A Movie That Changed My Life

About 14 years ago, I walked into a movie screening hoping to be entertained, informed, and maybe inspired.
What I didn’t expect was that I would be veganized.

But that’s exactly what happened.

The movie’s depiction of the suffering of the animals and people involved in animal agriculture, coupled with its profound message of transformation and hope, literally opened my mind and heart. I remember exiting the movie in a kind of daze; then calling my partner and telling him, “I’m vegan.”

That movie was the acclaimed Peaceable Kingdom by producers Tribe of Heart. This Thursday, Vegan Kalamazoo and the Natural Health Center are screening the updated version, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. The screening is FREE and NHC is providing free yummy vegan popcorn. So come, and bring a friend! But two warnings:

(1) Bring your Kleenex, and
(2) Be prepared for possible change.

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
Thursday, February 16
6:30 pm – 8:00 p.m.
Natural Health Center
4610 W Main St, Kalamazoo (NE corner of West Main & Drake) – plenty of parking
More info / preregister on Meetup.

Next month we will be showing another Tribe of Heart classic, The Witness. The stars and setting of this one couldn’t be more different from those of Peaceable Kingdom. Instead of rural farmers learning to love the cows and other beings they formerly exploited for profit, we have a tough-guy construction worker in New York City who, through his relationship with his cat, evolves to become an animal activist.

The Witness
Sunday, March 12
1:00 pm – 2:30 p.m.
Natural Health Center
4610 W Main St, Kalamazoo (NE corner of West Main & Drake) – plenty of parking
More info / preregister on Meetup.

Also in March, we’re having a Coffee Social at the sunny and cheerful Coexist Cafe (2901 Howard St, near WMU) and a Gourmet Pizza Party at Sawall’s excellent new Cafe 36! More info on Meetup. As always, at Vegan Kalamazoo events, everyone is welcome, including vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. However, out of respect for our mission, we request that you only order / consume vegan food at this event. Newcomers are especially welcome!

Eight Easy and Delicious Ways to Eat More Veggies in 2017

Nutrition-packed vegan diets have been shown to prevent or fight obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. And, if you’re worried about protein, don’t! Vegan diets give you plenty. In fact, The American Dietetic Association says veg diets are appropriate for, “individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

And, of course, when you eat vegan, you’re not only helping yourself; you’re helping the the planet (animal agriculture being a major contributor to climate change), and the animals. It’s a win/win/win!

Fortunately, we’re living in a kind of golden age of veganism. Every month, we’re seeing amazing new products and restaurant options, whether it’s nonallergenic milk made from pea protein, the “Impossible Burger,” which even trained chefs can’t distinguish from beef, and Miyoko’s Kitchen’s delicious, melty, cashew-based mozzarella.

Below are eight easy, nutritious, and delicious tips for adding more plants to your diet. You can buy many of these products at any supermarket, but you’ll find the best selections at Natural Health Center (West Main), Sawall’s (Oakland), The People’s Food Coop (downtown), and Earth Fare (Westnedge).

1) Follow in the footsteps of 7-Eleven and many other institutions, and ditch the egg-based mayo. Plant-based options such as Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo and Follow Your Heart’s Vegannaise give you all the taste and texture, with fewer of the calories and none of the cholesterol. (Wasn’t that easy?)

2) Replace eggs in cooking and baking with apple sauce, flax seeds, a banana, silken tofu, or a product like Ener-G. (Google for expert techniques, or check out a cookbook.) Oh, and pancakes and waffles work just fine without eggs. (Add some nuts or vegan protein powder for more oomph.) And don’t forget the nondairy milk…which reminds me…

3) Join the nondairy club! Nearly half of all Americans now drink at least some nondairy milk every day. (Source: Mintel, April 2016.) So, the next time you stop by Biggby Coffee or Water Street Coffee Joint—not to mention, Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks—ask for soy, almond, or coconut for your latte. (Smooooth!) At home, have fun trying out the many flavors and varieties of soy, almond, cashew, hemp, coconut, and pea-based milks. (My household uses vanilla-flavored soy for coffee, and cashew for everything else, including baking.)

4) Shop, and dine, ethnic! Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern are three great cuisines with LOTS of vegan options. (Also, check the “ethnic foods” aisle of your supermarket.)

5) Try the new generation of plant-based meat replacements, like Gardein, Morningstar, and Beyond Meat. Seriously, they’re amazing! Low calorie, and (in some cases) low sodium and non-soy. On busy days just pop one in a toaster oven, or throw it in a casserole, sauce, or stir-fry, for a nutritious and comfy main course. (You’ll find them in the freezer section of your local supermarket.)

6) Swap out the superfluous. Many breads, snacks, condiments, and other packaged foods contain small amounts of dairy or egg you’d never miss if they were gone. Fortunately, most products’ allergy labeling now makes these unwanted ingredients easy to spot so you can choose another brand. (And many now sport a big, friendly V-for-Vegan label!)

7) Google is your friend. Google “vegan _____,” filling in the name of your favorite food. You will be amazed at what’s out there.

8) Last but definitely not least, check out your friendly, neighborhood vegan group. Everyone, regardless of what they eat, is always welcome at Vegan Kalamazoo events, including potluck dinners, restaurant outings, walks, parties, cooking classes, and other great events. You’ll meet great people and get great recipes and cooking tips. (There are also veg groups in Grand Rapids, Holland/Lakeshore, and Niles.)

About the author: Hillary Rettig is cofounder and organizer of Vegan Kalamazoo, whose motto is, “Yes, there really is a VEGAN Kalamazoo!” She also writes, teaches, and coaches in the area of creative productivity and entrepreneurship. She lives in Kalamazoo’s Stuart Neighborhood with her partner, a Kalamazoo College physics professor, and their rescue dog, Billy, a fifteen-pound pomeranian with a thirty-pound attitude. Contact her any time at vegankalamazoo@gmail.com .

I Can Haz Vegan Flu Shot?

It’s that time of year again‭! ‬The time many of us roll up a sleeve and get‭ “‬stuck.‭” ‬But did you know flu shots‭ ‬aren’t vegan‭?

Vegans‭ ‬do‭ ‬their‭ ‬best to not use any products derived from an animal‭ (‬like‭ ‬meat,‭ ‬dairy,‭ ‬leather,‭ ‬etc.‭)‬,‭ ‬or services in which animals are exploited‭ (‬like circuses‭)‬.‭ ‬So how come‭ ‬flu‭ ‬shots aren’t vegan‭?

Flu‭ ‬vaccines are‭ ‬inactivated flu viruses that,‭ ‬once injected into you,‭ ‬spur‭ ‬your immune system‭ ‬into creating protective antibodies‭ ‬without actually causing‭ ‬any‭ ‬disease.‭ ‬That means that,‭ ‬when you later do actually encounter a live flu virus,‭ ‬your body is already primed to knock its lights out.

Unfortunately,‭ ‬the viruses used in most vaccines are‭ ‬grown‭ (‬a.k.a.,‭ “‬cultured‭”) ‬in fertilized chicken eggs.‭ ‬Like all eggs,‭ ‬these‭ ‬are obtained‭ ‬via‭ ‬industrial chicken farming,‭ ‬in which the laying hens are jammed into‭ ‬cruel‭ “‬battery cages” their whole lives, and the male chicks (who can’t lay eggs) are killed shortly after birth, often in horrific ways.

Does that mean vegans can’t get flu shots‭? ‬Heck no‭! ‬there are actually‭ ‬two‭ ‬great‭ ‬non-egg options available‭ ‬right here in Southwest Michigan:

  • Flucelvax is grown primarily in animal cell (Madin-Darby Canine Kidney) cultures.‭ ‬Although not technically vegan due to the use of cells originating from dogs‭ (‬and some egg at the beginning of the process‭)‬,‭ ‬this process almost certainly involves far less cruelty and death than egg-based vaccines,‭ ‬in part because you can clone many cultures from a single kidney cell.‭ ‬Another plus is that Flucelvax covers four flu strains,‭ ‬versus traditional vaccines that cover three.‭ ‬You can get a Flucelvax shot at Target and CVS.
  • Flublok represents a new generation of vaccines in which a protein from one virus is combined with parts of another virus.‭ ‬This combination is further blended with insect cells and replicated.‭ ‬It’s also not strictly vegan because insect cells are used during production,‭ ‬but no bird or mammal cells are used.‭ ‬The manufacturer,‭ ‬Protein Sciences Corp.,‭ ‬also claims that their procedure produces an exceptionally clean vaccine:‭ ‬“Flublok…does not contain any preservatives‭ (‬e.g.,‭ ‬thimerosal,‭ ‬which contains mercury‭)‬,‭ ‬egg proteins,‭ ‬gelatin or latex.‭” ‬The company also says it‭ ‬contains three times more antigen than traditional flu vaccines‭ ‬and has shown increased effectiveness over them.‭ ‬You can get it at Target,‭ ‬WalMart,‭ ‬and‭ ‬Meijer.

Both of these should be covered by most insurances.‭ ‬Be sure to call the pharmacy first to ensure that your chosen vaccine is in stock‭! ‬You may get asked if you’re allergic to eggs.‭ ‬Just tell them you’re vegan and have an ethical objection to egg consumption in any form.‭

Here’s a great article that goes into more detail on‭ ‬vegan flu shots. The author cites a report on research into vaccines grow entirely on plant cells, so be prepared for more vegan options in the future.

Now,‭ ‬a confession:‭ ‬I‭ ‬actually‭ ‬got my flu shot earlier this week while getting my annual checkup,‭ ‬and it was nonvegan.‭ ‬Then,‭ ‬a couple of days later,‭ ‬I had a‭ ‬conversation‭ ‬that inspired this article.‭ ‬I’m a super dedicated vegan,‭ ‬but am not going to waste time beating myself up for my lapse:‭ ‬I’ll just make sure to do the right thing next year.‭ ‬That’s how it rolls when you’re vegan.‭ ‬It’s probably impossible for anyone to be‭ ‬100%‭ ‬vegan,‭ ‬given the ubiquity of animal products in every area of our society and economy.‭ ‬But we try to do our best,‭ ‬and to do a little better each year.‭ ‬Vegan Kalamazoo is here to support you on that,‭ ‬so don’t hesitate to‭ ‬send us your questions!

Many thanks to VK member‭ (‬and pharmacist‭) ‬Katia Burke-Pappas and the great people at the‭ ‬Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for technical assistance with this piece.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬please join our‭ ‬Facebook group to discuss this article and much else.