I first discovered Emily Moran Barwick of Bite Size Vegan some time last year and I was immediately taken by her smart, engaging videos that chomp down big, thorny topics into digestible portions, or, as she refers to them, nuggets. I kind of imagine her as a human advocacy machine who can take any vegan subject and resize it for optimal comprehension, like she's from The Jetsons but even way more fabulous.
Admirably, Emily is able to do this most often in five minutes or less but never by dumbing down the content. From talking about if eating animals is a personal choice to the strangely oft-repeated fallacy that vegans kill more animals than meat-eaters, Emily manages to create content (and she creates a lot of content) that is persuasive, smart, current and lightened up with great touches of style and humor. Not everyone is going to sit down and read an entire book and this is where Bite Size Vegan comes in handy, because she has done her research and so she is able to tackle these subjects with a common sense and factual manner that nevertheless cuts straight to the heart by always bringing it back to the animals. Back at her website, she provides resources for those who want to delve into subjects deeper. Like most things that look effortless, what Emily is doing at Bite Size Vegan takes a ton of work and time. Please consider donating to her Patreon page so she can continue her important work and subscribe to get her fabulous videos.
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 journey to veganism is a bit strange in that it began before I was even consciously aware of it in hindsight. My mother tells me that around the age of four I started to refuse to eat meat. She says if I could tell that something had ever been alive I would refuse to eat it. I’ve always been a huge animal lover and when other kids were going door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies, I was going door-to-door educating about the plight of the mountain gorillas in Africa and asking for donations to the Diane Fosse foundation. I was a very intense child and I had a lot of anger for my own species. I simply could not understand how humans could be so cruel and felt completely overwhelmed by the enormity of suffering in the world, and powerless to make any significant change.
As far as my eating goes, as I started to learn about the true nature of dairy and eggs - how mother cows are robbed of their own children so that we can steal their milk and male layer chicks are ground-up alive in an industry - I eliminated dairy and eggs from my diet as well. This, I think, happened sometime in middle school to high school.
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 honestly don’t think I really needed any convincing to go vegan - it seems to be a desire I had almost from birth, I just lacked the knowledge to implement it. I suppose what would’ve been very helpful for me would have been to have had a mentor or someone in my life who could’ve show me how to eat vegan properly, and even more importantly, that I wasn’t alone in my desire to fight for the animals and make the world a better place for them.
What I try to focus on with pre-vegans is making a true connection at an emotional level with what the animals are going through. I think putting ourselves in the place of these beings and connecting with them as equals is the fastest way to create a new vegan. One of the best ways of accomplishing this is for someone to actually meet a survivor of the animal products industry at a farm sanctuary. Actually looking into the eyes of one of these survivors makes it very difficult to continue justifying their murder for something as insignificant as a meal. I think it’s also important to show pre-vegans that being vegan is not difficult. It’s not even revolutionary. It’s very simple and incredibly logical - something that everyone can do regardless of their backgrounds.
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
Well, as I said in the last question, I do try to connect with people at an emotional level, but it’s not always super intense. I use a lot of humor in my activism. I find that humor is a great way of lowering defenses so that we’re more open to receiving important messages.
I try to balance humor with my extreme passion for the liberation of all animals, along with research-based facts and well-placed usage of underground footage and disturbing imagery. The humor, as I said, is disarming, the legitimate facts lend credibility to my message and the imagery really shows the reality of what’s going on and gives a voice to the animals who are so often suffering and dying in silence behind closed doors. It’s a delicate balance to try to maintain, but when it all comes together, I’ve found it to be rather effective.
Also, there’s a reason that I chose the video format and the platform of YouTube for activism. In today’s culture, we have a limited attention span and we like things that are bright and shiny and moving - it’s got to be entertaining or we are onto the next thing. Using video and a platform like YouTube allows me to reach people all over the world. Video is engaging and grabs people - sometimes you can say more with an image or video clip than you can with an entire thesis. And I keep my videos rather brief because everyone can find a spare minute or two to watch something. It takes very little effort on their part. I’ve also created a website with accompanying blog posts to every video so that those who do want to take the time to read and find more resources can do so. Basically, in brief, I try to reach people at their level and allow them several options of how they want to take in the information.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
I think the biggest strength of the vegan movement is that we have the truth on our side. There’s no way to logically justify what we do to animals for our food, fashion, medicine, and entertainment. All the facts and all the legitimate arguments are on our side. This is reflected in the absurdity that often arises when people try to justify their behaviors.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
Sometimes I feel that the greatest hindrance to the vegan movement is vegans. Unfortunately, as with every movement and every time a group of people tries to accomplish something, there arises infighting and fracturing off of different beliefs and approaches. I think we lose strength when we argue with each other over petty distinctions. The veal calf who is awaiting slaughter doesn’t care what semantic battle we might be having - he simply wants to live. Vegans arguing with vegans about what veganism is becomes a level of cruelty onto it’s own. To know what’s going on - to really have seen it and understood what these animals are going through and still spend one’s time in meaningless discussion and circular arguments is an absolute insult to the animals.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
Honestly, I could go on about this for a long time, and I do have a section on my website that details the health, environmental, and ethical and moral reasoning behind veganism, but my true elevator pitch to the question “why vegan?” is “why not?” Try throwing that of someone who asks why you are vegan and see what their answer is. I guarantee you there will not be any depth and weight behind 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?
The greatest influence in my life as far as my activism is concerned is Gary Yourofsky. I was vegan long before I first heard Gary’s speech, but he lit a fire inside of me and gave me the tools I had desperately been searching for to make a difference for the animals. He showed me that education was the number one way to spread the message, and he helped me get out of myself and take action regardless of my fear.
I never stop learning and educating myself and I have a full library of books, too large to even detail here. I did find Dr. Charles Patterson’s Eternal Treblinka particularly influential.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?
Ha! Unwind and recharge? Oh, yeah, I forgot about that…it’s very true that burnout is common in this line of work. It is absolutely exhausting and emotionally draining. But it is so worth it. Still the recharging aspect of my life is something that I’m trying to work on and develop. I do realize its importance and it’s something I really need to improve on. I do try to do a little bit of yoga every day and, of course, spend time with my dog Ooby - though at times that seems like indentured servitude - she has high expectations, that one. :)
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
For me the issue is always the animals. It’s all about them. I want people to know what they are experiencing. When you know that, I mean really know that, going vegan is no longer a choice or an option, it is a necessity, a total no-brainer, and the very least you can do. If you make that connection, you almost have no choice but to become an activist.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”
…Not even a question.