Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview Series #7: Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute


 Hello friends - before sharing the awesome interview you're about to read, I have some wonderful news:


Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! has our first sponsor!! I am happy to announce that Moo Something, a company that sells custom animal paintings, photos and apparel that promote humane treatment of all animals, will be sponsoring this blog for the next three months! See the side of the blog? There's already an adorable link to their shop right next to this post, so go check it out people!  

Want to learn more about Moo Something? Well, don't worry - I will be doing an interview with Moo Something founder, Cary Smith, in the very near future!

Speaking of interviews...

I came across today's interview subject - Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute - last year, when a friend of mine sent me a link to the video below:


Already someone who passionately opposes fur, I totally agreed with the message behind Joshua's video and immediately wanted to know more about this funny, bold, and stylish activist (look at him rockin' that popped collar and black scarf above). I was also inspired by how completely fearless Joshua was in making this piece - for someone to stand face to face with New Yorkers (!) and tell them how their fur coats, earmuffs, and hats were really made, all with a smile on his face - it was something I had never seen before in animal advocacy videos.  I was so intrigued that I continued to follow his website for a while after. Our paths crossed again more recently when he posted about my March WFAS/FS fundraiser on The Discerning Brute, so I felt doubly compelled to reach out to him to find out more about his own vegan journey. What I have learned in the process is that not only does Joshua find unique and innovative ways to help expose the horrific state of animal exploitation, but he also shows us a side of vegan culture that is positive, hip, and attainable. This guy makes veganism and animal advocacy cool. And that is an awesome thing.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Pfluger.

Joshua Katcher created The Discerning Brute in 2008, a lifestyle website focusing on fashion, food and etiquette for the ethically handsome man.   The Discerning Brute features contributors, recipes, reviews,  thought-provoking articles, and monthly contests to win sought-after organic and eco apparel, accessories and specialty items, and keeps readers up to date on environmentally, ethically, and socially responsible news and indulgences. Joshua is an artist, writer, self-taught vegan chef, businessman, activist and television producer living in Brooklyn. He is a committed environmentalist, vegan, and social justice advocate. He is critical of unbridled consumerism, backwards pop-economics, and most things that do more damage than good. He encourages skepticism, critical thinking, and accountability. 

Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you? 

Joshua: What led me to veganism was surprisingly simple and logical. I was always fascinated by and loved animals, and I had a really great relationship with the woods behind the house I grew up in. So naturally, when someone mentioned to me that animals on farms are mistreated, I didn't want to believe it. I loved the taste and traditions associated with eating animal products. I worried what would happen to pizza parties, trips to Friendly's for ice-cream sundaes and my dad's favorite hot-fudge, and backyard barbecues? What about my mom's brisket and family holidays? It seemed overwhelming, but, being a huge comic book fanatic, I had a deep respect for the pursuit if justice. I was determined to find out what happens in that incredibly tenebrous space between the farm and the plate. Needless to say, I was shocked. I felt ashamed for being duped by this manipulative industry and enraged by the impassivity all around me. This was also around the same time I began to realize that adults are not as perfect as children often believe they are. When I realized that I had the ability to avoid causing so much harm and suffering to animals on factory farms and in laboratories, zoos, circuses, and in the wild, I was empowered and began to carve out a lifestyle for myself that included compassion for others as a primary focus. Of course I also discovered amazing new foods and brave friends. 

 Joshua Katcher for Vaute Couture Menswear (Photo courtesy of Anthony Two Moons).

KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?  

Joshua: The greatest rewards are the community. I've never met so many creative, attractive, passionate, and warm people. There is also the peace I feel knowing that I am not supporting industries that capitalize on something so devastating and unnecessary. Then there's the food! The stereotype that vegans eat rabbit food couldn't be further from the truth. I have become an avid foodie and been exposed to more cuisines and cooking and baking techniques then I ever would have otherwise. It's poetic when you go into something that at first seems limiting, only to find out that it opens up a whole world of new possibilities. The side-effect of being really healthy and shocking doctors who analyze my blood-work during my annual physicals is always fun, too.

 
Photo courtesy of Ryan Pfluger. 

The challenge is remaining relatable and living outside the comfort of a bubble. I am in this movement because it's a social justice issue, and that means people who are not aware of what's happening to the animals, people, and ecosystems need to be able to relate to me and understand my lifestyle and message, so they can come to be aware of this. It's not like a religion where I ever ask anyone to believe something that's not in this physical world. The evidence out there is so commonplace that it's almost invisible. And it's understandable to want to push all of mainstream culture out the window and close the blinds and throw a vegan party, but that becomes self-serving. We must still socialize in mainstream places, patronize mainstream restaurants that offer vegan options, and find joy and fun in art, culture, music, fashion, sexuality and everything else. In other words, we have to know where to put the dark things we know, and not allow them to make us miserable people. Half of making a lifestyle desirable is looking great and having fun. The other half is effectively communicating information. 

Joshua Katcher for Vaute Couture Menswear (Photo courtesy of Anthony Two Moons).

KMIV: What inspired you to create The Discerning Brute?

Joshua: I saw a void in the sustainability movement. No one was really talking to men on any level. Veganism (and just caring about stuff in general) has the stereotype of being feminine. But being a protector and a hero is very masculine. I try to provide advice and information as it relates to male identity. I also maintain the only database of fashion designers making ethical menswear. It's amazing what a handsome pair of vegan shoes and a vintage tie can do to a man's self-image.


KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?   

Joshua: I would say, be practical. It's not a religion, and it's not about being perfect and puritanical. Take your time and get all the information you need. It's out there. Watch some documentaries like Earthlings and Peaceable Kingdom. Read some books like Animal Liberation or Skinny Bastard. While there may seem like pressure to leap in, it's better to make slow, steady changes in your lifestyle, and over time you'll realize you haven't really given anything up that you ultimately didn't want to, and in exchange you'll have gained so much. The fear of "Once you know you can't go back" has crossed every single current vegan's mind. We all said "I could never go totally vegan", but then we did, and we lived to tell the tale.  


KMIV: Okay -  you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?

Joshua: Easy! Kale. Coconuts (with water inside), and Dr. Cow's Aged Tree-Nut Cheese.
  

Many thanks to Joshua for sharing his story with the KMIV! community. To learn more about Joshua Katcher's work and website, please visit www.thediscerningbrute.com.

15 comments:

Melissa said...

Wow - what a great interview. Joshua is very insightful and I love the point he makes about vegans still needing to be relatable to the non-vegan world we live in. So true!

- Melisa
http://www.greenbeansandyam.com/

Plate+Simple said...

Fantastic, lovely and thoughtful. I adore Joshua's philosophy!

"It's poetic when you go into something that at first seems limiting, only to find out that it opens up a whole world of new possibilities."

This could not be more true.

This has been truly inspirational. I think I was meant to read this today. Now off to check out The Discerning Brute!

Thanks Lindsay, as always, for another amazing post!

xo

Anonymous said...

Yet ANOTHER amazing interview! People, like those interviewed, drive me insane. So cruel and so vapid.

I so look forward to logging on to your webpage every morning. It's my vegan morning communion! Silvia

Molly G said...

Hey Linds,
Just an FYI, the picture links in this post are broken! Sad. See you Sunday!

Emerson Dog said...

Wonderful post!!
And thank you Lindsay! :)

Emerson Dog said...

"What's it like to have a cold heart but a warm neck."
Best thing I've heard in a while. I love this.

Myra Wolf said...

Holy Moly..another guy interview..Go guys!:)

A well rounded man that knows himself. Great share Lindsay!

I like this sentence. He also has depth.

"It's not a religion, and it's not about being perfect and puritanical".

PS: Working tomorrow to help Hobos at a Holistic Health Fair..most of the day probably. Will let you know all about it.

Myra Wolf said...

oh, forgot to add my love and kisses :)

Loooove you Lins xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Rachel said...

People still wear real fur? Wow...
that is sick!

With all of the fab alternatives I can't believe that the fur industry still exists! GROSS AND HORRIFIC! PUKE!

My prayer today are for the beautiful creatures that suffer needlessly for fashion...

For shame fur wearers- for shame!

Lindsay said...

Hey Molly - I just changed re-uploaded the pictures. Let me know if they're still not working for you. Thanks everyone - Joshua is one awesome and brave guy, and I'm so happy that I was able to share his story today with you all! :)

Jeri @ GodsDreamsForMe said...

I so appreciate how we are educated by who you interview and what they stand for. I'm learning so much more than I ever thought about choosing to live vegan. God Bless.

Lolly said...

Hi, Lindsay! Another great interview. I am so enjoying your interviews - you are a regular blog read every day! Keep up the great work!
~Lolly

Mara said...

Thanks for the interesting article, Lindsay. I've been a little hesitant to respond for fear of being criticized, but I did want to offer my reaction. I've just started my vegan journey this past January. And it's been an amazing journey...one that has inspired growing and exploration. But I have found that one of the difficult things has been combating the perception that people have when they hear "vegan." I think a lot of people get really defensive, and there's some assumption made that when you say you're vegan, you think that you're more ethical than meat-eaters. I try to tell people that that's not true. And I certainly don't feel that way, and plenty of vegans/vegetarians that I've met don't feel that way either. But I have to say that when I watched Joshua's video, it didn't quite sit well with me. I totally appreciate and respect his devotion to the cause. But I just don't think that judging and insulting is the best way to go. When I read your interview, I loved everything he was saying...but the video threw me off. I don't know...maybe I'm wrong. Does anyone else encounter this problem? When people find out you're vegan, they look at you and immediately think that you're judging them? I certainly don't feel that I can claim moral purity just because I'm not eating animal products. I'm just trying to find ways to live a better life. Someone else might find a different way, a different contribution to make. I do think it's important to try to educate people. But what if he had tried to give all those fur-wearers in his video, a flyer with information about vendors that sold alternative products? I just don't think things are always quite so black and white. Anyway, I hope I haven't offended anyone (included Joshua!). I think Joshua has a lot of good things to say and offer (I checked out his website too.) I just wonder what the best approach or method is to get the best results. Peace, everyone!

Lindsay said...

I hear you Mara - completely. It's definitely a tough thing to face the reactions of people when you say you're vegan. I think the problem a lot of the time is not even in the way you state that you're a vegan - it's that a lot of people feel uncomfortable having to think about their food choices when someone who eats vegan is sitting across from them. Usually, when I tell people about my lifestyle, whether I do it positively and peacefully or not, it can be met with defensiveness and shutting down (not always, but in a lot of cases). The simple point is that not everyone wants to know about factory farming or animal abuse, and if someone tries to help them learn more about it, it can come across as morally superior. Yes, there are people who actually DO act morally superior as a vegan, which makes it even harder to be a compassionate, kind one!

I think it's all about how you choose to live your life - and that includes talking with the kindest intentions, not ever acting superior as a vegan, and treating people with respect, even if their choices don't match up with yours.

Also - thank you so much for your honesty in responding to Joshua's video. I would say with the video, what I loved was that he forced a lot of people who would otherwise make the decision to keep wearing fur see the consequences of their actions. So many people go about their day living for only themselves, totally unaware of the impact they are having on animals, and even though Joshua didn't do it subtly, he helped expose that for these people. I agree with you that compassion and kindness are the best qualities to have as an activist. But I'm conflicted, because I also think we're getting to a point in the world where big changes need to happen in the world, because the damage towards animals and the Earth is getting to a point where it will be irreversible if we don't act boldly to stop it. Whether it's an "in your face" PETA demonstration that exposes KFC's cruelty or a compassionate Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary rescue story, we need people to act bravely - and even take some risks - in fighting to protect animals now.

And in the future, Mara (and anybody else reading) - feel free to always write honest responses, ask questions, and talk to me openly on here. I love it and appreciate it so much.

Have a beautiful rest of the weekend! :)

Sabrina said...

Ah Josh, I've had this huge crush on him for like 2 years now. Great interview and also great blog. I'm new here so I've been catching up with your articles and I must say it's very interesting information. Kudos to you!