JANUARY 30, 2007 8:01 PM

We at G-Rad have learned a lot from our big sister in Portland, URBAN HONKING. Just this evening, I've been schooled again by the wisdom of the Far West. Check out this really interesting thread from their forum (thanks for the heads-up, George!). Had I read this link before writing my post on hommedeterre the other day, I might have been able to avoid coming off as such a judgmental POOP. Mea culpa! Live and learn.

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JANUARY 26, 2007 2:29 AM

These stuffed mushrooms are impossible to keep around. Somebody slap that hand before it's too late!

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JANUARY 26, 2007 1:59 AM

Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Read the Article, Buy the Books.
Since receiving copies of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World for Christmas, Noodles and Moles have been churning out these naughtycakes like nobody's business. You've seen them on the blog: Chocolate Mint (for New Year's), Coconut (for the start of interim classes), Mexican Hot Chocolate (for Uncle Juan's birthday), and most recently, Boston Creme (Harold Brown's favorite).

Now these little devils are HEADLINE NEWS in the hoity toitiest cage-liner in Hearstville. Check out what "The Gray Lady" has to say about our favorite post-punk vegan! Believe it or not, this fantastic piece was the most e-mailed article in the paper after it ran yesterday morning. Vegan fever, from sea to shining sea!

JANUARY 26, 2007 1:32 AM

This salad is a house favorite. It's just spinach, arugula, apples, and almonds tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette with lemon and bragg's. Raw and delicious.

JANUARY 26, 2007 1:30 AM

After an exhilerating (but exhausting) WAKE UP WEEKEND!, it was time to settle it down with some good old fashioned comfort food. Uncle Juan and Big D brought the mushroom chowder, and Moles rolled out the collard pies. Not a bad way to unwind!

JANUARY 26, 2007 1:23 AM

When you need to pull an appetizer right out of the bag, the relish plate is the way to play it; go with some kalamatas and garlic stuffed greenies, archichoke and olive tapinades, and a chutney or two to spread over some sesame flatbread. It always gets gone.

JANUARY 25, 2007 8:45 PM

Moles and Noodles Take Home the Bronze Udder!
It was a close race, but at the end of the day the judges concurred that THE MICHIGAN topped the list of the fourteen chilis entered in this year's contest. Here's the skinny on how team extraVEGANza! worked their Michigan chili magic, rockin' some unlikely special ingredients (chocolate, coconut, coffee, and kale?!?) into the annals of vegan chili history.

Michigan Chili (Write-up by Moles)

I’ll try to remember what we put into the chili, but when Noodles and I started making this, almost anything would go – we just kept sautéing, pureeing, tasting and adding. Though we were inspired by a coffee chili recipe that Noodles discovered. I’ll try to give you the steps and approximate amounts (because we didn’t measure), but you’ll have to taste it as you go along and see what you like. We used 2 quarts of heirloom tomatoes that we canned this summer, which we thought made it extra special.

1. Boil in a medium saucepan:
1 large ginger root, peeled and sliced
5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 cups of water

Let this boil and reduce to about half. When reduced, remove the ginger and garlic and place in a food processor. Keep the water in the saucepan for later.

2. Meanwhile, heat in a large non-stick skillet:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tubs of China Rose tofu (about 2 lbs), drained, dried and crumbled
1-2 tablespoons Braggs liquid aminos
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ - 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cardamom

When the tofu gets browned, add:
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

Saute until the maple syrup coats the tofu. Set aside.

3. Brew 4-6 cups strong coffee. Add to the tofu mixture.
Then add:
1-2 jalepenos, seeded and diced
15 sundried tomatoes, diced small

4. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, sauté 2-3 diced onions in 2 Tbsp oil
Saute until golden, then add:
8 oz mushrooms, sliced.
½ - 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, cardamom
1 tablespoon paprika

Saute until soft, then add:
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

Cook until fragrant, then add the tofu/coffee mixture to the pot.

5. Take 2 quarts of canned tomatoes; drain and save juice from one.

Add the drained tomatoes and the second quart of tomatoes with their juice to the food processor in which you’ve place the ginger and garlic. Puree.

Add the puree to the ginger/garlic water and simmer.

When the mixture has simmered for about 15 minutes, add it to the stockpot.

6. Add to the chili:
2 cans black soybeans, drained
1 can black beans, drained

Let the chili simmer for about 1 hour, adding the reserved tomato juice (or vegetable broth) if necessary. Note: if you don’t use the reserved juice, save it for a vegan Bloody Mary (made with veg. Worcestershire) and drink it while you let the chili simmer.

7. Once the chili has simmered for a while...
We added the following “secret” ingredients and kept tasting it until it was to our liking:
Sciracha hot sauce
Unsweetened coconut flakes (about 1 ½ cups)
Maple syrup
Cocoa powder (we used Green & Black’s Maya Gold Cocoa powder)
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

8. At the very end, we added a quart-sized bag of Trillium Haven kale from Noodles’ and Splinters’ freezer.

I think that’s it. I hope I didn’t leave anything out.

9. Presentation / Garnishes

We also made cornbread in 9x13 pans and cut out the state of Michigan with our Michigan and Upper Peninsula cookie cutters (thanks for those, Kelly!) and floated it on the top.

For garnishes:

Noodles combined:
1 tub of Wildwood unsweetened soy yogurt
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh grated horseradish (ours had some beet juice added to it)
1 bunch cilantro, leaves trimmed and diced
Bragg’s and maple syrup to taste

We also sautéed some crumbled tempeh “fakin bacon” until crispy.

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JANUARY 25, 2007 4:12 PM

Hotter than the flanges on my chrome dual-exhaust kit!
Growing up in the eighties meant loving stuff that was "custom"--custom T-shirts with nicknames on the back, custom conversion vans with airbrushed mountainscapes, custom trapper keepers with the PVC flap specially designed for the custom photographs, etc. If you wanted to live the swank life back then, it was all about being able to throw down the custom card when the kids started talkin'. That's why I'm on fire for this totally custom Coconut Cake that showed up at the cookoff rockin' the extraVEGANza 'tude like a Yosemite Sam mudflap on a jacked-up El Camino. If you were lucky enough to chase your chili with a forkfull of this pistol, then you know exactly what I mean. SIZZLIN'!

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JANUARY 25, 2007 4:02 PM

Naan without eggs and dairy? You bet! Pictured here with Eggplant Bharta, Tomato Spinach "Paneer" (what else...Tofu!), and Saffron Rice. I'm breakin' a sweat!

JANUARY 25, 2007 3:45 PM

Vegan Terweeka

Vegan Stuffed French Toast

Spaghetti Salad Plate with Tofu

No Egg Tofu Surprise

Vegan Chocolate Lemon Cake
It's a popular myth that vegan dining lacks variety. Tell that to Marie Catrib, who whipped up all of the above and more for our Wake Up Weekend! 2007 Saturday Brunch. Hungry? If you're anywhere near Eastown, Marie's is right around the corner at 1001 Lake Drive!

JANUARY 25, 2007 3:41 PM

Students for Compassionate Living Jordan Carr and Mary DeVries cooked up a storm for the Wake Up Weekend! potluck, showcasing their celebrated vegan spins on international favorites including aloo gobi, vegetable tempura, and felafel.

JANUARY 25, 2007 3:26 PM

The haters said it couldn't be done. But they've never tangled with the culinary super powers of Uncle Juan and Big D, who cranked out these flawless little numbers for the Wake Up Weekend! potluck. Flaky crust? Oh, yes!

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JANUARY 22, 2007 11:58 PM

If you have been wondering why the blog has been silent for three days, it's probably because we're all still recovering from the amazing weekend of animals, awareness and advocacy. Here are a few highlights, though there are a few of the highlights missing due to the impending unwieldiness of the collage. Perhaps a part two will come at a later date...or another person who attended the event can post about it. (Incidentally, I forgot my camera at the first night's events, so I have no photos for that collage.)

wakeup weekend collage

1. One Satisfied Customer
Saturday kicked off with brunch at local restaurant Marie Catrib's. Although we were expecting roughly 24 people, I think the final numbers indicated more like 50. We ate in scattered regions of the restaurant, getting to know new faces over amazing vegan brunches. This photo features Matt, a student new to veganism (and Marie's stuffed french toast!). See how happy he was before he began eating? Well, he was just as happy (if not more so) once his plate was empty.

2. It's "Chli" Time
One of the ways Splinters helped set up NEST for the evenings festivities was by cutting out a sign for the Chili Contest.

3. Spreadsheet Time
Vegucator readied the spreadsheets for the chili cookoff and the art auction. With that look of intense concentration, military-style jacket, and urban surroundings (look at that brick!), you know that some serious work was getting done.

4. Registration Rooster
Nurses, along with some help from various others, crafted the registration rooster where people would register for chili and the art auction. Vegucator decorated r.r. with the cleverly crafted cantaloupe and brussell sprout auction paddles.

5. Some of the Art
This photo contains some of the art that was up for auction. All were overwhelmed by the amount, quality, and creativity that covered the wall for the evening. The amount of money raised was staggering!

6. Dish Drying Rack
I thought this deserved its own picture. George and I struggled with and conquered the orange crate, transforming it into the dish drying rack of our dreams. It was definitely high-five worthy when the feat was accomplished.

7. Chili Time!
As crowded as this photo appears, the rest of the NEST was even more crowded. There was an overwhelming turnout for the chili cookoff--both for the competition and tasting. No one was disappointed...or left hungry. The celebrity judges of the evening deemed the Michigan Chili by Erika Jane and Susan to be the winner, with Karen's Thai Chili as the people's choice and Gwen's black bean chili as the runner up. Erika and Susan must defend the title next year--with the udder as the prize!

Overall, it was an amazing weekend and we look forward to next year. Thanks to everyone who helped set up, tear down, donated art or food or time and just plain came to the event. It wouldn't have been as successful if it was not for all of you!

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JANUARY 19, 2007 12:59 AM

Checkbooks At The Ready! Let's Start the Bidding...
Well, not until Saturday night. But with the Wake Up Weekend Art Auction just one day away, we thought you might enjoy perusing a few sample images and a (semi) complete list of our esteemed contributors. (Please note that we have posted these images merely to give you a sense of the style of some of our artists' work; the images posted are NOT in all cases the specific works donated to the auction.)




So who else is in the game? CHECK THIS OUT:
Brandon Behning, Kevin Buist, Jeremy Chen, Juan Garcia, Erika Jane, Michelle Kleinhenz, Tim Maddux, Gail Philbin, and Emily Schreur. You'll also find a wide spectrum of stunning screen prints made by Calvin artists under the direction of Adam Wolpa: Joe Arens, Sarah Bakker, Peter Brant, Miranda Brower, Stephanie Dekorte, Eugene Dening, Taylor Greenfield, Pam Johnson, Lyndi Katje, Heather Luimes, Ruth Ribeiro, and Brad Smith.

Proceeds will benefit three incredible organizations working hard to improve the lives of farmed animals: FARM SANCTUARY, MERCY FOR ANIMALS, and COMPASSIONATE CONSUMERS. Check out their websites, REV UP THAT GENEROSITY, and come prepared to purchase GREAT ART for a GREAT CAUSE!

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JANUARY 17, 2007 2:46 AM

It's January and the days of harvesting brussels sprouts straight from their birthplace in the Trillium Haven muck are well behind us. But that's okay, because the brussels sprouts on these hot new extraVEGANza! tees look so good that we can almost taste them.

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JANUARY 17, 2007 2:16 AM

Now you can wear your ExtraVEGANza! pride on your sleeve.

Need another reason to rock the Wake Up Weekend!? How about the debut of a brand new line of SIZZLIN' HOT, limited edition ExtraVEGANza! Wear? These Brussels Sprouts Tees and Cantaloupe Totes were designed by Adam Wolpa and hand-printed with love by Wolpa and Halteman especially for this event! (Many thanks to Nurses for the much needed helping hand!) If those tees look pillow soft, it's probably because they're made of 100% sustainably-grown organic cotton. Supplies are limited, but we'll be selling what we have and taking orders for a second run at the Saturday evening events, so check the American Apparel size chart and tell us what you need!

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JANUARY 15, 2007 10:10 PM

In case it's suggested at Wake Up Weekend that we should eat animals who have been slaughtered in "humane" and "compassionate" ways, we ought to prepare for the discussion by having read James LaVeck's excellent essay "Invasion of the Movement Snatchers: A Social Justice Cause Falls Prey to the Doctrine of “Necessary Evil.” LaVeck is the producer of Peaceable Kingdom, a film being shown at the festival that stars Harold Brown, an honored guest at the fest.

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JANUARY 15, 2007 10:50 AM


A weekend of animal-friendly food, art, education, and advocacy brought to you by ExtraVEGANza!, G-RAD, Grand Rapids For Animals, Farms Without Harm, and Calvin Students For Compassionate Living.

3:00-5:00 pm--Animal Advocacy: Why, Who, and How?
Commons Annex Lecture Hall (Calvin College)
Presentations by Harold Brown (Farm Sanctuary), Adam Durand (Compassionate Consumers), Nicole Matthews (PETA), and Nathan Runkle (Mercy For Animals).

5:30-6:30 pm--"Compassionate Comestibles" Vegan Potluck
Commons Annex Lecture Hall (Calvin College)

7:30-10:00 pm--Film Festival & Discussion
Bytwerk Video Theater (Calvin College)
Wegman's Cruelty (Introduction and discussion by Adam Durand)
Peaceable Kingdom (Introduction and discussion by Harold Brown)

10:30 am--Brunch at Marie Catrib's of Grand Rapids
1001 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids, 49506
Have brunch and meet our special guests!

6:00 pm--Vegan Chili Cook-Off and Open House
The Nest (613 Lyon NE, Grand Rapids, 49503)
Guest judges Harold Brown, Marie Catrib, Adam Durand, Nicole Matthews, and Nathan Runkle.

8:00 pm--Art Auction
The Nest (613 Lyon NE, Grand Rapids, 49503)
Proceeds will benefit Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, and Compassionate Consumers. Artists with work up for auction include Sue Coe, Peter Brant, Kevin Buist, Jeremy Chen, Juan Garcia, Erika Jane, and Reb Roberts. For a complete list of contributors, contact Adam Wolpa (wolpa@calvin.edu).

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JANUARY 12, 2007 11:44 PM

Anticipating the WAKE UP WEEKEND! 2007, and my world is all vegan cupcakes and kittens...

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JANUARY 12, 2007 11:40 PM

Green Tea Soba (Zaru Cha Soba) with sesame oil, Bragg, sesame seeds, and seaweed on one side- Spicy green beans, onions, garlic, cabbage, and tofu on the other. Quick, easy, and delicious. The maple syrup really ties the dish together!

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JANUARY 10, 2007 2:02 AM



Tell all your friends! Invite the family! Help us put Grand Rapids on the map as the epicenter of compassionate culture in the midwest with an extravegant weekend of animal-friendly food, art, education, and advocacy brought to you by ExtraVEGANza!, G-RAD, Grand Rapids For Animals, Farms Without Harm, and Calvin Students For Compassionate Living. We'll be eating up a storm, learning a bit about the hidden costs of food, engaging in a little compassionate competition (vegan chili cook-off style!), auctioning some original artwork for charity (wait until you see the list!), and playing host to some of the most influential and inspiring animal advocates in the movement. We're even going to debut the new line of ExtraVEGANza! T-shirts (take your pick: brussels sprouts or cantaloupe?). Oh yes, it's BIG!

In cases where venues are not yet announced, details will follow when available. Stay tuned!
2:00-5:00 pm--Animal Advocacy: Why, Who, and How?
Interested in knowing how to make a difference for non-human animals? Learn from the pros and have all your questions answered! Speakers include:
Harold Brown (Farm Sanctuary)
Adam Durand (Compassionate Consumers)
Nicole Matthews (PETA)
Nathan Runkle (Mercy For Animals)

5:30-6:30 pm--"Compassionate Comestibles" Vegan Potluck
Like what you see on ExtraVEGANza!? Just imagine how it tastes! Bring a dish to share and cause mouths to water all over the World Wide Web.

7:30-10:00 pm--Film Festival & Discussion (Calvin College, Bytwerk Video Theater)
Two incredible documentary films about the hidden costs of factory farming, and an audience with some the good folks whose stories are featured in the films! Renown animal rights advocate Harold Brown will introduce and entertain questions about Peaceable Kingdom (A Tribe of Heart Documentary), and headline newsmaker Adam Durand will present his acclaimed film Wegman's Cruelty (A Compassionate ConsumersDocumentary) and discuss its contoversial aftermath.

10:30 am--Brunch at Marie Catrib's (Lake and Diamond)
Haven't tried the vegan brunch fare at Marie's yet? What are you waiting for?

6:00 pm--Vegan Chili Cook-Off and Open House (The Nest)
With Special Guest Judges Harold Brown, Marie Catrib, Adam Durand, Nicole Matthews, Nathan Runkle.

8:00 pm--Art Auction (The Nest)
Proceeds will benefit Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, and Compassionate Consumers. Artists with work up for auction include Peter Brant, Jeremy Chen, Erika Jane, Emily Schreur, and Adam Wolpa. We are especially pleased to announce the inclusion of an original print donated by internationally acclaimed artist and animal advocate SUE COE!

Do You Have A Work of Art To Contribute?
We are still gratefully receiving donations of artwork for the auction. Here's your official invitation: Artwork has always performed important social functions, but an increasing number of contemporary artists have turned more deliberately toward interventionist techniques, relational aesthetics, and works that facilitate activism on a variety of social justice issues. While the main theme of this event is compassion for animals, the modern industrial complex under which animals suffer is intimately connected to human crises such as environmental sustainability, unfair economic practices in the developing world, and public health. We are currently seeking artworks that celebrate animals in some way or that invite interpretation in any of the above directions. Please direct inquiries to ExtraVEGANza! curator and auctioneer Adam Wolpa (wolpa@calvin.edu).

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JANUARY 7, 2007 12:33 AM

Heavenly made. Sinfully delicious.

Simply created from seitan, mushrooms, oregano, soy sauce, marjoram, italian seasoning, tofutti sour cream, garlic, lemon juice, whole wheat pitas and lettuce.

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JANUARY 5, 2007 12:04 PM

If you don't know much about the cruelties of the egg industry, here's a film you'll want to watch, "Wegmans Cruelty." After you watch the film, check out their page WegmansCruelty.com and forward this on to anyone who lives in NY, PA, NJ, VA, MD and anywhere else there's a Wegmans grocery store.


The film:

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JANUARY 2, 2007 10:26 AM

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JANUARY 1, 2007 11:54 PM

Should Old Acquaintances Be Forgot?
Not when they have mad culinary skills. You'll be pleased to know that your old friends at extraVEGANza! sent 2006 to bed fat and happy, and welcomed 2007 with some jaw-dropping new recipes.
New Year's Eve

The evening began with a trio of mouthwatering dishes artfully prepared by Noodles and Splinters: (1) a cashew coconut curry of homegrown kale, onions, leeks, garlic, brussels sprouts, beets, potabella mushrooms, and tofu; (2) a cole slaw of purple and green cabbage, arugula, sesame seeds, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, vegannaise, and a splash of bragg; and (3) a beet-water infused quinoa crowned with a generous pat of Earth Balance.
Party Time!

The dessert course and subsequent merrymaking took place chez Moles-Vegucator and featured, among other amusements, Moles' chocolate mint cupcakes with a dark fudge ganache and Splinters' ginger martinis. (The cupcake recipe is from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes For Cupcakes That Rule. As co-host of The Post Punk Kitchen, Isa is whipping up more than just cupcakes; be sure to check out Vegan With A Vegeance to see what else is cooking.
New Year's Day

For brunch, we enjoyed cranberry scone, tea sandwiches on homebaked white bread (cucumber "cream cheese", and curried tofu), chocolate cherry drops, and olive bread. Yes, those tea sandwiches have been stripped of their crusts, but don't panic; they'll be reborn as garlic breadcrumbs in a pasta dish later this week (after a few days of feverish culinary ambition, it's a relief to drop the pretense and boil up a little pasta to be tossed with olive oil, breadcrumbs, parsley, and red pepper flakes).


But before getting back to business as usual, we treated ourselves to a delicious soup of beets, pearled barley, black soybeans and pumpernickel croutons. The grand finale kept Splinters and Vegucator hard at work all day long researching, developing, and finally executing a brand new original recipe: cashew cream tiramisu with coconut biscuits and an almond brandy filling.

We've been waiting impatiently for a convincing vegan tiramisu recipe for too long, so we decided to take matters into our own hands. To say the least, 2007 is off to a promising start! Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy, compassionate New Year!

JANUARY 1, 2007 11:41 PM

Noodles, Greens, Edamame, Avocado...

...and anything else that happens to be in the fridge. When we're crunched for time, this tasty salad always hits the spot. We dress the noodles with a mixture of miso, tahini, and bragg's, cut up whatever is available, and then pile it on! Squeeze a little sriracha into the mix for a little added zing.

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JANUARY 1, 2007 9:35 PM

This year's extraVEGANza pledge drive has begun! No, we don't want your money (but we would probably take it ... and donate it to worthy cause[s]).
But we could use your pledge to at least:

  • email people about the extraVEGANza blog;

  • blog about the extraVEGANza blog;

  • post links on your webpage and other blogs to the extraVEGANza blog;

  • call your friends on the phone to tell people about the extraVEGANza blog;

  • write a letter to someone, telling them about the extraVEGANza blog;

  • post comments on the extraVEGANza blog;

  • perhaps, find out how you can become a blogger here and get blogging!

    WIth your pledge, we can make this blog even more successful and soon completely veganize the world, starting with GR!

    Thank you for your support!

    JANUARY 1, 2007 1:07 PM

    Reposted from the Animal Ethics blog. (Why blog when there's so much good stuff to repost?!)

    Veganalytic's note: Professor Mylan Engel at Northern Illinois University is one of the leading voices for vegetarianism and the rights of animals in academia. Indeed, perhaps there would be no extraVEGANza blog or such a compassionate living movement in Grand Rapids were it not for his fortunate influence! Perhaps he should be brought up to give some lectures! Here is Mylan Engel's latest post from Animal Ethics:

    Resolve to Do Right By Animals in 2007!

    As another year comes to a close, most of us find ourselves reflecting on our lives and resolving to improve ourselves and our lives in various ways. These resolutions typically fall into one of two categories: (1) Resolutions to acquire some desirable trait or better-making habit, e.g., resolving to exercise regularly; and (2) resolutions to eliminate some undesirable trait or worse-making habit, e.g., resolving to quit smoking. Sometimes resolutions from each category mirror each other, e.g., the resolution to improve one's health and the resolution to quit smoking. Most New Year's resolutions are primarily self-regarding, like resolving to get in better shape and resolving to eat less sweets. Some resolutions, however, are primarily other-regarding, like resolving to help others in various ways, e.g., resolving to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, or resolving to donate a certain amount of one’s paycheck each month to an organization working to curb global hunger and poverty.

    A google search of “Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions” turns up hundreds of hits, containing various Top 10 Lists of resolutions along with suggestions as to how to achieve them. For examples, see here and here. Even the government has gotten in on the game. This FirstGov.gov site provides a list of some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, each linked to pages designed to help people succeed in keeping the resolution in question. As you might expect with 66% of Americans being overweight, out of shape, and in poor physical condition, the most popular resolutions include the following:

    1. Lose weight.
    2. Quit smoking.
    3. Exercise more.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Get in better shape/become more healthy.
    6. Drink less alcohol.
    7. Spend more time with family and friends.
    8. Get out of debt.
    9. Try something new or learn something new.
    10. Get organized.

    I suspect that many, if not most, of these resolutions are on your list of resolutions, as well. Let me recommend adding one more resolution to your list:

    11. Stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty in all of its forms.

    [Below, I offer several reasons as to why you should add resolution 11 to your list of resolutions.]

    Most people who have made resolutions like 1-10 above will have failed to keep them by the end of January. One reason people generally aren't able to stick to resolutions like 1-10 is that, so stated, these resolutions are vague and imprecise with no clear objective in sight. Lose weight. How much? Quit smoking. How and by when? Exercise more. How much more? Eat right. What counts as eating right? Get in better shape. By what standards?

    Since the New Year's resolutions you have made for 2007 are your resolutions, I assume that you would actually like to succeed in keeping them. To increase the likelihood of keeping your resolutions, experts recommend that you try to make your resolutions concrete and precise. For example:

    1. Lose weight -- I will lose 10 pounds by March 15th.
    2. Quit smoking -- I will join a smoking cessation program in consultation with a physician and quit smoking by the end of February.
    3. Exercise more -- I will walk or jog or stationary cycle or X [plug in your preferred form of aerobic exercise for X] 30 minutes a day and do strength conditioning twice a week.
    4. Eat right -- I will eat a diet low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and high in complex carbohydrates and fiber; and I will limit my consumption of empty calories like those found in sweets, soda pop, and trendy high-calorie coffee drinks.
    5. Get in better shape/become more healthy -- By May 1st, I will have lowered my systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 points each, lowered my total plasma cholesterol by 30 points, lowered my resting heart-rate by 5 beats per minute, lowered my body mass index (BMI calculator) by 2 points. [The numbers provided are just by way of illustration. Since people vary in the degree to which they are in or out of shape, individuals need to determine their own fitness and health improvement goals, in consultation with a physician.]
    6. Drink less alcohol -- I will not consume more than the recommended one to two alcoholic beverages per day.
    7. Spend more time with family and friends -- I will do X in the evening with my spouse or partner, and I will do Y with my kids on the weekend (where you and your family and friends fill in the variables appropriately).
    8. Get out of debt -- I will pay off some specific amount of debt by March 31st.
    9. Try something new or learn something new -- I will try out a new healthy habit, or I will try to learn how to do X.
    10. Get organized -- E.g., I will clean out one closet each weekend for the next 6 weeks, or I will spend 20 minutes each evening sorting through a pile of papers, etc.

    Specific resolutions like those just listed are easier to follow, they allow you to track your success, and they can be fully accomplished.

    What about resolution 11? Like the original 1-10, resolution 11 is also vague on details. Stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty in all of its forms. How? What can I do to stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty, and is it difficult to do so?

    Here are some surprisingly simple things you can do to stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty:

    (a) Stop eating animals.
    (b) Stop eating animal products.
    (c) Eat delicious plant-based meals centered around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and in moderation nuts, instead.
    (d) Stop wearing animals -- Don’t purchase or wear garments made of fur or containing fur trim, don't purchase garments advertised or labeled as "faux fur" since these garments may be made of real fur mislabeled as faux fur (for details, see my previous post on mislabeled dog fur jackets here), don’t purchase leather, and as your leather garments wear out, replace them with nonleather alternatives.
    (e) Don’t purchase cosmetics or personal care products that were tested on animals when equally effective cruelty-free products are available.
    (f) Don’t purchase cosmetics or personal care products that contain animal ingredients.
    (g) Purchase cruelty-free cosmetics and personal care products instead. Cruelty-free shopping guides that list companies that don't test their products on animals is available here and here.
    (h) Don’t attend circuses that contain nonhuman animal acts.
    (i) Do attend socially conscious circuses like Cirque de Soleil that exclusively feature human performers.
    (j) Donate only to Humane Charities that don't test on animals. A list of Humane Charities is available here.

    At first blush, the list of changes that are required in order to stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty may seem daunting, but in reality, quite the opposite is the case. First, since there are so many things that you can do to stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty, you can start with any one of these sub-resolutions (a)-(j) and then, once that sub-resolution has been accomplished and thoroughly ingrained in your behavior, you can move on to the next way you can stop supporting cruelty. In short, breaking resolution 11 into a number of easily accomplished specific sub-resolutions makes it more likely that you will accomplish at least part of your over-arching goal of reducing your contribution to unnecessary animal cruelty. Second, many of the things you can do to stop supporting animal cruelty -- like not buying or wearing fur -- require minimal effort and no expense!

    Where should you begin? Obviously, since not buying and not wearing fur requires minimal effort and no expense, that's a good place to start. Of course, since that is so easily accomplished, you may have already fully succeeded in carrying out that aspect of resolution 11 long ago. What to do next?

    I recommend trying to accomplish sub-resolutions (a), (b), and (c) next. Why? Because doing (a), (b), and (c) will help you accomplish many of your other resolutions. Moderately to seriously overweight people who eliminate all meat and all animal products from their diets and replace those animal-based foods with plant-based foods almost always lose 10-20 pounds with no other behavioral changes. If you are serious about losing weight and improving your health, try out a cruelty-free vegan diet for three months. If you are like most people, you will be amazed at (i) how much weight you will lose, (ii) how much better you will feel, and (iii) how much more energy you will have. One beauty of a low-fat vegan diet is that you can eat as much vegan food as you like and still lose weight. Switching to a vegan diet devoid of meat and animal products also almost always result in significantly lower plasma cholesterol levels. A vegan diet also reduces the risk of heart disease and some cancers, while lowering blood pressure, and is, thereby, extremely helpful in achieving your goal of improved health. By eating a low-fat vegan diet centered around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, you will be eating right. And, of course, by experimenting with all sorts of new vegan dishes, you will be learning a new healthier way of cooking and eating. So, if you are serious about losing weight, improving your health, eating right, and trying something new, switching to a cruelty-free vegan diet will single-handedly help you accomplish all of these goals.

    But wait. There's more! For no extra charge, switching to a vegan diet also dramatically reduces your contribution to unnecessary animal suffering. If you are like most people, you think that it is seriously morally wrong to contribute to unnecessary animal suffering. Switching to a vegan diet will help you to live your life in accordance with your own deeply held moral values and will, thereby, help you to live an authentic life, a meaningful life of integrity. When looking for ways to better ourselves as the New Year approaches, we should look for ways to better ourselves both physically and ethically. Making an effort to live our lives in a manner consistent with our most deeply held moral values is one of the most important steps we can take toward being our best selves.

    Like resolution 7, resolution 11 is primarily an other-regarding resolution (even though those who respect animals and refuse to eat them will experience profound health benefits as a result). Its primary focus is the well being of other sentient beings. Since other beings are affected by our other-regarding behavior, other-regarding resolutions may be easier to stick to than purely self-regarding resolutions. After dieting for a few weeks, one might rationalize as follows, "Oh well, I don't really mind carrying around 20 extra pounds. I just read that 'curviness' is in this year. Plus, if I lost weight, I'd have to buy new clothes." But if one keeps in mind the animals that one is trying to help, one might be more inclined to stick to one's resolutions. Plus, as Kathie Jenni rightly points out here, when it comes to doing right by animals, one can always take steps to reinforce one's motivation.

    Suppose you find yourself about to give up on one of the sub-resolutions of resolution 11 that you have set for yourself, e.g., sub-resolution (a). Then, you can stop and remind yourself of one of the main reasons you resolved to stop eating meat in the first place, namely, your desire not to support the kinds of cruelty inherent in modern animal agriculture. If you feel yourself losing your resolve, take 12 minutes to re-view the documentary "Meet Your Meat" here or here. Or, suppose you're thinking about back-sliding on sub-resolution (d) and purchasing a fur-trimmed garment. Then, take 2 minutes and re-view this video of raccoon dogs being skinned alive. After seeing these documentary videos, I think you'll find all the strength you need to steel your resolve not to purchase such products of pain.

    The bottom line:

    Elsewhere in this blog (see here, here, and here), I have written about ethical synergy, the regularly observed phenomenon that simultaneously showing respect for persons (including oneself), animals, and the environment typically benefits all three groups (including oneself). Resolving to do right by animals and to stop supporting unnecessary animal cruelty is yet another powerful example of ethical synergy at work. As we have just seen, resolving to do right by animals is a great way to do right by yourself. By not ingesting animals you will not only not be supporting the unnecessary animal cruelty inherent in modern animal agriculture, you will also be taking positive steps toward improving your health, eating right, and losing weight, steps much more likely to result in permanent weight loss and improved cardiovascular health than unhealthful fad diets that cannot be sustained for the long haul. By not purchasing exorbitantly expensive fur coats and fur-trimmed coats, you will be actively boycotting animal cruelty while simultaneously saving money that can be applied toward resolution 8, i.e., that of getting out of debt. Doing right by animals makes us better people in countless ways, and that, of course, is the main reason we make New Year's Resolutions in the first place. Join me in resolving to do right by animals in 2007.

    Wishing you a Happy Humane New Year!

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