community, reflections

Paws and Think: Woof You Be a Foster (Dog) Parent?

Me in 1991, with my first doggy love, Maia Papaya. I miss her!

I’m really excited to become a dog foster parent. I haven’t lived with a dog full-time since I left my parents and hometown more than seven years ago to move to Colorado, and I think that living with a dog again will bring new joy and adventure into my life. My partners and I applied to foster through three different organizations, and we are ready to go as soon as one of those applications gets approved.

Fostering animals through any program is helpful and saves lives, so prospective foster parents shouldn’t stress too much over the particular program they support. Because I feel most comfortable working with no-kill animal shelters, we applied at MaxFund Animal Adoption Center, which also has an attached low-cost veterinary clinic. (On a somewhat related note, I’m encouraging MaxFund to plan increasingly vegan fundraising events, because a pro-animal organization should keep critters off the dinner table in addition to in our homes and hearts. I’m sure this will be a multi-year process of advocacy.) Folks who want to get involved with the no-kill advocacy scene should check out No Kill Colorado and the No Kill Advocacy Center’s No-Kill Equation.

Two other rescue organizations might be of special interest to Colorado-based animal rights activists. Kindness Ranch is three hours north of Denver and is the only animal sanctuary dedicated to rescuing and rehoming animals formerly used in research (particularly beagles, the dog breed most commonly used in research due to their size and docile nature.) The second group is the Colorado Springs-based National Mill Dog Rescue which rescues and rehomes dogs who were formerly part of the puppy mill industry. These excite me because they both provide ample opportunity for telling individual animals’ stories and advocacy to dismantle exploitative animal industries. Furthermore, dogs who have been caged and poorly treated for their entire lives require special attention, care, and socialization best delivered in a homey environment with foster parents. I hope that it goes without saying that vegans and animal rights activists should rescue animals rather than buy them, no matter how “reputable” a breeder a dog comes from. Ending breeding programs and rescuing individuals who are already here is, in my opinion, a key part of ending breedism and our relationship to non-human animals as commodities.

Alexis and I are excited to feed our foster dog a well-balanced vegan diet, since dogs are omnivores (unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores) and can thrive on many of the foods we do. There are various companies that make vegan kibbles for dogs, namely Nature’s Balance and V-Dog. We are probably going to go with V-Dog since they are a vegan-owned company, and we’ll add homemade veggie stew to the food to make meals a little more interesting. We are excited to make some homemade dog treats as well, which brings me way back to making dog treats with my dad in the early nineties.

41pP1taP0RLI plan to speak up about dog rescue and get our foster critters as much visibility as possible, even though I know it will be hard to let go of critters once they find a forever home. Bandanas like this one at right let members of the public know that a foster dog is available to go to a forever home, and merch from places like Project Blue Collar both signal a canine companion as a rescue and support rescue projects. We’ll be able to take advantage of free training classes for foster dogs through the Misha May Foundation. I’m excited that we live very close to the newly-opened Lowry Dog Park (find more Denver dog parks here) and the hilariously-named Watering Bowl, a dog- and human-friendly watering hole similar to northwest Denver’s Bark Bar. We plan to adopt a dog once we are more permanently established in jobs and housing, but I hope that even after that happens that we will keep fostering dogs. As my friend Hugo says, the next step after veganism is activism, not raw foodism or being gluten/oil/sugar/soy-free. I hope that fostering and storytelling can be a small part of my activism going forward.

P.S. Cats aren’t possible for us because of allergies, but there is a cat cafe opening in Denver in mid-November. Part of the goal is to find the cats good forever homes. Marc and I will definitely be checking this place out.


Celebrating our Cultural Traditions: A Souper Tutorial

One of my passions is organizing vegans of color in the animal rights movement, and incorporating an intersectional analysis of racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/classism/etc. into animal rights activism. It took me a number of years to understand myself as a person of color and to appreciate the importance of solidarity with other people of color. I am light skinned and also grew up in a community with a significant number of Asian-American families. I bought into the model minority myth. I lived primarily with my mom, spoke exclusively English, and to my understanding had a fairly assimilated upbringing. I didn’t understand myself as a racial “minority.”

Now, my mom, my sister Emma (who is also biracial), and I are all vegan and participate in animal rights activism. Over the last couple of years I’ve made a conscious effort to connect with other vegans of color (as well as queer and trans* people of color, but that’s another topic.) Intentionally elevating the voices of vegan POC is critically important. White vegans need to know that we are not going to tolerate racism in the movement, and omnivores from our communities of origin must be reassured that we don’t wish to abandon our cultural and familial traditions in being vegan. I see adapting our cherished traditions as an act of love and faithfulness, not betrayal. POC vegans speaking out helps to break up some of the largely monotonous white vegan noise. I like a vegan cheese pizza as much as the next guy, but vegan doesn’t have to mean colonized, commercially-produced foods. Our hotpot was made with simple, easily accessible, affordable ingredients (including four types of beautiful mushrooms!)

From left: my friend Amy, my partner Marc (also a tender genderqueer), and Deme (my hotpot cohost)

I’ve always thought that in Chinese culture, we have a very no-nonsense relationship with animals. When I was a child, I really liked to eat chicken feet for example. A chicken’s foot looks like nothing else but a foot. I think that there is a certain amount of cowardice in how many white Americans eat animals – heads and all other body parts detached, so that the flesh does not evoke a recently sentient, ambulatory critter. (Exception to this rule – hipster types personally slaughtering animals they raise in order to “get in touch” with their food. Still doesn’t make it better.)

Chinese and other Asian people are often targeted by white vegans (and white omnivores, for that matter) as more barbaric (“a subspecies” as Morrissey would say) for eating certain types of animals (e.g. dogs) that white Europeans/Americans are not accustomed to eating. And yet, the vegan population in China is the biggest in the world (>50 million, which is many times bigger than the vegan population in the U.S.) (Hear activist Wanqing Zhou talk more about vegan activism in China on Our Hen House.) Why is eating a pig, chicken, or cow so different from eating any other type of animal? Those critters are just as cuddly and smart as a dog or horse, but since we don’t keep them as companions it seems crueler. I’d like to see the mainstream animal rights movement addressing issues such as bear bile farming (a horrifically cruel practice, absolutely yes) without awful levels of racial targeting and generalizing.

Chinese hotpot is one of my favorite family traditions. It is a casual, social meal in the way that fondue or shabu-shabu is social, but is a much older tradition dating back hundreds of years. Our family would often eat it during the fall and winter holidays instead of a turkey or roast beef. And it’s a simple meal to prepare because the cooking is done at the table. If you are running chronically late (as I am, whoops) you can enlist your guests to help prepare some of the ingredients. Participation! This strategy also keeps the host from being trapped in the kitchen cooking during dinner parties, which seemed to happen to my mom a lot when I was growing up.

Finished soup!

Secret ingredients: shacha sauce, mushroom bouillon powder, and fried garlic. Look at the ingredients for the bouillon - you are sure to like it at yeast a little bit.

Secret ingredients: shacha sauce, mushroom bouillon powder, and fried garlic. Look at the ingredients for the bouillon – you are sure to like it at yeast a little bit.

This is a format, not a recipe! This is what we did, but add whatever you fancy. You’ll want to get your ingredients and equipment from the Asian grocery store. We got everything from H Mart, a superstore in Aurora, which has an excellent selection.

-Portable butane stove (can also use for camping; be sure to heat the broth over a stovetop to conserve butane. Open a window for proper ventilation!)
-Small mesh baskets (traditionally one per person but you can share)
-Soup bowls
-Tiny sauce bowls

Soup ingredients
-Vegetables for broth base (we used carrots, red peppers, onions, squash)
Vegetarian bouillon for a souper boost
-Bok choy
-Gai lan, or “Chinese broccoli”
-Mushrooms (we used enoki, shimeji, shiitake, and king oyster mushrooms)
**mushrooms are essential. You will find an excellent and cheap variety of mushrooms at the Asian market – stock up!
-Cubed firm tofu (cut to 3/4″ cubes)
-Noodles: bean thread or glass noodles, rice vermicelli noodles, udon noodles
-[vegetarian meat or fish balls – my family would usually pick up some of these but we didn’t and it was still great]

-Chopped scallions
-Bean sprouts
-Finely minced ginger
-Cilantro (Deme’s addition!)

Sriracha sauce
Hoisin sauce 
-Soy sauce
-Fried garlic oil (mince garlic finely and brown in vegetable oil)
-Vegetarian shacha sauce (BBQ sauce)

Dessert was red bean mochi, of course!

Marc and I – I’m quite proud of myself for successfully making hotpot without my family, and satisfying two white people and three omnivores!

Luckily, there are groups and communities available if one wants to start unlearning internalized racism and connect with other vegans of color.

Deconstructing Whiteness is a POC-led but white-inclusive anti-racist discussion group. It is not vegan or animal rights-focused.

Vegans of Color provides a space for ranting, discussing, organizing. White folks are asked to join other groups.

Anti-Racist Vegans (white and POC members included) addresses racism in the animal rights movement and organizes activism that does not target POC.

Animal Liberationists of Color seeks to examine why POC make up only 3% of animal rights activists but 37% of the population. They are closely tied to Direct Action Everywhere.

Our Hen House interviewed Wayne Hsiung, an outspoken Chinese activist and organizer for Direct Action Everywhere. Listen to the interview here or read the transcript here.

Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project – 多多 seeks to build strong relationships between animal-loving communities in the United States and animal advocates in Taiwan and mainland China through the provision of financial and other resources for on the ground projects. These projects include humane outreach and education, spaying and neutering, legislation and rehoming.

Animals Asia I have mixed feelings about, because it is white-led and occasionally problematic, but they do good work.

Individual authors and activists to follow include: A. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project, Kevin Tillman of the vegan hip hop movement, fellow Denverite DJ Cavem, lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project and Vegan Mexican Food, Ayinde Howell of ieatgrass, cookbook author/chef/speaker bryant terry, and chef Miyoko Schinner.

Thanks for reading!


On the Radio: An LGBTQ Intergenerational Mixtape

2in_cmyk_KGNU_PCI was recently a guest on KGNU’s Outsources, a weekly show focusing on LGBTQ issues and people in Denver and Boulder. My friend Sean Kenney hosted, and invited the three of us to each share a song that related to our queer identity, and to discuss sexual and gender identity and coming of age in different decades. The show was styled after the live intergenerational mixtapes assembled for the Warm Cookies of the Revolution, a “civic health club” in Denver. (As a side note, Warm Cookies manages to make topics as dry as taxes and housing policy engaging, and is definitely worth checking out.) I’m quite pleased with how the Outsources show turned out and hope you have a listen; it’s about half an hour long. Additionally, if you live in the Denver/Boulder area and think of an idea that would be great for a queer radio show, let me know and I’d be happy to get you in touch with the producers. I love reading, watching, and listening to queer-made media and like to do whatever I can to elevate queer and trans* voices and support us telling our own stories.