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Cultivate Blog Page

Blogs relating to all things vegan, compassionate, cruelty-free and fun.




Chatting with Jamie from Reformation Health

Maria Maisto

I had the great pleasure of meeting Jamie Klausner at an event recently, and then the great honor of her asking me to be part of the Reformation Health blog! You can check it out below, and you'll probably see us both (hopefully, very soon), stuffing our faces at Magpies.


 Afternoon Delight event at the Sowden House in Los Feliz, where I first met Jamie.

Afternoon Delight event at the Sowden House in Los Feliz, where I first met Jamie.




How to Help Wildlife When They've Lost Their Habitat

Maria Maisto

 Coyote photo by Joshua Wilking via Unsplash

Coyote photo by Joshua Wilking via Unsplash

Southern California wildlife battle for their habitats everyday as we expand and build more and more. When they lose the little land they have by wildfires, it can be devastating for animals, especially the less mobile ones, like rabbits. More adaptable animals, like coyotes and deer, that are able to escape the fires may be left disoriented, stressed, hungry and thirsty; leaving them vulnerable to secondary incidents (i.e. predators and road strikes).

If you see an animal looking disoriented or in a place that isn’t normal for it be, please take a moment to stop and call for help.  PETA has a National hotline: 757.622.PETA (7382), prompt 0, during regular business hours or their National pager line after hours at 757.434.6285, that will assist you and send someone to help.

Tree of Compassion, an organization out of Australia offers up this advice:

“...take note of where you saw the animal, what species it was (if you can identify it) and what it’s behavior was like. For example, take note of what you saw – was it limping, was one of it’s eyes closed, was it bleeding, was it holding it’s head on the side, did it look burnt. Anything you observe will be useful. Make sure you mark the spot where you saw the animal, eg, with an empty can tied to the fence or tree. You may think at the time you can remember where you saw it but when it comes to someone else finding the location, this is not usually that easy.”

If you’re able to safely, and in a stress-free manner (for the animal), capture it (please never chase an animal), make sure to transport it in a secure box or carrier. Most vets and emergency vets have a Good Samaritan clause, meaning you can bring an injured animal in and they won’t charge to help. You can easily check the map on your smartphone to find a local emergency vet.

At the very least, leaving large bowls of water on the ground, and even food, is extremely helpful. And let’s not forget the birds. If you’ve ever hiked around Los Angeles, you know how amazing it is to see hawks gliding and hear woodpeckers at work, so hanging bird baths is also a great way to help!

If you don’t live close to a burn area, but would like to help by donating or taking in displaced animals, the Los Angels Daily News recommends these organizations :

The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation is accepting donations through its Noah’s Legacy Fund by donating through the organization’s website at lacountyanimals.org

The Humane Society of Ventura County is accepting donations of supplies and food to help care for the more than 100 animals which have been displaced by the various fires. They are looking for alfalfa hay, Timothy hay, cat chow, rabbit food, flashlights, headlamps, lanterns, water troughs, bottled water, fruit, snacks, hoses and power generators which can be dropped off at the shelter at 402 Bryant St. in Ojai. They are also accepting water and food for volunteers at the shelter.

Monetary donations can be made by visiting the animal welfare organization’s website at humanesocietyvc.nationbuilder.com.

Citizens for a Humane Los Angeles are looking for temporary homes for displaced animals as the shelters begin to fill up. They can be contacted at 323-244-8020.

Stay safe out there!

Much Love,




DIY...Down with Plastic!

Maria Maisto


So much animal testing still happens on household products and kitchen/bathroom cleaning supplies end up being a big source of our plastic waste. Did you know you could easily bypass them with simple solutions? Ones that will save you money AND make your house safer for humans and pets. Helping the environment, animals and your home...that's quite the trifecta!

First up, instead of kitchen sprays, you can use a white vinegar soaked cloth to clean countertops, and it even works great on windows and mirrors. For floors, you can dilute a 1/2 cup of white vinegar with hot water in a bucket.


As for sinks and tubs, make a paste out of baking soda (the kind that says bicarbonate) and water. If you like to have a scent while cleaning, I recommend adding a few drops of essential oil. I  think lemongrass gives the kitchen and bathroom a nice sweet, clean smell.

If you follow Cultivate on Instagram, you know I’ve mentioned our shampoo bars are a great way to go plastic-free, as well as, making your own conditioner. I re-use an empty glass spice jar (holds ~3/4 cups) and add 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and fill the rest with water. That gives me two servings of conditioner. Another go to I love, is a coffee scrub. I usually eyeball my measurements and put it in a short mason jar in the shower, but this recipe sounds close to what I use:

1/2 cup leftover coffee grinds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 melted coconut oil
1/2 cup coarse salt.
(optional) A few drops of essential oil
Mix it all up & get ready to have the softest skin around. 

If you’re not into coffee scrubs you can use your left over coffee (and tea leaves) to nourish your plants, repel certain insects and keep your cats from tearing them apart (I’m talking to you, Max). Just add it to the soul and let it do its thing.

And last, but certainly not least, a great way to make your morning and nightly routine of brushing more eco-friendly and cruelty-free – Brush With Bamboo toothbrushes along with this toothpaste recipe:
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp baking soda
15 drops peppermint oil.
Stir and voilá! 

If you try any of these out, let us know what you think and how it went!

Much love, 

@markloveslife 3 Ingredient No Bake Raw Vegan Brownies

Maria Maisto

Yep, you read that right. Woot woot. The brilliant Mark over at @markloveslife has done it again. This recipe is so easy (and that's a lot coming from me - the woman who sliced off the tip of her finger with a vegetable peeler. Not bragging, just making a point. lol) and delicious. Perfect for anytime of day, because you know, brownies. And vegan. And raw. Anyway, let me stop yapping and share. Oh, and please check out Mark's fantastic Instagram account.

xo Maria

2 cups Medjool Dates
1/3 cup Cacao Powder
1 cup Almond Flower

Blend dates in food processor until broken down and smooth.
Add almond flower and cacao powder & blend again.
Line a tray with greaseproof paper and firmly pack in mix (I didn't line a ceramic dish and it was fine)
Put in freezer for 1 hour
Cut, add toppings if wanted, stuff your face. 


World Farm Animals Day

Maria Maisto

Today, Monday, October 2nd is World Farm Animals Day, created in memory of Ghandi, who believed in treating all living beings with respect. Meant to highlight the poor conditions suffered by farm animals in animal agriculture, we wanted to take the time to share Paolo's story. Paolo lives at Farm Sanctuary in Los Angeles and had a sad start to life, as most cows in the dairy industry do. Luckily, his story has a happy ending (a spoiler alert of the best kind). 


Check out this article from animalsoffarmsanctuary.com:

Paolo, the Soulful Steer Whose Injury Saved His Life

Anyone who has visited the Southern California shelter has met our beautiful mahogany steer friend Paolo. And, it’s hard to imagine anyone meeting him and not falling madly in love with him. Paolo is gentle, kind, and mellow. While weekend visitors spend their time admiring, adoring, and lavishing attention upon him, Paolo stoically accepts their affection. Ten years of living at a sanctuary have treated Paolo well and he expects nothing less than love from the people he meets.

Paolo’s journey began with a healthy and deserved distrust of humans. Paolo is a brown Jersey, a cattle breed exploited in the dairy industry. As such, he was born to a mom who wasn’t allowed to nurse him and who had to watch him cast aside deemed useless as a male calf in the industry. Paolo likely then was sent to auction and sold cheaply to be raised for veal or beef, which is the typical fate of male calves born into the dairy industry. Thus, Paolo’s likely journey began with fear, sadness, and forced abandonment. 

From there, he landed at a small farm in Southern California, where he lived with many goats. Paolo and the goats lived in a pen without any secure shelter. Coyotes lived in the mountains nearby the farm and would often come down at night and prey upon these vulnerable animals. One night Paolo was attacked by a coyote or a pack thereof. Although he survived attacked, he was horribly wounded and left with a giant wound on his side. The wound was left untreated. Instead of getting Paolo proper medical care, the farmer duct taped the wound shut. Thankfully, a nearby neighbor knew that Paolo needed and deserved better care and called animal control. Due to the farmer’s failure to provide proper medical care, animal control officers seized young Paolo and brought him to the sanctuary where Paolo immediately received proper care. Paolo survived the ordeal without any lasting effects; however, Paolo does now carry the scar of that horrible attack. We hope it reminds him of how he gained his freedom and not the attack itself.

Paolo’s healthy wariness of humans quickly dissipated at the sanctuary, where he was nurtured and doted upon. As Paolo became confident that he was safe and in good hands, he came out of his shell and returned the affection.

As a young calf at the sanctuary, Paolo his now best pal Bruno, whom also had been recently rescued. Bruno bullied the smaller steer at first with the bad influence of some older steers. After the older, more rambunctious steers were transferred to another sanctuary location, Bruno calmed down and befriended sweet, young Paolo. The two have been bonded ever since. They spend their days lounging near one another and often can be found grooming one another.

Bruno is not Paolo’s only friend in the herd. Upon arrival, all of the young steers integrated into the herd are initially befriended by Paolo. Paolo grooms and mentors the youngsters. The newly initiated find comfort in Paolo’s friendship and often tag alongside him as anxious, fun-loving younger brothers. Each of these youngsters has outgrown Paolo, whose stature is more short and stubby, and then challenged him. Paolo seems to accept this rite of passage graciously, settling back into his role at the lower rung of the herd awaiting his next mentee.

With this same grace, Paolo meets and greets all of the visitors to the Southern California shelter. Unlike Bruno, who always accompanies Paolo in meeting visitors, Paolo does not wow visitors by licking them and putting on a show. His approach is much more subtle and simple. But that does not mean he doesn’t have super fans…

In repose, Paolo accepts all of the love and affection given him. And we welcome you to share his story. Together, we can encourage awareness and understanding about the deep emotional lives of cattle as well as the unfortunate truth about the beef and dairy industries. With a growing number of delicious dairy- and meat-free options and recipes, it’s never been a better time to make the switch. And it is one of the easiest ways to honor Paolo.

To see the full article click here.

I hope you all take a moment to make the connection to these wonderful animals and what you choose to put on your plate. A vegan diet is not only the most compassionate way to help animals, but improve your health and the planet's future.

Thank you!

xx Maria

Love Triangle

Maria Maisto

I'm not much of a TV watcher; in fact, I don't even own one, but lately all the love triangles happening at the farm have given me a new appreciation for reality television.

Recently, someone dropped off a few hole-punched, cardboard boxes at Kindred Spirits Care Farm. Being a caring, compassionate sanctuary they accepted the boxes and knew they'd do their best to help whomever was inside. A few chickens and a duck suddenly had a new home. 

Duck, as he/she is still nameless, has become Dave's shadow (whether he likes it or not). Dave and Violet (as you may or may not know) were rescued from a truck unloading chickens into a slaughterhouse. Violet and Dave, gigantic at just a few weeks old, who were destined for death (and someone's plate), now live happily at Kindred Spirits Care Farm.

Dave is quite fond of Violet; Violet wants nothing to do with Dave; and now Duck has entered the fold, fawning over every move Dave makes. It's like that scene from "My Best Friend's Wedding" - "Michael's chasing Kimmy, you're chasing Michael, who's chasing you?"

Dave and his shadow (with a cameo by Evan).

To add to the drama, this weekend, the question arose - Is Violet actually  a Vincent? Violet has yet to lay an egg, or let out a "cockadoodledoo," so a lot remains to be seen.  

It's so fun to watch so many dynamics unfold and all the different personalities interact, regardless of species. I'll keep my popcorn ready, waiting to see what happens next, especially with the chicken, chicken, duck love triangle. I'll keep you posted. ;)


What Really Happens to the Plastic You Throw Away - Emma Bryce

Maria Maisto

Hello! I think we can all agree, one of the best ways to nerd-out and learn some good stuff is through TED talks. So, let's all take a moment and watch the lives of three similar plastic bottles and see how their life-spans' differ. Sure, it's only a four minute video, but feel free to grab the vegan popcorn!

xo, Maria 

Peter Fricker: Plant-based diets go mainstream in Canada and the United States

Maria Maisto

I just read this article from straight.com and had to share. Also, if you're in the Vancouver area, there's a link below to a directory of the over 115 vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants in your area. (Only slightly jealous.)

 Photo by Dan Gold via Unsplash.

Photo by Dan Gold via Unsplash.

There are few think tanks as serious and sober as Canada’s Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) and the same could be said for its digital magazine Policy Options. Yet in July, there among the magazine’s weighty articles on economic productivity, NAFTA, and pension reform, was a piece titled “Plant-based diet should be central to national food policy”.

Such headlines used to be the preserve of animal-rights pamphlets and vegan websites, but during the last decade the case for a plant-based diet has entered new realms, gaining increased credibility along the way.

The Policy Options article, written by economist and agronomist Jean-Pierre Kiekens, argues that: “Changing our food habits would bring huge benefits, including disease prevention, healthy longevity, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. The federal government is currently in the midst of a public consultation on a national food policy—it should consider a vigorous promotion of a plant-based diet.”

The arguments for eating less meat are not new, of course, but the sheer weight of evidence in favour of a shift away from animal protein has propelled the case for dietary change from the fringes of public discourse into the mainstream.

The scientific evidence establishing the environmental impact of global meat production has been clear ever since the United Nations published its landmark report Livestock’s Long Shadow in 2006, which concluded: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” 

Since then, further UN research has established that 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the livestock industry. Many more scientific studies have identified animal agriculture as a major cause of water pollutiondeforestationbiodiversity lossantibiotic-resistant bacteria, and zoonotic infection diseases.

As the environmental studies on the impact of livestock production have piled up, so has the evidence of health risks associated with red meat consumption.

Meanwhile, the dismal animal welfare record of industrialized agriculture is regularly exposed to public scrutiny by many undercover investigations carried out by animal rights groups.

While the downsides of meat consumption and production have accumulated, the benefits of a plant-based diet have attracted more attention—and not just from foodies, vegan bloggers, and fad-following celebrities. Now, it’s health professionals, chefs, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors who are promoting the shift toward meatless meals. Even the federal government is proposing to encourage Canadians to adopt a more plant-based diet in the new Canada Food Guide.

The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada have long supported a vegetarian diet as healthy but now mainstream medical groups are starting to adopt similar positions. In 2014, Dr. Kim A. Williams, President of the American College of Cardiology, made news when he revealed that he was vegan and recommended plant-based foods to his patients.

The trend has also brought economic opportunities, with plant-based start-ups emergingeverywhere. Last year, a group of 40 investors managing $1.25 trillion in assets launcheda campaign to encourage 16 global food companies to diversify into plant-based protein. In the U.S., the new Plant Based Food Association, with more than 80 company members, is set to challenge the lobbying power of the American meat industry.

As plant-based eating goes mainstream, the old image of healthy but bland hippie food has faded. Meatless cuisine has become popular and fashionable, and has even entered the upscale dining scene. A Washington Post food critic, in a glowing review of plant-based fine dining in Los Angeles, concluded: “Much of the meatless food I’ve been eating of late has been alarmingly good.”

Here in Vancouver, there has been a proliferation of plant-based eateries. A directorypublished by Earthsave Canada lists more than 115 vegan, vegetarian, and “veg-friendly” restaurants, cafés, and other retailers in Metro Vancouver. Meanwhile, 11 Vancouver schools have adopted Meatless Monday programs and the University of British Columbia recently launched Canada’s first plant-based culinary training summit for chefs and food service professionals. In June, four Metro Vancouver cities attracted praise from Sir Paul McCartney for endorsing Meatless Monday.

Meat is not about to disappear from our tables anytime soon, but there’s little doubt that the plant-based diet is an idea whose time has come. A growing number of plant-based food enthusiasts, from cooks to consumers, have seen the future—and it tastes good.

Peter Fricker is the projects and cmmunications director with the Vancouver Humane Society.

Here's a link to the site: 





What's for dinner? ...and lunch? ...and breakfast?

Maria Maisto

 I want to eat all my meals here, please.

I want to eat all my meals here, please.

As we approach the end of August, the summer season is ending for most, but in Southern California our summer is just beginning. The transition of seasons can be hard when figuring out recipes to make. 

If you shop at your local farmers' market (kudos), you're buying what's in season and need to switch up the recipes as the crops change. This can be tricky, but fun...especially when you check out the recipes page on the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies . It's a gold rush of deliciousness.

There are recipes like Sweet Squash and Garbanzo Curry and Plant Protein Packed Peppers that seem like the perfect summer to fall recipes. Then there are the full on cozy up in a sweater-break out the blanket-I'm staying in comfort food recipes like Lentil Nut Loaf with Sweet Potato and Creamy Potato Soup

Then there are the NEXT LEVEL sounding desserts: Vegan Baked Cheesecake, Chocolate Donuts, and Classic Pecan Pie.

I'm so excited to have discovered this site and these recipes. If you've made any of the recipes, or do in the future, please let me know how they turn out!

Much love,

Be Fair, Be Vegan

Maria Maisto

Hello, I wanted to share this post from Gentle World, written by Angel Flinn. So well said, thank you, Angel!


Throughout the month of August, in the middle of Times Square, directly above the Good Morning America studios, and just a few blocks from the New York Times, a billboard was visible overhead that few could pretend not to notice. Amongst a barrage of self-promotion by corporate interests seeking personal gain, for four full weeks, one message of hope stood proud and powerful in its uncompromising call to the viewer to right the wrongs of a public blinded by the prejudice of speciesism.

Be Fair, Be Vegan.

Most of us agree that inflicting unnecessary harm is unjustified – whether the victims are human or otherwise. Yet most people are willing to turn a blind eye to such harm when they themselves receive some kind of advantage from it – whether the benefits are in the form of food, possessions, vanity, or amusement. Violence against animals in the form of ‘agriculture,’ ‘research’ and even ‘entertainment,’ is accepted by mainstream society and its legal systems. As a result, the majority of people are unwilling to see this brutality for what it is, and to step outside of the conditioning that makes such atrocities possible.

For decades now, we who refuse to ignore the plight of the other animals have endeavored in earnest to engage hearts and minds on behalf of innocent beings the world over.

We have accumulated a wide body of evidence to prove that this industry is completely unnecessary, disastrously cruel and immoral, and devastating to the health and wellbeing of our human population, our global society, and the very planet upon which we depend for our survival.

In spite of our sincere attempts to expose others to a reality that we know they would rightfully abhor and reject, we find ourselves not only dismissed and ignored, but more often than not, met with callous indifference, serving to further illustrate how hardened people’s hearts are to the individuals we are fighting for: innocent, defenseless beings whose very selves have been claimed by us as resources to exploit; declared by their oppressors to be worth more as factories for the substances we are addicted to than as the main players in their own life stories.

We are animals too, and just like us, those who are not human are not inanimate objects to be bought and sold like produce by the pound, by the kilo, or (in the case of the fishes of the ocean) by the ton. Like us, each one of these individuals is an embodiment of life, and a vessel for feelings that we can only try to understand the depth of. Like us, they too deserve at least the hope of a future that will somehow deliver some kind of peace and safety in a world that is unimaginably cruel to them for no more reason than what it is that comes from their bodies: meat, milk, eggs, leather, wool, fur, down, honey, silk, and everything else we can possibly take from them.

Since its inception in 1944, the movement for nonviolence against the other species of this planet has been slowly but steadily growing: climbing from almost complete obscurity to take its well-deserved position as the most attainable hope the world has for real, life-affirming change.

United in solidarity for a common cause that we believe exposes the most widespread and socially-acceptable injustice in the world today, we now have the power of numbers, and our influence will continue to multiply exponentially.

We already have the solution to the biggest problems we face, from personal to planetary. There is but one thing we must do:

Be Fair.

Be Vegan.

Alpacas and pigs and wolves, oh my!

Maria Maisto

Last Saturday I had the best day and wanted to share my experience. It almost didn't happen due to my hesitation to be anywhere at 8 am on a Saturday morning, but I got my act together and was not disappointed.

 Shy Pedro pretending to talk to a tree rather than look at me.

Shy Pedro pretending to talk to a tree rather than look at me.

I arrived at Kindred Spirits Care Farm to volunteer, and met Karen Snook, the multi-talented Executive Director of the organization, who offered me fresh-out-of-the-oven vegan mulberry scones she had made earlier that morning. They alone were worth the early morning visit. I rounded the corner to see two adorable alpacas, Evan and Pedro (I imagine Pedro sounding like Johnny Utah from Point Break); a couple of portly pigs, Gordy and Peanut; enthusiastic goats, Domino and Sweet Pea; lots of chickens and roosters (click here to read about the very chivalrous Astaire); and so many happy geese and rabbits. All of them roaming around happily, free, and copacetic.

 This face!!!

This face!!!

 Evan enjoying some carrots.

Evan enjoying some carrots.

I spent the morning feeding carrots to all the above (with Evan appearing to be the pushiest and/or hungriest of the crew), volunteering in the garden by planting seeds and pretending to know how to do other things that involved a pitch fork (yep, I wielded a pitchfork), cuddling Miss Peanut, and holding the softest, sweetest chicken (apologies, sweet girl, I forgot your name) who closed her eyes while I pet her - be still my vegan heart. Holding that chicken and cuddling with Peanut, I can assure you there's no difference between these animals and what you love about your own domesticated furry family members. 

 Peanut in post-lunch bliss.

Peanut in post-lunch bliss.

 I had no clue chickens were so soft and cuddly!

I had no clue chickens were so soft and cuddly!

At noon all the volunteers were presented with a delicious vegan lunch (seriously, between the scones and the lunch, it was ridiculous), AND was sent home with an arm-full of organic produce that had been harvested that morning. To think, I was the volunteer, yet was given so much not only from the Kindred Spirits organization, but the animals

Yep, pretty great morning. I then headed home to shower and get ready for my evening of yoga and wolves. I met two girlfriends at Blue Bottle Coffee in my neighborhood, and in honor of their opening day, received a free (woot woot) almond milk latte made with the very yummy Mylk brand. Just FYI, Blue Bottle also sells an excellent vegan dark chocolate bar. Note: best to eat entire bar at purchase vs. letting it sit and melt in your purse during a Science March. Some lessons are learned the hard way. While this is all completely tangential, the point is, there's a demand for compassionate products and businesses are listening! 

After a quick hour drive through the beautiful Angeles National Forest we arrived at Wolf Connection and were greeted by two of their very sweet ambassador wolves before getting a tour and introduction to The Pack.

The stories of each wolf, much like those from Kindred Spirits, are ones of neglect, abuse, and humans projecting their expectations on animals. I’m not sure there was a dry eye by the end, especially once we learned their alpha female, Maya, had passed the night before. Here’s Maya’s description from the Wolf Connection website:

Maya, an original pack member, is the quintessential alpha female: She is the wise teacher. Maya spent her first few years reared by her mother ensuring that she would learn the way of the wolf. As a result, one of her gifts is to nurture new pack members when they join Wolf Connection. Several of the younger males have been kenneled with Maya who quickly instructs them in proper wolf etiquette. Maya also exhibits true alpha behavior: she simply IS alpha. She does not have to prove it. Her presence is as serene and expansive as one might imagine the silence of the Arctic to be. During the summer of 2012, while visiting the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers in Lame Deer, Montana, her sacred spirit joined the festivities as she was heard to howl, often alone, during times of prayer and ritual. Her howl, and the rest of the pack that joined her is said to have inspired the return of the wild wolf to the Cheyenne people. 

I was lucky enough to have met Maya a few times prior. She was awe-inspiring and special, to say the very least. She definitely projected a sense of worth, like she knew she was somebody and not something. A lesson we could all use.

After an emotional tour, we had a wonderful yoga class led by Sam Bianchini, in front of the wolves' enclosures, with them howling at what seemed to be the perfect moments. Following  savasana, we made s'mores around the fire (there were even vegan marshmallows!) and closed out the incredible experience with a Sacred Fire Ceremony.


 Sam and Annie getting the wolf stamp of approval.

Sam and Annie getting the wolf stamp of approval.

A day spent with animals felt like a dream, but was also extremely emotional. To hear the hardships these animals faced at the hands of humans felt awful; yet learning about their growth and forgiveness filled me with an overwhelming sense of pride. These animals are testaments to the power we all hold within. It just takes the right people, support, and settings for us to dig deep and uncover our true strength and potential. By sunset I was exhausted and excited to get home to my own rescued animals, Max and Mina. 

Throughout this incredible day I saw the connection between the animal and human spirit. When humans slow down long enough to observe non-human life, and show compassion, the gains we receive are exponential. Each sanctuary was inhabited by animals that experienced gross neglect; yet, were still willing to give, teach and receive love, amongst many other things. 

Both Kindred Spirits and Wolf Connection are not just about rescuing animals, but also rescuing human beings. Whether through work with students, foster kids, or veterans, these organizations know the incredible healing power of animals. Animals and humans are meant to work symbiotically, but somewhere along the way humans allowed greed and selfishness to take over. Rather than honoring our fellow Earthlings, and all that they offer by just being, we've taken advantage of their voicelessness and trusting nature.

This summer, rather than making a trip to the zoo, I encourage you to find a local animal sanctuary (click here to see a list of animal sanctuaries in the U.S.). Seeing animals out from behind bars and out of cages, makes a world of difference. Hearing their stories, interacting with them and looking in their eyes is an incredible experience you won't soon forget. Observe their mannerisms and their different personalities.  I wish you all the opportunity to hold a chicken and pet her soft feathers and see the individual. 


Much love,

A Conversation with Mister Uncertain

Maria Maisto

Whether you walk or drive in Los Angeles, you've most likely seen the art of Mister Uncertain. He is one of the very few artists focused on animal rights.

After seeing his work around town, and then showing at The Animal Museum in DTLA, I reached out to him hoping he'd answer a few questions. Not only did he do so, but he answered them in a beautiful, thoughtful and honest essay. I hope you'll keep reading below to hear his story and what drives his commitment to activism through street art.

The right hemisphere of the brain is where I've spent most of my life. Art and imagination was meaningful to me from a very early age. In some form or another, I've always been creating art. I first got into street art in 2011 using casting techniques that I learned in makeup school back in 2007. I would cast objects and leave them in random places in the streets...ducks in puddles, human legs in bathroom stalls, stuff like that. I was vegan at the time but, didn't apply my veganism to my street art until about a year later.  I still make other types of art today, like collages and paintings, but typically never show anyone. 

My activism really took off after I made a giant sign to post above the freeway. These signs became my shtick for a while, knowing that thousands of people moving in one direction, looking the same way, had no choice but to read my message.  I was already doing stuff in the street so it happened really fast for me.  The more I created vegan related art, the more I realized that the methods must be strategic. My approach to the work is more of a broadcast than an art piece. I want people to hear and know that perhaps what they're doing is wrong and that they can stop it. 

My connection was made early on in life, I'd say around three/four years old.  I hated eating the food my parents gave me, it would make me feel gross.  I don't recall how I was aware, just that I was.  We'd sit down for dinner and it'd be something like chicken on the bone, porkchops, meatloaf, etc. I would tell my folks that I didn't want to eat veins or skin, but they'd force me to. My stepfather would actually set up a timer in the kitchen for like 10 mintues, and if I had any food left on my plate when the buzzer went off, I'd be sent to my room and he'd whip me with his belt. My dinner plate would go straight into the refrigerator and I would be forced to eat it cold for breakfast the next morning. Nothing like eating cold dead skin. 

My ideas come from so many places.  I'll dream up ideas, sometimes an idea just comes out of mid air.  I could notice a particular area in the street that gives me an idea.  Everything inspires me, because injustice is everywhere. If you put yourself in the position if the victims, you begin to invent ways you'd want people to defend you.

If anything, defending animals has moved me away from the so called animal rights / vegan "movement." It's not moving anywhere but backwards. 

I move on the outskirts of anonymity, just like the subjects of my work- who remain silent and hidden from public view. Always have felt that it's important to have the focus on the message and not on me whatsoever. There is definitely clear tension with relationships in my personal life.  I do not participate in family functions, unless it is vegan.  That's my choice.  But also theirs.  Everyone knows, if they want to eat with me, it will be a vegan meal.  If they can't have ONE vegan meal ONE day out of 365 days, then I don't think the issue is with me or my standards. 

I have learned that most vegans are unaware of the enemy we are up against. The same thing that happened to the environmental movement, is happening to the vegan/animal rights movement.  We have turned what should be a social resistance movement into a lifestyle.  We are far too passive and our approach does not match the urgency at hand. Leafleting, speeches, vigils, art, education, videos, demos, protests, etc.  They have a potential to change things, but not fast enough for the victims and now with the threat of climate change, for all life on earth.

Take the very best care of yourself and continue to advance cheerfully.

Here are some images of his work that can be seen throughout
Los Angeles...

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To find out more, please check out misteruncertain.com

Mark Loves Life

Maria Maisto

Meet Mark, a plantbased personal trainer in London. We first fell for his great smile on Instagram (check him out at @markloveslife) and needed to know all about those abs...err...I mean, inspiring workouts. Keep reading to find out how compassionate living has impacted his life and workouts.

Tell us about about yourself. 
I'm Mark, born and bred in London and I'm a health and fitness consultant. 

Before 2010 I was skinny-fat (overweight with no muscle), I couldn't do a pull-up, would struggle to perform 10 full press-ups and I didn't even know what 'squat' meant. I was a party animal, I would break the law and live that hyped up sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle. I won't go into detail but it was a troubled time of my life and it wasn't until 2010 when I realized I needed to make a change and turn my life around for the better. That's when I discovered the fitness world.

Was there a moment you realized that you wanted to go vegan?
I think I became aware that I needed to make a change over time which was a slow process-- it wasn't overnight. I would do things I thought I liked doing, like eat animal products and would realize the short term gain wasn't out-weighing the long term negative effects. I got into meditation which I found very beneficial for becoming more self-aware. I was pescatarian for a few years before that and didn't eat much dairy so the transition was easy. Watching some documentaries also helped open my eyes to the horrors of the meat industry

How long have you been vegan?
Two years.

Why is being vegan important to you?
It's great for my health, animals and the earth so it's a win win for every body. 

Any recommended vegan books? 
My vegan fat loss guide is a good place to start. 

Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other? 
Vegan community on IG is cool

Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
I share my plant based journey and how it's benefited myself. I try not to be a vegan nazis, you can't push a piece of string. 

What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?
I hear some people say that vegan's are skinny, weak and can't build muscle, I respond and say, "Well I have!"

What’s your favorite vegan restaurant?
Cook Daily London.

Do you have a favorite vegan recipe?
Vegan cookie dough. 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, 1/4 cup dates, 1-2 tbps peanut butter, and 1/4 tsp vanilla exact.    

Some encouraging words for new vegans?
If all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail so get my tools (knowledge) and you'll find the plant based life style is a piece of cake. 

What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
Choosing to be kind in everything you do. 

What is the toughest vegan item to find that you need?
Beyond Meat.  

Has there been a time when you struggled with your veganism?
One time some people of an older generation had cooked for me and couldn't understand what not eating animal products meant. 

What is one question you would ask other Vegans?
Where do you get your protein from? lol

Please check out his website, plantbasedgains.com for great workouts, posts and plant based inspiration. 

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” -Voltaire

Maria Maisto

Voltaire may have lived in the 17th and 18th centuries, but his words are still true today. Consider, for example, the dairy industry. Through a series of events (wars, industrialization, the Great Depression), the U.S. government took on a major role in regulating the dairy industry and even marketing milk.


We’ve all seen the ads, “Milk. It does a body good,” “3-A-Day,” and “Got Milk” claiming milk will strengthen our bones, prevent osteoporosis and aid in weight loss; yet, the actual data tells us otherwise. So, what gives?

In an LA Times article, “Bad government programs watch: Promoting milk as health food,” the author mentions “check off” programs (“through which the government extracts mandatory payments from dairy producers and transforms them into advertising like the ubiquitous ‘Got Milk’ campaign.”) as being a big part of the problem. Meanwhile, doctors in a number of specialities are finding milk and health don't add up.

Doctor Daniel Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital found: “Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionary recent addition to diet…Indeed, the recommended levels of calcium in the United States…likely overestimate actual requirements and greatly exceed recommended intakes in the United Kingdom. Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis.”

Dr. Kim Allan Williams, the chief of Cardiology at Rush University and thePresident of the American College of Cardiology, in 2015 said: “There are two kinds of Cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.”

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and project director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project, as well as a best-selling author, wrote: “Cows’ milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed.”

And while we are told how milk does a body good, doctors like Amy Lanou, Ph.D, are saying, “Besides prostate cancer, milk has been linked to asthma, anemia, allergies, juvenile-onset diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and ovarian and breast cancer."

Knowing all this, we still drink milk and eat cheese and yogurt while paying others to commit atrocities for us. 

Atrocities are so prevalent in the dairy industry that it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with life expectancy. Typically, a cow could live 25-30 years in natural conditions, but on a factory farm that’s reduced to 4-5 years. 

Then there’s the rape. Cows are inseminated while held in “rape racks” as the “farmer” shoves his arm into the cow’s anus. There’s also the whole dirty business of how they get the sperm from the bulls. (We won’t get into it, but feel free to check out this video.)

Once the cow is raped, she obviously produces a calf, but being that humans want to drink the milk, that means the calf needs to beat it. Baby male calves are taken away from their mothers to become veal (yes, a direct by-product of the dairy industry). They’re confined in small crates that prevent any movement. They stand until they collapse from weakened muscles, ensuring tender meat. 

As for mom, she’s repeatedly raped and each time given a growth hormone to keep her milk production up. The constant pregnancies, followed by over-production of milk, leads to mastitis or infections in her udders, which is responsible for 1 in 6 cow deaths on U.S. dairy farms.

Cows, like any living being with a central nervous system, and much like your cat or dog, have individual personalities. They experience joy, pain, fear, friendship, stress and love. Unfortunately, most studies conducted to figure this out, are to decide which cows to clone based on temperament.

For example, a study from the University of Groningen found: “From a young age, dairy cows react differently from each other to stimuli from their surroundings. An animal’s temperament determines how it reacts in stressful situations, but may also influence its general health. In the future, temperament could be bred as a selective trait to improve the robustness and well-being of dairy cows.”

Researchers from Northhamptonshire wanted to find out if cows get lonely and discovered that, like humans, cows have preferred partners and when they’re around them, “their stress levels, in terms of their heart rates, are reduced compared with if they were with a random individual.”

Other studies have found that cows have best friends and a desire to make connections with others. When they’re with their besties, they’re not only calmer but smarter and perform better on cognitive tasks.

We have so much information telling us how amazing these animals are, much like our domestic best friends, but we choose to turn a blind eye — we believe the absurdities. And in so doing, we encourage atrocities against our own well being, against the environment and against amazing creatures that we treat as slaves. 

Now, more than ever, humans need to look at the role that we play in life, humanity and history. As individuals, our power is greater than many of us realize. Our money is our vote and it’s powerful. 

Let’s make Voltaire proud and heed his wise words. Let’s not fall prey. Let’s be the voice for the voiceless.

Much love,




Regardless of Relationship Status, Valentine's Day is Pretty Great.

Maria Maisto

Okay, I'm not talking the Hallmark version of Valentine's Day. But every now and then, it's great to be reminded to tell people how much you care about them — or how happy you are that they’re part of your life. 

It can be a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, sure. But let's not forget your favorite family members or your chosen family (i.e., friends). 

Don't have a date? Feel lucky. Valentine’s dates can be like New Year's Eve — filled with pressure and expectation, while costing three times the amount. 

I think a glass of wine with friends, celebrating friendship sounds fantastic. Or, call me crazy, but so does a night in with a Netflix subscription and no one to hog the remote (hey, the 14th does fall on a Tuesday this year).

Whatever your situation, I hope you focus on gratitude and love — for all the special people you surround yourself with. Because if there's one thing the world needs more of right now, it's definitely love.

And ps: If a drink with your bestie or a kind text to your favorite partner-in-crime doesn’t cut it, check out our V-day bag. 

Much love,



But, Bacon… Holiday Survival Tips for Vegans and Vegetarians.

Maria Maisto

I’ve been a vegetarian or vegan for the last 26 years, so I’ve been asked about my protein consumption about 50 million times. 

When I was younger, it was hard not to get defensive about the questions and the taunts (OK honestly, it’s not that much easier as an adult). But I’ve learned a few ways to more easily diffuse what can feel like attacks. 

With the holidays come family dinners, which can be a breeding ground for such … discussions. So I’ve listed a few scenarios, in hopes they might help to ease frustrations around the topic. Or, at least let you know you’re not alone.

I’m not the best at quick-witted barbs. I’m someone who needs time to process my feelings and can respond most truthfully later — I think of 10 responses I should’ve/could’ve said while on my drive home from a dinner. But recently, I was introduced “as an amazing person” whose “only flaw” is being vegan. And calmly, and with a bit of a smile, I was able to quickly respond: “I didn’t realize caring for the environment and animals was a flaw.” The introducer looked a bit surprised by my non-defensive response and apologized several times over the span of a few days. 

That comment made me realize, for maybe the first time, that many people see vegans as weirdos, who willingly deprive themselves of pleasures, rather than as people living lives that honor and respect the things they love: nature and animals. It also made me realize that the best responses are truthful and from the heart, because they’re not defensive, but more likely vulnerable.

Another uncomfortable situation is when one person at a dinner table wants to engage me in the “I’m thinking about going vegetarian” conversation that no one else wants to hear (judging by the rolling of eyeballs). Believe me, I don’t want to have that conversation either, while enjoying my night out, so I’ve starting saying: I’d love to talk about this when there’s more time to answer all your questions. Give me your email, and I’ll reach out.” 

It’s an effective strategy for learning whether they’re truly interested in gathering information or just want to play “Bully the Vegan” at dinner. If they are indeed interested, here’s a great article to share from raptitude.com.

Finally, a scenario that plays out with incredible frequency is that someone asks about the decision to become vegan or vegetarian, and then quickly meets your response with: “But bacon tastes so good!” 

This particular comment irritates me so much that I’ve had to give a lot of thought to exactly why that is. What I’ve concluded is that it’s a thoughtless response. It makes me feel like that person hasn’t really listened to a word that I’ve said. 


(I don’t recommend following through on that urge.)

Honestly, I’ve been working through the right response to that one and it’s tough to know what to say to something so silly. So thoughtless — shallow. Who knows why they even said it. I haven’t tested it yet, but in my head one potential response goes something like:  

(Deep breath.) “I agree that lots of things that aren’t vegan taste good. But your response makes me feel unheard. I gave a thoughtful response, and it doesn’t feel like you did the same.” 

The key would be to say it without anger, and with as much sincerity as possible. Because very likely, that person hasn’t given any thought to your lifestyle choice. Likely, they don’t see it as a lifestyle at all, but rather as a dietary decision.

Granted, it’s all a work in progress. If you’ve come up with better answers, I’d love to hear them. 

With lots of deep breaths and searches for compassion — we got this one. Happy holidays, friends.

With love,
Cultivate, Founder

If you’d like to participate in Farm Sanctuary’s “Adopt a Turkey Project” please click here.