Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! My name is Tiffany and I’m a native of Queens, NY. I’ve been vegan for about three years and I love it. I work as a teacher and I run my vegan blog and site as a side hobby. Feel free to follow along on my vegan journey and check out some delicious vegan food photos and recipes on my Instagram page “thevegangirlnyc” and on my blog thevegangirl.net!
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
My vegan journey was kind of a traditional path to veganism. It started almost five years ago. I started becoming more health conscious and began working out and trying to eat healthier, but I wasn’t vegan yet. I tried to go vegetarian practically overnight and failed miserably because I hadn’t done any research. I would get sick and thought it was my diet. Later, I was diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia and realized that my abrupt diet changes didn’t help because I had cut off a lot of the nutrients I was getting while eating meat but didn’t replace them when I went vegetarian. Next, I cut out red meat and tried to eat only poultry and seafood. Much later, I started exploring veganism. This time, I was prepared. I did the research and decided overnight (again!) to go vegan. Initially, it was only for health reasons, but as I learned more, it started to be about my health and belief that we shouldn’t consume animal products. Finally, my veganism expanded into the realm of intersectionality, and I continue to learn more every day.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
Phasing out of non-vegan food was actually really easy for me, but I attribute that solely to living in a city that kind of caters to a vegan lifestyle. I had a friend who I went to high school with and she was already vegan. She took me to vegan restaurants and introduced me to mock meats. These foods were almost identical to what I had been eating and although all the meat products didn’t taste exactly the same, they were close enough that I was both satisfied and intrigued. I supplemented all the “vegan junk food” with really hearty salads, realizing that salads did not have to be boring! Clothing was a different story. I’m still finding my place in the world of thrifting, and I eventually want to get items from established vegan labels. I didn’t own many leather items to begin with, but I did get rid of a few bags that had leather details and straps. I still have my leather doc martens because those last forever. As I became more eco-conscious, I stopped buying clothes at most fast fashion stores, but I’m still phasing out buying from major brands in all areas of my life. My goal is to make veganism accessible to all, so I wanted myself and others to understand that small steps make the biggest difference.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?
I do make exceptions but that was also a journey. Initially, I was really strict about all my vegan “rules”. As I expanded my views and focused more on intersectionality and accessibility, those rules became less strict. I don’t mind cross-contamination when it comes to eating vegan foods in restaurants that don’t use separate equipment for vegan food. About two years into being vegan, I started consuming foods that contain honey again, but try not to do this often. I don’t have a family yet, but I don’t plan on being strict about veganism when I do. I believe veganism is a lifetime choice that encompasses so much more than choosing not to eat animal products. It’s a personal decision and I don’t want to force that onto anyone else.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
I think this is another personal choice. When I researched veganism on my own, watching videos like this definitely factored into my decision to be vegan and they still do. I do think that purposely shielding children and everyone from these types of images would be wrong, but the information is out there and if young people or adults want to learn more, they should be able to. Some people can watch those videos and carry on with their day. Some watch them and feel something inside that makes them think they don’t want to eat meat anymore.
What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?
For me, being vegan means trying to cause as little harm as possible, in the most conscious ways possible. At this point, not eating animal products is the easy part. Living my daily life is somewhat different. If it’s possible to for them to cause harm to people or cause a harmful environment, I don’t think it’s wrong to kill bugs. I stopped eating honey because bees are often killed in the process, however, I’ve loosened up on this rule a little, although I still won’t purchase honey or products that contain honey. The world and society we live in is not perfect, so although I still try to patronize small businesses that are 100% vegan, I am not against getting vegan products from other companies, even if they are owned by non-vegan brands. I also think this is why intersectional veganism is so important. I treat everyone with a view of understanding. There are so many different people in the world, and although I think veganism could have a place in everyone’s life, I am never preachy about being vegan and try to take different cultures, societies and perspectives into account.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
This depends on how one defines activism. In my opinion, being vegan is a form of activism in itself. You are showing others what you believe by what you choose to eat, and sometimes, how you choose to live. Going beyond that is a choice, but I do think it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on in the vegan world, and if possible, to do small things that can help create change. Sign petitions, go to marches and protests, post on social media and spread the word about why you think being vegan is important. A lot of people taking small steps equals a lot of progress!
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
It’s easier for me to be more compassionate and empathetic to non-vegans because I was non-vegan for most of my life. The longer I’m vegan, I do have to catch myself sometimes, because I feel like veganism can fix almost everything! So, if I hear about something that I think can be fixed by a change in diet, I have to step back and try not to judge, knowing I don’t know the full story. Overall, I hope my empathy shines through, and I’m always willing to discuss different perspectives about being vegan.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Unfortunately, no! I haven’t read any books about being vegan yet, but I’d love some recommendations from all of you! I have a few vegan cookbooks in my collection: The Vegan Divas cookbook by Fernanda Capobianco, The Vegan Zombie cookbook by Chris Cooney and Jon Tedd, and Vegan Under Pressure by Jill Nussinow. If you have a pressure cooker, the third book is great if you’re trying to go vegan but feel like you won’t have enough time to make big meals.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
I love to promote pages run by BIPOC! A few of my favorites are Sweet Potato Soul by Jhene Claiborne, Eat Figs Not Pigs by Ashley and Ashlee, Real and Vibrant by Sapana Chandra, The Korean Vegan by Joanne, and How to be Vegan in the Hood by Erick Castro.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
I love food way too much to pick a favorite restaurant. But a few great spots are Champs diner, Urban Vegan Kitchen, and Screamer’s pizzeria. Screamer’s is great for fun and funky vegan slices you can’t find anywhere else, and the other two are great for comfort food favorites made vegan.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Small changes and small steps! If you try to do everything at once and it’s difficult, you’ll feel discouraged. Try to replace your food a little at a time and find replacements that you think you’ll like, keeping in mind that it’s a process and you may not like vegan variations of every food. Also, it’s important to find a support system, someone who will encourage you and help you find vegan alternatives and keep you motivated. And truly think about why you want to be vegan. If the only reason is to lose weight or to get attention, it likely won’t last. Being vegan is about more than food. Your morals and beliefs will be at the forefront of your vegan lifestyle.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
New York City is an amazing place to be vegan! Not only are there lots of vegan restaurants, but many non-vegan places now have vegan options. Unfortunately, many vegan places are still populated into smaller areas of the city, and hopefully this will change, but if you are introducing yourself to veganism, it’s a wonderful city to explore, and there are also many vegan-friendly options in plenty of supermarkets.