I Don't Love Animals

You read that right. I am not an animal lover.

Very recently, my partner and I contemplated the idea of rescuing a dog. I felt uneasy because most of the reasons that made us decide not to have a child (nothing to do with veganism) are the ones that would make me not want to rescue a dog. I don't want the responsibility, the constant involvement required for their mental health, etc. The companionship of an animal does not deeply improve my quality of life, and when it comes to a dog, I think the responsibility outweighs the benefits.

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@harashog?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Sarah G.</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/confused-dog?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Sarah G. on Unsplash

And Yet, You're a Vegan?

Now, yes, I am vegan, and I didn't need a lot of convincing to go vegan. All I had to do was to sit and watch Earthlings to the end. Really, there is no argument against it. I don't need to have a natural, intrinsic empathy for the animals being abused to agree that what is done to them is horrendous, and needs to stop as soon as possible. All I need to do is to think logically about the issue, regardless of how I innately relate to the victims.

The sheer amount of cruelty that is done to non-human animal victims in the industries in which they are abused should be enough to have any one of us want to tear our eyes out and forget we saw it. Ask any carnist to sit through Earthlings or Dominion, and 99 out of 100 times the answer is: "I don't want to see it. It will make me feel bad about my food choices".

(Not to mention clothing, cosmetics, entertainment, etc.)

Yet, when a carnist sees a vegan, they'll often think that "those animal lovers" don't understand that this is a natural thing. In their mind, we vegans are above all a group of people who love non-human animals so much, who emphasize with them so much, that we put their well being above ours, and their rights above humans'. And that we should be fighting for other human causes that still need fighting for, instead of for "a bunch of animals". But this is far from the truth.

I am fine in my urban environment; I don't feel the need for a "reconnection with nature"; I don't think a non-human animal companion is absolutely required for my well-being; I don't think there is "true innocence and love" in the way a non-human animal cares, etc, etc. Yet, I know I don't need their flesh and secretions to stay healthy and properly nourished. So, why finance the tremendous abuse these sentient beings go through? For simple 10 minutes of pleasure? When I have even alternatives for that same pleasure? It's not even like I am giving up anything - the pleasure is still there even if I don't partake in financing animal abuse.

An Issue of Justice - And Abuse in a Scale without Comparison

If you are not vegan and you are wondering why I am referring to obtaining animal products as abuse, please, watch both the documentaries I mentioned above. I won't do you the disservice of describing the atrocities to you, as that would only diminish their cruelty. I really need you to see them for yourself, like I once did myself.

Now, if I don't love animals, why do I engage actively in this cause, when there are so many others where humans are being harmed?

Because in none of them the level of cruelty and depravity is so widespread, accepted, and encouraged by society. We are talking outright breeding, murder, torture - physical and psychological -, in industrial proportions. So bizarre it dwarfs any other injustice happening in the world. You'd need to harm a thousand times the human population to reach the same order of magnitude (billion x trillions) of what is done to non-humans in a single year. I am not exaggerating. (You really need to watch those documentaries for you to understand the depths of the depravity I am talking about. Do not chastise me for comparing human and non-human suffering - first, see it for yourself.)

Because in demanding animal liberation, we will achieve human liberation. Because when we do not think of ourselves as superior to the point of breeding, torturing and murdering a sentient being for the simple take of sensorial pleasure, we will think twice about using superiority to justify any prejudice towards a fellow human.

All Systems of Oppression Begin with Speciesism

I cannot, without being a hypocrite, demand an end of prejudice and bias based on human characteristics, and stay silent about the one based on species. I just cannot demand trans rights, black people's rights, native people's rights, women's rights, and stay silent about animal rights. The core logic of all these plights is based on the system of oppression that starts with: "humans are naturally superior to animals". From there, "dogs are superior to pigs", "men are superior to women", "whites are superior to black", etc. Therefore, yes, I will speak and engage on all human causes. But intersectionality is moot if animal rights are also not part of the fight.

When we care for a fellow earthling, it shouldn't matter that earthling's skin color, gender, wealth or species.

And I don't need to love any particular set of species to be aware of that. I just need to be able to care. So no, I don't love animals. Yet I must be the voice they don't have.

Banner photo by Jonas Vincent on Unsplash



Activist Burnout And Emotional Fatigue: Identify It, Understand It, Mitigate It

There was nothing particularly special about this day. It was a rare dry moment between showers, and the busy shopping lane was crowded with hurried blurs, occasionally coming into focus as people when they stopped to look at the graveyard of billboards and informational materials on the connection between animal exploitation and our diets, the remains of the protest.

Many people actually reacted in the exact way any person in my situation would want them to. Disgust, shock, the initial signs of possible change. And yet, I didn’t feel any joy. I felt annoyed. The passersby annoyed me. My fellow activists annoyed me. Sitting there annoyed me.

This had been escalating for some time. I was slowly but surely burning out. Many do, and iconic activists and YouTubers such as Bite-Sized Vegan and the ever-controversial Gary Yourofsky, had already said their (temporary?) goodbyes. But I didn’t want a goodbye. Even temporary. I needed to fix this.

Activist Burnout: A Definition

My experience was not a unique one. According to recent pioneering research papers such as Gorski’s Fighting racism, battling burnout, a large number of activists pick up battle scars that can, at some point in their activist career. This has regularly led to symptoms consistent with burnout as experienced in any high-stress profession.

Targeted research into animal welfare activist burnout is still relatively scarce and as of now, limited to a handful of research papers, but considering the universal experience of burnout, alternative sources of research can be used as a guideline. According to research published by the World Psychiatry Association (WPA), there are three main responses individuals suffering from activist burnout display, which are exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and a general sense of ineffectiveness. Thinking back when I was sitting on the street after the protest, it was a feeling of cynicism that had taken hold. I was tired, and my actions felt like they didn’t have the effect I really wished they did. But, before I could even start to think about attempting to alleviate these responses, there were deeper matters that needed to be addressed.

Research published in the Social Movement Studies Journal has shown that common sources of animal activist burnout are related to negative organization cultures and sensitivity to motivational and psychological factors. And I decided I should examine each of these in order to pinpoint actionable steps I could take.

The Inevitable Strain Of The Continuous Inner And Outer Battle

I became a vegetarian when I was 14, which evolved into veganism over time. As the years progressed, the work I was doing and the research I was conducting, was starting to leave their mark. And while, in retrospect, this happened due to a combination of reasons, there was one particular source that set it all into motion at an accelerated rate.

Just like many of my fellow activists, I was slowly accumulating a mass of verbal aggression and criticism from those not open to the message we were trying to share. A 2015 study confirmed what I was experiencing several years prior to its publication, that vegans and vegetarians often face prejudice on par with other minorities, and spur negative emotions in others. I had always thought this would not happen to me in an overt way, since my activism was never about seeking out individuals to target. I’ve always believed people should come to certain facts and truths in their own way, and the best thing for us to do was to put those facts and truths out there in an accessible way.

But however much I tried to combine harsh truths with a gentle approach, it still rubbed certain people the wrong way. And while their actual negativity or verbal abuse didn’t faze me as such, the fact that so many people could be confronted with horrible facts and not even attempt to make even the smallest changes, was beyond me.

In this and many more ways, activism is intensely emotional work. And according to Emotion work in animal rights activism: A moral-sociological perspective, an article outlining the results of a series of interviews with Swedish activists and advocates, I had fallen victim to an intense manifestation of one of their 5 types of “emotion work” – containing.

  • Containing refers to suppressing negative emotions in an environment where exposure to negativity, confrontation, and criticism is common.

The other types of emotion works are:

  • Ventilation, referring to the acts releasing the emotions.
  • Ritualization, summoning emotional energy needed to keep the cause and its contributors moving forward.
  • Micro-shocking, referring to the exposure to certain events that shock and transform. A prime example of this is observing the inner workings of a farm and the effect it has on animals.
  • Holding on to feelings of guilt for not being able to do enough and help all the animals.

There is no singular cause that leads to burnout. “Containing” was, from my perspective, the tinder that caused factors that are part of the trade, the freedom to fully ignite and start wreaking havoc in my mind. The continuous exposure to cruelty and suffering, the consistent emotional investment that was required, the often-low return on that emotional investment, and the eternal desire to do more than we actually physically, mentally, and even financially can, all played a part.

Yes, I had turned cynical. But not for long. I had come to realize that occasional cynicism, burnout, and emotional fatigue, were inherent to the activist’s life. And while none of these were enough of a reason for me to step away, I couldn’t deny its power. So, in order to mitigate the perhaps inevitable future crumble of my mental resilience, I had started to set some standards for myself and the communities I engaged with.

Manage Personal Care And Communal Support

As much as burnout is inherent to activism and advocacy, a sustainable support network should be as well.

I am glad I experienced emotional fatigue since it gave me the tools and insight to handle any future challenges more effectively. It is possible to break under consistent stresses and pressure. But it is just as possible to bounce back and gain wisdom from it. And while some actions will need to be taken by you personally, your community should also be equipped to intervene when needed. In order to successfully mitigate activist burnout and emotional fatigue, keep the following points in mind.

  • ‘You’ are resilient, but ‘we’ are even more so. Most animal rights activists join communities. And while I have been part of some excellent organizations, others didn’t always get it right. Since the notion of burnout in the animal welfare sector is not extensively researched yet, it is up to the organizations to recognize the condition and its aggressors and perhaps even collect their own data. In doing so, they should be able to offer appropriate support to mitigate its effects. Faunalitics’ 2020 study on The State Of Animal Advocacy In The U.S. & Canada, lists burnout (21%) as one of the leading reasons for activists to, either temporarily or permanently, step away from advocacy. But the number one cause, they concluded, relates to problems with leadership (40%). If you feel you are part of an organization where this kind of support is lacking, do not hesitate to bring it up!
  • Haven passed through a rough patch with the activist lifestyle has taught me to recognize the symptoms in others and to intervene. In fact, research has shown that while vegans and vegetarians display high levels of empathy when exposed to animal suffering, these levels tend to be lower when they are confronted with human suffering. Empathy for animals is usually what brings us together, but we should remember that this empathy should extend to each other as well.
  • Any person who has suffered from burnout, whether it was related to advocacy or not, will tell you that you need to maintain balance in your life. You should allow yourself the freedom to step away from the intensity of the fight now and then.
  • Practice self-care, no matter what this care means to you. For me, it means taking long hikes, immersing myself in nature, and meditating.

The Takeaway

Burnout and emotional fatigue are part of the territory for any passionate activist. But that is all the more reason to incorporate it into the inner workings of each organization and also into our personal lives. If consistently handled with care, activist burnout may be mitigated to the degree that activists and advocates will no longer step away from the cause permanently. And if a network of support and self-care is set in place from the start, stepping away even temporarily may lessen significantly. I won’t lie. It can and will get hard. But we are resilient. And we can do this.

All Beauty, No Pain- 5 Best Vegan Beauty Brands

One of the main frustrations I hear from people when talking about going vegan is that they don’t want their life to change too much, and I totally get that. Luckily, in regards to food, there are so many alternatives out there now to choose from, but veganism isn’t just a diet. A vegan lifestyle includes being compassionate towards animals in all areas of our consumption, including things like clothes and beauty products.

Makeup Isn’t Vegan? 

When it comes to beauty products and makeup, you may be shocked to discover that many of them are not vegan. Although it is a practice that is declining, animal testing of makeup products still occurs across the world. This can refer to a series of heartbreaking practices such as skin and eye irritation tests as well as the forced consumption of chemicals to screen for health hazards and lethal dosages. Fortunately, times are changing- a poll administered by the organization Cruelty-Free International in 2019 showed that 88% of Canadians would support a federal law prohibiting the testing of cosmetic products on animals. As well, more and more makeup brands have enthusiastically adopted vegan and cruelty-free production methods, and we love to see it.

I’ve compiled a list of some of the best vegan brands out there, all featuring cruelty-free practices and completely plant-based formulas. There is something on here for every makeup user, whether you’re more of a lipstick lover or eyeshadow enthusiast, these brands have got you, and the animals, covered!

5 Fantastic Vegan Beauty Brands

Sabreen Cosmetics

Products: Lipstick

It is no secret that many beauty brands have missed the mark on inclusivity as well as cruelty-free practices, however, Sabreen Cosmetics is changing this one lipstick at a time. When asked why they feel it is important for brands to commit to vegan products, their response was bang on. Sabreen Cosmetics believes that vegan makeup is important for two key reasons- the prevention of harm to animals, and the superior quality of plant-based formulas. They stated: “vegan ingredients typically are not harmful to the body, and are beneficial to the environment”, also mentioning, “we believe testing on animals is not effective, and extremely harmful to animals”. With a variety of high-performing and accessible shades, all cruelty-free and sustainably packaged, Sabreen Cosmetics has truly changed the game. 

Shine By SD Cosmetics

Products: Eyeshadow, highlighter, eyeliner, lipstick

With Shine By SD Cosmetics, the days of “no-makeup-makeup” are in the past. This brand showcases electrifying shades of eyeshadow and beautifully iridescent highlighters, which are all 100% vegan products. Not only are these products beautifully handcrafted with love, but they’re affordable too! When asked why they feel it is important to manufacture vegan products, the answer was something that I think rings true for everyone: “The safety and wellbeing of animals are very important”. Although straightforward, this principle is unfortunately ignored by so many companies, but not this one! Their vegan formula helps ensure human safety as well by using gentle, natural ingredients instead of harmful chemicals. Next time you’re looking for a bold makeup look or just a bit of sparkle, Shine By SD Cosmetics is the perfect brand to support.

Axiology Beauty

Products: Multipurpose balm, lipstick, highlighters

Not only is Axiology a vegan-owned, cruelty-free makeup brand, but its products range from plastic-free to zero packagings as well! The award-winning balmies are arguably the coolest product sold by Axiology- a multipurpose pigment stick that functions as blush, lipstick or eyeshadow. What started as a small business is now sold at big-name retailers such as Sephora and Ulta, paving the way for other sustainable and vegan makeup brands. 

EspressOh

Products: brow gel, mascara, lipstick, eyeshadow, concealer, highlighter

EspressOh makeup products bring a new meaning to morning pick me up. True to the name, EspressOh products contain genuine caffeine as a part of their vegan and non-toxic formulas. On top of that, this brand is a carbon-neutral company and has ditched plastic from all secondary packaging. Although many brands tout “clean” products, EspressOh is fully committed to the concept throughout their manufacturing, and packaging processes. 

Gabriel Cosmetics

Products: skincare, full face range of makeup

In a time when most beauty products are only focused on aesthetics, it is easy to forget about the less-than-beautiful reality that is harmful chemicals and animal testing. Inspired by the homeopathic teachings of his grandmother, Gabriel decided to change the beauty landscape and introduce natural and vegan cosmetics into a market saturated with unnatural ingredients and cruel practices. Gabriel’s early experiences with coastal life and holistic practices cemented a passion for products that are good for the body, earth, and animals. Since the brand’s launch, its inventory has branched out from botanical skincare to a well-established array of makeup products in a variety of shades. Not only can you rely on safe and fantastic formulas from the products, but you can be sure that no animals were harmed in the making! 

Being a Conscious Consumer, Always

Seeing as there are so many fantastic vegan beauty products out on the market today to choose from, you do not have to worry about trading in your mascara and foundation when you go vegan. However, even with this variety of brands, it is always important to research the companies you shop from to ensure you’re not financially supporting cruel practices. If you’d like to learn more about veganism and cosmetics, check out our page Vegan Bootcamp for more information.




Common Myths About Veganism

It seems like everywhere you look recently, there’s a discussion about veganism. From social media to scientific journals and everywhere in between - veganism is officially a hot topic. In fact, Google search trends show that queries regarding veganism have increased in search volume by an astonishing 47% in 2020! This lends credence to the idea that more and more people are becoming concerned about the effects of animal eating on our health, our planet, and the animals themselves, and are looking for more information. 

But with more interest, comes more misinformation - and we’ve certainly seen a rise in “anti-vegan” sentiment, including many often-repeated and convenient myths that make veganism seem silly or untenable.  

To dispel some of the misinformation floating about, we’ll tackle 5 commonly repeated myths about veganism below.

Myth #1 - Vegan food is expensive

You’ll often hear people cite cost as a reason they cannot go vegan. Certainly, there are all kinds of vegan specialty products - usually mock meats and cheeses - that carry price tags similar to conventional milk and dairy. 

However, the bulk of any healthy vegan diet is going to consist of a variety of dirt-cheap staples. Whole grain cereals, rice, pasta, bread, and grains make up the base of a million different delicious and creative dishes. Add seasonal fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy-based products such as tofu and tempeh and you’ve got a huge variety of cheap, and healthy meals.

The poorest people in the world eat the least amount of meat - that’s not a coincidence. 

Myth #2 - Vegan diets are unhealthy

Although vegan diets are considered healthy and safe for all life stages by many top Dietetics Associations the world over, the idea that you cannot be healthy on a fully plant-based diet is a pervasive one. One of the major concerns often cited is that vegan diets lack sufficient protein. However, tempeh, tofu and seitan are packed with protein, as are nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, legumes and other staples of the diet. 

All animals require protein - even the animals that you eat. And they manage to grow rapidly on the plant-based proteins we feed them. In fact, the majority of the protein eaten on the planet is plant-based, with animal products contributing only 37% of global protein. 

A well-planned whole food, plant-based diet is tied to lower rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancers - which is great news for our health!

Myth #3 - Vegan diets require supplementation


Another health concern commonly repeated is that a vegan diet requires heavy supplementation which makes it an unhealthy diet. Although many vegans choose to take vitamin B12 and an Omega3 supplement for convenience’s sake, it’s quite easy to get all the necessary building blocks of a healthy diet with just a few fortified products. 

Vitamins are added to cow’s milk before you drink it, so the same vitamins can be added to almond, soy, oat or coconut milk. There are many articles devoted to adding protein, iron, omega 3s, B12, and more to your vegan diet by choosing specifically fortified or nutrient-rich foods.

Furthermore, supplementation isn’t a “vegan thing” - in fact, over three-quarters of Americans take dietary supplements each year. Supplementation only seems to be an issue for most people if they’re doing it to save animal lives. 

Myth #4 - Humans have evolved to eat meat, therefore they must continue to do so

It is undeniable that the availability of nutrition from animal products certainly helped our ancestors evolve these complex, large brains that have made us the most dominant animals on the planet. However, there is new research showing that our Neanderthal ancestors ate diets far heavier in carb-rich plant foods than in meat, suggesting that carbohydrates, rather than animal foods made up the bulk of our evolutionary diet.

No matter what prehistoric humans ate, modern man is an omnivore. While an omnivore can digest both animal products and vegetation, they are not REQUIRED to do so in any specific ratio. Very large and successful omnivores, such as black bears, will eat as little as 10% meat to 90% plant foods. 

Our ability to digest cooked meats doesn’t necessitate meat-eating, it simply means that we can if we choose to. 

Myth #5 - Vegan diets cause more environmental harm than meat does

One of the strangest myths regarding a vegan diet that has recently surfaced is the idea that not eating animals causes MORE harm to the environment than eating them does. This is such a strange myth because according to the David Suzuki Foundation: “Livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land use, occupies 30 percent of the planet's land surface and is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.”

This idea seems to stem from the fact that vegans tend to eat more soy-based foods, and we’ve all read about the Amazon forest being clear-cut to plant more soya. In reality, almost all of the world’s soya - 80% of it - is grown to be fed to farmed animals. So when they’re clear-cutting the rainforest, it’s not for tofu, it’s for the soy meal fed to pigs, cows, and chickens all over the world.

In reality, going vegan can help you reduce your impact on climate change immensely as factory farming impacts not only emissions but land use, water use, deforestation, and pollution.   

With all of the information out there about veganism today, it can be hard to separate the truth from fiction - hopefully, this article has helped clear up some of your common misconceptions about veganism. You can find more information about choosing to go vegan here at our Vegan Bootcamp


Feed the Right Gut Bacteria: how your taste changes after going vegan

A Barbecue on a Cold Spring Day

It was the first warm(ish) day of spring in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Early April 2021. For those who know our climate, they know wintery weather sticks around until late May, so a day with sunshine in April, despite the wind, was enough to get me and my partner in some grilling mood. We prepared our line-up for that afternoon: brussel sprouts, snow peas, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers - and yes, a few Beyond burgers and sausages. To be very honest, I was excited the most about the brussel sprouts and snow peas. In mentioning that to my partner, they remarked: “I still can’t believe you are excited about those things”.


Yep. That was a very significant change for me. Because, not 18 months ago, I could not withstand putting any of those things - save for the Beyond stuff, of course - in my mouth. A year and a half ago, when I went vegan, trying to eat any of those treats I was excited for would have made me retch. So it got me thinking.

You may wonder whether I visited a dietitian and went through a very effective eating reeducation program, no?

I didn’t. All I did after I went vegan was to eat vegan junk food.

The Pickiest of Picky Eaters

Seriously. The first time I tried to go vegan was in 2006. Back then, my partner and I had just moved in together. We were 19, and still highly dependent on our parents. But somehow, before YouTube was a real thing, my partner got their hands on a copy of Earthlings. They asked me to watch it with them and I did. You may expect the outcome: vegan on the spot. I just could not, like most after sitting through the whole documentary, take part in what I just saw. So the next few days we were faced with a problem: my taste was worse than a picky toddler’s.

I would eat rice, potatoes, dairy and meat. That’s it. I didn’t like fruits. I liked no vegetable other than white rice. I didn’t even like most cheeses. I wouldn’t eat beans, chickpeas, quinoa, not a single leaf, not a single root, nothing. Potatoes and rice - those were the only things in the vegetable kingdom I could eat. So after a few weeks of trying, I gave up. There was literally nothing out there save for rice and potatoes that I could stand to eat.

Fast forward to 2019. All those years I carried the guilt in my head. I knew the right thing was to be vegan, but I thought I just couldn’t do it. My taste was still that of a child. One fine evening, we walked into a local grocery store, and we saw Beyond Meat. Immediately it caught our attention, and after we tried it, I said: “That’s it. This is the thing. Even if this is the only meat I’ll ever have, now I can go vegan. I have no more excuses!” My partner, of course, was thrilled about it, and not two months later, we were attending vigils and Cubes of Truth!

So plant-based substitutes became the staple of what I ate. Nothing changed, but instead of flesh and secretions, the centre of my plates were plant-based alternatives. Six months later, my partner made some spinach soup for themselves. I would usually hate the smell of cooked spinach. But that day, something felt different. It smelled the same but… I was not repulsed? Much, on the contrary, the smell attracted me. I reluctantly asked to try it… and I loved it. Not only it had spinach in it, but it also had peas, barley, corn and green beans.

Each time I brought the spoon to my mouth I prepared to retch, my brain made me pre-frown away from it. But when I actually tasted the contents… I not only liked it - I had true pleasure from the taste! We could not believe that - I ended up sharing the whole batch with my partner, and we were legitimately awe-struck with what had just happened.

The following weeks, as the excellent cook and partner they are, they helped me through lots of things I could not tolerate before - which at that time was pretty much the entirety of the whole food - plant-based options. Some things, like bell peppers and tomatoes, I still hadn’t grown into, but they didn’t bother me like before. It was a preference not to have them, instead of full-blown repulsion.

You’ll note we had bell peppers in our barbecue this spring. Because that shift didn’t stop there, 6 months after going junk food vegan. As time passed, my taste expanded to include more and more items. Nowadays, I can think of only two things I don’t like: pickles and okra.

But the real question is: How did this happen?!

Feed the Right Little Guys

I had no intentional program of reeducation to participate in. All I did was eat my junk food the same way I always had, except it was now plant-based. So I tried to look into the science of it. Was it something known to nutritionists and doctors, and dietitians, but, because of the carnist paradigms of those sciences, they just ignored it completely?

It seems to me that the prevailing answer is: yes, they know it, but they didn’t lock the details around it yet.


We have some hitchhikers in our guts that actually are more like the floor workers of our digestive tract factory floor - the microbiome. These are microorganisms that do the leg work that allows us to digest our food. Without them, our intestines would not be able to function properly. And turns out, they do way more than help with digestion. They compete with each other for resources, and one of the ways that they do it is to affect our cravings and our perception of taste, so we give them more of what they want.

That’s right: the little invisible minions inside your belly affect your cravings and taste.

Now, I cannot hope to actually describe the interactions that happened in my body to make such a drastic change happen. A quick search on the topic will tell you the details, but the gist of it is - somehow, through some process, scientists still cannot understand,the foods your microbiome crave have a higher chance to be craved by you. Those little folks know what they want, and they want you to want it too!

So, I believe that what happened to me is that, over my early years, I fed only the bad ones. But after going vegan, even while eating stuff that tastes like flesh and secretions, I effectively starved the microorganisms that fed on that. Over the course of my first 6 months being vegan, slowly they faded away, and with them, the dark desire for things unholy! At the same time, my gut microbiome was now filled with guys who love some good plant-based foods. And no need for the junk, anymore - the whole food things satisfied them as well. And apparently, they now satisfy me too.

The mechanisms of how this happens are still to be fully understood by science. But anecdotal evidence among vegans is everywhere. Other vegans may not have started as bad as I did, but most if not all of us experienced a vast broadening of our taste senses. And with that, our ability to, yes, enjoy roasted brussel sprouts. But not only that - it enables us to eat healthy foods that otherwise we would not be able to enjoy.

Picky Eaters Can Go Vegan

So if this is something that holds you back - if you don’t like eating your greens - don’t let this prevent you from doing the right things and go vegan. There are enough substitutes out there to carry you through the first months, and when you least expect, your microbiome will have done the work for you. The bad guys will have starved out, and you will most likely be free to know and enjoy food pleasure you didn’t know before. At the same time, you will no longer crave flesh and secretions. Because the microbiome in you that craves them will be gone.

As a result, you will be able to pair the ethical ease of mind of doing the right thing with the capacity to enjoy all the many pleasures that plant-based eating can bring! Win, win, win. You, your health, your consciousness. And, of course, the animals who will no longer be bred and die in your name.


Boneless Brawn Pt II - Alex Morgan

What's your favorite animal? Is it a dog? How about a cat? Definitely not a human the way we treat each other. Yes, there's a clear distinction but we are all beasts in our own way. Also, most would never think of eating a dog, or a cat or a human. A pig though; depends on your beliefs. Same for a cow. Lines are drawn, between edible and inappropriate. 

Professional Women's Soccer Player Alex Morgan recognized these boundaries for what they are. Bullshit. As a forward, she did what came naturally, attacked them by going vegan. 

"Wendy Acosta; Alex Morgan" by US Embassy Canada is marked with CC PDM 1.0

"Wendy Acosta; Alex Morgan" by US Embassy Canada is marked with CC PDM 1.0


Morgan has been vegan since 2017. She was vegan during the US Women's National Team (USWNT) 2019 World Cup Championship run. She tied USWNT co-captain Megan Rapinoe for most goals in the tournament with six, winning the Silver Boot (2nd most tournament goals, 2nd due to playing more minutes).

She also broke the mold of what she thought was possible on a vegan diet. “If anything, it makes me stronger and helps with fatigue and recovery”. 

In the USWNT’s 13-0 rout of Thailand, Morgan tied the World Cup single-game goals record with five. Vegan or not, Morgan scores a lot. 

Considering Morgan has been a world-class footballer (what soccer players are called damn near everywhere but the US) since her debut in 2011, why try to fix what wasn't "broken"? Blue; the name of Morgan's dog and the bark behind her plant-based bite. 

"It didn't feel fair to have a dog I adore and yet eat meat all the time," Morgan said in a Q & A with Reuters

Morgan has continuously reiterated that she is down for animals, telling the Santa Barbara Independent that if not for soccer she would be, “advocating for adopting rather than buying animals, or protecting endangered animals from poachers.”

Confronted with the realities of an omnivorous diet and being exposed to veganism through her Orlando Pride teammate Toni Pressley, she switched to veganism and has not looked back.

Yet, Morgan is still serving looks. She was named PETA’s Most Beautiful Vegan Celebrities for 2019, along with professional basketball player Kyrie Irving. Vegan or not, Morgan still rocks a 2-piece.

"Alex Morgan - Health US Magazine Photoshoot - June 2016" by centuryblack9 is marked with CC PDM 1.0

"Alex Morgan - Health US Magazine Photoshoot - June 2016" by centuryblack9 is marked with CC PDM 1.0


Ultimately, Alex Morgan can serve as a role model for what happens when one doesn't just buy into the narrative. Whether by being vegan and advocating for animal rights or fighting the USSF for equal pay for women, she's a straight shooter.

Ultimate Vegan Gift Guide

Gifts are always difficult to choose, even for those we know well. If your vegan friend's birthday is coming up and you're still not sure what to buy, this short guide will help you find a gift (or at least a category!) they will appreciate.


First of all, gifts depend greatly on personalities, there’s no universal “gift for vegans”, so bear that in mind. But there are some non-vegan products vegans are sometimes gifted and left in an awkward position, so let’s check these first.

Things not to get for a vegan

Leather

Sounds obvious, but can be sneaked into many normally-looking products. Belts, purses, accessories, even trousers with a small leather brand label. Double-check the materials before purchasing.

Cosmetics

The most misleading label of them all: cruelty-free. Cruelty-free only means that a product was not tested on animals. But it could still contain animal-derived ingredients! If there’s no vegan label on the bottle or a brand’s website, probably best not to buy it.


Tacky things with the word vegan on them

Not such a long time ago, someone thought: “What do all vegans have in common? Being vegan? I should capitalize on that!” This was the start of the practice of making ugly things and writing a word on them: keychains, tote bags, t-shirts, etc. If they have a cool message or graphics (and if the person likes such things), sure, why not. But if these items only have this word slapped on with zero aesthetics, it’s obviously a cash grab.

So, what gifts to buy for vegans?

Donations

Nothing speaks louder than money. However, receiving money seems a bit impersonal, like we haven't put in the effort to think about a gift. This is where vouchers and donations come in. Find an animal sanctuary they like or a cause they care about and donate the amount of money you’d spend on a gift. No amount is too small! Screenshot the donation, print it, and put it in a nice envelope. Warms every vegan’s heart, guaranteed.

Books

Remember those cash grabbers from two sentences ago? Well, they lurk behind books too. Veganism is unfortunately sometimes still seen as a fad, and trendy words seem to sell products. Still, books and cookbooks are a great choice for those who like reading about diet, animals, health, and other topics related to veganism. When browsing books for somebody else, read about the author as well. If they are a vegan, go for it. But if the author isn’t a dedicated vegan but a company printing books about all topics with no criteria whatsoever, it’s better to keep looking for a better book.

Weekly / monthly subscription

All of us have some wishes we’re just too rational to fulfill. This is the point of gifts, getting spoiled with something we couldn’t justify buying ourselves, right? Maybe your friend or a loved one has wanted to try something on a pricier side but didn’t want to waste money. It’s your time to shine. Pay for a weekly subscription for a vegan meal kit delivery service, a monthly beauty box, a subscription to freshly ground coffee beans… options are almost endless. This is a great way for your friend to see if they like something before committing to it.

Cake

Finally, a hands-on activity. It takes more time and effort, but it’s bound to score points in the emotional department. Roll up your sleeves, find a good recipe, get the ingredients and make a cake! The recipe doesn’t have to be wild or glamorous; even a simple cake shows you care and want a gift with soul.


Contrary to the popular meme about how vegans always tell everyone they are vegan, that doesn’t happen that often. In other words, the fact that someone is vegan doesn’t mean they want all the things in their life to be about veganism. Don’t forget about their other hobbies or interests. But if they are into this kind of thing, it’s hard to go wrong with donations, books, subscription services, and of course, cake.


Boneless Brawn Part I - CP3

“A series on professional athletes that have gone vegan in the pursuit of peak physical and mental performance”

Chris Paul

There are many reasons to go vegan. Anecdotally, most vegans choose to abstain from flesh for one of three reasons: for their health, for the environment or for the welfare of animals. A slept-on but growing trend is becoming vegan for athletic advantage.


Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul nicknamed "CP3", has had an illustrious career. He is an 11x All-Star, 9x All-NBA and 9x All-Defense. He is also a recently converted vegan as of 2019. Why the change?

The 2018 Houston Rockets, which Paul co-anchored, were one win away from slaying arguably the greatest collection of talent of all-time, the 2018 Golden State Warriors. 

With the series tied 2-2 and the Rockets up 95-94 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Paul suffered a hamstring injury. It was not Paul’s first injury in a playoff series. But it was the costliest. He was out for the remainder of the series.

The Rockets won Game 5 98-94. They lost Games 6 and 7, thus the series 3-4. They are considered one of the best teams ever to not win a championship. 

So close to a ring, the 2019 Rockets decided to run it back. But once again Paul was hurt and missed 17 games. He would play his second-lowest games in a season (58) and shooting a career-worst, 41.9 % from the field. 

Paul relies on a deceptively athletic game. The 2019 season saw those advantages sapped. At 34-years old Paul was looking at the descent of his career. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the season, a team looking to tank and rebuild for the future.

The Thunder’s timeline did not fit into Paul’s narrative. He sought changes to help flip the script. This included shifting to a completely plant-based diet. And...

Paul rebounded. He played 70 games and was named an all-star during the 2020 season. Both had not happened since 2015 when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. Statistically, his scoring shot back up to 17.6 ppg and he shot his second-best FG% ever at 48.9.

The Thunder snagged the 5th seed in the West and scrappily fought their first-round matchup, the Rockets, before losing Game 7.

Paul's resurgence went beyond the stat sheet. He was more active on the court than ever. This alley he caught in the 2020 All-Star Game can attest to his bounciness. A fresher serving for the blasphemous.

According to Paul his ability to recover was boosted by swearing off meat.

“I think the biggest change for me is the aches and pains of the season. I started working out and training and I got to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and I thought, am I not lifting hard enough? Am I not training hard enough? Why am I not achy? I ain’t trying to say you have to stay with it, but give it a try.”

But how did Paul arrive at veganism?

Paul’s exposure to veganism would come from his children's nanny, who is a vegan. Paul also executive-produced the documentary ‘The Game Changers’, released in 2019, which prompted his change.

The film debates the merits of plant-based eating vs a carnivorous diet for athletes. For Paul personally, the results speak for themselves.

On a typical day, Paul's diet will consist of: oatmeal for breakfast, pasta/rice with beyond sausage and veggies for lunch, fish (plant-based) with soup or Hawaiian Loco Moco with a Beyond burger on top. 

This season Paul's Suns are the 2nd seed in the West. He has played 59 out of 60 games, was named an all-star and is shooting a career-best 93.1% from the free-throw line.

He recently partnered with goPuff, an online marketplace, to bolster their plant-based lineup. In conjunction with goPuff, he is bringing attention to black and brown-owned businesses that offer vegan options. Visiting teams playing the Suns receive plant-based snacks from goPuff.

Paul is also an ambassador for Beyond Meat along with fellow NBA players Kyrie Irving and Deandre Jordan.

Vegan Pantry: Top 5 Ingredients All Vegans Need on Hand

Let's jump right into this: here is a list of five staples for every vegan pantry. All items on the list are available absolutely everywhere, cheap, and can be stored for a long time, which makes them perfect staples regardless of your eating habits.

Oats

That’s right, the first item on our little list is good ol’ oats. When you first start looking for vegan meal ideas, chances are you’ll see oats in every other recipe. And for good reason! This species of cereal grain can be used everywhere: entrées, main dishes, and especially desserts. Oats can also enrich smoothies, as well as shine on their own.


The Creative Exchange – Unsplash

Oats are popular for many reasons. Here are some. Neutrality: you can combine them with sweet or savory ingredients. As they are so neutral in taste, they won’t overpower other ingredients, they will just add to the texture and make the whole dish more nutritious. Price: oats are a widely-available and rather cheap staple, especially if bought in bulk. Versatility: use them in porridges, as a binder in veggie patties, as a thickener in stews, grind them into flour to make simple pancakes if you avoid wheat. You can even have a go at making homemade oat milk! The leftover pulp can be used in baking. As they can play many roles in cooking, oats are always handy to have in the pantry.

Nuts

If you’re into bodybuilding or trying to gain weight, you’ve probably come across nuts as a good source of calories. That’s the reason for including them in this list. Nuts are a good snack when you only have a few minutes and need to get enough calories to sustain you for the next few hours. Grab a handful of any nuts and you’re good to go. Sure, you may not feel completely full but at least you won’t starve.

Maksim Shutov – Unsplash

However, many people are allergic to nuts. Luckily, seeds of all kinds are similar to nuts in terms of calories and use. If you find nuts and seeds plain, you can roast them (careful, they tend to burn if unwatched!), and toss them together with some salt or spices. Of course, you can also make delicious nut butter with them. Some nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts, are excellent for making homemade milk. There are many kinds of nuts and seeds which differ in price. If you’re feeling posh, treat yourself to some pecan nuts, brazil nuts, or cashews. But, for everyday use, consider stocking up on cheaper nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pepitas. All of these can also be turned into an amazing nut or seed butter.

Jarred pasta sauce

This section is going to be a short one as there are usually not too many health benefits to jarred sauce. But hey, you don’t always have half a day for slowly simmering marinara. Nor the will to cook, of course. If you ever have one of those days where you just feel too exhausted to function, you know how tempting it is to just skip a meal. Jarred pasta sauces are a godsend for such occasions. Boil some pasta for ten minutes, mix it with a store-bought sauce, and you have a nice meal. The self-care movement is picking up steam, and this is a great example of self-care. Try to treat yourself to something easy and accessible when it seems impossible to do so.

Other than for the time-saving properties, having a back-up pasta sauce is also good if you don’t have a lot of cooking equipment, for example, a blender for making pesto. Having a jarred pasta sauce in your pantry means that you can get a gourmet meal in a matter of a few minutes. Jarred sauce also doesn’t always have to be unhealthy, it depends on the ingredients. But, even if your favorite sauce does contain a fair amount of sugar, salt, and fat, it’s not a problem, everyone deserves comfort food from time to time.

Canned beans

A bit less glamorous star of every vegan pantry: a can of beans. Beans often make an appearance in vegan meals because they are filled with protein, cheap, and easy to incorporate into all sorts of lunch or dinner dishes. However, cooking dried beans from scratch can be a bit bothersome. First soak them for 12 hours, then cook them for several hours more before you can even use them in another dish where you’ll also cook them further. Granted, there isn’t much active cooking time, but you still need to work cooking beans into your schedule in advance. Well, no such fuss with canned beans.

Grab a can, rinse the beans, heat them, and flavor them – that’s it. The best thing about canned beans is their shelf life. They can be stored for up to three years. So, if you find your favorite canned beans at a discounted price, buy them even if you don’t need them at the moment. Your future self will be grateful when you find yourself on a Sunday evening, with all stores closed, whipping up a stew with all the forgotten things found in your freezer and pantry. We’ve all been there and it usually turns out better than expected! Basically, canned beans are great to have on hand for those occasions where you need a quick and easy base for a filling meal. Just be careful when buying them. If a can is deeply dented, don’t buy it because bacteria may have entered the can, so it’s better to stay on the safe side.

Plant milk

Once considered a luxury, now an everyday staple, plant milk is a great example of the principle of supply and demand. It used to be a novelty product, but since the demand has grown, you can now find plant milk in almost every store. Sure, it can be hit or miss, but once you find your favorite type, you know in which direction you can explore. Some people love soy milk, and others can’t stand it. The same goes for other varieties such as oat, coconut, almond, rice, hazelnut, and any other plant milk.

Although it’s completely possible to live without plant milk, it was made an honorary guest on this list because it can make all sweet (and probably some savory) food better. You can drink black tea on its own, but with a splash of milk, it becomes a fancy treat. Pancakes with water and flour? Doable, but plant milk is what brings the flavor and richness. Use plant milk in beverages, smoothies, and in absolutely any kind of dessert or baked goods. Unopened plant milk can also be stored for quite a long time. Some brands tend to be pricey, but are often on sale, and that’s how you can always have a few cartons in your pantry without breaking the bank. One additional benefit of plant milk is that some brands sell fortified milk, which is great for those who forget to take their B12 supplement from time to time.

Annie Spratt – Unsplash

Oats, nuts, jarred pasta sauce, canned beans, and plant milk are seemingly humble ingredients. But don’t be fooled, each one of them is a valuable staple to have. They are convenient, affordable, and nutritious. Don’t overlook them just because they may look plain or basic. These are the qualities that make them so practical! If you have oats and plant milk, you have pancakes. If you have canned beans and pasta sauce, you have a filling meal. Nuts can be added to absolutely everything or enjoyed on their own for a calorie-dense snack.

The main takeaway is that if you have any of these five in your pantry, you won’t need to get takeout.