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Holidaze and Veganism, Our Hen House

Thoughts, Ideas, and Survival Techniques for a Festive, Fun, and Animal-Friendly December

by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, of Our Hen House

Now that it’s December, we’re finally wrapping our heads around the undeniable fact that the holidays are back in town. Dreidels are at the ready, poised to spin, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is playing just about everywhere we go. Sentimental hens that we are, once again, we have found ourselves reflecting on what the holiday season means to us as vegans.

Advocacy is Coming to Town

Last year on Our Hen House, we offered some tips for handling the holidays with grace — everything from managing time with your meat-guzzling family, to gracefully handling non-vegan gifts (we all have an Aunt Ida in our lives, someone who insists on knitting us a wool sweater or the like), to — our favorite — how to positively turn the holidays into a fun, fulfilling animal advocacy opportunity. There is, after all, no more effective time to do a little leafleting than during your lunch break, or providing your co-workers with some delicious vegan Santa cookies — along with the recipe, and, of course, a “Why Vegan?” brochure. ‘Tis the season for compassion, and with people already in the holiday spirit, your friendly outreach efforts will likely be well-received (so long as you are on your best behavior, which means practicing your stellar communication skills).

Oh Come All Ye Passionate

During the holiday season, “food activism,” as we like to call it, is a particularly appropriate and important focus for those who care about animals. As we recently discussed on our podcast (which, happily, is sponsored by The Seed), the beautiful rituals surrounding the holidays — whether or not you’re religious — center around food, and around giving. As people with a keen appreciation of the scrumptious vegan food options now available far and wide (there is literally a vegan version of everything!), we see the Christmahanusolstikwanzikah season as a time to celebrate the cruelty-free pleasures of the palate.

Let’s face it. Vegan food is by far the best there is! We venture to guess that our all-vegan Thanksgiving was the tastiest on the block — plus, the most compassionate, environmentally-friendly, ethically-sourced, healthful, and even most attractive (in our humble opinion). We saw Thanksgiving as our harvest feast — a time to take inventory, be thankful for the abundant plant-based foods we have available to us, recognize our privileges (including that of our species), and, to be honest, take a night off and be with friends (confession: board games were involved). While it is true that we also were acutely aware of the plight of turkeys, we turned our angst and sadness into productivity, helping to organize the inaugural Tofurky Trot, which raised money for The Cinnamon Snail, a vegan food truck in the NYC-area that is providing free food to those still without power (and in some cases, even shelter) because of Hurricane Sandy.

Rudolph the Rescued Reindeer 

Now that Thanksgiving is over and most of us are focusing on (panicking about?) gift-giving, it’s a perfect opportunity to think about how we can use this next holiday opportunity to support our worldview of — to borrow humane educator Zoe Weil’s catch-phrase (and book title) — Most Good, Least Harm. So let’s celebrate and spread our compassion. Perhaps the harvest feast is over, but the focus on food, giving, and compassion is just starting. The way we see it, the holidays give those who care about animals an opportunity to focus on values that may be important all year long, but have a special resonance right now.

Make a commitment to live as compassionately and consciously as possible during this holiday season, and take the opportunity to spread that to your co-workers, your friends, your family, your neighbors, and even to strangers. Focus on the positive, the potential, the payoff. Challenge yourself to channel your sadness into an opportunity to change the world for animals, even just a little bit.

 

Here are some of our favorite quick ways to bring joy and compassion to your own life, and to the lives of those around you, this holiday season.


  • Bake a batch of vegan, holiday-themed cookies and share them with your office or class. VegWeb has a plethora of delicious recipes that are easily searchable by keyword. You might also pick up a copy of the new cookbook, Vegan for the Holidays. Whatever cruelty-free goodie you make, be sure to share the recipe, along with a handout explaining the importance and deliciousness of veganism.
  • Commit to spending a certain amount of time each day or week leafleting about veganism. This can be as simple and easy as 15 minutes a week until New Year’s. Chances are, once you get out there, your experience will be so positive you’ll spend more time at it than you thought you would.
  • Get creative with your gifts, both in terms of giving and receiving. Perhaps ask your family to make a donation to your favorite farm animal sanctuary in lieu of (or in addition to) other gifts. Sponsoring a specific animal ambassador is particularly festive (and goes a long way). Similarly, make donations in honor of your friends and family. Also choose to patronize vegan establishments and companies during your gift planning, such as Herbivore.
  • Seek out vegan community, either through attending or hosting vegan potlucks, or joining a vegan Meet-Up in your area (you can also start one). It’s important to be around people who get it and get you, particularly when we are so “drenched” with family get-togethers. (Not that, uh, there’s anything draining about being around family…)
  • Give yourself the gift of you-time! Replenish yourself. Spend time with rescued animals — either ones who are a part of your family, or ones at your nearby shelter or sanctuary. Go for a run, a hike, or a walk around your neighborhood. Listen to good music and podcasts (eh-hem).
  • Finally, walk the walk (and eat the food). If you’re not vegan yet, ‘tis the season to change. There is no better synergy created than that which comes with living a life in harmony with your ethical beliefs. It is not a coincidence that the best thing for you is the best thing for the planet is the best thing for the people of the world is the best thing for animals. Going vegan will quickly become the best part of you, and will undoubtedly be the best present you can give.

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Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan are the dynamic duo behind Our Hen House, the non-profit working to mainstream the movement to end the exploitation of animals, and are the co-hosts of the same-named popular podcast, currently in production for its 154th consecutive weekly episode. Partners in life and in advocacy, Jasmin and Mariann were instrumental in the production of The Seed 1.0, and stay on as proud consultants. Jasmin is the former campaigns manager for Farm Sanctuary, and a long-time contributing writer for VegNews Magazine. Mariann is a professor of animal law at five law schools throughout the country, sits on the boards for The Animal Welfare Trust and Animal Welfare Advocacy, and is a founding member of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. They started Our Hen House in January 2010, and it was soon named the Indie Media Powerhouse by VegNews. Jasmin and Mariann reside in Manhattan with their precious pit bull, Rose, who likes to call the shots.

 

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