Wednesday, April 19, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Maya Gottfried



It’s proof that the compassionate world is growing when there are whole guides published that are dedicated to dating as a vegan, right? With
Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal, with Fashion, Makeup & Wedding Tips by author Maya Gottfried, we have a fun, lively and informative guide for vegan ladies lookin’ for love and connection. Written with an engaging voice and welcoming tone, Vegan Love is quite the thorough and captivating how-to guide for the growing vegan niche: part coach, part cool big sister, part primer for the modern dating scene and part vegan education handbook, Maya’s book manages to be all of the above without compromising any of the parts. With profiles of prominent vegans like Jasmin Singer, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Marisa Miller Wolfson and coming from hetero and LBGTQ perspectives, Vegan Love keeps you engaged with different views on dating and gracefully weaves in educational sections on a wide range of subjects, such as the cruelty of the fashion industry, while never straying too far from the theme of love. Should you just date other vegans or should you consider dating non-vegans? As you might imagine, there is a wide range of viewpoints expressed in the book from the various interview subjects and the author. I appreciate that in addition to while acknowledging the differences in perspectives and experiences, the author has a confident vegan stance. This is a great guide with the perfect balance of tougher stuff and delightful fluff to keep readers informed and engaged. I highly recommend Vegan Love and am grateful to be able to feature Maya Gottfried as this week’s Vegan Rockstar.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

Like many other vegans, I’ve always considered myself an animal lover, it just took me some time to make the connection that the animals I ate were no different than the ones who curled up in my lap at home. As a child I adored watching wildlife, like ducks in the water, and loved our family dog, Ollie, but simply didn’t stop to think that the animals I was eating were sentient beings who valued their lives, too.

When I was little, I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up, out of my love for animals. I also wrote to the ASPCA and explained that I wanted to help animals, asking what I could do. They mailed me a big package of pamphlets. I put one outside of every apartment door in our building. I didn’t become a veterinarian, but the desire to help stayed with me, eventually leading me to go vegan.

When I was 35 I finally came to veganism. I loved animals and wanted to help them but more and more I was learning about the cruelty they suffered to be food. Clearly no animal wants to die. I had begun following the work of Farm Sanctuary and became vegetarian when I was 34. I continued to learn more, mostly through Farm Sanctuary and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s “Food for Thought” podcast. Finally, sitting at my desk one night, it hit me. I simply could not justify consuming any animal products anymore. There was no getting around the suffering. And so I went vegan.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

What really helped me in my own journey was reading and hearing about the individual animals who live at Farm Sanctuary, the suffering they endured, and the details of their personalities. Once I knew the truth of their lives, and how I was hurting them with what I was eating and wearing, I just could not contribute to their pain anymore. But for me it was a gentle path, I didn’t need to see graphic videos, though I sometimes watch them. Because I only needed to know the truth to make the change, it was the gentle delivery of the simple facts to me that was most effective.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

I think sharing my own story is most effective with people who I have just met, for example at a party. I don’t tell people what I think they should do, but share my enthusiasm and the happiness I experience being vegan. Sometimes people ask me questions about veganism, and in those situations I gently deliver the truth, just as it was delivered to me. In fact, my partner, Dietrich, had been vegetarian for about 30 years when we met, and asked me why I was vegan on one of our first dates. I simply explained the realities of dairy to him, and he went vegan, just like that. His experience was like mine, once he knew the truth it was an easy decision to go vegan. Sometimes, though, the graphic videos and memes can help people make the connection. A friend of mine saw a video I shared on Facebook about a chicken who was saved from a factory farm and immediately stopped eating eggs. The delivery of the information was different, but the thought process was the same—she said she stopped because before seeing it she simply did not know what happened to the male chicks born into the egg industry. Now that she knew the truth, she couldn’t contribute to the suffering anymore

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

The vegan movement is built on love. Sometimes we get frustrated or angry that the cruelty still exists, but at the heart of it all, us ethical vegans have made this commitment because of our love for the animals. That is a lot of love. Think of all that we can do to make the world a better place with so much positivity.

We also live as shining examples of the benefits of living an ethical lifestyle. Those of us who eat a healthy plant-based diet stand as evidence that living cruelty-free gives us glowing skin and healthy hair. We are generally happier knowing we are creating positive change in the world, and are living proof that we don’t need to eat animal products to have great energy and strength.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

When we are aggressive in how we deliver information, we inevitably push people away. We are all ambassadors of this movement and every time we interact with someone about veganism it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that veganism is built on kindness and love. If we approach people with aggression and fear tactics we can expect the same in return.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

I had stage 3 cancer when I went vegan. While going through chemo I learned that animal proteins do nothing less than facilitate the lethal disease’s spread. I went vegan out of a love for animals but once I learned about the health benefits I also became vegan for myself. I have now been cancer free for eight years.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

Farm Sanctuary has been my “home base” since I went vegetarian, and was the organization that inspired me to go vegan one year later. I even wrote a children’s book about their sanctuaries’ animal residents, Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary (Knopf). I also am a fan of Mercy for Animals. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was my biggest influence outside of Farm Sanctuary, in my growth from vegetarian to vegan, and I am a fan of her “Food for Thought” podcast. I love the writing of Victoria Moran, Jonathan Balcombe, and Gene Baur. I also was greatly inspired by John Robbins’ The Food Revolution. The film Earthlings was the most powerful one on the issues that I’ve seen, and inspired my niece, Annelise to go vegan, too. I also love the films Vegucated and Forks Over Knives. The websites that play the biggest role in my continuing growth are VegNews and Our Hen House (and I’m happy to have written for both).

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

For me, veganism comes out of love, so if I’m feeling depleted it signals to me that I need to generate more positive feelings. I do this by meditating, going for walks, and finding time to watch a goofy movie or two. If I have the opportunity, I also recharge by spending time with the cows, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and turkeys who live at farm animal sanctuaries. They inspire me the most to keep going. Seeing or speaking with my friends also does a lot to warm my heart and help me put more positivity into the world. It especially helps me to be part of a community of vegans, and have friends who are also involved in helping animals. If I’m working all of the time I simply run out of the energy to do any more.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

When I think about all of the farm animals who have lost their lives to be food, I see billions of them, filling great fields, quietly pleading with us to stop. This is at the heart of my work.

There is another cause that is important to me. I volunteer each week at a no-kill volunteer-run cat and dog shelter called ARF (in Beacon, NY). Some people in the vegan community feel that it is cruel for animals to be kept in no-kill shelters, but spending time in one on a weekly basis, I strongly disagree. Given some time in the shelter, many cats and dogs who might be euthanized in a kill shelter find loving homes. Those who don’t have a good life with great veterinary care and lots of love from volunteers at the shelter. It breaks my heart when I read that some organizations advocate for these animals to be euthanized rather than given a chance at a shelter. I hope that readers will consider volunteering at a local shelter. By just donating a few hours a week you can make a huge difference for the animals. These shelters can be successful, but many need volunteers in order to continue. This is a very simple way for people to make a huge positive impact for animals who might otherwise be euthanized at a kill shelter. And I always walk out of ARF feeling so much better than when I arrived.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

Pure love.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Jo-Anne McArthur...

 

Award-winning photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur has traveled the globe for the past 15 years, documenting the often unimaginably sad lives of animals usually relegated to the background or hidden entirely from view: desperate raccoon dogs on a fur farm; the cold isolation of beluga whales in small tanks at aquarium parks; a lonely performing elephant chained outside a circus; pigs destined to become meat. As a photographer whose work has helped to draw back the curtains on the often concealed industries or the very out in the open ways that living beings are turned into consumable products, Jo-Anne’s purview is specific but also immense. With haunting, extraordinary images that pull viewers in, Jo-Anne has found enough of an audience for her work to have had the unforgettable We Animals collection of her photos published and even was the subject of the 2013 documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine.  As co-founder of The Unbound Project, Jo-Anne works to shine a spotlight on women around the globe who are leading the efforts to build a more just and kind world, and she is also planning to have her next collection, Captive, published this summer. In the midst of all this, Jo-Anne has recently made her voluminous archive of photographs available for free to the public via her searchable database, the We Animals Archives. Individuals, organizations, and media outlets are encouraged to use her credited photos, which is an incredible resource for opening eyes and hearts to informed, compassionate living. (Please consider donating to help this important effort continue.) I am honored to feature Jo-Anne McArthur as this week’s Vegan Rockstar.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

Short version, sorry! Longer version can be found in several interviews including this comprehensive one by Farm Sanctuary, and in the introduction to the We Animals book. Please have a look!

There were some defining moments for sure. I realized that I saw animals differently than others did. The macaque chained to a window in Ecuador disturbed me, while others took tourist photos of the poor animal. At one point my mother had 10 chickens living at her home in the country. I became friends with them; they were just like the dogs and cat. They wanted to socialize, be in the house, get attention, do things. It was then that I realized that there was no distinction between the chickens I ate, and the dogs I called family. They were all the same. I stopped eating meat, and then I became vegan on my first day as a Farm Sanctuary intern on April 1st 2003.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

At the time I felt that veganism would be a huge deprivation and exertion of will power. I didn’t know any vegans, really (just one tall skinny dude from my tree planting days; he’d eschew the massive buffet after work and eat an entire watermelon). I’d have been reassured to know that I would not feel deprived, that I would still fit in to society, that dinner parties wouldn’t be a place of worry about food and food topics, that I could (and did) just chill about all that. On the one hand, becoming vegan is life changing for sure, but it doesn’t mean you have to rearrange every single aspect of your life. I’d have benefitted from being told that it’s not “deprivation” eating, it’s just “different” eating.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

I have a “let them start the conversation” approach. Spend a few minutes with me and you’ll see what’s on my plate, you’ll have found out that I’m an animal rights photojournalist…and these are interesting things! I’m friendly and happy, which allows people to feel comfortable asking me questions about what I do, what I eat, and why. The conversations happen inevitably, and they can see that my choices are a joy, not a deprivation.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

Its growing diversity. We are no longer all doing the same types of work or outreach. We are doctors, lawyers, neuroscientists, ethologists, writers, chefs, educators, comedians, influencers, high tech company upstarts and all the rest. We’re shattering stereotypes and we are making the message mainstream.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

We’re all very opinionated about this, aren’t we? :) My short answer is that people like to think they are coming to a decision on their own. They feel more empowered. Do your best to let them. More showing, less shoving.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

Why vegan? Because it’s a joy. For my body, my spirituality and my intellect, it makes sense. And because it’s a great choice for so many reasons: the animals, the planet, and our bodies.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

When I started looking for veg-related materials, I wasn’t on the internet much! That was pre-2000. So I thought of the group most people did at the time. PETA! I got PETA pamphlets. From there I saw Peaceable Kingdom, The Witness, and then A Sea of Slaughter, written and narrated by Farley Mowat. That was a 45-minute documentary and I stopped eating fish after that. It was that simple. Influential authors had, at the time, been Erik Marcus and Peter Singer, as well as cookbooks by Jo Stepaniak and Robin Robertson. I read fewer strictly AR books these days, and more about ethology by scientists and philosophers like Carl Safina, Jonathan Balcombe and Lori Gruen.

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

I’m not exactly a shining example of self care. I’m just extremely driven and energetic when it comes to working long hours. The rewards are the change I see due to the work I do. What does recharge me though is being in nature, and running, and long stretches of reading in a stuffed, oversized chair or couch. And daydreaming. I need time to daydream because that’s when the ideas and plans work themselves out. It’s nice to do that on a big comfy couch as well, while drinking tea and staring at the wall, or on a plane.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

We tend to give up meat eating in the order from largest to smallest animals. However, if we want to reduce animal suffering, we should start with the fish and the chickens and the egg-laying hens because they suffer in vastly greater numbers. Want to make a dent in animal suffering? Start with those animals! If we all ate less and less chicken, we’d be sparing billions upon billions of lives from misery.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

…a joy. It’s an easy thing that I can do to make the world a better, kinder place. It’s a way for me to live in line with my values and have a fulfilling life. As they say at Edgar’s Mission in Australia: If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?


Thursday, April 6, 2017

But He Does So Much Good: The Culture of Abuse Excusing Among Vegans



Given certain circumstances of my upbringing, I am pretty tuned in to a particular narrative of rationalization that emerges often when we talk about abusers or their abusive behavior. “He doesn’t mean what he says.” “You’re selfish for making it all about you.” It doesn’t take much insight to see that this repackaging of mistreatment is deeply dismissive to those who speak up and centers those whose words or actions are abusive as being of more importance than those who are harmed by them. This is a common theme in society at large. Disappointingly, this same framework of abuse excusing is woven through many corners of the vegan community.

You can see the stitch marks whenever a high-profile vegan individual’s bigoted remarks or an organizations exploitative campaigns are brought up and the narrative predictably goes something like this: He does so much good for the animals. Nobody’s perfect. (Echoes of: “Be quiet: He puts food on the table.”) Or sometimes the narrative takes a more combative tone, saying something like, Well, when you’ve done as much good as [insert name or organization], maybe then you’ll have room to criticize or, similarly, I’m not in a place to say anything because he/she/they have done far more than I ever could hope to for the animals. (Echoes of: “He’s a better man than most; you think you’re so perfect?”) The silencing effect is pretty potent because it seems that more often than not, it ends important conversations before they’ve even begun. Maybe that’s the point. Shut up. There’s nothing to see here. Stop being a whiner. Everything’s fine.

I saw the narrative happening predictably enough again last week when one prominent animal rights “hero” announced his retirement in a 2,300+ word public goodbye letter on Facebook, seemingly placing much of the blame for his departure at the feet of intersectional activists within the vegan movement. [Please read more by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, the woman who conceived the term intersectional and developed much of the theory, to understand what it means.]

The fact is that we all have to be responsible for our choices – we learned this in kindergarten, right? – and mature enough to handle it when people respond to our choices in ways that are not always admiring of us. Should abused people just shut the hell up about an abuser who does “mostly good” in the world? Similarly, should someone who is deified within a certain segment of the vegan movement but has made deeply problematic statements or created oppressive campaigns be above reproach when their words or actions have left no actual bruises but still contribute to an overall environment of violence and/or discrimination? Are we not allowed to speak up for ourselves or others until some vague day in the future when it’s suddenly the right time? Shouldn’t we be working to do our best as activists, while acknowledging that we’re not perfect but we can all do better? Shouldn’t the voices of those most harmed by bigotry be heard about how words do, in fact, matter, as these words have a great potential to alienate from or draw people to a vegan ethic? And shouldn’t vegans be doing our level best to reject a rhetoric of violence and not reinforce hierarchical power structures regardless?

We are here because we reject the self-serving hierarchy that prioritizes humans over other animals, right? We are here because we reject the status quo of violence and oppression, right? Why would we choose to reinforce those things when we learn that our words and/or actions contribute to suffering?

Sometimes accepting responsibility will come in the form of an apology and an honest effort to do better. Too often, though, the more “famous” a person or organization, the more they will aggressively and angrily resist even the simplest attempt to make things right and commit themselves deeper and deeper to the mentality that is abusive.

When vegans publicly announce their rape, battery and murder ideation against non-vegans, promote regressive and oppressive attitudes about women, people of color and other groups, they deserve to not only be called out but openly rejected by the larger vegan community. They are not tough. They are not hard-hitting. They are certainly not a great voice for the animals. They are ensuring that the vegan “movement,” stays small, white and insular because they care more about their right to express their violent wish fulfillment fantasies and oppressive campaigns than do something that might shift us to an ethic of true justice and a new framework of respectful coexistence.

Want to help the animals? Learn how to be less oppressive to potential allies and learn how to say that you’re sorry. Mean it. Learn from it. Do better. A little humility goes a long way.   

Friday, March 31, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Richie Kul...



Stanford-educated
Richie Kul is a former investment banking analyst and financial whiz who, when he found himself longing for the kind of fulfillment that staring at spreadsheets just couldn’t meet, swapped his career out for a new one: being a powerful voice for compassionate living through his work as an actor and model. Using his platforms on social media and with associations with groups like Compassion Over Killing and Animals Asia, Richie is helping to spread the message of veganism in thoughtful and compelling ways, helping to nudge society toward a new world order, where men can see that there is nothing to be ashamed of with having a big, kind heart. With his international portfolio boasting big campaigns and fashion editorials for Swatch, VAUTE, and Men’s Health to name a few, Richie manages his successful career without violating his vegan ethic. With the his beloved rescue pup Lily, a.k.a., Lily Miss Sunshine, a social media superstar in her own right, by his side, Richie and his sweet girl are getting the word out far and wide. We are honored and happy to feature Richie Kul as this week’s Vegan Rock Star.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

As a young child, I vividly recall watching movies like Babe and Charlotte’s Web and rooting for the protagonists to escape harm’s way. And promptly after the closing credits, I would summarily resume habits that were in direct contradiction to the empathy and concern I demonstrated mere minutes prior. Eventually, the more I watched and reflected on this glaring disconnect, the more I began associating the food on my plate with the innocent and intelligent animals that unwillingly lost their lives for said meal.  

Not long after, I went vegetarian in my early teens, where I took extended refuge in the comforting illusion that animals used in the dairy, egg and wool industries were somehow compassionately cared for and free to live out a peaceful coexistence. In retrospect, I shake my head at this self-serving fantasyland I inhabited. Just as a car slated to be junked in six months wouldn’t warrant any meaningful care or attention, it makes no sense for commodities, living or otherwise, and with a predetermined shelf life, to be treated with any genuine compassion or respect. In many ways, their drawn-out suffering and the callous breaking of the sacred mother-child bond make the dairy industry even more pernicious than the meat and veal industries it fuels.  

Sometimes it takes a sharp and decisive reality check to shake people out of such deeply ingrained complacency, and when I was subsequently asked to endorse vegan initiatives such as US Veg Week and MeatOut, I began to investigate why so many vegetarians were going vegan and eventually determined that exploitation of any shade or color didn’t sit well with me. Knowledge is power, and when we know better, we surely ought to do better.  

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

I’ve come to understand that the messenger can often be as salient as the message, and when someone I love, admire or respect takes the time to share something important to them, I tend to listen intently. Step one is to allow our lives to be a testament to our values such that trust and credibility are present when we speak. The pre-vegan Richie does wish he hadn’t been coddled for so long, and while the brutal truth of the animal agriculture industry can be hard to take, I would have liked for the cruelty and violence inherent in these practices to have been revealed to me in a firm but empathetic way.  

I completely get that for some, change takes time, but the animals we routinely dismiss as food or fur sadly don’t have the luxury of waiting patiently as we come around to a logical and compassionate conclusion. That urgency does inform my own delivery, and when I encounter kind-hearted people who would never think to harm innocent and defenseless beings in their own daily actions, I feel it’s important to plant and nurture that seed of compassion and be there to offer advice and support as others embark on their own cruelty-free journeys.  

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

People want to make sure that the altruistic choices they make are also beneficial to their personal well-being and that of their loved ones, and that’s a perfectly fair consideration. As an actor and model, I’m expected to stay in peak physical condition for work, and I find that demonstrating that you can be strong, masculine and healthy while also being compassionate and thoughtful is an important message to impart to those who are considering vegan living. Show not tell, as they say.  

At a very early age, many of us are indoctrinated with this widespread narrative of manhood being synonymous with aggression and control, but history and common sense have demonstrated that this primitive way of thinking often leads down a very dark and destructive path. In truth, being a real man entails making thoughtful, informed choices and putting the needs of others before our own selfish wants. Those that are truly strong are assured enough in their place in the world that they don’t need to bully or exploit others to solidify their standing. Instead, they commit themselves and their energy to caring for and protecting the most innocent and defenceless among us. That is the true measure of a man and that’s the message I try to impart when extolling the many virtues of veganism. 

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

You can never go wrong when you operate from a place of sincere compassion and empathy, and therein lies the greatest strength of the vegan movement. The most effective ambassadors for the vegan cause are generally rooted in a place of deep concern for others, and are very supportive and nurturing while also steadfast in their convictions. A vegan lifestyle is empirically and scientifically proven to to be beneficial to our health, the planet and our animal friends, and ultimately it’s very hard to argue against living kindly and thoughtfully.  

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

Breaking free of deeply entrenched habits and the many myths and excuses we’ve erected to legitimize them can be challenging, especially when people are instinctively defensive and understandably loathe to recognising their complicity in animal use and abuse. Yes, it’s jarring and yes it’s uncomfortable, but that uneasiness doesn’t change the horrific reality for 50+ billion animals every year that are systematically bred and slaughtered because we directly fuel a demand for their flesh. I think people naturally balk at the idea of seeing themselves as anything other than good and kind.  In so doing, they overlook the simple truth that one ought to regularly do good and kind things in order to deserve that designation. Some might say that life is about picking your areas of personal concern and I understand that for some, education, poverty alleviation, women’s rights or wildlife conservation are what drive and motivate them. And that’s very noble and admirable. But I also believe that it’s hard to speak credibly of peace, love and empathy if three+ times a day we engage in a practice that is inherently non-peaceful, non-loving and most profoundly lacking in empathy.   

With that said, I think the key to getting the message out most effectively is being selective and focusing our attention and concern on the people who are receptive to the message and not the rabble rousers looking to provoke and antagonize. Don't let your peace be stolen so easily by overgrown bullies that are eager to pick their next pointless fight. Save your energy and effort for those that will appreciate your thoughtful advice and support.  

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

If we could choose to live with kindness, love and compassion for all living beings while also improving and restoring our own health and vitality, why wouldn’t we? Many of us profess to abhor violence and love animals, but just as it would be preposterous for a dog lover to confess to eating dog meat, it makes no sense to declare a love for animals while also eating them and regularly contributing to their harm. Hope as we may, no animal be them organic, free range or pasture raised, is gently cuddled into nuggets, filets or leather trim, and if we truly love animals and value peace and compassion, we ought to walk the talk and align our actions with our values.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

My beloved 7 year old Lily always inspires me to be a better man and speak out for the innocent and defenseless. She is vegan as well, and seeing her thrive on a cruelty free diet reminds me that misinformation persists even within the animal welfare community about what is truly healthful and beneficial for our furry companions. Well-meaning folks will invariably invoke wolves and rail against an “unnatural” plant-based diet, all while ignoring the fact that wolves in the wild often only live 6 or 7 years, or that a life of leashes, monthly grooming session, doggy beds and food bowls are hardly natural. We all have room to grow and improve, and Lily reminds me to be present while working to minimize my own negative impact on the world and the beings I share it with.  

I find the insightful observations of psychologist Melanie Joy really effective and compelling, and the heartfelt honesty of former pig farmer turned vegan activist Bob Comis always serves as a powerful reminder to me of man’s infinite capacity for change.  

The work of my friend Lola Webber at Change for Animals Foundation also highlights for me the tremendous impact that good people can make when they passionately stand up for what they believe in.  

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

When I’m feeling discouraged, looking at pictures and videos of rescued farm animals at sanctuaries like Edgar’s Mission, Where Pigs Fly and Rancho Relaxo always helps restore my spirit and faith. We can choose to wallow in the depths of despair if we constantly expose ourselves to negativity and darkness, but I try whenever possible to focus on the light, and the positive and hopeful side of things.  

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

As a model, the rise of vegan brands is something that I am particularly excited about, and the growing public awareness of the brutality inherent in the leather, wool and down industries is something that gives me hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.  Italy has long been at the cutting edge of the fashion industry, so seeing the emergence of successful cruelty-free brands like Miomojo that donate a portion of every sale to animal causes is particularly gratifying and fulfilling.  The more vegan options we have for folks to choose from, the more lives will be spared, and as a conscious consumer, I will always support brands that align with my values.  

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

“… a daily opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to justice, compassion and healthy, mindful living.”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thirty Things that Every Vegan Who Refers to Intersectional Activists as SJWs Should Know

 


If you don’t know what a “SJW” is, please be aware that it is not Single Jewish Woman, which was what I thought for the longest time and it confused me greatly. (Nor does it stand for Socialist Jewish Workers, which my husband thought for a long, confused time, too.) Basically, SJW is used as a pejorative to describe someone who is concerned about or active on issues that the insult-slinger deems phony or a misuse of one’s time.

To vegans who refer to intersectional activists as SJWs, here are 30 things to know…

1. I feel sad for you.
2. I feel sadder for this movement.
3. I feel saddest for the animals because you are pushing away many of the very people who could be fantastic advocates on their behalf.
4. You are alienating the people who could also actually help you become to be a more effective, far-reaching activist if that matters to you.
5. If it doesn’t matter to you, what the hell are you doing?
6. Also, I’m not sure if you’re a right-winger, but if you use SJW as an insult, you sure sound like one.
7. As such, I read your comments in Rush Limbaugh’s or Ann Coulter’s voice. You sound gross.
8. If being inclusive feels overly restrictive to you, maybe you should examine the kind of person you are. No, not maybe: you should really examine this.
9. If people tell you that you’re behaving like a bigot, is there even the teeny-tiniest possibility that they may be correct? That it's not just some kind of weird coincidence or attempt to tyrannize you?
10. I know that if even one person tells me that I am saying or doing something oppressive, I want to examine that but, hey, I’m a SJW.
11. You understand that veganism is a social justice cause, right?
12. Fighting bigotry, unfairness and injustice, yeah, who’d want to do such a silly, worthless thing?
13. It’s almost as if you think intersectional activists should get a life. Hmm…ever heard that one before?
14. I honestly cannot believe that I have to type this out, it should be that obvious.
15. If you refuse to entertain the idea that human oppression exists or believe that it only exists when you deem it as such, that is your limitation and it restricts your ability to be an effective advocate. Oh, also: a decent human being.
16. Speaking of, you do not get to be the arbiter of what is and what is not racism, sexism, etc. especially if you are not in a group harmed by racism, sexism, etc. (In case you are, I’ve got you covered: fast forward to #24, please.) Nor does having a friend, partner, whatever who is okay with oppressive attitudes negate the voices of those who find the attitudes to be problematic.
17. If you think that human suffering is not only acceptable but enjoyable because you despise humanity and believe that we should be punished, honestly, you are the worst and you are confirming what many already think of vegans. How does this help the animals?
18. Believe it or not, the above is an actual attitude I’ve encountered in vegan circles and it is wholly despicable.
19. A massive number of animals live and die in a nightmarish hell-scape that is completely unnecessary and unfathomably brutal. Dismissing the oppression of humans will not fix that.
20. Having the mentality of bigotry that underpins oppression recognized and rooted out can only help the animals.
21. Because shouldn’t we, you know, be working toward an overarching ethic of compassion and justice if we truly want to create a new reality for the animals?
22. You must be a pretty shielded person to decide that other forms of bigotry and oppression don’t matter.
23. If you are 1/32 Cherokee, you are not allowed to use that as an excuse for your bigoted views and remarks.
24. Actually, even if you are a disabled, transgender person of color, you are also not allowed to use your inclusion in marginalized groups as an excuse for your bigoted positions.
25. There is no valid justification for oppression. There are excuses but they are just that: excuses.
26. Seriously, I know I said this earlier, but why do I need to point this shit out? Isn’t this just basic common decency?
27. Without so-called SJWs, we wouldn’t have a vegan movement. You get that, right?
28. We also wouldn’t have the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, the right to vote for women and black people, the eradication of child labor in the U.S., the anti-sweatshop movement and on and on, but, yeah, what good were those whiny crybabies for, anyway?
29. Please stop talking on behalf of the animals. If you can’t treat people with basic compassion and understanding, you are doing far more harm than good.
30. For reals.

Signed,

A Proud SJW

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Remember when...?

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Remember when…


You thought the worst thing possible was Mitt Romney being elected president? You were so sweet and innocent back then.



Remember when…



The death of one’s political career was being captured on tape yelling “yeehaw” in an awkward way? Not bragging about grabbing women without consent by their genitals, mind you. Yelling yeehaw.



Remember when…



We thought the EPA was a sad, corrupt joke but now we’re holding onto it for dear life as the only thing that stands between us and the smoldering, noxious hellscape looming in our near future?



Remember when…



We had the naïve expectation that someone leading a Federal agency would have a background in subjects pertaining to that agency and not be a person who doesn't respect it, has sued it and wanted to scrap it?



Remember when…



Speaking of scrapping things that matter to you, remember when you first learned about the history of women's rights and were like, "Wow, some brave women have fought really hard for reproductive choice. Aren't we lucky to not have to worry about back alley abortions anymore?" but then November 8, 2016 happened and this man became the second-in-command? And remember how on November 9, you woke up bleary-eyed and drowning in the cognitive dissonance that comes from feeling déjà vu for an era you didn't even experience and the magnitude of this new reality threatens to crush you daily? Yeah, me, too.



Remember when…



You were in college and thought, “I am sure that the girls born [twenty years in the future from then] will have secure reproductive rights and equal pay for equal work”? 



Remember when…



You promised your son that there was no way he could get elected and then it happened and you saw your son’s innocence dissolve in front of your eyes?


Remember when…

His budget proposal called for the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a program that so many less advantaged students and their families depend on for their learning and even for their safety, while taxpayers are expected to continue shelling out $183 million each year so his son can remain at his private school in New York and his wife can remain at the residence they’d prefer? Remember when, in effect, we were told we were expected to spend millions to keep two people from experiencing something disruptive, inconvenient or undesirable to them but meanwhile, on the chopping block is a program that supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools?



Remember when…



You began checking his Twitter account first thing in the morning to see if he’d declared war on another country in the middle of the night?

Remember when…

You no longer thought, “Well, that could never happen”?


Remember when…

It would seem to be a huge conflict of interest to have a passel of one’s family members installed as White House advisors?

Remember when…

It would seem unfathomable for a president to have an advisor who is a white supremacist?

Remember when…


You thought, “Well, if he doesn’t release his tax records, then he won’t be able to run for President?”

Remember when…



He still continued running despite not releasing his taxes and you thought, “Well, surely people won’t vote for him if he doesn’t release them,” but they still did?


Remember when…

He used the occasion of a national tragedy to
lash out passive-aggressively at his critics and he still got elected President?

Remember when…


We had Presidents who didn’t refer to people as losers, “dogs” and “pigs”?

Remember when…

The idea of Sarah Palin in the White House was terrifying? Bad example: it’s still terrifying but no more than what we’ve got.


Remember when none of this was normal? We cannot normalize it. We absolutely must hold on to that.