My Failed Plant-Based for Thirty Days Challenge

My plan to eat completely plant-based for thirty days lasted about seventeen days. Though I’ve failed to eat 100 hundred percent plant-based, doesn’t mean I completely gorged myself on junk vegan processed foods, although I did over-indulge a little. A couple weeks ago, a local Chicago-based fast food restaurant, Buona Beef, that specializes in Italian beef, debuted its Italian “beefless” sandwich.

It tasted just what I remember an Italian beef tasting like. Even my omnivore neighbor couldn’t taste a difference. It’d been awhile since I’d had one. Italian beefs were one of my faves. For me, an Italian beef sandwich is more “Chicago” than hotdogs and deep dish pizza. But Veganwise, there was nothing comparable to the real thing…until now.

In the last few weeks I’ve had three of them. Don’t judge. I’m making up for lost time. At least I’d found the will to steer clear of my favorite vegan ice creams — and there are many. Still, despite my affinity for all things Beyond Burgers and Daiya pizzas, I do have my limits to the amount of delicious vegan processed junk I consume on a regular basis. I enjoy many simple vegan meals too, based around foods that were grown in the ground and not in a lab, but if those lab-grown foods replace animals from being torturously slaughtered, then I’m all for it…with some consumption limitations.

Although I failed the challenge I made to myself, one habit I’m going to make permanent is not filling my freezer with all of my favorite vegan junkfoods – pizzas, burgers, sausages, corn dogs, and ice cream. If it’s not in my house, I can’t eat it.

The Great Writing Duo, C.D. Hersh, Share Questions They’ve Been Asked While Promoting their Books.

from C.D. Hersh Over the years while promoting our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles, and appeared on different blogs or radio interviews we’ve encountered many questions. Today, we are sharing a few of those questions and answers. Who had the greatest influence on your writing careers? At Donald’s uncle’s 90th birthday party, when we were talking with him about writing when Donald retired, he said we should just go for it now. We took his advice and the rest is history. He died a year later and really didn’t get to see that we got published. Where’s the most romantic vacation spot you’ve been together? Wawasee Lake in Indiana, where you can see a full sky of stars on an evening stroll arm-in-arm along the lake, listening to the sounds of the evening. Are you a morning writer, afternoon writer, evening writer, or midnight oil writer? As a team we tend to be afternoon and evening writers, although Catherine has been known to be a midnight oil writer when she is working with the first draft. When did you first realize you were a good writing team? Our first experience as a writing team came when we were writing drama scripts for our church. We had so much fun doing it and people seemed to really like what we wrote, that on a business trip Donald took, we wrote a three-act play called Adam and Eve on a Raft. After that we were hooked on writing things longer than two-minute skits. Then on another business trip we were discussing writing a book, to pass the time and keep awake, and the paranormal series was born. In your Turning Stone Chronicles, you have a unique take on shape-shifters. Can you talk a little bit about that? As we developed the book concept, we decided that we wanted something different than the normal were-shape shifters. In reality, we can thank Donald’s psychology courses for the idea of the various forms of shifting. One of the psyche theories is that we all have three parts to our psyche, commonly called id, ego and super-ego. We added a twist to that theory using male, female, and animal egos, and a magic ring that could tap the various forms. What is your favorite sentence or quote in The Promised One? We have several but probably the best is: “Grief is a midnight indulgence when no one else can hear.” Who do you envision as your lead characters? Alexi Jordan and Rhys Temple are the heroine and hero of The Promised One. Their story line runs through all the books, although the lead characters will change in each book. In The Promised One, the partnership between Rhys and Alexi is extremely powerful and hits you immediately from the beginning of the book. Do you think this is a reflection of the strength within your own relationship together? We’re laughing out loud here as we read this question. It’s not something we intended, but since our daughter said she could see us in the characters, we guess it does reflect our relationship, minus the shifting, of course. We suppose a bit of self comes out in all writers’ writing, at some point. Since we’ve commented about Rhys and Alexi’s relationship, we thought we’d give you a brief look at those characters. Tucking his gift under her arm, she started to leave. “Hey.” He pointed at the other gifts. “Aren’t you going to add yours?” “Nope. I’ll give it to you later, when we’re alone.” “Ooh. Something special. Mineral or animal?” His right eyebrow raised, his smile growing. Alexi laughed. “Just embarrassing.” “For you or for me?” “I’m not telling.” Sidling close to her, he backed her against the wall. “Come on. Just a hint,” he said, a purr in his tone as he placed his hand on the wall next to her shoulder and moved into her personal space with the ease of a lover. One of his famous melt-the-girl looks smoldered in his gaze. The golden flecks in his green eyes lit up like fireworks. Hot fireworks. Enjoying his closeness and the raw sensuality emanating from him, she lingered for a minute, then slowly moved away. Standing this close she could get burned, and she wasn’t ready to play with fire . . . not yet. She shook her head. “Not a chance.” He crossed his arms, obviously irked that she hadn’t succumbed. “My irresistible charms work on everyone else. Why not you?” Oh, if you only knew. She had to fight to resist him. She flashed him a smile. “Because I’m special. And I’m your partner. Keeping your back safe is more important than getting you on your back.” He laughed, a deep, throaty, and utterly sexy sound. She locked her knees to keep from melting into a puddle. “I like the sound of that.” Of course you would. She felt her face flame. Amazon buy links: The Turning Stone Chronicles Series page The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1) Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2) Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3) The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4)
C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories. Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after. They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

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Ricky Finds a Home

Last July my dog, Phil, suffered from liver failure. The situation was touch and go for a horrible two weeks. But, against the vet’s grave prognosis, my baby survived. He’s twelve, and though I know he won’t live forever, I was completely unprepared for losing my dog. My baby. My sidekick. The face that makes me smile even when I want to cry. The eyes that watch my every move, because his world revolves around me as much as my world revolves around him, maybe even more so. 

During that miserable time of not knowing whether or not Phil would turn that miraculous corner to recovery, I was consumed with the idea of losing him. I didn’t eat. I cried when I held him and buried my tears in his fur. He seemed to know his precarious situation, but never gave up.  I love him so much for that. 

But all through that time and after, I only considered my loss of losing him. What I would have done. What my life would be like, while never considering his loss should something happen to me. I know he waits for me when I leave the house, as all dogs do, but how would they feel, how would they react, if we never make it back home to them? 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since last month, when a neighbor passed away suddenly. She had a dog, Ricky. We used to walk our dogs together, along with another neighbor and her little dog. The woman’s parents could not take Ricky, he didn’t get along with their own dog. This woman had no brothers or sisters. They didn’t know a lot of people who could, or would, take Ricky in. He went with a family friend, but that didn’t work out. 

I volunteer at a shelter. I’ve seen many dogs come to the shelter in the way of Ricky’s predicament. Through no fault of their own, they lose their owners to death, and there is no one to take them in. So these dogs, used to living in a home filled with stability, love, security, now come to a shelter filled with loud chaos and uncertainty. Even the best shelters are a scary place to a dog who has only known a house as a home. 

Luckily, Ricky didn’t have to meet that fate. My neighbor with the small dog took him in. She had the intention of keeping him, but two dogs were a bit too much for her. But she was determined to keep him until she could find a home for him, which wasn’t hard at all because Ricky is adorable. 

Last week, Ricky went to his third home in less than a month. This was a friend of a friend, so my neighbor passed Ricky off confident he would be well-taken care of. I often wondered for those weeks that my neighbor had him what he was thinking. Did he think his mommy would come for him soon? Was he waiting for her? Did he miss his home and wonder why he was moving to different places? We avoided walking Ricky down the street he used to live. We didn’t want to confuse him.  

But then on the day he was leaving, I took Ricky for a walk and thought maybe it was the right time for him to say goodbye to his old home. We walked down his street. He definitely knew where he was. He lead me straight to the familiar place, sat down in the driveway, and stared at the house. He didn’t try to pull me to the door, which I was glad for.

Ricky’s mom’s name was Tracy. She didn’t die at home, but if spirits find their way back home no matter where we pass, maybe she was there to see him one last time.

I hope so.

I thought about Phil, remembering what I went through when I thought I was losing him, but we need to consider what our furbabies go through when they lose us. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about Phil going to a shelter or being shuffled to three different houses. He has an uncle and aunties who love him, and who he loves, especially his uncle.

Uncle is his favorite. 

Phil and uncle

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is going to be a strange Thanksgiving for a lot of people. For those of us who have decided to spend this day of thanks apart from the very people we are most thankful for, I know it’s hard, but hang in there. This is all temporary and soon we will again be joining our friends and family at the dinner table, sharing good food, good conversation, and lasting memories. 

The key is to live to see another day. Survive until we have a vaccine. I write those words as I am in day 13 of having Covid. I was one of the lucky ones who suffered only mild symptoms, and during this time I’ve been thinking about all of those who lost their lives to this virus. Why do some survive while others don’t? I wish that weren’t so. 

So although this Thanksgiving I’m not with all of my family, I do have much to be thankful for. I’m still here.

Since I didn’t get to shop for my usual Thanksgiving favorites, I will celebrate and give thanks this holiday as I tear into a delicious vegan pizza. Because why not choose cruelty free when you can?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. Stay safe. 

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Karma Eventually Gets You. It Got Me.

I have laughed more times than I can count at people who fall. As long as they are not seriously injured, broken bones or gushing blood, I will laugh every time someone falls. I have spent more time than I’ll admit on YouTube watching videos of people tripping, falling, walking into glass doors.

I was at a funeral a few years ago talking with a friend who knows me well, when over my friend’s shoulder, I saw a little girl, playing on the chairs, fall to the floor. Apart from hurting her knees a little, the girl was fine. So I laughed. My friend, without turning around to see why I was laughing, simply asked, “Who fell?”

“A little girl.” I chuckled some more.

“You’re a monster.”

“Maybe,” I replied.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe I am a monster for laughing at a little girl falling at a funeral. But I got my due the other night as I was walking toward the Walgreens entrance, excited to pick up pictures I’d taken of my dog and great-niece looking so sweet together, and didn’t notice the sudden incline in the pavement. I tripped so bad in my winter boots, I dropped straight to the ground, and my hands and left knee immediately began to sting.

Despite the agonizing throbbing pain in my knee, I got up as quickly as I could, because God forbid I should linger on the ground long enough to allow a few more people to see that I have fallen, and have them laugh at me the way I would have laughed at them. My fall had met my criteria of no broken bones and no gushing blood.

So I got to my feet and walked into the store as limp-free as I could, while ignoring the fact that a golf ball-sized bump was forming on my knee. I paid for my pictures and got the hell out of that store knowing that karma got me.

It got me good, and I deserved it.

As I was editing this blog, my dog, Phil, needed to go outside. So I took him for a walk, and we ran into a neighbor and her dog. As our dogs interacted, sniffing and pawing at each other, my neighbor’s dog got out of its collar. I was able to get a hold of the dog before it could get away.

As my neighbor tried to slip the collar back on, she lost her footing, fell backwards, and rolled onto her side. I asked the woman if she was okay. She quickly said she was, but I knew the woman was embarrassed.

I knew how she felt.

Boy, did I know how she felt.

 

Still Think Trump Doesn’t Incite Violence?

As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump often lamented at his rallies about missing the good ol’ days when people weren’t afraid of hurting other people. As a candidate, he often used strong, violent language to get his base riled up. And it often worked. There were numerous instances of violence against protestors at his rallies in 2016, which Donald Trump encouraged by assuring his supporters that he’d pay their legal fees.

 

Despite this, there were still people who claimed Trump was a unifier, not a divider. That he didn’t incite any violence in anyone.

Yesterday, ABC News published an article where they list 36 criminal cases “where President Donald Trump’s name was invoked in violent acts, threats of violent acts or assault.” They could fine no such cases for either Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush.

According to ABC News, “[i]n nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.”

Defense lawyers are citing the language of the President of the United States as being the instigator, the motivator, of the people who exhibited “violent or threatening behavior against others. Some were so inspired by Trump’s words that they yelled out Trump’s name during the attacks.

That is sick, but if anyone is surprised by this then they weren’t paying attention in 2016. Let’s not make the same mistake in 2020. Our country’s democracy and integrity is on the line.

This article was written before the shooting at an El Paso shopping mall where the alleged gunman scoped out the area before the assault to make sure there was a heavy Hispanic presence. There was. So he shot up the place killing 22 people and injuring dozens others. The shooter was apparently inspired by the President’s anti-immigrant rhetoric that referred to immigrants coming to America as an invasion. People are hurting and killing people because they believe they’re taking orders from this President.

Because we have a demagogue and a racist in the White House, people are harassing, threatening, taunting, physically attacking, shooting, and killing other people because they believe that will make them a patriot.

Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.

 

Please vote in 2020 to take our country back.

 

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Buying Cruelty-Free

Since I’ve become conscientious of my diet and have implemented a more plant-based way of eating, I decided to change some of the daily products I use so that they also fit a cruelty-free way of living. Now I check labels before I buy anything from lip balm to detergent and deodorant. It wasn’t difficult nor was the difference in costs substantial.

I found a lot of cruelty-free products at Trader Joes for very reasonable prices. I bought their hand soap and toothpaste. Once I finish up with the shampoo and conditioner I’m currently using, which I mistakenly thought was cruelty-free, I’m going to give their hair products a try.

 

 

The Trader Joe’s bar soap comes in a two-pack and cost $1.67. Although the product is not tested on animals, it is not vegan because it has honey. I haven’t tried the toothpaste yet, I’m currently using Tom’s. Tom’s is another great cruelty-free brand, as is Seventh-Generation and Ecos. I bought Ecos detergent and dish detergent that are plant-based and contain no animal ingredients and are not tested on animals.

 

Below are some products I found at TJMaxx. These are all vegan products. Even though the lotion and shower gel say honey, they are vegan as there is not real honey in the product.

 

Nutri-C has become my favorite face lotion. Trader Joe’s also has their own cruelty-free lotions, but I have yet to try them. For make-up I use E.L.F cosmetics because their entire line is vegan and is available at a variety of stores.

These are just a few of the animal-safe products I use. I’d love to know some of your cruelty-free favorites.

Feeling a Bit Disturbed

 

 

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Last Friday I saw the band Disturbed play at a venue near me, and I won’t soon forget the experience. The concert was powerful, and it was emotional. I’ve never been to a rock concert where so many people cried, or were trying not to cry.

Disturbed is a heavy metal/nu metal band, and they’ve written songs that center around suicide. One of the videos to these songs depicts a woman who hangs herself. The video is graphic and it comes with a PSA from the lead singer, David Draiman, pleading with people who are thinking about taking their own lives to seek help and to know there is another way. The National Suicide Helpline is displayed in the video, just as it was displayed on the big screen during the concert.

Draiman spoke very eloquently and deeply to the audience. This is a man, and band, who create a deep connection with their fans. They refer to the crowd as their family, their blood.

In the middle of the set, the band moved from the main stage to a smaller stage in the center of the floor to be more intimate with the crowd. Draiman called for the house lights to come up and he asked for anyone who has dealt with substance addiction or depression, or knows someone who has, to raise their hands. With the lights on, I could see clearly throughout the venue, and more people than not had their hands raised.  Draiman then asked for everyone to look around and see that they aren’t alone. 

Powerful moment right there.

This is when the band sang their inspiring songs about defeating one’s thoughts of suicide. The house lights stayed on, making the moment all the more sober. A mother and son sitting beside me embraced while they cried. Tears gushed from the woman’s eyes and down her face. Through cries they battled through the songs. A man beside the woman caressed her shoulders.

A few minutes later, she passed by me. I was sure the moment was too much for her. She needed a break. When she came back, I thought of giving her a quick hug, but I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me, and maybe that would have been unwanted by her.

While the songs played I looked around me. The woman and son weren’t the only ones crying. There were many tearful eyes about me. So many strong-looking men stood with their arms crossed over their chest and stoic expressions on their faces and tears in their eyes. It was all so much I almost cried myself but held it back. The pain being suffered around me was palpable.

Before the show, at the meet and greet, a fan had given the band a letter. The lead singer called this fan to the stage and asked for his permission to read the letter aloud. The shocked young man stepped onto the stage and nodded to Draiman his consent. The letter explain that this man had attempted four times to take his own life and was going to do it again until he heard the song “The Light” by Disturbed. The man stayed on stage as the band played the song marking one of the most powerful and emotional moments I’ve ever witnessed at a concert.

Disturbed, like other rock bands I’ve recently seen play, were very inclusive in their message. Draiman preached tolerance of all people, of all races and religions, and he even included gays and transsexuals, which I appreciated very much. Everyone around me cheered this message. I didn’t hear any jeers or sneers.

The band ended the show with the lead singer telling everyone to take care of themselves and to take care of each other.

I went to bed that night feeling so empowered and appreciating my life.  If you ever get the chance to see this band play live, please do. It’s an experience like no other.

 

Below is a clip of the man Draiman called onto stage.

 

While the band played “A Reason to Fight” the mother and son beside me cried together.

 

A strong message of suicide preceded the song “Watch You Burn.”

 

 

*I don’t own the top picture of Disturbed.

Guru Aid is a Scam

Over the holiday season I purchased a new laptop and bought a year’s subscription to McAfee for my online security. For a reason that isn’t significant, I needed to contact the  company so I googled McAfee Security and called the first number that popped up. Big mistake. I should have looked more closely because I would have seen the number was actually for a third-party company called Guru Aid that handles support for McAfee. The name was connected to this company, but they aren’t McAfee.

There was nothing off about the call as it started. Ten minutes into the call I believed I was still speaking to a McAfee representative. He assured me he could help me with the problem I was experiencing. He took me to a website where I relinquished control of my monitor to him. I watched as my mouse moved across the screen dictated by the man over the phone. He went into my computer and talked me through what he was doing while telling me all of things that were wrong with my computer. He asked me in a concerned voice how old my computer was, as though expecting me to say an amount of years worrisome enough that he could blame all my woes on my “old” computer.

When I replied that my computer was only a couple weeks old, he explained quickly that even new computers can have problems. I was very concerned. How could my new computer have so many problems? Thinking I was still talking to a legitimate company, I asked the rep if I should call HP, the maker of my computer. Maybe I have a defective computer. His voice raised slightly when he said, “What can they do? I can fix this.”

He put me on hold and a different man came on. He confirmed that my computer was in bad shape. He could fix it and the cost would be $149.99. This gave me pause.  I told the man I was going to call HP. He became very upset, very quickly. I knew then I wasn’t dealing with McAfee. He said, like the previous rep, that HP could do nothing for me. I then said I had to talk to my husband, (I don’t have a husband. I’m a lesbian, but I was desperate for an out) and see what he saws. The man yelled. “What can your husband do to help? I can fix this!”

When I still said no, he offered to decrease the price to $99.99. I told him no, and then he questioned very angrily why when money was brought up I resisted right away. He apparently thought I was easy prey and was irate that he wasn’t going to get his easy paycheck. I hung up upset at this experience, and remembered that I’d had a similar experience when calling Norton Security a couple years ago. They also charged me $149.95 to fix the problem I was having. It never occurred to me I wasn’t speaking directly to Norton. I didn’t pay them then, like I didn’t now, and I remember that rep raising his voice at me in anger. I hung up thinking that Norton representatives were assholes.

I googled McAfee again to see how I had  made the mistake and called the wrong company. GuruAid popped up first and had the McAfee name linked to it. They are apparently allowed to provide technical support to Norton and McAfee customers, and probably other companies too. I called McAfee to tell them my experience and to make sure they knew that a company associating itself with them was trying to scam their customers. I also wanted to confirm that my computer didn’t have any of the threatening problems Guru Aid tried to convince me they had. The rep confirmed that everything was running smoothly and the original problem I’d had was taken care of.

The rep was very apologetic and he seemed to know of Guru Aid pretty well, and all he told me was next time to be sure it was actually McAfee that I call. I hung up disappointed that companies would knowingly allow third-parties to use their name while trying to scam their customers.

In the end, we need to protect ourselves. Even though Guru Aid didn’t scam a penny from me, I’m pissed they had the opportunity to try. I went on Twitter to see if they had an account, and they do, @guruaid. I sent them a couple tweets to let them know what I thought of them. I wasn’t expecting a response.

I checked to see if there were any tweets from other people about this scam of a company and there were. Last April a man tweeted that his mother had Norton as her online security and thought she was calling Norton when she really called Guru Aid and they charged her $300 for what he believed was a scam. People tweeted at him confirming to the man that it was.

This company is known by some as a scam, but unfortunately not by enough. More people are going to get scammed by companies like this. Computers have become a lifeline for a lot of us, and when they no longer work some will do anything to get it fixed. And these fraudulent companies know that.

The only way we can try to beat them is to spread the word. This blog is my attempt to help people not get scammed. Guru Aid is a scam. Make sure you know the company you are calling. They purposely make it confusing.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Fast Food Nation

I recently reread the book, Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, for the third time. Like my favorite novel, The Jungle, written by Upton Sinclair, Fast Food Nation is a story that warrants a refresher every few years.

The book’s raw depiction of the social injustices in the exploitation of low-wage workers, especially immigrant workers, and the conditions they are forced to work in, the horrendously inhumane way our farm animals are slaughtered, and the portrayal of how the fast food industry has permanently changed the American landscape, make Schlosser’s book an incredibly educational read.

Fast Food Nation begins with fast food’s inception in Southern California in the 1950’s and takes the reader on its journey to becoming the most powerful industry in the country.

“The basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today’s retail economy, wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code.” (Schlosser)

The takeover of the American culture by the over-franchised fast food industry, including restaurant chains like Applebees, Olive Garden, and Chili’s, has led to the homogenizing of the country’s scenery. No matter what state you travel, you will find a McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s, cluttered along the state’s roads and highways, not to mention malls filled with the same retail stores.

“America’s streets and malls now boast the same Pizza Huts and Taco Bells, Gaps and Banana Republics, Starbucks and Jiffy Lubes…Almost every facet of American life has been franchised or chained.” (Schlosser)

When I first read this book ten years ago, I made a conscious effort to patronize independently owned restaurants that are unique to its own cities, establishments that give individual towns character. I no longer wanted to support the conformity the fast food industry has created and thrives on.

There are other reasons I learned from reading this book that encouraged me to turn my back on the fast food industry. Another being its unfair stranglehold of keeping minimum wage low, by employing strong lobbyists, despite the industry’s multi-billion dollar profits.

The industry has successfully kept their workers from unionizing. McDonalds went as far as shutting down one of its restaurants where workers were close to forming a union.

The high turnover rate of employment makes it hard for workers to unionize, but in recent years there has been a strong  national push among fast food workers to raise the minimum wage. I completely support this, and after reading this book and seeing how unscrupulous, greedy owners take advantage of their workers while reaping huge profits, I don’t see how most people wouldn’t agree with giving the county’s minimum wage workers a raise.

I’m sure I’ll be citing this book in any future blog I write regarding animal and worker’s rights. The horror of slaughterhouses and the dangers to its workers as companies sacrifice worker safety for profit.

These days it’s important to be a conscientiousness consumer.