By: Jessica Rasekhi
“I like pigs because they are really talented and funny! They have a good snorty, sniffing nose and they remind me of my Boston Terrier dog, Domino. I love pigs!” – Kasper, 5 yrs old
By: Jessica Rasekhi
“I like pigs because they are really talented and funny! They have a good snorty, sniffing nose and they remind me of my Boston Terrier dog, Domino. I love pigs!” – Kasper, 5 yrs old
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.
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
By: Chris Shapard and Craig Gordon:
The students at Treasure Mountain Junior High learn about the power of plant-based nutrition
“How many of you think about where your food comes from?” A few students hesitantly raise their hands, most keep them down.
When most of us sit down to eat, about to sink our teeth into a burger, we see a burger, not a dead cow. Behind that seemingly innocent paper-wrapped circular mass of bread, vegetables and condiments, there is a sinister story that everyone who eats food needs to know.
Commuting around the Salt Lake Valley, our plant-based tribe is increasingly aware of an endless parade of livestock trucks, hauling animals to slaughterhouses. My stomach turns and I get nauseous at the sight of these trucks. I want to look away and ignore the problem, but my heart and my eyes look to connect with just one of the souls on board to say “I am sorry.”
Over the course of two days, Sage Mountain’s Lauren Lockey teamed up with local plant-based athlete Craig Gordon and Chris Shapard of the non-profit Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC) to educate hundreds of students on the benefits of a plant-based diet, and to raise awareness of the consequences and power of their everyday food choices.
The animal products people buy in restaurants and grocery stores have been so transformed that the animals who suffered and died for chicken wings, a hot dog, or slice of cheese, have been completely hidden behind a deceivingly benign image of a picturesque little farm on the package. Happy cows, smiling pigs, fish frolicking in the ocean… brilliant disconnected marketing ploys. What’s not included on those packages is the fact that 99% of animals today are raised on giant factory farms, and that billions of chickens spend their entire lives crammed into a cage with each having less space on average than a standard sheet of paper.
Students gasped when they learned that hundreds of millions of male chicks in the egg industry are ground up alive simply because they don’t produce any eggs and therefore they are of “no use” to the industry. Like most of us, the students didn’t think about the baby cows who are taken away from their mothers so that the baby’s milk can be sold for human consumption, and the billions of animals whose lives were cut drastically short because we have unconsciously prioritized our taste buds over their right to live. This is the story for those raised on small farms, factory farms, humane, cage free, organic, or grass fed.
The presentation also disclosed the immense environmental toll of animal agriculture. To produce a single beef patty, it takes upwards of 660 gallons of water. Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of deforestation, water pollution, and produces more greenhouse gasses than the entire transportation sector – a fact that resonates with all of us here in Utah whose winter wonderland is becoming increasingly threatened by rising temperatures.
The animal products that take such an immense toll on animals and our environment are killing us as well. Animal products cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and the students learned that the choices they make now determine their health in the future.
The students learned about about Pony Boy and Wilma Jean (or PB & J), who get to live out their lives in peace at the beautiful Sage Mountain sanctuary.
The good news is that the power is in our hands to fix these problems with the food choices we make everyday – and these students are the ones who will be leading the way. It is our responsibility to educate them and embrace their innate compassion. Even though we covered environment, health, and ethics equally, students were most impacted by the suffering animals endure. They realized they don’t want to be a part of it. We can choose compassion over convenience, health over habit, and sustainability over appetite. When we make the simple choice to eat plant-based foods instead of animal based foods, we are taking a stand for animals, people and our planet. We may not be able to see it, but when we choose plant-based foods, we can unlock the cage for countless other animals just like PB&J.
Please continue to follow Sage Mountain via Instagram and Facebook for individual interviews of students from Treasure Mountain!
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.
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.
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.
By: Mandy Parry
Last year my 7 year old son came home from school looking dejected. He pulled out a worksheet he was given for homework. The instructions were to draw a line from the farm animal to the thing it “gives”. This week his 1st grade class was learning about farm animals. The curriculum didn’t bother to mention how the animals look, sound, think or live outside of exploitation. Instead it only focused on how a cow “gives” milk, a hen “gives” eggs and a pig “gives” pork. Give is a funny word to use because it’s as if the animal was asked and had first right of refusal or they have a choice in the matter. The reality is that they have no choice. These things are not only taken, the sentient beings they are taken from, endure a life of suffering..
I expected to run into a time when my son and I would have deep conversations about veganism but not in 1st grade. To my surprise he already understood what was wrong with these teachings. He’s been to farm sanctuaries and has a better understanding than I assumed he did. What a relief. He continued to bring home worksheets along the same lines. I was upset that this type of thinking was being ingrained into young minds. I went to the school and talked to his teacher but she didn’t see my concern. She went on to say this was standard curriculum from the district and she couldn’t change it if she wanted to. As disappointed as I was to hear that, I’m grateful this gave my son and I a chance to discuss farm life in greater detail.
My family and I became vegan a little over 2 years ago. My husband and I decided we didn’t want to contribute to violence against animals and we studied some amazing health benefits from plant-based diets. The switch was easy, but we worried how the kids would adjust. What I didn’t consider is how compassion in children is so innate. They get it better than most adults and before we knew it we had re-placed calf growth fluid (milk) with almond milk, cheese by delicious Follow Your Heart, and beans or lentils in place of meat. Contrary to some beliefs, we didn’t starve and in fact our pallets developed a new appreciation for foods we used to eat sparingly. Not only do we find ourselves getting sick less often, but our recovery time is quicker. Our kids come in contact with kids with viruses at school often and rarely do they contract the illness. Their immune systems kick ass! Same goes for working out and being athletic. My recovery time reduced though I’m getting older.
In my experience the most powerful tool to raising compassionate children is to lead by example. They watch as I volunteer at animal sanctuaries and rescues. They come with me when I go to protests. They see my passion and love for all beings. Even though we haven’t always been vegan we never supported animals used for entertainment. My husband and I never felt right going to circuses, zoos or aquariums so that wasn’t a shock for them. Now I watch as my children explain to others why we don’t support the animal entertainment industry. My daughter has a Dr. Suess book where a cartoon girl is riding a rhino. Each time we read it she says “Momma, it’s so sad that she’s riding that rhino. Animals don’t like to be treated like that”. My son comes home upset because kids were stepping on bugs at school and he couldn’t get them to stop. What so many adults are unable to see, children just know. I hope they never lose that. I want them to question everything and refrain from following the status quo.
I know there may come a time when they decide to step away from veganism. To say this possibility doesn’t terrify me would be a lie but I want them to find their own voice and passion for veganism. What I can do is be the example and hope what they have learned is what they already know in their hearts – compassion.
Another great tool for raising vegan kids is finding community. It can be lonely without it. I was amazed at the amount of support I found online and in my hometown. Our first discovery was Esther the Wonder Pig and Ziggy the Traveling Piggy. I was able to show my kids videos of beautiful animals living free from harm. We love watching the videos on The Dodo and Peta Kids has some great information too. We were able to find a community of local vegans that put on holiday parties, potlucks and meet-ups. Being around like-minded people with children that have answers to your questions and an understanding for the hardships you face is incredible. It’s one thing to go vegan yourself, but when it comes to raising vegan kids everyone has an opinion. I personally have extended family that thinks we’re “too extreme” because we don’t share their views on animal exploitation. It’s not always easy, but it is definitely worth it. It’s not even as close to difficult when you consider the challenges the animals face being raised for food.
For Christmas this year I have my eye on a few new books that teach about compassion. One of them is “V is for Vegan,” which goes through the alphabet giving the why’s and how’s of veganism. The other, “Santa’s First Vegan Christmas,” is a story about a fun-loving reindeer who meets Santa and shows him how we can all be kinder to animals. Kindness is a gift we can never give or get enough of.
“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not neglect to educate their hearts.”
By: Dave Swartz
I would have to say that the most asked question I get about Sage Mountain is “When are you getting some animals?” Since this is a hot topic, I would like to give an update on our facility and where we are in the process.
We currently have two shelters built (one mid-sized for pigs/sheep and one large shelter for cows.) We are also finishing up work on two chicken coops adjacent to the shelters. If you were at our last event at the High West Distillery you probably heard that we are currently looking for a fencing contractor. That is definitely our biggest concern right now in regards to opening our animal facility. I have been blown off by two fencing contractors this spring. One of them had me on the hook for two months before I finally had to move on. I just can’t understand how some people can run a business like that but apparently it is pretty common in the contracting world. Luckily, I have an appointment this Tuesday for someone to come and give an estimate and hopefully perform the fencing work. At this point if someone shows up, sober… well they don’t even have to be sober as long as they are on time and perform the quality work they say they will do, then they’re hired!
The next question I get asked quite frequently is how many animals will you have? The answer to that question is only a handful, perhaps 10 at most. There are number of reasons for having so few animals.
First, these are ambassador animals. With billions of farmed animals slaughtered every year, if we took in a million animals we would still be at a tiny fraction of one percent.
Second, we are so lucky to have such a beautiful place that is shared with so much wildlife. The number one cause of wildlife degradation is animal agriculture. We want to continue to share the land with the local wildlife and having loads of farmed animals will certainly take away from the wildlife.
Thirdly, taking care of farmed animals if very costly and time consuming. Remember that some of these animals in the agriculture industry only live for a few months to a year or two. At our facility these animals could live from 15 to 20 years. It will take lots of time and resources to give these animals the home they deserve.
Through our education and advocacy initiatives, we hope to change the way people view farmed animals and assist them with making the switch to a plant based diet that will better our planet, our health, and the animals we share this world with.