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How to stuff the perfect vegan stocking

Making a stocking for a vegan can be a new experience for family members who aren’t familiar with the most animal-friendly treats out there. Where do you get vegan chocolate? Are there some items that aren’t environmentally-friendly you should stay away from? Women’s Post is here to help. May I present: the dream stocking that is vegan, eco-friendly, and delicious to boot.

Most stocking stuffers can be found at a local grocery store with ample organics options. Loblaws is a great option and alternatively, any community food store like Whole Foods will work as well. The first thing to look for is your food and dessert alternatives. Vegan protein packs, such as the sample or sample size of Vega One will fit in the stocking and provides a delicious protein supplement. Chocolate is a must-have and vegan chocolate options are fairly easy to track down. Endangered Species has many dairy-free chocolates, including coconut-filled crèmes and sea salt. These dark chocolate bars also donate a portion of the proceeds to a wildlife conservation network, which makes this vegan dessert a double-hitter! Cleo’s peanut butter cups taste exactly like Reese’s and are available in several stores.

Protein filled nibbles can also be put in stockings, like roasted chickpeas. They come in various flavours and spices. Maybe try some nut mixes, as long as there isn’t an allergy in the house. Pistachios are a delectable treat and are expensive to buy regularly, so they make a great gift during the holidays. Magic Vegan Bacon Grease is also a treat that cannot be purchased regularly, but is a necessary indulgence for vegans everywhere. The magic mix is a coconut oil sauce that has a natural smoky taste. It can be added to tofu scrambles, greens, and beans. Finally, a gift certificate to a Whole Foods market, a community market, or a popular vegan restaurant can go a long way.

For stocking stuffers not related to food, cruelty-free cosmetics and lotions are a great option. Rocky Mountain soaps has cruelty-free soaps, lip balms and lotions that are affordable. Lush is also a cruelty-free advocate and their bath balms fizz and smell heavenly. Many vegans will make their own cleaners and beauty supplies using Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which can used to make hand soap, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent and cleaner — why not give them a head start by placing a tiny bit in their stocking? For something a bit different, try purchasing a reusable tote bag. They are cheap, and you can’t have too many of them.

Don’t forget to add vegan stickers, patches and pins because love for the animals and the environment is normally accompanied by a desire to publicly advocate on behalf of beings that can’t speak for themselves. Any small books and pamphlets that provide more information for environmental groups and any donations to non-profits that advocate for the environment, climate change and animal rights are a quick last-minute addition as well.

Whether it be desserts, snacks, cruelty-free cosmetics or vegan decorations, there are many sustainable stocking stuffers that don’t need to come from animals or wasteful products. Instead, go for the eco-alternatives and feel good about the stocking stuffers you purchase from local companies that are looking to make a difference. Hopefully this, vegan stocking stuffer guide gave you some great ideas for a different kind of gift, one that helps animals worldwide and keeps your vegan family member warm and full on Christmas day.

Woman of the Week: Jo-Anne McArthur

Photography can be a tool for change — there is no limit to the difference a powerful image can make. Animal rights photographer Jo-Anne McArthur has taken this medium to a new level by using her DLSR camera to take astounding photographs of animals in various states of suffering. She has gained attention worldwide for her courageous work, and her investigative journey was also featured in Liz Marshall’s documentary The Ghosts in our Machine.

“It is unforgiving work. I am trying to make art out of the atrocities,” McArthur says. “If I produced shitty images, people aren’t going to look. How are you going to look and not get people to turn away?”

McArthur’s job is difficult, no doubt. She is forced to get up close and personal to each and every animal, and then has to walk away from the suffering in order to keep doing her job without legal litigation. Not to mention, many of the photos that McArthur take are in hard-to-reach places that often keep animals in terrible conditions.

“Most commonly, I am sneaking onto a property at night with a security team. We know when people are coming and going,” McArthur says. “I never break or touch anything. I will climb a fence if I have to and document — whether that takes half an hour or six hours.”

McArthur says her most difficult photography shoot was with minks held in cages, because of the low lighting and confined space. The cages were quite small and the mink are often trying to protect their young. Photoshoots like these make McArthur feel devastated, especially when she has to walk away without interfering. A photography shoot involving a lone elephant is one of her worst memories on the job. “The saddest thing I’ve seen was an elephant named Jeanna in France. She does fuck all except walking in circles and swaying back and forth,” McArthur says. “It was devastating to see this girl who has been alone for 15 years. They should re-home her, give her sanctuary, and give her enrichment. Seeing her once was bad enough, but then I come back the next day and she is doing the exact same thing. Why isn’t the world screaming about her being there? I take photos, but I feel inept.”

After years of working in the trenches of animal rights investigations, McArthur found herself suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  “I was doing too much time in the field. It is natural to need a recovery period from traumas. I felt I was invincible and I was not. My first thought when I woke up in the morning was mink or gestation crates,” McArthur says. “I had therapy to help me process what I had seen I was thinking of the utter sadness of animals in captivity all the time. I had to relearn the basics, eat well, and sleep well. I annoyingly tell activists to eat, sleep, and have sex. If we are not joyful, we are not healthy and we need to joy to advocate for animals. I got used to seeing the sadness. When people ask me if I’m desensitized, I want to say no. To go there emotionally, it is not productive.”

Along with being a leader in animal rights activism, McArthur is a huge supporter of women. She began an initiative called the ‘Unbound Project’ with Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock University, Keri Cronin that features women in animal rights activism around the world.  “Over many years of doing animal rights work, I saw that it was women on the front lines. There is often men at the top for optics, but women are really the dominant sex in this movement,” McArthur says. “I’m doing the Unbound Project because I see that it is women that lead the movement, and I want to celebrate that.”

McArthur has been fascinated by animals since she was a child. She says that many people get into animal rights to change the world, but for her it was a different story. “Even as a wee kid, I would feel sad for an animal. I took action because I was worried,” McArthur says. “My parents allowed me to express these concerns and act on them.”

An avid reader as well, McArthur is currently reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. She also recommends Aftershock by Patrice Jones for women going through PTSD. She has also published her own book, We Animals.

After having faced so many countless atrocities, it is a wonder that McArthur has hope in the future of the world we live in. She says that living with hope is the only way to stay positive. “I certainly have moments of despair, but that is not where I live. I live with a focus on change, and with every person I reach, that is a victory. I choose to live hopefully instead of despairingly or I wouldn’t be able to do this shitty work I do.”

Here is a sample of some of McArthur’s work and you can find more animal rights photographs here:

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur”]

Women of the Week: Kimberly Carroll

Body/Mind/Spirit coach Kimberly Carroll has a voice that is calm, but focused. It has a powerful quality to it that helps each person she speaks with realize how important it is to care for themselves in order to impact change in others. After listening to her speak, it’s easy to understand her transition from a career in radio and television into a profession that allows her to motivate and help people.

“So many women spend their lives meeting the needs of the people around them. They don’t focus on what makes them a force in the world. This may seem selfless, but ultimately it is a disservice to the world that they don’t step into their power,” Carroll says.

Carroll helps people uncover their true selves through an intensive seven-week program that is supposed to inspire them to find motivation and happiness in their lives. But, Carroll didn’t always want to be a motivational speaker. Originating from Brandon, Manitoba, she grew up immersed in music. She eventually moved to Toronto to take radio and television at Ryerson University.

“Between my second and third year in Ryerson, I was a news reporter in Brandon … [but] realized news wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Carroll says. “After I graduated, I began my career as a arts & entertainment reporter in Winnipeg on MTN, and moved on to some shows in Toronto and in Edmonton.” Carroll took a break in 2002 to travel the world, living in Australia, Amsterdam, and India doing music comedy street shows. She returned to Canada in 2004 to continue her broadcasting career at CBC Radio in Winnipeg, and as host of Take this House and Sell It. “I was the crazy redhead that ran around telling everyone to hurry up,” Carroll recounts while laughing.

Carroll had done well in Canadian radio and television, but her experience on Take this House and Sell It show made her crave answers to the bigger questions. “There is an attitude in television that it is the most important thing in the world. I don’t think television is bad though. I had a wonderful experience, but I wanted to go deeper,” Carroll says. “At a very early age, I was asking the big questions. Why am I here? What am I doing? You can imagine none of the other kids wanted to play with me.”

She began by seeking answers through an intense personal journey that led her to Denise Linn, a world leader and soul coach. Carroll never intended on making soul coaching her life’s work, but felt it was so powerful in her own life it was worth pursuing. “I joke that I sold my soul to television and became a coach to earn it back,” Carroll says.  She began her own practice in 2009 and has been at it ever since.

An important element to her soul coaching is the importance of pursuing a life of animal activism as well. A lot of people don’t believe they can make a difference and don’t pursue advocacy work because of it. Carroll helps people to see that everyone can help in some way or another. “There is an epidemic of people who want to be of service but don’t think they can. My attitude is start now, start today and uses the uniqueness of you,” Carroll says. “Start in small little bite sized ways. The cure for cancer may never come, but you need to start right here with what you have.”

Carroll is an avid activist herself, combining her media skills with her passion for animals. She launched the “Why love one but eat the other” campaign that was featured on buses and subways in Toronto. It was later launched as a cross-country campaign with the animal rights group Mercy for Animals Canada, an organization she helped found.

Carroll has launched several initiatives, including launching the Toronto Vegetarian Foodbank in Toronto with her partner, Matt Noble that serves groceries to 230 people monthly. “We wanted to start an initiative that helped people and animals…we wanted to offer cruelty-free, healthy and eco-conscious food for people living under the poverty line,” Carroll says. “The food bank system often isn’t accommodating for vegans and vegetarians”

Many of Carroll’s clients are animal rights activists, people who have been traumatized by animal suffering. Carroll herself has developed a series of techniques that she shares with and teaches her clients on how to stay centered as an activist.  “I often help women in animal protection. In order to be a power to be reckoned with, you need to pay attention to yourself,” Carroll says. “You can’t pour everything out without refuelling. I’ve learnt a lot of techniques on how to stay centered and charged as an activist.”

Carroll also enjoys reading and listening to music when she can find the time. She recently finished “The Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi, which traces the lineage of sisters born in Ghana over three hundred years and involved being in the slave trade.  Carroll also loves listening to the Ani DiFranco and the Beastie Boys.

Carroll is an inspiring woman whose spirit and tenacity leads other women to see their own potential in making great change on this planet. Carroll’s work helps shift dreams into realities and her fiery spirit definitely empowers others. Everyone could do with an ounce of the positivity that Carroll emits.

Seaworld ends captive breeding, but is it enough?

A moment of rare celebration has occurred in the marine animal world. Seaworld announced on March 17 they are officially retiring the captive orca breeding program and theatrical shows involving killer whales.

Seaworld currently has 29 orcas in captivity, with six killer whales on loan. The remaining orcas will stay under the care of Seaworld and are to be the last of their kind in the entertainment facility.  Seaworld holds the most marine animals in confinement in the world, and this is welcome news for cetacean activists who have been fighting against orca captivity for years.

The decision to stop theatrical shows involving orcas and end the captive breeding program is arguably the result of social pressures from the 2013 film, Blackfish. This documentary investigated the inhumane conditions of the orcas at Seaworld and the death of orca trainer by killer whale, Tilikum in 2010.

Though the end of the captive whale program is positive, key concerns remain.  Seaworld’s website says, “These majestic orcas will not be released in the ocean or confined to sea cages….our existing show pools and viewing areas will be redesigned into a more naturalistic setting and we will continue to present the whales at scheduled times before a guest audience”.

I wonder what they were trying to insinuate with the carefully chosen language of “sea cages”. Sea pen sanctuaries are closed off spaces in bays or coves that could serve as conservation areas for previously captive whales. In comparison to cages on land, living in the ocean in a conservation area would be a welcome option. Seaworld’s immediate dismissal on the part of sea pens and research into them for their remaining orcas is a sore point.

“[The whales] could not survive in oceans to compete for food, be exposed to unfamiliar diseases or have to deal with environmental concerns,” Seaworld says. “Instead they will live long and healthy lives under love and care of our dedicated veterinary and other trained specialists.”

Captive whales have a much lower life expectancy than whales in the ocean. According to a 2011 study by scientist, Naomi Rose, the natural life span of female whales is 80-90 years and male whales is 60-70 years. In captivity, only two female whales have passed 40 and no male whales have lived past 35.

The study also notes the most common causes of death for captive whales are pneumonia, septicemia and other infections. In recent news, Tilikum of Blackfish, is reported to be ailing with an incurable bacterial infection. The study also says, “contributing factors to infection-caused mortality in captive orcas may be immunosuppression. Pathogens or injuries that the immune systems of wild orcas would successfully combat or manage may be fatal to captive orcas, due to chronic stress, psychological depression, and even boredom.”

On March 28 2015, Ontario banned the captivity and sale of orcas, the first and only province in Canada to do so. Unfortunately, Kiska, the lone captive whale in Canada was exempt from this law similarly to Seaworld’s captive orcas because she had been purchased by Marineland beforehand.

I can personally attest to Kiska’s boredom and agitation upon seeing her at the park. I visited to try and take pictures of the state of marine life in this abomination of an entertainment attraction when I was covering a protest for Marineland Animal Defense (M.A.D) for an animal rights publication.

I watched Kiska swim on the outer reaches of her tank, continually charging around and around her cage without pause. The orca displayed signs of telltale boredom often seen in confined animals, and upon asking the caretakers of the facility why she was alone, they replied, “because she wants to be”. The lack of evidence they were able to provide me according to that assertion was astounding to say the least.

The physical and psychological health concerns that pertain to confined orcas forces me to question whether ending the captive breeding program at Seaworld is enough. The exploration of sea pens needs to be considered as a solution for captive killer whales around the world, not to mention other marine life in captivity.

Seaworld’s announcement is only a partial victory for the confined killer whales. They will still remain in concrete tanks and will still participate in shows for the public. It forces me to ask: is this really a victory for the whales still currently in captivity worldwide?

It appears that future whales have been saved from the same life in imprisonment as Kiska and Tillikum. But, will the currently captive whales ever be able to swim in the ocean themselves, or will they instead suffer their fate in a concrete tank alone and forgotten?

Kiska by Kaeleigh Phillips
Kiska By Kaeleigh Phillips