VegFund Q & A Continued
VegFund Interview Continued from pg 1
Q. At what age did you become a vegan or vegetarian? Tell me your origin story?
LG: I went vegan 11 years ago, at age 25. Although I was peripherally interested in veganism and the good reasons to eliminate animals from my consumption, it took me until then to realize that it was both possible and preferable.
Q. I know you believe innovative business models, products and services and creative approaches appealing to human reason can be successful in our realm. Can you name some campaigns or new products that stand out to you that demonstrate this?
LG: Assiettes Vegetales in France reaches out to food service providers at universities and workplaces to encourage adoption of vegetarian/plant-based options and trains chefs in plant-based techniques. Material innovation Initiative: works within the fashion industry encouraging adoption of climate friendly and sustainable alternatives to animal-based fabrics/ products. ACT Asia has hosted a successful fur-free fashion show for years, targeting the wide-ranging Chinese fur industry inviting designers to consider alternatives. The Plant-based Foods Association was created for the rapidly growing plant-based food producers seeking assistance to market their products on equal footing with products historically favored by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture.
Q. People feel protective of their right to eat meat, from their own comfort zone habits, their cultural ties. Do you see successful ways to move people toward reducing meat consumption?
LB: The greater acceptance of the word “vegan” in mainstream media, in restaurant menu items and on the vastly greater number of vegan products on grocery store shelves speaks loudly about the progress made in consumers’ willingness to consider meat reduction and adopt plant-based foods. These trends are not limited to the United States and Germany – Israel and the UK are leading the way to normalize plant-based foods and vegan living. This week, a friend staying in Sicily forwarded me a listing of plant-based food places in her neighborhood.
LG: VegFund operates on the assumption that most people take a multi-step journey to veganism, and that it’s necessary to meet people “where they are.” Understanding that working to learn what motivates certain audiences and educating them about the benefits of reducing animal consumption is most effective.
Q. Do you agree there is a generational divide in the vegan world—more young people see the value/importance of reducing meat consumption for the environment, or for their own health or animal cruelty concerns than perhaps their parents?
LG: I think it’s natural for younger people with less life experience to be more open to adopting new behaviors and practices than older generations who have conducted their own behaviors a certain way longer. The data seems to show this as well. However, we also know that meat consumption across the globe is higher than ever, and the overall ratio of vegans to non-vegans hasn’t increased significantly, so more work to be done.
Q. I hear stories of students telling their parents they will no longer eat meat—do you think that is a trend?
LB: Recalling my days as a student, my decisions about what to eat or how to dress were often strongly influenced by my peers and media influencers. I suspect such influences are just as powerful today. Young people today are clearly aware of the challenges of climate change and are open to learning about the role of animal agriculture in a changing climate. We are funding more and more initiatives in high schools and universities to bring plant-based foods to institutional cafeterias. VegFund sees this as a positive sign that plant-based foods are taking a permanent place on students’ plates.
Q. Do you believe schools should be incorporating educational curriculum about meat’s saturated fat impact on our arteries in health class and the environmental degradation from cattle farming in science class? Unless we have a systematic mechanism for wider adoption, I fear for all of our futures?
LG: We’d love to see more curricula in health class that make the link between chronic illness and animal consumption, and curricula in environmental science classes making the link between climate change and animal agriculture. And VegFund supports lots of organizations that provide and support this kind of education, such as Educational Choices Program, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Friends of the Earth, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, and many others.
Q. Adopting a vegan diet seems random to me—in some cultures it is more common, but not in the U.S. My experience involved a family member nearly dying from clogged arteries and needing emergency quintuple bypass surgery. We became vegan after our daughter bought us the China Study. The hospital doctors never mentioned saturated fat from animals causing his silent disease.
LB: We at VegFund do not profess to be medical professionals, but we have funded activists in medical programs who are bringing the study of plant-based foods as medicine to the medical curricula. We have also funded conferences to educate medical professionals on the leading science about the impact of plant-based foods on health outcomes and there is great news out of New York that NYC hospitals now offer plant-based meals as a primary entree option. This emerging field of medical science and adoption of plant-based foods in hospitals holds great promise for educating the medical community and the public.
Q. I admire the compassion many vegans feel for animals—do you have any data on the percent of vegans who began that way?
LB: VegFund does not have data on the reasons the universe of vegans has chosen a vegan lifestyle, but the vast majority of the global community of thousands of activists we serve state their primary motivation for their lifestyle choice is animal well-being. VegFund’s activist partners are equally motivated by planetary and human health and wellness.