Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pranking the Monkey

What The Yes Men can teach animal activists

When Sacha Baron Cohen hit the big screen in 2006 as the crude but endearing Kazakh TV correspondent Borat Sagdiyev, he held a funhouse mirror up to the ugly underbelly of bigotry, intolerance and ignorance that permeates American culture. The guerrilla mockumentary drew unprecedented popular attention to the disturbing persistence of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and other troubling prejudices by becoming a surprise blockbuster hit with box office grosses exceeding $260 million worldwide. In May 2009, the irrepressible Mr. Cohen returned to multiplexes portraying the flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter Brüno to take aim at homophobia — but he’s not the only comedian who’s using cinematic satire as a weapon to fight oppression this summer.

The Yes Men:
Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonanno
That’s because The Yes Men (Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno) are back with their second movie: entitled The Yes Men Fix the World, it premiered on HBO this past Monday, July 27th (and earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival). Now, at this point, some of you may be wondering, just who (or what) are The Yes Men? To answer this question, allow me to explain by comparison: while mega-star Cohen disarms his unsuspecting subjects (persons both ordinary and famous) by flawlessly inhabiting characters who exude oblivious faux naïveté regarding shared mores, The Yes Men are radical social justice activists who specialize in “Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.” In other words, this daring duo speaks truth to power by pretending to speak for the insidious organizations and institutions that wield power in ways so dangerous and destructive that they defy both logic and imagination.

A Yes Men-designed Halliburton SurvivaBall
The Yes Men’s chameleonic performances at corporate conferences and on national news programs not only consistently generate controversy and media publicity, but (more importantly) concrete results — as well as some pretty big laughs for their growing fan base. But even crazier than the pair’s antics themselves is the fact that these intrepid impostors are typically taken very seriously by their hapless victims — no matter how insane or outrageous their proposals actually are.

For instance, when The Yes Men hawk bizarre inventions — like the Halliburton SurvivaBall or a WTO-designed leotard suit for remote factory mangers complete with “Employee Visualization Appendage” (i.e., an outsized inflatable phallus with TV screen for convenient monitoring of employees) — business people don’t chase them off or call the cops: they applaud and request business cards. When the progressive provocateurs suggest combating Third World famine with fast food hamburgers made partly from human feces or ending African poverty by reinstating slavery, free marketeers are intrigued rather than horrified. It’s the kind of eye-popping, jaw-dropping theatrical sleight of hand that makes you stare in disbelief and think “Wow! How the hell did they pull that off?!”

Applications for Animal Activism

Sure, The Yes Men are very effective at revealing a hideously dark side of human nature that most of us would rather not see, but that should not obscure the fact that they also expertly expose the extremes of capitalist greed and excess. That’s why I hope animal advocates will be inspired to learn from their example and supplement our own campaigns by incorporating their unconventional strategies. Here are some possible starting points:

Identity Imitation – Attend a conference, job fair, trade show, or fancy fundraising event posing as a representative or spokesperson for a company or industry (e.g., meat, fur, vivisection, circus, etc.) that kills animals for profit. This may involve setting up a booth or table with phony brochures and posters, wearing a T-shirt with the company’s logo on it and handing out spoof fliers, or just hijacking a live microphone in between speakers and delivering an over-the-top but completely convincing speech expressing animal exploitation values in raw form. To pass yourself off as authentic, remember to dress appropriately (i.e., formally) for the part you’re playing.
The Yes Men's alternative edition of
The New York Times

Media Mockery – The mainstream media often seeks to please its advertisers by offering up uncritical coverage of animal issues that serve as de facto promotions for inherently inhumane industries and companies. The propaganda promulgated by animal enterprises themselves is even more ludicrously manipulative because it is not even mediated by any pretense of journalistic objectivity. Reframe the debate by producing a fake magazine, trade journal or corporate Web site that explains straight-up the true viewpoint of commercialized animal torture (i.e., without the softening touch of public relations image management).

Online Hi-Jinks – The Internet is rich with potential opportunities for tricking animal killers and their apologists into dropping their customary decorum and unwittingly divulging their most shocking beliefs. Set a Twitter trap by finding a “backchannel” for an animal industry conference and start posting as one of the initiated, then make your exchange public. You can also attend industry events as a “true believer” to capture conversations with attendees on video and post them on YouTube.

For more information on these ideas, and to join an international network of activists bent on subverting the dominant paradigm from a variety of strike points, visit The Yes Men’s Fix the World Challenge Web page. If you have acting, graphic arts, computer programming, photography, videography, writing, or other creative skills that you would like to use for a Yes-Menesque animal rights project, please let me know at As a longtime writer/activist who grew up fascinated by MAD magazine and Wacky Packages, I’ve often thought it would be loads of fun to engage in this kind of irreverent enterprise, and would love to collaborate with others on making something cool!

10 Handy “Culture Jamming” Resources:
1. The Yes Men’s “special edition” of the New York Times
2. Adbusters
3. No Logo
4. Culture Jam
5. The Onion
6. Billboard Liberation Front
7. Ron English
8. Negativland
9. Abby Hoffman Brigade
10. Freeway Blogger

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Attack of the Anti-Prop 2’s!

Bills to kill farm animal protection invade three states

“This is Michigan, not California. We’re not going to allow an outside group to come into Michigan and give chickens the right to drive cars.”

- Michigan State Representative and House Agriculture Chairman Mike Simpson*

Since 2002, a total of six states have passed laws banning one or more of the main intensive confinement mechanisms factory farms use to maximize revenue (i.e., battery cages for egg-laying hens, gestation crates for pregnant pigs, and veal crates for calves). In the last year alone, four more state legislatures have introduced bills to ban all three of these industry-standard constraint systems — and they certainly won’t be the last to ponder such measures.

If you were a captain of the farm animal exploitation industry whose bottom line depended on treating cows, pigs and chickens however you damn well pleased, wouldn’t this revolting development freak you out? Well, of course, but the real question is, what would you do about it? Would you a) go about your business as usual and hope that your home state doesn’t try to restrict your legal right to abuse animals, b) proactively make operational changes that reflect current public attitudes about animal welfare, or c) go on the offensive by calling in some favors from your powerful politician friends who owe you big for those meaty campaign contributions you’ve been dishing out over the years?

You don’t need to be a whiz at multiple choice tests to know which one of these strategies corporate magnates in at least three states have collectively opted for:

- Michigan lawmakers have introduced HB 5127 and HB 5128, two bills that would create a statute to codify Big Ag’s animal welfare guidelines into law. Needless to say, their idea of “animal welfare” includes giving each egg-laying hen just 67 square inches of cage space, grinding their male chicks up alive for fertilizer as soon as they are born, and many other cruel but routine atrocities.

- Ohio legislators have already placed a “livestock standards” measure on the November 2009 ballot for voters’ consideration that would amend the State Constitution and give a council dominated by livestock industry “experts” sole authority to set “care and well-being” standards for the treatment of farm animals. Passage of this proposition would preempt lawmakers from debating animal welfare issues and be used to delude the public into believing that farm animals are not subjected to abusive practices when in fact they are.

- The Oklahoma legislature passed a law earlier this year that gives the the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry exclusive authority to rule on animal welfare issues in the state. Essentially, this prohibits local governments from creating ordinances regarding “the care and handling of livestock” that are more restrictive than those enacted by the State Ag Department.

Why, you may wonder, can’t the government allow voters or their democratically-elected representatives decide where to draw the line on cruelty to farm animals? Because, as Michigan House Bills sponsor Representative Don Armes argues, these bills are needed to “ensure that livestock regulations are developed by experts at the state level who know what they’re doing.” And who are these quote-unquote “experts” to whom Rep. Armes so deferentially cedes all power? Why, the very same skilled professionals who made fortunes by enslaving, torturing, killing, and selling animals for profit, of course!

Despite such reassurances from trusted elected officials like Rep. Armes, the farm animal rights activists who have devoted much of their efforts in recent years to passing anti-confinement bills and initiatives have a different view of this matter. “These measures are obviously a counterattack against the success of Prop 2,” claims Paul Shapiro, Senior Director of HSUS’s Factory Farming Campaign. “The basic idea is to give the appearance of regulation, but in reality these programs won’t prohibit any of the inhumane practices that are already standard in the agriculture industry. In fact, they would actually codify the cruel status quo into law, effectively putting the foxes in charge of guarding the henhouse.”

Shapiro also points out that, with the full force of the mighty agribusiness lobby behind them, industry-friendly lawmakers have been able to move these bills forward quickly in an attempt to avoid legislative and public scrutiny. In response, HSUS is actively encouraging state lawmakers in Michigan to oppose the House Bills and mobilizing their members to put pressure on elected officials by contacting their offices. A campaign to inform Ohio voters about the deceptive intentions behind the November 2009 proposition is already in the planning stages, and the organization may attempt to place its own pro-animal measure on the ballot in 2010.

The crucial question here for both sides is, are these industry-driven proposals the magic bullet agribusiness needs to stop the state-to-state spread of Prop 2-inspired bills and ballot initiatives? Similarly, will they be able to deceive people into believing that current agribusiness practices — like confining animals in cages and crates, debeaking chickens and tail-docking cows — constitute “humane” treatment of living, feeling creatures? The answers depend in large measure on the outcomes in Michigan and Ohio — but much more so, in a deeper sense, on the determination, drive and energy of farm animal rights activists.

* It is important to note that, despite Rep. Simpson’s claim, chickens cannot legally drive automobiles in California: when Prop 2 is enacted in 2015, it will simply ensure that egg-laying hens (as well as breeding sows and veal calves) have enough room to stand up, stretch their limbs, and lie down without bumping up against a wall or another animal. The fact that the Honorable Mr. Simpson (sponsor of the Michigan animal "welfare" standards bills) issued this hyperbolic statement signifies nothing more than the fact that he has been watching too many old Foster Farms commercials, and that he is a pathetic suck-up and sellout to the animal corpse-food industry.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wars of Whales and Words

The real “eco-terrorists” kill animals, not save them!

I have recently been watching Whale Wars, which (for those who haven’t seen it) is Animal Planet’s hit reality TV show about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s quest to stop illegal commercial whaling on the high seas. In Season 2, Episode 4 (entitled “Yum Yum, Eat Crow”), a member of the Sea Shepherd crew said something very interesting about so-called eco-terrorism that really struck me as exceptionally true and wise.

A Japanese whaling ship being tracked by Sea Shepherd on the Antarctic Ocean had somehow lost a man overboard, and the cetacean hunters were searching for him (or rather, his corpse, because a human could survive no more than an hour in waters so cold). Sea Shepherd’s Japanese translator aboard the S.S. Steve Irwin radioed the whaling vessel to offer them assistance in the search, to which the whaling captain replied (in subtitles) that they would not accept help from “environmental terrorists.”

After the conversation, Sea Shepherd’s native-Japanese translator explained to the audience through the camera that the whalers (rather than animal protection activists) were the real eco-terrorists because they were killing nature’s precious creatures. Even though it now seems self-evident, I had never thought of this interpretation of the “eco-terrorist” label before, the profundity of which was underscored by the fact that the speaker had hidden her face behind a mask for fear that her family would suffer violent reprisals at the whalers’ hands. Think about that frightening reality, and it’s pretty clear who the true terrorists in this story are.

Being one who believes in the sanctity of language, I find it despicable that some would so arrogantly abuse words for their own purposes by seeking to redefine or reinvent them until that they mean their exact opposite. Not surprisingly, the first to describe environmentalists as terrorists were logging company PR flacks seeking to turn public opinion against Earth First! tree-spikers in the late 1980s, and by the 1990s, industry front groups, right-wing think tanks and free-market politicians were routinely trying to link environmental defense with terrorism. The deliberately distorted discourse fostered by these pernicious biocidal forces amounts to a form of psychological warfare, so it is not surprising that those who make a living by killing would project their own violent tendencies onto others by accusing them of what they themselves are most guilty.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Here Comes the Sunstein!

Obama’s prospective “Regulatory Czar” will ban all use of animals…according to meat, dairy and egg industry hacks, that is

You may want to start unfurling those mothballed “Mission Accomplished!” banners and planning end-of-the-movement celebrations, because, after many long years of tireless effort to abolish humanity’s abuse of other species, we are finally and definitively about to win the war against animal exploitation! Apparently, the United States is on the very cusp of an unprecedented Golden Age of Animal Rights when meat products will completely disappear from supermarkets and be replaced by tofu imitations, fur salons will be transformed into hemp-and-pleather fashion boutiques, and vivisection laboratories will be converted into homeopathic apothecaries. It’s literally a vegan’s lifelong dream come true!

At least, that’s the radically compassionate world that animal enterprise apologists at the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and the American Conservative Union (ACU) warn we’re headed for if Congress approves President Obama’s nefarious nomination of Cass Sunstein as ostensibly omnipotent Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)*. Corporate propagandists are trying their damndest these days to demonize Sunstein, an accomplished attorney who befriended Obama when they were both professors at the University of Chicago Law School, primarily because he is a vegetarian and the co-author of Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions (among many other books). It is therefore not so surprising that Sunstein’s appointment was recently blocked (or at least delayed) per the objections of Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who (erroneously) claimed the nominee “has said that animals ought to have the right to sue folks,” and worried that giving Sunstein regulatory oversight would affect “a number of other issues relative to agriculture,” which would surely rankle many of his key campaign contributors whose fortunes rise or fall with the value of beef, pork and poultry shares.

The root of Sen. Chambliss’ first concern is a quote from Sunstein’s aforementioned tome which reads: “[A]nimals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law … Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian like (sic) obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.” However, despite Chambliss’ unease, this statement (consistently taken out of context by Sunstein’s opponents) does not entail granting animals explicit rights under the law, as journalist Julian Sanchez explains: “Sunstein was suggesting that in order to enforce animal cruelty laws already on the books, private parties might be given standing to bring civil actions against those who violate these existing laws, rather than leaving it up to government prosecutors to investigate and make cases. Judges could order plaintiffs to pay defendants attorneys (sic) fees in order to deter frivolous suits.”

Put this way, Sunstein’s proposal sounds “very conventional and a little boring,” as the candidate himself noted during a May 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (which approved his nomination). To Chambliss’ credit, the Senator wants to hear Sunstein out in person before deciding whether to oppose or support his appointment. Sunstein will have an opportunity to more fully explain the meaning and implications of his views in a meeting with Chambliss and other Senators sometime this month.

However, some of Sunstein’s shriller detractors have already made up their “minds” about Sunstein, and are doing everything they can to make sure others see the horns they’ve so helpfully painted on his head. These masters of delusion also nonsensically insist that the relatively obscure post of OIRA Administrator wields a level of influence that vastly exceeds the authority of any other U.S. government official — up to and including the President. Here are some recent quotes that express the tenor and suppositions underlying the anti-confirmation viewpoint:

“Sunstein’s work could spell the end of animal agriculture, retail sales of meat and dairy foods, hunting and fishing, biomedical research, pet ownership, zoos and aquariums, traveling circuses, and countless other things Americans take for granted… Americans don’t realize that the next four years could be full of bizarre initiatives plucked from the wildest dreams of the animal-rights fringe. Think about every outrageous idea PETA and the Humane Society of the United States have ever had, and imagine them all having the force of federal law.”

David Martosko, Director of Research, the Center for Consumer Freedom

“If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sunstein will have unchecked power to severely limit or end hunting freedom and gun ownership in America. [...] Sunstein will have the power to write regulations dealing with the length of hunting seasons, Federal land use, deciding which species are ‘endangered,’ draconian noise and environmental standards at shooting ranges, taxes on guns and ammunition, gun shop and gun show regulations, federal record keeping on gun purchases… And on thousands of regulations dealing with meat processing, life-saving medical research that involves animal testing, animal ‘rights,’ and much more.”

“Stop Sunstein” petition from the American Conservative Union

In the interest of journalistic objectivity, I should mention that I normally find such misguided critics infuriating, but today they just make me laugh because they’ve clearly gone over the deep end. I mean, yeah, the CCF’s whole reason for being is to shill for greedy corporations, and Sunstein is not the first Obama appointee opposed by the ACU, but the fact that these paranoid sociopaths seriously believe the OIRA Administrator has “unchecked power” to outlaw guns, hunting and meat is so ludicrously beyond even the remotest realm of possibility that it makes their shtick comedic gold. The only reasons to even pay the slightest bit of attention to such hyperbolic right wing idiocy are to revel in its unintended satirical value, and to make sure decision-makers understand how utterly moronic it is.

Perhaps I’m only snickering now because in the process of being so obviously on the defensive, the animal killers have inadvertently exposed their most vulnerable weak spots — mainly, their tendency to become irrational when their dominance is threatened. In reality, if Sunstein is appointed, society’s treatment of animals is not going to fundamentally change: the OIRA Administrator’s job is definitely not to create new laws, but to basically ensure that U.S. regulatory agencies (such as the EPA, USDA, etc.) comply with existing ones. At best, we can hope that Sunstein will hold these agencies accountable for breaking animal welfare statutes — which would be a first in U.S. history and something that could indeed significantly impact how animal exploitation industries operate. However, according to an Op-Ed by Greg Henderson, editor of the agribusiness journal Drovers, they’re much more worried about how Sunstein’s confirmation could allow pesky animal advocates to file so-called “nuisance suits” against factory farms:

“Sunstein’s views on animal rights could be disastrous for all of livestock agriculture, not because stockmen routinely abuse animals but because such legal remedies could be used by animal rights activists to initiate nuisance suits. Assuming current animal abuse laws remain the same, activists could successfully tie up livestock producers with legal procedures for years. And once the door is opened a crack to allow legal action by animals, it would only be a matter of time before the interpretation of abuse comes into question. For instance, are animals fed corn abused? Some animal rights advocates believe they are. What about cows living on the range without shelter? Are they abused if they don’t have access to a heated barn? Sunstein’s views represent those on the fringe now, but the actions we take now may determine if those views are mainstream in the future.”

While Henderson’s analysis is at least somewhat more pragmatic than that of his colleagues, it still reveals a fundamental distortion of perception. Take his claim that factory farms do not “routinely abuse animals” — it’s demonstrably false. Consider, for example, this small sampling of standard agribusiness practices, all of which are perfectly legal in the U.S. and used to enslave billions of animals a year:
If you amputated half of your dog’s tail without anaesthetic or slashed your cat’s throat while she was wide awake, you would be rightly charged with animal abuse, but Henderson (like all “stockmen”) implies that farm animals are somehow subject to completely different physical laws than companion animals. Of course, his job as an agribusiness hustler is the same as the CCF’s and the ACU’s: to reframe the debate so that the concerns of animal advocates appear not as legitimate ethical arguments against torturing and killing billions of living beings for money, but rather mere quibbling over some “minor” discomforts animals endure in the course of their otherwise supposedly idyllic lives on factory farms. The best in the business do it unconsciously, automatically, crafting messages as though there were no other way of thinking about things — because they never do.

But this narrow-minded strategy won’t work forever because as people learn more about the routine cruelties animals suffer on modern farms, the more disgusted they become with those who perpetrate abuse and the less they believe their lies. It is inevitable that, in the coming years and decades, increasing numbers of people will undoubtedly see the truth — and that, over the long haul, animal advocates’ core values will become mainstream. Sunstein’s nomination is just one more sign that this is already happening, and one more crucial step in the right direction.

* The Senate confirmed Sunstein on September 10, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Dreaming of Animal Independence Day

Why do we deny other species the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Most countries in the world celebrate an Independence Day to commemorate the anniversary of when their nation won sovereign statehood. In this longstanding tradition, for more than two centuries the United States has observed the Fourth of July as a national holiday to memorialize the signing of The Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was then, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, that the "Colonies" formally asserted their right to self-rule without interference from the British Empire. So it is that on July 4th Americans celebrate the freedoms we enjoy and express our commitment to upholding the ideals upon which our country was built.

The Founding Fathers originally wrote the Declaration as a manifesto to proclaim a radical affirmation of individual rights for certain classes of Americans. Since then, the U.S. has extended these rights to all citizens, regardless of race, creed or gender. According to this seminal document, "all men are created equal," and "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," and "that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." However, while humans have long benefited from democratic self-determination, animals are still considered property under the law simply because they are a different species from us—essentially denying them their most basic rights.

It is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude that every year, our society imprisons and tortures billions of living, feeling creatures and ignores their cries for mercy before heartlessly taking their lives for food, clothing, "entertainment" and experiments. It is the height of arrogance to claim ourselves emancipated individuals or an enlightened society while our species heartlessly enslaves billions of sentient beings. To achieve true justice in this world, we must keep fighting for the liberation of these abused beings who, like us, want to live, be free, and pursue their own version of happiness.

Animal advocates are working to end humanity's exploitation of animals in much the same way that other political and social liberation movements throughout history have fought against the oppression of humans. Every day, millions of people participate in a worldwide revolution on behalf of other species, and we are gradually winning the war against human tyranny—one battle, one victory at a time. And yet this struggle continues with no end in sight, and though we make progress the opposition is powerful, entrenched and often ruthless in their defense of the status quo.

So, for inspiration's sake, let us start by taking the long view. Perhaps one day, decades or centuries from now—after the slaughterhouses, vivisection labs and other death dungeons are dismantled and all species live free from human-inflicted cruelty—our descendants will celebrate Animal Independence Day. Perhaps this is an implausibly Utopian vision that will forever remain merely an idealist's dream, but that does not mean it's impossible. That is, it could actually happen some day if we keep working today to bring a new and better world into being.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Delectable New Vegan Mozzarella "Cheese" Sparks Vegan Pizza Revolution

L.A.'s Cruzer Pizza's sales soar 63% within one month of introducing Daiya dairy-free cheese pies

For years, food manufacturers have searched far and wide for the Holy Grail of mainstream vegan cuisine: a non-dairy cheese substitute which stretches, melts and tastes so much like the real thing that even cheese lovers can’t tell the difference. Even though a variety of “cheeses” made from soy, nuts, rice, and other plant-based ingredients have made inroads into the lucrative vegan market in the last decade, none has excelled enough at the all-important flavor equivalency test to convince even the choosiest of cheese devotees — until now.

A new vegan cheese substitute made by Canadian company Daiya Foods, Inc. could represent the long-awaited commercial breakthrough. As the only company in the world to make vegan “cheese” from cassava (a tropical shrub native to South America that is also the basis of tapioca), Daiya ferments the plant’s root so that it curdles the same way milk does during the traditional cheese making process, creating the supple yet chewy consistency that largely accounts for cheese’s enduring popularity. As a result, Daiya has won rave reviews from food bloggers, as well as VegNews magazine’s “Best of Show Award” at the 2009 Expo West trade show.

Daiya vegan “cheese” only became available in the United States in 2009, and the first eatery to offer it to patrons in the Western U.S. was Cruzer Pizza in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. Cruzer’s owner, Sam Khalaf, started using Daiya on pizzas after being approached by Michelle Sass, California Advocacy Organizer for Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal advocacy group. At Sass’ suggestion, Khalaf removed veal from Cruzer’s menu and simultaneously added eight new vegan Daiya “cheese” pizzas featuring toppings like tofu-based “chicken,” “ham,” “sausage,” and “pepperoni,” as well as a full range of fresh vegetables.

According to Khalaf, customer response to the change was phenomenal, unmistakable and surprisingly immediate. “Since launching the vegan menu on May 29, overall sales in our Los Feliz store have increased by 63 percent, and the vegan items have outsold everything else we make,” he reported. “Sales have been so good that we’ve decided to add vegan calzones, macaroni and ‘cheese,’ spaghetti and ‘meat’ balls, and lasagna to our menu.” Khalaf publicized Cruzer’s new menu by hanging 50,000 doorknob fliers throughout the area, and has even started making vegan pizzas at their Glendale location as well as some of the other 20 pizzerias he owns in the L.A. area bearing other names.

Meanwhile, after watching its next door neighbor’s vegan pizza sales go through the roof, upscale restaurant Desert Rose made a full one-third of its menu vegan and prominently printed Farm Sanctuary’s “seal of approval” next to the new items, which include Cruzer’s pizzas. About 150 people attended the menu launch party at Desert Rose on Saturday night, June 27, an event that was co-organized by Farm Sanctuary’s Sass and Vegan Drinks, a social networking group that promotes the vegan lifestyle by hosting monthly outings in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

Like Khalaf, Sass believes Daiya’s game-changing innovation will fuel an exploding vegan pizza demand that the smartest restaurateurs will be ready to supply. “Cruzer and other pizzerias using Daiya are on the cutting edge of a trend that is going to grow exponentially as more people get a taste of this fabulous product,” she said. “There is already a huge underserved and largely untapped consumer demographic out there comprised of vegans and millions of others who want appetizing, natural, cruelty-free alternatives to milk-based cheese. That is exactly what Daiya is, and the first companies — from the smallest storefronts to the largest global franchises — to get in on the ground floor of this budding business are going to profit the most.”