Thursday, August 31, 2017

20 Reasons Not to Go Vegan


There are many valid reasons to go vegan but probably as many misguided ones. Don’t misunderstand, I am happy for anyone who quits eating animals, but the main thing is that I want it to last. When people are motivated by reasons beyond than their perceived personal gains, in my opinion, veganism has the greatest likelihood of lasting, which is not to say that all the benefits shouldn’t be appreciated.

When people “go vegan” for reasons that are more outwardly directed or in pursuit of something that a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily guarantee, they are susceptible to becoming the disgruntled “former vegans” I talk to all the time. While people are driven by a variety of motivating sources, I think it’s important to remember that veganism is at its foundation a way of living that seeks to reduce cruelty and make the world more just, equitable and sustainable. Does that mean that you are an inauthentic vegan if you’re primarily motivated by something else? Not at all. It just means that there are some very bogus reasons and if you want veganism to stick, rooting your veganism in ethics will provide a more stable foundation.

With that, I offer twenty reasons not to go vegan.

1. You want to be skinny.

2. You’re feeling inspired by a celebrity who was paleo just last week.

3. You want to impress someone, especially a romantic interest/partner.

4. You want to rebel against someone, especially a parent/relative.

5. You thought it would be a fun challenge, kind of an endurance feat.

6. You’ve heard good things about being gluten-free.

7. The most popular kid in school/at the office is vegan.

8. You haven’t gotten attention for a while.

9. You saw a picture of a vegan Instagram celebrity with washboard abs so…

10. It was either that or try paleo again.

11. You think veganism might help you live forever.

12. You think veganism might help you never get sick.

13. You think veganism might help you look 20 years younger.

14. Maybe this will be your ticket to making six figures as an influencer after all.

15. Alkaline something-something? Something about alkaline?

16. You saw a David Wolfe meme.

17. You’re bored.

18. Blood type something-something? Something about blood type?

19. You’ve been wanting to go on a cleanse.

20. It’s trending.

So forget those twenty reasons because this is the only reason you need to go vegan: Because you don’t believe animals should be exploited, suffer and be killed for your fleeting desires and the fact that you can help to improve the environment as well as prospects for future generations and enjoy some health benefits at the same time is just the icing on the cake.

If you are vegan for one of the other reasons listed above, don’t fret! Just build a stronger foundation underneath it if you want it to stick.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On Virtue Signaling and Identity Politics: Or How to Misuse A New Phrase You Barely Understand…


My husband is a great guy but, honestly, he has a hard time keeping up on the latest from popular culture and emerging trends. Take, for example, new phrases. Over the past few months,
Vegan Street has been hit with a bunch of terms on our various social media platforms (but especially Instagram) that have left John with a proverbial cartoon thought balloon containing a big, red question mark over his head and two phrases are appearing most often. It usually goes like this: We post a meme about cruelty to animals and we’re accused of virtue signaling. We make a statement against the oppression of other humans and suddenly, we’re accused of engaging in identity politics.

Let’s dissect these phrases, shall we?

What is Virtue Signaling?

Is a person anti-racist to the extent that he or she is working to eradicate white supremacy or is someone anti-racist in that he or she will post a Martin Luther King meme on the third Monday of each January? If it’s the latter, that person may just be virtue signaling.

Virtue signaling is sharing thoughts on important issues for the sake of being seen as a good person without doing the actual work to create a better world. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, virtue signaling is “an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media: Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.” Coined by British journalist and author James Bartholomew, virtue signaling skillfully describes the spectacle on social media of people posting disingenuous and largely anodyne sentiments about important matters, often in the realm of social justice, for the main purpose of trying to be seen as virtuous. It is an increasingly common feature of our daily lives. The phrase “virtue signaling” is very handy in describing something that didn’t have a term for it until social media forged in into being but you wish you’d had it in your vocabulary long ago.

What is Identity Politics?

Identity politics has some similar aspects to virtue signaling. Developed as a term to describe
a personal, political and ideological focus on the issues relevant to various groups that are defined by a wide array of shared characteristics, for example, race, sexual orientation and religion, “identity politics” is more of a neutral term than virtue signaling, which is always derogatory, as it’s one that has both positive and negative connotations. At its best, identity politics helps to serve, elevate and amplify the needs of often-ignored groups and at its worst, identity politics is a blunt instrument that encourages conformity, suppression of individual voices and hyper-focuses on division and separation. I think that both interpretations can be true. In the hands of someone who scarcely understands the expression, though, identity politics becomes, like virtue signaling, just another self-conscious way to show off.

There is truth to
the criticisms; there are people who are prone to bland, self-centered “activism” and certainly social media lends itself to the garish pageantry of this. However, rather than a thoughtful critique, I am seeing the terms used as a knee-jerk and reactive cynical response more and more these days. Rather than examining why they themselves aren’t more engaged with creating a more just world, those who invoke the terms often seem like they would just be content if we’d all admit that no one really cares and that those who are trying to make the world a better place are grandiose, attention-seeking hypocrites. I have noticed a cold, cynical nihilism at the root of much of this accusation of phoniness rather than a thoughtful analysis.

I know we love our new expressions, especially ones with a bit of a zing, but slapping them on with a broad brush whenever we think it might apply tends to neutralize terms that are actually useful and helpful to understand. To adapt an idiom, when your shiniest, newest phrase is a hammer, all of the sudden, everything and everyone become a nail.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with a newbie’s guide to these two new phrases.

On Virtue Signaling…

Sample quote: “Pardon me, your shoe is untied.”
Instead of: “Hey, cool. Thanks.”
Might Try: “What makes you think you’re so la-dee-dah heroic? Show off. You virtue signalers are so annoying.”

Sample quote: “Excuse me, your gas cap isn’t on.”  

Instead of: “Oh, thanks so much!”
Newbies Might Try: “So now I guess you think you’re like the best person in the world for that, huh?
Awesome virtue signaling.”

Sample quote: “Hi, I found your dog running in the street and have him at my house for you to pick up.”
Instead off: “I am so grateful! I didn’t realize our back gate was open and I’ve been looking for him for an hour. Oh, thank you! I am so happy!”
Newbies Might Try: “What do you want, a virtue signaling cookie?”

Sample situation: Taking a public position on abuse, harassment, oppression, bigotry, misogyny, tyranny, etc. [fill-in-the-blank].
Instead of, “Thank you for -”
Newbies Might Try: “Oh, my god, enough with your virtue signaling, okay? I guess you think you’re so superior and all that?”

On Identity Politics…

Sample quote: “I am a feminist.”
Instead of saying: “That’s great to hear. Political, social and economic equality of the sexes should be a given.”

Newbies Might Try: “Ugh, people and their labels! Some of us are too mature for narrow-minded identity politics.”

Sample quote: “I think speaking up against racism is kind of the least I can do.”
Instead of saying, “I agree. We should be doing everything we can to reverse white supremacy and ending systemic racism.”
Newbies Might Try: “Well, whoopety doo, you’re against racism. What about reverse racism? I had to work for everything I have. I am so tired of everyone’s damn identity politics.”

Sample quote: “As a gay person and business owner, I like to support businesses that are on the record for supporting LBGTQ causes and withdraw my support from those who don’t.”
Instead of: “Showing support of businesses that stand for LBGTQ rights is a great way to use your dollars to reward those whose values you appreciate and withdraw support from those you don’t.”
Newbies Might Try: “Oh my god, what’s next? This is like Nazism. Enough with the identity politics.”

Sample quote: “As a vegan, I take a position against the oppression of all beings. Whether we’re talking racism, sexism or any other form of bigotry, aligning with discrimination is in conflict with my vegan convictions.”
Instead of: “Yes, that makes sense. I mean, you’re opposed to suffering and cruelty, right?”

Newbies Might Try: “Ugh, how about you take your damn identity politics out of your veganism? Not every vegan is a SJW libtard.”

Or, you know, maybe we shouldn’t bust out new phrases whenever we feel threatened or reactive but look within at our responses instead. It’s your call, virtue signaler.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Eric C. Lindstrom...

Yay for Eric C. Lindstrom! A talented
designer and President of ThankTank Creative as well as the new Marketing Director of FARM, Eric is responsible for helping to position so many vegan businesses and non-profits for success
with beautiful, smart logos and communications. As an author with a popular new
book, The Skeptical Vegan, Eric deconstructs how a self-described former carnivore could – and why he would – go vegan, painlessly and willingly, with joy and even enthusiasm. I am so excited for Eric’s book, which can reach people in a way that many vegan advocacy publications cannot by showing readers that at one point this vegan champion was just like them.

With a disarming and self-deprecating humor buttressed by his unflagging honesty, The Skeptical Vegan gives people a real lens into what a vegan transformation can look like – how deeply and richly it manifests in our personal lives as well as how making simple changes to our mindsets and our kitchens can net significantly positive results –and, more important, gives readers access to helpful resources and insights that can remove barriers to veganism. I can’t recommend it enough. Plus, I was fortunate enough to meet Eric in person at the most recent
Animal Rights Conference when we were on a panel together and he’s just a great guy all around: talented but down-to-earth, generous, warm, smart and really tuned into the what is happening in the world, Eric is just the bee’s knees. I am honored to be able to shine a spotlight on Eric C. Lindstrom as this week’s Vegan Rockstar.

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’ve been telling people that my vegan story is the blog that inspired the bet that inspired the book, The Skeptical Vegan. While the early days of veganism were started from a challenge set forth by my wife that soon became the “bet I refuse to lose,” I’d have to say the people along the way who I met were really what inspired me to stick to it. Having support, and a support system, made it possible for me to go, and stay, vegan.

When you’re a new vegan and you get to have lunch with Dr. Greger, or work closely with Miyoko Schinner, or brunch with Steve-O, going vegan seems like a very cool club to belong to. Without these early influences, I don’t know if I would be where I am today.

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?

There was no talking to me back then. Back when I ate animals, I wouldn’t listen. The first vegan who said to me, after finding out I ate 68 chicken wings in one sitting, “so, you support animal cruelty?” I thought she was crazy (still do, kind of). I didn’t support animal cruelty, I loved chicken wings. Year later, I’m that crazy person and I know now where she was coming from. Maybe in some ways her words helped me see the light but at the time I wasn’t having any of it. The “old me” wouldn’t listen and this is the challenge. I’m not sure there is one way to approach this since every person is in a different place when it comes to their own choices.

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

I’ve been known for my snark. Great white snark. It’s been my sense of humor that has opened the doors for a lot of people to walk into veganism. They can see that there is an actual “life” as a vegan. The stereotypes are no longer true. Promote the vegan message with a sense of humor and approachability and I think we’ll all succeed.

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

Power in numbers. Having just returned from the Animals Rights National Conference, it’s inspiring to see so many (and I mean thousands) people behind this movement. Getting to hear a talk by Nathan Runkle makes me confident we are going to win. For the animals. There are so many amazing people, and now amazingly generous philanthropists, making sure the next generation, and the one after that, doesn’t have to pay for our past when it comes to the treatment of animals.

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

The biggest challenge facing the vegan movement are the “fly-over states.” Everywhere between New York City and Los Angeles. The coasts are covered and some interior cities like Austin, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boulder know what’s going on; but there are so many golden buckles on the corn belt that still live off of butter and beef. Just when we think we are making strides, we get data that pork consumption is on the rise. From where I sit, literally in hippy Ithaca New York, this seems impossible. But it’s not.

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

“Animals are not food.” This is all I ever have to say. There is no counter-argument to this in my mind. Some friends I have who are recent vegans always ask me how to respond to omnivores as to why they are now vegan. This is all I tell them: Animals. Are. Not. Food.

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 mention in The Skeptical Vegan some of the earliest influencers in my vegan journey. From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s 30-Day Vegan Challenge to Joe the Juicer’s Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, most of my influence came from a health perspective. I’ve been fortunate to have T. Colin Campbell as a personal friend and he has helped and inspired me in so many ways. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Steve-O. Meeting him just as I was about to go vegan had a positive impact on me as I realized that anyone, at any age, can make radical life changes.

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

I continue writing. Just as The Skeptical Vegan hit the shelves nationwide, I started working on my next book, Mind Your Peas and Cukes: A Guide to Raising Vegan Kids. While writing may seem like work, it’s actually a respite from the rest of my hectic life and when the words all come together and make sense, it’s very fulfilling. Other than this, I spend the majority of my time chasing around our two vegan toddlers.

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

I, like so many other vegans, have had it with the terms “humane meat” or “free range” in regard to omnivores food choices and their arguments for continuing to eat meat, dairy, and eggs. Some of the less-than-kind reviews of my book have been readers complaining that it seems as though I want them to stop eating animals entirely. Which I do. Since animals are not food.

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

… the right thing to do. For your own health, the health of the planet, and for the animals.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with JL Fields


How many ways do I love
JL Fields? Let me count the ways…

1. I love her passionate vegan foodie ways.
1. I love that she is a passionate vegan foodie who manages to create recipes that are accessible to the average home cook who doesn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen with each meal but still have delicious food regardless.
3. I love that she’s funny, snarky, engaged,
fierce and talented. (Follow her personal page on Facebook to see ample evidence of this and professional page for lots of foodie inspiration.)
4. I love how prolific she is! Look at all these fabulous
books she’s written and co-authored.
5. She also has a radio show, when she’s not coaching people and creating meal plans. Are you even kidding me?! I was lucky enough to be a guest. I could have talked to JL for seven hours straight.
6. I think I need to take a nap now.
7. I feel like a failure.
8. But I can’t hate JL because she’s far too awesome.
9. And I get to see her at
Chicago VeganMania on September 23 (as do you!) with the release of her most recent cookbook, The Vegan Air Fryer. Join us!

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’d love to tell you that I had an inkling at a young age that vegan was the way to go but I just didn’t. Yes, I loved my cats and dog and yes, I loved eating meat. When I was in my late thirties I was in Kenya for a work event and a male elder led a got into the ceremony. The goat was slaughtered, stewed, and served for dinner. I became a vegetarian on the spot. It was eight years later, when, far less dramatically, I had concluded a 16-day detox with my yoga instructor and realized I hadn’t had animal products during that time. Huh, I guess I’m vegan, I thought. And so I was.

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?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I consider myself a seeking spirit – something I attribute to my Buddhism – and I tend to be more convinced when I have an experience and allow myself to be moved by it. But I can tell you that if the year I was 40 someone said go vegan to lose weight or go healthy I would have said, “not necessary!” I was a size 4 and running marathons and my blood work was top notch.

If someone at 40 had said, “It’s great that you’re vegetarian, but do you know how hens and cows are treated for your eggs and dairy?” I just didn’t know. It’s actually one of the reasons that when meat eaters ask me how to start, and they know they aren’t ready to go all in, that I encourage them to give up eggs and dairy before meat. It gives me the opportunity to talk about the cruelty in terms of logic. An animal farmed for meat will die a violent death in a matter of months. Dairy cows and chickens experience utter hell for months and years on end. I think once you lay out the simple truth of a farmed animals life, it’s hard not to want to end all of the cruelty.

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

I’m an enthusiastic foodie. I get so excited by vegan food, how to make it quickly and deliciously, and I think my utter delight in creating vegan food rubs off on people. I’m on a book tour right now and no matter how daunting a day of travel can be, the minute I’m in front of people demonstrating fun vegan recipes, well, I’m perked up and ready to roll. Anyway who’s taken one of classes knows that humor is an integral part of what I do. We need to have fun. This is very serious stuff we’re talking about – saving animals and the planet – but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh and smile while we’re doing it.

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

We have some compassionate leaders who are emerging and changing the face of the movement. Though there’s still a lot of bowing down to the feet of the white male plant-based doctors, there are exciting entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are making delicious food, creating gorgeous clothing, pushing forth a social justice message and taking up space in the environmental movement. Their leadership is inviting in a broader audience.

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

I think every single activist should know their audience and be willing to meet them where they are. Being kind and inviting others in, at their pace, just might have a more profound impact that treating people like nails and your message is the hammer. You know, I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 15 years and vegan close to eight years. My husband didn’t follow the same path. And I never tried to hammer veganism into him. I did invite him to vegan events, draw the line on what I could tolerate (I never purchased animal products or prepared them once I went vegan), model a happy and healthy vegan lifestyle, and he ultimately did make a decision to live a vegan life. On his terms.

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

I was on a morning news show in Denver show last month and the anchor asked me why I didn’t want to eat animals or animal products,

“I don’t need to eat them, so why harm them?”

Obviously I’m only going up one floor on the elevator (oops, should have walked).

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 have many mentors and there are leaders I admire from afar but I have to say that Ginny Messina, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, and Andy Tabar are three people who really inspire me. They are consistent in their vegan message. They speak truth to power. They are vegan for the animals.

When I want to passively share vegan information on my personal social media, knowing many of my non-vegan friends and family will see it, I lean toward Vegan Outreach and Mercy for Animals. And of course I share Vegan Street memes! [Ed. note: Interrupting this interview to pass the hat and remind you, gentle reader, that you can support the memes and other work we create by signing on as Patreons of Vegan Street.]

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

Before transitioning my career to that of culinary instructor and food writer, I worked in the nonprofit sector. My clients were victims of hate crimes, sexual assault survivors, and women around the globe who experienced all types of violence. I learned early in my career that carving out time for quiet reflection or reckless and loud fun was essential to cope and come back refreshed. I still carve out meditative and raucous time.

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

I want every single chubby/curvy/fat vegan to know I see you and I love you and you are as important, if not more important, in this movement. Please do not let the loud, highly visible people who judge and shame food choices and body size silence you. 

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

…meeting my highest self.