Recently I had the amazing opportunity to interview Sarah Taylor, a vegan hero! She is the mastermind behind The Vegan Next Door and author of Vegan in 30 Days, a book that has sold thousands of copies! She has made a bagillion appearances (including NPR and PBS) and is a huge influence and motivator for a plant based lifestyle! She even writes a column for VegNews Magazine! She recently wrote Vegetarian to Vegan with chef Mark Reinfeld (who provided the delicious vegan recipes in the book) on how and why to go vegan! If you haven’t read my review of their book, check it out here!
Alex: How long have you been a vegan?
Sarah: I have been vegan since 2002.
Alex: Your book is about transitioning from vegetarinism to veganism. Were you a vegetarian before switching to veganism?
Sarah: I called myself a vegetarian, but I still ate fish (and a ton of dairy products) so I was actually pescetarian.
Alex: How long were you a pescetarian before making the switch to vegan?
Sarah: I was pescetarian for 5 years before becoming vegan. I was not vegetarian in between.
Alex: What made you go vegan?
Sarah: It was quite on accident! I was trying to lose weight, and I picked up a copy of Diet for a New America by John Robbins, thinking it was a weight loss book. I took the book on vacation, and it was all I had to read. When I started reading it, I realized what I had gotten myself into, but I couldn’t put it down. Learning the details about what animals products do to our health, the animals and the environment was immediately life-changing. I had heard rumblings before from acquaintances in college about “how those poor animals are treated” but I didn’t really want to know, and told myself, “It can’t be that bad or the government would put a stop to it.” Yeah, right! Once I read Diet for a New America, I could never “not know” again, and could pretty much never eat animals products again. No willpower needed.
Alex: Do you think most people start as vegetarians and then transition to being vegan? I did!
I don’t really know. I expect the majority of vegans were once vegetarians. What I do know, and what inspired me to write this book, is that whenever I gave a lecture on my previous book, Vegan in 30 Days, the most common question I received was from vegetarians who just couldn’t see a good reason to go vegan. They were there in my audience, clearly with some interest in the vegan diet, but they would ask questions like, “I’ve been vegetarian for XX years, but I just don’t see what’s wrong with eating low-fat dairy?” or “I’ve been vegetarian for XX years, but I just don’t see what’s wrong with eating eggs if I’m careful to get free-range, organic eggs.” These were people who had clearly learned about the vagaries of meat on their health and/or the animals’ welfare, but simply didn’t yet know the facts about dairy and eggs on their health and the cows and hens’ welfare. Or, they had bought into the deceptive marketing that the dairy and egg companies were paying billions of dollars to trick people into believing. I figured that if these vegetarians really knew the truth, they could easily make the change. They had already given up meat with some convincing information, so they would likely give up dairy and eggs with some additional convincing information. And, as people have reported back, Vegetarian to Vegan is far more convincing than they ever believed it would be!
Alex: I know a lot of vegetarians and it often seems mesmerizing to them that I’m a vegan, whereas they used to eat meat and are seen as mesmerizing to meat-eaters. What do you think the number one reason is for people making excuses not to make the full shift from vegetarianism to veganism?
Sarah: I don’t think there is one excuse, per se, but a general lack of education about dairy and eggs. For example, people who gave up meat for their health often buy into the belief that low-fat dairy is healthy (low-fat, lots of calcium!) or eggs are the perfect protein. They haven’t yet come across the very compelling data that those claims are false, and why. Once they find out, they usually give up dairy and eggs extremely quickly! Similarly, many people quit eating meat the day they saw photos of the slaughter process. What they usually haven’t seen are the photos of dairy cows and egg-laying hens, diseased, lame, even cannibalized. In Vegetarian to Vegan I explain the specific situations that face dairy cows and egg laying hens. When people learn the truth – especially about so-called “free range” eggs, they are outraged, and again, give up dairy and eggs as quickly as they once gave up meat. Finally, I have met some people who gave up meat when they heard about how raising cattle is so bad for the environment. Again, they usually simply haven’t come across the data on how dairy farms and egg farms so radically affect the environment. As Maya Angelou once said, “Once you know better, you do better.” I think vegetarians have already shown they care (about their health, animals and/or the environment.) Once they know more, they will do better.
Alex: What would you say to someone who makes excuses?
Sarah: I would encourage them to read Vegetarian to Vegan to educate themselves. I don’t have a problem with anyone who educates themselves and makes a personal choice that differs from mine, but it’s so hard to see so many people uneducated … or even worse … educated by dairy and egg marketing campaigns.
Alex: What is your favorite resource as a vegan advocate that keeps you motivated and inspired?
Sarah: I always recommend Diet for a New America or The Food Revolution, both by John Robbins. I also recommend websites that have tons of vegan recipes to keep you motivated and armed with delicious recipes so you won’t get bored or be tempted to stray. Vegweb has the most vegan recipes that I’ve found, and StraightUpFood and PCRM.org have some of the tastiest healthy vegan recipes.
Alex: Lastly, how has writing this book helped you with your own veganism? Do you ever have struggles with being vegan?
Sarah: Honestly, I have never struggled as a vegan, because the motivation to avoid harming animals is so strong that I can’t stomach the idea of ever eating non-vegan foods again! I do struggle at times with eating healthy versus unhealthy vegan foods, because there are sooooo many delicious vegan cakes and cookies available now. But I never struggle with non-vegan foods. What this book has done for me is made me proud to help the cause, and save animals and our environment. I feel like I’m doing my part to make a difference in the world, and when I get incredible e-mails from people about how they read Vegetarian to Vegan and instantly changed, I feel very fulfilled!
Thank you to Sarah Taylor for a wonderful interview and for sharing her insights into living a cruelty-free lifestyle! Be sure to buy her new book Vegetarian to Vegan so that you can see all the reasons why to go vegan and get the answers on how to be a vegan! Check out my review here. Also check out my interview with Mark Reinfeld, the chef and creator of all the recipes featured in the book!
But get out there and buy this amazing resource! Its great for vegans and even non-vegans alike! Let Vegetarian to Vegan inspire a change in your life!
I hope today’s interview was inspiring for you, as it was for me! What are your reasons for going vegan? What are you struggling with? What did Sarah teach you? Leave me a comment below! Or join the new facebook group to chat with one another!