Thursday, 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

Friday, 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.



Tuesday, 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 win
ter, 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!

Tuesday, 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


Thursday, June 28, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Reyna Tomasek...




Some
thing 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 greamagazine, 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!