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.







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Daily and Weekly Resources for Activists...



Hello, friends!

With the recent actions in the highest office of the United States, many people want to add their voices and engagement to help create change locally, nationally and internationally. This is a scary time to be sure but also a really exciting time, full of potential for getting real work done. I feel we are at a crossroads and what we decide right now - whether to be engaged citizens or passive spectators - will have broad implications in many lives and for generations to come. A lot of people want uncomplicated access to helping create change and there has never been an easier time for this than now. I have created this document to be an ongoing, updated list of resources for progressive activists with an emphasis on resources that offer weekly action items. If you have more to add, please comment below and I will also add to the document body. Thanks, everyone!

Wall-of-Us: Effective weekly action items, I start out every Monday checking through the four acts one can take each week and it starts my week feeling empowered.

The Sixty-Five: Formally the “We’re His Problem Now” call sheet, The 65 designates weekly calls to Congress with helpful scripts and easy to navigate prompts.

Weekly Action Checklists for Democrats, Independents and Republicans of Conscience: Sign up here for a weekly email with well-researched action items. These are all actions you can take from home along with suggested supplemental reading.

DailyAction.org: Weekly actions? Pah! Try daily actions you can do from your phone. I just signed up for this. Looks amazing.

ACLU Action: Because freedom can’t protect itself. Check this out daily for new calls to action.

5 Calls: “Turn your passive participation into active resistance. Facebook likes and Twitter re-tweets can’t create the change you want to see. Calling your Government on the phone can. Spend 5 minutes, make 5 calls.” This is a fantastic resource that I am loving.

Fax Zero: You get up to five free faxes you can send every day to your Senators and Representatives through this handy resource that takes you directly to their numbers. Write your message to them on the cover letter and hit send!

Indivisible Guide: You can create or find a local Indivisible chapter here as well as read their very helpful guide and you can also sign up for their weekly email alerts. Highly recommended!

Resistance Calendar: Looking to join or add an event that resists the Trump administration? Check out this amazing resource.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Raw Foodist Name Generator...




The other say, I casually remarked on Facebook that it has been a generally been a good tactic of mine to not accept Facebook friend requests from people with overtly raw foodist names. As someone who once dated a guy named Cinnamon and drove in a VW to the Rainbow Gathering with a librarian named Owl, I am not that much of a stick-in-the-mud and can indulge the occasional hippie-inspired name modifications but in my experience, when you go from regular person to Online Personality and alter your name to a kind of food, you've crossed a line into someone who is now officially annoying. You've transitioned from raw foods enthusiast to aspiring Internet sensation when you adopt a fruit or vegetable as your brand signature. In my experience, those who go the whole nine yards into name changes are the folks who will harangue random strangers about the acidity of their food, devour entire orchards for breakfast and freak out as much about nightshades as they would a Big Mac. Don't anyone dare lecture me in the comments about the benefits of raw foods because I love me a salad and a juice as much as the next person and I know how nutritious they are. That's not what this is about. This is about having a little fun. Now, what is your raw foodist name? 




Thursday, February 23, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Christopher-Sebastian McJetters

 

I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Christopher-Sebastian McJetters. On the one hand, anyone who knows him through social media knows how thoughtful, engaging, witty, unique and just generally fiercely honest he is. On the other hand, Christopher-Sebastian could post, “Hey, all, I’m going to get an iced tea,” except it’ll be worded much more amusingly and unforgettably than that, he’ll manage to expose some greater truth about the world in his stated desire to get an iced tea and it’ll end up with 15,692 likes, 3,455 comments, 7,211 shares as well as a fair share of haters whom he will dispatch ever so expertly and efficiently. He’s a damn ninja. Oh, yeah. A week later, the thread will still be active. Sometimes I will be on my Facebook feed and a thread of his from a month before will show up, people still commenting. This guy moves people. His seemingly boundless charisma and intelligence kind of makes me hate him because I’m petty and my envy can make me ugly but 99% of me adores Christopher-Sebastian. That remaining 1% can take a seat.

To me, Christopher-Sebastian is part verbal surgeon, part provocateur and the elegance of his dexterity leaves me in awe; he is also an entirely modern creation, a man who uses his fabulous brain, incredible communication skills and big ol’ heart on social platforms to help shift the world in a more just, compassionate, intersectional direction. He’s just the best. Seriously. You could support his tireless outreach efforts here and check out one of his filmed talks here. Swoon. I am honored to feature Christopher-Sebastian McJetters 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?



I think all of us probably have some youthful experience that shaped our worldview and made us more receptive to a message of veganism in our youth. Whether it was the talking animals in Disney movies or even our animal companions who became family members or best friends.



Of course, the moment that flipped me was reading Skinny Bitch in 2004. I used to be embarrassed to admit to people that that book was my entry point into veganism because it’s obviously so fraught with some extremely damaging messaging. But Dr. Breeze Harper taught me how unproductive it can be to criticize anyone’s initial access, and I later talked to Carol Adams about it who told me, “But look at how far you’ve come now. We all have to start somewhere.” And this really informs my activism today.



For the most part, I try to meet people where they are with loving engagement and provide them with the kind of online content they need in order to make better decisions about justice for all species communities.



The problem is that a lot of people confuse love with a desire to stay comfortable. I don’t have sacrifice my emotional well being to center your feelings. And more importantly, I won’t. But hey—a little from Column A, a little from Column B right?



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?



pattrice jones does a remarkable job of talking to people about the commonalities of oppression. As a person heavily invested in black liberation, being taught why animal liberation should be a part of my framework would have changed my perspective immediately. I WISH someone had a conversation with me about how our shared experiences make us collectively vulnerable to violence from the state.



This is why it’s imperative to show people that oppression does not exist in isolation. We’re all in this together. And trying to undo oppression against ourselves while consciously committing acts of oppression against others undermines our work. So practicing solidarity with the species communities is of paramount importance.



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



It might sound like a cop-out to say, but I find a mixed approach to be best. You have to know your audience. Humor often opens the door for some people to drop their guard. But passion reveals an authenticity that can inspire others still. Images have their place too. But overall, I think we use them poorly. And when I say this, I’m talking more specifically about graphic images over social media (where most of us create, distribute, and consume them). Sometimes our over-reliance on them is not rooted in education, but rather retribution. I could talk all day about the effectiveness of it and the outcomes. But suffice it to say, I use graphic images very judiciously. I don’t want to fight physical violence with emotional violence if I can help it. And I certainly don’t want to re-traumatize activists who are already vulnerable to burn out. On the plus side, I see some stunningly great images and memes that make profound statements which don’t include violence at all. I feel like those have a lasting impact.

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



Inclusion and diversity.



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



A dogmatic resistance to inclusion and diversity and an unsophisticated understanding of systemic oppression. I’m quite frankly frightened by the number of vegans who don’t understand speciesism, how it operates, and the importance of proper allyship. They remind me of white people who wanted to free slaves but don’t think slaves were themselves people, ones who deserve rights and privileges. And indeed it’s not surprising. Since white supremacy is the dominant voice in animal liberation, we reproduce white supremacist outcomes.



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



In the not too distant past, we understood human as a biological classification. We were one species out of many. But somewhere along the line we adopted human as a political identity, an identity meant to separate us from—and elevate us above—the rest of the animals we share this planet with. When we get ourselves back to a place in which we understand that species is an arbitrary rubric to measure one’s personhood, that other animals share things like language, culture, society, and emotional experiences, it’s going to be a helluva lot harder to justify our enslavement of them. What we do to animals is an extension of what we do to other humans. This includes colonizing their lands, wrongfully incarcerating them, stealing their reproductive autonomy, commodifying them and killing them. Animal exploitation is the bedrock of imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy. You want to abolish oppression, you gotta include other species. Sorry, not sorry.



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?



Oh boy. This is the space for the big Oscar speech shout out? Okay, let’s do this. It’s always my favorite part. Aph Ko, lauren Ornelas, Brenda Sanders, Pax Ahimsa Gethen, and Breeze Harper are not only brilliant activists, but they’re dear friends. They don’t just do good work. They make me feel safe. And to be able to do that from thousands of miles away is nothing short of miraculous. I can never say enough about Food Empowerment Project and A Well-Fed World. And some people might think I never shut up about them! But they both do a remarkable job of being radically inclusive and highlighting shared oppression in a responsible way. Anything that pattrice has written. Literally anything. Vegan Publishers has become an incredible powerhouse of vegan and animal rights literature in record time. And Peace Advocacy Network does incredible work teaching communities about veganism and rolling out pledge programs in cities all over the United States.



Books are interesting because a lot of my animal theory is informed by authors who are not specifically vegan. Of course The Sexual Politics of Meat has had a great influence on me. But I rely heavily on critical race theory to understand how our attitudes toward animals have been shaped by centuries of imperialism and colonization. I also think food scholarship provides a wealth of information to study, the history of social movements, and political science.  



I also like hanging out in online spaces where conversation can occur. Facebook groups like the Sistah Vegan Project or Animal Rights Zone (which is also a podcast hosted by Carolyn Bailey) are healthy places where people regardless of their involvement in the movement can participate and share resources.



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



I’m as horrible about self care as the next person. I’d like to say that I do walking, yoga, meditation or any of those other mindful exercises that people are supposed to say. But really, I’m a piece a shit who lays on the couch eating junk food and watching horror movies. I’ve got an unhealthy obsession with fictional violence and bloodshed. I don’t even want to interrogate where that comes from. Of course, anyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you I also enjoy being petty.



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



Animal liberation, black liberation, and queer liberation are the wheelhouses I primarily operate in. And they’re huge umbrellas that encompass climate justice, reproductive justice, and resource consumption. But there’s so much tyranny in the world that it’s hard not to be touched by a number of issues. When I’m not focused on those things, I’m deeply troubled by the under-representation of indigenous humans.



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



…one of the most extraordinary acts of political resistance we can undertake.




Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Thank You Letter to Donald J. Trump...

 


Hey, Donald –

Yeah, I get it: kind of a disrespectful way to address a prez but it seemed appropriate given everything. Frankly, you seem to be someone who likes to let people know what you think and have no qualms about cutting to the chase, so I will do the same: the purpose of this letter is to state the obvious (you’re a dick), but also let you know that I have come to be grateful for your shockingly horrid ways. Not in the hippie-yogic spreading love-and-light kind of way – that ain’t me – but that I am grateful precisely for your dirt-bagginess and I am happy to tell you why.

I’ll start by acknowledging that I am not exactly breaking new territory by pointing this out but, yeah, you’re disgusting in every conceivable way and even perhaps some inconceivable ways. Nuns don’t like you, conservatives don’t like you, and this hilarious guy really hates you. Ted Nugent, however, is a big ol’ presumably malodorous fanboy, which says something about your standing with the Duck Dynasty crowd, I guess. So I stand with those with a heart and a brain who know that you are a disaster but, still, I want to thank you for your glaringly horrible ways.

Stay with me here for a minute. To say what I want to say, I need to give you a bit of my background. I know that hearing someone else talk about something not relating directly to you must take the utmost of impulse control for you to sit through but I will try to make it quick. I’m doing this for the others who may read this letter. Maybe you can nod off for a bit or find someone to rage at on Twitter or maybe let Spicer loofah your feet in the White House steam room and I’ll just let you know when you need to pay attention again, ‘kay? ‘Kay.

A bit of a history…

I was one of those kids who never really understood meanness, which is not to say that I was ever perfect by a long shot, but I was that kid who was rescuing bugs from the bullies down the block who wanted to squish them, that kid who thought racism was, frankly, cruel and stupid, that kid who was devastated when the ERA didn’t get ratified. I wasn’t an activist until college but as someone who went through a pretty terrible stage of being picked on from grades fifth through eighth, I had a strong disdain for injustice that was built into my bedrock from a young age.

My freshman year of college, I signed up for about a dozen activist groups (including the Creative Anachronists, misreading their signup sheet as Creative Anarchists and I was very confused when I was ceremoniously bowed to and addressed as “m’lady” at my first meeting); I spent the night, or maybe just a couple of hours, at a student-built shantytown to raise awareness of the apartheid system in South Africa; I jammed onto a stuffy and cramped bus, rode from Kansas to Washington D.C. to protest U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, protested and then ate fried rice seated on the floor of a packed Chinese restaurant with my friends before we had to rush off to take the long bus ride back to Kansas; spent my weekends with my radical feminist friends where we made protest signs together, which was when I first got a real taste for activism.

After college, I remained an activist but became much less interested in politics. To be honest, my activism was never really about that anyway. Being a creative type, politics is not my jam. At all. I find it boring, tedious and spilling over with of the kind of people I don’t like to give much real estate to in my thoughts. I briefly dabbled in socialism for a year or so after college but found the cold church basement meetings, endless arguments over minutia and the aggressively drab wardrobe (yes, I was shallow) to be as or more off-putting than mainstream politics. So I drifted out.

This is not to say that I stopped being an activist. I didn’t. Look at the name of this blog, yo. But you, Donald, and your wretched Donaldness have forced me to drift back into the realm of politics again. And I think I am here to stay now not because I am suddenly interested in politics but because I don't think citizens who care have the luxury of that choice anymore. Our nation’s future is at stake if we don’t start seriously investing in fixing what is so wrong about this country.

Oh, yeah, you should probably start paying attention now.

So, Donald, these are some of the things I’ve done in the last month or two I hadn’t done in years previous:

Added my Members of Congress contacts – including all their offices – into my phone. Pointer: don’t try calling Dick Durbin’s DC office. You will never get through. You will best reach someone at a local office.

Added Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan into my phone as well. Yeah, it was revolting and I feel like I need to have a smudge ceremony for my poor phone now. I added Nancy Pelosi, too, and the Congressional switchboard. (This, by the way, is likely the only way to get through to Paul Ryan: 202-224-3121.)

I’ve called my Members of Congress so often, I am recognizing voices and at least one (Team Duckworth’s DC office!) knows me by name now, too. We exchange pleasantries every Monday when he answers.

I do actions items listed at the following every week: The 65, Wall-of-Us, 5Calls, and all the various email alerts I get on the regular.  

I started a local chapter of Indivisible. We have met once, we meet again Saturday to write postcards to our members of Congress and have our second general meeting next week. (If you live in my area and you want in, message me!)

I have brainstormed protest sign ideas with my son and protested.


 
I attended the Women’s March with my family and friends and, oh, 250,000 others.

• I’ve been pestering my Representative about when his next Town Hall meeting is, which sounds about as enticing and exciting as a Socialist church basement meeting but I am actually looking forward to it. This kind of frightens me as much as anything but whatever.

I am not saying this to say that I'm special or anything. I am just one of millions who is so appalled by you and what your administration represents that I am fully over my aversion to politics and am back in the game.

I am not the only one. I have heard story after story of people who were not activists until you, Donald. In my Indivisible chapter, neophyte activists outnumber those of us who have been at protests before. People who have never been to a protest until recently are giving up their weekends, sitting on hold with their members of Congress, learning new skills, familiarizing themselves with how the system works because and they are excited to do so because that is how much your hateful ways have motivated citizens. You are a crash course on civic engagement, and not just for lefty firebrands like me, but the for grandparents, centrists, children, and so on, who are all united against you.  

You have no idea what you did just by being horrible, Donald. Go you, I guess!

You did what no one else has been able to do: you woke up the masses. It turns out you were just what we needed – vile, despicable and repugnant in every way – to see that our country and basic decency were at stake and that we really valued it. Your racist, misogynist, xenophobic, treasonous, autocratic ways were the fire we needed lit under us and now you
have awakened a sleeping giant.

So thank you, Donald. You are every bit as disgusting as we needed you to be. I'm hoping in the future, things won't need to be this dire for us to give a damn, but it is what it is.

And now we will defeat you.

Yours truly -

Marla
Rose


Thursday, February 9, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with April Lang...

 


April Lang
is a psychotherapist, Certified Humane Education Specialist, and longtime vegan based out of NYC. She has always been deeply connected to other animals and this informs her work with clients. As she writes on her website, “This connection has expanded my awareness, leading me to respect and embrace differences, to want to help empower the marginalized, to find ways to alleviate suffering, and to promote equality.”  In her new book, Animal Persuasion: A Guide for Ethical Vegans and Animal Advocates in Managing Life’s Emotional Challenges, April combines her understanding of vegan activism with her professional guidance skills, helping advocates develop effective strategies for protecting our psyches in this world that is often very uncaring about animals. From navigating relationships to managing your emotions when you see someone in fur to keeping it together when the people around you are eating flesh, April offers advice for co-existing while not suppressing your voice. I have not read the book yet but it sounds wonderful! I am happy to feature April Lang 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?

When I went off to college, I decided I would no longer eat animals. I transitioned to vegetarianism slowly, giving up eating a different animal every few months. Looking back, I can’t remember why I chose that approach; I can only assume it seemed “reasonable” at the time. Now when I think about it, I realize that’s the way many people decide to give up eating animals, and it’s important to support each person’s particular journey. I must admit that at that time, I knew practically nothing about animal agriculture; I just knew it felt wrong to eat animals.

One day, many years after I had given up eating meat, I stumbled upon a copy of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation lying on the street next to a garbage bin at my local grocery store. I had heard of Singer’s book, but had never read it. This was like the universe saying, “come on, it’s time to get an education!” And Singer’s book was certainly educational, with its heartbreaking descriptions of the lives and deaths of factory farmed animals. While the book was incredibly powerful and eye opening, I remained a vegetarian. Apparently something else had to happen for me to make the transition to veganism, and it did.

About fifteen years ago, I took a trip to Farm Sanctuary (the one in Watkins Glen, NY) with some friends and their dog.  Before the end of the tour, I knew I was going to take that final step towards veganism. Amidst the beautiful mountains and greenery, were a group of cows suffering with mastitis. I had never heard of mastitis, let alone witnessed it up close. I was shocked to see the condition they were in, a result of being constantly inseminated to keep producing milk for humans. If this was the cost of eating my beloved ice cream and cheese, they would never again touch my lips. Many years after this trip, I am still enjoying my “ice cream” and “cheese” – all deliciously 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 towards veganism?

Two things come immediately to mind. First, if someone had said to me, “you say you love animals, so why do you eat them?” I actually said that to a friend of mine who spent years doing great work as an animal rescuer. She paused, looked at me incredulously, and said, “I never thought about that.” She became a vegetarian that day and more recently, a vegan. If only all transitions to veganism played out so quickly and easily!

Equally effective would have been someone showing me an undercover video taken at a slaughterhouse, such as the one put out by Mercy for Animals', From Farm to Fridge. All I would have needed was the image and sounds of one animal being tortured and killed to have turned vegan.

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 found that to be effective in communicating my message, I must always take into consideration the person/people I’m speaking with. I try to get a sense of what they know about the issue and how interested they are in learning about it. And I do monitor the conversation very closely, always watching for signs I’m losing them, either to boredom or overwhelm. I also try to be mindful of other people’s energy, and will adjust my approach accordingly. At times, I have been quite forceful and passionate and that resonates with some. With others, I can tell pretty quickly after opening my mouth that a softer approach is warranted.

Images, whether photographs or videos, are super powerful. The expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is definitely true.  However, it’s important to keep an eye out for shutdown, as each person has a different tolerance level for disturbing images. I see that in action whenever I go into schools as a humane educator. Some of the students are riveted to the screen when I show an undercover video while others put their heads down as soon as the first disturbing image appears. So just being mindful of where people are is really important if you want them to be responsive to what you’re saying.

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

One of the biggest strengths of the movement is the increasing amount of young people being drawn into it. Vegan and animal rights clubs are turning up in middle schools and high schools, and students handing out vegan literature, is now a common sight on many college campuses. When I was in school, there were no animal rights clubs and nobody was handing out pro-vegan literature. In fact, I had never even heard the term vegan while growing up. It’s going to be this new generation that will move veganism to the next frontier.

All the folks who are creating amazing products, which don’t use animals and animal by-products, are a driving force in helping veganism become more “user-friendly.” In fashion, companies like Vaute Couture, Brave Gentlemen, and Olsenhaus, offer consumers stylish clothing and shoes, while vegan cheeses from companies like Miyoko’s Kitchen or Treeline, have given people (like me) a scrumptious alternative to the dry and tasteless soy cheeses of yesteryear. And let’s not forget those brilliant innovators from Memphis Meats, who are working on creating “meat” derived from the stem cells of animals (no animals harmed in the process). Not everyone is motivated by ethics to become vegan. So if we want these people to jump on the proverbial vegan bandwagon, it’s important to give them options that taste good and look good. A big reason I hear for people not going vegan is that they think they’ll feel deprived.  The current vegan movement is making sure that never happens.

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

I do believe that when we attack people, shame them, and treat them with contempt, we’ve lost the opportunity for constructive dialogue. I don’t mean to imply that our messages should never be conveyed forcibly, because there are times when that’s the only way to make a point. But just ask yourself, if someone came up to you and started screaming, calling you names, and putting you down, would you really stay around long enough to hear what they had to say? Most people wouldn’t. Once defenses are up, the mind closes down. The cold hard truth must be communicated; just be mindful of how you’re communicating it.

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

My “pitch”, if you want to call it that, is changeable. For example, there were times when I was at my local gym when someone would ask me how I stay fit. Here was the perfect opportunity to say, “it’s my vegan diet”, and then go on to explain what that is. Then there were times when I went out to eat with people at a non-vegan restaurant and they saw I chose vegan options.  That would sometimes prompt one of my fellow diners to ask me why I was vegan and/or to tell me what they thought they knew about veganism. Here was an opportunity to do a bit of educating about factory farming. Of course these situations don’t always present themselves but when they do, I jump on them. I also look for opportunities to mention I’m a vegan, such as when someone tells me about the “great” steak restaurant he went to the night before. I might say, “Oh, I’ve never gone there because I’m vegan.” Sometimes the other person wants to engage and a good conversation ensues. Other times, the person drops the ball and I let it go too. If I get even a little inkling that someone might be interested in hearing what I have to say, I’m ready to engage, but I’m not going to push the issue if their spoken or unspoken message to me is, “enough already.”

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?

I learned so much from the book The Sustainability Secret, by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, which I just finished reading.

I had thought fossil fuels were the main culprit in global warming. No, it’s methane, mostly from animal waste, which is the biggest problem. It’s 86 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. And methane leaves the atmosphere much more quickly than carbon dioxide – another good reason to end animal agriculture.

Some of the biggest environmental organizations are downplaying or outright ignoring the connection between animal agriculture and global warming. Why? Got to keep the funds coming in from their supporters, a good many of them being animal-eaters who won’t want to change their ways. It’s certainly problematic if the big environmental organizations are more beholden to their donors than to the planet,

A massive eye-opener and a very disturbing one at that – most organic farms use the by-products of slaughterhouses to grow their crops. What?!!!!!! I eat all organic and thought all those farms were producing clean products. Think again. Veganic farming, which I had never heard of, is the alternative. But those kinds of farms are still few and far between.

My evolution and education continues…

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

For me, there’s nothing better than swing dancing to put a big smile on my face. I’ve always loved the music of the 1930’s – 1950’s, so being able to dance to those tunes is a magical experience. I haven’t a care in the world when I’m on the dance floor.

I just published a book, which is available on Amazon called, AnimalPersuasion: a guide for ethical vegans and animal advocates in managing life’s emotional challenges. One of the topics I discuss are the psychological effects of constantly coming face to face with institutionalized animal abuse, whether as a vegan or animal advocate, and I offer some tips on how to deal with the resultant burnout and/or trauma.

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

I can’t really pick just one issue – every form of animal abuse is what I want others to know about.  I suppose if I really had to narrow it down, I’d focus on factory farming and bear bile farming. I’d choose the former because of both the horrific and daily torture of the animals, as well as the sheer numbers affected. And I’d pick the latter because too few people know about this despicable industry. Most people aren’t aware that the bears are kept locked in filthy, tiny cages, often with catheters permanently embedded in their gallbladders so that the bile can be extracted. If they don’t first succumb to disease, these bears may live in these cages for thirty years –never being let out. Animals Asia is doing great work to help these bears.

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

Non-negotiable and forever!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Vegan Street Guide for New Vegans...

I don't have a post for you from last week because I spent my time creating this new resource, The Vegan Street Guide for New Vegans. I hope you'll find it helpful and get the word out. Also, feel free to let me know anything not included that should be. Talk to you soon!