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We’re excited to announce the launch of a brand new Facebook page as an extension of our ongoing Live Vegan program.

Live Vegan Community is a friendly and uplifting space for veg-curious and newbie vegans to come together, find support, learn about veganism in fun ways, ask questions and share advice.

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Love is in the air and we’ve got some great ideas to help you and your loved one celebrate without breaking the bank.

Spend the day with new friends. Plan a day trip (or even a weekend trip) for you and your special someone to visit a nearby farm animal sanctuary or other animal rescue shelter. There’s nothing more rewarding than volunteering your services to an organization in need. Spend the day surrounded by loving animals who will never again know cruelty, only kindness.

Give a tribute donation. Make a donation to your favorite organization in honor of a loved one. When you make a tribute donation to FARM, we will send a personalized thank you card recognizing the person being honored. Or create your own card for that special touch.

Create a delicious home-cooked vegan meal. Start planning your special dinner today with our easy-to-follow recipes from LiveVegan.org and MeatoutMondays.org. Your partner will thank you for a spectacular night in, when they taste these Vegetable Lasagna Cupcakes or how about Grilled Jerk Tofu Steaks? And don’t forget dessert! Try this chocolate-lovers’ recipe for a Raw Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganche.

Enjoy a night out. Make reservations at your favorite vegan hotspot and maybe even catch a movie or live music.

And for gift givers try these items that should guarantee some extra snuggle time (and they’re all vegan of course): chocolates and other sweets (Rescue Chocolate, Allison’s Gourmet, Sweet & Sara), perfume, body products (Vibrant Naturals, EcoBella), flowers, soy candles, a good book.

Regardless of how you spend time together, make sure your mate knows just how much they are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Super Bowl is just around the corner and in case you need some quick and easy menu ideas for the special occasion, we’ve got you covered. These tasty vegan recipes will have everyone at your party on their feet…even your carnivorous guests will be asking for seconds, and thirds!

For entrees and snacks try:

7-Layer Party Dip
Sloppy Joe Lentil Sliders
Veggie Pizza
Tasty Tacos
Black Bean Burritos

And for dessert try:

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
Root Beer Float Cupcakes
Best Brownies

And if you don’t have time to prepare a dish, there are lots of on-the-go meal ideas to choose from. Try Gardein’s delicious buffalo wings, BBQ riblets, or crispy chick’n tenders . Or pick up some veggie burgers and dogs and spice them up with all your favorite fixin’s.

So whether you’re expecting a crowd or just hanging out at home with a few close friends, these vegan recipes will make this year’s big game day one to remember (even if your team doesn’t win). For more recipes, visit LiveVegan.org or MeatoutMondays.org.

It’s that time of year again, when most of us are thinking about the New Year ahead and reflecting on the decisions we made in the year passed. It’s the perfect time for resolutions and establishing goals to create a brighter future. The most common New Year’s resolution is to get healthier by losing a few pounds, exercising more, and eating better. And with the country’s obesity epidemic, diabetes epidemic and heart disease and cancer on the rise, making health a top priority in the coming year is the perfect resolution and anyone can do it!

But before you get started, there’s one thing to keep in mind…traditional ways of losing weight have consisted of fad diets that require starving your body and your taste buds. Yes, you might lose a few pounds in the beginning, but it usually comes back, leaving you frustrated and setting you up for failure. Instead, try something new this year; start by really looking at the food fuel you are feeding your body. This is the easiest and most important step towards success…and one that is guaranteed to keep you committed to living healthy.

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How will you show your love & compassion for animals this Valentine’s Day?

Recently someone said to me that it isn’t even necessarily about loving every single kind of animal. After all, there are probably some animals out there that might not rank high on the cute & cuddly list. Rather, it is about not being cruel to animals. No animal should be tortured, exploited, or killed for our use.  Can we not extend to them at least that much compassion?

Our companion animals are sure to be lavished with attention & perhaps some extra special treats for cupid’s celebration. But what about all the other animals out there who are not quite as fortunate?

Here are a few suggestions for choosing love & compassion for ALL the animals.

A definite vegan fan! Photo credit: www.1111now.com

1 ~ GO VEGAN. For the day, the week, one month… or even better…. a lifetime. It’s the most loving choice you can make for the animals. Spare them a life of suffering & bring peace into your heart.

If you need help or support, there’s lots out there. Check out our site www.livevegan.org OR visit the archive of past issues at www.MeatoutMondays.org for lots of recipes and tips. The FARM Links page can also connect you with helpful Web sites and blogs for your journey. You can also try more vegan products by taking advantage of the great offers for vegan foods for Meatout 2011! Need more support? L.O.V.E. (Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation) just launched a vegan pen pal program. Check it out!

2 ~ GO CRUELTY-FREE. Do you know what’s in your make-up or what your shoes are made of? Do you know if your shampoo or cleaning products were tested on bunnies or other animals? Shop with cruelty-free companies that don’t test on animals. (*Note that not all cruelty-free products are vegan.) Also, vegan fashion wear and beauty items are easier to find than ever before, so please leave animal ingredients out of your wardrobe and beauty products. You can find vegan/cruelty-free alternatives for just about anything, even ballet slippers! And if by chance you have some of mom’s or grandmom’s old fur coats or wraps, donate them to a program like Cuddle Coats, where those furs can help comfort and rehabilitate an injured or orphaned animal.

3 ~ TALK, SHARE, TWEET, E-MAIL. Find ways to share what you know about animal use and exploitation with others. Send people links to video clips. Share articles, photos, and Web sites.  Mercy for Animals’ new video, Farm to Fridge is a powerful video to share with others. Participate in Meatout this year and you can get a free DVD copy. See details on the Meatout Web site.

4 ~ READ. In order to talk about the animals and share the most thorough and informative information, it helps to be well-informed. Read books about animal rights, veganism, activism, etc. There are so many great ones! Have you read Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn? How about Jonathan Balcombe’s Second Nature? Also support vegan and animal rights-related fiction, such as The Tourist Trail by John Yunker. Pick a few great blogs to follow too. Again, check FARM’s Links page for a great list, as well as the blogroll here. And you can visit PCRM’s site for informative health articles.

Chained circus elephant. Photo credit: www.nashveggie.com/blog

5 ~ BOYCOTT. Don’t support circuses, rodeos, marine parks, or other places where animals are confined and exploited for entertainment. Elephants in their natural environment will walk 50 miles a day. Dolphins love to travel through the water at high speeds and may cover up to 100 miles a day! Many of these very social animals are confined in isolation. They are chained, beaten, hurting, and miserable. Speak out and let others know why you oppose these types of entertainment. Check out the movie, The Cove, for more on the slaughter of dolphins as a result of dolphins used in entertainment.

6 ~ GIVE TO KIDS. Help kids connect to the animals in deep emotional ways. Maybe you can take a group of children on a trip to an animal sanctuary. Or maybe volunteer to show a film or slideshow of your own photos from an animal sanctuary. If not, how about giving away copies of great animal-friendly books for children like Our Farm by Maya Gottfried or That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals by Ruby Roth.

7 ~ ADOPT/SUPPORT. Animal sanctuaries need our support. If you visit one, you’re sure to fall in love with at least one rescued animal. Perhaps you might adopt? Or donate money, free labor, or needed supplies.  And adopting goes for our more typical furry companion animals too. Show your love & compassion for shelter and rescue animals by not buying dogs, cats, and other pets. And shelter dogs and cats need love while they are waiting for a new home too. If you have time, volunteer to visit and walk them.

Bumper, saved by his young friend, Maya. Photo courtesy of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

8 ~ GET LOUD & CELEBRATE COMPASSIONATE HEROES! When you hear or read a story about someone who made a compassionate choice – make some noise about it! Celebrate when a young girl in 4H decides to take her steer, Bumper, to an animal sanctuary instead of to the fair. (Story of Bumper, in the book Ninety-Five). Celebrate her parents for supporting her choice! Celebrate when a young girl follows her heart and saves a chicken (Chicklett) versus killing it for a high school class project. Be proud of these compassionate people and be proud of your own compassionate choices. Compassion is COOL!


Portia DeGeneres Hugging Buddha at The Gentle Barn. Photo credit: The Gentle Barn

9 ~ L O V E. If you have a companion animal, love them til you burst. Hug them, talk to them, play with them, treat them, lavish them with your love. If you are fortunate enough to live near a sanctuary, you have lots of hugs to give out & receive.

In fact, check out The Gentle Barn’s Hug A Cow program. The money raised from these delightful hug transactions (donated by a benefactor for each person who hugs a cow) goes to support The Gentle Barn’s programs for at-risk youth where abused farm animals are rehabilitated and then connect with inner-city, at-risk, and special needs youth for a unique form of interactive healing. Plus, everyone who hugs the cows gets joy & healing too!

So get out there and hug some animals. Good for them, good for us. The more love we churn up, the better. All that love FOR the animals and FROM the animals will translate into a kinder world for ALL beings.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Hugging!

~ Cindi Saadi for the FARM Blog

As animal advocacy nonprofits are in the direct business of helping animals, supporting these organizations (financially and/or as a volunteer) is always an effective way of benefiting the animals.  So we’ll start our list with No. 1) Direct Support and go from there with 11 more ideas for how you can make a difference for the animals in 2011.

2 ~ Stay informed. Read the latest, as well as the classic animal rights and vegan health-related books so you can pass along that knowledge to others. Watch videos & films and share them with others. You might even start a book discussion group. See this article about how one Connecticut town is reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals (while the selection for younger readers is Our Farm, by the Animals of Farm Sanctuary). Or host a screening of a powerful film such as The Cove or Peaceable Kingdom at your local library or other community building.

3 ~ Spend time WITH the animals & SHARE your experiences with others. Nothing is quite as powerful as your personal story. Visit animal sanctuaries, roll up your sleeves and volunteer, sponsor an animal, and take lots of photos or video to share online.

Liz Longacre of Your Time Travels meets the elephants! Photo by Jaime Careathers

Let other people see these beautiful animals and hear about your experiences with them.

You could even make your next vacation one that involves helping the animals too. (See Your Time Travels for vacations involving volunteer projects benefiting the animals.) Aside from monetary support, animal sanctuaries often have wish lists. See if one near you needs something you can donate.

4 ~ Commit to sharing a minimum number of animal rights/vegan advocacy books/DVDs this year. It’s a great way to spread the message. Instead of loaning out your books ~ buy copies to give away. You can also donate copies of important books to your local library, coffee shop, hospital, or community center. Check with the publisher ~ they may have special bulk offers for people who are purchasing books for donation.

5 ~ Prepare a vegan meal for a community group or business. Take a delicious vegan lunch and educational materials to your hair salon, parent’s group at school, doctor’s office, fire station, etc.

6 ~ Utilize your personal talents & gifts for the animals! Do an inventory of your skills and gifts and see how you can help the animals in a unique and creative way. Are you an artist? Do you make videos or write music? (See Etsy’s Vegan Etsy Team and Etsy For Animals. Or visit sites such as Our Hen House’s ‘Art of the Animal’ section for news about creative endeavors for the animals.) Maybe you are an up and coming vegan chef? Or maybe you enjoy speaking, coaching, or teaching? Dedicate time in 2011 to using your gifts for the animals! They need YOU! Reach out to others who do what you do and create a supportive network.

7 ~ Have a list of ready-to-share vegan resources (vegan cookbook titles, vegan blog sites, product suggestions, etc.). Concrete resources are critical for someone transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet. FARM’s Meatout Mondays is an effective resource as it includes recipes with easy-to-find ingredients, as well as product information, health articles, and inspirational stories. Sites like www.LiveVegan.org, www.TryVeg.com, Healthy Happy Life, and This Just In from VegNews are just a few sites loaded with resources. Offer to help a friend by having a vegan cooking get-together and sharing your recipes and tips.

It’s also important to have resources available for your local restaurants, stores, and cafeterias so that when you ask them to serve vegan options, you can provide them with very specific information. Several sites (i.e. Compassion Over Killing, Mercy For Animals, FARM Underground) have guides available online and manufacturers will often send you flyers to give to your local stores.

8 ~ Join the conversation. Get involved with your favorite organizations, vegan businesses, and vegan/animal rights bloggers on Facebook, Twitter, their blogs, and other social networking sites. Share their information with your network. Drive more people to these great organizations, businesses, & bloggers with your comments and postings. See the FARM Links page for a sampling of animal rights and vegan blogs, organizations, businesses, and more. And don’t forget to join FARM on Facebook and Twitter!

9 ~ Add your voice to the pro-animal blog community. Start your own blog and help spread the word about compassion for all beings and the many benefits of living vegan. If you REALLY get into it, you might consider attending the Vida Vegan Conference, the first ever vegan blogger conference, to be held in Portland in August 2011.

10 ~ Raise awareness in your community with a letter. Write letters to the editor of your local paper regarding animal rights issues, health issues related to consuming animal products, and environmental concerns associated with animal agriculture. Many animal rights organizations have letter-writing programs (such as FARM’s Letters Program) that you can be a part of. You can also speak out for the animals by adding comments to relevant online editorials.

11 ~ Think before you speak! Be thoughtful about what you say, write, and do.  As an animal advocate you are part of an important and well-scrutinized cause. Strive for effective advocacy and ask yourself if your words and actions are more likely to help or hurt the animals.

12 ~ Celebrate success! Celebrating is an important part of any effective venture. Take time to celebrate and acknowledge individuals and organizations working hard on behalf of the animals. Highlight what’s working well and we’re sure to see more of it! Let the world see that important changes are happening NOW for the animals. And don’t forget to acknowledge yourself for the energy and passion you put into making life better for the animals.

Sweet Red asks, "How will YOU help the animals in 2011?" ~ Photo by Cindi A. Saadi

2011 offers us a great opportunity to honor and serve the animals with our time, gifts, talents, energy, and love. How will you help to make 2011 a beautiful & victorious year for the animals?

~ Cindi Saadi for the FARM blog

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