Mayday Pit Bull Rescue Fundraiser

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Photo by Andrea Carreo Photography

This weekend, my boyfriend and I flew to Phoenix to support our good friend Scotlund Haisley, president and founder of Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), whose artwork was showing at a fundraiser for Mayday Pit Bull Rescue and Advocacy. Mayday and ARC have a beautiful relationship, as Mayday has taken in and rehabilitated some of the most abused, injured, and neglected pit bulls ARC has rescued from dog fighting rings.

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Two of Scotlund’s paintings displayed at the event. Scotlund primarily paints images based on photos taken of animals immediately before he rescues them. This enables him to capture the last moment of fear or pain endured before they are promised that their suffering is over.

I was thrilled to see such a fantastic turnout; approximately 100 Phoenicians (I wish I lived in a city where the citizens get such a cool name) and a bunch of out-of-towners like us showed up to support this incredible group. Mayday takes in the “worst case” dogs, meaning the pups in their care are often former fighting/breeding dogs or are suffering from very expensive, complicated illnesses/injuries. We met examples of both on Saturday night. It is so remarkable to see the resilience, kindness, and playfulness that many of these dogs now show, despite their horrible pasts.

Amidst the group of transformed, excited, friendly dogs, I met one dog who was not so thrilled to be there. Her name is Honor, and meeting her was one of the most powerful moments of my life. Honor was rescued last year during ARC’s “Operation Broken Chain,” a mission that saved nearly 70 dogs from a fighting operation. Honor was used as a breeding dog. Her teeth had been filed down into nubs so she wouldn’t hurt or attack the male dogs her owners systematically raped her with. I remembered seeing her photo immediately after the rescue, so I was really looking forward to meeting her.

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Honor the day she was rescued.

When her lovely caretakers opened up her crate to bring her to me, my heart immediately broke into a million pieces. Despite being pampered and loved on constantly for the past year, her trepidation is still so visible and palpable. As the Mayday volunteers explained, Honor is usually much less timid and more playful, as she isn’t typically surrounded by 100 noisy humans. I have no doubt that on a regular day, the progress she’s made under Mayday’s care is immediately evident. However, on this night, as I watched her crawl as low to the ground as she possibly could, frantically scanning the room and the sky, presumably trying to avoid danger, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I consider myself fairly knowledgable about most animal issues, dog fighting being among the many subjects I’ve sadly become quite informed about. Still, no amount of articles read or stories heard could prepare me for seeing firsthand, right in front of me, the blatant repercussions of what this girl went through. To know that this sweet girl, who timidly licked treats out of my hand while making sure to keep her eyes on the crowd, was routinely and intentionally abused at the hands of humans felt like a punch in the gut. I will never forget Honor. The memory of meeting her will forever inspire me to keep fighting on behalf of the voiceless.

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Meeting Honor

I would be remiss not to mention Parker, a phenomenal young lady we met at the event. When she was 8 years old, after learning about Michael Vick, she decided to become a pit bull advocate. For her next birthday, in lieu of gifts, she asked for donations to Mayday Pit Bull Rescue and Advocacy. She went on to found “Cutesy Swag,” a shop through which she sells accessories for girls and dogs and from which half the profits go to Mayday. Last May, as part of a “Bald for Bullies” fundraising campaign, she shaved her head! An 11-year-old girl voluntarily shaving her head. You don’t hear that every day. To support Parker, you can visit her shop at www.etsy.com/shop/CutesySwag.

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Parker before and after the “Bald For Bullies” campaign

I am so grateful to have had the experience to meet the heroes behind Mayday and the community that supports them. The admiration I have for the Mayday founders, volunteers, and fosters is beyond compare; their compassion is endless. Please make sure to follow their rescues and accomplishments on their Facebook page, and consider making a donation to support their vital work!

Mayday Pit Bull Rescue Fundraiser

Creamy Chipotle Tomato Quinoa with Miso Ginger Tofu

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This isn’t a recipe so much as it is (hopefully) an inspiration for you to create your own version using whatever you can find in your fridge/cupboard! That’s exactly how this dish came to be. I definitely encourage you to subtract whatever you want and to add whatever you can think of! What follows is an ingredient list without quantities, because a) I was making it up as I went along so I didn’t measure anything and b) it allows you to taste test and tap into your creativity!

For the tofu:

– Miso Ginger salad dressing (purchased at Whole Foods)

– Soy sauce

– Olive oil

– Ponzu sauce

– Liquid smoke

– Rice vinegar

– Agave

– Garlic salt

– Extra firm tofu

Combine all ingredients (except tofu) in a dish, mix and taste until you feel it’s ready. Cut tofu block into 8 pieces (slice block into four layers, then cut each of those in half). Marinate for at least 15 minutes (the longer, the better). Transfer tofu to baking sheet and drizzle some of the remaining marinade on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through.

For the Quinoa & Sauce:

– Quinoa

– Olive oil

– Raw cashews

– Water

– Nutritional yeast

– Fire roasted tomatoes (I used one can)

– Chipotle peppers, seeded (I used two, but I suggest starting with one and building up, because the spice can sneak up on you!)

– Garlic (minced)

– White wine vinegar

– Salt & pepper

Prepare quinoa according to instructions on the package. Once ready, stir in a small splash of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside. For the sauce, start by blending cashews (about a handful) and water (just enough to cover the cashews) in a high-speed blender. When desired consistency is reached, add all remaining ingredients except the chipotle peppers. Whenever I make a spicy sauce, I like to add the spice last, so I can make sure the rest of my flavor is on point first. Once you think you have an excellent creamy, tomato-y base, add the first chipotle and blend. If too mild, add more. If you have a Vitamix (or similar magical machine), blend on high for a few minutes until the sauce is hot. Add to quinoa and stir well.

For the Salsa:

– Red onion

– Black beans

– Avocado

– Cucumber

Dice onion, avocado, and cucumber as small as you have the patience for. Drain and rinse black beans, then add those in. Add and stir in a pinch of salt and pepper.

Once all the pieces are prepared, plate your dish! Quinoa at the bottom, salsa across that, tofu arranged on top. Drizzle extra sauce (I made way too much) across the tofu, and garnish with cilantro or a similarly refreshing herb. Enjoy!

 

Creamy Chipotle Tomato Quinoa with Miso Ginger Tofu

Bean & Lentil Chili with Corn Muffins

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I have an addiction to recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz for The Post Punk Kitchen. As much as I like to design my own meals, theppk.com is where I go whenever I need inspiration or a quick idea. Her recipes never let me down! This meal was inspired by what she called “Meat Beany Chili & Corn Muffins,” which I only tweaked by adding Lightlife ground ‘beef’ (because I was trying really hard to impress some meat-loving friends), vegan Worcestershire sauce, and a bit of tomato paste. The muffins were perfection, I didn’t change them at al! This meal is absolutely perfect for a chilly winter day.

Find the full original recipe right here!

 

Bean & Lentil Chili with Corn Muffins

Boycotting Businesses That Sell Fur: Yes or No?

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(originally posted 7/10/2013)

I took this photo last month in my local Nordstrom location. This “vegan skirt” sign caught my eye (thanks to its prominent display) within 15 seconds of entering the store. My first reaction was to be thrilled; five years ago, Nordstrom would never have boasted “vegan” skirts, but rather would have hidden them away due to the cheap/tacky stigma that faux leather has held for decades. To me, this marketing is clearly a sign of the times. A sign of change. A sign of growing demand for animal-free materials. A sign of an evolving movement of compassion seeping into fashion. Despite all this excitement rushing to my brain, I decided not to share the photo, because many activists I know (myself formerly included), boycott department stores or designers that sell fur.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know how involved I’ve been in anti-fur campaigns. I’ve hosted protests, organized petitions, and been part of multiple successful campaigns resulting in retailers ceasing to sell fur. I’ve obsessively referred to HSUS’s “Fur Free Retailers” list to ensure that I didn’t give money to designers unethical enough to use fur. However, I was recently out shopping and my phone experienced a glitch that prevented me from checking the list. This first plunged me into a panic (I was in a rush to find a dress, and was now lost in a sea of ambiguous garments!), but then caused me to think.  Am I really accomplishing anything by boycotting stores/designers that sell fur? Or am I being counter-productive?

The evolution of this dilemma came for a few reasons. First, why am I boycotting stores that sell fur and not those that sell leather? Are they not both skin ripped from animals that wanted to live but instead suffered brutal deaths? What about stores/designers that sell wool? Second, how is this different than me shopping at Whole Foods, which sells a hell of a lot of dead animals. I’ve even dined at restaurants in Vegas that still sell foie gras, simply because they also offered a full vegan menu! Third, could I possibly be harming the cause I fight for daily by not supporting progressive steps made by non-vegan businesses that are experimenting with cruelty-free fabrics?

Recently, I was helping my boyfriend shop for an outfit to wear to a celebratory dinner. It’s challenging to (quickly) find high quality men’s suits or jackets that contain zero animal products, so we had our work cut out for us. We finally wandered into a John Varvatos store, where 95% of the inventory used wool and/or leather. We asked an employee if they had anything without animal products, and he immediately returned with an incredible outfit made solely from cotton. In this scenario, you have two options. You boycott the store for selling animal products, or you encourage them to create more alternatives by not only vocally seeking out but also paying for the vegan option. To me, the latter option seems more impactful.

Personally, I spend most of my time and money supporting and promoting innovative, forward-thinking, eco-friendly, vegan brands. I would rather pay money for a bag from a progressive start-up like Krze Studio or Leni Penn than for a nylon “vegan” bag from Prada. However, when it comes to looking for something not yet easily obtained by a 100% vegan brand (like a men’s suit or a cocktail dress), it seems all my options are flawed. Of course, I have the option of excusing myself from the consumer-driven world and living off my own land, but I doubt the influence that would have on our capitalism-driven society. As unfortunate as it is, the society we live in is driven and (more importantly) changed by money. We vote with our dollars, and businesses are paying attention.

To be clear- I do believe boycotts are effective under certain circumstances. If part of an organized campaign, I think this tactic is crucial. To this day, I’m extremely upset if any of my friends shop at Intermix, a company I spent months organizing protests and boycotts against. In that case, however, Intermix knew they were a target, and they were monitoring our impact on their business. If I skip going to Nordstrom because they sell fur, I’m not sure how effective that will be. And in fact, I worry that by vegans refusing to shop anywhere that sells animal products, we won’t demonstrate the demand for cruelty-free products.

Anyway, to sum this all up- I’ve spent a lot of time viewing the situation from both sides, and I’m still not 100% certain where I stand. I’m totally open to hearing alternate points of view, so please feel free to leave comments! What do you think?

Boycotting Businesses That Sell Fur: Yes or No?

Creamy, Cheesy, Pasta Sauce: The Basics

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When I first went vegan, I thought I was saying goodbye to my beloved creamy pastas (Mac ‘n Cheese, Fettuccine Alfredo, Penne a la Vodka Sauce, I’d list more but I’m already getting hungry…). Tragically, it took me nearly two years to discover the magic of cashew cream, and another two or so years to begin experimenting, tweaking, and creating an array of decadent, mouth-watering, inventive creamy pasta dishes. In order to save you from these years of confused depravation, I thought I’d point out a few basics that, when thrown in a blender, will provide an excellent canvas upon which you can create.

Examples of some creamy goodness created in my kitchen:

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To me, these sauces are all about taste testing, which is why I don’t really provide any quantities. Also, I never keep close track of the amounts I use, because I constantly test and improvise, especially when experimenting with new ingredients.

First, you need cashews. Sure, there are recipes for creamy sauces that don’t call for them (and instead use almond milk, soy milk, macadamia nuts, tofu, etc.) but I’m of the opinion that unless you have an allergy, cashews are king. The first vegan cookbook I owned taught me that in order to be creamed, cashews must first soak overnight, a practice which I used for a long time. Years later, my mind was blown when I learned you could soak them for two hours and still achieve a similar result. Imagine my excitement when, in a moment of desperation, I just threw handfuls of unsoaked cashews into my Vitamix with water, crossed my fingers, flipped the switch, and still ended up with a pretty incredible sauce! I’ve never noticed an added graininess or change in flavor when I don’t soak them, but to be safe (and if I have time to prep) I’ll usually soak them for about 2 hours. I almost always have raw cashews in the house, mostly to avoid the occasional moment of devastation when I’m craving mac ‘n cheese and find myself cashew-less.

Second, you need nutritional yeast. I avoided buying nutritional yeast for at least my first year as a vegan, despite seeing it called for in many recipes, because it sounded weird, gross, and overly hippie-d out. Shame on me. Nutritional yeast (or “nooch”) is another staple I make sure to never be without. I throw it in just about every sauce I make, as well as salad dressings, dips, and- most nights- the dog’s food bowls. Nooch has a genuinely cheesy taste, and because of that, I often double the amount called for in any given recipe. If you insist on a quantity approximation, I’d guess about 1/4 cup of nooch goes into a batch of sauce for four people. Don’t quote me on that.

Third, you need miso. Actually you don’t NEED miso, I only recently started using it when making this epic chipotle mac ‘n cheese from Post Punk Kitchen, but now that I know about it, I’m not turning back. In addition to contributing saltiness, miso also infuses a fermented flavor, giving your sauce an extra feeling of “are you sure this is vegan?”

Finally, garlic and onions. I use a LOT of garlic. In last night’s sauce to serve five people, I probably threw in about half the bulb. You may want to tone that down a bit. As far as onions go, I don’t really have a preference for color/size. Last night I used shallots, but I often use a white onion. I’ve seen recipes that ask for the garlic & onions to be diced and sautéed before being added to the blender, but I’ve also just used it raw. Both ways work fine for me.

I start by putting only the cashews in the Vitamix along with enough water to just barely cover them. Depending on the desired thickness, sometimes I add a bit more. After blending on high, I check to see if it needs more water or, if it’s too runny, more cashews (which is why I’m grateful that cashews don’t HAVE to be fully soaked; if I didn’t soak enough, I can just grab more raw ones from the cupboard). After that’s ready, throw in the other basic ingredients (plus some salt & pepper), blend, and start tasting. I doctor my sauces a lot throughout the process, typically starting out somewhat mildly and then adding more and more of a given ingredient as I proceed. This makes it very annoying to be in the room with me while I cook, because the Vitamix noise constantly going on and off is enough to drive a person crazy.

So there you have it- a simple, straightforward base to improve upon to your heart’s content. Following is a list of other ingredients I often incorporate- some of which were my own bizarre ideas, most of which came from recipes I’ve read at some point in the past five years:

– Liquid smoke (start with just a few drops!)

– Truffle oil

– Paprika

– Basil

– Chipotle peppers

– Tomato paste

– Vegetable broth

– Vinegar (rice, sherry, red wine, balsamic, you name it)

– Avocado

– Sun dried tomatoes

– Cilantro

– Scallions

– Chili paste

– Sriracha sauce

– Turmeric

– Tahini

If you’re now inspired to go create, let me know how it works out! And please, feel free to tell me which ingredients YOU like to mix in; what did I leave out?

Creamy, Cheesy, Pasta Sauce: The Basics

Chocolate Chip Pillow Pancakes

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Nutrition question: If I drink a green smoothie, does it erase the calories from the chocolate chip pancakes I’m simultaneously eating? For the Vitamin C Hurricane Smoothie, blend pineapple, spinach, green grapes, orange juice, and (optional) a teaspoon of maca powder!

The pancake recipe comes to us from The Post Punk Kitchen:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup almond milk (or soy milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (**my addition!)

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center.

Measure the milk into a measuring cup. Add vinegar and ground flax seeds, and use a fork to vigorously mix the ingredients until foamy. This will take a minute or so.

Pour the milk mixture into the center of the dry ingredients. Add the water, canola oil, vanilla, and (if using), chocolate chips and use a fork to mix until a thick, lumpy batter forms. That should take about a minute. It doesn’t need to be smooth, just make sure you get all the ingredients incorporated.

Preheat the pan over medium-low heat and let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly coat the pan in oil. Add 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake, and cook for about 4 minutes, until puffy. Flip the pancakes, adding a new coat of oil to the pan, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Pancake should be about an inch thick, and golden brown.

Rest pancakes on a cooling rack covered with tin foil until ready to serve. To reheat, place pancakes in on a baking sheet covered with tin foil in a  300 F degree oven for 5 minutes or so.

*** Recipe Tips From “Post Punk Kitchen” Chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz:

~ Don’t use an electric mixer for the batter. Overmixed pancakes tend to result in a dense pancake. I use a dinner fork to get everything mixed.

~ You have to let the batter rest for ten minutes or so. The vinegar and the baking powder need to react with each other and the gluten needs to settle in and rest.

~Don’t crowd the pan. Even in my big cast iron, I don’t make more than two pancakes at once.

~ Don’t use too much oil in the pan. It will result in a tough exterior. A very thin layer of oil is what you want and a spray can of organic canola oil works perfectly for this.

~ Preheat the pan for a good ten minutes. I use cast iron and put it on moderate low heat (right around 3 on my stovetop), but you will probably need to adjust a little to get the temp just right. Remember, the temp is not set in stone. Lower and raise in tiny increments as needed. Even turning the dial 1/4 inch can result in big changes.

~ Use a measuring cup (with a rounded bottom if possible) to scoop out the batter. And remember to always spray ithe cup between pancakes, to prevent sticking.

~ Once you drop the pancake in, refrain from futzing with the batter too much. But don’t be afraid to delicately nudge the batter a tiny bit with your fingers to get a more circular shape and more even cooking. But the batter should spread a tiny bit and puff up all on its own.

Chocolate Chip Pillow Pancakes

Why We Don’t Wear Wool

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(photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a look of shock and confusion when telling people I don’t wear wool. I’ve become so familiar with this look that I’m pretty sure I’ve finally interpreted the train of thought that creates it: “Wait, wool is a fabric…oh but it comes from sheep…and she’s vegan and sheep are animals so I guess that’s why she thinks it’s bad…but she must know that shearing sheep isn’t painful, right? It’s like a haircut….ugh, vegans are so radical and extreme…” Most people, not wanting to argue or appear uninformed, follow this look with a reply along the lines of “oh, um, okay.”

I do understand the confusion, as for many years I was equally uninformed. I even needed to do some research to put together this post (it’s difficult to keep detailed track of every way humans have discovered to exploit and abuse animals; sometimes I need a quick refresher course). So, for those of you who are trying to avoid harming animals but are unsure about wool, and for those of you just trying to understand what wool opponents could possibly have to complain about, this post is for you!

  1. It’s not vegan. Now, I realize this isn’t the most useful answer, which is why I get into the specifics below. However, if you’ve chosen to live your life without participating in a system of animal exploitation- that is, keeping animals captive and using their bodies or things that come out of their bodies for profit- wool is off limits. Whenever animals are viewed as commodities rather than sentient beings, corners will be cut- especially as demand rises. As I always say, animals are not fabric. Their skin, hair, fur, horns, etc. belong to them. Though this answer is the simplest, I realize it’s not satisfactory for most inquiring minds, hence the following points.
  2. Mulesing. The majority of the world’s wool (approximately 80%) comes from Australia, where the majority of sheep producing it are known as merino sheep. These sheep were selectively bred centuries ago in Spain, so they are not native to Australia. Merino sheep were carefully designed by humans to have especially wrinkled skin. Wrinkled skin = more skin surface area = more wool = more money. Unfortunately, these wrinkles collect moisture as well as urine and feces (in the posterior region), which attracts flies. These flies lay eggs in the skin folds (a phenomenon known as “flystrike”), and when they hatch, maggots literally start eating the sheep alive. When untreated, this can cause a long, agonizing death. To prevent this horror, farmers use a pretty bizarre process referred to as “mulesing,” in which they restrain the sheep upside down and literally slice off a giant chunk of their skin. This leaves behind a scarred, hairless surface that flies can’t hide eggs in. Whenever my dog gets fleas, they tend to congregate below his tail, where it’s dark and protected. I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to just slice off that part of his body; problem solved! The most abhorrent part of mulesing is that painkillers/anesthesia are not required under Australian law.
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    (photos via Animals Australia)
  3. Systematic Abuse, Mutilation, and Neglect. As is common in many animal agriculture industries, babies (in this case, lambs) are castrated, have their tails docked, and have holes punched through their ears. This isn’t unique to the wool industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. Shearing, though it conjures up images of a loving farmer sitting in a field, taking his sweet time to carefully trim his beloved sheep’s hair, is often a very painful process. Most shearers aren’t paid by the hour, but rather by the volume of wool they collect, so sheep are handled roughly and without regard for their comfort. Speed shearing is so revered that multiple shearing contests occur worldwide every year. Check out this video from such a contest in Australia. You won’t see blood and injuries (the shearers know they’re on camera), but you will see complete disregard for the sheep’s comfort: http://vimeo.com/26055679. Additionally, because we’ve completely disregarded any semblance of a natural life for these animals, farmers sheer when they want to, not when preparing sheep for summer weather. An estimated one million sheep die every year from exposure within 30 days of shearing. Seems pretty unfair that we steal their wool to keep us warm and then leave them naked to freeze to death.
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    (Judging by the shearers’ apparel, I’m guessing it isn’t summer…)
  4. Live Export. Arguably the worst part of the wool industry. Once sheep are “spent” (having produced an adequate amount of wool for one lifetime), millions are put onto jam packed ships and transported to the Middle East, where they are slaughtered in accordance with the laws (or lack thereof) of the country that receives them. For most sheep, this means they are killed by having their throats cut while still fully conscious. Sadly, those sheep are the lucky ones. Every year, tens of thousands die slow, painful deaths due to neglect and overcrowding on board the ships. Sheep that do survive the trip are typically exhausted and undernourished, and often have to be dragged onshore by their legs or ears. Numerous investigations have been carried out to reveal what happens next to these sheep, and you can find these (and a lot more info) at: http://www.banliveexport.com/investigationsimage
    (image of sheep exported to Egypt via Animals Australia)

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    (aftermath of Pakistani Live Export Disaster, image via Animals Australia)
  5. Environmental Destruction. If you don’t care about animal welfare, you might still be interested to know that wool production is unsurprisingly destructive to the environment in terms of land erosion, reduced biodiversity, and pollution. Patagonia, Argentina used to be second to Australia in terms of wool production, but it no longer holds this title due to the catastrophic consequences of raising massive quantities of sheep. One province in the vicinity has lost more than 50 million acres of land that was irreversibly damaged by sheep overgrazing. Additionally, wool treatment and processing requires massive amounts of chemicals; a common processing method known as “carbonization” involves bathing the material in hydrochloric acid. Mmm, cozy.

So there you have it. That’s why this girl abstains from wool products. Fortunately, there are SO many cruelty-free options, and more are coming to market every day! I’m planning to finish up my vegan fall fashion post, which will highlight many of these options, within the week, so stay tuned!

Why We Don’t Wear Wool