Vegans and muscle gain

So, at the end of January I decided that I wanted to start taking my work-out routine seriously and add 15-20 lbs of body weight, with as much muscle growth as possible.

I have gained a lot of strength in the process and learned A LOT about proper nutrition thanks primarily to Conscious Muscle and a YouTube channel called B.U.F.F. Dudes (they’re not vegan, but they have great videos about weight lifting). Along the way, many people have asked me why I decided to do this now.  I’m 32 years old, studying for my PhD comprehensive oral exams, and my wife and I just had our first child! (Will post about that soon)  These situations are not really the recipe for someone that is spending most of their day eating/thinking about eating.  But I decided to make this short post about why I did decide to do this, and the first thing starts with my major life event.

Knowing that I was about to become a dad had been the #1 inspiration for me to get into the best shape of my life. First and foremost, I want to be in my daughter’s life as long as possible, and that starts with good health.  Second, I want to be a good example of a healthy lifestyle involving exercise and proper diet. Lastly, I am sure you guessed that my wife and I are going to raise our daughter to be vegan.  While, we will do our best to help her understand all the reasons we are vegan, I also want her to see that her father is not only vegan, but physically strong, as well.

As a vegan, the most common question you get asked is usually, “where do you get your protein from?” This question drives vegans crazy! For years, I used to just point out the (vegan) actor Chris Hemsworth and ask if he looks like he has a protein deficiency. Of course he doesn’t, he’s F*ckin Thor! But then one day I realized, if I gained some serious muscle, I could be that example. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I will even be close to as good looking as Chris Hemsworth, but at least I could gain muscle like him. I’m at a point now where people have noticed that I have put on a noticeable amount of muscle and those people all know I’m vegan.  What I hope to get out of this, is that when they are talking to their friends about vegans, some of them might say that they know/work with a vegan who gained a fair amount of muscle.  Thus, planting the seed that vegans get plenty of protein and can be just as strong as a meat-eater.  As recently as a week ago, I had a nonvegan come up to me in a coffee house and ask me for nutrition advice, because he could see that I clearly take good care of myself and I get plenty of protein.  I gotta admit, that felt pretty good.  These will also be things that my daughter will see in me.  She will know that her daddy is physically strong AND compassionate to animals.

The final reason I decided to do this muscle bulk was to help with my stress.  My stress relief for most of my life has been videogames.  While, I do still enjoy playing videogames, they became too much of a time-suck for me and badly affected my sleep schedule.  What ended up happening over the last five months was that working-out replaced my video game time.  It was not intentional, it just happened that way.  So now, instead of sitting on my couch and barely moving my hands, I am lifting weights and strengthening my body and cardiovascular system.  But the real reason this has become my new #1 stress relief is because working-out releases endorphins and dopamine.  It’s like your brain is rewarding you for taking care of your body, by making you feel good.  It might be the healthiest stress relief (as long as your are being safe while lifting weights) a person can perform.

So those are my reasons for getting into a steady and intense work-out routine and another example of why veganism can work for you!

Helping a Sanctuary from the Ground Up: Part 3

Rehabilitation and Love

Now I will get to the biggest reason for why it is so rewarding to help a sanctuary from the ground up: the rescued animals. (duh!!)

As I already stated, this sanctuary is called Arthur’s Acres, and there is a very good reason for that.  Arthur is the founding pig of the sanctuary.  He was rescued from this exact property by the previous owner who was a backyard butcher.  The farm fell under and gave Todd the opportunity to both rescue Arthur and purchase the property to transform it into a sanctuary.  Arthur was relocated to Skylands while all the paperwork and upgrades were performed; and once the farm was ready for him, he made it his home.  Arthur is every bit the extension of the tremendous energy flowing from this sanctuary. If I could describe Arthur in one word it would be “ambassador.”  Arthur is usually the first pig to greet you when you arrive, and always checks in on you while you are working/cleaning on the sanctuary.  He takes inventory of all the hay and straw you move around, and he makes sure Vivian and Fay live up to his example.  He will bound along the fence line when you walk to the house for something and come sprinting towards you when you show your face again.  Arthur is a peaceful soul with a heart big enough for everyone.  He loves to be loved and wants to thank you in the many ways that he can.  That might come in the form of a happy grunt, or he may award you by flopping on his side so you can rub his belly (at least I think he considers that a reward) … Also, did I mention that he’s ridiculously cute?

Picture courtesy of Arthur’s Acres Instagram

Vivian and Fay were the second pig rescue of Arthur’s Acres and they are kids through and through.  Vivian and Fay are “retired” pigs used for testing chemicals designed to prevent burns.  They were rescued at less than 4 months old and I was assuming they would be skittish around humans for a while. Boy was I glad to be wrong! These two youngsters were everything you would expect kids to be (regardless of species). They are playful, sweet, curious, and mischievous (I think they learned that from Arthur). The one thing about these two that I tell everyone is that they are on top of you from start to finish.  Every time I am doing some kind of project in their living areas, they are standing there watching and commenting (they are quite noisy).  It is as if they are little humans asking me:

What’s that thing for?

Why are you putting that there?

Why can’t I go into that room with you?

I almost expect them to ask me about Santa Clause or where babies come from. But this is one of the things I love most about them, I’m never lonely when I’m working on Arthur’s Acres.

Fay trying to see what tools I brought

The last pig group are the Hunger Games girls: Katniss, Prim, and Rue. These girls were rescued from a farm that was one of the most neglectful I have ever seen.  There are pictures of these girls nearly drowning in their own waste, totally emaciated, and on death’s door when they were found and rescued by the local SPCA. It took months of rehab and health checks to get them healthy enough just to come to Arthur’s Acres. But once they got there, they knew that they were safe. The first few days the girls were a little hesitant to new people, but the energy of the place and its great ambassador, rubbed off on them and they quickly became just as loving and trusting as Arthur, Vivian, and Fay.

This is a picture of the girls during the rescue. Courtesy of Arthur’s Acres Instagram
Only a few months later and Rue is healthy and happy!

One of these girls in particular has had a bigger struggle than all the other animals on the sanctuary. In early December, Katniss could barely walk, and Todd knew that he had to get her to Cornell to see the vet specialists as soon as possible.  This also happened to be one of the days I was volunteering.  As soon as I got to the sanctuary I could see the trailer ready, but Katniss did not have the strength to get into the back. The poor girl was so exhausted from a morning full of trying to get her on the trailer.  She could barely stand, much less walk up a ramp without a lot of help.  Todd and I did our best to guide and help push her up the ramp during her short bursts of energy.  It took the combined efforts of Todd, Jenny, Dawnell, and myself to get Katniss onto the trailer. This was the worst day of my volunteering life, but it is also the day that I truly felt like I made a difference in the life of a rescued animal.

Todd spending some time with Katniss, while she was at Cornell. Courtesy of Arthur’s Acres Instagram

As Todd drove off to Cornell, I hoped for the best, but I honestly expected the worst.  I am extremely happy to write, that Katniss is close to a full recovery!  The vets don’t know for sure what was wrong, but after months of care, treatments, lots of love and support, Katniss is walking and getting stronger every day. Every time I go back to Arthur’s Acres, I spend a lot of time with Katniss.  It warms my heart, just how happy and appreciative that she is surrounded by people who did not and WILL NOT give up on her! Katniss is truly a girl on fire, and she is such an inspiration.

Katniss sometimes follows me around her stall while I clean it.

I can go on and on about Katniss and all of the residents at the sanctuary.  I didn’t even mention the chickens that spend every morning with Katniss, or the rescued kittens and their momma that live on the property and are just the sweetest felines you could ever meet.  Not to mention the goofball potbelly pig Wilbur, who is not sure if he is a dog or a pig.

I had to throw in at least one Wilbur picture!

If you want to meet these amazing characters, you are welcome to come volunteer and spend the whole day with them and have similar wonderful experiences. Words on a page, or pictures on a social media site, can only do so much; I welcome all of you to come and experience Arthur’s Acres for yourselves and have an unforgettable time.

As always, thanks for stopping by


Helping a Sanctuary from the Ground Up: Part 2

Helping a Sanctuary from the Ground Up: Part 2

It Takes a Village


While there is only one founder of Arthur’s Acres, there has been a village of friends and volunteers that have taken this property from a deteriorating murder house, to a safe haven of kindness for all animals. Like raising a child, a sanctuary needs a lot of love and sometimes a stern voice to make sure the property flourishes and becomes what it is meant to be.

Some of the people I see helping are people I have known for years, others are people I have met in the last 5 months and they are all amazing. It is truly inspiring to see so many people come together for a common cause and build this sanctuary from the ground up. These are just a few of the incredible people that have transformed Arthur’s Acres.

There is Tony, whom I mentioned in the last post, that travels from North Carolina once a month to clean stalls and use his many years of activism to boost the sanctuary’s outreach and general care.

Me, Todd, and Tony (Left-Right) after a successful day of cleaning Katniss’ stall. 

Hans, a retiree that is basically MacGyver when it comes to building and fixing the structures around the barn.  It is amazing what he does with limited resources.

Sam, who is there twice a week every week, making sure all the big and small projects get done, whether that is nailing wire fencing around the perimeter or organizing the tools. Todd needs it, Sam gets it done.

Sam and I securing wire fencing.  Also, you are never alone while working on the sanctuary, as one of the residents is always nearby.

Jenny, a local veterinarian that visits frequently to check on all the animals, and make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary with their health.

Lastly, there is Todd’s second in command, Cerri.  She is the behind the scenes person that takes care of so many incredibly important aspects of the sanctuary.  She manages the website, gets in contact with vendors, volunteers, other sanctuaries… the list goes on forever.  Without Cerri, Arthur’s Acres would simply not exist.  And…oh yeah, she does it all for free.


Arthur’s Acres has attracted a vast and diverse group of individuals who all want to help save animals. All these people (and so many more whom I didn’t name) are amazing and their desire to see this place become the best sanctuary, has given it a tremendous start that so many sanctuaries fail to achieve.

When you are part of a vegan community, there is usually an instant connection with your fellow vegans because your morals are aligned (as I went over in a previous post). While being part of a brand-new sanctuary, your relationships grow even faster with the people who are there for the same reasons you are. I will always remember reinforcing 100 feet of fencing until my wrists felt like they were going to explode with Sam, or helping Hans pull Wilbur away from the compost pile (little rascal). And even though Todd always makes sure to thank all of us every time we help out, we all would keep coming back even if there was zero recognition, because we all believe in Arthur’s Acres.

That ends part 2.  Part 3 will be all about the residents of Arthur’s Acres!



Helping a Sanctuary from the Ground Up: Part 1

Picture courtesy of Arthur’s Acres on Instagram

OK, so this is going to be a little different than the posts I have done in the past that were one and done subjects.  This is going to be a series of my journey, or more accurately Todd’s journey from my perspective, of helping a brand-new animal sanctuary from the ground up.  This series will focus on Arthur’s Acres Animal Sanctuary and all the wonderful experiences that helped me grow as a person and a vegan, but most importantly, helped the lives of many animals with terrible pasts. The reason it is broken up into a series, is that I just have too much to write for just one post because this has been an amazing journey so far. If I made one giant post, it would feel like reading a term paper rather than a light blog post. But enough of that: let’s get to the good stuff!

Part 1: The Beginning

October 13th, 2018 is a day that I will never forget.  This was the first day I stepped foot on the new sanctuary, Arthur’s Acres. On this day there was only one rescued resident, a cranky rooster named Charlie, who was abandoned by the previous owner.  The namesake for the sanctuary (Arthur) was still living at Skylands Sanctuary and there were two beautiful girls (Vivian and Fay) getting their final checks with the vet, before they could come.  All of this hinged on Todd getting this property ready for Arthur’s arrival.

That’s what I was doing there that October day, helping get this sanctuary livable and safe for the future nonhuman residents. I rebuilt hinges for 3 metal gates that were in shambles from poor care (once again from the neglectful past owner) with the help of Tony, a tremendous activist from North Carolina. The work was humble, but also crucial; so, Tony and I painstakingly made sure that these gates would hold back a 700+ pound pig. This was probably the first time in my life I was actually thankful for all those projects around the house, my dad forced me to work on while I was growing up.  All that experience handling different tools came in handy (get it!) on this day, and many future days at the sanctuary.


I have been volunteering at animal sanctuaries for over two years, and to say that this was one of the most fulfilling days of my volunteering life, is a huge understatement.

As Todd gave me the tour of the entire 70+ acre property in desperate need of some TLC, I had one thought…”This place is going to be amazing!” There was so much untapped potential in this property and 5 months later the transformation has been incredible. Starting with building gates, I have aided in carpentry projects, fence building/reinforcing, demolition, and ultimately transforming a place of incredible pain and sadness into a sanctuary. I like to think that my greatest contribution to this place has been the physical and emotional support of the founder, Todd.

That is the first important aspect of being a part of this project from the beginning.  Over the last 3 years, Todd has become one of my closest friends, and like any good friend, I wanted to make myself available for him whenever he needed me.  Whether that meant fixing up the barns, aiding sick animals (more on that in a later post), or just hanging out with him in the company of pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats. Perhaps the hardest part of founding a sanctuary is the fact that you are on an island and all the responsibilities fall on your shoulders. This can be the most fragile time in the sanctuary’s lifespan, and there is a real possibility that founders can burn out from the constant stress from caregiving, fundraising, and taking care of themselves. Which is why I felt it was important to be there as much as possible to help take some of the load off Todd’s shoulders. I was not alone in doing so, which has led me to meet some amazing people, be part of unforgettable experiences, and grow closer to my friend and to the animal rights cause.

I will end it here for this post. To find out more about these amazing people and experiences, stay tuned for the next few weeks as I unveil more and more about my experiences with Arthur’s Acres.

But I will not leave you hanging for some adorable pictures of the residents, so here is a small taste of the cuteness yet to come!

As always, Thanks for stopping by



What Vegan Means to Me

Many people have their preconceived notions about vegans.  I myself, used to think they were radicals who did not want to be part of society.  I never pictured a vegan as a person who wears normal clothes (normal being a relative term) and plays well with others.  Since becoming vegan over a year ago, I have tried to show people that we are the every-day person you feel comfortable around.  We just do all those everyday things without the use of animal products.


I have the benefit of being married to a woman who shares my level of compassion towards all animals.  We are both vegan and she is by my side in all aspects of our veganity (that’s the first time I actually used that word in this blog!).  That alone, would make my situation easy enough to stay vegan; but it is also something I knew was going to be there for me when I made the transition with her.  What I did not expect to find was a new welcoming community of vegans.

My volunteering is well-documented on this blog, so I am not going to go into great detail on that.  What I rarely mention, however, are the human-animals that have adopted me into their family.

Being part of a vegan community has had all the benefits you would see in most communities.  My knowledge has grown about the movement.  I have gained many new friends, some may even be life-long friends.  And I have been inspired by all the great advocacy and random acts of kindness I see from these people.

I was also blown-away with how open most vegans are into accepting new vegans into their community.  Everyone I meet who shares my vegan ideals (I use that term loosely) are immediately engaged in a conversation about food, animals, vegan products, and food…also did I mention food?  There is a kindred sense when meeting a fellow vegan that you don’t come across very often.

3 of those people I met for the first time that day.  The one on the far right, I found out was a fellow vegan blogger! Check it out:

The one piece of advice I would give to people searching for community in the things they care about, don’t just join a social media community.  Social media is a great way to see what others are doing, but it still does not compare to the person-to-person (that does not just mean humans) interaction that is so important to our movement.  Go to festivals, visit sanctuaries, volunteer at a shelter, find a Facebook group in your town or county and attend a meeting.  I know that first meetings are awkward with our fellow humans, but it is worth it.  Particularly with the vegan community, when you meet a fellow vegan you already know that your core-values are in-line with each other, which is the greatest ice breaker there is!



The vegan movement was born from compassion.  Whether you get involved for health, environmental, or animal reasons, your compassion for all animals (human and non) grows.  You start to see the world differently and compassion starts to flow from you unintentionally.  I am not saying that you will become the Buddha, but you will feel sympathy and understanding for others who you would not have even noticed before going vegan.

My own experience with this was something that happened to me earlier this year.

I was always a dog person.  I lived with a dog in my household from day 1.  My wife and I adopted a dog 5 years ago, who has lived with us in 2 different apartments and now a house. I never thought that much about cats.  I didn’t think they were great companions, because their personalities were very different from what I was used to in all the dogs I knew.  After being vegan for about 6 months, the idea of adopting a cat was brought up to me, by my wonderful wife, and to her surprise I was all for it.

My reaction even surprised myself.  I never wanted a cat before this, why was I so willing and excited by the idea now? I realized that the compassion grown from my veganism opened my mind and heart to adopting a cat.  I no longer felt a loyalty to one specific species over another.  I wanted to rescue a cat and give him or her the best life I could offer.  If my lifestyle did not mesh with the cat, I would just adapt my lifestyle to benefit him or her.

I am happy to say that my wife and I did adopt a cat, and she has been the best decision we have made since going vegan!

20180705_224002 (1)

Whether conscious or not, the openness and compassion in your heart will grow just from simply excluding animal products from your life.


This is what vegan means to me: community and compassion.  You can put those two in any order you like, but the one helps the other and vice-versa.  Going vegan has changed my life for the better and has not stopped improving it yet.  Whether you are already vegan, transitioning, on-the-fence, or never considered it: you will find that once you open your mind to that lifestyle, you will forever learn from its unconscious benefits.

Cow Pie

Continuing with my farm animal musings, this post will be all about Cows!

After the miserable failure of #Februdairy in which the dairy industry tried to ignite a renaissance on social media, I decided to feature the animals that convinced me to become vegan.  I also want to commend all the brave vegans out there that usurped #Februdairy and turned it into the miserable failure that the dairy marketing team feared it would become.  I contributed in my very small way, by posting some facts that I will be sharing today.

Let me start by going into my reasons for going vegan based on cows.  Back in 2016 (while I was still a vegetarian) I started to research egg companies that were ethical and treated their hens very well.  I was happy at the time to (ignorantly) find that I could eat eggs without feeling guilty about the chickens if I bought them from certain farms.  Before you jump down my throat, I know now that no matter how well the hens are treated on an egg farm, the male chickens are killed, because they are useless to the industry.  Therefore, there are no morally justifiable ways to eat eggs.  However, these are things that vegetarians don’t realize. Vegetarians either don’t see the full picture (mostly thanks to Animal Agriculture’s very high and thick walls) or they let themselves be fooled by pictures of happy animals.

This was my blindness with the dairy industry.  I figured, “Well, they don’t kill the cows, they just milk them.”  I also believed that cows just produced milk, because that’s what cows did.  I never thought about the male cows either.  Like many people, I was against veal my whole life, but had no idea that by buying a pound of cheese, I was also giving money to veal farmers.  I didn’t know that the American government was spending my tax dollars on billion-dollar bail-outs for the failing dairy industries.  I also didn’t know about the puss that was used to congeal the cheese either, but I honestly don’t think that would have stopped me from eating it.  I had no attachment to milk or yogurt, but I was addicted to cheese.

Then came that faithful day I mentioned in my very first blog post, when my co-worker asked me if I ever looked up how dairy is made… I learned some awful truths that day and even after learning that the dairy industry supplies the veal industry and that after the cows are “spent” (which is only after 3-5 years) those cows I thought were only milked their whole life were slaughtered for cheap beef; it took me a few months to finally give up dairy completely.  I grew up in an Italian family, so you know that cheese had deep hooks in me.  Even today, I can’t help but salivate when I smell fresh mozzarella.  But now I know that my taste buds are less important than my love and compassion.

I promise I will get to cows soon; but one final thing I want to say is that most vegans have an image burned into their minds that helps keep them vegan.  For some it is slaughterhouse footage, pictures of a transport truck, a statistic about the dangers of animal products…for me it is the image of a baby cow only seconds old (literally still covered in its mom’s placenta) being dragged away from momma by a farmer.  All the while the mother is chasing the calf desperately trying to lick its skin and clean the placenta off of the baby. As a father who lost his only child before it was ever born, this ripped my heart out.  That mother cow loved that calf, and could not understand why this farmer was dragging it away from her.  Every parent deserves to be with their children no matter what species they are.  A glass of milk, a piece of cheese, a cup of yogurt is just another broken family.


Now, why should you care about cows?

Cows are forgiving and very sweet.

I have had the honor of meeting cows that have had very difficult lives of abuse that they escaped from.   My wife and I sponsor a cow named Orlando at Farm Sanctuary, who was locked up in a shed with 10 other male baby cows whom had contracted pneumonia.  Instead of getting the cows medical care, the owner of the property began shooting the cows in the back of the head.  Thankfully, authorities arrived before he could finish killing all of the 11 cows.  Orlando and four of his friends were rescued by Farm Sanctuary and given the care they needed.

I have met Orlando twice now, and despite his traumatizing past with humans, he could not be friendlier when strangers come to meet him.  The best experience I ever had at the Watkins Glen Sanctuary was getting lots of kisses from Orlando while my wife and I got to meet the main cow herd.

20171119_154747 Resized_20171119_154154.jpeg

One other example is a cow at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary named Kayli, who escaped from a slaughterhouse (see her story here).  Kayli lived on a factory farm for a long time and suffered all the abuse and neglect that life comes with.  It took Kayli some time to warm up to humans after she was rescued, but now she happily walks up to her fence and takes alfalfa treats from visitors and sticks around to let you pet and admire her.  Kayli also enjoys laying around in the sun all day with her best friends Dylan (more on him below) and Maybelle.


Cows are cognizant and form tight bonds

Cows do not rank as high on the intelligence spectrum as pigs, but that does not mean they are dumb.  Cows recognize their own names and they form tight bonds with fellow cows and people.  Cows will usually form a strong connection with members of their herd.  Cows have best friends that they will play with, share their food, and lounge side-by-side.  Mother cows on a Sanctuary may even “adopt” another young cow, and if possible share her milk with the orphaned cow.  Cows will mourn their friends after they pass away and will comfort one another when a member of the herd is gone forever.


Cows are resilient

Dairy cows may suffer one of the worst fates in all of animal agriculture, and yet they still fight through the emotional and physical pain for years before they are unmercifully released from this world.  I have formed a particularly strong bond with one cow at Woodstock who epitomizes the word Survivor.

Dylan was diagnosed with cancer in his right eye late in 2017 and needed surgery to have it removed.  Dylan’s surgery was a success and thankfully the cancer did not spread from the right eye.  Like many people, cancer has made a significant impact on my life.  Both my mother and my mother-in-law are cancer survivors just like Dylan.  It takes a strong will to battle cancer.  Survivors go through some of the worst months/years of their lives just for a chance at survival. They are some of the strongest willed humans in the world and I am proud to be the son of a survivor.

In Dylan’s case, he didn’t know why his eye needed to be removed, and he certainly didn’t understand why he needed to be separated from his herd while his eye socket healed.  Regardless of not knowing why, Dylan fought and maintained that lust for life that all animals share.  Despite the pain of the surgery, the loneliness of not getting to lay side-by side with his herd, and the disorientation of losing an eye, Dylan fought-on.  Dylan not only represents survivors of cancer, but he represents the will to live that all farm animals share.  Even those unlucky billions each year who meet their end with a knife cutting their throat, they all share the same lust for life that Dylan the cancer survivor shares.









Dylan is my brother from a different mother and each time we see each other, our relationship grows a little more.





Bring Out Your Inner Pig

This is going to be my first blog post about farm animals and how amazing they are when you meet them in real life. I figured I would start with the most intelligent and perhaps most misunderstood farm animal, pigs. I’m also posting this on the same day that Woodstock Farm Sanctuary rescued two more pigs, Molly and Charlie. Special thanks to Todd and Hervé for picking these wonderful piggies up! 

I believe that vegans, particularly the ones that are involved in sanctuaries and rescues, find the stereotypes for pigs the most troublesome. Let me go over some of them right now:

Pigs are dirty:

You’ve all heard the term “pigsty” used to describe a room or area that is disheveled, messy, unclean, smelly, etc… This could not be farther from the truth for pigs. Pigs are one of, if not the most hygienic of all the farm animals. They only go to the bathroom (or go to the toilet for my European fans) in specified areas and never relieve themselves close to where they sleep. In fact, when given the chance, pigs build very comfortable nests of straw and hay for their beds; to the point that I’ve wanted to just lay right down next to them and fall asleep.

Just look how comfy and content these piggies are!

Pigs take mud baths during the warmer months, but this is not because they just like to be dirty. Pigs take mud baths to protect their skin from the sun, because most pigs bred for meat lack pigment due to selective breeding to make the processed meat look more appealing. Pigs also do this to cool off on hot days. The mud acts as insulation to keep their bodies from overheating. Not to mention that mud is a very popular skin therapy for humans who pay $80 or more at spas to take mud baths to soften their skin and (supposedly) get rid of toxins and their cellulite. Pigs get all of this for free. Come to think of it…I’ve never seen a rescued pig with cellulite.

Pigs are stupid:

If you truly believe this than you’re stoopid!

I’m only partially kidding here: but this is an annoying stereotype that many people hold of pigs. Normally, I won’t do this, but for something like this topic I am going to add a few references at the end of this post that validates my rant that’s going to begin in 3…2…1…

Pigs are more intelligent than your 3 year old child!

They have proven to be able to use tools and are one of the few animal species that can recognize themselves in a mirror. Piglets (less than 47 days old) have been studied for their cognitive ability and show complex emotions and reactions to stress (I had to endure reading some awful studies for this post, so I hope you are getting something out of this!) and adult pigs in factory farms are literally driven insane from their confinement. I know vegans aren’t supposed to pick one animal over another, but my heart breaks the most for pigs in factory farms because of their intelligence. I’ve met a number of farm animals in my life (mostly over the last year while volunteering at Woodstock) and pigs show me gratitude after I clean their space. I’m not being hyperbolic, they are very grateful when I clean up and put fresh straw in their barn. Even the sassy teenage pigs grunt in appreciation after I clean their area. I don’t feed them, I don’t groom them, I don’t give them any extra special attention that I wouldn’t give to a goat or a cow: and yet they thank me with nuzzles and happy oinks. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love goats (#TeamBenny woot! woot!) but after I clean their barn, they just walk past me to their hay, or if they come to me it’s so I can pet them (I’m not complaining). Pigs understand more about their environment and what their situation is than you give them credit for!

So if you want to bring out your inner pig, be smart! They are the 4th most intelligent non-human species. 1. Great Apes, 2. Dolphins, 3. Elephants, 4. Pigs. (Lists will vary, but this is the most common order). They are born smarter than us. The only stupid thing they do is trust humans. If they weren’t so sweet and trusting, we wouldn’t be eating them. Pigs are closely related to hippos and yet I’ve never met anyone who said they ate hippo meat. You know why? Because they are nasty S.O.B.s that do not trust humans!  As much as I love the way pigs trust me and offer me love, I wish they were mean and hard to tame, because that would save the lives of billions of pigs per year.

In short, pigs are not stupid.

OK Paul…breathe. 

I know my introduction page said I wouldn’t be a condemning vegan that complains about society. All I can say to that is if you were insulted by that rant, than you need thicker skin. I could have been a lot meaner.

So how do we bring out our inner pigs? That’s easy.

Be clean

Be smart

Be sweet

Be kind

Be appreciative

Be yourself!

That is the last item on the agenda for pigs.

Pigs are individuals:

This is not pig-specific, but I want to just relate my own personal experience with 3 piggies I have had the privilege to spend quality time with. All three of these pigs live at Woodstock right now, which is why I have had the pleasure of their company.


Olive, lending me a hand while I clean her section of the barn.  

The sweetest girl. Olive lives with her pen-mate, Stanley, and she is very curious and loves being showered with attention. She listens well when I ask her to stop knocking my wheelbarrow over. She even offers up her help. I’ve seen this 600+ pound girl bounce around her field like she was a bunny. Olive is a free spirit who loves socializing as much as she loves napping. A girl after my own heart ❤


Andy on the left: Antonio on the right

Big buddy Andy. Andy is a tremendous (in more ways than one) ambassador for pigs. Andy is pretty laid back, partially to do with being an older pig, and he LOVES belly rubs. Andy is a 700-800 lb boy who loves to root all day and sleep all night. He never turns down attention from a caregiver or a volunteer, and he is the first pig that ever greeted me with the happy grunting that sounds kinda like a low laugh.



I would imagine that anyone at Woodstock reading this is probably surprised that I’m about to feature this pig with a…how do I put this?…strong personality. Duke is one of the teenagers at the farm (as of Jan. 2018 when I wrote this) and he is definitely that kid who has a short fuse when his parents ask him too many questions. Duke will let the whole farm know when he is cranky. He will issue a high pitched squeal and snap at any pigs that get too close to him. You’re probably asking yourself right now…Paul why the hell do you like this pig? I don’t like Duke…I love Duke! You know why? Because he’s genuine. Duke isn’t always a jerk, see the above picture of both me and my wife petting him. Duke is a strong-willed young man who would be applauded for his confidence if he was a human. Duke let’s you know how he’s feeling, which is something we wish people would do more often. Duke has an edge to him and he doesn’t apologize about it, just like all of our favorite movie/television characters. Duke is alright in my book.


So follow the pig rules of living life listed above.  Live the way you want, but be kind and respectful to those around you.  And if you’re having a bad day, let people know that you just want some space, like my pal Duke.

As always, thanks for stopping by



“Pigs Prove to be Smart, if not Vain.” 

“Pigs are Intelligent, Emotional, and Cognitively Complex”

“Thinking Pigs: A Comparative Review of Cognition, Emotion, and Personality in Sus domesticus”

The below source you will need access to scholarly journals, as a PhD student at St. John’s University I found it through their library: It’s not a fun read

Goumon, S., & Spinka, M. (2016). “Emotional contagion of distress in young pigs is potentiated by previous exposure to the same stressor.” Animal Cognition, 19(3), 501-511. doi:

Why Vegan is more fun than Vegetarian

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  End of semester takes up all my free time for writing.  I will be sharing an interesting paper I wrote about a vegetarian poet from the 19th Century, so…silver linings.

That brings me to my post today.  Why being a vegan is way better than being a vegetarian.

My wife and I went vegetarian together 9 years ago while at Warped Tour in Long Island.  So, for anyone who has ever volunteered to hand out flyers at an event or just saw these flyers and wondered if they really make a difference, we are living proof that they do.  Keep it up!

Seeing the pictures and messages on those flyers scattered all over the ground, covered in dirt, gave us the final push to give up meat.  Looking back now, the only thing that surprises me is how long it took us to go vegan.

For 8 years, we lived on a steady diet of cheese at almost every meal.  Not really the healthiest vegetarian diet.  If you go vegetarian for health reasons, then you probably won’t make the same unhealthy choices I did by eating grilled cheese sandwiches twice a week for dinner.  If you go vegetarian for the animals, like I did, then you will probably make the same mistakes as me.  You will also say to yourself,  or someone else “I will never go vegan, those people are crazy!”  99% of vegans at one point in their lives said or thought this, just ask them.

So what made me vegan?  Two things:

  1. After asking an omnivorous coworker of mine not to tell me what they were looking up about dairy on their computer that day as I sat next to them, and having him read it aloud to me anyway…Justin!…I was filled with horrible guilt. (Yay run-on sentences to emphasize something!).
  2. Getting involved with a farm sanctuary near my house (check that story out here).

So now that all that useless information is out of the way, I will list why Vegan is greater than Vegetarian, with no boring science to back up my unquestionable claims (shake fist at nonbelievers).


Overall, a vegetarian diet is healthier than omnivorous diets, but as I showed above, there are serious pitfalls.  You can’t lower your cholesterol if you consume the amount of cheese and eggs that a lot of vegetarians eat.  This will sound gross, just bear with me here…As a vegetarian my BMs resembled that of a deer.  While that is all well and good for deer, rabbits, goats, etc… humans are not supposed to drop pellets!  This was due to a lack of fiber (too much dairy, not enough veggies).  After making the switch, my droppings are the definition of healthy according to Google…moving on!

The second thing I noticed was that I felt lighter, and had more energy, particularly in the morning.  When I first went vegetarian, people asked me if I felt any different, and honestly, I didn’t.  Admittedly, I rarely ate red meat or pork when I was an omnivore, so maybe that had something to do with it.   After transitioning to vegan, I felt great both physically and mentally (more on psychology below).  And this will shock meat eaters, but my protein levels went up. Gasp! What did he just write?! Yes people, I actually eat more protein on my vegan diet, than I did on my vegetarian and omnivore diets.  And, in case you’re wondering…I am not a whole food plant based vegan.  Maybe one day, but “those people are crazy!” I love Oreos too much.

The Food

two boots pizza
A delicious vegan pizza from Two Boots

I’ll keep this brief, because this is not a food blog, and I don’t have any original recipes to share.  But in a blunt manner VEGAN FOOD IS WAY BETTER THAN VEGETARIAN!  It’s so much tastier and full of variety.  Awesome vegan restaurants, like Blossom and Cinnamon Snail have the best tasting food I’ve ever eaten. Real vegan food (not the tasteless salads people think we always eat) is filled with flavor and spices and such variety that it’s like visiting a new country with every meal.  It’s fantastic.  And I want to point out, that I did not expect this when I made the transition.  This was a very pleasant surprise.

World View

As a vegetarian, I didn’t really see the world any differently.  I never noticed the leather shoes I bought, or the wool sweaters I complained were itchy.  I still saw steak as food, but just a food I didn’t feel right eating.  My common answer to people when they asked why I went vegetarian was, (and please don’t judge me too harshly for this) …”I don’t think it’s wrong to eat animals.  I just don’t agree with the factory farming environment from which they come from.”  Awful, I know.

I don’t know if this is going to convince anyone on the fence, but what I will write next is honest.

When you become vegan for moral reasons the world around you will NEVER look the same again.  A trip to the food store is like walking into a graveyard with open caskets everywhere.  You do not see anything with animal products as food anymore.  When I’m asked if I miss any food, I honestly tell them: “I don’t see that stuff as food anymore.”  Cheese is not food; it is an orphaned cow.  Eggs are not food; they are ground up baby chickens.  Wool is not clothing; it is a helpless prey animal forced to surrender its body for humans that have so many other means of keeping themselves warm.  Leather…well looking back I never understood why I was OK with leather when I was a vegetarian, weird.

Now, this may seem like it’s too drastic of a change for you to go vegan, but the upside of this is perhaps the best reason why vegan is greater than vegetarian.


You know why the joke goes: “How can you tell if someone is vegan? …Don’t worry, they’ll tell you;” that’s because we are incredibly proud to be vegans.  Veganism is not a diet.  I repeat, IT IS NOT A DIET.  Veganism is a way of life.  It is a family that you choose to join.  You cannot force someone to become vegan: that will not last.  Being vegan fills you with a purpose that your life now makes a difference for the animals you no longer eat/exploit.  Every day we “vote” with our dollars (a phrase I heard from Gene Baur) when we do not purchase that beauty product from a cruel company, or that gallon of milk from a “humane” farm (give me a break).  We don’t have a strong voice in politics yet, but as our numbers grow, so too does our effect on the marketplace.  This is something to be proud of.  We protect the unprotected, we are a voice for the voiceless, we are the compassion in a cruel world.  Yes, I know that we are mainly focused around animals, but our compassion extends to all living things (human and nonhuman) it is just that the staggering numbers of animals slaughtered and exploited every year takes precedence in our thoughts and actions.  But anyone who supports the harm/exploitation or conducts the harm/exploitation towards humans, is not a vegan.

We are proud to be different.  We are proud to stand up for animals.  We are proud to eat a bland salad at a restaurant, because that’s our only option when our friends or family forget to think of us when picking a place to eat.  And when you meet a fellow vegan, there is an instant connection because your world views are in sync.  WE ARE LEGION…just kidding, but you get the point.


That’s my short list.  There are lots of other reasons why being vegan is so great, but I already exceeded the word limit I try to put on myself for these posts.


As always, thanks for stopping by




P.S. my dog is also a very proud vegan!


How Farm Sanctuaries Rescued Me

The general mission statement for Farm Sanctuaries all around the country, falls along the lines of promoting veganism through education by saving farm animals and showing compassion to all living beings.  As a contributor to three separate farm sanctuaries, I can assure any skeptics, that these mission statements are truer than any school, corporation, and big non-profit missions I have come across.

A “Peaceful world rooted in respect and justice for all living beings;” are the exact words from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary’s website.  Farm sanctuaries live by these principles and it does not only extend to farm animals, but to all animals (human and non-human).  And I can prove it.

Let me briefly start with the story of why Kristen (my wife) and I needed farm sanctuaries more than they needed us.

Last year, my wife and I suffered the loss of a loved one, which sent us both into a downward spiral of grief and depression.  While this tragedy brought my wife and I closer together as we fought on and supported one another, it unfortunately caused some other relationships in our lives to weaken.   We lost hope in the world, and did not know what could possibly make smiles return to our faces.

One day, in late November, Kristen sent me a video from Farm Sanctuary’s “Adopt a Turkey” program that featured Kat Von D and Moby talking about having a compassionate meal for Thanksgiving.  At this time, we had been vegetarians for just over 8 years, and we were seriously considering turning vegan.  We never knew that farm sanctuaries existed, and once I saw this video I dove head first into finding out as much as I possibly could about these organizations.

Two weeks later, Kristen and I decided to take part in Farm Sanctuary’s “Adopt an Animal” program and we “adopted” (more of a sponsorship) a Holstein bull named Conrad (R.I.P.), who resided at their Watkins Glen location.  We chose a cow, because at this time I felt horribly guilty for eating cheese and I wanted to try to amend for my unforgivable eating habits.

Suddenly, hope for a better future started to reveal itself in our lives.  Researching the tremendous work Farm Sanctuary has done, gave us a much-needed distraction from our depression and opened up a whole new community to meet with like-minded individuals.

full_17454-1431746910This story now brings me to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, New York.

Watkins Glen was too far for us to visit regularly, so I looked into closer sanctuaries to become more involved with, and I found Woodstock.  This sanctuary was only an hour from my house (less than my commute to work), and they let volunteers come any day of any week all year long!  I never really had any volunteering experience, but I was very experienced in physical labor.  So I decided to fill out a volunteer form and try it out at least once.  In an odd way, doing this also gave me the final push to give up dairy, eggs, and fish and go fully vegan.

A few days later the volunteer director, Todd (an awesome guy! FYI), emailed me and asked me to come up to the farm that Saturday.  I was so excited, and also slightly nervous about volunteering.  Needless to say, this was the best decision I made all year.  After a day full of stacking hay, cleaning turkey coops, and petting goats in 13° weather, I was addicted!

Tony and Amy braving the cold to come say hello

I started volunteering at least once a month ever since that day, even going as far as to dress up as Dylan, the one-eyed cow, at Hallowoodstock.

Me and my nephew, Luca, at Hallowoodstock

My wife would volunteer with me sometimes, and she was always right by my side in supporting these sanctuaries in any way she could. Most importantly, we were doing something to help these animals that were saved from their horrible fates in factory farms, backyard butchers, etc…

In 2017, we planned 2 vacations to one place…yep you guessed it, Farm Sanctuary! Here we got to meet our “adopted” cows, Sonny and Orlando.  We adopted Orlando after Sonny passed away and joined his buddy Conrad.  I’ll miss you guys.

Orlando giving kisses
Sonny, Kristen, and myself

It was during our first visit in June that Kristen got to meet and pet a turkey for the first time.  This turkey fell asleep as Kristen pet her and I could see all the distractions in our lives and in the world in general, melt away from my wife’s heart.  After all that we had been through, all the relaxation yoga, vitamins, and tips from “experts” on how to manage stress and depression, it was this moment that changed us.  This moment of being with another creature who only desired what we all do (love, comfort, and happiness) who trusted Kristen and closed her eyes while she stroked her feathers, made us both realize how wonderful it is to be safe, comfortable, and alive.

20170609_125159  20170609_125312 (1).jpg

This is how I started to understand that Farm Sanctuaries not only save the lives of these mistreated and exploited animals, but they also save the lives of humans.  My wife and I are never happier than when we are on the property of an animal sanctuary.  Interacting with goats, turkeys, pigs, cows, and all the rescued residents allows you understand what love is, and how that power can transform you.  There is a lot of hate and sadness in this world, which is the harsh environment where most of these animals come from, but on these wonderful properties there is only love and compassion.

We all have had bad moments in our lives, and I can honestly say that feeling like you are a part of something and making a difference in a cause that you truly believe in, can change your perspective and realize the worth of love and life.  I only ask that you extend that love of life to the animals who are so often forgotten.  Whether you are vegan or not, you can tell when an animal is grateful to have you with them, and I am certainly grateful to the animals of Catskill, Woodstock, and Farm Sanctuary who have changed my life forever.


Now, I know why you all read this so…

Here are some more animal pictures!

Farm Sanctuary sheep (sorry I’m bad with remembering sheep names)
Now you see me..
Now you don’t!

Thank you for stopping by,