"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)



Tips for Cooking Healthy Meals on a Budget
On Thursday, GirlieGirl Army posted about holistic health counselor Jackie Topol's "Tips for Cooking Healthy Meals on a Budget." All of this helpful, practical advice is applicable to vegetarians and vegans. Some of it might seem like common sense, but in the way that all the tips are compiled together, this is wonderful food for thought. Also check out Topol's 2007 heebnvegan guest post, "My Experience as a Farmer and Why I've Decided to Go Vegan."

Jewy indie/punk band The Shondes, who are hard at work recording a heartbreak-themed album, will be playing at Hartzveytik: A Heartbreak Survival Society Social on November 14. Terry Hope Romero, co-author with Isa Chandra Moskowitz of the upcoming Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (as well as Veganomicon and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), will be on hand with vegan treats. The show is at Southpaw in Brooklyn and also features Soft Power, Royal Pink, and The Low & The Lowsome.

Alicia Silverstone's Favorite NYC Vegetarian Restaurants
The Kind Diet author Alicia Silverstone recently blogged for Grub Street about visiting her favorite vegetarian restaurants in New York City. Silverstone also made a video of her restaurant adventure, which included a stop at vegan bakery Babycakes with GirlieGirl Army's Chloé Jo Berman and "the greatest Reuben" at Sacred Chow.

Spira-Inspired Tips for Animal Activists
Earlier this month, The Vegan Dietitian featured "Ten Tips for Animal Activists Based on the Life of Henry Spira." The late Spira was a Jewish animal rights activist who was pivotal in ending the kosher meat industry's use of shackling and hoisting in this country. Read Peter Singer's Ethics in Action for more information about his campaign.

Kosher Cheese Controversy
Toobro LLC, a halav yisrael cheese company in Hewlett Neck, N.Y., has so far avoided having its plant shut down after it reportedly failed to pay rent, utility bills, and downpayments in a timely manner. Under its previous owners, the kosher plant was shut down by state officials earlier this year because "continued operation and distribution of its products could pose a serious danger to the public's health, safety and welfare." The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets said that the plant had "excessive levels of bacteria and coliform, as well as containing non-food grade oil" and that the "facility and equipment [we]re in extreme disrepair, posing further potential contamination." (Source: Failed Messiah)


Explosion of Media Coverage for Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals will be in stores on Monday, and it's already causing an explosion of media coverage. Foer had an op-ed on CNN.com on Wednesday, titled "Eating Animals Is Making Us Sick." The Forward has a pretty positive review of Eating Animals in its new issue. The Jew & The Carrot is giving away a free copy of the book here and noted yesterday, "There are not many references to kosher meat practices in this book, nor to the Jewish philosophies on eating or not eating meat. Foer seems to imply that most meat (99%), kosher or otherwise, is industrial and therefore subject to the same problems outlined earlier."

Kudos to The Huffington Post for featuring numerous reviews of the book from people with a variety of opinions. The first four this week were all from members of the tribe. The following are excerpts from each, in chronological order.

Aaron Gross (founder of Farm Forward; he cowrote PETA's "A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism" pamphlet):
It's time we have a more intelligent and reasonable discussion about the state of animal agriculture. And it's time that vegetarian advocates and omnivores who simply want animals and the environment treated with basic dignity insist that we focus our national discussion of food on a challenge we all can agree about: transforming the factory farms that now produce 99 out every 100 farmed animals in America.
Natalie Portman (actor; check out yesterday's post, "Natalie Portman Brings Vegetarianism to Top Chef"):
Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist. ... [T]he highly documented torture of animals is unacceptable, and the human cost Foer describes in his book, of which I was previously unaware, is universally compelling. . . . Factory farming of animals will be one of the things we look back on as a relic of a less-evolved age.
Dr. Andrew Weil (founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine):
[I]f you still eat meat from factories ... you have not, by definition, absorbed the reality of factory farms. If you truly understood the nightmarish brutality of what happens inside these windowless animal jails and abattoirs that dot the American ruralscape, you simply would not eat this meat. Foer makes it clear that factory farming is the exceptional human activity that debases and destroys everything it touches: land, people, communities, and most of all, the innocents at the nexus, animals.
Rabbi David Wolpe (rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles; he appeared in Foer's 2006 PETA video, "If This Is Kosher ..."):
[U]ltimately the message of the book is summed up in Foer's simple observation: "It's always possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep." I hope he is wrong. I hope this book falls with an explosive charge on the somnolent consciences of meat-eating Americans. We know something of the agony, waste, disease and unhealthiness behind the gleaming counters. Perhaps Eating Animals will persuade us to stop pretending to be asleep.

Click here to read about Foer's recent appearance on Larry King Live. Click here to read about his "Against Meat" essay in The New York Times Magazine earlier this month.

Correction (11/2): In the first sentence of the original version of this post, I said that Eating Animals would be in stores on Tuesday. The book was released on Monday, November 2.


Natalie Portman Brings Vegetarianism to Top Chef

Jewish vegan icon Natalie Portman appeared on the episode of Top Chef that aired a couple hours ago. Portman explained to the reality show's chefs that she is adventurous with types of cuisines and flavors but that they had to make her a vegetarian meal. Reactions varied greatly. "I have never been a vegetarian, and I never, ever will be," said Jennifer.

Kevin won the competition with a dish featuring a "mushroom duo" and kale. Portman said she loved kale and that "people rarely do it well," and she called Kevin's hearty creation "a manly vegetarian meal." Kevin had been less than enthusiastic about cooking vegetarian. Although he said he goes vegetarian for Lent each year, he thinks of meat as essential to a complete meal. "Cooking meat is me in my element," he said.

Mike was eliminated from Top Chef after preparing a leek dish that wasn't cooked fully because of a technical error and that lacked a significant source of protein. I believe it was Mike who said earlier that his mother was vegan when he was growing up and that more than 20 of the 60 dishes on his restaurant's menu are vegetarian. "I should've done a lot better than everyone else because this is more my background," he said at the at the end of the show.

After describing herself as a vegetarian, Portman ate one dish with creamed lentils and another with butter. Following rumors that she had stopped being vegan, Portman affirmed on Tuesday that she recently went vegan after reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. I'll discuss what else she had to say about the book in an upcoming post.


Host a $400 Vegan Shabbat Dinner for Free!

I'm having some friends over for a vegan Shabbat dinner this week, and I realized too late in the game that I could've gotten all my expenses reimbursed by Birthright NEXT. Birthright NEXT encourages Jews who have gone on Birthright Israel trips to host between 4 and 16 people for a Shabbat meal and will cover expenses up to $25 per person.

The Birthright NEXT site lists 14 stories of such all-expenses-paid Shabbat meals, and I can see based on title alone that at least two were vegan.

Emily from Brooklyn wrote:
The vegan cook-off was a great opportunity to unite with friends and share amazing food. Veganism, like Kashrut, is a great way to connect to your identity and food choices every time you eat. Although no one at the Shabbat meal was vegan or strictly kosher, it was a very easy way to accommodate all dietary choices that people from various communities create for themselves. Food really can be an identity marker, and what better way to express your identity than in a warm house with friends?
David from Brooklyn wrote:
The food was Mediterranean themed, and the menu included only vegan items (I am vegan, and surprisingly to me, this bothered no one). The meal consisted of a large mixed greens salad, as well as a spiralized beet and carrot salad, tabouli salad (which I made the day before and kept refrigerated for 24 hours), roasted eggplant, roasted potatoes and onions, as well as bowls of olives, dates, and raisins. I also made hummus for the first time: the chick peas were soaked for 48 hours, and cooked for 4, before they were blended with tahini and vinegar. Lots of pita bread was served as well. Much of the food was supplied through my membership to a local CSA, while the remainder was purchased organically from my local food co-op. Organic wine was also available. The meal took minimal early food preparation, and the majority of the meal was prepared between 6:30pm and 8pm on Friday, impressive in terms of time spent, considering the large number of guests. The food was delicious, and enough for all 16 guests. By the end of a two hour meal, not much food was left over, which I considered a great compliment to my cooking. Everyone in attendance agreed that the meal was a success, and a great time was had by all.
I missed the registration deadline for this Shabbat, but I might have to give this a try in the near future.


Kosherfest: The Kosher Industry's Trade Show

Today I attended the 21st annual Kosherfest, which bills itself as the world's leading kosher food and beverage trade show. There were numerous meat and dairy companies, as expected, but there was no shortage of vegetarian and vegan products. Vegetarian offerings were too numerous to mention. Vegan free samples included hummus, veggie burgers, cookies, pickles, knishes, nondairy whip, beans, vegetables, fruit, tea, juices, and soft drinks.

HomeFree was on hand to promote their cookies and coffee cakes, all of which are vegan, kosher, organic, peanut-free, and tree-nutfree. Their oatmeal and chocolate-chip cookies were quite delicious. I haven't tried either the apple coffee cake or the cranberry coffee cake (yet), but the latter was selected as "VegPicks" Best of the Best by VegNews in 2007. HomeFree president and founder Jill Robbins said that HomeFree products are "the only certified organic baked treat made in this country for people with peanut and other food allergies." Only HomeFree's coffee cakes and oatmeal cookies are "certified" vegan, but all company products are free of animal ingredients. In addition, Robbins noted that her cookbook, Allergen-Free Baking, is completely vegan except for "one or two" recipes that include honey.

Robbins started making baked goods free of common allergens because of her son's food allergies. She promotes HomeFree cookies as the perfect treat for classrooms and social gatherings: "They're not junk. They're wholesome cookies. The kids all love them. And the kids with food allergies get to be a part of the treat instead of watching from the outside."

Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods was promoting six new "meatless" and "chickenless" mock-meat products that were launched last month. The company's California, Bombay, TexMex, and Italian veggie burgers are all vegan. Company VP Larry Praeger said that there is high demand for veggie burgers without eggs or cheese. He suggested that the market for veggie burgers and mock meats is growing and that it includes individuals and families who aren't vegetarian but do eat vegetarian foods.

The definitive source on the kosher market agreed. As the PR mastermind behind Lubicom Marketing Consulting, the KosherToday newsletter, and Kosherfest itself, Menachem Lubinsky would probably speak positively about any sector of the kosher food industry. Here was his response when I asked him whether he saw the vegetarian and vegan market growing within the kosher food market:
Yes. The reason I see it growing is because people are much more conscientious about it. And also because the market is paying attention to them, whereas previously they weren't. And in kosher, it's always been about: The supply and demand work in interesting ways. Once the products are out there, somehow you found the people that'll receive the spelt-free, receive the organic and natural, and I see the same thing with vegan.
All in all, Kosherfest was worth the schlep to New Jersey. If nothing else, I got to see a larger-than-life Streit's matzoh display.



Heeb has announced its annual Heeb100 list of the top Jewish movers and shakers in food, music, activism, and other categories. When reading through blurbs about the recipients, I couldn't help but notice that some of these machers have animal protection connections. I didn't do research on anyone I didn't already know about, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other 95 heebs are vegetarians or otherwise animal advocates.

Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of the New York City vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, was named in the food category. Cohen responded, "For everyone who has wondered about a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, I was just inducted into Heeb Magazine's 'Heeb 100,' which is sort of the next best thing. It's a list of 'smart, innovative and young' [J]ews who are expected to control the world in the near future, or at least small portions of it." Cohen added that she recently met with a rabbi to discuss getting kosher certification for Dirt Candy. She is currently featured on PETA's VegCooking.com as Chef of the Month.

Gabe Saporta, the frontman of the band Cobra Starship, was named in the music category. I knew that Saporta had worked with peta2, and he told peta2 that he went vegetarian at a Jewish camp at age 13. Said Saporta, "I remember I was at Jewish summer camp. ... One day [another camper] just goes, 'You know, man, we have so many other options than to eat meatyou know, like there are so many other ways to live, you don't need to eat meatthat why would you kill another living thing?' And that just made so much sense to me. At the age of 13, it just struck such a chord with me that I'm just like, 'Of course. Why would I kill another living thing so that I could eat? You know, I could do whatever I want. I don't need to be killing living things to eat.' And I just, like, became a vegetarian in an instant."

Alexander Gould, the child actor who plays Shane Botwin on Weeds, was named in the film/TV category. Gould voiced the character of Nemo in my all-time favorite Disney movie, Finding Nemo. He was one of the nicest and friendliest celebrities I met at the 2004 Genesis Awards. He carried around a plush Nemo doll, and he got the crowd roaring when he said, "Fish are friends, not food," on stage.

Richard Zimmerman
was named in the activism category. Heeb explains, "Richard Zimmerman has a passion for primates that might raise eyebrows if he weren’t married; he founded Orangutan Outreach, which rescues and rehabilitates endangered apes. The nonprofit uses the Web (Redapes.org, Facebook and Twitter) to convince others to pay attention to primates ...."

Tushy the Cat was named in the entrepreneurship category. Heeb claims that Tushy maintains "a red-hot Facebook fan page," but Tushy only has 18 Facebook fans (including "Heeb Mag" and the Heeb writer who wrote Tushy's Heeb100 blurb). I don't get the joke, but I might as well include the only nonhuman animal in the Heeb100.



More Foer
A few days after his "Against Meat" essay ran in The New York Times Magazine, author Jonathan Safran Foer appeared on Larry King Live to talk about the safety and ethics of meat. Said DawnWatch, "He is fast becoming one of the animal advocacy world's most compelling spokespersonswell worth hearing." As the November 2 release of his book Eating Animals draws closer, let's hope he continues to get lots of media exposure. Said Foer:
There's a certain kind of meat, which is produced on factory farms, that is in every single way unconscionable. It's unconscionable to feed to our children because of the health [considerations]. It's unconscionable because it's the single worst thing that we can do to the environment by a long shot. And it's unconscionable because of what we're doing to animals who are raised on factory farms. ...

Upwards of 99 percent of the animals that are raised for meat in this country come from factory farms. So when we're talking about meat, when we're talking about the meat that they sell in grocery stores or we're talking about the meat that we order in restaurants, we are effectively talking about factory farms.
Adam Yauch Goes Vegan
After being diagnosed with cancer in July, Beastie Boys vocalist and bassist Adam Yauch (aka MCA) has gone vegan. BBC reports that Yauch told fans, "I'm taking Tibetan medicine and at the recommendation of Tibetan doctors I've been eating a vegan/organic diet." Although Yauch is one of several Beastie Boys members with at least one Jewish parent, he has embraced Buddhism.

Nebraska Slaughterhouse Up for Sale
The Gordon, Nebraska, kosher slaughterhouse that was the site of a 2007 PETA investigationthen known as Local Pride and owned by the Rubashkin familyis up for sale. The Associated Press reports, "City manager Fred Hlava said ... that he's talked to several partiessome interested in restarting a kosher operation and others who would employ conventional processes." Earlier this month, the city of Gordon teamed with First Bank Business Capital Inc. to purchase the plant.

Recent Goodies on The Jew & The Carrot
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster wonders whether synagogue members should join together to buy vegetarian staples like legumes and grains in bulk. Leah Koenig explains that some wines are manufactured with the use of animal products and suggests several wines that are suitable for those who follow a very strict vegan diet. Jonathan Braumberg-Kraus discusses Jonathan Safran Foer's recent "Against Meat" essay in The New York Times Magazine.

Tal Ronnen's Cookbook
Vegan chef Tal Ronnen's cookbook The Conscious Cook came out earlier this month. Ronnen's claims to fame include preparing Oprah Winfrey's meals for her 21-day vegan cleanse last year and catering Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi's vegan wedding, Arianna Huffington's Democratic National Convention party, and the U.S. Senate's first vegan dinner.


Sholom Rubashkin's First Federal Trial Has Started

The first federal trial of former AgriProcessors executive Sholom Rubashkin began this week for fraud, money laundering, and livestock charges. A trial for federal immigration-related charges will begin one week following the conclusion of the first trial. Rubashkin faces 163 federal charges and up to 1,995 years in jail; he has pleaded not guilty to all 163 counts. Separately, he faces state charges for violating Iowa child labor laws. Click here to read an Associated Press account of the trial's opening statements.

Although it's been widely reported that Rubashkin faces livestock-related charges, not one of the 163 federal charges in these two trials pertains to AgriProcessors' treatment of animals. Sources differ on whether Rubashkin faces 19 or 20 "livestock" charges for allegedly violating the U.S. Packers and Stockyards Act. The Des Moines Register explains:

Some of the charges against Rubashkin are unusual for a federal criminal case, legal scholars said. Prosecutors allege that Rubashkin violated a 2002 order by the U.S. secretary of agriculture to pay cattle providers within 24 hours of a sale.

The charge stems from a 1921 law, the U.S. Packers and Stockyards Act. The law requires "prompt payment" to protect livestock producers. Two scholars who studied the law said they had never seen it invoked in a criminal case.

heebnvegan will not be covering the trial in great depth. If you are interested in following along closely, I recommend reading Failed Messiah or setting up a Google Alert.

Click here to read last month's post in the lead-up to the trial, titled "In the Spirit of High Holidays Reflection."