violence, and suffering inflicted upon all other humans, animals, and this planet, Earth.

Driscoll’s Workers Call for Global Boycott over Alleged Abuses at World’s Biggest Berry Distributor -- Read the Democracy Now story here.

Driscoll’s Workers Call for Global Boycott over Alleged Abuses at World’s Biggest Berry Distributor — Read the Democracy Now story here.

Granted, and unfortunately, you will never be 100% “cruelty-free” because animal products are in everything. And I mean everything. Beyond food, household cleaning products, medicine, and makeup, are all brutally, and unnecessarily, tested on animals. And those organic non-GMO veggies? They were most likely picked by migrant or undocumented farm workers, living under a cruel system/regime of oppression, non-livable wage, and silencing lack of representation. I would not qualify these fruits, vegetables, and products of industrial agriculture as “cruelty-free,” even if these processes do not involve harming animals directly.  

In light of all this doom and gloom? Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H. Neurologist, public health specialist, and author, gave me a great piece of advice: “Just do your best!” In continually seeking, creating and living a life free of violence and cruelty, there will always be that one obscure ingredient that, once you’ve researched the origins, you will be forever perplexed and saddened by our society. For now? Watch Dr. Akhtar’s TED talk here, regarding all of the reasons to keep fighting this good fight and pursuing this idea of “cruelty-free” no matter how difficult. In essence? Shop locally and ethically, never be silent about oppression, and keep educating yourself and your community.

Once you are veg, keep doing your best to stay veg.

If you are new to the plant-based life — first off, welcome. Second off, fun fact: Cheese has the same addictive properties as hard drugs. Because of this terrifying scientific fact, cravings are real. I get it. Even after many years of a vegan lifestyle — those can randomly rear their ugly heads. If there is something specific? Reach out to one of our Sage Mountain resources to ask, “Why do I miss fish so much?” or “I just can’t give up cheese,” etc. These are real questions with real answers and we live in a day and age when it is easier than ever to be vegan — with the right information, awareness, and understanding. So jump on it — reach out to any of us here at SM or local, incredibly knowledgable plant-based fitness and nutrition coaches: Lexi P., of element xii, Courtney Pool, etc.

Remind yourself why you went veg in the first place and surround yourself with support and community.

Realities of the dairy industry.

Realities of the dairy industry.

I would argue that people give veganism or plant-based living a bad wrap because of these fabled “vegans” themselves. But, you have to wonder why we are such a minority and why it is so wild for an individual to step back, say no, and abstain from consuming death and suffering at every meal/in their daily routine. I will never understand that by making the choice to go veg we become such a nuisance to society. Yes, vegans are outraged, and angry. But for good reason. We are not here to shame and blame you. We must understand that there are larger actors and systems at play here. And we are more angry at the society that continues to profit off of animal lives. The moment you open yourself up to the awareness and consciousness that is plant-based living, it is hard not to react with an incredulous, “How did I never know that milk is only produced by grieving mother dairy cows, after their baby was taken from them?” and other such sentiments.

 

It is hard enough having every meal, social gathering, restaurant visit, and drive down the interstate be a reminder and space of violence towards animals. You can not fight the good fight, sustainably and progressively, if you are weak, sick, or too depressed to go on. Compassion fatigue is real — and we must be wary of it as humans with our busy routines, plus this added layer of complexities and advocacy. Self Care is a must. Meeting other like-minded individuals helps in feeling less alone or weird in this social movement.

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I encourage you to reach out to us, or other veg-inclined folk. These conversations are so rejuvenating, I promise. Come to our monthly vegan potlucks, #ThirstyFirstThursday events [there is one coming up this week at Este PC], SLC’s very own VegFest taking place on Sept. 10, or the SLC Vegan Facebook page’s meet-ups are amazing!

selfcaresundayBe gentle to yourself, animals, and others. There is an unhealthy amount of infighting in the plant-based, vegan, and animal rights movements. And these schisms between this community of like-minded, progressive individuals will only do more harm than good in pushing the momentum. If a veg individual decides to, for whatever reason, re-integrate animal products back into their lives — then that is on them. It is okay to feel angry and disappointed with that person, but do not shame and blame and kick and scream and yell, or call them a “sell-out”. This will only further wedge the divide between the individual and the veg-lifestyle/community. This is where that bad taste in the mouth comes from, and subsequently, the distaste for “vegans” in general. It is wasted energy and resources spent shaming, guilting, or pressuring people back into being fully veg. And it is not sustainable. People should make the transition to plant-based living for themselves, or whatever reasons feel right for them — that way, they are more likely to stay veg, and, as so many of us have realized, thrive. Take your vegan rage and channel it into new avenues — write your political representatives about the dismal state of animal agriculture, host a fundraiser for your favorite animal rights organization, or, meet up with youth in your community and have an honest conversation about all of the wonderful reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Art by Sue Coe.

Art by Sue Coe.

I understand it is easy to be frustrated with friends and family who remain [or return to being] stubborn omnivores. Most of my immediate environment of kin is not veg whatsoever. And that is okay. Remember, this world, unfortunately, revolves around the use and abuse of animals, and it is not “normal” to be vegan, yet. But the tide is shifting. And it is getting easier, more accessible, and celebrated by governments, health organizations, celebrities, and individuals alike. Do not lose your temper with people who have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth, or the windows opened into slaughterhouses. Or those who believe the self-congratulatory lies that the dairy and egg industries are profiting off of daily [see resources regarding these “happy farm animals” such as the Humane Myth, “Cage Free,” or Free Range Fraud].

 

You do you. And do your best. Keep fighting. For yourself, for the animals, and for this planet. Continue fostering these honest and vital conversations of awareness and advocacy. Because it matters. And this is a brave, valiant and hard fight.
We are all here for you. And we must do this together.

“Sexiest Vegan Next Door” to Speak at this Week’s #ThirstyFirstThursday

By Natalie Blanton

In June, Dexter Mel Thomas, a Salt Lake City resident, was voted the 2016 PETA’s Sexiest Male Vegan Next Door. This news has rocked international headlines because Dexter is PETA’s first-ever out transgender winner.

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Dexter with his rescue pit-bull, Gany. Photo by photographer, B. Yapur.


I don’t recall the exact moment I met Dexter. It may have been at an animal rights protest against
Lagoon’s abominable zoo a few years back, or it may have been in a fit of mutual commiseration on the University of Utah campus where he and I are both doctoral students. Wherever it was, I am so grateful our paths have crossed, because Dexter has always been such a brilliant, brave, resilient, and compassionate force to be reckoned with.

PETA’s bio of Dexter reads as such:

Dexter has been vegan since age 17 and even led a successful campaign for vegan meal options in his high school cafeteria—but he dropped out because of the adversity he faced as a transgender student. Dexter was determined to become the best advocate for animals and homeless LGBTQ youth that he could be, so he obtained a GED, graduated summa cum laude from college, and is now a Ph.D. student of social psychology at the University of Utah.

“I learned first-hand that people are capable of immense cruelty toward others who they perceive to be inferior to them,” says Dexter. “When I started to realize that this attitude drives transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and so on, I also realized it fuels outdated attitudes toward other animals. This is part of what motivated me to go vegan when I was 17.”

Among many other efforts to help animals and humans, he has worked to oppose rodeos put on the Utah Gay Rodeo Association—highlighting the link between the oppression of human and nonhuman animals—and volunteered at the Utah Pride Center, serving as a mentor and an activity organizer for LGBTQ youth. Before pursuing his Ph.D., he spent almost two years with the National Institutes of Health researching ways to promote health and well-being, including understanding cyberbullying of sexual-minority youth, combating the allure of unhealthy food, and promoting healthy plant-based meals.

I am beyond excited for Dexter and the recognition, celebration, and light he is shining on the devastating effects of gender inequality across the globe, and its parallels to the animal liberation movement. “I am beyond excited and honored to win,” Thomas told VegNews. “Especially now during an extremely dark time for LGBTQ+ people. This is welcome and important because this isn’t about me. This is recognition that reflects the heart of many people who have chosen to stand tall and to extend love and kindness. There are so many different kinds of beauty in the world. Trans is beautiful, diversity is beautiful, and compassion is beautiful.”

total libI have come to understand that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that all oppression is linked. I am so inspired and excited by advocates and activists, like Dexter, who are fighting the good fight on all fronts — against the silencing and marginalization of animals, humans, and the Earth alike. Here’s to YOU, Dexter!

This week, Dexter will be one of our featured speakers at our July Thirsty Thirsty Thursday event taking place Thursday, July 7th, 7pm at Zest in Salt Lake City. Facebook event can be found here. The event is open to the public, though the venue is 21+. A portion of the food and drink sales will go directly to the Sage Mountain mission.

Along with Dexter, this Thursday evening, we will hear from Courtney Pool, the incredible, local, plant-based nutrition and health coach who wrote an amazing guest blog for us a few weeks back, read her Tips from a 10-year Vegan here! The evening will also feature a special update on SLC VegFest  from our friends at Utah Animal Rights Coalition!

We hope you can join us on Thursday — for what is sure to be a vital, progressive, and powerful dialogue and a truly enjoyable evening!