LAIKA Kat Von D

Kat Von D is a world renown tattoo artist, creative powerhouse, makeup maven and the stunning cover star of LAIKA’s Magazine’s newest Sixth Issue. The force behind Kat Von D Beauty opens up about veganism, how she’s turning her makeup line vegan and about being a fearless animal advocate. In her first-ever vegan magazine interview, she shares with LAIKA her heartfelt thoughts about self-expression and her artistic process. Bonding on the cover with Regina hen and with more animals rescued by Farm Sanctuary in the feature, Kat is the embodiment of our new issue’s theme — Unity.

LAIKA Kat Von D Cover Feature

Inside the Unity Issue, we bring you poignant explorations on friendship, community, family and the kinship we share with one another and with our planet’s fellow inhabitants. Stories like “Enduring Bond” showcase not only the individuality and emotional depth of the animals, but also our remarkable commonalities with them.

LAIKA Issue Six Animals

Throughout LAIKA’s 6th issue, we draw attention to the impact of coming together in stories like “Plant Power,” about the growth of the food sovereignty movement and community agriculture; and “The Once and the Future,” a compelling series of cross-generational dialogues between vegan trailblazers and vegan teens. We feature food that connects us with the simple splendors of the plant kingdom, like the stunning “Botanical Bounty” story with recipes and photos by Mississippi Vegan and the dazzling “Just Chill” with icy treats created and photographed by Lina Saber. There’s fashion that transcends boundaries, beauty that celebrates nature, and journeys that cross continents.

LAIKA Issue Six Food

Every page of the Unity Issue is designed to uplift, to provoke and to underscore the power and joy of co-existence. With gorgeous illustration, award-winning photography and unforgettable storytelling, LAIKA provides you, our dear reader, with an immersive experience that will leave you inspired and moved.

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes photos and videos from our Kat Von D cover shoot. Order your copy of the Sixth Issue of LAIKA or subscribe today.

On the Cover: Photography by Melissa Schwartz; art direction by Julie Gueraseva; makeup, hair, styling and artwork by Kat Von D.

Virtual Reality Factory Farm Animals

Perhaps the most remarkable feat of the animal agriculture industry is the distance at which it has kept the public from its massive killing apparatus. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of animals are slaughtered every single day for their meat in this country, most of us have never witnessed a single instance of this violence.

The non-profit organization Animal Equality aims to change this, with the help of virtual reality. In its new VR documentary film called Factory Farm, which is part of its iAnimal project, the organization’s cofounder Jose Valle leads viewers through the final moments in the lives of several pigs in a factory farm and slaughterhouse in Mexico. The film made its public debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, earlier this month.

 

A Sundance attendee watches the iAnimal video, during which they can move around and get a 360° view of a slaughterhouse.

A Sundance attendee watches the “Factory Farm” video, during which they can move around and get a 360° view of a slaughterhouse.

Factory Farm, produced in collaboration with VR technology company Condition One, is not easy to watch. It puts viewers just a few feet from not only the horrific conditions these animals are subject to, but also the stun-and-slaughter process, as they bear witness to what is an extremely common outcome: pigs regaining consciousness just moments after the initial stun, left to writhe and suffer as they bleed out on the slaughterhouse floor.

 

Pigs funnelled to slaughter at a plant in Mexico. Photo courtesy Animal Equality.

Pigs funnelled to slaughter at a plant in Mexico. Photo courtesy Animal Equality.

The film is narrated by Valle, who worked for months building the contacts and relationships to get access to the Mexican facility. (A level of transparency that, it’s worth noting, would never be possible in the US, due to the industry’s colossal, ongoing effort to prevent the public from seeing where its meat comes from.) Valle used a custom rig built with six special cameras to film the footage, which was later stitched together to create an immersive, 360-degree video. The viewer is able to behold their grim surroundings, from floor to ceiling and all around, in full, stereoscopic 3D.

We sat down with Valle and his Animal Equality cofounder Sharon Nunez to talk about their Sundance experience and how virtual reality will shape animal rights activism.

 

What did showing iAnimal at Sundance teach you about the potency of virtual reality?
Sharon: Even though it was a 12-minute video — a very intense video — of a factory farm and a slaughterhouse, most people watched through the whole experience. A lot of people commented about how powerful the footage was, and many commented about eating less meat or even going vegetarian or vegan. It is important to note that this was one of the most talked-about pieces at Sundance. One of the key learnings for us was that when people are immersed in VR, they are ready for something transformative. We give them that through access to all these horrible places where animals are suffering and are slaughtered. And this actually has the potential to not only change their lives, but to change the lives of millions of animals.

Jose: Since this medium is so new, many viewers are exposed to this technology for the first time, and to these kinds of experiences for the first time. During the panel on virtual reality, people commented about our piece because for them it was so strong, people still had those images in their minds — so powerful that one person had nightmares. With virtual reality, what you remember is not merely that, “I watched that piece,” like with conventional videos. It’s more like, “I have been there” or “I have a memory of what it’s like to be inside a slaughterhouse.”

 

Were you surprised by people’s willingness to watch the film at Sundance and their reactions to it?

Jose: Yes, because we told them that it was going to be an intense experience, it contains some very graphic scenes. One of the challenges was, how can you convince or invite people to watch something that is going to be painful, something that is going to be difficult to watch. It’s like asking someone, “Do you want to suffer?” And no one wants to suffer. But people were actually eager to watch it, and virtually everybody who watched it thanked us for producing the piece. Word-of-mouth worked really well, and we found that many people were also bringing their friends, co-workers or even families. They even drove from Salt Lake City to Park City specifically for that video. We filmed many of their reactions, which speak for themselves [in showing] how impacted they were. It’s not a video that you finish watching and you can just move on to the next thing. What we found is that people needed to process what they have just witnessed and they needed to talk about it and they needed answers.

If you look in the other direction, you are still inside that cage, just as the animals are.

 

The life of a pig on a farm. Photo courtesy Animal Equality.

The life of a pig on a farm. Photo courtesy Animal Equality.

Many people have seen undercover footage, but VR is something new. What makes this kind of sensory experience so life-changing and so vital to the animal liberation movement?
Jose: Virtual reality has the power to bring you into these places where you are not supposed to be. When we learned about this new technology, we understood that. We started experimenting, putting cameras inside cages — so when the viewer sees that [footage], [it’s as though] they are the ones who are trapped inside the cage and everywhere they look, there is no way out, as animals don’t have a way out. If you look in the other direction, you are still inside that cage, just as the animals are. So I would describe it as a very powerful [way] of people being witness to what happens and feel like you are the one subjected to the same treatment as the animals.

Sharon: We feel that VR is an extremely important tool for activism. We think it’s really revolutionizing empathy and the capacity [for] people to empathize with others, human or non-human. When we want to make sure that a person is transformed or we want to maximize the possibilities we have with engaging a person, changing or inspiring that person — VR is our tool. We want to continue developing content for VR inside farms and slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities. And we want as many people as possible to try this out. That is why we are planning to bring this to universities, to festivals, we are to planning to bring it to politicians, to companies. And we think it’s really going to make a case for animals and their suffering.

 

How do you envision making this cutting-edge technology accessible to a large number of people?
Jose: Whenever we have shown this video with virtual headsets to people, we find ourselves surrounded by [other] people who are really interested in [trying it]. So we know that we have that on our side. We are bringing iAnimal to universities all over the U.S., Germany, Italy, England, and Spain. We are launching a website that will allow users to visit, virtually, a farm and go from one of the gestation crates to the slaughterhouse, look around and discover more information. We are also producing an app that will allow anybody, in any part of the world, to download [and watch] those same videos with a virtual headset like Google Cardboard, [which] we’ll be providing. People will be able to see it and show it to their friends and family and coworkers. We will also share it with other animal organizations who can use it as an awareness tool during their activities.

by Evan Shamoon

Images courtesy of Animal Equality.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Recipes From a Teenage Vegan

Vegan Kombucha Cupcakes LAIKA

The future of our planet belongs to the youth, who will continue to push veganism forward. What better way to welcome the new year, with all of its hope and promise, than to share delicious recipes by an ambassador from the new vegan generation – 17 year old LAIKA reader and cooking aficionado, Franny Gould. “We can communicate our ideas through vegan cuisine,” says Franny. “While many students in my high school bake for their peers and teachers, my baked goods never fail to spur a discussion about the merits of veganism.” Here she shares two original celebratory creations, which she also photographed, followed by a heartfelt essay.

citrusy kombucha cupcakes
Makes 10-14 cupcakes

cupcake ingredients:
3 heaping tablespoons melted vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread)
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup nondairy milk (I used Silk Original Cashew Milk)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3⁄4 cups all-­purpose flour
1 cup kombucha (I used GT’s Original)
1⁄4 cup orange juice (with or without pulp)
Zest of 1⁄2 lemon or orange

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine vegan butter with sugar. Add in in nondairy milk, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine until smooth and let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes.

Set aside the flour and the kombucha in two different bowls.

After the mixture is set, add a little bit of the flour to the mixture and stir. Then add a little bit of the kombucha and stir. Repeat this until all the flour and kombucha are in the mixture.

Add orange juice to the mixture and mix until smooth. Then add zest and stir.

Insert cupcake liners into cupcake tins and pour mixture into 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 of each tin. Bake for about 25 minutes (or until cupcake top is golden brown). Let cool before adding the frosting.

frosting ingredients:
5 heaping tablespoons vegan butter at room temperature (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons kombucha (I used GT’s Original)
Zest of 1⁄2 ­ 1 lemon or orange
Optional ­ vegan dark chocolate

Beat butter until smooth. Then add 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat until completely smooth. Mix in vanilla and 1 tbsp of whichever kombucha you choose to use.

In increments, mix in the remaining 3 cups of powdered sugar. Add zest.

Once the mixture has a thick consistency and is frosting-­like, either scrape into an icing bag or spread directly on cupcakes. Decorate cupcakes as desired (I used chocolate drizzle, raspberries, and blackberries).

Optional chocolate garnish: ­ melt chocolate and drizzle onto frosted cupcakes.

 

Vegan Canapes LAIKA

tofu-cauliflower canapés
Quantities depend on the number of guests

Toasted thin­ly-sliced bread, cut into triangles
Extra­ or super­ firm tofu, cut into triangles
Extra virgin olive oil
Sriracha (or other hot sauce depending on preference)
Arugula
Cauliflower florets
Crushed red pepper flakes
Toothpicks or sandwich picks

Using a skillet, simmer tofu triangles in EVOO and Sriracha. In another skillet, sauté cauliflower in EVOO.

To construct the canapé, start with the toast, then place on a couple of leaves of arugula, then the Sriracha tofu triangles, followed by more leaves of arugula, and finally the cauliflower.

Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Secure with a toothpick or sandwich pick.

 

Louder Than I Thought
by Franny Gould

I used to think I wasn’t good enough to be an activist. I thought that political, economic, and social change could only be accomplished by those with some level of fame, some degree of importance. I thought that as a young, idealistic vegan, I should be seen and not heard.

In the fall of 2014, I participated in the People’s Climate March in Manhattan. Although already a vegan, I wasn’t yet doing much advocacy on behalf of the vegan community. Somewhere along the march, I saw a sign that read “Raising Animals for Meat causes 51% of greenhouse gas emissions, cuts down more than 14,000 acres of rainforests everyday, uses more than 11 times more fossil fuels than producing plant protein. Save Earth, try vegan.” This information was not news to me, but I still did a double-take at the display. The girl holding the sign was no more than 7 or 8 years old. She was standing on the sidewalk, facing the procession of marchers.

There was something about her face, the way she stared straight into my eyes. Her message was a kind of powerful that I had never experienced before. It combined her vulnerability — a plea for the protection of her generation’s future — with her determination to convert at least a few marchers to veganism. She may have not been prominent in her stature. But she was an activist.

When it comes to fighting for social justice, I may not have as big of a voice as a celebrity. But I do have a voice. And by simply keeping the conversation alive, I am an activist.

2016 will be a momentous year for me, as I graduate from high school and begin college. And it will also be a momentous year for veganism, as the stigma of being a vegan will continue to die. Ever since I went vegan, I’ve been known as “Franny the Vegan” and have been asked every annoying question possible. But I believe that this year the unproductive questions about plants’ emotions and protein intake will finally be replaced by genuine curiosity and forthright discussions. ∎

From the Editor: Do you have a vegan story to tell and love making things? Write us at editor@laikamagazine.com and you may be featured in our Reader Spotlight on the LAIKA site!