Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Ana and Brian – Those Annoying Vegans

Tell us a little about yourself.

I (Ana) was born and partly raised in Costa Rica before moving to Boston in 1994. I (Brian) was born in Maryland, but grew up in West Virginia. We both migrated to Los Angeles in our 20s with the Hollywood dream of becoming actors.

We currently live in Sherman Oaks, California, and are still pursuing our acting careers on top of hosting our YouTube channel, Those Annoying Vegans, managing our Etsy store, Instagram and Facebook pages and participating in various forms of activism around town, including animal vigils with The Save Movement and Cubes of Truth with Anonymous for the Voiceless—oh yeah, and we also have day jobs, haha.

Those Annoying Vegans was born in April of 2016. One of the most common reasons we’d hear from people as to why they wouldn’t want to go vegan was that they didn’t know what to eat, or they were under the impressions that if you’re vegan, “you can’t eat anything”—so we decided to do something about that. Our channel started out as a recipe channel, and then it evolved to include field trips to vegan festivals, sanctuaries, trying vegan food around town, debunking bogus animal agriculture industry claims, responding to non-vegan YouTubers, comedic sketches, and now we use it primarily for vlogging. The more we’ve learned, the more we want to share! Our Instagram is probably our second largest platform. There, we share just about everything we do, including pictures of delicious food,  facts regarding health, the environment, and animal ethics, recent news, animals being awesome, and our recent Vegan Nugget videos, which are quick, one-minute segments where we cover a particular topic that interests us.

We also attend at least three vigils every week; two vigils for pigs and either a vigil for cows or a vigil for chickens. We host the cow and chicken vigils, which are bi-weekly. Vigils have become a really important part of our activism. People often say, “Oh, I could never go to a vigil, it would make me too sad,” and we inform them that we were there too. We used to think the same thing—everyone does. It took us a full year to finally attend our first vigil, and once we did, we wished we had done it sooner. Ultimately, a vigil is not about how we, the humans, feel. It’s about how the animals feel. We get to go home to a shower, a meal and a warm bed, and share our feelings with friends and loved ones, and continue to live our lives the way we want to. The animals don’t. And so we’re there for them. Bearing witness to the suffering of these animals is a powerful experience, and sharing the videos and photos from these vigils has had an impact on many of our followers to the point of inspiring activism in them as well. Plus, there’s always the rare opportunity to rescue an animal from slaughter, particularly at our chicken vigil. Attending vigils literally saves lives.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

Ana: When I first moved to Los Angeles, I joined the LA Fitness in Hollywood. At the end of one of my yoga classes, my instructor announced that she was a planning a retreat in Italy, and although I very well knew that I would not be able to afford it, I signed up to her mailing list. I didn’t have any friends yet, and I was desperate to be part of something. I’m not sure how long after, but on May 31, 2010, I got an email from her, on which all of us were copied, where she linked to the movie Earthlings. She was very casual about it. She said she’d come across something that had an impact on her and wanted to get our thoughts. I started watching, and it blew my mind. It took me about five hours to watch it. I would pause it and pace around my apartment bawling into my pillow.

I stopped eating meat that day. However, I was still wearing blinders when it came to dairy, eggs and fish. I wouldn’t take them off for another five years! Brian and I went vegan together. He’ll tell you more about that!

Brian: Initially, I went vegetarian because I started dating a beautiful young woman from Costa Rica (hint, hint), and she was vegetarian, so when we moved in together, I decided to go vegetarian also. She never asked me to do it. In fact, I had hesitated in asking her to be my girlfriend because I was a meat-eater and she was a vegetarian! It was a dishonest, lame excuse and certainly was not my proudest moment. And I mean, ultimately, what is more important? Being with the person you love? Or eating dead animals?

Fast forward a few months, and we had begun subbing out dairy and eggs for vegan alternatives. One day, we were in Trader Joe’s doing our weekly shopping, and the only non-vegan item we were still buying was this package of parmesan cheese shreds, so we thought, if we don’t buy these, our entire grocery haul would be vegan—so that’s what we did! And that just became our new normal. We then started diving into the world of vegan YouTube, and started watching more documentaries and educating ourselves on the topics of animal ethics, plant-based nutrition and the environmental destruction caused by raising animals for food.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

As simple as it sounds…we just stopped buying it. We don’t remember our exact veganniversary, because it wasn’t like a grand decision we had been gearing up for. Eventually, the more we ventured into veganism, we learned about purchasing cruelty-free household products as well. We also began to gradually donate our pre-existing leather, wool and silk products to a local thrift store.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

We should definitely be honest with children regarding where meat comes from. There are ways to do this without outright exposing them to traumatic footage they might not yet fully comprehend. However, children are very smart. They understand more than adults give them credit for, and they make connections easily. Taking them to a sanctuary, for example, is one way to nurture their innate compassion, letting them spend time with the animals, asking them questions, reiterating why it is that we shouldn’t eat animals. Sadly, for many children, their first experience with a chicken, cow, pig, duck, etc. is on a dinner plate. So allowing them to make the connection early on is instrumental in nurturing their sincere love for animals. There are also some beautifully illustrated children’s books by author and illustrator Ruby Roth that we strongly recommend. Two of our favorites are That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals and Vegan is Love.

What does being vegan mean to you?

For us, being vegan means doing the very best that we can to avoid causing unnecessary suffering to other living beings, and yes, that sometimes involves patiently and carefully making sure that the occasional spider or housefly finds her or his way back out of the house, or moving a snail out of harm’s way. The way we see it: they were here first. We built our homes and roads on their land. We’re the ones who are in the way.

In our quest to help the vegan movement grow, we also will support vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies. Many vegans find this abhorrent. They’ll say, “They’re just profiting off of the vegan movement.” To which we say, “Yes! Exactly!” That’s what we want! Corporations are amoral, which means they’re neither moral or immoral. People have the innocent expectation that multibillion-dollar companies are just going to spontaneously change one day and start doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. And while that’s a great dream to have, it’s just not how the world works.

Companies sell what you buy. That’s why the tobacco industry still exists. If we’re demanding vegan products, it only makes sense from an economic standpoint that we support those vegan products. If no one buys them, they’re going to take them off the shelves and go back to doing what they were doing.

Being vegan also means being kind towards our fellow humans, even when they resist the information or get defensive about their lifestyle choices. We need to remind ourselves that we were there too once. We are trying to peel away at layers upon layers, and years upon years of habit, family recipes, TV advertisements, terrible nutritional advice, birthday parties and BBQs, and just the general social indoctrination that exists in virtually every culture where we normalize violence towards animals to the point where most people don’t even recognize it. We try to educate and inform with compassion.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

We strongly believe it is. Like Natasha and Luca (That Vegan Couple on YouTube) say, “Going vegan is not the most we can do. It’s the least we can do.” They explain this through the analogy of a man beating a dog on the street. Obviously, you wouldn’t join the man in beating the dog—but would you walk away and simply not participate in the beating of the dog? Or, would you intervene? That’s activism. Every social justice movement in history has had an activist component to it, from peaceful protests, to marches, sit-ins, social outreach, petitions, and ultimately, changing laws.

And activism can take so many different forms. You can start a social media page, you can wear T-shirts that might spark a conversation, you can write an email or letter to your local grocery store and ask them to carry your favorite vegan products, you can create art, write songs, etc. And then you have more community-based activism, such as The Save Movement animal vigils and Anonymous for the Voiceless Cubes of Truth.

Any recommended Vegan books? Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

As YouTubers, we’ve learned so much from That Vegan Couple, Joey Carbstrong, Earthling Ed and James Aspey. They are some of the most influential activists out there. Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org is an amazing resource when it comes to anything health-related. Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has done amazing work in preventing and reversing Type 2 diabetes, and has very informative lectures on YouTube. Other speeches and lectures to look up on YouTube include those from Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Milton Mills, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. John McDougall.

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

We have so many favorite movies! As actors, we’re very passionate about our industry, and thus, we’re avid movie watchers! One of our favorite movies of all time is Interstellar. It has an underlying message that touches on our vulnerability as a species, and the responsibility we have to our planet. La La Land is another favorite. Planet Earth, Blue Planet II, and One Strange Rock are all beautiful series. 

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Where do we begin!? Los Angeles has endless options! Some of our favorites include Beelman’s and Au Lac in downtown Los Angeles, O’cado in Sherman Oaks (their jackfruit nachos are amazing), and veStation, also in Sherman Oaks, for some of the best vegan Thai food.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

One of our go-to home recipes is red lentil soup (which we’ve shared on our channel). It’s a really simple, really quick recipe that you can cook in bulk to last you through the week, and it’s just so comforting, warm, filling, and chock full of whole plant foods!

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

When you first decide to go vegan, you might get a lot of push back—especially from close friends and family. It’s important that you stay strong and realize that this is completely normal. It’s no lie that we are creatures of habit and also pack animals. Change makes us uncomfortable, particularly when a member of our pack “strays”. Be clear in your convictions and equip yourself with information. Knowledge is your best tool! We recommend watching outreach videos on YouTube by That Vegan Couple, Joey Carbstrong, James Aspey and Earthling Ed. Listen to the way they talk to people. Use the Socratic method—which is focused on asking questions and allowing the person with whom you’re speaking to come to his/her own conclusions.

Earthling Ed also has a free e-book available called 30 Reasons 30 Excuses that we have found very useful in our outreach.

And reach out to US! We’ve helped many people transition to a vegan lifestyle, and we’re always happy to answer any questions!

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

We are so very lucky. We live in one of the most progressive vegan cities in the world! Not only is there a vegan pop-up fair somewhere in Los Angeles practically every single week, but we are also passing many important laws that we hope will snowball to other cities and states. We were at City Hall last year and early this year speaking up for the Los Angeles fur ban, which passed with flying colors! And now AB 44 was introduced, which would ban the sale and manufacture of fur in the entire state of California. We also called Governor Jerry Brown and expressed our support for SB 1249 last year, which also passed, banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals in California. A couple of new motions were introduced this year, such as AB 479, which would give additional funding to California schools for providing vegan meal options, and also a proposal to require all city-owned venues to offer at least one plant-based option to help fight climate change.

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

We made our first vegan friends doing activism! Nowhere else will you find a more committed, passionate, kind group of people than when you’re out there making things happen! And if there aren’t any pre-established opportunities in your town, make one! They all had to start somewhere. We’d recommend starting with a vegan meet-up group. You think you’re the only vegan in your town? Well, so does every other vegan in your town! Trust us! There’s more than one!

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?

Living cruelty-free means doing the best we can, whenever we can. We understand that by simply existing, we will inevitably cause harm to other living beings. But we cannot appeal to futility, and choose to purposefully exploit animals (human or non-human) simply because preventing all harm is impossible. This is actually an argument brought up by non-vegans when doing outreach—vegans aren’t perfect, and they can’t fix everything, so why bother? Well, the answer is that if we are to make a serious change in this world, it is in the trying that change happens.

What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

Some of our favorite apparel stores include Moo Shoes, Vegan Power Co., Vegetaryn, and Threads for Love. I (Brian) love Kevin Murphy hair care products. I (Ana) love Petit Vour, a subscription box service for cruelty-free, vegan make-up. Sudistic Pleasures is another one of our favorites. The owner, Jana, handcrafts luscious cruelty-free, vegan personal care products, like facial serums, hair pomades, baby products, etc.

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

We can’t actually think of anything. We have everything we need! With a little research, you can find an alternative to almost any item, including non-leather shoes, faux fur, household cleaners, palm-oil free cookies, beeswax-free candles, gelatin-free gummy bears, etc.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

To be honest, we’ve never struggled with being vegan. The easiest part about being vegan is the food! There is a plethora of vegan alternatives at virtually every grocery store now, from vegan burgers to vegan sausages, hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, pizza, mac n’ cheese, cream cheese, milk, coffee creamer, egg replacers—the list just goes on and on! Of course, we recognize that some people struggle with the transition more than others. The simple fact is that it takes about three weeks to change a habit, so stick with it and try to feel comfortable in your initial discomfort. Everyone’s motivation for going vegan varies, but we strongly believe that when your motivation stems from a larger cause, such as ending animal suffering and exploitation, it’s much harder to “slip up” or “cheat” when we know the animals are counting on us. We tend to be much more forgiving with our own health! If you ever feel the urge to give up, remember who the victims are. A life is worth far more than a few fleeting moments of taste pleasure. Animals are living, feeling, sentient beings who do not want to die, and if we don’t stand up for them, who will? They are only in this horrific state to begin with because consumers are demanding their flesh, milk and eggs. We have all the power to stop this—and thus, the responsibility to do so.

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