10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Sarah Jahier, The Spooky Vegan

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Okay, it’s really not that secret. Growing up, I thought Morticia Addams was the epitome of grace, glamour and elegance. Somehow the neighbors were all scared of Morticia and her family — or were they jealous? — but the joke was on them: Was there ever a more aspirational family than that of Ms. Addams? (Lily Munster was a distant second but, still, she was second.) Anyway, after all these years, I have not lost my enthusiasm for all things black, batty and maybe a little cobwebby and it’s a delight to have someone like Sarah Jahier, better known to her many fans as The Spooky Vegan, as a bewitching online resource for all things vegan, fabulous and just a little spooky. The Spooky Vegan, of course, lives for Halloween but she keeps the party going year-round with her enthusiasm for showing the public we can celebrate spookiness without compromising our compassionate values. Please check out The Spooky Vegan on her very fun, frequently-updated website, as well as her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms. I am honored to showcase The Spooky Vegan as Halloween week’s Vegan Rockstar.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I grew up around animals on a farm where we had sheep, cows, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, dogs, cats, even a horse, pony, and donkey. I loved animals since I was little and formed bonds with the animals we had on the farm. Just being around all kinds of animals from an early age made me realize that each one was unique and had a distinct personality. I was always heartbroken when the cows and sheep were sold off at auction, but I never made the connection between what was on my plate and my animal friends out in the pastures. It wasn’t until years later in 2008 that I read a horror novel called Meat by Joseph D’Lacey that detailed the atrocities of factory farming where I started to put the pieces together and started questioning why I was still eating animals. During this time, I was also researching going vegetarian for health, but after reading that book as well as learning about the devastating effects of factory farming and the negative impacts on our health and the environment dairy, eggs, and meat have, I decided to go vegan immediately. I remember throwing out my lunch at work that day and being disgusted that it took me so long to wake up and realize that eating animals is wrong. Ultimately, it really took my own research to realize that I didn’t need to eat animals. After I decided to go vegan, I read everything I could get my hands on about veganism. I had my slip-ups here and there, and had to learn a lot (I’m still learning after 10+ years being vegan), but since that day I’ve been committed to living my life without harming animals and it is the best decision I’ve ever made!

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

For me, confrontation or shock value doesn’t work well and I don’t think it works for many people. The best approach is rational — just tell someone, hey, you don’t need to eat animals or use animal products and here are the healthier/ethical/environmentally-friendly food/products you could be eating/using instead. Better yet, don’t tell them, just show them! No one likes being told what to do, but if you just show someone a yummy treat or cool product made without animal ingredients or animal testing, they might be more interested and open to further discussion. I’m a big advocate of sharing vegan pics to show people that vegan food and products are normal and so much better for us, for the animals, and for the environment! Ultimately, though, I think everyone needs to do their own research and come to their own conclusion to go vegan — doing my own research is how I ended up going vegan. In the end, the only person that could convince me to go vegan was myself.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

For me, just sharing yummy vegan food with friends and family has been a big eye-opener for people. And nowadays it is so easy to get a wide variety of vegan food almost anywhere, so it is always easy to encourage people to check out vegan options in their grocery stores or local restaurants. I love sharing my food finds on my blog and social media so people can see just how easy and delicious it is to eat vegan food! I also love highlighting vegan companies as well as beauty/makeup products that are vegan so others can see just how many incredible cruelty-free options are out there. If vegan products are readily available to them, people are more likely to try them.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

The fact that going vegan impacts so many different facets, from one’s health, to saving animals and ending their exploitation, to saving the planet from the immense pollution and waste that animal farming creates. Going vegan not only impacts you, but the world around you, and that is such a powerful thing to realize. I also think that diversity is one of the biggest strengths of veganism — there isn’t just one type of vegan, and almost anyone from practically anywhere can go vegan! I believe veganism is all-inclusive for everyone.

5. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

There are so many, it is difficult to pick just one, but I am a huge admirer of animal sanctuaries and rescues that are saving animals and giving them a loving home to spend the rest of their lives. I think it is so important for people to visit these sanctuaries when possible and spend time with these amazing animals. I think if more people spent time with cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals they could see first-hand how animals have their own personalities, feelings, how smart they are, and hopefully realize that these animals don’t deserve to be murdered for our appetites. It is so important to support your local sanctuary, whether you donate money, donate goods or food for the animals, volunteer, or bring others to visit so you can really show friends and family that being vegan is all about these incredible animals.

6. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I think the in-fighting that can occur within the vegan community is one of the biggest obstacles. I see people who are quick to police others on what is or what isn’t vegan (especially over sugar, palm oil, etc.) or who shame others for being junk food vegans. Not only are these confrontations annoying, but they don’t help veganism at all! I remember being petrified as a new vegan to share anything because I feared being shamed for it being not healthy enough or not vegan enough. Of course, now I’m not afraid to share anything — we are all still learning and ultimately it is all about the animals, not about the vegan police who keep insisting Oreos aren’t vegan (because of the sugar used) or complain about palm oil (which I realize can have devastating effects, but some people don’t do their research and attack anything that contains palm oil). All this in-fighting can be exhausting and makes veganism seem too difficult to outsiders. The vegan community could use more positive reinforcement and encouragement to attract non-vegans. We should be trying to make it as easy as possible for others to go vegan!

7. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

There are many more reasons to go vegan than there are to not go vegan, and there is no valid reason why anyone should be consuming food or products containing animal products since we can get all we need from plant-based products. With the abundance of vegan products as well as the growing popularity of veganism, the movement is just going to continue to grow and grow. Do what is right for yourself, for the animals, for the environment and for the planet — go vegan!

8. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

When I first went vegan, I didn’t know any other vegans, especially not ones with a spooky aesthetic like me. When I discovered Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Natalie Slater and their edgier cookbooks, I found like I had finally found my people! I loved Isa’s Post-Punk Kitchen website/cookbook and Veganomicon cookbook as well as Natalie’s Bake and Destroy website/cookbook. I also had the chance to attend a cooking demo of vegan Chef Tanya Petrovna which was so exciting for me as a new vegan. And I finally met fellow vegans through the Facebook group Power to the Veg, and I’m still friends with those lovely people to this day! Also, since I couldn’t find anyone exactly with my style when I first went vegan, so I decided to create my own blogwhere I could share food reviews, recipes, product reviews, and so on with others who shared my love of horror movies and Halloween, which is how The Spooky Vegan was born! Through that I’ve met so many incredible people!

9. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

When I’m stressed, I love relaxing with horror movies. I know this may seem weird to some, but there is something about seeing others in far worse situations that makes my day not seem so bad! My favorite horror films include Suspiria(the original) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre(the original, which interestingly has some really pro-veg messages!). I also love curling up with a good horror novel to get out of my own head. Of course, treating myself to some vegan pizza always makes everything better!

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is…”

…living deliciously without harming our animal friends.