Fur Free Friday

I have been having a lovely Thanksgiving break, but I could not take a vacation from animal rights activism! So on Black Friday, the largest shopping day of the year, I along with many other Chicago activists rallied for the annual Fur Free Friday protest! We marched around Michigan Avenue, a shopping hot-spot, and stopped in front of several stores that sell fur such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Burberry, and Neiman Marcus. We also did a “Freeze,” in which we all froze in place on the sidewalk while a speaker read a poem.

This was the first formal protest I participated in, and I had an amazing experience. It felt empowering to be bound together with so many other activists. Though we all came from different backgrounds, we were united in the same fight: to end the cruel use of animals for their skin and fur.

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It was a very cold and cloudy day. The temperature was below freezing point. But I felt full of energy despite the chill. I could never feel nearly as cold as the animals who were skinned, plucked, or sheared alive out of human vanity and greed.

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Since we were protesting in a very busy city area, we were bound to receive a wide range of responses. Many parents covered their young children’s eyes, as some of the signs we carried showed gruesome pictures of skinned animals. Some jeered at us, calling us idiots or telling us we should be helping people instead, as though not wearing animals would be detrimental to their human rights efforts. But most seemed rather unsettled by our protest, and some even cheered along.

I did not let the negative responses get to me. Whenever I heard a passerby start yelling some nonsense at us, I just yelled louder and blocked them out. Because in this fight, I know I must remain focused on the animals, not on some ignorant person’s opinion. As innocent animals shiver, cry, and wallow in agony in their cages, their time is running out. They need my action and voice, not my apprehension and insecurity.

who diedThere is someone who I was protesting for specifically. He goes unnamed. I never got a chance to meet him, and I never will. All I know is that he was a coyote who once ran free in the Canadian wilderness. But one day, while walking through the forest, he unfortunately found his paw stuck in a trap. Day and night, he struggled and struggled to free himself, but eventually, out of sheer fatigue and despair, he resigned to his fate. When his time was up, he was shot or strangled by a trapper. His skin was torn from his body and turned into the fur trim for coats. Now, this is the only thing I know him by:

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Every day, I see people wearing these coats and it pains me. A life was lost for this unnecessary trim. This is not fashion. This is not beautiful. This is not humane. This serves no purpose, other than to exploit the lives of others for human profit and pride. This is violence. This is stealing. There is no justification for this cruelty.

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A coyote with his foot caught in a “humane” leg hold trap.

And it is not just this coyote who lost his life for fur. Each year, over 50 million animals are trapped, shot, gassed, electrocuted, or have their necks broken for their fur. This is beyond cruel and wasteful. Their lives are far more precious than the most expensive fur coats. These beautiful animals, not people, are the ONLY ones who have the right to wear fur. Animals are not ours to wear!

Please, GO FAUX! Fur, down, leather, and wool are cruel products of torture and exploitation! With so many fashionable, durable, and affordable alternatives, this bloodshed is beyond unnecessary. You can find cruelty-free shoes, sweaters, coats, pillows, comforters, and hats at any store. Please always read the label before purchasing something, and if it contains animal fibers or skin, please save a life and leave it on the shelf.

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Stay Fur Free!

Best,

Leila

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My Vegan Thanksgiving!

I had an amazing time celebrating my first vegan Thanksgiving! Hopefully, a turkey somewhere is smiling because of it.

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A turkey at the SASHA Farm Sanctuary

The morning was spent curled up by the fireplace watching Friends with my favorite little cutie pie, Macantosh, while snacking on a veggie tray with hummus:

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My family was kind enough to pick up many delicious vegan holiday dishes for me.

Every year, one of my favorite dishes to make is cranberry sauce. I love boiling the whole cranberries and watching them pop. It is super easy to do (you just boil the cranberries in a pot with 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar), and tastes so much better than the canned version.

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Stuffing is also a delicious dish (when it’s not stuffed up a turkey’s butt, of course). Unfortunately, most pre-made stuffings are made with chicken broth or contain milk or eggs. You could easily make your own with vegetable broth and bread cubes, but if you are lazy like me, you could pick up this vegan stuffing mix from 365 Everyday Value at Whole Foods:

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My favorite holiday drink is this Cranberry Splash Sierra Mist. It is available only during the holiday season at Target, Meijer, or other grocery stores. It’s very light, fruity, and delicious. I am really not a fan of that sparkling grape juice that comes in a fancy bottle, but drinking a glass of this makes me feel just as festive:

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My family also picked up this Coco Whip from So Delicious, the brand that never disappoints. This stuff was amazing! It was 10x better than cool whip. I stored it in the fridge, and it was super soft, creamy, light, and delicious.

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This was the star of the show, our vegan Holiday Roast from Gardein. It turned out amazing, my entire family loved it:

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When we finally finished preparing the meal, this is what our cruelty-free dinner table looked like:

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And here is my delicious plate of vegan food:

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Unfortunately, dessert was not nearly as spectacular. Whole Foods was out of vegan pumpkin pies, so I had to bake my own. (I really can’t bake, and I have never baked a pie in my life.) It did not turn out very good at all. The only way to make it presentable was to cover it with whipped cream. Maybe next time?

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The holidays can be a great concern for many new or prospective vegetarians and vegans. However, it is very easy to veganize all of your favorite recipes. As you can see, I was able to make delicious vegan versions of all the holiday dishes I enjoyed as a non-vegan. It is simply a matter of purchasing different ingredients and using different recipes. The idea of revamping your holiday tradition may seem daunting at first, but in all of the veganized dishes, the same comfort and familiarity remains.  As I always say, the only thing you have to give up when you go vegan is cruelty!

Best,

Leila

Why I Celebrate a Turkey-Free Thanksgiving

This is my first vegan Thanksgiving, and I could not be happier. A Thanksgiving without a dead bird on the table may seem disappointing to some, but to me, it is the definition of a truly happy holiday. Here are the reasons why I am celebrating a turkey-free Thanksgiving:

Meet Tommy, a “Free Range” Turkey raised in Ypsilanti, MI, nearby where I attend college:

111610_DAWN FARM TURKEYS 5 LONLook closely, and you can see that the tip of his highly sensitive beak has been cut off and his snood has been torn from his head. Look into his eyes, and you can see his intelligence, curiosity, and personality. He is a gentle and kind bird who is no different from my beloved pets. If I stroked his feathers, he would purr with pleasure. If I got to know him, he would run up to me and give me a hug whenever I came to visit. But sadly, today he was taken to a slaughterhouse, hung upside down, and had his throat slit. He did not want to die; he was just the age of a young child. But he had no choice.

However, I have a choice. And in the true spirit of gratitude, I choose to let him live.

Meet Lucy:

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Watch her full story here

Lucy, unfortunately, was born a turkey raised for food. From the moment she hatched from her egg, her fate was sealed. All her life, she was seen as nothing more than an object to be bought, sold, eaten, and then forgotten. No one noticed her gentleness, curiosity, and playfulness. No one cared to see who she truly was. To them, all she was was a walking dinner to be sold as soon as possible.

She wondered what she had done to deserve this cold treatment, and dreamed of being free. But sadly, she was loaded into a transport truck just five months into her life and was taken to a slaughterhouse.

But in my eyes, she is worth so much more. She is a friend, a someone who deserves to keep her life as much as I do. Her life is far too precious to be destroyed for the sake of a single meal. I wish this never had to happen to her, or anyone.

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When you sit down to eat your holiday dinner, please think of Tommy and Lucy, and the billions of animals like them. Change perspectives, just for a second, and see your meal from their end of the table. Truly, celebrating a turkey-free Thanksgiving is not hard at all. And to them, it means everything.

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Best,

Leila

What’s in my Travel Makeup Bag

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Tomorrow, I will be returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday. When traveling, I always try to streamline my packing. (I don’t think I’m capable of lifting a 50 pound suitcase over my head 😛 ) That means, I can’t bring my entire makeup collection home with me. So here are the products that made the cut!

Brushes

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These double ended eye brushes from Ecotools are perfect for traveling. The set includes shader, crease, smudger, and liner brushes. What more could you need? The powder brush is also excellent. It is very soft, and never sheds.

Tools

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Curling your eyelashes makes a bigger difference than you would think. It opens the eyes and gives the lashes a flirty effect. I also brought along a pair of tweezers to help take care of any stray brow hairs.

Face

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I don’t like traveling with bottles of foundation, and I doubt I will be up to wearing heavy face makeup over my vacation! For lighter coverage, I enjoy applying this mineral powder from Physician’s Formula. It blends into the skin very nicely and lasts all day.

Eyeshadow

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My definition of holiday eyeshadow is frosty champaigne neutrals with warm brown crease colors. My favorite shimmery lid shade is Urban Decay’s Sin. This versatile shadow can be worn for any occasion, from everyday to fancy. My go-to crease shade comes from the Wet n Wild “Walking on Eggshells” palette, a lovely trio at an unbeatable price. To keep the shadows vibrant and long-lasting, I cannot forget my Urban Decay Primer Potion. I would never try another primer, I love this stuff so much!

Brows+Liner

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When traveling, I would prefer to not bring along a load of brow supplies. However, I find that simply setting my brows with this Anastasia Brow Gel takes them from unruly to amazing in seconds. Lately, I have been applying Urban Decay’s 24/7 pencil liner in Black Velvet to the upper lashline and blending it out with a brush or sponge for a smokey effect. I love this softer eye look for the holiday season!

Lips

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I can’t go without my Rosebud Salve from C.O.Bigelow. I have used this every day for about six months now, and I still have about half left! This salve is so moisturizing and does an amazing job of protecting my lips from chapping in the cold. And of course, you cannot wear holiday makeup without a classic red lip. I chose this bright red balm stain from Wet n Wild. I love how smoothly this glides on and how long-lasting the color is.

That’s everything in my travel makeup bag! If you are traveling home for the holidays soon, I would love to know what your staple products are. 🙂

Best,

Leila

College Grocery Store Haul

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This weekend, I did some grocery shopping. Since I live in a dorm, I do not cook my own meals. However, I do like to keep some food in my room. So if you have ever wondered what a vegan college students eats, keep reading!

Club Crackers

IMG_20141115_170323096These light and delicious crackers are great for snacking on! They go well with peanut butter, vegan cheese, or hummus! I grew up eating these crackers, so they also have a nostalgic feel.

BelVita Blueberry Biscuits

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These breakfast biscuits are a great option for breakfast on the go. They are delicious (they taste like cookies!), portable, and filling. Most days, I do not have time to go to the dining hall for breakfast, so these are perfect!

Amy’s Rice and Veggie Bowl

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I sometimes enjoy having a heat up dinner as an alternative to eating at the dining hall. I really wanted to get Amy’s vegan macaroni and cheese, but unfortunately, it was sold out. 😦  This was my first time trying it, and it made an amazing dinner! It was very flavorful, while still being light and wholesome.

Hummus

IMG_20141115_170415638Hummus is a creamy and delicious spread made from chickpeas and tahini. It goes very well with pita chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, or fresh veggies. It also makes a great sandwich spread! I just got the plain flavor, because I couldn’t decide which to try!

Carrot Sticks

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I bought these to go along with my hummus. Carrot sticks are my favorite thing to dip in hummus.

Blueberry So Delicious Coconut Yogurt

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This is one of my favorite dairy free yogurts. It is made from cultured coconut milk. I purchased blueberry flavor, which is my favorite of the flavors they carry.

Peanut Butter

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Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods. I love eating it with bananas, crackers, in sandwiches, straight out of the jar… (Don’t judge 😛 )

That’s all I got while out grocery shopping! What are your essential groceries?

Best,

Leila

My Vegan Diary: Week 17

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Over the past few months, the Michigan Animal Respect Society and I have been working in partnership with peta2 to bring the virtual reality simulator, “I, Chicken” to my university. “I, Chicken” is a fully immersive virtual reality experience that allows you to explore a virtual world from a chicken’s perspective.

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You begin as a chicken in a field on a free-range farm, wandering around, flapping your wings, and following your chicken friends. But then, you are grabbed by the wing, thrown into the back of a truck, and taken to a slaughterhouse.

The experience is designed to increase empathy towards the animals we typically only think of as food. I found the experience absolutely amazing. I admit that, even though it was just a cartoon and not graphic at all, I felt very nervous and afraid when I was in the truck and slaughterhouse!

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This virtual reality experience also aimed to dispel the belief that free range meat is cruelty-free. The photo above of the backdrop shows chickens at a free-range farm, the top 1% of chickens raised for food. As you can see, they still suffer terribly.

The truth is, if the animals were fated to end up with a knife in their throat at a slaughterhouse, then they were never truly free. Treating animals well during their life does not justify violently taking their life away. No chicken wants to die to become someone’s meal. Free range and factory farmed animals alike lose their lives in the same cruel and terrifying slaughterhouses.

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I spent most of the time tabling. We offered students guides to going vegan and other educational materials, as well as cookies and candy. I had many interesting conversations with passerby. Most people were very receptive and interested in what we were doing. At first, I felt nervous explaining why we should choose a vegan lifestyle, but as I became more comfortable interacting with students, speaking came naturally. I hope this event helped students to connect with the animals they normally eat without consideration and pushed them to make a change in their lives, no matter how small.

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Best,

Leila

Straight Edge in College

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I have been in college for almost 3 full months now, so I thought I would write an update on my experience being straight edge. Straight edge means no drinking alcohol, smoking, using drugs, and (in my case) consuming excess caffeine. It also includes abstaining from emotionless sex. Living straight edge definitely goes against the grain, but the benefits of this lifestyle are beyond worth it.

This semester, I have chosen to stay away from college parties. Football is an huge part of the culture here, as I attend a Big Ten school, so before games people go CRAZY. I live next to several fraternities, and earlier in the year when it was warmer, people would be up partying before 9 AM. The music was so loud, it would wake me up!

I am not hugely into sports, so I don’t mind missing out on tailgates. But the time I felt most left out was on Halloween. I felt a lonely spending the night inside by myself while my friends went to parties. The reason why I choose not to attend parties isn’t because I fear that I would be tempted to drink, but because I don’t want to influenced by the atmosphere there.  I would rather engage in more positive activities that align with my values.

Abstaining from coffee, the drink most college students run on, is also difficult. I choose to not drink caffeinated beverages because I do not want to give them the power to control my mood and behavior. I do not want to get to the point where I need coffee to function. However, I have been enjoying drinking caffeine-free herbal tea instead  With the weather becoming colder, sipping a warm mug of tea feels feels so calming.

Overall, I am very happy with my choice to live straight edge in college. I know there will be times when I feel left out because I choose to live this way, but it will all be worthwhile in the end. I want to always experience life in its purest form. It gives me a far better feeling than any substance ever could.

Best,

Leila