WebSpotlight: VegFund Helps You Serve Fabulous Vegan Food in Your Community

veganfoodYou’ve been there: the fundraising dinner to help the local humane society help companion animals; the environmental club meeting focused on helping protect wildlife; the human rights fair dedicated to eliminating oppression — all great causes working for a more compassionate, just world, and what’s on the menu? Animals.

Sometimes organizations working for a better world forget about the impact of the food we eat on people, the planet, and especially animals, so it’s great that there’s a new resource available for citizen activists.

VegFund.org helps “fund the distribution of vegan food at local events.”

If you can find an event (preferably one that wouldn’t normally have vegan food) in your community at which you can serve free vegan food, then you can apply to VegFund for possible reimbursement of your food and supply expenses. (See application details.) According to their website, VegFund grants thousands of dollars every week to people organizing vegan food at events.

If you’re someone who has cash to spare, you can also donate to VegFund, so that they can offer grants to other activists.

Image courtesy of JP Puerta via Creative Commons.

Animal Visuals Offers Glimpse into Lives and Deaths of Farmed Animals

The principal at Whitwell Middle School in rural Tennessee knew that it was difficult for students to envision just how many 6 million is when they were studying the Holocaust (the number of people who were exterminated by the Nazis), so they decided to collect paperclips (one clip to represent one person) to help create a visual representation (see the documentary about the project it became).

Likewise, when we ask people to think about the number of land animals killed for food in the U.S. each year – more than 10 billion – the number alone can be a poor representative of the depth and breadth of suffering and death involved. Recently I found a powerful little visual representation of the number of chickens (9 billion), pigs (116 million) and cows (35 million) killed in the U.S. for food in 2008.

Created by Mark Middleton, founder of Animal Visuals, the brief video shows little animated cow, pig and chicken carcasses sliding along a slaughterhouse line at the average rate of slaughter (such as 287 per second for chickens). The data for the animation comes directly from the USDA.

When you sit and watch all those bodies swinging (and sometimes kicking) along the lines across your screen, and note the counter tallying up the number of cows, pigs and chickens who are being killed during those brief seconds that you’re watching, it’s a visceral image, without being too graphic, so it’s a great little too to share with others. (There’s also a link to “stop” the killing lines and find out about vegan resources.)

Middleton’s goal with Animal Visuals is to “provide compelling visuals and interactive media to empower animal advocates, educate the public, and expose the injustices of animal exploitation.”

He has also created a Virtual Battery Cage, which offers a glimpse into what a battery hen endures while in her cage. The “virtualization” also includes sound and factoids. Although I’m glad this tool exists, I don’t think it’s as strong as the slaughter animation; but, it’s still a new and different perspective.

Look for Middleton to create more such tools in the future.

Take Calculated Steps to Reduce Your Eco/Carbon/Water Footprints

Most of us pursuing a MOGO life pay attention to the impact of our choices on people, animals and the planet. We have some vague idea of our ecological footprint  — the amount of land, water and other resources it takes to support us, and the amount of waste that we generate. But, have you ever calculated your footprint? There are a slew of “eco” calculators, and of course, they can only give you a general idea of how your choices affect the environment and its inhabitants, but they’re still a helpful and fun tool that you can use yourself and share with others. Here are 4 popular ones that I’ve found:

~ Marsha

WebSpotlight: We’ve Got Time to Help

People are dealing with the economic downturn in a lot of ways. Some people who’ve been laid off are sitting at home playing video games on the computer much of every day, and others are making use of their free time and skills to help others. I recently found out about a group here in Portland (but I’ll bet there are others out there) called We’ve Got Time to Help. The group (as they say, “not affiliated with any group other than humanity”) is made up of doctors, roofers and others who are (mostly) unemployed and have extra time on their hands — which they’re using to identify and help people in need in the Portland metro community. Their blog serves as a waystation for posting about projects that need volunteers and tracking progress.  Some of their projects have included helping a family with plumbing and electrical repairs, moving furniture for a non-profit, building a fence, helping with a community garden, and helping a closing business clear out of their building.

If you’re looking for a way to help your community while making your heart sing, check them out.

There are plenty of people and organizations that need volunteer help. You can also look for opportunities at websites such as Volunteer Match, the HandsOn Network, and Idealist.

~ Marsha

WebSpotlight: Understanding Prejudice

As much as we want to believe otherwise, prejudice is still a significant element of society. And many of us who would claim to be completely unprejudiced have biases that we may not even be aware of.

The website UnderstandingPrejudice.org offers a wealth of information and resources for students, educators and others interested in exploring issues of prejudice and bias.

The website offers activities, links to websites, articles and other readings, as well as to relevant organizations and experts. I also like that they include an exploration of speciesism as an element of prejudice.

One of the most compelling and useful aspects of the website are the interactive surveys, quizzes and tours on topics such as “Test Yourself for Hidden Bias,” “What’s Your Native IQ?” and “Where Do You Draw the Line?” (Note that most of the interactive elements require you to first register, but doing so allows you to track your responses over time.)

It’s amazing what you can discover about yourself from these quizzes and surveys. Check out the site and improve your knowledge while decreasing (hopefully) your hidden biases.

~ Marsha

43 Ways to Stop Child Trafficking Globally and Locally

smilinggirlRecently I did a (late) post for Human Trafficking Awareness Day about resources (mainly videos) to help educate and empower us to help stop human trafficking.  Activist Diana Scimone, who has a blog and an organization focused on stopping child trafficking, left a comment, sharing about her work.

I visited her site and wanted to share with you that she has a great list: 43 Ways to Stop Child Trafficking on the left side of her blog. In addition to lots of suggestions (read, view, learn, organize, act), the list offers helpful and relevant resources.

The list includes:

I did the suggestion to use a web search engine to look for my city and phrases like “human trafficking” or “child trafficking” and discovered stories such as this recent one about Portland being a “hot market in the modern slave trade.” And, as I mentioned before, the City Club of Portland is sponsoring a series on Human Trafficking. Here are the next several topics/dates planned:

Thursday, February 26 – Dr. Kathryn Farr speaks about how wars promote human trafficking.
Thursday, March 26 – Local nonprofits share their experiences.
Wednesday, April 22 – Human Trafficking Task Force.
Thursday, May 28 – Dr. Bill Hillar speaks about global perspectives and how that effects local problems, and what we can do to help.

With 27 million slaves worldwide and tens of thousands being trafficked in the U.S., it can seem like an overwhelming and despairing task to stop the trafficking of humans, but there are at least 43 ways that you can start to make a positive difference.

~ Marsha

Resources to Help You Help Stop Human Trafficking

Today is a day of new hope, of change, of the vision of a better world for all. Our new president, and all of us, have a long to-do list of personal and systemic changes to make in order to help create a humane world. One of those changes should be an end to human trafficking worldwide.

Last week (January 11) was Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S. A day dedicated to bringing attention to the plight of the millions of men, women and children around the world who have been abducted, coerced or tricked into modern day slavery and labor. Most often the exploited are women and children, and many times they’re forced into sexual slavery. Amanda from End Human Trafficking did a nice post about 10 films about human trafficking to watch. I’ve posted most of them here, along with a few additions, and some useful websites. The first step in systemic change is learning more about the issue. Use these resources to help you.

Born Into Brothels (2004)
Academy Award-winning documentary about the children of prostitutes in India.

Call + Response (2008 )
Call + Response goes deep undercover where slavery is thriving from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India to reveal that in 2007, Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.”

The Day My God Died (2003)
“Entering the brothels of Bombay with hidden cameras, The Day My God Died documents the tragedy of the child sex trade, exposing human rights violations and profiling the courageous abolitionists who are working towards change.”

Features “investigative footage of the dark and hidden world of sex traffickers, pimps and buyers. Demand exposes the men who buy commercial sex, the vulnerable women and children sold as commodities, and the facilitators of the sale within the marketplace of exploitation.” From Shared Hope International.

Fields of Mudan (2004)
“When Mudan, a frightened, young Asian girl, is forced into modern day slavery by the brutal child brothel owner, Madam Zhao, the only solace she finds is through the memory of her Mother and the promise that she would one day find Mudan and take her away to America: the place where dreams come true.”

Holly (2006)
A docu-drama about an American stolen artifacts dealer in Vietnam who tries to save a young girl from child traffickers.

Lilja-4 Ever (2002)
A Swedish film about a teenager who is abandoned by her mother in the former Soviet Union, turns to prostitution to survive, and ends up as a sex slave in Sweden.

Not for Sale: The Documentary (2007)
A documentary that “covers what modern-day abolitionists are doing to fight the rampant terrors of human trafficking in the US and abroad.” From the book of the same name.

The Price of Sugar (2007)
In the Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians are under armed guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, most of which ends up in the U.S.

Sex Slaves (2005)
“An undercover journey deep into the world of sex trafficking, following one man determined to rescue his wife — kidnapped and sold into the global sex trade.”

Slumdog Millionaire (2008 )
A new feature film focused on the story of a boy with a chance to win big.

Trade (2007)
A feature film about a 13-year-old girl kidnapped by sex traffickers, and the brother and cop who struggle to find and free her.

Very Young Girls (2007)
A documentary “that chronicles the journey of young women through the underground world of sexual exploitation in New York City.”

(Note: Many of these films contain intense and graphic scenes, so be sure to preview them and ensure that they’re age-appropriate for your audience.)

Human trafficking is happening around the world, including here in the U.S., and if we pay attention and take positive action, we have the power to stop it. In addition to watching and sharing films like those above, you can find out more from sites like these:

Anti-Slavery International
Provides information and action opportunities on modern slavery and forced labor issues.

Childtrafficking.com Digital Library
An online library of information, photos and film sources regarding issues of child labor, slavery, sex trade, child marriage and more.

Free the Slaves
A treasure trove of information and resources on modern slavery.

Human Trafficking.org
Get reports, news and information about human trafficking from all over the world.

(And, for those of you in the Portland, Oregon area, the City Club of Portland Agora Committee is hosting a series of talks about Human Trafficking. The first one is Thursday, January 22 at 6:00 pm at Kell’s Irish Pub, 112 SW 2nd Ave. Find out more.)

As Gandhi said, “No one is free while others are oppressed.” On this day of hope, let’s work together to create a world where all are free from oppression, exploitation, suffering and violence. YES WE CAN create a compassionate, sustainable, just world!

~ Marsha