Marla Rose: Owner of VeganStreet.com
How long have you been vegan? What prompted you to go vegan? And your
Interviewed by Doh Driver
I've been vegan for just over eight years, as has John. I hate New Year's resolutions because they usually seem destined to fail, so we decided on February 1, 1995 to adopt a vegan lifestyle. We really had phased out most dairy and eggs before that, but hadn't made the actual commitment. I had been a vegetarian for 12 years prior, since high school. We were inspired to move toward veganism when we learned about the connection of animal products to their suffering. Honestly, in all my years as a vegetarian before that, I had no idea. Fortunately, I was exposed to some great people and information, and this helped me make the connection. The benefits to one's health are tremendous, of course, but I would be vegan purely for reasons of compassion even if it put my health in jeopardy. Fortunately, this is not an issue.
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You have pictures of your baby boy, Justice, on the website, and you're
raising him vegan. Have you met any criticism for raising your son vegan?
Well, Justice is only nine-months-old as I respond to this, so I know we will likely have obstacles in the future, but as of now everything has been wonderful. Aside from the occasional, "Wow, he looks really energetic and healthy for a vegan," people have been very supportive. We live in a pretty progressive community, though, and we've chosen to build our own family of enlightened, compassionate friends, who are all Justice's "Aunties" and "Uncles."
Have there been any challenges to raising a baby as a vegan?
Not that I can think of, other than keeping lots of ripe avocados and bananas on hand, but that's not exclusive to vegan babies. Justice still nurses a lot, and is my best advertisement for a healthful vegan diet.
Do you think it's important to raise kids as vegans, or do you think that
with guidance, they should be able to make that decision on their own?
This is something we are still figuring out. Of course, raising my child as a vegan is important to me, so important that I don't want to jeopardize his acceptance of our lifestyle by being too pushy or controlling about it. Any child in my home is vegan by virtue of the fact that animal products are simply not allowed. At the same time, I know what a rebellious child I was, and I hesitate to issue demands that would make Justice feel like it wasn't his choice. In addition, I am so grateful for the path I took, the exploration and the questions, that ultimately led me to veganism. I don't want to deny him this, yet I don't want him to make decisions that hurt other beings. What I plan on doing is talking to him about this when he's old enough to understand, in language that is non-manipulative and direct, and hope he agrees with me. I expect him to be a challenging, rebellious child like his parents were (and still are!), so I plan to approach this like he's the intelligent, compassionate young person that he is.
What led you to create Vegan Street?
I had been working in an animal shelter in humane education for a few years, and while I enjoyed it, it become plainly obvious to me that vegan advocacy and activism was my calling, and I wanted to find a way to make this into a career, so I could do it full-time. At the same time, I didn't want to start a non-profit. Another thing I knew was that I wanted to work with John on it, as we are very good partners who think well together. We'd worked together on quite a few different artistic, creative and activist projects before Vegan Street, and I always felt these had dynamic results. Well, John and I thought long and hard about it, and we knew that we wanted to do something that we felt would be artistically fulfilling as well as promote our vegan message. We both have backgrounds in the arts, and we thought vegan-themed clothing would be that wonderful bridge for us. During the same conversation in which we determined what we wanted to do, the name "Vegan Street" popped in my head. We wanted to create something that reflected our interests: veganism, progressive politics, satire, creative expression, and on and on. I think we've done that.
How do you decide what to include on the site?
I'm the primary writer of content for Vegan Street and John's the primary designer, though we each have done a little of the other as well. Basically, our content is determined by what our interests are. We ask ourselves: What would we want to see on another site, and that's how we proceed. It's that idiosyncratic and personal.
After visiting your site, what do you hope people will come away with?
I hope that people will see what a dynamic, creative and vibrant culture veganism is, and understand that veganism is about abundance, not abstinence. There are many websites that address the "whys" of veganism, and they do a wonderful job; although we do some of that, it's not our primary focus. What we wanted to do instead was give people a lens into what a complex and diverse culture we are, so we're attractive to people who may otherwise be turned off because they maybe can't reconcile themselves with the vegan stereotype. Our message is to be passionate, have fun, be heard, think critically, be engaged and create the kind of world you want to live in. To us, it's all about empowerment.
If you had to pick one reason for going vegan, what would it be?
The bottom line is that sentient beings suffer and die otherwise, so it's a matter of compassion and ethics. Everything else is just a nice benefit.
On your website, people can read about protests, unrelated to veganism, that
you've joined. Why do you include these on Vegan Street?
For several reasons; one, this is added because we want to show that one can be a vegan and have many other areas of interest. They are interconnected. We've heard from many people who appreciate that we speak out against issues like sweatshop labor and genetic engineering in addition to our vegan advocacy. For another reason, we include this because it presents to the world that vegans are a diverse, dynamic, not easy to classify bunch of individuals. Last, we include this simply because we want to do so. I suppose we approach VeganStreet.com like more of a personal website than a business, but that's what we love to do. John and I have a lot of interests, a lot of passions, and we want to share the things that inspire and motivate us with the world.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Just that the world is changing on such a deep level right now, that we can't even see it. Things are shifting, evolving and changing, and vegans are helping to make a new world emerge. There may be backlashes, but make no mistake that those are the last angry thrashings of the old world order. Keep up the faith!