Why hello everybody!
I just got back from a wonderful, relaxing, week-long cruise with my family (more on this adventure soon!), and, although sad to be away from my KMIV community, I thoroughly enjoyed a nice break away from the internet. The only caveat? Coming back to Los Angeles completely unaware of the recent controversy that has been brewing this past week in the vegan community. I don't know how in the loop you guys are about this, but just in case, here's a re-cap: VegNews Magazine, one of my (and so many other folks') favorite vegan companies, has been caught taking stock photos laden with meat, dairy, and eggs off of the internet, photo-shopping them, and posing them as vegan dishes in their bi-monthly publication. What's more is that when a reader recently commented about this on their website, VegNews immediately deleted the comment, thereby hiding the proof that they were indeed pawning off the meat-heavy photos as being vegan. After learning about this and reading through blogger Quarry Girl's public response to it, I became really concerned, for several reasons:
1) I've been an avid fan of VegNews ever since I discovered them back in 2008,
2) VegNews is the only vegan magazine around to date,
3) VegNews stands for something that this blog also stands for - sharing the positive, delicious, and joyful aspects of vegan living, and
4) It's been my sincere dream to write for VegNews one day.
I'm still quite torn about how to respond to this situation. You see, living vegan has been the best decision I've ever made in my life, and getting to share my lifestyle with all of you on here has been a true gift. I like to think that blogs like KMIV work to create the same kind of world VegNews does - one where living vegan is celebrated, not criticized. Where living vegan is held in high esteem, not judged as being extreme. I also like to think that VegNews, like so many vegan blogs and publications, works to allow us to have a place where we can see veganism for what we hope it will become to everyone, everywhere - a mainstream, fun, and accessible way of living. I myself have looked up to VegNews as the standard for how I wanted my blog to be - a safe haven for those of us in this world who want to live as compassionately and mindfully as possible.
VegNews did write a response to all of the backlash they received about the photos, and although well-written, it lacked something I was deeply hoping for - a much firmer commitment to find any means necessary in the future to not resort to meat-filled stock pictures in their magazine. This immediately made me think of the many talented vegan photographers I know of who would have happily jumped at the chance to submit photographs to VegNews - for free! - if asked. Which begs the question: why didn't they try this method if they were financially unable to pay for professional photographs? Quite possibly, they may have very well tried doing that, but for whatever reason, they chose to ultimately use the royalty-free photos, which they say is the industry standard.
I think why so many people are upset about this is because as ethical vegans, we work hard every single day to tread as lightly on the Earth as possible - even if that means spending extra money each week on organic veggies or cruelty-free beauty products. We are more than happy to make sacrifices in the name of compassionate living, and if that means we can't enjoy birthday cake at a non-vegan's party or have to work a little harder with a non-vegan restaurant to get a kinder meal, that's okay with us. We make the sacrifices because it is the least we can do to give back to so many animals and humans who have suffered at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industry (not to mention the other industries that exploit sentient beings). We all trusted that VegNews was working hard to remain as ethically vegan as we were, and to learn that they cut corners in this way has been truly disheartening.
As I always say, Kiss Me, I'm Vegan is a blog for the happy vegan in all of us. We do our very best here to bring smiles to our readers' faces everyday by sharing the uplifting side to living vegan. Although I'm disappointed that VegNews did not rise above industry standards, I can't completely abandon them as a reader. Why? Because until there are too many vegan magazines to count, there is only VegNews. Because I believe VegNews sincerely does want to bring veganism to the masses - and usually does so with great success. Because nobody is perfect, even a magazine that aspires to be entirely vegan.
VegNews is so much more than their recently outed mistake, and, like the beloved ball-player caught taking steroids later in his career, they are running a huge risk now of being remembered more for their indiscretion than anything else they've accomplished, which would sadden me greatly. I truly feel that when any respected public institution has a slip-up of this magnitude, there needs to be a sincere and earnest apology for any wrongdoings, and they need to find a way to get back to the heart of why they do what they do - in this case, uplifting, inspiring, and connecting people to joyful vegan living.
I think the rest of my feelings can be best be summed up by today's reason to smile, which is a note I found online today by vegan activist, baker, and one of my personal heroes, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. In it, she writes:
" I just want to extend my heartfelt apologies to everyone who feels hurt and betrayed by their actions. Your sense of outrage and betrayal is valid, and your voice has been heard. For those who are standing by VegNews, your loyalty is admirable and understandable. I, too, want them to succeed. I think all of us do. Their success is the success of the movement. Their success is the success of the animals.
My hope is that those who feel deceived will continue to communicate their concerns but do so in a productive and compassionate way. We can be critical and compassionate at the same time; they are not mutually exclusive positions. For those who have expressed themselves, I’m so sorry you feel you have not been heard. I know how frustrating that is. My hope is that this will not be another splinter in a community already scarred by divisiveness. We all have the same goal of eliminating violence towards animals, and we don’t need more distractions from this purpose.
My hope is that the VegNews founders and staff will help heal this split before it becomes irreparable. My hope is that they will listen to and respond to the concerns of their readers and commit to a policy that reflects their own integrity and the integrity of the larger movement. Though it will take time, strength, and courage, trust can still be rebuilt, but the time to act is now. I hold out hope for them, for us, and for the animals."
Many thanks to Colleen for voicing what so many of us have been feeling, and I only hope that VegNews gets their hands on this and it fires them up to do more to respond. To read Colleen's note in its entirety, click here.
If you'd like to see more of a response from VegNews over this matter, you are not alone, and there is a way to voice your feelings. Just go to their contact page here. I only ask that if you do, try to be as kind and respectful as you can, and if you have solutions, by all means, share them. Maybe if enough people write showing a balance of support and criticism, positive change will happen at VegNews. And that will be something to smile about.