Talkin’ Vegan with ‘Newsfail’ Authors, Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny

There are a lot of frustrating things going on in the news and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it. Thankfully there are people like comedian, Jamie Kilstein and writer, Allison Kilkenny, the duo behind the independent media podcast, Citizen Radio. Through their listener-supported, sponsor-free news show, the pair cover unreported news and corporate media news blunders with wit and humor. Jamie and Allison’s new book, #Newsfail, released this week, which is basically a hardcover highlight reel of those news stories that either do not (but should) exist, or completely miss the point on mainstream media. Jamie and Allison took time to chat with FARM about their work and their vegan pride.
Disclaimer: While FARM shares many of their views, particularly regarding veganism and animal rights, the responses by Jamie and Alison to our questions are their own uncensored opinions. Some of the language and political viewpoints might be abrasive to certain readersPlease read on with an open mind and eagerness to laugh!

Jakub Moser                       KilkennyAllison

FARM: Focusing on your book’s vegan chapter [titled “Al Gore Is Fat and We’re All Going to Die: Or, You Can’t Blame Climate Change on Vegans”], I was very impressed with it because, in about 25 pages, you covered a lot of the really important reasons to consider going vegan. A lot of times people just focus on the animal cruelty, which is obviously a huge part of it, but I’m really glad that you both touched on worker’s rights, the environment, and even some of the feminism angle.

Allison: Yeah, we’re assuming that people reading the book would already describe themselves as progressive, so it’s a little bit of a challenge. If you call yourself liberal, if you think you’re left wing, have you embraced veganism? We have a lot of friends who would call themselves progressives, but tweet photos of their bacon at brunch.

Jamie: We pretty much had to lay out as many reasons as possible [to go vegan in the book]. You could go to a climate march hosted by Democracy Now and the spirit of Emma Goldman and you show up with veggie burgers, it’s gonna piss people off. It doesn’t matter how liberal of a room you are in, [veganism is] the thing we found, besides feminism, that divides us the most. So [in the book], we were gentle and we tried to be funny [while still presenting the facts].

FARM: Jamie, you mention in the chapter that you went vegetarian for the animals and then vegan for Allison. With all these reasons to go vegan, what was it exactly that really helped you stick with your convictions, beyond your relationship with a vegan?

Jamie: Yeah, trying to impress a girl is up there! It’s weird that I was definitely that  clichéd vegetarian, where I would proudly declare I was vegetarian, but then someone would ask if I was vegan, and I’d be like, “No, those vegans are out of their f***ing minds!” because I didn’t know anything about it! From an animal cruelty point of view, I didn’t know what the animals went through [in the dairy and egg industries]. I thought that if they weren’t being killed for meat, they were at some weird Malibu retreat, getting milked by the gentle hands of a seamstress. I didn’t know! And then selfishly, I thought all I would be eating was salad, and I hated salad. When Allison told me she was vegan, I was actually defensive. But I told her, “When I’m ready to try to eat vegan, I want you to show me the information.” And all it took was one image of a cow with an udder so big [she] couldn’t stand and I was [soon] vegan.

Jamie says once he ate healthier (no more sneaking cheese pizzas at midnight, an experience hilariously recounted in the book), he felt better and hasn’t turned back. Allison initially went vegan for health reasons, after her physician encouraged she remove all dairy from her diet due to allergies. Following the doctor’s suggestion, she did research online, discovered veganism, and dove in. Within a week, she noticed amazing changes from fewer sinus headaches to greater energy.

FARM: After going vegan, how long was it before you found yourselves getting into activism and being a voice for animals?

Allison: I’m really careful about using that word “activist,” because I really respect activists, it’s a hard job and takes a lot of commitment, so I don’t consider myself an activist in that respect.

Instead, the two consider themselves vegan “ambassadors.”

Jamie: We proudly, proudly, proudly call ourselves vegan. We talk about [veganism] a lot on our show and in our book.

Jamie points out that, under the umbrella of activism, it’s important to focus on what you’re good at. “What Allison and I are good at is making very serious, sad issues digestible or funny or approachable,” he said.

Taking that approach has really opened up the hearts and minds of their Citizen Radio listeners.

Jamie: We have gotten, literally, thousands of emails from, not just vegetarians who went vegan, but from people who hated vegans or people who grew up on farms and didn’t know what vegan was, and [after learning about animal agribusiness on the show] have gone on to do the kind of activism you guys [at FARM] do. We’re proud to inspire the next generation of activists.

FARM: Do you find that you already have a decent vegan audience [of Citizen Radio]?

Jamie: What I’m really proud of is that, the listeners who aren’t vegan, aren’t raging assholes about it. We have tons and tons and tons of readers whose vegan anniversary coincides with their anniversary of listening to the show. We get tweets about it every year and it’s awesome. Responses to vegan topics on the show are always positive, with even non-vegans sending emails saying that they have cut back on their meat consumption or are slowly working toward [a vegan diet]. Even when we go really into [veganism / animal rights], we don’t get hate mail. We either have vegans or just really compassionate people listening.

Allison: My favorite emails are the ones that come from kids that are scared to come out to their parents as vegans, and it turns out the parents are super wonderful and supportive, they get a vegan cookbook and make dinner together. And we’ve gotten a lot of those!

FARM: Focusing back on your book now, “Newsfail,” and how it’s all about “fails in the news,” let’s talk about news fails related to animal rights. It seems like nearly every day, there’s a “fail” in the news surrounding animal issues, whether it’s pro-SeaWorld/circuses/zoos, the myths surrounding “humane meat,” climate change, etc. What do you think is the most notable “news fail” regarding animal rights just in the last year?

Allison: I think climate change is the biggest one, just because it effects everyone on Earth, but I think the Ag-Gag laws are a really, really big story. There are all these First Amendment activists who get outraged, and rightfully so, when police break up protests, you need permits for protests at every level, but [Ag-Gag laws] are a huge First Amendment [threat]. This should outrage not just animal rights activist, but also First Amendment proponents.

Jamie agrees that climate change isn’t getting enough (or the right) attention in the news, pointing out the United Nation’s declaration that factory farming is the leading cause of climate change. He says that many panels will take the time to talk about carpooling and using less electricity, but if someone suggests going vegetarian, it’s treated like a joke.

Jamie: The fact that we won’t even humor in the news the one thing that will [make a difference] is the biggest #newsfail. If someone does interview someone who is vegan, they treat them like some underground mole person that emerged to just spout 9/11 conspiracies and take away your cheeseburgers.

FARM: Let’s say someone who is not vegan and has been pretty unaware of these things, they read your book and the vegan chapter and they’re all fired up, ready to go vegan, but then they don’t know what to do next. What do you recommend they do first?

Jamie: The first thing you’ve gotta do is act selfishly. And what I mean by that is, you need to go online, go to the bookstore, look at the restaurants you like, and find as much vegan food as you can that you like. I think a lot of people go after veganism as a “diet,” and diets don’t work. People cave, they go off the wagon. Don’t think of it as “you have to eat less.” I think this is better than a cookbook: just Google vegan versions of foods you already like.

Allison agrees that, if you have access to the internet, researching and trying new recipes is vital, as well as learning how to cook. She suggests getting down a basic pasta or stir-fry recipe that can be tweaked to use whatever ingredients you like and whatever ingredients you have on hand.

Jamie says they always do a vegan episode on Citizen Radio around Thanksgiving as a way to support “the baby [new] vegans who are going home to their families and have to watch their father fist a turkey.” This show always results in hundreds of “the sweetest emails,” thanking Jamie and Allison for their tips and support. The main tip is always: bring something vegan to share and make it awesome.

Jamie acknowledges that it can be a “radical shift” to go vegan after being raised with animal-based foods for so long, but focusing on all the many foods you can eat, and never seeing it as a sacrifice, can make a huge difference in sticking to veganism. Research, read, arm yourself with recipes & restaurants you like, etc. “so you don’t wind up in the middle of the supermarket having a panic attack like I did,” Jamie jokes.

Jamie also suggests that new vegans should do their research so they know and remember why they’re going vegan. “You see what’s happening to the animals and the workers and the environment, and then you can just own [your veganism] and be proud of it,” Jamie says. “It’s so hard to make a tangible difference in the world because the media is all owned by asshole corporations, the Democrats are becoming Republicans, the Republicans are insane, that sometimes you feel really helpless and worthless as an activist, but [going vegan] is actually a tangible difference you can make. You can look at the little faces of the animals that you’re helping. That pushes me through!”

What are some of Jamie and Allison’s favorite vegan things? They dished in a Live Vegan Lightning Round!

FARM: Favorite vegan restaurant.
Jamie & Allison: Vegetarian Dumpling House and all the Blossom locations in NYC

FARM:  Favorite vegan celebrity.
J&A: Rise Against! and Peter Dinklage

FARM: Go-to vegan meal to make at home
J&A: Jamie’s Pizza Pasta

FARM: Favorite vegan junk food
J&A: Mozzarella sticks from Champ’s in Brooklyn; all nachos & cake

FARM: Favorite green vegetable
J&A: Spinach

FARM: Tofu, tempeh, or seitan?
J&A: Tempeh for Allison & tofu for Jamie

FARM: Favorite vegan cookbook or blog
J&A: Choosing Raw

FARM: Favorite animal rights book
J&A: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer  and #Newsfail

FARM: Favorite vegan/AR message t-shirt
J&A: Eat Kale Not Cow

Want to win a copy of Jamie and Allison’s new book, Newsfail? Comment below with why YOU Live Vegan and one lucky winner will be announced on Friday, October 17th at 12pm Eastern! Be sure to comment with contact info. 

 

Read More

From the Road: Everything is Bigger in Texas, Including Compassion Toward Animals (Part Two)

Students baring witness to the atrocities that take place every day on animal farms.
Students bearing witness to the atrocities that take place every day on animal farms.

Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) spent several weeks in the great state of Texas, educating hundreds of people about the treatment of animals and encouraging people to adopt a vegan diet. We recapped the first half of our time in Texas in Part One. Now, in Part Two, we’re highlighting our last Texas stop and also sharing some of the great vegan eats we enjoyed statewide.

Our time at the University of North Texas in Denton was memorable, to say the least. UNT is home to Mean Greens, the first all-vegan college dining hall. It was very helpful to refer students interested in vegan meals to an all-vegan cafeteria right on their campus. Andy and I ate at Mean Greens multiple times and were happy to recommend it! The food at Mean Greens is a fantastic representation of vegan fare. From cozy comfort foods like pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and stews to fun foods like pizza and soft serve, they really cover it all. Their salad bar is fully stocked and offers a couple different housemade salad dressings (their ranch dressing is the best we’ve ever had) and the Panini station is always open during lunch and dinner, offering pressed veggie sandwiches or a housemade black bean burger. We met with Ken Botts, the man who started Mean Greens, many times while we were at UNT. Ken was greatly enthusiastic and supportive about the 10 Billion Lives tour being on campus and cheered on our work every day.

Andy, Amanda and Ken Botts, the man behind Mean Greens (from left)
Andy, Amanda, and Ken Botts, the man behind Mean Greens (from left)

UNT also has a recently-formed animal rights group called Mean Greens for Animals. This group arranged fantastic volunteers to join us throughout our three days on campus. It was great to connect with these young activists, and their group was yet another on-campus recommendation we gave to viewers who were eager to start helping animals. There’s no doubt in our minds that MGFA will be doing great things for animals!

(more…)

Read More

Truck Tour Cuisine with The 10 Billion Lives Crew

Mashed sweet potatoes, BBQ Beyond Meat, slaw with Beyond Mayo, and Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Amy's mac & cheese.
Brussels sprouts, BBQ Beyond Meat, slaw with Just Mayo, and Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Amy’s mac & cheese.

Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) love finding vegan meals in restaurants everywhere we go with the 10 Billion Lives tour. And while there really are vegan options everywhere, most of the time we cook our own meals. Though we lack a full kitchen as we’re touring the country, we’re able to whip up some gourmet meals with limited equipment. Since we talk to a lot of people who themselves have limited (or no) kitchen space, are short on time, and are cooking on a budget, we wanted to share some of our favorite meals we make while on the road that use affordable ingredients that can be found in any supermarket, can be made in a rice cooker, and don’t require much prep work.

(more…)

Read More

From the Road: Everything is Bigger in Texas, Especially Compassion Towards Animals (Part One)

10BL_Dallasviewer_352x480

When Andy (truck tour operator) and I (Amanda, tour assistant) told our friends that we would be bringing the 10 Billion Lives program all around Texas, we were usually met with pity laughs or dropped jaws. Everyone seemed to picture us going into a “Meat Country” war zone. On the contrary, our several weeks in Texas proved that the Lone Star state is full of surprises. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes compassion toward animals.

(more…)

Read More

“Never Too Late to Go Vegan:” An Interview with Virginia Messina

Never-Too-Late-to-Go-Vegan

Virginia Messina, also known as The Vegan RD, has a few books under her belt including “Vegan for Life” and “Vegan for Her;” both which I highly recommend. In her latest installment, co-authored with Carol J. Adams and Patti Breitman, “Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet,” Messina provides essential nutritional information pertinent to folks who are over age 50. In addition, the trio of authors tackles some of the challenges facing folks who are interested in transitioning to a vegan diet later in life and help guide their readers towards a goal of ultimate health.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to interview Virginia Messina regarding her latest book. My interview is posted below. Messina will also be speaking at this year’s Animal Rights National Conference held July 10th-13th in Los Angeles, California.

(more…)

Read More

Earth Day 2014: Activists Encourage the Public to Evaluate the Impact Their Food Choices have on the Planet

+Wendy Moore, Earth Day 2014 1_640x339

Vegan Earth Day 2014 was one of our best yet! More than 154 activists from all over North America distributed our new brochures at local events to encourage people to make the environment-diet connection. While most people leafleted, others gave out food samples or held pay-per-view events. Volunteers in 40 states and 3 Canadian provinces participated in Vegan Earth Day this year, distributing nearly 15,000 of our brochures to the public.

(more…)

Read More

Skip the Easter Ham and Skip the Cruelty

Esther2_640x418

An Easter tradition here in the US has been to celebrate life and new beginnings by sitting down to a meal with a honey-baked ham as the centerpiece. Thing is… if most folks took a moment to reflect on the true meaning of this holiday, they might notice that consuming the body of a dead animal doesn’t align with the life-affirming spirit of Easter.

Pigs are highly intelligent animals, with advanced learning and problem solving capabilities. They can use tools, understand commands just like dogs do, they respond to their name only after a few months of being born, and they have a high sense of social recognition, which help them form strong social bonds. Pigs can even learn to play video games!

(more…)

Read More

All Our Water is Going to a Plant We Don’t Eat to Support a Diet We Don’t Need

CaliforniaDrought14_640x361
The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir as seen on Feb. 7, 2014 in San Jose, California.

2013 went down as the driest year in California’s recorded history.  A major reservoir outside of Sacramento has been reduced from 83% to 36% capacity in just over 2 years.  In the Central Valley, 1,200 square miles of land is sinking at a rate of 11 inches a year from the drilling of groundwater.  And the annual measure of the Sierra Nevada snowmelt done every April 1st indicates that the end isn’t in sight.

(more…)

Read More

Eat Less Meat to Save More Wildlife, Show More Love for the Planet

CAFO_640x343
Raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which contribute to global warming and climate change.

When the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, people were concerned about air and water pollution and the survival of endangered species. They talked about how the growing human population was crowding out wildlife and how we all have a responsibility to take care of the planet. Now, 44 years later, there are 3.5 billion more of us in the world, and our appetite for energy, land and meat has skyrocketed.

It’s time for a renewed call to action for the planet and wildlife, and we can start by taking extinction off our plates.

(more…)

Read More

Spread the Vegan Message this Earth Day!

CowsRunOff_640x457

Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global warming and is responsible for more water pollution, topsoil depletion, deforestation, and wildlife destruction than any other human activity, yet the public as well as many environmentalists still consume animal products without making that connection. Together, we need to educate folks that a diet change is an easy way to help the planet.

(more…)

Read More