Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Maggie Ortlieb- Founder of VegOut Media

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Maggie, founder of VegOut Media, a nationwide vegan media company based in Los Angeles. My background is in marketing and I’ve held a variety of jobs, from working at a hotel, to nonprofit, to my most recent corporate job at an accounting and consulting firm. I left that job one year ago to pursue VegOut full-time. Dedicated to creating a kinder, healthier planet, I’m an advocate for individuals looking to transition to a plant-based diet or reduce consumption of animal products. At VegOut we connect consumers to vegan-friendly businesses through digital, print, and social media platforms. You can follow my personal Instagram at @maggieeortlieb and you can follow VegOut LA at @vegoutlosangeles or visit us on the web at vegoutmag.com.

What led you to veganism? How long ago?

I went vegetarian when I was 12 years old and went vegan 8 years later. I went vegetarian, because I couldn’t bear to eat animals any longer. My cousins were vegetarian and huge animal rights activists. They had a huge role in my transition. Shortly after I went vegetarian, and to my surprise, my mom went vegan. She was then cooking mostly vegan, so I was naturally eating mostly plant-based. I slowly eliminated things from my dietmilk, cheese, ice cream, then my beloved ranch dressing. Eventually, I only ate dairy and eggs when they were in baked goods (cake, cookies, bread, etc.).

Even though I originally went vegetarian for the animals, I started going vegan for health reasons, but it all looped full circle when I served as an au pair for a family in New Zealand during the summer of 2012. The family made their living off dairy cows. One morning, my host dad asked if I wanted to go milk the cows with him. I’m pretty open to new experiences, so I agreed to go. I woke up at 5am. to freezing cold air and put on my coveralls and gum boots, then we headed to the dairy farm. We corralled the miserable-looking cows into their stalls and went up and down the rows hooking them up to the cold metal machines. Many were infected, standing in their own poop, and crying in pain. They kicked as I hooked them to the machines. Farm workers came by and marked the cows deemed unable to produce more milk with an “X.” At the end of my shift, I watched as a truck hauled away the X-marked cows to be killed. When I got home I told my host mom that I was vegan. She was so kind and agreed to buy me soy milk, but kept accidentally buying skim milk. So I had skim milk in my Weetabix cereal for the rest of the trip. When I got back to the US, I went fully vegan.

The process of going vegan for me was definitely a journey. It didn’t happen overnight.

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

I started with food and switched out one thing at a time. Milk for soy milk, nutritional yeast for cheese (there weren’t all the great vegan cheese options when I first went vegan), etc. Clothing came next. I didn’t immediately get rid of my non-vegan clothing (wool sweaters, leather shoes, leather wallet, etc.), but made sure to only purchase vegan clothing when purchasing new. Then, I transitioned to cruelty-free and vegan beauty products. It was a process, and continues to be. I’m still learning and evolving as a vegan.

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?

I’m not married and don’t have kids, but I don’t intentionally make exceptions for myself with veganism. However, I have accidentally eaten animal products when they were served to me at restaurants. It’s unfortunate, but I dine out a lot for my job and mistakes do happen. When it does, I try not to be too hard on myself and use it as a teaching moment for the restaurants.

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

Children (and adults) should know the truth of how their food is made. We don’t necessarily need to show them traumatizing videos, but I’d like to see the government and food companies be more transparent. I truly believe that if people knew how their food was made, more people (including children) would eat plant-based.

What does being vegan mean to you?

 Being vegan means being kind to all living creatures and leading the most compassionate life possible. Doing as much as you can, but not obsessing about being perfect. No one is truly 100% vegan (the tires on your car likely aren’t vegan). I try to support all-vegan companies first, but due to the society we live in that’s not always possible, so I support non-vegan companies that offer vegan options as well. I’m originally from the Midwest where there isn’t the same access to vegan restaurants or brands as there is in Los Angeles. Some vegans criticize fast food restaurants that serve vegan options, but I think adding vegan options to fast food menus should be applauded. It’s all about progress. These options are for non-vegans/veg-curious and people living in other parts of the country, and even other parts of LA. And heck, if a vegan in LA wants to eat an Impossible Whopper, I’m not going to judge. We’re all out here trying to do our best. Also, being vegan definitely affects the way I treat other humans. Kindness to animals starts with kindness to other humans.

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

Every vegan is an activist simply by being vegan. Activism doesn’t always look like protest signs and public demonstrations. Activism can be as simple as being vegan and going to your day job and talking to your coworkers about veganism on your lunch break or bringing a vegan dish to Thanksgiving with your family. We all serve in different ways and no one should be shamed for not being “enough of an activist.”

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

Very! I believe that creating a more vegan world starts with kindness and compassion toward other human beings. You don’t win people over and convince them to go vegan by making them feel badly about themselves or their life decisions. You do it with love and compassion.

Any recommended Vegan books?

There are a lot of great vegan cookbooks out there if you’re looking for recipes! Just search “vegan cookbooks” on Amazon. My friend Megan Sadd wrote 30-Minute Vegan Dinners which highlights delicious quick and easy plant-based meals. I also recommend subscribing to my magazines, VegOut LA Magazine and VegOut NYC Magazine, for vegan eats around LA and New York as well as vegan beauty, fashion, and more.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

 vegoutmag.com! Also, Ryan Tempfer and Kimberly Tran from my team have a vegan food blog called No Eggs or Ham. Their food is next level!

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

As far as vegan documentaries go, Forks Over Knives is the one that really helped me first realize the health impact of a vegan diet. I highly recommend it. The Game Changers, which came out this year, is another must-watch.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Hinterhof in LA and Screamer’s Pizzeria in NYC. Hinterhof is an all-vegan German restaurant and Screamer’s is an all-vegan pizza spot with creative pizzas.

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ll make mistakes, and that’s okay. It’s not all or nothing. You don’t even have to be 100% vegan starting off. Just start somewhere. For me, I started by switching to non-dairy milk.

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Poppin! LA is the most vegan-friendly city in the United States and I’m lucky to live here. We have so many all-vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly options. And there are vegan events happening every week. The community is awesome and I’ve made so many great vegan friends!

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

Follow other vegans on Instagram and connect digitally. I’ve met a lot of friends that way. If you’re lucky enough to have an active vegan community in your city, go to a meetup or event. If you’re not so lucky, try to find other vegans and start a meetup!

What does living cruelty-free mean to you?

Living cruelty-free means being kind to other humans and animals. It means causing no harm. As mentioned earlier in the interview, I believe that creating a more vegan world starts with kindness and compassion toward other human beings. You don’t win people over and convince them to go vegan by making them feel badly about themselves or their life decisions. You do it with love and compassion.

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

I recently got a coat from Noize, a cruelty-free, PETA-approved outerwear company, and I’m OBSESSED. It’s been keeping me warm while visiting family in Michigan. I also only use skin care products from Silvana Skin Care. Silvana makes vegan and organic beauty products that are so natural you could eat them (but don’t actually). She’s based in LA and ships worldwide.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

When I first went vegan I struggled a lot. It was 8 years in the Midwest and options were limited. I did a lot of cooking at home and ate a lot of vegetables. There weren’t all the vegan products there are today. When I would go out to eat waiters had no idea what I meant when I said I was vegan.

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