Wednesday, July 19, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Wendy Werneth


One of the biggest areas of intimidation for vegans is world travel: how do you maintain your veganism as you travel? How do you do this without starving to death or causing an international incident due to your dietary requirements? Enter Wendy Werneth, The Nomadic Vegan. Wendy has explored the globe, stepping down on all seven continents and visiting 100 countries, and visitors to her website all benefit (and get to live vicariously) from the wisdom and experience she has gained as an intrepid world traveler. Vegan since 2014 and a globetrotter long before that, Wendy originally was concerned that being vegan would limit her peregrinations but, after an eye-opening experiment with Greece convinced her that there was vegan food under her nose all the time, she has since dedicated her time to becoming one of the leading voices in world travel as a joyful, not-at-all-starving herbivore who is spreading the vegan goodwill hither and yon.

Wendy’s newest adventure comes in the form of an e-book (and soon-to-be paperback) where she shares so much of her wisdom and many of her tips, specifically focusing on 11 cultures and world cuisines but, most valuably, giving guidance for the mindset and approach that will keep vegan travelers happily trotting the globe, Veggie Planet: Uncover the Vegan Treasures Hiding in Your Favorite World Cuisines (International Travel Guide and Food Guide for Beginner Vegans, Veterans of the Vegan Lifestyle, and Vegan Travelers). You can download her free e-book, Nine Steps for Easy Vegan Travel, for a little taste of Wendy’s wisdom but as good a resource as it is, I can promise you, it will only begin to whet your appetite for what awaits in Veggie Planet. Thorough, generous, highly readable and replete with great guidance throughout, Wendy’s book leaves no stone unturned in her passion for unearthing how to eat vegan with grace and ease across the globe and her enthusiasm for teaching others how to do the same is infectious. Even if you can’t or don’t expect to travel, there is so much within that can help people find great vegan world cuisines no matter where they live. I am honored that Wendy Werneth is this week’s Vegan Rock Star. Please check out her book!

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 always loved animals, and as a child I grew up with cats and dogs as part of my family. Our first cat was a stray who wandered into our backyard while I was playing. I ran into the house and said, “Momma, there’s a cat outside, and he’s talking to me!” Well, “he” turned out to be a “she”, and so Thomasina remained a part of our family for many years.

Later on, I dabbled in vegetarianism, beginning in my first year of college. I would stick with it for a few months, and then go back to eating animals. I hadn’t really made the connection yet, and I still had no idea about the horrors of the dairy and egg industries.

It wasn’t until May 2014 that my vegan journey truly began. I listened to the Food Revolution Summit hosted by John and Ocean Robbins, and for the first time I heard health experts talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet. The interview I remember the most, though, is the one with Alicia Silverstone, who talked more about the animals and about showing kindness and compassion towards them.

A few days later I picked up her book, The Kind Diet, at a used book sale, and over the next few months I gradually transitioned towards a vegan lifestyle. My final hurdle to overcome was my fear that being vegan was going to ruin travel.

I decided to give vegan travel a trial run during a 3-week trip to Greece. On that trip, I discovered all the delicious vegan dishes that are part of traditional Greek cuisine, and I never looked back! I count my veganniversary from September 10, 2014, which is the day my flight touched down in Athens at the start of that trip.

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?

If someone had shown me footage from factory farms and slaughterhouses, I would have been horrified. I think that would have woken me up and forced me to take an honest look at what I was contributing to.

But maybe graphic images wouldn’t have been necessary. If someone had just said to me, “If you love animals, why do you eat them?” then that probably would have made me stop and think.

It’s hard for me to understand now how I could have eaten animals for so many years without realizing what I was doing. I’d like to think that I would have been open to the vegan message much earlier if it had been presented to me in a way that could make me see that I wasn’t living in alignment with my own values. Unfortunately, I never met a vegan until after I became vegan myself. If I had had a role model to show me that there was a better way, then I think I would have started down this path at a younger age.

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

Passion. My desire to help animals is the driving force behind everything I do, and I believe that the passion I bring to my work is what people respond to. Of course, there are many ways to channel that passion.

Our passion for a cause we believe in so deeply can sometimes lead to anger when we are faced with injustice and apathy. But I try instead to bring a positive, welcoming and non-judgmental attitude to everything I put out into the world. No one likes to be called a murderer, and people are unlikely to respond well to it.

When speaking to non-vegans, I remind myself that I used to be one of them, and that I was still a good person at heart back then, even though I was doing bad things. My goal is to make veganism approachable and to show that a vegan lifestyle can be fun, healthy, and extremely rewarding.

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

The vegan movement is built on the values of compassion and non-violence, and those values are its greatest strength.

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

When we fail to apply those values in our interactions with humans. In order to be effective, we need to show compassion to non-vegans. Confronting them in anger is never going to convince them to join our side.

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

If you think it’s wrong to hurt an animal for your own pleasure, then you’re already vegan at heart. You’re just not yet living in alignment with the vegan values that you already hold. Living a vegan life is the single best thing you can do for yourself, the planet, and the animals you share this planet with.

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?

The two people who made it possible for me successfully transition to a vegan lifestyle are:
(1) Alicia Silverstone and her book, The Kind Diet, and
(2) Colleen Patrick Goudreau and her podcast, Food for Thought.

I owe so much to them and am incredibly grateful for their work. Apart from those two women, there are so many other authors, podcasters, filmmakers, YouTubers and activists who have educated me and continue to do so. I’ll try to limit this list to just my top recommendation in each category.

Book: The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle
Film: Earthlings
YouTube channel: Bite Size Vegan

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

I get out into nature, and/or a go for a walk or a run. If I can combine both nature and physical activity in the form of a hike, that’s when I feel the most recharged. I named my website The Nomadic Vegan because I really do feel like nomadism is in my blood.

This is true not only in the sense that I love to travel and explore new places, but also in the sense that I feel most at peace when I am walking. I recently walked 800 kilometers across Spain on the medieval pilgrimage route known as the Camino de Santiago. The daily routine of waking up and walking for several hours felt very natural to me, and part of me wanted to just keep going and never stop walking.

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

The suffering of mother cows and their calves in the dairy industry. While walking the Camino de Santiago last month, I walked through several small dairy farms. The veal calves were locked up in cages right next to the walking trail. I knew about these cages and had seen them in videos, but never in real life.

I reached out my hand to one of the calves to see if he would let me pet him, and he immediately took my fingers into his mouth and startling suckling them. He was desperate for his mother’s milk. Coming face to face with these innocent babies who are victims of this completely unnecessary industry broke my heart.

If people only knew how cow’s milk is produced, they would no longer want to consume it. Especially when there are so many healthier and tastier plant-based milks available.

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

To me, being vegan is simply doing my best to cause the least harm.


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