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Tag: ethical living

Ethical Tourism and Elephants

What Ethical Tourism Is Not

I’ve had the privilege and honor of being in the presence of elephants in:

  • Thailand
  • California
  • Texas
  • France
  • Rwanda
  • Botswana

In the first four, they were in sanctuaries. In the last two, they were in the wild.

But despite what they call themselves, not all animal outfits are ethical.

As I discuss in my Food for Thought podcast episode Ethical Tourism: Avoiding Animal Cruelty While Traveling, please remember (and remind your friends and family) to avoid any outfit — both domestically and internationally — that involves / sells / promotes any of the following experiences: 

  • Elephant Rides
  • Elephant Paintings
  • Elephants in Zoos
  • Elephants in Circuses 

…or the use of elephants in any form of entertainment. 

The Red Flags of Green Washing

  • Chains
  • Ropes
  • Hooks / Bull-hooks
  • Baby elephants without their mothers
  • A place that calls itself a “sanctuary” but has elephants chained in any way or allows riding or sells paintings by elephants

Just as ivory belongs to elephants, elephants belong in the wild.

See Animals (Ethically) on a Joyful Vegan Trip!

In September 2023, we took 20 travelers on our Joyful Vegan Trip to the Loire Valley and Dordogne Valley, where we had the honor of visiting these magnificent beings in France at Europe’s first sanctuary for elephants — rescued from circuses and zoos. (Check out Elephant Haven.)

Visit, and join us to experience the joy, abundance, camaraderie, and compassion that characterize our trips around the world with moi my amazing husband, and my incredible travel partners, World Vegan Travel

HAVE YOU BEEN TO AN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY? Please let me know in the comments below!


A List of 100 Podcast Episodes I Recommend

2020 was the 14th anniversary of the Food for Thought podcast, and while I’m a podcast creator, I’m also a podcast listener. And this year, I listened to 100 podcast episodes! You may (or may not) be surprised to know that the ones I listen to most frequently are those focused on history and language. Aside from relishing the variety of topics within these categories, it’s also how I discover facts that relate to my own work related to animal protection, food, and language.

You can see (below) a list of the podcasts and their many episodes I listened to this past year, and you might be asking how I find the time. I usually listen to an episode each morning while I’m getting dressed — doing my hair, doing my makeup — and getting my morning tea before I sit down to write. 

Also, when I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually walking, hiking, cooking, or gardening, and I usually play podcasts instead of listening to music. What about you?

List of Podcasts and their Episodes

Here are the lists of my favorite podcasts and the episodes I listened to. (I’ve listened to fewer of the language podcasts this year, so I didn’t parse out those episodes.)

History Extra
Episodes, released every week, feature interviews with notable historians on topics spanning ancient history through to recent British to American events. Episodes feature history stories and perspectives on everything from crusading knights to Tudor monarchs and the D-Day landings.

In Our Time
In Our Time Podcast. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas. Updated: weekly. 

The History of English
A chronological history of the English language examined through the lens of historical events that shaped the development and spread of the language from the Eurasian steppe to the entire world.

Lexicon Valley
A show about language, from pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to neurolinguistics and the death of languages. Hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

A Way With Words
Public radio’s program about words, language, and how we use them. Hosts answer callers questions about grammar, slang, usage, old family sayings, new words, language-learning, idioms, riddles, word games, or anything else related to language.

Practicing Human
A daily podcast hosted by Cory Muscara, offering insights and practices into how to live a fulfilling life. Cory pulls on his time living as a Buddhist monk in Burma, his many years as a mindfulness and meditation teacher, and his work in Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.


  • Cave Art
  • Pericles
  • The Great Irish Famine
  • Macbeth
  • Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
  • Coffee
  • The Highland Clearances
  • The Mexican-American War
  • William Morris
  • The Iliad
  • Thucydides
  • The Mytilenaean Debate
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Is Shakespeare History? The Romans
  • Nero
  • President Ulysses S. Grant
  • Alexander the Great
  • Frankenstein
  • The Battle of Salamis
  • The Evolution of Horses
  • Albrecht Dürer
  • Catullus
  • Mary Astell


  • The Wars of the Roses: Everything you wanted to know
  • A WW2 story of survival
  • Editor’s Pick: Ron Chernow on Alexander Hamilton
  • Christmas ghost stories
  • Christmas: Everything you wanted to know
  • Ten Things to do with a medieval donkey – history extra
  • Japan and the west
  • Magna Carta: everything you wanted to know
  • The Glorious Revolution: everything you wanted to know
  • Tudor queens on screen
  • Unexpected Irish Tales
  • Ancient Babylon: everything you wanted to know
  • Women in Greek myths
  • 2020: The historians’ verdict
  • Germans who resisted the Nazis
  • Shakespeare: everything you wanted to know
  • Everything you wanted to know about the East India Company 
  • Oswald, the many-headed medieval saint
  • The White Ship: a medieval tragedy
  • Medical history: everything you wanted to know
  • The Wild West: everything you wanted to know
  • Viking warrior women and the ethics of excavating the dead
  • War and society: a tangled relationship
  • Ingenious medieval science
  • Women in black: the surprising history of widows
  • Personal stories of the Second World War
  • Inside the Viking mind
  • The Russian revolution: everything you wanted to know
  • The ‘ordinary’ Nazi
  • The Regency era: everything you wanted to know
  • An Atlantic slave war
  • Enslaved women and resistance
  • At sea with the Vikings
  • Moving, medieval style
  • The French Revolution: everything you wanted to know
  • The dispossession of Native Americans
  • Ghosts of Viking London
  • An Anglo-Saxon warlord
  • Ancient wisdom with Neil Oliver
  • Everything you wanted to know about medieval daily life
  • Sparta
  • Should I stay or should I go: the problem with historical monuments in 2020
  • Everything you wanted to know about the history of Japan
  • The Spanish Flu epidemic
  • Everything you wanted to know about Roman Britain but were afraid to ask
  • Medieval rebellions
  • Viking genes unravelled
  • JFK: the path to power
  • The Mayflower
  • Scythians: Warrior Nomads of the Steppe
  • The problems with the Anglo Saxons
  • Isabel Wilkerson on caste in America
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the legends of King Arthur
  • Crusaders: An Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Hundred Years’ War
  • Edward the Confessor
  • Revisiting the Kindertransport
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Aztecs
  • The story of the Freemasons
  • Africa’s cultural liberation
  • The history of seduction
  • Could D-Day have failed
  • The women killed by Jack the Ripper
  • Rethinking the crusades
  • What’s in a medieval name?
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the American Civil War
  • Peter Frankopan on global history in 2020
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Ancient Greece
  • Stonehenge: History’s Greatest Mysteries
  • The fate of Jesus’ body: History’s Greatest Mysteries
  • Unburied treasures
  • African American abolitionists in Britain
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • A history of magic
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about medieval queens
  • At home with the medieval aristocracy
  • Lionheart of stone: the medieval statue debate
  • The Abdication crisis
  • Nero: Rome’s Antichrist?
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
  • Museums and colonialism
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Georgians
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Scottish Wars of Independence
  • California’s century of change
  • Women and the Crusades
  • William and Cnut: a tale of two conquerors
  • World War Two: the challenge of commemoration
  • A history of pandemics: from Spanish Flu to Covid-19
  • From Allies to enemies
  • The Auschwitz volunteer
  • Why black hair matters
  • Working mothers
  • Henry III: inside the mind of a medieval king
  • Indian soldiers at Dunkirk
  • Medieval prisoners of war
  • Living on the edge in Victorian Britain
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the English Reformation
  • The Corn Laws crisis
  • A new view of Africa’s past
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about D-Day but were afraid to ask
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about the Tudors
  • A history of celebrity
  • Blitz spirit
  • News in the Middle Ages
  • Resistance in the British empire
  • Food and war
  • Burglary: a modern history
  • The bombing of Dresden

What are the best podcast episodes you listened to this year?

This Cruelty-Free Coat is a DREAM!

One of the most endearing things about vegans is that we tend to be happy with what we can get as long as we aren’t hurting anyone! That goes for food, clothing, shoes, accessories — and coats! Goodness knows the options for all things are better than ever before, but one thing I really wished someone would make was a pretty full-length wool-like fall/winter coat WITHOUT THE WOOL

Well, like a fairy godmother who waived her magic wand, I have procured a vegan wool coat. (No, I didn’t make it myself!) Thanks to NOIZE, a cruelty-free clothing company, vegans can sport beautiful coats for men and women that are CRUELTY-FREE, CONSCIOUS, AND AFFORDABLE!

While they also make footwear, loungewear, and accessories, I think their superpower is their line of fashionable faux wool coats. I was really torn between the Isabel, Sloane, and Aiko coats and settled on the Isabel coat in grey. HOW. PRETTY. IS. IT? (The faux fur collar can be removed.) 

Santa has already been notified that I would like to support this vegan company and buy a second coat from them. 

This PETA-approved company uses high-tech synthetic fabrics that are nearly identical to animal-derived materials when it comes to warmth, comfort and style, but NOT when it comes to the cruelty, waste, and expense.

Just get yourself over to their website to browse their PUFFY coats (fills are made with 100% recycled plastic bottles), raincoats, vegan leather jackets, and more vegan wool coats. 

Use my coupon code for a discount on your vegan wool coat…or whatever else you would like!

Use this link and JOYFULVEGANFW15 as your coupon code during checkout to receive 15% off of an already beautifully priced catalog! Coats are selling out fast, so get thee thither! 

And share photos! I wanna see what you picked!

Five Zero-Waste Valentine’s Day Gifts

Gifts for Platonic or Romantic Relationships

Having days marked out on our calendars — whether it’s Valentine’s Day or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday — to celebrate the people we love in our lives is a good thing, so make it whatever you want. 

Here are a few ideas for romantic / platonic gift ideas that are waste-free, vegan, and meaningful. 


Growing flowers and shipping them around the world has a huge carbon footprint. If you can find locally grown flowers where you are, then that’s your best option. If not, consider buying a plant or tree from a local nursery that can be kept and loved as a house plant or planted in the ground in the spring. If you’d still like to buy flowers, consider a sustainable online retailer like that wraps flowers in paper (not plastic) and features the farmers they source their flowers from. 


With chocolate — as with many things grown commercially and intensively — there are many considerations — such as how it’s produced in terms of environmental impacts, human rights, animal exploitation, so make sure you’re purchasing something that reflects your values. My favorite chocolate brands are

  • Endangered Species (best hazelnut chocolate spread / vegan nutella ever!)
  • Tcho (which is a local chocolate maker and works with farmers directly)
  • AlterEco and
  • Theo

They’re all packaged in foil and paper, which means I can recycle the foil and compost the paper (and tell my gift recipient to to do the same).

Alternatively, check to see if you can get chocolate in bulk. It might be little chocolate candies or even chocolate chips you can add to a nice glass jar you have on hand, or look for a tin of chocolate pieces, cocoa powder, or vegan / plant-based hot chocolate mixes (or make your own with cocoa powder and sugar!). 

–>glass and aluminum are the two materials I still purchase (in a limited way). They’re both still considered valuable in the marketplace, and so they’re properly recycled and then used again to make more glass and more aluminum (whereas plastic is not). 

So, in that vein, what about gifting someone a beautiful bottle (or tin) of…

  • olive oil
  • tea
  • wine or
  • scotch


Now, obviously I’m going to recommend homemade meals because…there is NOTHING more personal than making a beautiful meal for someone that you shopped for, prepped for, and made yourself (and because I have over 500 recipes in my cookbooks to guide you! It’s just so much more meaningful to cook a meal for someone over going to a restaurant. (In The Vegan Table, I have recipes and menus specific to romantic meals, and of course The Joy of Vegan Baking is chock full of sweet desserts.)

And if you want to think in terms of aphrodisiac foods, consider the sensory characteristics of the foods you choose: how they look, sound, smell, taste, or feel. 

 –> VISUAL: Red, for instance, has always been associated with passion, so choose beets, cherries, cranberries, and pomegranates. Asparagus has been enjoyed as an aphrodisiac because of its (ahem!) shape. 

 –> TEXTURE: Agave nectar, derived from a cactus-like plant, oozes a thick sweet syrup. The romantic effect of champagne has more to do with the bubbles than with the alcohol. Think mouthfeel (something creamy, something succulent, something scintillating.) I’ll let you use your imagination to come up with ideas.

 –> HEAT: Spicy foods do heat up the body, so consider something like my Spicy Red Bell Pepper Soup (which is both red and spicy) and a slice of my Mexican Chocolate Cake – both of which are in my book The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

–>BLOOD FLOW: Someone has to say this: a healthy body has everything to do with blood flowing unhindered to all of the organs in our body! Plant foods — vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, mushrooms, herbs, and spices — are all aphro-di-si-a-cal foods, because they increase blood flow. Meat and animal products, on the other hand, constrict the blood vessels, decreasing blood flow, and thus potentially decreasing the libido. Know what I mean, jelly bean?


What would a commercial greeting card say that you couldn’t write yourself? Grab some paper or a blank greeting card you have at home, a marker, and get writing. Or send an email. Just take the time to tell your loved one(s) you appreciate them!


Go to the theatre, a sports game, a bowling alley, the movies. Go on a picnic, a hike, a walk. Go create some memories. 

Just don’t hurt anyone (including animals and our earth), keep it simple, keep in meaningful, make it special. 


Does Being Vegan Really Make a Difference?

Why Even Bother Being Vegan?

I think every vegan (and probably vegetarian) has heard some variation of this:⁠

  • one person being vegan doesn’t save animals.⁠
  • just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean animals aren’t killed.⁠
  • the problem is just too large; individual behavioral changes just don’t have an impact.⁠

⁠That’s the big question, right? Why do anything at all when you know that there isn’t a direct correlation between YOUR behavior and an act of violence? ⁠

Why, indeed? ⁠

The answer is…because it’s the right thing to do. ⁠

As I say in The Joyful Vegan, the world isn’t one big math problem to solve. Even though I can’t quantify the benefits to the animals and our planet, I’m vegan, because I don’t want to contribute to the culture of violence that IS (by design) the meat, dairy, and egg industries. ⁠

I may not be able to save the 9 to 10 billion land animals brought into this world only to be killed, but I can at least put my head on my pillow each night and know that *I* didn’t consciously partake in something that is anathema to my very being: HURTING ANIMALS.⁠

For me, being vegan is about being⁠

  • compassionate⁠
  • consistent⁠
  • in alignment⁠ with my values

After all, what’s the point in having values and principles and ethics if they don’t manifest themselves in our behavior? ⁠