Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Amy-Lee Goodman


Amy-Lee Goodman is a zesty former Texan who is making waves by sharing her knowledge and take-no-prisoners attitude about the animal agribusiness industry with two recent books, Rethink Food: 100+ Doctors Can’t Be Wrong 
and her newly published The Meaty Truth: Why Our Food is Destroying Our Health and Environment – and Who is Responsible, both co-authored with Shushana Castle. As someone who personally saw her teen sister’s once crippling rheumatoid arthritis go into remission once her mother implemented the plant-based diet recommended in T. Colin Campbell’s landmark book, The China Study, Amy-Lee has dedicated her life to letting the world know about the myriad benefits of veganism as well as the shocking – but all too real – consequences of animal agribusiness to our health, the environment and billions of animals’ lives. For this reason and more, Amy-Lee Goodman is a vegan rockstar worth knowing.

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 was greatly impacted by my family as well as influenced by the ethical, health and environmental reasons to take meat and dairy off my plate. 

I grew up as a meat and potatoes girl in Texas. My freshman year of college though I had watched Meet your Meat and couple of other videos and I called my mom crying about piglets I had just seen that were stomped on in a slaughterhouse. Once you see that kind of cruelty, there is no way I could consciously eat meat or dairy again.

At the same time, I witnessed how my younger sister’s health was dramatically impacted by going vegan. My sister was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 9 and became a skeleton of her former vivacious self. Living on medication, my mom read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell whose research showed how meat and dairy can contribute to autoimmune conditions. Within three months of taking my sister off all animal products, her arthritis had completely gone into remission. It was eye-opening.

I became so passionate about this subject that I started further research factory farming and discovered how unsustainable it is for our planet. The choice for me and my family, who evolved at the same time, was simple.

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?

For me, seeing the visual images of how these animals are treated was much more powerful than hearing about the cruelty. I had no idea what went on behind the closed doors of factory farms, or even what went into making clothes. The sad truth is most of us would rather not think about what we are eating or wearing. It is easy to disassociate the grilled chicken breast on our plate or the Italian leather shoes from the actual animal. Seeing the pictures though and having to look those animals in the eye that we consider dinner or a fashion trend is harder to justify.

Additionally hearing patient stories from those that have turned around their health, to the disgusting ingredients in our food were both turning points for me. For example, discovering that there is pus in dairy is beyond disgusting. Why would I consciously choose to drink that?!

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

Coming from an educational and non-judgmental standpoint is a great way to get through to others. I did not grow up vegan and therefore I don’t believe in judging and shaming others who have not been informed. Instead, I choose to approach them with the same compassion we show the animals by encouraging even small changes and showing them how much fun it is to be vegan!

I also choose to win over hearts and minds through food. I love taking my friends to restaurants that open their eyes to the breadth of delicious food available to them. Cooking an amazing meal with my girlfriends is an easy way to show them just how easy it to be vegan and dispel the myth about how intimidating it can be to shop or cook differently. 

When it comes to hard-hitting facts, I don’t shy away from the truth but adding a little humor never fails to make an impression. This was our approach in The Meaty Truth. To be straightforward and blunt but also add a little sass to keep the reader informed. We also included daily actions steps as we don’t believe in perfection but in progress.

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

The biggest strength of the vegan movement is the passion that these amazing individuals have to push the movement forward. The greatest asset is we do have undeniable facts and images that we can use to advocate for change. I truly believe that most people at their core are good people and they wouldn’t unknowingly participate in practices that harm such beautiful beings.

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

The issues I see are one of division and losing sight of the larger goal. We need to better appreciate that each organization has their own path and message and we should value the steps they are taking towards a healthier and cruelty-free society rather than bringing them down. So many of us tend to focus on what someone isn’t doing rather than what they are doing. This is hurting us as separately we can't make the change we need, but we can by choosing to work together. 

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

Veganism for many can seem like a foreign concept or a hippie fad. But there have been so many times in society where we have looked at progress with scorn from slavery to women's rights. Deciding that it's not okay to treat other creatures with harm and that it is disastrous for our health to eat animals is the next social movement. We have one earth, one body, and we are all interconnected. We spend so much time investing in our careers and very little investing in our bodies or thinking about the consequences of our actions.

I believe we have a choice everyday to choose the type of world we want to live in and leave for the next generation. Being vegan is an answer to a more compassionate, healthy and happy life.

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

My mom is my greatest vegan inspiration. She is the most beautiful soul I know and the most amazing voice for the animals. It is inspiring to see how many animals’ lives she has changed as well as how many people’s lives she has impacted by helping them go vegan. She is my hero.

The organizations I admire are PCRM, Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The work they do is so important.

As for resources, some of my favorite books and magazines are VegNews, Naked Food Magazine, The China Study, Whitewash, Fast Food Nation, Animal Factories, and Skinny Bitch. The movies that I love are Forks Over Knives, Earthlings and Blackfish.  I am also a huge fan of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s cookbooks!

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

It’s so important to remember just how beautiful life is, especially when one can see so much misery working to make changes. I love to run outdoors, read fiction or inspirational books, cuddle with my kitties (I have two!), bake delicious vegan treats and take time out to disconnect from technology and reconnect with myself.

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

Factory farming is the issue most dear to my heart that I am working to change. It is not only one of the most horrific businesses but also one of the most damaging businesses to our health and our environment. Factory farming need not ever exist and it is one place where I believe there is so much hope for change as the public becomes educated about the faces behind their food choices. Most people find factory farming conditions deplorable once they learn the truth. I believe this public pressure could help in shutting down these factory doors forever.

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

Not about being perfect but about doing my part to make a sweeter world.

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