Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Regina, a Chicken Whose Life Mattered

Kat Von D

LAIKA’s issue 6 featuring Regina and Kat Von D, photographed by Melissa Schwartz.

There was no question that Regina hen was destined to be a LAIKA cover star. From the moment Kat Von D first held the cuddly chicken at our cover shoot, it was magic.

Everyone on set at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, CA, where Regina resided, was smitten by the charming, curious, friendly and lovable girl. Not only did she fit right in during the shoot, she became the center of attention. Even her vibrant comb matched the color of Kat’s lipstick.

By sharing the cover of our vegan magazine with Kat, and with her name clearly printed, Regina was shown as an individual and a symbol of freedom for all animals.

Vegan Kat Von D Chicken Laika Magazine

When Kat met Regina at our cover shoot—magic. Photos by Melissa Schwartz.

But suddenly and sadly, Regina is no longer with us. Like so many hens, she suffered from reproductive issues and had a severely infected uterus. Although the surgery to remove it was successful, she passed away the night after it in late July. Regina was a rescue from a family’s backyard chicken flock  – a setting that many believe to be more “humane” than the conditions faced by chickens on factory farms.

In a letter to Regina’s loving sponsors, Farm Sanctuary explained that “whenever an animal is commodified, their individual needs and interests are overlooked in favor of securing profits.” Chickens who are used for eggs frequently develop reproductive issues due to overproduction. It’s unimaginable for Regina to experience cruelty, yet the U.S. alone kills 23 million chickens every single day. In fact, they are the most abused land animal on the planet. But if given a chance to express themselves, each one will show a personality that is uniquely their own,  just like Regina’s.

Following is a poignant tribute from one of the “humanimals” that knew Regina best — Danielle Petrovich, facilities coordinator at Farm Sanctuary’s Acton shelter:

“Regina was my friend. It may sound strange or foreign to most people who have never had the opportunity to get to know a chicken. She was special, though. Even among her ‘rescue peers,’ she stood out. Or, more accurately, she stood up, ran over, and made sure you knew she was there. If we did ‘superlatives’ for the flock (like in your high school yearbook) Regina would have won these hands down. ‘Cutest.’ She was freaking adorable with the black and white feather motif and the bright red comb! Regina means ‘queen’ [in Latin], and her unique ‘rose comb’ crowned her little face as though it was designed on commission. ‘Friendliest.’ When greeting humanimal friends, new and old, she was uninhibited by self-consciousness or fear. Everyone she met was immediately treated to her boundless antics: Pecking lightly at your shoe, elbow, jewelry, pant leg, belt, shirt button or lower back tattoo (should you be crouched down facing away from her, and have your shirt ride up a bit.)


Regina in the foreground during our shoot, curiously examining the camera, with Danielle behind her.

She made an excellent ambassador for her species.

“A familiar lap was a favorite place for a nap and a pet. Regina often happily jumped right up and made herself cozy. ‘Most likely to Cheer You Up’ and ‘Most Squawky’ would undoubtedly go to her as well. When introducing her to people, I would often compare her to a stranger in the market who peers into your cart, strikes up a conversation about an item you’ve got in there and still has you chatting a half hour later. Initially in that scenario we’d be taken aback, yet by the end wanting to exchange numbers and meet up for a soy chai. Regina did that to people. You only needed to meet her once to feel as though you knew her. Perhaps because she made us feel, through her trust and her unequivocal gush of attention, as though she knew us. She sought us out. She truly loved people. For this reason, she made an excellent ambassador for her species. For the multitudes of people who will never have the pleasure of meeting her, I am gravely saddened. Mostly though, I just miss my friend.”

Regina, whose light shone bright, will live on forever on the cover of LAIKA, reminding that chickens are individuals whose lives matter. In honor of her memory, and all animals, we encourage you to go vegan.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva









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)
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 and you may be featured in our Reader Spotlight on the LAIKA site!


Animal Agriculture Stockyard Factory Farm Climate Change

At the COP21 Climate Change Conference that took place in Paris from November 30 through December 12, the most prominent objective was to reach “a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C.” Last year’s report by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, stated that “consumption of meat and dairy produce is a major driver of climate change” and that it would be extremely difficult to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius without a dramatic shift in dairy and meat consumption.

The Climate Deal was finally signed on Saturday, yet it contained glaring omissions. While 195 countries pledged to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius” and gradually reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet, no acknowledgement was made of animal agriculture being responsible for over half of those emissions. The deal called for the preservation of forests, but ignored the fact that over 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon and about 14 percent of the world’s total annual deforestation is the result of cattle ranching. Search the document‘s 31 pages and you won’t find any presence of words like “meat,” “methane,” “animals” or any mention of human eating habits.

Aerial view of a U.S. factory farm feedlot and waste lagoon. (Mishak Henner)

Aerial view of a U.S. factory farm feedlot and waste lagoon. (Mishak Henner)

Life as we know it depends on the world limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F). According to reports from the National Research Council and the World Bank, should temperatures exceed those levels, the results could be catastrophic. Potable water would become much more scarce. Many of the world’s plants and animals would be on the brink of extinction. The Arctic would continue melting, losing 30% of its annual average sea ice. Saltwater intrusion from rising seas would make some island nations uninhabitable, with others going underwater entirely.

The omission of animal agriculture at the Paris conference is particularly alarming considering that last April became the first month in recorded history where the global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million (ppm). “The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It should be a psychological tripwire for everyone,” said NASA’s global change and energy program manager Dr. Michael Gunson in a statement.

CO2 emissions — a form of greenhouse gas — are the primary accelerator of climate change. A greenhouse gas (or GHG for short) is any gas in the atmosphere which absorbs and re-emits heat, keeping the planet’s atmosphere warmer than it otherwise would be.

The United States has the highest meat consumption per capita in the world. The effect of billions of animals used in farming on producing greenhouse gasses exceeds all emissions from transportation, including airplanes. Cattle production, for example, requires a great deal of land, which leads to the destruction of forests. The trees that are burned to clear the land release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The cows produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes warming. Enormous amounts of fossil fuel are used in animal agriculture, generated by everything from the production of feeds, to the transport of animals to slaughter, then processing them into meat products and transporting those by land, sea and air. Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide.  Taxpayers unwittingly fund this destruction. The US government collects $38 billion annually in taxpayer money to subsidize the meat and dairy industries. (By contrast, fruits and vegetables get only $17 million).

Animal Agriculture Climate Change

A cow looks out from a transport truck in New Jersey en route to slaughter. (Mike Hrinewski/LAIKA)

The evidence against animal agriculture has been piling up. In 2009, the Worldwatch Institute reported that a staggering 51 percent of GHG emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Then in 2010, United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management declared that a worldwide move towards a vegan diet is essential in preventing the most devastating impacts of climate change. And in its 2014 report Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector, Chatham House implored that “shifting global demand for meat and dairy produce is central to achieving climate goals.”

A 2013 report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed that beef production generates 13 times the emissions of vegetable protein such as lentils and tofu, and that 20% of of the meat that is produced gets thrown away — massive amounts of carbon dioxide are generated for nothing. Furthermore, the Climactic Change journal detailed in its 2014 study that high meat eaters are responsible for over 16 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution per day, in comparison with only 6.5 pounds in vegans.

Yet, vegan meals were hard to come by at the Le Bourget Centre, where the Paris conference took place. This, in spite of the secretary general of the conference Pierre-Henri Guignard vowing to keep the conference’s carbon footprint at a minimum (estimates put it at 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e) and the summit’s site featuring an extensive array of emission-reducing measures — none of them involving earth-friendly dining options.

Animal Agriculture Climate Change

Five month-old pigs, nearing “market weight” (age when slaughtered) at Lehmann Brothers Farms in Illinois. (Daniel Acker/Getty)

The situation is dire — as the world’s population and purchasing power has grown, so has its meat consumption. According to the World Resources Institute, it is projected to rise dramatically in the next fifty years, particularly among the growing middle class in Asia. If humankind’s consumption of animals is not confronted head on, it will become our downfall. A study by the Glasgow University Media Group and Chatham House released a week before the Paris conference stressed that “unless strong demand growth for meat is curtailed, livestock sector emissions will increase to the point where dangerous climate change is unavoidable.”

This year, California experienced its worst drought on record. What has the largest water footprint of all the food produced in that state? Animal feed. In the US, half of all water usage goes towards producing 41 million tons of plant protein that is then fed to animals who are then killed to produce only 7 million tons of meat. Newly-released NASA satellite data showed that the world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates.

California’s Gov. Jerry Brown, who was in attendance at the Paris climate summit along with a large delegation, focused on the potential for climate catastrophe and made sweeping recommendations for how to address the problem. He left out any mention of the devastating impact of meat on climate change.

Chickens awaiting slaughter (Mike Hrinewski/ LAIKA).

Chickens awaiting slaughter (Mike Hrinewski/ LAIKA).

Among the few public voices to cut through the hypocrisy was director (and vegan) James Cameron, who in an op-ed piece published by Newsweek during the conference wrote, “Simply by making a conscious, ethical decision about what we put on our plates, we could quite possibly change the world.”

A vegan lifestyle has now been proven as one of the most powerfully effective solutions to curtailing climate change. With the world’s leaders failing to address the crisis of animal agriculture, it is our personal responsibility to educate and empower ourselves, disseminate information to our communities and inform people about the consequences of their eating habits. Politicians deliberately hiding the truth from the public for fear of backlash will not make the problem go away. The time for change is now.

By Julie Gueraseva

Recommended viewing: Cowspiracy, Racing Extinction, Earthlings, Virunga. For an in-depth coverage of vegan living, read or subscribe to LAIKA, printed in limited runs on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks and available in digital format.