Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bunnies and Baking Soda: Part 2

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The Skinny on Animal Testing

There could be hidden bunnies in your home.

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Even though modern alternatives that better represent a human response system are available, several cosmetic and cleaning product companies continue to test on animals. Why? I don’t know. Laziness? Greed? Sadistic corporate tendencies?

Does this creep anyone else out too?

Aaaanyway. “Modern alternatives” is a pretty nebulous term, so let’s talk about it some more. One of the biggest offenders in the category of unnecessary animal testing in the Draize eye irritancy test. In the Draize test, the lip gloss, drain cleanser, whatever’s being tested is dripped into a rabbit’s eye. (Because, you know, that’s totally where you put lip gloss and drain cleanser…) Rabbits have no tear ducts and subsequently can’t flush the chemicals from their eyes. The rabbit is restrained in a head padlock and given no pain medication. Because the rabbits often struggle to free themselves and evade the torture, broken necks are not uncommon.

However, CeeTox laboratory has developed an in-vitro dermal irritation test that renders the bunny-based model completely unnecessary. In the test, what’s effectively a patch of all the human skin layers is subjected to the product in question, and then the precursor of a dye known as MTT is delivered. Living cells will have functioning mitochondria, which process the MTT precursor into the visual form of MTT. So, the stronger the MTT signal, the more cells that are functioning. An additional test screening for the presence of antibodies – specifically Interleukin 1 alpha – can also be run on the skin patch for verification of the MTT results. The fewer the amount of antibodies, the less the skin patch had an issue with the product.

If rabbits, who are protected by regulatory legislation (namely the Animal Welfare Act), can go through all that unnecessarily, just think what can happen to animals who aren’t protected.

As it turns out, some animals, like mice and rats, aren’t even covered under the Animal Welfare Act provision. So, experimentation on rodents isn’t monitored. That means the numbers of rodents killed – or even just subjected to the experiment conditions – don’t have to be counted; pain medication doesn’t have to provided; and modern alternatives don’t have to be looked for first. Even though rodents can problem-solve, relate, feel – and die – just like the other animals that are protected under the Animal Welfare Act.

Alternatives

Worried about the bunnies that might be hiding in your home in the form of products tested on animals?

Do something about it.

How? Look for the bunny! No, really, I’m not kidding. Nowadays, a lot of companies are posting some sort of bunny picture on their products to let customers know that no animal testing was involved. For example, Trader Joe’s has a full line of cruelty-free cosmetic products. They’ve got a “no animal testing” image on the back:

My favorite shampoo!

There are a couple other images that you might see:

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And for all you smartphone people, PETA’s got a “Be Nice to Bunnies” (BNB) app y’all can download and reference the next time you’re at the store and unsure about how cruelty-free a product is:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bnb/id313784933?mt=8

How cruelty-free conscious are you?

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Choices and Leftovers

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Today I had a choice.

My mom was driving me back from my FIRST PROFESSIONAL MASSAGE EVER (I realized that before today never had anyone massaged my little toe.) and asked what I wanted to do about dinner. I had the choice of either going home and, because of the mindset I’ve slipped into, finagling a calorically insufficient dinner, or I could do that recovery thing and request a trip to Vegadeli and order a way more nutritionally complete dinner whose preparation I had no control over.

I chose Vegadeli.

Feel free to applaud. 😉 The part of me that remembers it’s worth taking care of me, even in the small decisions, certainly is.

The Vegadeli run was totally worth it! Given how many times my mom’s been there to pick up tonsillectomy recovery-appropriate foods (Vegadeli’s got a smoothie bar), the owner apparently knows who I am now and said she was glad to see I’m feeling better!

I ordered Buddha’s Feast, described as “rice, veggies, kale, and tofu,” and it TOTALLY exceeded my expectations. The dish was AMAZING. Talk about a balanced pallet! As soon as the plate was set on the table, I was struck by the red and green and brown and orange and even purple! I was also pretty happy that I was fairly sure my taste buds could pick up on each of the ingredients that went into the dish. I taste a try-it-myself recipe coming…

Speaking of recipes, I think it’s time I gave y’all one!

Tofu, Quinoa and Winter Vegetable Melange

I made this for dinner last night. It was a first-time-try and I’d say it was a success! I cheated a little bit on the recipe – it’s not completely from scratch. My mom had made Trader Joe’s quinoa-vegetable melange for lunch and I used some of the leftovers from the fridge to make this dish.

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So, here’s what you’re going to need:

about 4 oz extra-firm tofu

1/3 c Trader Joe’s butternut squash soup (the kind that comes in a big rectangular carton)

1.5 c Trader Joe’s quinoa melange

Here’s whatcha do:

Prepare the quinoa melange according to instructions so that it’s about half-done. If you have more time, prepare it so that it’s cooked completely and stick it in the fridge for a few hours.

Next, get out a sauce pan and warm up the butternut squash soup on low heat. While that’s endothermizing itself (endothermizing is totally a word, right?), press your tofu between paper towels so that you get most of the excess moisture out – more tofu juice going out means more butternut squash soup going in.

Once that’s done, cut your tofu into little cubes and stick it in the warm butternut squash soup. Shake, toss, stir – whatever your preferred method of locomotion – just move your tofu around in the soup so that it’s completely covered. Turn up the heat a bit, while your at it. After about three minutes, move your tofu around some more so that it cooks more evenly.

 

Once your tofu’s been cooking for about five minutes, throw in your quinoa melange and stir.

Turn down the heat again and cover the sauce pan with a lid. Let the whole thing sit on low heat for about three minutes.

Move to your container of choice and enjoy!

Here’s what mine looked like:

I particularly loved how high-protein this dish was. It was pretty tasty, too. 🙂

How have you spiced up leftovers recently?

 

Wildlife Waystation: My Story

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Have you ever found something worth fighting for?

When I arrived in California back 2009, for me, “myself” definitely wasn’t one of those somethings. Growing up, I had never been short of something to fight for. It seemed like every year I’d be making the rounds, going door to door in my neighborhood to ask for petition signatures to ban high-frequency naval sonar testing that was dangerous to marine life, or holding a lemonade stand with my friend down the street to raise money for the church offering. My dream as a kid was to become a marine mammal rehabilitator and open a center that would teach show cetaceans how to be wild again so they could be released back to the ocean. Hey, I was ten.

Then came middle school and my introduction to bioengineering. Soon my head was filled with thoughts of plasma membranes and cellular ligands and the HIV virus. By high school, I had decided that in college what I wanted to do was “cure AIDS: the major.” And after college, I would go on to become a medical researcher pursuing “cure AIDS: the life.” Dreams of animals got shuffled to the backburner for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, it was all tremendously interesting. It’s just that I had built my life and my self-worth on what I was doing, what I achieved, what good I was to others – but not what good I was to myself. By the time I became a college freshman, when it came to my life, I was frankly out of the picture.

Then came spring break. I took a chance and signed up for the service-based alternative spring break trip – to Wildlife Waystation, a local and exotic wildlife refuge. We would spend a few days renovating a giant-bird-cage-like structure called the “arena,” an grassy animal introduction and enrichment space. Animals? Something in a tucked-away corner of myself jumped. I was in.

Mungar, a WW tiger

By the time our spring break group had arrived at the Waystation, been drilled through the rules, romped down the hill to the compound, saw a dozen different kinds of animals in the space of two minutes, and been set to work on the arena – the sound of the lions next to us filling the air from time to time – I was smiling the sort of smile that hadn’t shown up on my face in a long time.

I had been there all of three hours and already the realization, totally unexpected, had hit me. Here, in this place – I was home.

I knew I had to come back.

And even though I had begun to fall deep into mental and physical health issues, whenever I could successfully beg a ride, for the rest of freshman year, I did.

Summer arrived. I continued to decline. By mid-July, I had wound up in treatment.

Fast-forward to September. I’m sitting on a couch, my insurance effectively having ditched me. I’m furiously searching the web, looking for something to do besides fight the inside of my own head for the two and half weeks until school starts. I don’t have a car yet, and begging a ride has met with less and less success, so the Waystation wasn’t a viable option. Nevertheless, I keep clicking back to the Waystation’s webpage every so often.

Enter random fortuitous thought. “Hey, there are small animal vets, for dogs and cats, and large animal vets, for cows and horses, but tigers and monkeys and those other animals at the Waystation – they’re not really small animals or large animals… but there’s got to be a vet for them…”

Discovery: wildlife veterinarian.

Right then, I knew that was what wanted to be. I just didn’t let myself know that I knew it.

By that time, I had realized that honestly, I hated working in a lab. Cure AIDS: the life just wasn’t going to work out. But I still had to do something that would make me worth something! Eventually, I settled on nurse practitioner. But from my childhood and from volunteering at the Waystation, I knew that I liked working with animals. However, afraid of making a snap decision, I decided I would tuck the thought of wildlife veterinarian somewhere in my brain, just in case.

Fast forward some more. I’m on the bus on my way to an outpatient therapy session. I had been thinking about the people on Skid Row I served on Sunday, and my though train had lead to me to think about how in praying for them, I always acknowledged that they were people who had dreams that mattered, who had things they wanted to do that mattered, who all on their own, just mattered.

Enter another random fortuitous thought. Epiphany, really.

Maybe – I mattered too. All on my own. And maybe, maybe – it would be okay for me to do what made me happy in life. What I loved. Forget what good it might be doing anyone else. It was a good thing, all one its own, for me to do what would make me happy. And maybe that would be a good thing for the world, too. The world seems to need some happy people.

I could be a wildlife vet.

Sedona, a beautiful coyote at WW

Fast forward some more, and we’re to the present. There’s a much healthier me who’s learning how to take care of herself. A me who knows that you can’t be starved and work around coyotes. A me who’s no longer living a semi-conscious life, but has a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to keep herself strong and able. A me who’s finally allowed herself to pour herself whole-heartedly into doing what she loves.

A me who’s got animals as her motivation for doing all of that.

Thanks to the animals who saved my life and the other volunteers, who have liked and cared about me for the person I am, I found myself. I found home.

I found something worth fighting for.

* To find out more about the Waystation and how to help, go to www.wildlifewaystation.org

* All photos of animals are property of the Waystation and cannot be reproduced without permission of the Waystation. See here for original source.

Bunnies and Baking Soda: Part 1

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What Are Solutions Made Of?

I’m tired of zits. I’m twenty years old! Wasn’t acne supposed to go away once the “teen” suffix dropped off my age?

Sigh. Apparently not.

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 It’s not as if I haven’t tried to make the acne go away since – well, since it first showed up in middle school. I’ve tried half a dozen prescription benzoic acid creams, a score of salicylic acid washes, and a few astringents made by Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, and most of the other brand names.

And yet I still have zits.

Earlier this year, I went to a dermatologist. (Yet again.) She gave me a trial prescription of two topical meds and one oral medication. When I went to pick up the oral medication from the pharmacy, the polite lady behind the counter informed me that with the coupons the dermatologist had given me, the oral medication would be four hundred dollars.

Then the polite lady behind the counter promptly watched my jaw drop.

A three figure price tag for zit removal! Heck no.

So here I am, half a year later, and still battling zits. I’ve decided to try something else – ditching my zits the vegan way.

Most topical acne medications are a cream-of-chemical soup of benzoic or salicylic acid plus some additives – and, along with oral acne medications, have likely been tested on animals. The vegan ammo that I’ll be hitting my zits with, however, contains only plant-based ingredients and doesn’t require un-anaesthetized animals to suffer for the sake of my own vanity.

My solution? I’m going as cruelty-free and earth-based as possible. Starting with those vegan acne treatments. I’ll be concocting a baking soda face mask and natural oil moisturizer. No animal testing, ingredients that I recognize from my freshman chem lab, or three-figure price tags involved.

Since otherwise this post would be uber-long, I’m breaking it up into a three-part series. Stay tuned for parts two and three next week! I’ll tell you about the hidden bunnies in your home and how to do some vegan zit zapping yourself!

  • Part 2 – The Skinny On Animal Testing
  • Part 3 – DIY Acne Attack!

Tell me about what earth-friendly changes you’ve made in your life!

The Adventures So Far

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1. I helped save the seals as an animal care intern at the Marine Mammal Care Center.

"Baboushka"

 

 

This is a juvenile elephant seal who came in with an injured eye to the MMCC. I got to practice my first responder skills wrapping the eye! In honor of his headwrap I nicknamed him “Baboushka.” He’s since been released back into the wild 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. I rescued a kitten!

Meet Silky. His is quite a story! A group of the MMCC interns and I worked to rescue Silky and his brother and sister (now named Rocky and Winnie, short for Wednesday) from the beach where they’d been dumped. We were able to safely coax two of the kittens from where the three had nestled together, hiding under a rock, but one of the kittens – Silky, of course – freaked out, and dashed away. It took three more days of searching, some clawed arms on my part, and some help from a slightly eccentric, feral-cat-feeding man called Joe (who, by the way, is responsible for Silky’s name) to finally rescue the little guy. With his purr as loud as a motor boat, I immediately fell in love with Silky. By the end of the drive back to Pasadena, I knew I couldn’t let him go.

 

 

 

3. I met Jane Goodall!

The arrow points to Jane Goodall about to take her seat in the auditorium. My phone camera was slow and couldn't zoom, hence the super low-res pic.

Through a random facebook advertisement, I found out that Jane Goodall would be present at the preview of her new movie, Jane’s Journey, in Santa Monica. I got my copy of In the Shadow Of Man signed and participated in the Q&A session! A friend of mine famous for giving hugs even got to give a hug to Jane Goodall!

 

4. I attended Hug a Vegetarian Day!

Me, Nugget, and a friendly Peta2 staffer

Vegan frankfurters. Yummmm.

… and on my way home, I discovered a gelaterie with vegan options!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t decide between chocolate orange or strawberry. So I got both. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

What next?!

About Me

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Hi world! I’m Miceala, a vegan, animal rights activist, and senior at the California Institute of Technology. I love books, dance, the outdoors, and the foam on chai tea lattes. My weaknesses? Dried mango, chocolate-covered ginger and pictures of cute animals.

Since March of 2010, I’ve been a volunteer at the Wildlife Waystation, an exotic animal refuge nestled in the hills of the Angeles National Forest. The animals (and people!) at the Waystation have gotten me through what have been three of the most transformative years of my life. Moving from the Midwest to L.A. meant leaving behind a rocky home situation, grappling with mental health issues, and finally allowing myself the freedom to be me.

I’m not done fighting, but when I slow down to reflect on my my life as it is now, I realize – my life is freakin’ awesome!

My days are filled with amazing animal encounters, inspiring people, and rediscovering the joy of food – the vegan way. And I have something to say about it all. 🙂