Thinking about this end of year stuff first makes my mind go blank and that eventually settles into my body as a knot in my stomach so, in the interest of self-care, I am just going to freefall here if you don’t mind.
This last year has been like another car of the same train, a train that has been disrupting, menacing and claiming lives for nearly two years, when the pandemic rolled into the world. Yes, we have new tools, which is beyond helpful, but two years in, it means we are just that much more over it, frazzled, scared, frustrated, stung by the indifference of others and tired of that ever-present train whistle and rumble. Just tired. (Not to be too self-indulgent, but it’s an even longer train for us, a train that started in February of 2019, when John was diagnosed with leukemia, had a bone marrow transplant and subsequent quarantine, but come to think of it, that is a different train pulling a bunch of cacophonous cars on a different track, but it often feels the same and sometimes the tracks criss-cross.) (What year is it again?)
If we ran a proper website at Vegan Street, I would take this year-end opportunity to remind you of our successes, and there were those, detailed in our short video. So I guess this is to say we did do that. With 2022 waiting for us – like the proverbial cat stationed next to the mousehole? – it’s probably best to just keep moving forward, though, because there is no other way.
So I’m going to move forward and say that I hope you find peace and forgiveness, for yourself and for others, in 2022. I hope the same for myself.
I hope you tap into resources of strength, gratitude and patience you didn’t know you had. I hope the same for myself.
I hope this time changes you and me for the better: I hope that it makes us more wise, more compassionate, more considerate, more joyful and more discerning about who we let into our minds, hearts and lives. I hope we never return to the normal that took anything precious for granted. I hope that we never return to the normal of thinking that honest vulnerability is anything but a key asset and strength. I hope we never return to the normal of shutting down conversations about injustice and work to fix these injustices with effective idealism, creativity, resourcefulness and ego-less willingness.
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If there is anything that changes a person, it is trauma. Being pummeled with a long and ever-unfolding medical trauma, our family emerged from our foxhole a little shell-shocked. It made me so keenly aware of who and what matters, though, and extremely protective of my time, knowing how fragile and uncertain it is for each and every one of us, whether or not you have a scary diagnosis.
Yes, I can still get caught up in the STDM (stuff that doesn’t matter) but I don’t get as hopelessly entangled in it as I once did. (This is just a function of aging, too, one of the best benefits of having the good fortune of living long enough.) But I hope you and we emerge from this pandemic time better than before: Tough and tender. Strong and sensitive. Confident and humble. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “but” there, I said “and” quite intentionally. I think there is no reason these qualities should contradict one another.
May we emerge from this experience with more compassion for ourselves and each other. Bruised, battered and maybe a little seasick but in it. And for those who can’t be on the right side of history, who still need convincing that lives matter without justification, let us part ways if we can and gain sustenance from our tribe, the ones who nourish, protect and shine a light on a better way to treat and care for one another.
Oh, this time has been so very real.
May 2022 bring us more of the good stuff we all need.
Vegan Street Presents 2021's Happy News of the Year
Each month, we send out a newsletter that includes what we call our happy news of the month, which is exactly what it sounds like: Good news for the animals that happened the month prior. I decided to look through the twelve issues of our newsletter from this past year and see if I could gain some big picture insights from the positive developments we included each month.
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Clockwise from top left: Pinky Cole, Tabitha Brown, Melissa Butler, Tracye McQuirter and Maya Madsen
Black Woman Leadership
We are thrilled for each and every vegan but 2021 seemed to be a year when Black women got some long overdue recognition for the heavy lifting they have been doing for years. While Slutty Vegan’s Pinky Cole and social media icon Tabitha Brown have been adored for a while, this past year shot them into the stratosphere with new collaborations, expansions, partnerships and projects respectively. Let’s not forget how Maya Madsen of Maya’s Cookies, charity-focused and experiencing a massive uptick in support as a Black-owned business, was able to open their first storefront during a pandemic, Shark Tank-rejected Melissa Butler’s The Lip Bar (now referred to as TLB) continued to expand their retail presence and product lines and, last but certainly not least, public health nutritionist Tracye McQuirter helped 15,000 (yes, you read that right) Black women go vegan through her free 21-day program, 10,000 Black Women. Pretty damn impressive.
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Vegan Fine Dining
I am one of those people who proudly prefers vegan food that is on the peasant side of the spectrum, but it’s still exciting to see traction happening on the fancy-pants level because we need to be firing with all cylinders. Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park transitioned during the pandemic to reopen as a fine dining restaurant with a vegetable-forward vegan menu (except for milk and honey for coffee if requested); another Michelin-starred chef, Alex Gauthier, also went vegan and transitioned his established London restaurant Gauthier Soho to an entirely plant-based menu in line with his ethics and opened 123 Vegan, a more casual spot. In 2021, ONA (an acronym for Origine Non Animal) became the first fully vegan restaurant in France to receive a coveted Michelin star. With cutting-edge vegan culinary schools in Boulder, Las Vegas and Australia, and a new animal-free 10-week pastry course at the storied Le Cordon Bleu, it should come as no surprise that our cuisine is getting glammed up a bit.
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Fur’s On the Way Out
The writing has been on the wall for a long time about the fur industry, but 2021 saw some meaningful nails in that horrific industry’s coffin. Fashion media powerhouse ELLE recently announced that all of its 45 international eponymous publications will no show any fur on its pages, website or social media, but in 2021, we also saw famous fashion houses and brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Alexander McQueen/Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta and Canada Goose to either discontinue fur altogether or announce a timeline for the discontinuation of it. (This is not to imply that leather, wool, down and more are not still used by these brands, but one thing at a time.) Department stores Neiman Marcus/Bergdorf Goodman (hey, hey, John was arrested at an anti-fur protest at Neiman Marcus in the ‘90s) and Saks Fifth Avenue also announced that their fur salons would be closing down and the sales would be discontinued. Last but not least, in 2021, Estonia became the first Baltic country to ban fur farming, Ireland became the 15th country in Europe to outlaw fur farming, and Israel became the first country to ban fur sales. Heck, even France, the home of so many of these iconic fashion houses, banned fur farms in 2021. Closer to home in the US, the towns of Wellesley and Weston, MA banned the sales of fur, as did Ann Arbor, MI.
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State By State, Animal Cosmetics Testing is Ending
This year saw the states of Maryland, Maine, Virginia, Hawaii and New Jersey join California, Nevada and Illinois in banning cosmetics testing on animals. Panning out, Mexico became the first North American country to ban animal testing for cosmetics and the European Parliament voted to phase out animal testing and research in the European Union. There is not much more to say on this except it is long overdue and we are grateful for every win.
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There have been many more wins for the animals, but here are a few more odds and ends: 2021 saw the continued rise of the sustainable vegan leather industry made with plant materials like cactus, mango and mushrooms; speaking of mushrooms, is it just me or is everyone suddenly obsessed with these special fungi?; last but not least, greyhound racing in Florida finally came to an end this year. With Iowa’s remaining racing track set to close soon, the two only tracks that remain in use are in West Virginia.
This year-end summation brings us the rise of positive developments and some nails in coffins that are long overdue. There is much to be done but let’s acknowledge some gains, too.
Here’s to an even better 2022!
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