Friday, December 15, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstars with the Vegan Voyagers

Hayden and Aaron Hall, the Vegan Voyagers, are a recently married couple of vegan advocates who are on an exciting new adventure: traveling the US in an RV with their five cats, dog, and silkie chicken (Brienne of Tarth inspired by Game of Thrones). The Hall’s goal is to visit every state, every National Park, and eat at as many vegan restaurants as possible. Hey, that’s my goal, too!

With backgrounds working in a variety of roles at large animal rights and protection organizations, Hayden now works as the Grassroots Campaign Manager at FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) and Aaron, previously with Sea Shepard, now does contract work for animal rescue organizations in addition to working as a smarty developer guy. Taking their show on the road, the Halls are able to work remotely while enjoying the burgeoning vegan scene across the country. I am happy to feature
the Vegan Voyagers as this week’s Vegan Rock Stars.

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?

In college, one of Hayden’s professors was a vegan and taught a class called “Religion and Animals” which discussed the way different religions treat animals. We read a book called Next of Kin by Roger Fouts about a chimpanzee named Washoe who spoke ASL. Hayden made the connection that you can’t love one animal and eat the other, so she started cutting out specific meat products; pork, beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and finally cheese. Giving up cheese was the most difficult part of her journey, but she landed a job as a Campaigner at PETA in October of 2010 and never looked back.

Aaron grew up in the Midwest and was raised in a “meat and potatoes” environment, however, that all changed when he turned 30.  One day, while watching TV he had his “A-HA” moment where everything clicked and he realized that it was hypocritical to fight for one animal, but eat another. Over the next six months, he started transitioning to vegetarianism with the intent of going vegan. He finally committed to veganism on January 17, 2014 while on campaign in Taiji, Japan after witnessing the dolphin slaughter first-hand. Right then and there, he vowed to never consume any animal products from that day forward.

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?

Finding a way to make the conversation relatable to a person’s life seems to be the most impactful way to get someone thinking. Would someone be more impacted by the cruelty, the health benefits/ effects, or the environment argument for being vegan?  It’s very easy to get in the mindset of “that doesn’t affect me, I’m not physically killing them for food, clothes, etc.” Showing people the pathway to connect the dots is a far better way to reach someone than just showing them photos of slaughterhouses and memes.  But if you can’t reach them that way, then we recommend they watch Earthlings, also known as, the vegan maker.

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

Food plays a huge role in our lives and we think showing people that you can travel anywhere and still find delicious vegan food is our most effective way to communicate our message.  Taking photos of all of the food we come across seems to inspire and resonate with people.  We’ve also tried putting out photos of our own food so that we can show you can make healthy and delicious vegan meals at home.

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

Right now, the momentum is definitely on our side.  With the younger millennial generation and generation Z, we are seeing an incredible growth within the vegan movement.  These kids are the future and so it’s inspiring to see so many of them picking up the torch. There have also been huge strides in plant-based products, including the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger. We were lucky enough to catch the Beyond Burger at TGI Friday’s in Massachusetts during its short run there. It’s important for us to patronize these restaurants to show that there is a demand for vegan food at major chain restaurants.

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

Unfortunately, some people completely shut down when they hear the word “vegan.”  You can almost see their eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the word.  People are so stuck in their beliefs, so you really have to get creative to get your ideas across to them.  There’s also a LOT of in fighting amongst animal rights and vegan activists.  We have to remember that we’re doing this for the animals and it doesn’t matter if you wear a specific logo or volunteer for a specific organization, we’re all in this together and fighting for the same cause.

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

With all of the new products available on the market, it’s easier than ever to be vegan!  There is no reason not to give it a try when there is a vegan version of pretty much everything that you would want to eat.  Even if you only do things like Meatless Mondays or one vegan meal a week, you’re making a huge difference. Every little bit helps!

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?

Hayden has worked for PETA, Sea Shepherd, and currently at FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) and Aaron also worked at Sea Shepherd. We’ve has seen nearly every documentary and YouTube video about the horrors of factory farms, some of the most impactful include Earthlings, The Cove, & Meet Your Meat. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to see where their food comes from, so it’s important to have many avenues that get the message out there. One of Hayden’s favorite books is Skinny Bitch by Kim Barnouin. There’s also a version geared towards men, called Skinny Bastard.

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

Because we travel full-time in an RV, we have lots of opportunity to “get away from it all” and explore nature. We love photography and just got a new drone to bring more depth to our YouTube videos. We also enjoy spending time with rescued animals at sanctuaries, especially goats! They’ve found a special spot in our hearts! Plus, our 5 cats, dog, and silkie chicken help to reaffirm why we are vegan.

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

The issues nearest and dearest to our hearts would be anything that has to do with marine mammals, specifically whales and dolphins.  They are some of the smartest beings on the planet and the abuse that they receive at the hands of humans is absolutely awful.  Watching an entire pod of dolphins go from swimming free in the ocean to being forcefully herded into a cove, having a few selected for a lifetime of captivity and the rest slaughtered for meat consumption is something that will never leave Aaron, it was a truly life changing experience.

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

… AHIMSA: to do no harm.

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