Marla Rose's Blog

December 6, 2018

Come visit me on Medium...

Hello!

My husband pointed out to me that maybe I should leave a little note here that I am continuing to write every week but am now only updating at Medium.com. You will still find my archives here but our technology doesn't seem compatible with Blogspot and it was creating some janky, garbled posts. It is just a much cleaner and more modern look over at Medium. So please come check out my posts on Medium when you get the chance as I am updating there at least once a week.

Thank you!

Marla
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Published on December 06, 2018 19:49

September 21, 2018

See No Evil: Sharing Content in the Age of Sensory Overload

There is a certain kind of social media share I'm thinking about. It’s often a blurry picture of people in hair nets and blood splattered clothing. Or maybe it’s an image of an animal hanging from a pole, tree, or kill line, people standing around him menacingly or indifferently. Animals in wire cages, panting and desperately pacing, or lethargic. Buckets of blood; steam rising from a grisly kill floor. If it’s a video, it will be traumatizing. If it’s an article, it’ll be demoralizing. Sometimes, it’ll just be an image, not shared with much - or any - text or context. And of these particular kinds of social media shares, the overarching takeaway is that humanity is the absolute worst.
We’re living in stressful and difficult times, to put it mildly. With so much happening in the world, from the dizzying and cruel chaos of the Trump administration to the steady drip of anxiety about the future of the planet, every day we’re exposed to fresh trauma, be it a threat to us or those we care about, or sympathetic traumas, the kind we experience because we’re sensitive beings. All of this chips away at our resilience and works to erode our spirit. This content is not isolated to violence against other animals: every day on social media, we are exposed to starving or scared children; bloody, broken limbs crushed under rubble; devastated, tear-streaked faces facing unfathomable loss. It’s not that there’s more suffering in the world now; it’s that our exposure to it is ramped way up now.

This leads to a conundrum I’ve tried to grapple with since I first became an activist, way before social media. How does one pull back the curtains on cruelties hidden from public view without activating someone else’s coping mechanism of numbing out, anger at the messenger, or, even worse, feelings of hopelessness and despair. How do we walk that fine line of opening eyes without closing hearts? I don’t know if there are definitive answers on this but I will say that we face this with Vegan Street, where part of our mission is to shine a light on what happens behind closed doors. We also spend a lot of time focusing on really positive and inspiring stories, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of fodder for disheartenment, too. So what do we do?

I believe that it’s a shirking of responsibility to not share with the public the suffering and cruelty that are so often obscured from view but, as social change agents, I think we have an equal responsibility to not add to the collective despair in a careless or reckless way. Many people who will see the content you share are already hanging on to their sense of hope and willingness to engage by the skin of their teeth. Should our point be that humanity sucks? Or should our point be to try to get people to care enough to do something about reducing suffering and increasing compassion in the world? I think it’s the latter. Towards this end, I have three ideas.

• If you are going to share graphic photos and videos, do so with text and context. Even a sentence or two can mean the difference for someone who might otherwise scroll past.

• If you can, choose photos that are not so grisly that people look away or resent the messenger. This doesn’t mean Vegan Street shies away from exposing the violence other animals live with but that we can find images that still communicate the cruelty but are maybe not so graphic as to make people shut down.

• If at all possible, include helpful action items with your disturbing content. As pointless as they often are, even a petition gives people a sense that they are “doing something,” but better are links that are actually helpful, like links to fundraising pages, people to call or email or vegan starter kits or anything else relevant to your post that could be considered an action item. These days, whenever I post upsetting content with regard to animal agribusiness, I also include a link to our free Guide for New Vegans.

I’d recommend that before you share disturbing content, you ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to shame or to educate, to indict or to illuminate? Do you want to add to the collective despair or do you want to empower to take compassionate action? Of course, you are not responsible for how someone reacts to the content you share - I have certainly had people interpret things in a different way than I intended - but if you share your posts with the overarching goal of wanting to build a more kind and just world, my guess is they will be better received and create the most positive influence for the animals.



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Published on September 21, 2018 12:51

September 4, 2018

Save the Duck! You are saving me from winter!

I never thought I’d say the following five words, but I am saying them now: I can’t wait until winter. 


That’s right. Gross, cold, dreary, depressing winter, which I can’t wait to face winter with my new Save the Duck coat and show it who’s boss in style! Soft, lightweight but made with high-definition nylon and the most luxe, dreamy collar that lifts up against Chicago’s strongest winds, I feel truly prepared this winter. 



Best of all, Italy-based Save the Duck doesn’t use cruelly-obtained down feathers or any other animal parts in their coat lines: all is entirely, proudly vegan and also committed to sustainability! Oh, I am so excited. This coat is the Iris from their new collection. You must check out these gorgeous coats - these are not your mother’s puffy coats - and this conscientious company!
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Published on September 04, 2018 15:12

July 31, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Diane Randall...




I am so excited to be featuring the radiant and exuberant Diane Randall as this week’s Vegan Rock Star. Diane has a great podcast, Balanced Living for Busy Professionals (subscribe and find the archives here), and stays active as a consultant and speaker who helps clients with everything from healthy living and achieving goals to finding balance in a busy life. We are lucky to have someone as passionate and welcoming as Diane working to build a kinder, healthier world. 
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 grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where my experience with animals was visiting the local zoo and an occasional farm visit. I rarely interacted with animals outside of dogs, cats, fish and other domesticated animals as a young child. I remember an experience as a 9-year-old child visiting my great-grandparents at their farm in Mississippi. I was running around the yard playing with the chickens and a horse. I remember my great-grandfather walking over to the yard where I was playing with the chickens, picked one up by the legs and walked over to a chopping block, laid the chicken’s head on it and cut it head off.  I watched in terror as this chicken ran headless around the yard before it finally fell down. The chicken was served for dinner. I remember crying uncontrollably and I was not being able to eat for a couple of days because I was traumatized by the experience. This was the first time that I correlated animal consumption and food. This experience influenced my questioning of eating animals for many years to come, but was always over-shadowed by societal conditioning and messaging of animals being a part of the food chain.
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?

As I think about my pre-vegan days, if I had more of a one-on-one connection with farm animals when I was young, maybe visit sanctuaries where I could experience feeding, petting and nurturing them and reading books, this experience could have expanded my mindset as it relates to non-domesticated animals and would have given me another perspective and consciousness aside from “seeing’ them as a food source. These are all the things I model for my grandson, Miles. 
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

As a whole living consultant, my most effective way is through compassion, humor, education and modeling the behavior that I want to see in others as a vegan. I created my own podcast show called Balanced Living for Busy Professionals where I have interviewed leading experts around the world and I’ve done solo episodes to effectively share information on vegan and plant-based topics, providing value tips for listeners on how to get started eating plant-based foods and bring more balance to the lives of busy people for the past three years. I also teach healthy eating workshops at a local college in the western suburbs where I educate participants on eating more plant-based foods for optimal health and balance, for the animals and for the planet. I want people to know that my vegan journey continues to unfold every day. I continue to grow and learn without putting pressure on myself or others to be one way or another. I am following my heart, advocating and being of service to others who are interested in learning more and improving their lives.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

It’s an “all hands on deck” moment in society for all. Too many people are dying and living with treatable diseases and conditions from eating unhealthy foods. The strength of the movement is raising consciousness, telling hard truths, opening hearts and improving the health for many people. The movement is literally saving peoples’ lives by educating and sharing information that supports them in making better choices and living healthier lives.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I feel and witness so much judgement and mean-spirited people in the vegan community, along with “in your face” right fighters who are so passionate about being vegan and uncompassionate about everyone else who is not. In my opinion this behavior hinders or gets in the way of the messages conveyed and effectively received. I feel that more patience, compassion and empathy is needed as we advocate, and communicate our message more effectively where people “hear” us and receive the message in a positive way.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

People always ask me why I became a vegan and how do I maintain the meat-free, plant-based lifestyle. I tell people, I don’t eat food that have a face, a mother and is not grown in the ground. I share my vegan evolution of more than 12 years ago starting for health reasons to stave off chronic health conditions. Along the way I became more conscious, my heart opened up and I “saw” and connected with the animals. Because of this I experience I feel a deep soul connectedness and love, It’s the same love, compassion and empathy I experience with humans; I see them; they love, they grieve, they play, they hurt just like me. I cannot imagine eating another animal and continue to evolve my vegan footprint. 
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 Institute for Integrative Nutrition, PlantPure Nation, The China Study , Free from Harm, Dr. Will Tuttle, The World Peace Diet , Mercy for Animals, Peta, Dr. Joel Kahn, Amy-Lee Goodman, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, many more.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

I am inspired and passionate about sharing and helping people for the highest good. My approach is always from a place of modeling and educating what it means to be vegan; I work on reflecting in myself what I want to see in others as they navigate their own vegan journey. Lots of patience, compassion and empathy is needed when educating people that are willing and open to changing their minds hearts to a healthy new way of eating and being on the planet.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

So many sick people in the world who are not aware that they can heal themselves. My intention is to raise their awareness when it comes to the food chain.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”
one love

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Published on July 31, 2018 07:32

June 28, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Reyna Tomasek...




Something we didn’t have when I was expecting my son back in 2002 is the abundance of resources about vegan pregnancy and parenting we have today. The resources we had then – a few books, a few paragraphs from Dr. Spock on the safety of an animal-free diet for children – were helpful but nothing on the level of what prospective (and current) parents who are raising vegan children have today. One of the most exciting developments is the new website, Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting, and their great magazine, Raise Vegan . Between that and their growing social media presence, it’s not such a steep (and lonely) learning curve to be a vegan parent anymore. 
One of the reasons Raise Vegan is on the radar like it is must be due to their great promotional savvy. Renya “Ree” Tomasek, based in Temecula Valley, CA and mother of a 1-year-old, is their PR person and I am honored to feature Ree 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?

Well, I have always been an animal (and all animal lover) in fact when I was super young I got teased for caring about a skunk that was hit by our school bus and I just couldn’t understand why the other kids thought it was funny! I remember looking at them like they were so insensitive to the loss of life and that always stuck with me. I had an Aunt that went vegetarian when I was in high school and that hugely influenced me too think about my diet differently. In my early 20s, I ultimately started to have some health issues and was recommended to give up meat and when I did I never felt better, physically and emotionally! Yet the connection to go vegan didn’t come until I turned 29 and started my org Girls For Animal Rights and partnering with the Animal Legal Defense Fund for a project. The Director at the time, Vaughn Maurice, simply said that “We don’t eat our clients and you should consider that with the dairy you still consume as it just as harmful if not more so to animals,” that’s what did it for me, that and the wonderfully delicious vegan foods I tasted at an event.
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?
Honestly, I still always do. I have a lot of people I have met either in person or virtually that have private messaged me to thank me for setting a positive example on how to go and live vegan. I think they just see my passion about the compassion aspect of it and my delicious food posts and are like, “Hmm this is something that I think I can try to do!”
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

Really my food posts are what get the most unlikely people on my friend’s lists attention. I have had people from my past that are big time fisherman ask me to please start posting the recipes again (when I slack, lol) because they really want to start to try this “vegan” thing out! But I’m always aware that we all once didn’t make the connection (unless of course vegan since birth) and hopeful that everyone, if shown they can and why it’s better, will consider going vegan. I’ll use social media a lot to get my point across, like the videos that are sad to help people understand if you had a reaction (any) to this poor pig getting hurt than there is a reason why and you should look into that! I’m just not pushy in my approach and want people to see the good in it from my positive and (hopefully) impactful approach.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

Health! We are in a time where we are so much more aware, yet companies look to play that down with their marketing campaigns to cover up just how unhealthy the world diet has become. It’s actually quite frightening what is allowed to be processed in our foods with the majority being the meat and dairy industries. I think that along with the fact that people are starting to realize we no longer need to harm animals to survive and thrive are the biggest strengths of the movement.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
Our passion! Meaning sometimes some let that get into the way of us delivering our message. We have to remember first we are trying to communicate with others that may not be as emotionally connected to the message (yet) and have to speak to them or about them in a calm rational way that they can understand. Once they are not listening then we can hit them with the hard facts and let them make their decisions, but they will 100% stop listening if you are demeaning or argumentative off the bat.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

My why is simply: I have found a way to live my life free of harm to others while flourishing physically, mentally and emotionally. I have never felt better and am much more clear headed, I don’t have the fog I once had weighed down by heavy meat and dairy I was consuming and I’m contributing to a better planet for all. Veganism is really the ultimate lifestyle if you think about it!
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?

Definitely the larger organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA have were the greatest influence in the beginning and have been amazing resources still to this day! Mercy for Animals is what keeps me honest and I love their gentle to approach to why we should be and stay vegan. But in continuing my evolution it’s the smaller sanctuaries locally that I volunteer for and rescue networks I’m a part of. The daily grind of these animal heroes is absolutely incredible and it takes each one involved to keep things going. The recent sanctuary I am hosting an event for in September is run by a woman who left her job in corporate marketing when she was left with 15 horses that were all on death’s door. Literally someone dropped them off at her property and never came back. She just knew he had to do something, started a sanctuary and other animals came pouring in.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

To unwind, I take day trips to vegan restaurants I have never been and make it a whole fun day of exploring the area! I’m also actively involved in a vegan society and we host monthly meet-ups and potlucks where we invite new vegans to attend and it’s so inspiring to see them excited to start their journey just like I was. And of course, now, visiting animal sanctuaries with my little vegan baby boy is soul-filling!
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
In May of last year I had my first son. Being vegan, I of course made the choice to stay vegan throughout the pregnancy (and ultimately raise him vegan afterwards) and was met with some positive, but mostly negative remarks, which was very confusing. Some thought that is wasn’t safe to be vegan and raise a baby vegan and some vegan acquaintances offered unwarranted opinions on my choice to even bring another little being on the planet the way it currently is. So I sought for a resource and support system that saw the same beauty in a vegan pregnancy and thanked my lucky stars to find the online group Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting started by a strong lady, Janet Kearny, with global parents sharing their pregnancies and raising their kids vegan. I loved their mission so much so that in November of last year, I joined the team to help with the world’s first ever Vegan Parenting Magazine they were producing called Raise Vegan which offered digitally and now with our first published issue in May, we have had support from Alicia Silverstone and most recently the newly pregnant Kat Von D.  
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

The only way we need to be to survive and thrive. I truly believe it is the needed next step in our human evolution and the way we are meant to be. Once the world makes the connection we will not only save the planet and e pthe animals that reside on it, we will become a more impactful and happy species ourselves. It’s a bit of altruism, but I do believe someday we can get there!


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Published on June 28, 2018 13:05

June 13, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rock Star with Nicole Sopko




You know that whole vegan ladyboss phenomenon covered recently in Forbes ? I think if there were ever a patron saint for vegan ladybosses, it would be Nicole Sopko , also known as Gopi Om.

Nicole and her partner Dan Staackman run Upton’s Naturals , the seitan, jackfruit and vegan prepared meals company recently profiledin Crain’s Chicago Business, a business that seems to be on fire with success and growth right now. When she’s not doing her Upton’s work as Vice President, and helping to run the Plant Based Foods Association (of which she is a founding member and Secretary of the board), Nicole also runs not one, but two yoga studios and, again, not one, but two restaurants. I just got tired from typing all that out. Nicole is a staunch believer in the many benefits of yoga and runs Nature Yoga studios, one in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, and more recently, one in Oak Park. She also helps to fill bellies with tasty vegan food at Upton’s Breakroom in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood and the lovely Nature Yoga Sanctuary & Café , attached to her Oak Park yoga studio. Okay, that’s a lot! To me, Nicole is the living embodiment of balance: a smart, conscientious entrepreneur who also happens to want to share the yogic principles of mindfulness and compassion with the world. She is kind, generous and a deeply committed vegan who happens to love hugging a cow or two or three or more. I am grateful to know her and honored to share feature Nicole Sopko 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?
So, I first learned about veganism through the hardcore punk music scene. To be honest, I didn’t even really know that much about it in terms of the specifics of either the ethical arguments or the day-to-day lifestyle stuff, but the idea instantly appealed to me as a concept, because I mean…why DO we use animals if we don’t need to? As soon as I heard that, I was in 100%. This was in 1996. Prior to that, I’d always loved animals and spent as much time with them as possible. I spent a lot of time living with my grandparents as a child and they had a large property with a lot of barn cats and I would spend hours and hours out in the barn just hanging out with cats. They also had a chicken that had fallen off at transport truck and just showed up at dinner one night with the barn cats, so she was my first “farm” friend. I would come into the kitchen and my grandma would be cooking chicken and would joke that it was her and I would run outside to make sure she was alright. So, that didn’t hurt in terms of making me a vegan.
When I was 8, I wrote a poem at school for Thanksgiving:There once was a turkey named Fred,He never wanted to get out of bed.He had a brother named Matt,Who was very, very fat.On Thanksgiving they sang a low gobble song,Cause they knew they wouldn’t live very long.And they didn’t.
So, I mean, I look at that now and just, OF COURSE, I’m vegan. It was there all along.

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 guess I just feel like I didn’t need a lot of convincing, personally, but I think that anything heavy handed or accusatory probably would have turned me off and caused me to retreat even if I agreed with the message. Part of my becoming vegan was a rebellion against societal norms. I had become straight edge (abstaining from drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants) the year before because I didn’t think it was ethical to participate in industries that profit off of the destruction of people’s lives, families, communities, social skills, etc. and I felt really similarly about veganism. What you do and what you consume is like a vote every time for the kind of world you want. I can’t control much, but I can control what I allow for in my own sphere. I was 16 when I put the pieces together and I was lucky that I had a job and was making a little money to buy my own food so that I didn’t put my family out. I think having somebody leading by example would have been helpful for me, but luckily I was stubborn enough to figure out the basics on my own and stick with it until I had a community to show me what else was out there.
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
Personally, I’m just honest with people. Not like over the top, jarring “honesty” where I feel like I need to tell you the real truth about where your “food” comes from in graphic detail without consent (though, I will do that if you ask), but just that the reasoning is simple. I have this great shirt from The Herbivore Clothing Company that says, “I love animals too much to eat them.” I do. It’s that easy. Don’t you?
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
I think the vegan movement is so diverse and we shouldn’t miss that. My partner and I have two vegan restaurants in the Chicago area, Upton’s Breakroom and Nature Yoga Sanctuary & Cafe , and I see all kinds of people coming and going from those locations day after day and that is one of my favorite things. Vegans don’t look one way, they don’t act one way, they’re not all in it for the same reasons, and that’s part of what makes it so amazing. Because if you want to be vegan, I bet that there’s someone out there that you can really relate to who can help. It’s not one size fits all, but there is a right place for every body here. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
Oh boy, I think sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I see a lot of confronting and seemingly ineffective tactics from other vegans sometimes. In fact, I think that generally speaking, if your way of interacting with other people is a “tactic” and you have an endgame with your interaction, they know and are going to be suspicious of you from the start. No one wants to be approached by someone with an agenda to get what they want. Let’s not be tactical. Let’s just connect. Lead by example.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
Personally, I’m vegan because animals deserve to be comfortable. When I look at the animals I live with (I currently live with a dog, 13 fish, and 3 snails), it’s clear that they have wants and needs (I know, because I’m tasked with providing for many of them). It’s important to do your best to minimize harm to other beings.
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 love the message of the Dhammapada , which I first read after becoming vegan which says, “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?” I think that about sums it up for me. I also love and try to follow the work being done by organizations like Farm Sanctuary, We Animals, and all of the dedicated smaller animal sanctuaries around the world that are giving animals the comfortable lives they deserve.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?


Okay, so outside of the work of “being a vegan,” I work a LOT. I run a global vegan food company, Upton’s Naturals, alongside my partner Dan. On top of that, I also own two yoga centers by the name of Nature Yoga Sanctuary. We also have the two restaurants that I mentioned before. I teach yoga multiple times per week and on weekends am often teaching additional trainings or workshops for yoga teachers and students. This year alone I’ve traveled so extensively for business that I’ve spent more than a week in the air. I love all of what I do, but it is a lot. I consider my work to be my form of activism. We are making vegan foods available in a number of countries worldwide and sharing the reasons for veganism at home and abroad. My studies on yoga and yogic techniques with my Guruji, Sri Dharma Mittra, are what make all of this possible. Letting go of attachment to the results of effort is part of a daily practice and yoga also offers a variety of relaxation techniques that can be helpful when life is hectic. Studying the truths of karma can give some comfort when confronted with the cruelties of the world. I don’t always have time to dedicate too much of a physical yoga practice at this point in my life, but the other practices and knowledge are always present.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
Oh boy! I don’t even know how to pick just one. I feel like issues are constantly capturing my heart, but the plightof dairy cows is one that just really touches me. When I have the opportunity, I seek out the company of cows. I love their presence. I have spent time with cows in the US, India, and other countries and one thing remains the same – they are loving beings with definite personalities and strong ties to their loved ones. I think many people see cows as “milk machines,” rather than as individuals with desires, needs, personalities, friends, and family and that breaks my heart. The dairy industry, no matter how big or small the farm, is harmful to them. Milk is for babies. 100%. No exceptions.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”
To me, being vegan is living in a way that is consistent with my values.
Om Shanti!
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Published on June 13, 2018 08:53

May 31, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rock Star with Jessica Schoech...




I love Jessica Schoech! Jessica is the hardworking mastermind behind the ultra-successful annual events in Los Angeles, the bustling Vegan Street Fair Los Angeles and the more intimate Vegan Street Fair LA Nights, both of which celebrate the fabulous plant-based food available in the LA-area and beyond. In just a short time, Jessica has helped to breathe new life into the vegan festival scene, using her love for theme parks to help create a more streamlined experience for festival-goers, but all along emphasizing the joy, sense of celebration and inclusiveness that has become deeply-rooted to the Vegan Street Fair brand.

What I especially love about Jessica is when she is not neck-deep in event organizing – and, honestly, even when she is – she is one of the most consistent, engaged and passionate voices for building a more inclusive, less bigoted vegan movement. Basically Jessica Schoech is awesome and I am honored to feature her 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?
My first foray into veganism was when I was a personal xrainer in NYC at the age of 24. One of the regular clients and I would chat often. He was wise and maybe 10 years my senior but we always struck up interesting conversations about spirituality, fitness, wellness, and every so often, he’d bring up veganism. It’s so odd to think about it now but back then I remember thinking, “Oh no… that’s just too far.” Everything else about him was spot on and perfect but that was “the line”. Ridiculous to think about now, right? I happened to pick up Skinny Bitch on his recommendation and as I read it cover to cover, I remember thinking, “Oh these women are vegan? That’s too extreme. I’ll go pescetarian.”

So I was pescetarian for about 3 years until I starting eating other animals again and it wasn’t until one of my best friends from high school, Christina, decided to go vegan that I was intrigued for the second time. I attempted it for a week and the second I screwed up with Jello - honestly, I didn’t know Jello was animal bones at the time! - I just said forget this and went back to eating animals.

The final straw was a second wedding anniversary trip to SeaWorld in 2011 when I swam with the dolphins. I came home, posted the photos to Facebook, and a friend who wasn’t even vegan said something along the lines of “You know those animals are enslaved in there… right?” And I couldn’t wait to prove him wrong. At the time, I was drinking the koolaid and believed SeaWorld to be doing great things. I spent hours on the computer trying to find evidence to the contrary and lo and behold, I proved him right. Once images from Taiji and the documentary “The Cove” started filling my screen, I just couldn’t contain my sadness and anger any longer. Through tears, I called my husband and said, “I never want another living being to ever have to suffer for me again.” And that was it. I have been vegan ever since.

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?
Honestly, I believe that change must be intrinsic. The only way for someone to have gotten through to me would have been to lead by example without being overly preachy about their vegan lifestyle. I know that isn’t everyone’s way or how they became vegan, but for me, because it was my choice and no one guilted me into it or made me feel ashamed over something I didn’t understand yet, I think its what made it click for me in the long run.
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
Evidently, spurring intrinsic change is exactly how I am best effective with my advocacy through Vegan Street Fair. I want to be that person that invites non-vegans into the conversation with an open door rather than a wall. That’s how I have built Vegan Street Fair since day 1. I always say that VSF is an invitation to non-vegans to explore veganism in a non-intimidating way. I believe that my role in veganism is to make veganism not only accessible by all classes and races but to also make it accessible by being non-judgmental and recognizable. Which is why you’ll find burgers, fries, donuts, cupcakes, music, entertainment and good vibes at my events. I want everyone to feel welcome to join the movement.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
The biggest strength in the vegan movement is its potential for connecting all of the dots towards living in a world of consistent anti-oppression. If one has not yet faced the reality that marginalized communities are being oppressed currently and historically, then perhaps once one sees how animals are treated through a vegan lens, they can piece together how all oppression is linked and how sexism, racism, classism, ableism, fatphobia, xenophobia, etc. are also pieces of the same oppressive fabric along with animal exploitation. I can only hope that this is the direction we are all headed down.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
Honestly? Lacking context about pro-intersectionality is what keeps us from getting the word out effectively. If we were to sit with how hurtful it is to fat shame, food shame, discriminate against, and further oppress already marginalized communities, then I think veganism would be easier for us to promote as a whole. The current problem is that most of us are not putting forth enough effort to dismantle systems of oppression within our own activism so we lose people right off the bat when we intend to reach out to them instead. For example, when we make veganism into a cure-all diet for a wide range of diseases and mental issues, we are doing the movement a disservice because that simply isn’t true for everyone. Someone once told me that any BODY can be a compassionate BODY. That has stuck with me for years. If we aim to make someone feel bad or ashamed of their body or their circumstance - be it being impotent, fat, poor, disabled, etc.- then we lose them to our cause immediately. Typically, mainstream vegan organizations use these tactics to pull people into the vegan movement but what they fail to understand is that it pushes people IN those circumstances to want to run far, far away from our cause. To me, the lack of understanding food access, systemic oppression, wealth disparity, racism, sexism, and body positivity is what we are lacking as a movement in order to get our message across more effectively. [Ed. note: I never do this, but hear, hear, Jessica!]
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
We are on this planet to live harmoniously with each other and mother Earth. Taking life, exerting power over the defenseless, and living in cognitive dissonance at all times is the opposite of harmony. The animals need us. The planet needs us. Future generations need us. If you can eat the same foods you ate without causing harm to a living being using textures and seasonings and innovative cooking techniques…what do you lose in the long run making the switch? And what do you GAIN? I venture to guess that a person would lose a huge weight off their shoulders and gain perspective about our interconnectedness with the planet and its inhabitants. Win-win.
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?
So many great resources out there! I really love Instagram for its ability to showcase veganism in a way that is less about the graphic, violent nature of animal exploitation and more about the things that connect us all- food and lifestyle. I am partial to Power to the Veg! on Facebook because it is such a loving and open community of people who truly get to know you and encourage you every step of the way. I follow people on Instagram and Facebook like VeganFatKid, Black Vegans Rock, Aph and Syl Ko, Christopher Sebastian, Food Empowerment Project, Vegan Hip Hop Movement, VegNews, LiveKindly, Rawmanda, Rawvana, JL Fields, Marla Rose (seriously though…).
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?
Lots of vegan food, friends, and time to work on my passion projects like my events. Immersing myself in the work rather than debating folks on line or arguing in person actually helps alleviate burn out and for that I am grateful.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
Homelessness. I think its important to keep in mind that while being vegan reduces our use of resources on the planet, there is still more work top be done while people go hungry on the streets. I have made Chilis on Wheels, a vegan meal distribution for those in need, a beneficiary of funds from every single event we host for this very reason. We can care about animals and our fellow humans at the same time.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”
…a way to connect myself to the world and her inhabitants without constantly taking from it or them. Animals are here with me, not for me so really, being vegan is simply treating them as I would want to be treated.

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Published on May 31, 2018 11:40

May 23, 2018

Ten Questions: Vegan Rock Star with Nicole Arciello of Horseracing Wrongs




There are some in the vegan community who denigrate anything but vegan education as “single-issue campaigns” or SICs but I am not one of them. I – and Vegan Street – appreciate everyone who is trying to build a more compassionate world. I know that if I were being used and abused by these “side issue” industries, I would want people standing up for me. Nicole Arciello, Vice President of the non-profit Horseracing Wrongs, is an example of an animal advocate with an organization that exposes the largely hidden cruelties inflicted on the innocent souls brutalized by this multi-billion dollar industry, but also connects the dots to the fact that these horses – even expensive thoroughbreds – are sent to slaughter when they are no longer profitable, often to be sold as meat in overseas markets. With thousands of horses killed on and off tracks due to the exposure to injuries and punitive financial realities of horseracing, the hidden reality is these vulnerable beings live short, difficult lives until they are dispatched of and new horses are cycled in. Horseracing is not glamorous and it’s not victimless.

Enter Nicole Arciello and Horseracing Wrongs. Horseracing Wrongs, founded in 2012, pulls back the curtain on what people seem to think is a harmless industry, educates and advocates on behalf of those gentle souls exploited, abused and killed by horseracing interests. Based in Albany, NY, Horseracing Wrongs holds a series of at least six protests at Saratoga Race Course each summer. They are currently assisting protests in six states in addition to their protests in New York state and are sponsoring a protest at the Belmont Stakes, the third leg in the Triple Crown, on June 9th and are currently planning their protest schedule at the Saratoga Race Course, the first happening on July 21st. In addition to handling the day-to-day operations of Horseracing Wrongs, Nicole is the co-founder of Albany Animal Rights(meet-up info here), is a vegan culinary instructor and studied plant-based nutrition at eCornell. She’s basically awesome! Contacther, find her personal page on Instagram, along with Horseracing Wrongs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am honored to feature Nicole Arciello of Horseracing Wrongs 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?

My vegan evolution began when I started having low-blood sugar problems. After seeing doctors and having tests, I was sent to a dietician. She gave me a two-hour eating schedule, consisting of two carbohydrate and two protein servings. Needless to say, the protein servings were mostly meats and cheeses and (surprise!) I didn’t feel better. I also was never a big meat-eater. At a meal, I would take a small piece of meat on my plate and load up on the sides, pasta, potatoes, etc. I began doing my own research and found that protein with fiber will keep your blood sugar more stable. And I quickly discovered that was beans. Here is where the real magic happened - about a week in, eating beans and feeling like a normal person finally, I was telling a friend and she gave me the book Skinny Bitch. I took it home and read it immediately. What happened was amazing; the first chapter was humorous and full of swear words, then the second chapter exposed the factory-farming industry. Wow. I went vegetarian on the spot and there was no looking back. I knew I was already feeling better, and I knew I couldn’t contribute to the suffering of animals – it was easy. I went back to the dietitian thinking she would not approve of my new vegetarian lifestyle, but she disclosed that she had been a vegetarian for 11 years as she ripped up my eating plan and created a new one. Within a month, I was healthy and those blood sugar problems were gone. Because I didn’t know how to cook vegetables or really what to eat, I went to the library and checked out every vegetarian cookbook I could find. I also found vegan cookbooks and because I had an egg allergy, these were my favorite books; I learned how to bake without eggs and the funny thing about vegan cookbooks is that many make things easy because they want you to be vegan! They also talk about all of the reasons to be vegan. I couldn’t overlook my contribution to the suffering in the dairy industry and there was no longer a reason to. I had vegan days, then vegan weeks without even realizing it, so I just had to tell my friends so we could start choosing restaurants that I could easily eat at.  hat is what took the longest, dealing with my non-veg friends, but nine year ago, I called everyone (including my mom) and told them that I was now vegan and I explained what that meant and why I was doing it: for the animals.
I did have an early experience(s) that came to me as my veganism took shape. I remember while riding around town with my parents here in upstate New York, seeing dead animals on the side of the road and wondering why they were just left there. Why wasn’t it someone’s job to go around every day to pick up the squirrels and raccoons and give them a proper burial? Eight-year-old me knew that dead humans wouldn’t be abandoned on the shoulder of the road. It didn’t make sense to me. Those thoughts came back to me as I realized that all animals, human and non-human, are exactly the same.
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 didn’t know any other vegans until I was vegan for about six months. I knew a couple vegetarians, and I was always asking what they ate, but I wish they told me why they made the choice they did. Even the person who loaned me Skinny Bitch was neither vegetarian nor vegan. Of course, I wish someone had told me sooner.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
Cooking classes! And protesting single-issue causes! I tell everyone I encounter that I am vegan; I work this into every conversation, everywhere. I stared teaching vegan cooking classes at libraries in my area and after the first one had 87 people register, I realized that people are interested to see what this vegan stuff is all about! After a few library classes, which are mostly demos (with lots of samples), I sent a proposal for a four-part Introduction to Vegan Cooking to a local school district’s continuing education program.  They accepted my proposal the following day! My classes are a mix of demo, hands-on and lecture, and I give my students a free tour of Whole Foods as a bonus. I use humor to make the classes entertaining, and I use kindness to answer every one of their questions. 
Then, of course our work at Horseracing Wrongs and our protests here at Saratoga Race Course. Our protests are peaceful and we welcome anyone to join us. We have over 75 advocates at our protests each summer, and last summer we had over 100 at our final protest for the season. While most of the advocates are vegan (we have a large vegan community here in NY’s Capital Region), many are not – when they start out, that is. We have found that the non-vegans who join us start asking questions about veganism immediately. They soon realize that most of us are vegan and that they are protesting the use and abuse of one species and that there is a connection there. Our group leads with kindness in every way, and we help people transition without judgment. As a result, our vegan family keeps growing. 
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

I think the single biggest strength of the vegan movement is that the word vegan isn’t foreign anymore. There are vegan products virtually everywhere and all sorts of information readily accessible on the internet. In short, it’s easier than ever to go vegan!
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
Judging and shaming. I think we need to remember what our evolution looked like and ask ourselves if we would be vegan now if a vegan shamed us or yelled at us for eating animals. While I believe there is no time to waste in relieving animal suffering, it’s counter-productive to be an angry vegan. This also applies to vegan-on-vegan treatment, too. It can cause vegans to stop actively trying to further the cause if they are being judged or shamed as well. People need to help people help animals. It’s the only way.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
 I’m vegan for the animals. If you love animals, then I urge you to look deeper. If you could save one being from suffering would you? You can save thousands if you start today. 
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?
“Earthlings.”  It was what put me over the tipping point.  I prepared myself (with a deep breath) and sat down and watched it.  I use that as a tool for people who are there, but need a little more.  I had one woman cry just telling her the title.  She got it - “Earthings,” that we are all the same.

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

I’m so happy this question is here because self-care is so important and so hard for each of us to grasp and embrace. Being immersed in a selfless cause, there is a tendency to feel guilty when we take time for ourselves. But it is essential to the cause! I take regular social media breaks. Some are a 24-hour period, or I just limit to “business,” meaning I just check the HW accounts and not newsfeeds or any other notifications that do not need immediate attention. I get together with vegan friends a lot and we eat good food and try to talk about other things happening in our lives. And lastly, exercise. A run, for me, clears my mind and reduces stress. I change my routine up and I also get together with friends to walk and talk. It’s those intimate one-hour walks and talks that are the best medicine!
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
Horseracing. Growing up near one of the country’s most elite racetracks, it was the summer thing to do. Go to the races. When I went vegan I knew that I shouldn’t attend anymore, and I didn’t, but I really didn’t know much else. When I met up with Patrick Battuello, founder and President of Horseracing Wrongs, he was busy uncovering the cruelty behind what is called the “Sport of Kings.” I had to be a part of educating people about the thousands of horses killed each year for gambling.  I mean, greyhound racing is almost dead, but why is it that horseracing is so widely accepted? It’s a big misconception to the general population that racehorses are worth millions of dollars. They are not. They are traded and bought and sold, whipped to perform and regularly dying – 2,000 each year – for $2 bets. Even worse, over 15,000 recently “retired” thoroughbreds are brutally and violently slaughtered every year. We have to stop this. It became my mission to take my protesting experience and apply it to Saratoga and to turn Patrick’s blog into a non-profit so we could empower and assist advocates all over the country.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”
To me, being vegan is love. I believe we need to love animals, ourselves and others.  Kindness breeds kindness, and I believe we are all in this together, humans and non-humans alike; we need to spread that love to everyone. All beings.

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Published on May 23, 2018 10:28

May 11, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Ellen Jaffe Jones...



Ellen Jaffe Jones
is just one of my favorite people, a powerhouse of vitality, enthusiasm, confidence and an infectious passion for vegan outreach. She also happens to be one of the most inspiring people I know, proving to the world that we can age without getting old. At 65, Ellen is a prolific author and a high-achieving athlete, motivating people around the world with her passion for living her best life and encouraging the same joie de vivre in others. I am honored to feature Ellen Jaffe Jones 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?


My aunt died of breast cancer in our home when I was 5. She had come home from the hospital to die and suffered a painful, agonizing death. I remember my relatives crying and wailing. It was traumatic. My cousin, a year older than me, was left motherless and has suffered all her life as a result.

I almost died of a colon blockage when I was 28. It was more painful than natural childbirth three times. The ER docs said they’d never seen a blockage so large and that I would need to be on meds the rest of my life. It was the same year my sister developed breast cancer and I thought, “I’m way too young to be on any medicine the rest of my life.” I was a TV investigative reporter and figuring out the truth about food became the investigative reporting job of my life.

I ran to health food store and read all 5 books on fiber, because that’s all there was then. My mom and my other sister would go on to get breast cancer. I was the only adult female without. We became part of the original Myriad Genetics breast cancer gene studies. I drove my sister’s blood samples to the airport where it was flown in a refrigerated container back to the Nevada research site. They wanted to exhume dead bodies of other relatives. My family didn’t approve that. The results of the study developed the now routine genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes. Since only 10% of all breast cancer is genetic, geneticists have told me that 2 of the 4 cases in my family were environmentally triggered because they were late in life.

As is the case with many women my age, I went macrobiotic first, then vegetarian, and as the writings of Drs. Neal Barnard and John McDougall surfaced, then vegan. When I became pregnant, again as was often case in my era, we were told our unborn children needed whey protein for brain development. I was also told to do some things differently or I would become like everyone else in my family who by then, had all developed heart disease, diabetes and eventually, Alzheimer’s. I began to think I had been born into the sickest family in America. As the youngest of 3 daughters, I spent my childhood in hospitals for weeks at a time watching relatives suffer and die. I kept thinking that there must be a better away.

I often get asked, “Why do you run?” The answer always: I run from disease. I had been told that breastfeeding helps to prevent breast cancer. Since my sister had breastfed her 4 children 6 months each, I figured I would have to do it a lot longer if I stood a chance of beating the odds. I became a La Leche League leader, the volunteer international non-profit that takes the middle of the night calls, “my baby won’t nurse.” I would make house calls to help new moms and newborns, and lead monthly meetings on how to breastfeed. I was asked to speak at national conferences on how to balance a career and motherhood. As the lights started going off about how our own species specific milk was the best for our brain and body development, I began to raise the question of the why La Leche League cookbooks were full of meat and cows’ milk recipes. “We can’t mix causes,” I was told. “Breastfeeding is controversial enough.” Indeed it was. I lived in St. Louis, where a woman was arrested in a shopping mall parking lot for breastfeeding.

I served veggie burgers at school and ate vegetarian, then vegan again when I divorced and was on my own. As a TV reporter, I attended the St. Louis Animal Rights Teammeetings. I arranged news coverage when I could, but saw how male managers would only give AR issues coverage when PETA was protesting in faux furs and little coverage at fur stores in January. I boycotted circuses with my babes in arms, literally in baby carriers. As it comes full circle, ever since I’ve been on the vegfest circuit, I’ve been begging my St. Louis START friends I haven’t seen in 20 years to organize one. It’s finally happening this August, and I’m honored that they’ve chosen the hometown girl to speak. In 1986, a St. Louis newspaper did a story showing the beans and grains on my kitchen counter with the headline, “TV Consumer Reporter Wants to Open Healthy Fast Food Chain.” They quoted me, “I’m not really a health nut.” But I totally was that and was always on the defensive, reacting to the label my family had already given. I was viewed as the black sheep by some. One relative made fun of my apple crisp. It was a fine morning years later to see PCRM using that same recipe from one of my books on their website for a Thanksgiving menu. Four of my cousins, seeing what happened in our family, have now gone 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?

If more of the medical information and research was available then, it would have been a no-brainer. There are so many movies and books available now that weren’t then. When doctors or nurses tell you that if you don’t consume whey protein during pregnancy, your babies will have brain damage, that was tough. One thing I share now that gets attention. Women who used to beat me like crazy 10 years go in races aren’t even running anymore. They’re all meat eaters and they’ve told me “I just can’t run anymore because of my hip (fill in the blank…knee, ankle, toe) from arthritis.” Well-documented research now shows that meat-eaters get arthritis. Animal protein inflames the joints. A vegan diet, known for its alkaline, anti-inflammatory properties keeps aging joints well-lubricated and functioning. More and more senior athletes tell me at races now they have become vegan for this reason. Whatever gets you there. 
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?


Writing and speaking. Telling my story, which I knew early on was pretty rare, any way I can. I was known during my career at Smith Barney as a “marketing maven.” I focused on socially responsible investing and helping clients avoid companies that tested on animals. I told my story there. I was such an oddball in the Morton’s Steakhouse crowd, colleagues shared they thought I must be working as an undercover reporter for “60 Minutes.” I have been a pretty average runner since I began making lifestyle changes at 28. When I moved to Florida, I started competing again and discovered that many meat eaters my age, as I mentioned earlier, were developing arthritis. Much to my surprise, I started placing in my age group, something I’d never done decades before. My pace was fast enough that I got asked to be an assistant high school girl’s track and field coach. I had been a trained PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) Cancer Project cooking instructor and brought food to workouts. The kids liked the food so much they asked me to do classes in my home to teach their parents how to cook vegan.

At Smith Barney, I began thinking that nobody had ever crunched the numbers on every single recipe in a cookbook. In 2008, I began tracking prices as I had as a consumer reporter tracking the Consumer Price Index. The idea of Eat Vegan on $4 a Day was born. Because I was a first-time author, I was turned down for an entire year before my publisher said “yes.” We have now done six books, with a seventh in production. People ask me, “How do you crank out a book every year?” Easy, I say. I used to write, shoot, produce and edit six stories a day in Des Moines TV. A book a year is a luxury.

I’m always brainstorming new myths to bust in my books. I also say that #runningismyactivism, as I like to hashtag. I spent a bit of money to produce some very bright, run-friendly, moisture-wicking shirts with my book covers on them. At races, runners would come up to me and stare at the “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day” cover on my shirt and say, “Right…” Or “How?” I saw that it was an opportunity to engage others. I started selling my books at races, and then a few race directors asked me to table at the post-race parties just to offer an antidote to the bacon races and food. Yes, there are “Bacon 5Ks.” Drives me crazy. I then started training and qualified (not easy to do) for the National Senior Games. I ranked nationally in sprinting in 2013, and did really well in 2017 placing 3rd in the USW65-69 4x100 meter relay 5th in the 800M, 7th in the 1500 and 400M. I wore my “Eat Vegan” shirt at Nationals, and am meeting more athletes who tell me they too, are vegan now. I also have “decorated” my veganmobile with the largest magnets Vistaprint has to offer. Each magnet is one of my catchy book covers that my publisher designed. Every time I’m out, someone stops and asks if I’m a catering service. Next life. But I do sell books out of my trunk that way. ;)
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

Our growing numbers and appealing to the good in us all. As Anne Frank said, “In spite of everything, people are really good at heart.” The power of social media for sure. Every time I posted the powerful short clip, “Dairy is Scary,” I would get several people commenting under the video, “OK, that did it. Never going back.” There are so many great videos and movies out there now that don’t lie. Once those images are part of our brain and hearts, we hopefully don’t ever go back. Research suggests that those of us who go vegan for the animals tend to not revert as much as those who chose veganism for health. But often, people who become vegan for health do connect the dots to animals and the environment. However we get there, it’s all good. Younger members of our movement are our future. Young people grew up in the YouTube generation, so those numbers are growing. The videos of the youngest children connecting with their earliest feelings of compassion is helping older generations to reconnect with those lost, beautiful feelings. The videos of the worst kind of animal abuse are out there, too. You can’t turn your head and pretend you didn’t see. It’s hard to stick your head in the sand these days if you are open to watching.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

Money. “60 Minutes” and other news magazine shows have done stories on the powerful meat/dairy lobbies that pay big PR firms to get their propaganda out. The most annoying to me was as a running coach/personal trainer, I got invited one year to a conference where a seminar was offered, “Marketing Chocolate Milk to Children: The Ideal Recovery Drink.” I checked the Dairy Council’s website and they blatantly said that this was their current campaign. I have crossed finish lines where the Dairy Council has provided free milk cartons to every finisher. Gag! The meat/dairy industry stands to lose lots of money in this war. As we are learning about our US election process, big money is paid to try to use propaganda to sway the masses without disclosure of the source or who paid for the indoctrination attempts.

These are scary times and as with everything, I recommend sticking to reliable, truly “fair and balanced” media outlets that have been doing great reporting jobs for decades. We also need to recognize that we come to the table with different agendas. A little more singing of “Kumba Ya” is in order so that we don’t conquer and divide with all of our different messages. The meat and dairy industries would love nothing more for us to implode over some of these disagreements. The animals don’t have time for us to figure out some of the minutia that consumes our daily arguments. Pick battles carefully.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

05 ride: “It’s best for your health, the health of the planet and environment.” :15-:30 ride: Adding to that, read The China Study, watch “Forks Over Knives” and “What the Health,” or read anything by the most respected vegan doctors. We know so much more now with all the technology and research. If you need any help developing your athletic or sports program, join my vegan runners page or message me.” If it is a running or other appropriate venue, I’ll often say, “I’m a nationally ranked sprinter and have placed in 134 (or whatever the current number is) 5Ks or longer for my age group ‘just on plants,’ and I’m 65. Sometimes I’ll flex my biceps and say, “Does it look like I have a protein deficiency? Do you know anyone who has one?” At this point, the reaction always is some form of “wow.” I have wrestled with using my body and health to make my point. But in doing cooking classes, I learned that many people, especially as we age, get desperate on their deathbeds and are focused on dealing with the kinds of ills and issues that going vegan can really help. The truth is, I’m always looking for ways into people’s hearts and minds. I happen to be OK at running in a running community where the meat and dairy industries have paid heavily to poison minds. We all should use our passions, time and strengths to fight this uphill battle.
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?

Ruth Heidrich and her books have been my athletic role model. She’s overcome so much. I have the deepest admiration for Dr. Neal Barnard who is president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I heard him speak in St. Louis in the early days and knew he had a powerful message and delivery. After I left TV, I was delighted that he took me up on my offer to do media training for his staff and other health care professionals. I was surprised at his openness, humility and incredible, endless ability to listen to others and help them with their issues related to veganism. He would bike to the office at dawn and still to this day works tirelessly at everything he does. There are way too many to mention, but the usual cast: Any books, movies, and videos about or done by Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Michael Greger and nutritionfacts.org, and T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study , “Forks Over Knives” “Earthlings,” “Vanishing of the Bees,” “Peaceable Kingdom.” Dr. Joel Kahn, the cardiologist I invited to write a few medical chapters for my Vegan Sex book, is also doing a great job of talking about the research showing the lower body/upper body blood flow connection. I wrote after experiencing a lifelong history of partners who had erectile dysfunction, followed by a vegan who was totally the opposite, that ED is the precursor to heart disease, and what’s good for the heart is good for other parts.

As a general rule, I’m careful not to recommend websites or individuals who trying too hard to sell things. While it’s important, if possible, to make a living doing your passion related to veganism, if it’s too hard a sell, like with anything, the public thinks you’re selling snake oil. At a recent vegfest, the booth next to me had someone yelling, “Coconut water…hydrate or die!” Two days before, Dr. Greger had just released his video complete with research, as always, saying water was every bit as good, and certainly way cheaper than coconut water. Generally, if you eat the whole plant, or part of the plant in its natural form, you don’t need to spend money on some processed form of it or donate to huckster who is looking for a fast buck. Generally, vegan websites and vendors are awesome. But do your research and ask, as we were trained in reporting to do, “what’s really being sold here? Who is making money and why?”
There is also a current controversy about mailing lists. With the collapse of Facebook from 20,000 who used to see posts to now, 20, if you’re lucky, content providers are relying more on their email distribution lists. They ask others to share mailing lists. You have to have a “large enough list” to qualify for others to share their lists with you. It’s making for some strange bedfellows excluding great messages with smaller lists and including some flimflammers who have never spoken on the lecture circuit but are awesome at high-pressure sales. I have been encouraged to “partner” with some of these folks to increase my sales. I won’t do it if the message isn’t right. Residual reporter’s righteous indignation, I guess. I was never in this for the money. That makes a huge difference.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

I have spent way too many decades getting radiated on airplanes. Recent events emphasize what most frequent flyers experience: diverted, cancelled flights, turbulence or sudden drops where you’re pretty sure you’re gonna die, and the stress of flying in general. I hate it more and more. Despite a flawless immune system on the ground, when I fly, I often get what authors call, “plane flu.” It’s that hacking, sneezing person next to you you can’t turn away from in time. Start the clock ticking and 72 hours out, you had whatever that person had. I love what I do, so I try never to whine. But I think few understand how grueling travel is. My publisher says most authors are introverts and hate to stand at his table all day. I was shocked to find that most authors speak, sign books and leave. I’ve always thought that since my publisher paid my way, I needed to earn my airfare and stay at his table to help sell books. Not to mention getting the messages out. As environmentalist author of Comfortably Unaware , Dr. Richard Oppenlander says, we should have been vegan yesterday for the environment. And my add, for the animals and our health. I know that the world we are handing to my daughters and their generation is in dire straits. But too much negativity and pessimism won’t do anyone any good either. I try to go to the beach once or twice a week when not on the road. I’ve been reading lots about negative ions found around moving water, which are positive influences on humans. I also believe we can’t say we’re environmentalists unless we are out there in nature, observing what animals need from us. And of course, running. As one of my fave shirts says, “Running is cheaper than therapy.” The endorphins released from any aerobic activity is all good. Oh. And walk away from social media occasionally.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

Vegfests. They change lives. I see it all the time. They are one-stop shopping with riveting movies, videos, speakers, and tasty food that teach the masses in one single day that any food can be veganized. Because of the great effort of my publisher, I have been very lucky to have spoken at so many vegfests since 2011. My publisher does time-consuming work getting books shipped and setting up and disassembling his booth. It is literally, backbreaking work. In his 70s, he could easily retire. But he chooses not to and never will. He also spends a lot of money to be a sponsor and to hopefully gets some of his authors invited as speakers. He is one of the rare publishers who still pays our way to some events if our books do well. He has helped so many authors in our movement get their start. I hear from some in my audiences, “I don’t read books for recipes. Can you do more videos? That’s how I get information now.” While I’ve always done lots of videos, it makes me sad that books are fading in popularity. At a vegfest I went to recently, not a single author was invited to speak. If we don’t support authors who are usually not some eye candy, flash in the pan, with an off-the-wall, outrageous presentation, some of our most powerful messages won’t be heard. It takes so much time to write a book. As my publisher says, writing is easy. It’s the selling that’s the hard part.  Every publisher I know has a hard time finding authors for this very reason. Vegfests are so important to organize and attend. They are life-changing events. I volunteered at the Pay Per View booth at our Tampa Bay Vegfest and was blown away by how many people started crying and got it. At another vegfest I atteneded, I kept hearing, “I had no idea we had this many vegan people in town.” I promote vegfests endlessly, especially when I’m a speaker. I got introduced by the organizer of the San Diego Vegfest at their inaugural year with, “I invited Ellen to to speak here because I thought she had an entire staff doing social media. I was so shocked to find out she does everything solo that had to meet her just for that.”

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

…the most important and powerful thing we can do as individuals to save the planet. If you look at the numbers and science, fish are gone by 2050. Before that, the plankton are gone. Plankton is the main food source for fish and our main source of oxygen. As others have written, when fish are gone, we are gone. We need to spend every waking moment communicating the science, research and the simple solution: going vegan now.
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Published on May 11, 2018 08:29

April 26, 2018

Great Moments in History Derailed by Social Media: Pyramid Edition


How it would probably go down if the person with the idea for building pyramids shared it on Facebook today instead of the 27 century BC in Egypt.Person A: “Hey, all! I have this idea for a triangular building. It’d be a place to bury the pharaohs and their stuff for the afterlife.”
Person B: “Eh, like a tomb? That’s creepy.”
Person C: “@Person B, why do you think it’s creepy? Do you believe in ghosts?”
Person D: [Inserts random NeNe Leakes GIF]
Person A: “Yes, like a tomb, @Person B, but also an architectural monument. It’ll have tunnels and chambers and cool stuff like that but also be structurally powerful because it’d be lighter on top and the weight would be well-distributed. I think they could last a long time if they’re built with the right materials, too.”
Person B: “No, I don’t believe in ghosts, @Person C. Lol. Wouldn’t the body rot, though?”
Person A: “I mean, it’d be in a sarcophagus and we’d use mummification practices, so…”
Person B: “Still gross.”
Person C: “Lol, you do believe in ghosts.”
Person E: “I hate triangles.”
Person F: “I am also not a fan of triangles. They remind me of geometry.”
Person E: “Same, @Person F. I had such an asshole for a teacher. Got a D.”
Person F: “Better than me, @Person E.” [Eye-roll emoji]
Person G: “LOOOOOOOOOOOOL! You believe in an afterlife?”
Person H: “@Person C, I saw a ghost once. And I believe I was visited by my grandfather after he died.”
Person G: “Oh FFS! The woo has arrived.”
Person D: [Inserts random “eating popcorn” GIF]
Person I: “Sounds cool, @Person A. I like triangles.”
Person J: “If only we could bury the pharaohs while they were still alive. Inbred bigots.”
Person K: “If you like triangles, you should check out my little sister’s band rehearsal. She plays the triangle. LOL.”
Person H: Oh, okay, @Person G. The only reality is the one you see. Mmmkay. Talk about self-absorbed.” [Samuel L. Jackson meme]
Person E: “I’m with you, @Person J.”
Person G: “I suppose you believe in chemtrails and are an anti-vaxxer, too, @Person H?” [“Dumb hippie” meme.]
Person H: “What does that have to do with the topic? I suppose you only believe what is material. Albert Einstein said, ‘The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science.’ But I suppose you’re smarter than Einstein.” [Five laughing/crying emojis]
Person G: “Okay, blocked! Life’s too short.”
Person D: [Inserts random Jim Carrey GIF]
Person K: “‘Inbred bigots’? Um, sounds bigoted.” [Shrug emoji.]
Person F: “What if it was an inverted triangle?”
Person A: “An inverted triangle? It wouldn’t be stable then.”
Person H: “I see I’ve been blocked. Bye, Felicia.” [Random Rupaul’s Drag Race GIF.]
Person F: “It would be if the right person designed it.”
Person L: “What about a spaceship?”
Person G: “I don’t know what would be wrong with letting birds and wild animals eat their bodies. It seems like a waste of resources and time but that’s just me.”
Person D: [Inserts “Walk Like an Egyptian,” music video.]
Person M: “I’m pretty sure triangle buildings already exist.”
Person N: “I’m okay with triangles but I wouldn’t want anyone to build one next to my house.”
Person G: “I’m pretty sure no one is going to build a memorial to a pharaoh next to your house, @Person N. Lol.”
Person L: “The future is in underground houses.”
Person N: “Do you know me, @Person G? Why are you such a hater?”
Person O: “I don’t believe people should own property.”
Person P: “Um, do you own a toothbrush, @Person O?”
Person O: “Um, is a toothbrush property, @Person P?”
Person P: “Um, according to the dictionary, yes. Are you literate?” [Laughing-crying emoji]
Person D: [Inserts a different random popcorn-eating GIF.]
Person O: “Blocked. Another condescending white dude.”
Person D: [“That escalated quickly” meme.]
Person G: “Why did you make this a racial thing, @Person O? What does his color have to do with it?”
Person P: “Don’t you know, @Person G? Everything is about race now. lol” [Eye-roll emoji.]
Person P: “I can’t talk about anything without being called out as a ‘cisgender white guy’ anymore. Next I’ll be accused of mansplaining. I should just muzzle myself. Identity politics have poisoned our brains.”
Person G: “SJWs everywhere!”
Person Q: “Yes, damn those ‘‘SJWs’ for making the world a less oppressive, hostile place. [Sideways laughing face emoji] Such horrors they have inflicted upon us. Yes, I’m being sarcastic.”
Person I: “I thought this post was about triangle buildings…” [Thinking face emoji.]
Person P: “I’ve worked for everything I have.”
Person Q: “I suppose you’re color-blind, too? [Eye-roll emoji.]
Person P: “There’s no point in having this conversation. You’ve already stereotyped me.”
Person Q: “Nope. You stereotyped yourself.”
Person G: “LOL. Here we go again.”
Person D: [Inserts random SpongeBob SquarePants GIF.]
Person I: “Yes, here we go again.” [Kissy-face emoji]
Person I: “Why do you keep posting random GIFs, @Person D? Do you have anything worthwhile to contribute or do you only speak in GIF?”
Person D: [Inserts random another “eating popcorn” GIF.]
Person E: “I still hate triangles.”
Person F: “Me, too.”
Person G: “You’re actually the racist, @Person I. You are prejudiced against white people.”
Person I: “Ooookay. LOL. I *am* white.”
Person R: “Why the triangle hate?”
Person G: “Looks like @Person A has left the group.”
Person D: [Inserts random crickets chirping GIF.]
Person R: “I don’t know. I thought it was a cool idea.”
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Published on April 26, 2018 11:53

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