This week’s Vegan Rockstar Q & A features Claire Chartrand, editor-in-chief of Raise Vegan magazine. In addition to their monthly magazine covering all things about raising compassionate, healthy and engaged vegan children, RaiseVegan.com has a robust online presence, publishing lots of articles about vegan news, pregnancy, recipes and more. Check out Raise Vegan on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to keep up with this active media company.
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 was lucky enough to have been raised vegetarian, so compassion for animals runs pretty deep! I dabbled with veganism in high school, I watched all of the videos from PETA, read the exposés, educated myself on factory farming and knew I had to make a change. However, I wasn’t doing it in a healthy or sustainable way, so it was only a year or two before I fell back into vegetarianism.
I was vegetarian throughout my pregnancy and after my son was born, he had a bad case of eczema on his face and body. I started looking into possible causes and dairy came up as a potential trigger. I cut it out immediately and within days, his face cleared up. After that, I started researching again and the thing that really helped me stick to a vegan lifestyle was making the connection between nursing my child and cows that are used for dairy. I knew I could no longer support an industry that would rob a mother, no matter the species, of that special bond with their child.
My mom is also vegan, and has been for nearly 10 years, so that definitely helped me to be confident in my choice to raise my son vegan.
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?
Honestly, it could have been anything that would’ve helped me make that connection to the plight of the animals. I’ve always considered myself to be a compassionate, empathetic person, so just knowing about the inhumane practices used in the dairy and egg industries would have done it.
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, it’s all about the food! I love cooking and sharing vegan food with friends and family, letting them experience for themselves just how delicious it is. So many people think that a vegan lifestyle is full of deprivation and you just eat salads all the time, so it’s fun to prove them wrong! As far as communicating my message, I think you have to let people come to the decision on their own. Let them ask questions and educate them when there are opportunities, but I’m not one that will get in someone’s face about it. I have plenty of family and friends who are not vegan or even vegetarian, but they know about the animal industry and haven’t made that connection yet. People will come to it when they’re ready, we just have to be here as a resource to help guide them along the way.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
It really helps that vegan food options are so easily accessible now. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars at specialty stores to find vegan meat alternatives anymore. It also helps that there are so many incredible resources, like cookbooks, YouTube channels, blogs, Facebook groups, etc.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
I think it’s easy to come off as judgmental and it turns people off and makes them defensive. We’re not here to judge or to make people think we’re better than they are. We are here for the animals, the environment and for our kids and preserving the world for future generations. It’s all about how we get the word out.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
For the animals, for the environment, for the children. Easy as that!
7. 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?
Starting out, PETA was a huge resource for me for learning about the farming industry. I’ve also enjoyed watching documentaries about the health benefits like What the Health and Forks Over Knives. Books like Fast Food Nation were really eye-opening to the societal implications of our food choices. Every cookbook serves as inspiration to me, but specifically any book by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, I have yet to try a recipe of hers that isn’t amazing! Our Facebook group, Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting, has been a huge inspiration to me and I learn new things everyday from the other parents in that group. It really helps to have the support and reassurance from so many like-minded individuals. And, of course, Raise Vegan magazine!
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?
Cooking is my therapy! The amazing food that it produces is also a pretty great benefit! But truly, my son is my biggest inspiration. Whenever I start to feel burnt out or losing that fire that keeps us all on track, I can just look at him and that’s all I need. He keeps me grounded and I know that I’m doing this for him and to ensure a healthy, compassionate life for him.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
Animal welfare is nearest and dearest to my heart, and with that comes a whole bunch of other issues. I’ve been trying to educate myself more on the detriments of plastic to the environment and our lives, so I’ve been slowly making the transition to being as mindful about waste as possible. It’s really hard to be low waste with kids, so I’m far from perfect, but every little bit helps. I also think it’s a more approachable topic for non vegans, even if they haven’t made the animal connection, they can still help the environment by reducing their meat and dairy consumption or by switching to reusable products.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is…”
To me, being vegan is about being a compassionate person in every area of your life. I think it’s easy to focus on the animals or the environment and forget that we need to be kind and understanding to our fellow humans as well.