29 Oct 2014

DreamWorks and Pixar Movies Promote Veganism

In my previous post titled Disney Films Promote Veganism, I discussed the various ways in which Bambi, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound, Dumbo and various other Disney films all follow animal rights related themes. Disney is not the be all and end all of pro-vegan films for children, however. Many similar and equally effective films also exist, instead under the names of DreamWorks and Pixar. In this post, I will discuss those films in detail.

"These movies are not propaganda - they are simply aimed at young children, as most young children understand that animals are friends, not food."

In 2013, a film called Free Birds was released. Free Birds is not a DreamWorks or Pixar production, but rather a similarly styled CGI film made by a lesser-known company called Reel FX Creative Studios. It wasn't the best movie by any means. It holds a dissatisfying 5.9/10 rating on IMDB, and I personally found it outstandingly mediocre. I did, however, appreciate the message the film portrayed. The film follows a group of turkeys who travel back in time in an attempt to remove themselves from the Thanksgiving menu - thankfully, they succeed. For me, it's always satisfying to see films shown from an animal's point-of-view. This message, however, didn't hold up well with a few other IMDB users. Scrolling through the Free Birds IMDB boards, I found several posts screaming 'Free Birds is vegan propaganda!", "Did PETA make this film?!"... you get the drift. All of this seemed strange to me, since I'd never seen anyone else complain in such a way about the abundance of other films (such as those made by Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks) that project a similar message. These movies are not propaganda - they are simply aimed at young children, as most young children understand that animals are friends, not food. I believe we should all watch these films again as teenagers and as adults. They really could teach us a thing or two about showing love, respect and sympathy towards all life - an important value that, unfortunately, many adults seem to lack.


Moral: Animals don't belong in zoos

Madagascar follows the lives of four zoo-dwelling animals - a zebra, a lion, a giraffe and a hippo. The moral message is quite clear here - the animals are out of place in the zoo, which is situated smack-bang in the middle of the hustle and bustle of New York City. Instead, the animals belong in the wide open expanses of the wild. In captivity, their lives are dull, repetitive and sheltered. Because of light pollution, they see nothing but endless darkness when they gaze up at the night sky. Instead of the melodic ambiance of natural wildlife, they hear manufactured reverberations from a radio. The zebra, Marty, knows this is not how life should be. When the four animals are rescued from the zoo by a group of animal rights activists, plans are made to ship them to a sanctuary in Africa. Along the way, however, their crates topple from the boat into the ocean, eventually washing up on the shores of an exotic island country known as Madagascar. Here, the animals meet new friends and eventually realise that, despite the extra work involved, life in the wild is much better than life in captivity could ever be. This film teaches us that zoos, regardless of how 'well' the animals are treated, are not the place for wild creatures.

Chicken Run

Moral: Animals farming is cruel

Like many children's films with animal rights themes, the humans in Chicken Run are depicted as evil and sadistic. This, unfortunately, isn't far from the truth. Many farm owners care only about making the greatest profits - they extend absolutely no care or compassion towards 'their' animals. This film depicts chicken farming in the most realistic way ever shown in mainstream cinema. The chickens, for example, are expected to lay several eggs daily in order to keep up with supply demands. Some chickens have attempted to escape from the horror, unable to deal with the pressure of laying egg after egg any longer. Shockingly, yet realistically, one hen is slaughtered and eaten after going several days without producing any eggs. Soon, when profits begin to dwindle, the farmers decide to begin selling chicken pies instead of eggs - much to the animal residents' collective horror. They consequently devise a calculated plan for escape, and eventually succeed. This film encourages the idea that animals do not want to and do not deserve to be killed and eaten. They are as equally deserving of respect, freedom and happiness as any human.

Finding Nemo

Moral: Fish are friends, not food

Finding Nemo explores the story of some of the world's most misunderstood and under-appreciated creatures - fish. For some reason unknown to me, fish are often seen as less deserving of freedom, love and respect than land-dwelling animals. They are killed and eaten by the billions each year. Perhaps this is because of the unusual sentiment that fish don't feel pain (an idea that has been debunked many times). In this 2003 Pixar film, we finally see the world from the point of view of these fascinating creatures. Like Madagascar, this film touches on the concept of animal confinement. Somewhere along his journey, Nemo finds himself trapped in a small fish tank in a dentist's office. On finding out that he will soon be given to a young girl to keep as a pet, he desperately attempts escape. The film also explores the concept of mass fishing. Fishing boats are Nemo's father's biggest fear, and he forbids Nemo from going anywhere near them. In this way, we see these unfortunate fish as individuals, and are exposed to their suffering at the hands of the greed of humankind.

Nemo is a friend, not food
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Moral: Horses deserve to run free

This film follows the life and trials of a headstrong horse named Spirit. This film revolves strongly around the theme of humanity's greedy, violent nature. During the film, Spirit is captured and taken to a US cavalry post where he sees restrained horses being ridden and used by humans. Understandably, Spirit is frightened and confused by this behaviour, believing that the restrained horses are being used as slaves. When a man known as the Colonel tries to tame and ride Spirit, he refuses and is harshly punished by being tied to a post for three days with no food or water. After many attempts to tame and ride Spirit, and many battles, the humans finally acknowledge that Spirit and his friends shall never be tamed, and they are set free. This concept reinforces the idea that horses are not transport devices or slaves. They were not put on this earth to serve humankind - they exist for their own reasons and deserve freedom.

"Animals do not want to and do not deserve to be killed and eaten. They are as equally deserving of respect, freedom and happiness as any human."

The form films listed above are only some of many. Look to Disney (as detailed in my other post), Warner Bros., and Blue Sky Studios for various other examples of films that promote animal rights. Through these films, I learned many important moral lessons as a child. These morals are still embedded strongly in my mind to this day. Unfortunately, for some people, these important morals wear off as time goes on. People fall victim to the malevolent influences of our greedy, callous and money-hungry society. We need only to look back to these films to remember what we may have forgotten - something that all children understand. Animals are here for their own reasons, not for our use. They are not ours to eat, to capture or to wear. They are our friends, and we should treat them as such.

26 Oct 2014

Disney Movies Promote Veganism

If you lived out your childhood during any period beyond 1923, it's almost undeniable that Disney films have influenced your life in one way or another. Whether it was Dumbo who won over your young heart in the 1940s or Mufasa who taught you about the circle of life in the 1990s, we've all felt Disney's magical charm in some way.

Over the years, Disney movies have consistently touched on the concept of animal rights. They have almost invariably shunned humankind, highlighting our species as the destructive, selfish virus it collectively is. On the other hand, however, Disney has sanctioned the few human beings with love and compassion in their hearts - the few who truly care about animals.

"Disney movies have consistently touched on the concept of animal rights. They have almost invariably shunned humankind, highlighting our species as the destructive, selfish virus it collectively is."

Veganism is the basic expression of support for animal rights. Through veganism, we encourage the idea that non-human animals are sentient beings who experience love, fear, pain, and an expansive range of other complex emotions. They are not mere commodities for humans to use at their disposal. Many would argue that Disney 'anthropomorphises' animals in their films - but I disagree. I see the term 'anthropomorphise' as a fabricated extension of speciesist logic. To me, this term implies that any animal showing signs of emotion or personality must be somewhat human, as if emotion and personality are human-only characteristics. As animal lovers know, this is not the case. Animals express their emotions in different ways to humans, yes - but that does not mean the feelings aren't there at all.

In this post, I will discuss the various important moral lessons I learned through Disney films - lessons that many people, unfortunately, have forgotten with age. Disney taught me to love all life regardless of our differences. I think, as adults, we should all look back to Disney films and remember how we felt as children. Children know intrinsically that animal are friends, not food. That's why so many children love to watch movies and television programmes about animals. I mean, would a little kid want to eat Peppa Pig? Shawn the Sheep? Peter Rabbit? No, of course not! Would they want to hunt Bugs Bunny? Ellie the Elephant? Fantastic Mr. Fox? Again, of course not. Disney knows this. Disney understands children, and accordingly, they understand animals - at least, more than most do. Let's begin.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Moral: The fur trade is Cruella and fur-wearers are De Vils

Perhaps one of the most obvious animal-rights-promoting Disney films, One Hundred and One Dalmatians tells the story of an evil woman (Cruella De Vil, by name and by nature) who wants to make a fur coat out of puppies. This is a prime example of Disney's expression of human beings as cruel and selfish, and conversely, of animals as intelligent, compassionate and loving. This film teaches us that wearing fur is all kinds of wrong, and that anyone who does so is indeed a 'Cruel Devil'. The film elaborates strongly on the concept of hell, which is fair in the sense that a fur farm is indeed a living hell for animals. This may all seem rather morbid, but it's the unfortunate truth. As all Disney films tend to do, the horror comes to an end before the film's finale and the pups are fortunately reunited with their families. If only this was the case for the millions of animals who fall victim to the fur trade.

Moral: Hunters are horrid, deforestation is dreadful

This is another fairly obvious one, and the film that has consistently held the greatest moral influence over me ever since my first viewing. I will never forget the impact this film had on me as a child. At six years old, I was a weeping wreck after watching it. This wasn't long after I became vegetarian, and as such, the film tugged strongly at my heartstrings. I was going through the process of realising exactly how humans treat animals, and it was awful. Back to the movie. In Bambi, we enter the beautiful, idyllic world of a nurturing young doe, her newborn son, and a strong-willed father stag. They live surrounded by various flora and fauna, all existing in glorious harmony, where enchanting music forever lingers in the dewy air. Suddenly, horribly, interrupting this beautiful, tranquil wonderland, comes man. Specifically, The Man in the Forest. Without a hint of remorse or compassion, The Man in the Forest murders Bambi's mother with his gun, leaving young Bambi frightened and despondent. Later on in the film, when tranquility has only just returned to the forest - The Man in the Forest returns. This time, he brings his greatest weapon - fire. This is a representation of a heinous act so common in our modern world - deforestation. Once again, what does all of this tell us? Animals are calm, gentle creatures, and humans are cold, callous and bent on destruction. Horrifyingly, this is all too accurate.

Disney movies can help children learn about the importance of protecting nature and animals
The Fox and the Hound
Moral: All life is equal and sacred

Again, this 1981 story touches on the concept of hunting. Lying deeper, however, is the exploration of more complex, under-represented themes like interspecies friendship and speciesism. As in Bambi and One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the humans in this film are depicted as cruel, selfish and emotionally detached. Right from the get-go, we witness the callous shooting of a mother fox. As a direct result of evil human interjection, a mother is dead and a child is orphaned. Later in the film, we see a hunter attempting to raise a new hunting dog, Copper. Copper, however, doesn't want to hunt. He wants to play - with Tod, the orphaned fox. This, of course, angers the hunter, who cares only about himself. The idea of the hunter adopting Copper relates to the concept of speciesism - he sees foxes as pests, dogs as workers, and himself as a superior entity. He has assigned different roles to each animal based solely on their species - this is blatant speciesism. The idea of Tod and Copper becoming friends demonstrates that animals can form friendships (despite their differences... if only more humans could do the same) and experience love, fear, happiness and despair. As vegans, we are very much aware of this.

Moral: Animals don't belong in the circus

This film is slightly different to the previous three, but it still explores some core concepts - humans are cruel and selfish, animals experience emotion, and animals deserve respect. Through this film, children see the circus for what it truly is. They are finally allowed to see past the bright lights, flashy costumes and the exciting atmosphere. Behind all of this magical glory are dim, dark, dreary cages... cells... prisons. The elephants are confined against their will and exploited time and time again by humans. We see the spectators at the circus cruelly taunt and mock Dumbo, and as Dumbo's mother attempts to defend him, she is detained and placed in solitary confinement on the grounds of being a 'mad elephant.' Despite the all-too-true horrors this film highlights, the overall concept of Dumbo trying to become a 'circus star' isn't appealing to me. I suppose you can't expect much more from a 1941 film, though. Regardless, we still witness the mocking of Dumbo and his mother's unfair, terrifying confinement - which was enough to turn me off the circus for good as a child.

The Lion King 
Moral: The natural world is our most precious and beautiful gift

Although many non-vegans may see The Lion King as an anti-veganism film (you know, the old 'lions eat meat' argument), I heartily disagree. I think this film highlights the importance of equality for all life, and that the natural world is much more beautiful than anything humans have manufactured. It tells us that life moves on and repeats harmoniously without human interjection. Unfortunately, as we all know, humans have hugely thrown off this balance through the introduction of large-scale farming, habitat destruction, deforestation, over-breeding and mass pollution. Vegans seek to reverse or at least subdue humankind's negative effects upon the natural environment. This film reminds us of how beautifully balanced the world could be without the destructive, selfish interference of humankind. It tells us that no species is more important than another, and that we are all here for our own reasons. Again, this is the basis of veganism.

"[The Lion King] reminds us of how beautifully balanced the world could be without the destructive, selfish interference of humankind. It tells us that no species is more important than another, and that we are all here for our own reasons."

This is not all that Disney has shown us about animal rights. Look towards films such as Brother Bear, The Jungle Book and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for more. Other children's films, including several made by Pixar and Dreamworks, which I will be writing accompanying posts about, also touch on the same concepts. Many adults could learn from the lessons taught by these Disney films and others made by similar animation companies. We only need to look back at our former selves - our very young selves, when our hearts were pure and untouched by society's dirty hands. Then we will learn how we should really feel. Once, we all loved animals. To anyone who exploits animals now, I ask you - when did you lose your compassion?

18 Oct 2014

Restaurant Review: Montezuma's and Elephant Walk

If you're ever in Australia, or South Australia more specifically, you absolutely must give Montezuma's and Elephant Walk a go. Both restaurants are located on Melbourne Street, North Adelaide. Montezuma's in particular has remained one of my favourite restaurants for many years. I loved it as a vegetarian and I love it even more as a vegan.


Montezuma's restaurant is a Mexican delight that is very close to my heart. My boyfriend and I have delighted in their delicious spicy offerings on many special occasions, particularly our first ever 'real' date! I may be biased, but I simply adore Montezuma's decorative and fun-loving atmosphere. The prices are very reasonable, and hey even offer a 'Montezuma's Gold Card' which is great for regulars like me. After every fifth visit to the restaurant, you receive a free meal. You can't go wrong with freebies!

Although Montezuma's isn't a vegan restaurant, there are still many options available that can be veganised. They cater to people suffering from various allergies and dietary needs, which is excellent for plant-based eaters. You can simply tell them you're vegan - you won't be met with a confused expression like you might at some other restaurants! You shouldn't ever have any problems ordering a veganised meal. They have also recently added vegan cheese and vegan sour cream to their menu. I'm keen to try it on my next visit.

Before ordering your main meal, you can opt to order some corn chips and dip for starters. My boyfriend and I always order the three-dip platter, which consists of a frijole dip, spicy salsa and a cheese dip. My boyfriend, an omni, eats the cheese dip and leaves the rest for me. Make sure to order the frijole dip without cheese, because they'll usually sprinkle some on top otherwise.

The addictive three-dip platter with corn chips

The vegetarian frijole (bean) tacos are a favourite of mine. They're totally vegan when ordered without dairy, and they're delicious. On my last visit to Montezuma's, however, I ordered something a little more filling - a frijole enchilada with rice, salad and extra re-fried beans. It was affordable, tasty and almost too satisfying - I had to re-adjust my belt after finishing! I drizzled the remainder of the salsa dip on top of the enchilada for some extra spice. The enchilada was as good, if not better, than the three-dip platter. I highly recommend this meal! Make sure to let the waiter know that you don't eat animal products when ordering and they'll happily cater to your needs.

Filling, delicious and affordable - what more could you want?

Overall, Montezuma's provides a delectable meal and a thriving, colourful and vibrant atmosphere. 

Elephant Walk

Located just down the road from Montezuma's, Elephant Walk cafe provides an unique, atmospheric and unforgettable dining experience. It was by far my favourite dessert cafe as a vegetarian, and admittedly, I was rather dismayed about 'never being able to eat there again' when I became vegan. To my excitement, though, I recently discovered that they offer vegan meals! I almost jumped out of my chair with happiness when I heard the news, and planned to visit the next week.

Elephant Walk's menu is ever-changing. They usually have one special vegan dessert on the menu, as well as offering hot soy-based drinks. In the past they have offered plant-based cakes and cinnamon donuts, but on my visit, they offered waffles. I'd never had waffles before, but I was certainly keen to try them! Several toppings are offered, including maple syrup, apple pie filling, shaved coconut, berries and coconut cream. They are also served with a generous dollop of coconut milk ice cream. My boyfriend and I chose to embellish our waffles with sweet maple syrup, hot apple pie filling and lashings of shaved coconut. 

These were almost indescribably delicious - the photo doesn't do them justice!

Surrounded by the comforting, romantic and ambient atmosphere, my boyfriend and I relished in the sweet, rich taste of these delicious waffles. It's certainly the sort of dessert that could convince an omni to turn to the 'bright side'! I can't recommend them enough. The coconut ice cream was cool and sweet with a near-perfect consistency. They were pricey, at around $13, but well worth the cost. 

Overall, Montezuma's and Elephant Walk provided an amazing dining experience, and I can't wait to go back. They're both located on Melbourne Street (although Montezuma's has other locations) and are only a few steps away from each other, which is why I love to visit both places in one night. If you live in Adelaide, or plan on visiting sometime, you definitely need to check these places out. I assure you, you will not regret it!

10 Oct 2014

Five Fantastic Farm Animal Sanctuaries

Farm animal sanctuaries are literal life-savers. They have risen in prominence greatly over the last few years, which is absolutely fantastic, and I hope this positive growth continues over the years to come. Without farm animal sanctuaries, there would be no place for sick, old, discarded and unwanted farm animals to go when the farmers decide their time is up. Here, I have comprised a list of the most well-known farm animal sanctuaries in my experience. All farm animal sanctuary owners, employees and volunteers deserve great commendation for their selfless work. Here's a select list of five, in no particular order:

1. Farm Sanctuary

Farm Sanctuary, founded in 1986, was one of the first farm animal sanctuaries to rise to prominence. The organisation owns and operates three shelters across the United States, housing a total of over 1,000 rescued animals.

Farm Sanctuary's website is an excellent source of information about factory farming. If you know anyone who's looking to learn more about why it's important to be vegan, their website is a great option. There's also plenty of interesting information about the sanctuary's animal residents, with gorgeous photos to boot.

Many beautiful chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks, geese and cattle all call Farm Sanctuary their home. If you'd like to donate to help these peaceful creatures, visit this link. If you live nearby, you can also help out through volunteering.

2. Edgar's Mission

Edgar's Mission is an Australian farm animal sanctuary named after the owner's very first rescue pig, Edgar, who sadly passed away in 2010. He has since become known as "the pig who started it all". Edgar's Mission loves and cares for over 300 rescued farm animals, from chickens and ducks to goats and sheep.

The Edgar's Mission website provides heart-warming details about each and every animal resident, along with beautiful photographs. There is also a special page dedicated to former Edgar's Mission residents who have passed on.

If you are interested, here is link allowing you to donate to help the animals and dedicated workers at Edgar's Mission. You can also help the sanctuary through purchasing a few animal-themed products; including bags, posters, calendars, cards and books.

3. Freedom Hill Sanctuary

Freedom Hill Sanctuary, also located in Australia (in Adelaide, my home town!), was formed only recently in 2011, beginning with a tiny lamb named Lynn. Lynn, like Edgar, was the animal who inspired it all. Freedom Hill is now home to dozens of animals who have been saved from an otherwise terrible fate.

The Freedom Hill Sanctuary website offers photographs and detailed descriptions of each animal resident - I dare you to try not to fall in love with them all!

If you'd like to help the residents at Freedom Hill, please visit their homepage and choose a donation amount. Volunteering opportunities are also available, as well as annual organised fun events and fundraisers. 

4. Brightside Farm Sanctuary

Brightside Farm Sanctuary truly lives up to its name. Located in Tasmania, Australia, Brightside Farm Sanctuary helps to re-home over 500 abandoned and unwanted farm animals each year. Their sanctuary is currently home to over 250 animals. They also dedicate much of their time to promoting and advocating veganism and animal rights.

Like the other sanctuary's websites, Brightside Farm Sanctuary's online presence provides animal-lovers with tear-jerking tributes, detailed descriptions and picturesque photographs - check them out if you have the time. I promise you won't regret it!

The Brightside team's efforts to re-home over 300 dogs a year are commendable, as well as their dedication to their permanent animal residents. If you'd like to support Brightside Farm Sanctuary, visit this link to donate or this link to shop for gorgeous animal-themed products.

5. C-A-L-F Sanctuary 

C-A-L-F Sanctuary, located in England, is selflessly run by a very small team of animal lovers. Along with the sanctuary is an 100% vegan cafe, whose profits go towards helping the rescued animals. C-A-L-F is home to an array of beautiful creatures, especially Gevan, the gorgeous highland hiefer who acts as somewhat of a mascot for the organisation.

As a small sanctuary run by so few volunteers, C-A-L-F Sanctuary's residents need all the help they can get. To donate, please visit this link, or shop here. I'm certain they would also appreciate the helping hand of a volunteer, so if you live in the area, why not pay them a visit?

Meet them, don't eat them!
Without farm animal sanctuaries, abandoned, unwanted and mistreated farm animals would simply be put to death without a whisper of a thought. The selfless employees and volunteers of these sanctuaries pour their hearts out to these animals, offering them a second chance at life. We can help these wonderful charities through spreading awareness, donating and volunteering our time. It's the very least they deserve for their hard work and compassion.

5 Oct 2014

Why Do People Bully Vegans?

In my experience as a vegan, I've come to realise that my mere presence can ignite hostility in others. I'm sure this phenomenon is known quite well among the vegan community. When people are reminded about the fact that veganism exists, they are forced to think. They are forced to acknowledge their contribution towards animal death and exploitation... and they don't like it. They get defensive... offended, even. This can sometimes lead to bullying.

When you're bullied for being vegan, you may begin to develop some hostility of your own. This is normal and natural. We can't really expect to always respond to harsh insults with gratitude and a beaming smile, can we?! We must remember, though, that hostility is rarely productive. The best way to deal with these situations is often to ignore the perpetrator and remember why they act the way they do. Perhaps they're just trying to get a rise out of you - ignoring them is certainly the best option if they are. Don't give them what they want. Give them the opposite - nothing at all.

"The problem lies in the fact that our mere presence reminds them of the fact that their food suffers. They don't want to acknowledge this fact."

Sometimes, however, there is a deeper, well-hidden meaning behind the occasional hostility of omnis. The problem lies in the fact that our mere presence reminds them of the fact that their food suffers. They don't want to acknowledge this fact. They want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that everything is blissful and idyllic. I was once like this, but I eventually realised that hiding from the truth is never going to change anything. In order to change reality, you must face it first.

Unfortunately, bullying doesn't always stay in the schoolyard

We can conclude that many omnis bully because they feel guilty, and vegans are, understandably, their primary target. In their minds, we're the ones responsible for this terrible feeling. How dare we remind them that the world isn't perfect?! This is similar to the reason why school yard bullies do what they do. They, like guilt-ridden omnis, feel bad about themselves and force these bad feelings onto others, hoping that this will somehow suppress their own suffering.

When there is a deeper meaning behind the contempt and mockery coming your way, it's best to take action. Educational action. I believe that our role as animal rights activists is to spread truth and information as much as humanly possible - and educating omnis is a great way to start. Through their bullying, these omnis are essentially begging for you to educate them! Don't miss that opportunity. Let them know the truth, but try not to be harsh or contemptuous about it - that will work only to weaken your cause.

"When there is a deeper meaning behind the contempt and mockery coming your way, it's best to take action. Educational action."

Importantly, don't ever take what a disdainful omni says to heart - remember that what you are doing is right and good. You really are making a difference, and their harsh words aren't going to stop you. Just remember that many of us were once non-vegan ourselves, and may have also faced feelings of guilt, remorse and indiscretion. Different people have different ways of dealing with these rampant emotions, and for some, bullying becomes a very effective outlet. Teach them to channel their anger-fuelled passion into something more positive - like veganism, for instance. Good luck.

[Image Courtesy of Ambro @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net]