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The Future Is Vegan: Raising Compassion, Interview #5 with Hattie Cole

For the fifth of six interviews on vegan parenting, Lauren Lockey interviewed Hattie Cole, and her baby boy Elliott. See the interview below:

LL: What inspired you to become vegan and what is the biggest change you noticed in yourself?
HC: I became vegan about 6 years ago but had been vegetarian since I was 8 years old. My inspiration has always been the animals! I had an experience at about 6 years old when I went on a field trip to a farm and made the connection of pig = bacon and from that moment on I told my mom I would never eat a pig again. I think children have a very innate understanding of right and wrong and eating animals is wrong. Once I became more educated on the truth of dairy I immediately gave that up.

LL: Do you have cravings during your pregnancy and what are your amazing vegan alternatives?
HC: From time to time I certainly have wanted cheese, particularly on pizza! But Myokos vegan mozz is such an amazing product I don’t even miss real mozzarella anymore!

LL: Did you find it difficult to find vegan prenatals?
HC: I didn’t, Vita Cost actually has lots of vegan options for most supplements.

LL: What has been your biggest obstacle in raising a vegan baby?
HC: I think people hear you’re vegan and assume your child is going to have his growth stunted or be lacking in protein- my favorite! I think people just have a long standing misconception that being vegan means you’re not getting enough nutrients which with just a little research can be disproven.

LL: What foods do/will you feed Elliott to make sure there is adequate nutrition? What about milk/formula alternatives?
HC: I’m so lucky that so far I have been able to exclusively breastfeed my baby! Once he starts eating solid foods I’m looking forward to making him foods I love like sweet potato, avocado, tofu, quinoa etc. I plan on making most if not all of his baby food and I really am excited about that process!

LL: How will you handle the social pressures your child receives about eating meat and dairy?
HC: I truly hope my son grows up as passionate as his mom is about animal rights and is able to answer questions from nay sayers himself! I think because he will grow up knowing cows, chickens, pigs, horses and other animals he will have a very different connection to them than most children.

LL: What will you say when Elliott makes the connection that meat, dairy, eggs and fish comes from animals?
HC: I plan on him knowing this from the very beginning! I will be very honest with him where food comes from.

LL: How do you respond to people/doctors that say “you are hurting your baby”?
HC: I’ve been very lucky that my and my sons doctors are very supportive of my diet! My OB was so impressed with my bloodwork during my pregnancy that she actually was very on board.

LL: What resources/blog/websites/books help you the most?
HC: I’m a huge fan or Erin Ireland, she has a one year old she is raising vegan and she’s totally an inspiration to me! She shares amazing recipes and hard facts about nutrition and raising a healthy, happy vegan baby! I also love Oh She Glows, One Part Plant (Jessica Murnane), and Jenn, mountain mama.

LL: Anything else you would like to add?
HC: If I hadn’t been vegan before becoming a mother I would have after. I have never felt so much sympathy for another being. If someone tried to take away my baby at hours old I would fight them and that is the reality for dairy cows. They are mothers! Being a new mom has given me even more compassion for these ladies. I cannot imagine a more horrible existence, not only are their brand new babies stolen away but then they are hooked up to a pump which I can attest is a miserable experience. I don’t know how mothers can continue the use of dairy! I think people unfortunately would rather ignore or try to forget rather than make a change in their diet unfortunately!

The Future Is Vegan: Raising Compassion, Interview #4 with Jessica Rasekhi

For the fourth of six interviews with local mothers and mothers to be who follow a vegan lifestyle, Lauren Lockey interviewed Jessica Rasekhi, and her baby boy Kasper. See the interview below:

LL: What inspired you to become vegan and what is the biggest change you noticed in yourself?
JR: My husband actually inspired me to become vegan 2 months after our son Kasper was born. He had done a lot of reading and research on the subject, and had experienced many health benefits himself from transitioning to a vegan diet. He suggested that I watch the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives. I also read The China Study. Though I was reluctant, after learning more about the benefits of eating a plant based diet, it became the obvious choice for me to make for myself and my newborn baby boy. The first thing I noticed when I changed my diet was when I lost 10 lbs after only 3 weeks. I have never gained that weight back!

LL: Did you have cravings during your pregnancy and what were your amazing vegan alternatives?
JR: I wasn’t vegan during pregnancy. I was mostly vegetarian. I became completely plant based about 2 months after my son was born.

LL: Did you find it difficult to find vegan prenatals?
JR: I am not completely sure if the prenatal vitamins that I took were vegan. Again, I hadn’t made that change yet, and I was just looking for organic ingredients at the time.

LL: What has been your biggest obstacle in raising a vegan baby?
JR: It was difficult when close friends and family first questioned our decision to feed Kasper a vegan diet. Some considered it to be somewhat irresponsible and an unhealthy way to raise a growing child. I felt like I was always having to defend our decision to skeptical loved ones.

It has turned out that raising a vegan child has been a lot easier than I had anticipated. I found that early on I, myself, was one of my own biggest obstacles. I would worry needlessly about things in the distant future that would never come to fruition. Things like, “How hard it will be for Kasper to be the only vegan among his class mates.” Or, “How hard it will be to be a vegan kid during Halloween or other candy and treat centered holidays.” Or “We will always be telling him ‘No’ and ‘You can’t have that.'” And “What if he resents being different than everyone else.” But so far, none of these worries have ever been legitimate concerns. Kasper is confident, comfortable, and happy being raised on a plant based diet. Teachers at school have always been respectful and accommodating. Holidays have been wonderful and filled with plenty of vegan treats. Most friends and family have accepted our diet/lifestyle and respect our decision, especially now that they see how well Kasper has thrived being raised as a vegan kid for almost 6 years. 🙂

 

LL: What foods do you feed Kasper to make sure there is adequate nutrition? What about milk/formula alternatives?
JR: We have never questioned whether or not Kasper was getting adequate nutrition from eating a plant based diet. He was always a very healthy (and very chunky!) baby, toddler, and is currently a thriving little boy. He was breastfed past the age of 2, and he never needed any type of formula or milk supplement. He has never been underweight and he hasn’t ever had any nutrient deficiencies. We introduced him to a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables when he started eating solid foods at 6 months old. Now, at age 5, I’ve noticed that he is far less picky, and he eats a larger variety foods than many of his non-vegan peers. I always have parents commenting and saying things to me like, “How do you get him to eat like that?” “Wow! I can’t believe that he will eat raw kale.” “Does he really like sauerkraut and seaweed?” “My kids are such picky eaters and will only eat 3 kinds of foods, none of them being vegetables.” “That is so funny that Kasper actually knows the difference between different kinds of potatoes.” The key for us has been eating a variety foods from a young age.

LL: How do you handle the social pressures your child receives about eating meat and dairy?
JR: Since Kasper was raised from birth on a vegan diet, that is all that he knows. He has no desire to eat meat, or dairy products and they do not appeal to him in any way, whatsoever. Whenever meat is cooking somewhere, or even if we walk by the cheese section in the grocery store, he is so sensitive to the smell and he always mentions to me how “yucky” it smells to him. It is very interesting to observe this reaction in a child who has never had meat or dairy in his diet. He is naturally, almost intuitively and instinctively deterred from eating it. He won’t even touch vegan cheese.

LL: What did you say when Kasper makes the connection that meat, dairy, eggs and fish comes from animals?
JR: We talk very openly to Kasper about the food choices we make and why. We started talking to him about food and where it comes from as soon as he started to eat solid foods. We have found some great reading materials by the vegan children’s book author, Ruby Roth that are age appropriate. We don’t overwhelm him with graphic pictures or videos, but we are very upfront and honest with him about where meat and dairy products come from and why our family has chosen not to consume them.

LL: How do you respond to people/doctors that say “you are hurting your baby”?
JR: I have never had anyone respond to me in that way, luckily! It has been more subtle responses like, “But won’t he need more fat in his diet as a growing baby?” People also express the same concerns about lack of protein, B12, DHA, and calcium. Again, Kasper has never had any protein, B12 or calcium deficiencies. From my experience, people don’t really have a hard time with Kasper not eating meat…but it is much more difficult for them to understand not giving a baby/child any dairy products. Having a diet without cow’s milk, yogurt or cheese in it, regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not, is a really hard concept for some people to wrap their minds around for some reason.

LL: What resources/blog/websites/books helped you the most?

LL: Anything else you would like to add?
JR: I mentioned before that it hasn’t been hard for Kasper to resist the social pressures of eating meat or dairy products, because he simply has no desire to eat those things. But, what has been the most difficult for him is resisting non-vegan products like baked goods, candy, or dishes where things like milk, butter and eggs are easily masked. A lot of baked goods and treats look similar (vegan or not), and sometimes Kasper wants something at a family gathering, event ,or party that he knows he has had before and enjoyed in vegan forms. Things like cakes, cookies, donuts, candy, chocolate, and popcorn. I have to explain to him, “That isn’t vegan chocolate, it is milk chocolate.” Or, “Even though it is hard to tell, that popcorn actually has butter melted on it.” Or “That cookie is baked with eggs.” And the most recent one, “Those fries are fried in animal fat.” Even breads and rice can have dairy hiding in them. Once I explain the ingredients to him, he understands and it is no longer an issue. He has learned that he has to ask questions to find out if something is vegan or not. And if he is unsure, it is best just to say, “no, thank you.” We have been teaching him to look for and recognize certain symbols on packages and ingredient lists, so that he can feel empowered to start identifying the contents of items that aren’t obviously vegan to the naked eye.

Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment or question below.

The Future Is Vegan: Raising Compassion, Interview #3 with Lexi Purrington

For the third of six interviews with local mothers and mothers to be who follow a vegan lifestyle, Lauren Lockey interviewed Lexi Purrington, and her baby boy Sawyer. See the interview below:

LL: What inspired you to become vegan and what is the biggest change you noticed in yourself?
LP: Animals and health were my two main reasons to go vegan. The more I learned the more I realized I couldn’t live with myself supporting such a horrible, sad industry, let alone putting something like that in my body. I noticed almost immediately a change in my energy levels and mood.

LL: Did you have cravings during your pregnancy and what were your amazing vegan alternatives?
LP: I craved a lot of protein! I absolutely love Beyond Meat products but especially craved their burger. I also ate a lot of tempeh BLT’s and tofu scramble.

LL: Did you find it difficult to find vegan prenatals?
LP: Not at all! I was able to buy them through Amazon and Sprouts.

LL: What has been your biggest obstacle in raising a vegan baby?
LP: Unnecessary comments from others. I wish that people weren’t so afraid of the word ‘vegan’ and could grasp the concept that every nutrient found in animal products is originally found in plants and is so much less harmful to get straight from the source.

LL: What foods do you feed Sawyer to make sure there is adequate nutrition? What about milk/formula alternatives?
LP: Sawyer is still breastfeeding but eats everything we eat which consists mainly of fresh fruits and veggies, coconut milk yogurt, tofu, whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa, lentils, beans, and nut butters. We sprinkle nutritional yeast, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds on his meals as well.

LL: How will you handle the social pressures your child receives about eating meat and dairy?
LP: I think we’ll just try to lead by example. If he’s thriving people won’t have many bad things to say but I will raise him educated so he can stand up for his beliefs confidently as well.

LL: What will you say when your child makes the connection that meat, dairy, eggs and fish comes from animals?
LP: We have six rescue animals that my son absolutely loves so I think I’ll try to compare farm animals to our animals at home in order for him to see the connection from a personal point of view. I’ll show him all of the amazing meat/dairy alternatives there are so he doesn’t feel left out.

LL: How do you respond to people/doctors that say “you are hurting your baby”?
LP: So far I haven’t received much negativity but I plan to educate others as politely as possible in hopes of proving that veganism is the best start we can give our kids.

LL: What resources/blog/websites/books help/ed you the most?
LP: I loved the book “The Face on Your Plate” by Jeffrey Mousaieff Masson. Netflix also always has interesting new documentaries that I love to watch and Isa Does It is my go-to for recipes.

Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment or question below.

The Future Is Vegan: Raising Compassion, Interview #2 with Karen Riley

For the second of six interviews on vegan parenting, Lauren Lockey interviewed Karen Riley, another local to Park City, and her baby boy Jack. See the interview below:

LL: What inspired you to become vegan and what is the biggest change you noticed in yourself?
KR: The health benefits!! The physician I work with is plant based. I attended one of his presentations when I first started working with him and have never looked back! The biggest change that I have noticed in myself is that I don’t get ‘hangry’ anymore right before meal times. I also can eat as many fruits and veggies as I want!

LL: Did you have cravings during your pregnancy and what were your amazing vegan alternatives?
KR: I didn’t have any animal product cravings! Though I did eat my fair share of pineapples! Also, I couldn’t/can’t live without ice cream – Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy!!

LL: Did you find it difficult to find vegan prenatals?
KR: I did find it difficult to find vegan prenatal. Many of the prenatals are not vegan. I ended up just taking folic acid (along with my normal B12 and vitamin D) as I was eating a very balanced plant based diet that contained everything I needed!

LL: What has been/what will be your biggest obstacle in raising a vegan baby?
KR: My little guy is just 5 months old right now. He is exclusively breastfed. We will be introducing foods soon, so stay tuned!

LL: What foods do you feed Jack to make sure there is adequate nutrition? What about milk/formula alternatives?
KR: Right now, we are just doing breast milk. He is right on track for growth with mom’s vegan milk!

LL: How will you handle the social pressures your child receives about eating meat and dairy?
KR: I find this to be such an interesting topic! Why do kids have to eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese!? What about the need for social pressure I make sure the child is getting adequate servings of fruits and vegetables and real food! 😊

LL: What will you say when Jack makes the connection that meat, dairy, eggs and fish comes from animals?
KR: 😬 coming from the health perspective, I haven’t formulated an approach to this yet!

LL: How do you respond to people/doctors that say “you are hurting your baby”?
KR: It’s unfortunate that individuals and providers feel that way. It is also a bummer that health care providers get such limited nutrition education in their schooling and therefore are not completely educated on the topic.

LL: What resources/blog/websites/books helped you the most?
KR: minimalistbaker.com, nutritionfacts.org. I also enjoyed reading Skinny Bitch bun in the oven as well as Vegan Pregnancy survival guide.

 

Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment or question below.

 

The Future Is Vegan: Raising Compassion, Interview #1; mother to one, Jennifer Kilcomons

Despite contrary beliefs, a whole food plant only vegan lifestyle is absolutely healthy for you and your baby. Lauren Lockey sat down with 6 local mothers and mothers to be who follow a vegan lifestyle to discuss their experiences in pregnancy and raising their children vegan. These interviews will be shared one by one throughout the next few months.  This was in collaboration with Raise Vegan. See the first interview with Meatless in the Mountains Jennifer Kilcomons, mother to one, below:

LL: What inspired you to become vegan and what is the biggest change you noticed in yourself?
JK: When my family got a dog for the first time, spending time with that little puppy inspired me to become vegan. The biggest change was a feeling of ‘peace’ and that I had figured out one of the meanings of life!

LL: Did you have cravings during your pregnancy and what were your amazing vegan alternatives?
JK: I had cravings for sweets, and my go-to was Whole Foods vegan chocolate chip cookies, they are amazing!

LL: Did you find it difficult to find vegan prenatals?
JK: Not at all – I just did some researching online and could find what I needed either online or at Whole Foods.

LL: What has been/what will be your biggest obstacle in raising a vegan baby?
JK: I truly believe there are no obstacles! It’s very easy!

LL: What foods do you feed Sierra to make sure there is adequate nutrition? What about milk/formula alternatives?
JK: She drinks soy milk and almond milk, and eats fruits, veggies, whole grains, lentils, beans, sweet potatoes, almond butter, peanut butter and avocados. We also give her a multi vitamin and probiotic mixed in her soy milk every morning.

LL: How will you handle the social pressures Sierra receives about eating meat and dairy?
JK: So far it has been easy, she is so young so she is always with me and I bring her food everywhere. It will be challenging when she goes to school and goes to friend’s houses, but as long as we surround ourselves with kind, understanding friends and family we should not have any problems.

LL: What will you say when Sierra makes the connection that meat, dairy, eggs and fish comes from animals?
JK: Right now we’re just teaching her to love animals, when she makes the connection we will explain that she does not have to eat these foods and hopefully she’ll understand because she loves animals, and she’s not used to that food anyways.

LL: How do you respond to people/doctors that say “you are hurting your baby”?
JK: I try to keep it short and just let them know she gets plenty of protein and vitamins from her food, drinks and vitamins. She is happy, healthy, chubby cheeks and smiles, so seeing her speaks for itself.

LL: What resources/blog/websites/books helped you the most?
JK: I enjoyed reading “The Kind Mama” by Alicia Silverstone.

Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment or question below.

 

Thirsty First Thursday: August 3, 2017 at 6 pm

Join Sage Mountain: An Advocate for Farmed Animals for an evening of vital conversation and inspiration at Este Pizza  in Park City! We will be joined by Utah Animal Rights Coalition  director and SLC Vegfest organizer, Amy Meyer who will speak on behalf of the most recent First Amendment victory for farmed animals and update us with exciting news and speakers at this year’s Vegfest! We will also hear from local athlete and yogi, Michelle Sharer about her most recent Plant Powered Challenge and how this experience shifted her entire view on nutrition, health, and well-being. Virtual reality ianimal experiences will be available through our partnership with Animal Equality Appetizers are being graciously donated by Este pizza. Everyone is responsible for their own pizza and beverages. The event is outside in their courtyard which is absolutely lovely on a summer night. Hope to see you there!
RSVP to lauren@sagemtn.org

Feature Profile: Interview With Salt Lake Local About 10 Day Plant Powered Challenge

It has been about 1 month since 10 people finished the 10 day Plant Powered Challenge. Inspiration came from a film Sage Mountain, the Park City film series, and Vegfund hosted called “What The Health”. If you haven’t seen the film it can now be viewed on Netflix. The challenge, led by Kent Maurer, entailed consuming a whole food plant based diet for 10 days. All animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish were removed from their daily food choices. Everyone learned how and what to buy at the grocery store, how to order vegan meals at restaurants, watched educational films, attended a community potluck and met the animal ambassadors at Sage Mountain’s animal sanctuary, experienced a loving kindness meditation, went on a few hikes in Park City, received new recipes and daily emails from Kent about the momentum of this movement along with answers to any questions.

Lauren Lockey recently had the opportunity to interview one of the participants, Michelle Sharer. Michelle is 26 years old and  grew up just outside of Boston. She moved to Salt Lake to be near the mountains, worked as a web developer for 3 years, and now is a yoga instructor.

LL: What sparked your interest and commitment to do 10 day challenge? 

MS: I follow a lot of food blogs and Instagram accounts, and those had been inspiring me for a while to try this way of eating. I loved the idea of eating whole plants because even before I knew about the challenge I was already excited about avoiding processed foods. I also watched the Forks Over Knives documentary on Netflix. I knew the challenge would be a good way for me to be able to ask all of the questions I had about going plant based.

LL: What foods were you consuming before the challenge?

MS: Mostly everything. Lots of eggs. Dairy and meat too. I avoided processed foods and I was already a little bit     crazy about reading ingredients on food labels.

LL: Did you notice any immediate changes within the first few days? negative or positive

MS: The very first thing I noticed was that coffee with almond milk tastes better than coffee with cows milk! Within the first few days of the challenge, I felt different, a little tired, because I was still learning what to replace the animal foods I’d been eating with, so I ended up consuming less overall. Now I eat more snacks and add more toppings and that helped a ton.

LL: Give a few examples of some new foods/meals you discovered during the challenge

MS: Banana ice cream completely blew my mind (one ingredient – frozen bananas). I still eat it every day and every time I want to cry tears of gratitude to nature and the existence of bananas. And there are so many choices for add-ins too! Dates, peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, mango. My favorite breakfast is oatmeal. I literally go to bed every night excited for my peanut butter oatmeal in the morning. Another current obsession is toast – my two favorites are toast with hummus and raisins, and toast with avocado and salsa. 

LL: Did you ever find yourself unsatisfied during the challenge?

MS: Actually, what’s cool is I eat my favorite foods every day now. Before, I felt like I had to limit myself on things like pizza, ice cream, etc. Now I feel like I’m indulging in every meal. I stuff my face with banana ice cream every day and it feels great.

LL: what activities do you enjoy? Did you find you had more or less energy during the challenge?

MS: I love rock climbing, yoga, and mountain biking. At the beginning of the challenge I think I had less energy, but I still attribute that to not eating enough calories, but now that I know how to manage that better I feel great in terms of energy level!

LL: Are you presently plant powered?

MS: Yes I am!

LL: What was the highlight during the 10 days?

MS: The pot-luck! It was really inspiring to see and taste all of the delicious home-cooked plant-based food, AND be surrounded by amazing, like-minded individuals!

LL: Do you plan to stay plant powered?

MS: Absolutely. I wish I had started sooner

LL: What would you say to those considering this lifestyle?

MS: It might feel hard or extreme, and there’s kind of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it comes as naturally as ever. You’ll discover new and exciting things to try! Honestly, I enjoy eating more now than I did before. If someone is hesitant I would encourage them to start out by just changing one thing. Switching to almond milk or soy milk for example. Or try cooking one plant-based meal a week. Or jump in on Meatless Mondays. There are so many recipes and ideas out there and so many people who want to help you. The community embracing this way of eating is amazing right now.

 

You can follow Michelle on her plant powered adventures on instagram and facebook . Thank you Michelle for making such a positive impact on your health, the planet, and the lives of farmed animals and  please continue to share your experience with everyone around you!!
Stay tuned for another challenge this fall. Also mark your calendars for Plant Based Utah’s first annual Nutrition symposium this October featuring Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Ann Esselstyn, and producer of “Cowspiracy” and “What The Health”, Keegan Kuhn!!

Be gentle to yourself, animals, and others.

By Natalie Blanton

 

What has always remained so confusing, frustrating, and surprising to me is the bad taste in the mouth of our collective society when words such as “vegan” or “animal rights” are brought up.

I will most likely field some criticism for this — but I need to say something about living compassionately:

Yes, we live in a society that is built upon the backs of the most marginalized. Including animals.

Living compassionately should include the active elimination of harm, violence, and suffering inflicted upon all other humans, animals, and this planet, Earth.

Driscoll’s Workers Call for Global Boycott over Alleged Abuses at World’s Biggest Berry Distributor -- Read the Democracy Now story here.

Driscoll’s Workers Call for Global Boycott over Alleged Abuses at World’s Biggest Berry Distributor — Read the Democracy Now story here.

Granted, and unfortunately, you will never be 100% “cruelty-free” because animal products are in everything. And I mean everything. Beyond food, household cleaning products, medicine, and makeup, are all brutally, and unnecessarily, tested on animals. And those organic non-GMO veggies? They were most likely picked by migrant or undocumented farm workers, living under a cruel system/regime of oppression, non-livable wage, and silencing lack of representation. I would not qualify these fruits, vegetables, and products of industrial agriculture as “cruelty-free,” even if these processes do not involve harming animals directly.  

In light of all this doom and gloom? Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H. Neurologist, public health specialist, and author, gave me a great piece of advice: “Just do your best!” In continually seeking, creating and living a life free of violence and cruelty, there will always be that one obscure ingredient that, once you’ve researched the origins, you will be forever perplexed and saddened by our society. For now? Watch Dr. Akhtar’s TED talk here, regarding all of the reasons to keep fighting this good fight and pursuing this idea of “cruelty-free” no matter how difficult. In essence? Shop locally and ethically, never be silent about oppression, and keep educating yourself and your community.

Once you are veg, keep doing your best to stay veg.

If you are new to the plant-based life — first off, welcome. Second off, fun fact: Cheese has the same addictive properties as hard drugs. Because of this terrifying scientific fact, cravings are real. I get it. Even after many years of a vegan lifestyle — those can randomly rear their ugly heads. If there is something specific? Reach out to one of our Sage Mountain resources to ask, “Why do I miss fish so much?” or “I just can’t give up cheese,” etc. These are real questions with real answers and we live in a day and age when it is easier than ever to be vegan — with the right information, awareness, and understanding. So jump on it — reach out to any of us here at SM or local, incredibly knowledgable plant-based fitness and nutrition coaches: Lexi P., of element xii, Courtney Pool, etc.

Remind yourself why you went veg in the first place and surround yourself with support and community.

Realities of the dairy industry.

Realities of the dairy industry.

I would argue that people give veganism or plant-based living a bad wrap because of these fabled “vegans” themselves. But, you have to wonder why we are such a minority and why it is so wild for an individual to step back, say no, and abstain from consuming death and suffering at every meal/in their daily routine. I will never understand that by making the choice to go veg we become such a nuisance to society. Yes, vegans are outraged, and angry. But for good reason. We are not here to shame and blame you. We must understand that there are larger actors and systems at play here. And we are more angry at the society that continues to profit off of animal lives. The moment you open yourself up to the awareness and consciousness that is plant-based living, it is hard not to react with an incredulous, “How did I never know that milk is only produced by grieving mother dairy cows, after their baby was taken from them?” and other such sentiments.

 

It is hard enough having every meal, social gathering, restaurant visit, and drive down the interstate be a reminder and space of violence towards animals. You can not fight the good fight, sustainably and progressively, if you are weak, sick, or too depressed to go on. Compassion fatigue is real — and we must be wary of it as humans with our busy routines, plus this added layer of complexities and advocacy. Self Care is a must. Meeting other like-minded individuals helps in feeling less alone or weird in this social movement.

SelfCare-Colored

I encourage you to reach out to us, or other veg-inclined folk. These conversations are so rejuvenating, I promise. Come to our monthly vegan potlucks, #ThirstyFirstThursday events [there is one coming up this week at Este PC], SLC’s very own VegFest taking place on Sept. 10, or the SLC Vegan Facebook page’s meet-ups are amazing!

selfcaresundayBe gentle to yourself, animals, and others. There is an unhealthy amount of infighting in the plant-based, vegan, and animal rights movements. And these schisms between this community of like-minded, progressive individuals will only do more harm than good in pushing the momentum. If a veg individual decides to, for whatever reason, re-integrate animal products back into their lives — then that is on them. It is okay to feel angry and disappointed with that person, but do not shame and blame and kick and scream and yell, or call them a “sell-out”. This will only further wedge the divide between the individual and the veg-lifestyle/community. This is where that bad taste in the mouth comes from, and subsequently, the distaste for “vegans” in general. It is wasted energy and resources spent shaming, guilting, or pressuring people back into being fully veg. And it is not sustainable. People should make the transition to plant-based living for themselves, or whatever reasons feel right for them — that way, they are more likely to stay veg, and, as so many of us have realized, thrive. Take your vegan rage and channel it into new avenues — write your political representatives about the dismal state of animal agriculture, host a fundraiser for your favorite animal rights organization, or, meet up with youth in your community and have an honest conversation about all of the wonderful reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Art by Sue Coe.

Art by Sue Coe.

I understand it is easy to be frustrated with friends and family who remain [or return to being] stubborn omnivores. Most of my immediate environment of kin is not veg whatsoever. And that is okay. Remember, this world, unfortunately, revolves around the use and abuse of animals, and it is not “normal” to be vegan, yet. But the tide is shifting. And it is getting easier, more accessible, and celebrated by governments, health organizations, celebrities, and individuals alike. Do not lose your temper with people who have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth, or the windows opened into slaughterhouses. Or those who believe the self-congratulatory lies that the dairy and egg industries are profiting off of daily [see resources regarding these “happy farm animals” such as the Humane Myth, “Cage Free,” or Free Range Fraud].

 

You do you. And do your best. Keep fighting. For yourself, for the animals, and for this planet. Continue fostering these honest and vital conversations of awareness and advocacy. Because it matters. And this is a brave, valiant and hard fight.
We are all here for you. And we must do this together.

“Sexiest Vegan Next Door” to Speak at this Week’s #ThirstyFirstThursday

By Natalie Blanton

In June, Dexter Mel Thomas, a Salt Lake City resident, was voted the 2016 PETA’s Sexiest Male Vegan Next Door. This news has rocked international headlines because Dexter is PETA’s first-ever out transgender winner.

b yapur photo of dexter and g

Dexter with his rescue pit-bull, Gany. Photo by photographer, B. Yapur.


I don’t recall the exact moment I met Dexter. It may have been at an animal rights protest against
Lagoon’s abominable zoo a few years back, or it may have been in a fit of mutual commiseration on the University of Utah campus where he and I are both doctoral students. Wherever it was, I am so grateful our paths have crossed, because Dexter has always been such a brilliant, brave, resilient, and compassionate force to be reckoned with.

PETA’s bio of Dexter reads as such:

Dexter has been vegan since age 17 and even led a successful campaign for vegan meal options in his high school cafeteria—but he dropped out because of the adversity he faced as a transgender student. Dexter was determined to become the best advocate for animals and homeless LGBTQ youth that he could be, so he obtained a GED, graduated summa cum laude from college, and is now a Ph.D. student of social psychology at the University of Utah.

“I learned first-hand that people are capable of immense cruelty toward others who they perceive to be inferior to them,” says Dexter. “When I started to realize that this attitude drives transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and so on, I also realized it fuels outdated attitudes toward other animals. This is part of what motivated me to go vegan when I was 17.”

Among many other efforts to help animals and humans, he has worked to oppose rodeos put on the Utah Gay Rodeo Association—highlighting the link between the oppression of human and nonhuman animals—and volunteered at the Utah Pride Center, serving as a mentor and an activity organizer for LGBTQ youth. Before pursuing his Ph.D., he spent almost two years with the National Institutes of Health researching ways to promote health and well-being, including understanding cyberbullying of sexual-minority youth, combating the allure of unhealthy food, and promoting healthy plant-based meals.

I am beyond excited for Dexter and the recognition, celebration, and light he is shining on the devastating effects of gender inequality across the globe, and its parallels to the animal liberation movement. “I am beyond excited and honored to win,” Thomas told VegNews. “Especially now during an extremely dark time for LGBTQ+ people. This is welcome and important because this isn’t about me. This is recognition that reflects the heart of many people who have chosen to stand tall and to extend love and kindness. There are so many different kinds of beauty in the world. Trans is beautiful, diversity is beautiful, and compassion is beautiful.”

total libI have come to understand that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that all oppression is linked. I am so inspired and excited by advocates and activists, like Dexter, who are fighting the good fight on all fronts — against the silencing and marginalization of animals, humans, and the Earth alike. Here’s to YOU, Dexter!

This week, Dexter will be one of our featured speakers at our July Thirsty Thirsty Thursday event taking place Thursday, July 7th, 7pm at Zest in Salt Lake City. Facebook event can be found here. The event is open to the public, though the venue is 21+. A portion of the food and drink sales will go directly to the Sage Mountain mission.

Along with Dexter, this Thursday evening, we will hear from Courtney Pool, the incredible, local, plant-based nutrition and health coach who wrote an amazing guest blog for us a few weeks back, read her Tips from a 10-year Vegan here! The evening will also feature a special update on SLC VegFest  from our friends at Utah Animal Rights Coalition!

We hope you can join us on Thursday — for what is sure to be a vital, progressive, and powerful dialogue and a truly enjoyable evening!