Live Long and Prosper.
Veganmania Chicago 2017 took place today. My young activists and I volunteered to help run the booth for Mercy for Animals, which co-sponsored the event. Mercy for Animals is our favorite organization dedicated to promoting a compassionate (i.e., vegan) lifestyle. I’m in awe of the dedicated team, which fights against the evils of factory farming by educating the public (in part, by infiltrating farms and slaughterhouses to document the business-as-usual atrocities), and working tirelessly to enact legislative and societal change. We had a great time talking to people about the issues that mean a lot to us. We also got to explore the expo, sampling yummy food from dozens of vendors and adding a bunch of new t-shirts to our wardrobe. We were happy to be at an event that was swarming with people committed to the shared ethos of saving “1,100 gallons of water, 40 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and one animal’s life every day”. Slowly but surely, and however belatedly, our society may be coming to the collective realization that we must stop destroying our planet. First and foremost, that means embracing plant-based living. We’re seeing more and more dairy and meat alternatives making their way onto the shelves of mainstream grocery stores. My favorite Whole Foods often runs out of the most popular vegan items while products featuring “funny chicken” or “happy cow” occupy ample shelf space secured by powerful merchandisers.
Today, there is a treasure trove of delicious, nutrient-rich plant-based food products. There is also an an embarrassment of riches when it comes to man-made fabrics and cruelty-free cosmetics and home decor items, including rugs (such as the ones we’re proud to feature on Warm Fuzzies Place). These items tend to be prettier, softer, more durable and more hypoallergenic than traditional animal-derived products like wool, silk, leather and fur.
Going vegan today requires very little, if any, sacrifice. Still, the majority of people in food-rich nations continue to contribute to the systematic torture and slaughter of animals on an unprecedented scale. The good news, on the other hand, is that veganism had grown by more than 500 percent since 2014 in the United States. A full 6% of Americans now identify as vegan. This statistic offers a glimmer of hope that the trend will continue, and even escalate. To be sure, I see the growing shift toward compassionate consumption increasingly even in my day-to-day interactions with strangers. Passersby on the street, noticing my kids’ attire with slogans like “Animals are Not Commodities,” offer a nod of approval or voice their support. Surveying a product in my shopping cart, people in the checkout line ask: “Is it good?” Store employees commonly remark: “I love those burgers” and “this is the best ice cream!”
While the tide may be turning in the United States, European countries remain light years ahead of us on the vegan front. My girls and I were astounded by the difference we saw during our travels this summer. There are 120 vegan restaurants in Prague, for example, including four quick meal chains that serve fantastic and varied cuisine. Berlin, known as the vegan capital of Europe, has a vegan only supermarket chain, called Veganz. We saw vegan clothing and shoe stores and a plethora of vegan eateries, ranging from coffee shopswith delicious lattes, crepes and croissants (yes, no need to give those up) to pizza joints (amazing pizza by any measure) to restaurants offering lovingly prepared comfort food.One of our favorite restaurants was Attila Hildmann's Vegan Food,
owned by the namesake celebrity chef and fitness guru. My kids enjoyed the dinner there so much that we returned the next day for lunch. At one point during our meal, a young guy seated next to us removed his wraparound sunglasses. Right away we recognized that it was Attila Hildmann himself, the author of such best-selling books as “Vegan for Fun”, “Vegan for Fit” and “Vegan for Youth” and also the creator of a line of food merchandise so rich and tempting that it’s a mystery how he managed to make them healthy and nutritious at the same time.
My 11-year-old daughter and I enjoyed a great conversation with Atilla about our chosen lifestyle, our dining experiences in Germany and our hope for the world to become a healthier place for all earthlings. We asked Atilla about his logo. We noticed it on our first visit and assumed that it was Spock’s signature “Live Long and Prosper” greeting from the Star Trek TV series. Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock, reportedly introduced this gesture because as a child he saw the rabbi in his temple raise his fingers to signify the Hebrew letter “Shin” as a symbol of Shaddai (god). Shin is even more meaningful to the sages and students of the Kabbala because it can be interpreted to mean “change” and “the world to come”. It seemed to us that both the Hebrew meaning of the letter and the popularly known Star Trek sign were fitting with the vegan lifestyle and a logical choice for Attla’s logo. However, Attila gave us a puzzled look and admitted that he had never heard about the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. He was about to give us a real explanation when my 9- year-old daughter, who up until that point seemed more interested in her bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese than our conversation, took a sideways glance at the logo and declared: “It’s a ‘V’ for ‘vegan’”.
Vegan is the only way of life she can imagine and it is natural and effortless for her. I marvel at her good fortune. As for me, Attilla’s “V” will always remind me of the letter Shin because of my own Jewish heritage as well as the 1960’s TV show that did foresee many things in the world in which we live today. I hope that the world to come is going to change for the better and all of us sharing this planet can live long and prosper.
- paulina hubli