Author Archives: jessperaza

About jessperaza

Studying Public Relations at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Not ‘Chickening’ Out on Vegetarianism

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Nine weeks ago, I began my journey into a meat-free world. What started as a project to blog has somehow become an entirely new lifestyle. One where I have eliminated eating anything that once had a heartbeat.

In being a Vegetarian, I’ve discovered just how much meat I was actually eating per day. I’ve never been a fan of red meat, but white meat was a regular part of my diet. Chicken and Turkey might as well have called themselves my boyfriends because I was spending so much time with them. But our recent break up has been a challenge. I’ve completely cut them out of my life…much like deleting that ex-boyfriend from Facebook.

I have also spent more time observing the grocery store and discovered the strangest things. I am determined to try every kind of lettuce sold–which may take a while. I’ve cut my shopping trips by a good 5 minutes now that I don’t have to spend time picking out meat products. “Tofu” is on the top of my list every time I jot down what I need and ‘Glee’ night is now ‘Glee and salad’ night.

The real challenge has been outside the vegetable-rich bubble I call my kitchen. The alternative to meat in most restaurants is usually something unhealthy like fried vegetables, pasta dishes and desserts. People assume a vegetarian diet is healthy, but it can be the exact opposite if there is no effort to find the right food. I recently visited “Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles” for the first time and was forced to miss out on half the dining experience. Yep, I wasn’t able to try the waffles. (Just kidding.)

When done right, vegetarianism can lead to some great healthy alternatives!And while my friends may have laughed when I ordered a Greek Salad instead of chicken wings at Native New Yorker, at least I didn’t need to ask for a wet-wipe at the end of my meal.

I believe in this lifestyle, despite what my hispanic grandmothers say (Something along the lines of “you’re insane”). I know that my lack of purchasing oven-roasted turkey slices won’t diminish the meat industry, but it’s one less customer they’re having to provide products to and one less animal sacrificed on the count of feeding me.

Trending Halloween Costumes: Ghosts, Goblins and Giraffes?

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In honor of my favorite holiday, I’ve decided to honor some creative Halloween costumes inspired not by the beasts in nightmares,  but the counting sheep and fairytale creatures in your dreams.

Halloween is all about finding the scariest, most creative costumes–but there’s only so many substances you can use as fake blood. A more-recent trend in costumes is the inspiration of creating a costume based on animals. I, myself was a crab this Halloween. Why? Because who wouldn’t want to be a crab?

Unless your friends are awesome and host costume parties year-round, it’s too late to create the perfect animal costume this year–but below are some awesome online-ideas. Halloween brings out the creativity in all of us, so give it a shot next year and create your costume, too! It makes for a good time and doesn’t bruise a wallet’s ego as much as those pre-made costumes.

Click photos for ideas from marthastewart.com

Be 'jelly' of this costume

That's So "Raven"

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

the 'motha' of all costumes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friends are a bunch of animals too:

Getting into character!

The Crab and the Laaaaaamb

The Unicorn and the Bat

Do-it-Yourself Peacock

Ohio’s Exotic-Animal Keeper: Friend or Foe?

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I read a bizarre, upsetting story in the headlines last week. Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio was found dead in his home from an apparent self-inflicted wound on Tuesday, October 18. The kicker, you ask? He released more than 50 exotic animals from their cages and set them free before his apparent suicide.

Ohio authorities were ordered to shoot any animals and did so, resulting in 49 fatalities–including 18 rare bengal tigers, an endangered species. Police captured and killed lions, tigers, bears and other beasts. They also searched for a monkey believed to be carrying the HIV virus, but later confirmed he had been eaten by one of the other animals.

Thompson, 62, was known as an “animal lover” to the community who knew of his 72-acre exotic-animal farm. Sure, if the definition of an animal lover includes multiple animal-cruelty convictions including having an animal at large and two counts of rendering animal waste without a license. In 2008, Thompson was also charged for weapon violations after authorities found more than 100 guns on his property. I’m sure these weapons weren’t just chew toys for the kitties.

The state of Ohio is known for it’s weak laws on animal protection and is one of the easiest states to “lawfully” keep and maintain exotic animals in a residential environment. Thompson ran an exotic animal exhibit on his farm and cared for all his animals, but how much attention could he possibly give to just one animal with such a large amount running around? For someone who seemed invested in the care of animals, he must have known that a confined space in a rural area was not an ideal living environment. It also presented dangers for the community that had dealt with escaped lions and tigers before.

In love, there is a saying that goes, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” An animal lover should know better than to confine nature’s creatures. The truth of the matter is that wild animals will never come back if they’re set free–because that’s what they’re meant to be.

p.s. The state of Ohio has agreed to take action and enact stricter regulations on wild animals. Help make sure they keep their promise by signing this petition!  

If Books Could Bark. 5 Great Animal Reads

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Can your dog read?! Neither can mine. Anyway. For those who prefer the sophistication of reading a book, as opposed to watching a movie, put your pinkies up and dive into one of the following works of literature. The list is compiled of random books I have read that involve animals. Some are fictional stories I enjoyed a child and others I only came across because they were required on English-class reading lists. None the less, they’re all good and they’re all highly recommended…by me, at least.

1. Stuart Little

Little high, little low; little hey, little hoe. Stuart Little is a children’s book by E.B. White, written in 1945. The story centers around a small mouse born and raised by a human family. His adventures in New York City engage children of all ages. His shenanigans and encounters with danger, mainly cats, have captivated audiences for generations and the  book’s fame eventually led to a 1999 film adaptation.

2. Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White knew what was up. The author gained popularity with the success of Stuart Little and in 1952, he struck again with the release of Charlotte’s Web. The story about a pig named Wilbur who lived in a farm and sought advice from a spider, was well-received by children of all ages. Wilbur was rescued by a young girl who grows to love him as a mascot and not another animal on the farm that will be slaughtered. With the help of Charlotte, the spider, Wilbur escapes his fate and survives. The book was often criticized for its strong content and appeal to an older audience. It revealed some of the sadness that comes with man’s natural instinct to slaughter animals in order to survive. None the less, Charlotte’s Web remains a timeless classic.

3. Where the Red Fern Grows 

I was 12 when I first read this, and I was not impressed. But after giving it a second chance some years ago, Where the Red Fern Grows was a great book. The children’s book was written in 1961 by Wilson Rowls and gained a wide audience. It has since become a staple in middle school classrooms to help students make the leap from story books to chapter books. When Billy Colman finds two dogs on his walk home from school one day, his life is forever changed by the hounds. Throughout the story, Billy trains them to be exceptional hunting dogs while struggling with adolescence and the economic instability of his family. The story is a tear jerker; beware of water spots damaging the last few chapters of the book.

4. Animal Farm

Oh, a satire if ever there was one. Animal Farm, by George Orwell, was published in 1945. Orwell uses characters from a farm to tell a story of Stalinism and criticize the Stalin era before World War II. This book is definitely not one you’ll want to read to your children before bed, unless they’re fans of Russian history? Either way, it’s an exceptional read that attracted audiences because of it’s strange depiction and strong message.

5. Winnie the Pooh book series

You have no soul if you don’t think Pooh Bear is adorable. I’m kidding, but what’s not to love about a bear who’s only goal in life is to have a belly full of honey at all times? The first collection of Winnie the Pooh stories was published in 1926 by A.A. Milne. Milne created a timeless character that has lived on for generations through books, television series and feature-films. Pooh Bear and his friends are some of the only remaining genuine characters that children can admire. The innocence of Winnie the Pooh is refreshing in a time where sarcasm and innuendos have corrupted the world of children’s literature.

The 5 Movies All Animal Lovers Should Watch…According to Me.

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I am a movie addict. I live for the smell of freshly popped corn and the anxiety of choosing the right seat in the theater. I prefer comedies and independent films, but tearjerkers can also be good for the soul sometimes. And while Academy-Award winning dramas and a fair share of Lifetime flicks can evoke a tear or two, I’m also a sucker for any story that involves a struggling animal. I’ve compiled a list of five films I consider great animal movies. There are many more, I just don’t have enough tissues.

1. Benji the Hunted (1987)

Why not the original Benji, instead? Well, because I’ve actually never seen that one. But I grew up watching Benji the Hunted on VHS. The film was one of the last ones starring the lovable, do-gooder pooch. Benji gets lost in the Oregon forest after a boat accident and goes through a series of trials and tribulations trying to rescue a pack of small cubs and get them back to their momma cougar. The film has hardly any dialogue, as it’s tough to train baby cougars, deer, wolves and raccoons to speak. But the musical score and expressions on Benji’s face are more than enough entertainment. It’s a feel-good movie about a dog trying to survive in the wilderness…something I’m sure we can all relate to.

2.  Free Willy (1993)

Who doesn’t think of the hit Michael Jackson song when picturing this orca whale jumping over a tween? I know I do. Free Willy is the story of a young boy who befriends an injured whale that has been captured by a group of whalers. Willy (the orca) is sent to an amusement park in hopes that he’ll be the next big moneymaker. The story continues with a series of misfortunate events and concludes when Willy is finally set free. (get it, now?) It’s assumed that man’s best friend is a dog but this classic film proves that man’s best friend can also be the largest oceanic dolphin in the world.

3. Balto (995)

I could watch this movie every day. Yes, it’s a cartoon film, but it’s also based on a true story so I’d say it cancels out. Balto was a dog that saved children from the diphtheria epidemic in the 1925 serum run to Nome in Alaska. When all other sled dogs failed, Balto rose to the challenge and rushed to get through the brutal winter storms and deliver medication to the town. We can’t necessarily say it’s all true—unless the real Balto was also best friends with two polar bears and a Russian goose. Balto promises his platonic love, Jenna, to bring back the medication that will save her owner, a young girl. This film brings a small piece of history to light in the sweetest way possible.

4. Fly Away Home (1996)

If you can teach a child to ride a bike, you can teach a flock of geese to fly, right? Well, Anna Paquin did in the 1996 hit, Fly Away Home. When Amy (Paquin) moves to Ontario with her estranged father after the death of her mother, she comes across a brood of baby geese that have also been left without a mother. She assumes the role as their caretaker but quickly realizes the geese must learn how to migrate south for the Winter in order to survive. Throughout the film, Paquin and her father struggle to get to know one another but work hard to find a solution for the birds. The film is original in that it shows that any animal can relate to a person and people can respond right back.

5. Marley & Me (2008)

It’s cliché and you love it. Marley and Me, based on the memoir by John Grogan, tells the story of a family and their dog that was there through it all. The blonde overload somehow works on-screen—Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and the golden lab that ties them together deliver a great film. Life can take unexpected turns at any point in time but your pets will always be there as long as you allow them to be. A pet knows you better than anyone—they see what no one else does and sense when you’re happy or sad. Marley’s death is inevitable and obvious, but I still cry every time he takes his last breath. When an animal touches your life the way Marley did, losing him is losing family. It’s a beautiful story and the film also set the record for the best Christmas Day box-office opener ever, so they must have done something right? (Fun Fact: 22 different Labradors played the part of Marley in the film.)

Bye Bye Birdie: Adventures of a beginner Vegetarian

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I spent $94.28 on groceries last week. You’d think that eliminating an entire food group from my diet would result in spending less money? Yeah, no.

Who know healthy eating could be so colorful?

My groceries were mostly the same as every week–lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini squash, onion, grapes, bananas, oranges, wheat bread, cereal and pop-tarts (an essential). I skipped the poultry department and spent an extra five minutes trying to find the  “tofu” heading in one of the isles. After realizing the soy-milk product isn’t cool enough to have it’s own tab in an aisle menu just yet, I found it near an array of other food products whose names I could not even pronounce.

Bringing home these new groceries was almost as exciting as bringing home a new puppy–except I’d never google recipes for puppies? My first vegetarian meal of the night was veggie soup, a simple and safe choice. But as the week progressed, I got more creative with my cooking. On Wednesday I boiled and blended vegetables and made a delicious and nutritious soup. I then tackled the tofu, which was for the most part a success. I combined the crispy pieces with brown rice. Most of my other meals since have consisted of pasta, stir fry, fresh sandwiches, cereals and fruits.

I planned on attempting to cook ratatouille as well but somehow lost the eggplant I swore I purchased. Yes, I lost a vegetable. That distracted.

Zucchini Cream Soup: Basically, a blend of veggies.

My week as a vegetarian has left me craving more, or in this case, less. I really don’t feel like eliminating meat was all that of a challenge so I am continuing the vegetarian diet from here on out. After reading an article in the Vegetarian Times, I realized just how healthy living a meat-free life can be. I’m improving my health by sparing the lives of animals–WINNING.

Don’t get me wrong, I love chicken and what’s Thanksgiving without some delicious Turkey? But the more I research and write about animal rights, the less I crave a meat product that comes from a confined animal injected with hormones. I’ve signed a petition with PETA2 urging McDonald’s to eliminate their current breeding and slaughtering methods for chickens. You should too! 

I’m not saying I’ll never eat meat again, but I intend on making an effort to never go back. Stay tuned for updates, until we ‘meat’ again.

Why we should never go to SeaWorld

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I received an upsetting text message last week from my good friend, 44144. “Cove Update: Dolphins killed in Taiji last week. But we won’t give up! Text COVE to 20222 to donate $10 to Save Japan Dolphins/Earth Island.” I replied. But the minimal gesture of responding just didn’t suffice.

I came across a documentary a few years ago that really struck a nerve. The Cove brought light to an extreme case of animal abuse occurring every year in Taiji, Japan–a town that vows to have an affixation for dolphins, and yet is their greatest nightmare. Every September, the crisp-blue waters of the Taiji coast turn a dark and deep red after fishermen literally take a stab at the dolphins they’ve managed to lure into a hidden coast off the small island.

Fishermen aren’t looking to kill all the dolphins they capture, but rather pick out a select few to be sold for entertainment to aquariums, resorts and theme parks around the world. This special breed of “show” dolphins is worth thousands of dollars and investors have no problem paying the price despite the inhumane manner in which they are captured.

Dolphins are sensitive creatures that cannot survive if they are not in their natural habitat. Much like elephants, dolphins are emotional animals and captivity brings them down. Dolphins in captivity constantly die of “unknown” causes, even in state-of-the-art aquatic environments like SeaWorld. Their will to live dwindles in a tank.

The hundreds of remaining dolphins not suitable for the entertainment industry aren’t set free but rather slaughtered for their meat. Dolphin meat has toxic mercury levels that are extremely harmful to people and yet their meat is packaged and sold as “whale” meat. Dolphins are technically part of the whale family so industry tycoons can get away with the false advertising. However, these same dolphins aren’t protected under the same law that prohibits the fishing and slaughtering of most whales.

Ric O’barry essentially created the dolphin-entertainment industry when he successfully trained five dolphins and starred in the hit series, Flipper. Ric now dedicates his efforts to putting an end to the capturing , selling and training of dolphins. His efforts have been recognized around the world, but progress has been slow. Despite the mass attention “The Cove” received, including an Academy Award, the people of Taiji are still getting away with murder in that small cove that holds the secrets of fishermen and the final breaths of innocent animals.

Race Against Cruelty–Putting an End to Greyhound Abuse

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Image from HubPages

If you throw a dog a bone, he will fetch it and run right back. It’s that same natural instinct that has trapped thousands of dogs in a  life of abuse and confinement. Greyhound racing is a “sport” in which dogs race against one another on a track…much like horse racing. However, horses aren’t nearly as subjected to the pain and torture that greyhounds endure while in training.

According to GREY2K USA, a national non-profit organization dedicated to passing stronger greyhound protection laws and ending the cruelty of dog racing, thousands of dogs are seriously injured each year at commercial racetracks–often they are killed when they are injured or no longer fast enough to race. An estimated 50,000 puppies are bred for the industry each year and only a small portion even make it to the track. Most are abandoned or euthanized at a young age if they are deemed non-profitable.

Greyhound-racing tracks hold hundreds of dogs at a time in small, dark cages–sometimes for days on end. These dogs are fed contaminated meat products and steroids to strengthen their muscles at an accelerated speed. (GREY2k USA) Greyhound Pets of America has worked hard to free the caged dogs and find homes for them across the country. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of what goes on in these tracks. In fact, only four states in the United States have outlawed this means for gambling.  Arizona is not one them.

Image from HubPages

The Tucson Greyhound Park “has been providing family entertainment to Southern Arizona for over six decades.” Aww, thanks. The park is run and operated 7 days a week and is ‘home’ to thousands of neglected greyhounds. The overall loss of interest in the sport has left Tucson Greyhound Park as the sole racetrack in the entire state, but it still generates enough revenue to stay afloat.

I recently joined the SunDevils for Wildlife Conservation, an organization on campus that aims to bring awareness to the mistreatment and abuse of animals. Their first initiative is to write a petition urging to shut down TGP and outlaw greyhound racing in Arizona. I’m excited to be part of this effort and will even be attending a protest in Tucson sometime next month (stay tuned for pictures…if I make it through my first protest).

The decline of investors for the sport has been great for future dogs, but still leaves thousands of greyhounds left without anyone to care for them. I encourage anyone who is interested in having a lovable companion to consider adopting a homeless greyhound. All they want is a backyard to run around in…not a race track.