Writers! You Can Now Join Our Open Source Community - VH: Playground
If you read our last blog post about our new open source community, VH: Playground, you would know that it is a community that was previously just for developers. You would've also learned that VH: Playground is perfect for those who don't have time to fully commit to volunteering and allows volunteers to devote any time they do have to work on projects and help us save the animals. This community has now evolved and we are looking for content writers to join too! Whether you are a professional writer looking to share your skill with a good cause or maybe you just like to write as a pastime, you're more than welcome to join here: https://discord.gg/Yt3zADeJKx . The team leads also use VH: Playground as a way to recruit individuals who frequently and consistently contribute quality work to projects. So, If you are interested in being a part of the core team and applying to Vegan Hacktivists, you should also join this community ASAP. We looking forward to seeing you land in the playground Discord!
Coding For Compassion: Data-Driven Technology As A Reliable Partner For Effective Activism
We are at the dawn of the Age of Interaction. We want to be informed, but we want to interact with the information. We want our actions to carry impact, and we want interactive data that shows us the extent of our impact. If interactive technologies with reliable data and verified impact are what we want, then how can coding activism meet this demand across the board? How can technologies be interactive, but also deliver data with impact?Data-Driven Technologies As An Extension Of Informed, Nonviolent Activism Nonviolent activism is our most potent weapon. We inform, we educate, and we do so from a position of strength by spreading awareness of violent practices in a nonviolent way. And the digital age has gifted us a much larger audience we can engage and mobilize. A report by the United States Institute of Peace connects the use of appropriate technologies with effective, nonviolent civic mobilization. Online mobilization, so the report states, can lead to effective offline action if technologies are leveraged in the context of an ethical model. P. Ackerman and H. Merriman “Checklist for Ending Tyranny”, isolates six elements that define effective activism in:The ability to unify people and bring them behind a common goal.The capacity to strategize.An unwavering commitment to nonviolent discipline.A growing participation in the organization or movement.Results in the sense that a diminishing effect of repression is registered.And decrease in support of the movement’s opponents. In this Age of Interaction, coding effective and data-driven technologies are a crucial part of bringing the elements in this checklist together. So, let’s go ahead and jump into the nuts and bolts of it!Animal Rights Activism In The Age of Interaction So, how can online mobilization and data collection lead to organized offline action that ticks all the boxes? We have evolved from the Age of Information to the Age of Interaction. Mobile phones and computers have become more than a mere tool for information download, they are a way for us to interact with the world around us. And while many animal rights organizations have the strategy of information distribution down, their ability to effectively connect with people beyond content delivery often still needs some refining. Take PETA’s extensive list of cruelty-free companies and cosmetics as an example. You can download PDFs listing all the ethical companies confirmed to refrain from animal testing. The accompanying app will allow you to search for any company and tells you whether they test their products on animals. An incredibly valuable resource, but not yet on par with the visual and interactive qualities this new age seems to favor. If we take the example of cruelty-free products further, it is worth noting The Leaping Bunny Program, for example, has launched an app that allows users to scan barcodes in the supermarket for instant “do or do not buy” feedback. The app still needs some tweaking before it can function optimally, but it has taken a great step towards integrating ethical actions into everyday behaviors. The technologies that meet current demands and trends are still in modest supply in the animal rights movements. But pretty revolutionary steps have already been taken in the effective delivery of data in a visual model, and the monitoring of impact with an eye on increasing its effectiveness.Boosting Impact By Monitoring It Data has become increasingly important for animal welfare organizations and activists not just as a means to communicate facts and information to the people, but also to measure their impact and understand, without a shadow of a doubt, that their activism is actually making a difference. Organizations such as Animal Charity Evaluators and Faunalytics have crafted their entire mission around data and how it can help activists and advocates make better and more effective choices. And when data technologies enter the picture, organizational, as well as community-driven progress, is possible. In her talk at the conference The Future of Animal Shelter Data, Director of Maddie’s Fund, Kristen Hassen, identifies data collection and technological tools optimized to monitor impact as the future of effective animal welfare management. She discerns the three waves Animal Shelter Software has gone through to arrive at its current state. In the first wave, she states, the software functioned as a mere tool for inventory management and a way to keep count of the animals housed in the shelter. During the second wave, adoptions and boosting the survival rate of the animals took center stage, along with a more user-friendly database and the ability to register an animal’s behavioral patterns and medical history. The third and current wave has moved its focus to the community. The software is leveraged to track its impact on animals and the community, and the data is used to proactively identify successes and further challenges. Hassen’s speech on the importance of data and the evolution of the shelter’s software model reflects a universal trend that quality organizations truly want to live by. Ackerman and Merriman’s elements of stimulating participation, unifying people, and the capacity to strategize, are brought together by technology’s ability to monitor impact and, as result, offer reliable data on how it can be improved. This is true for activism on a more individual level as well. Activism, especially among the youth, is on the rise, and individuals wanting to wade a path towards a more enlightened future are becoming as plentiful as organizations. In a bid to empower individual activism, Vegan Hacktivists’ Activist Hub uses real data and analytics (DnA) to revolutionize street activism and generate data that allows each activist to track their impact. The same philosophy is applied to Vegan Bootcamp, Vegan Hacktivist’s free online course site that guides non-vegans and activists through the process of becoming a well-rounded and informed vegan. Each member can share the platform through a unique link that allows them to monitor signups, completed courses, documentaries watched, and referrals. On the integration of data-driven tools and technologies, Vegan Hacktivist founder David van Beveren shared: If we want to see an end to the incredible suffering caused by factory farming, then we need to start innovating more in global, effective ways. I can't think of a better way for us to reach millions of people all at once than through online animal rights activism, whether that be coding, designing, building content, or creating online tools that aid our goals. Activists who volunteer with the Vegan Hacktivists do just that, we utilize our skills and come together as a community to build data-driven tools. Coding and other forms of online activism give us a unique opportunity to build a diverse group of passionate activists from all around the world, creating a strong community for collaboration and innovation in our movement.Data Visualization And Digital Mapping Another effective integration of data and computer technology, has turned data visualization into a valuable tool to, in the words of the Beautiful Trouble Principle, make the invisible, visible. After all, visualizing issues that would otherwise be easily missed or ignored is our mission as activists, and inspiring action is our goal. Beyond the integration of valuable data, visualization also supports the natural human learning and retention process. According to research by the Rotman Research Institute of Baycrest Centre and Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, we are capable of remembering over 2000 images with a minimum accuracy of 90%, an ability that exceeds our capacity to remember content. This may be, so the study states because pictures stimulate connections with knowledge we already possess about the world. Best Friends, the United States’ largest sanctuary for homeless animals, recently launched an interactive data visualization tool that uses data to empower organizations and individuals alike to adopt in their neighborhood, by providing exact numbers on the animals entered a shelter, and how many are left alive. This data and its perhaps often shocking ratio are designed to make people think twice about purchasing a pet when, in fact, a large number of animals need help so close to home. Data visualization designed to educate and inform in an interactive way will prove to be a highly effective tool in turning online explorations into offline actions. Vegan Hacktivists’ Interactive Animal Rights Map, for example, houses the largest collection of animal rights activist groups from around the world, with over 2500 organizations currently integrated into the map. Users can find organizations close to them to join and support, or, if they feel their area is lacking certain representation, perhaps even be inclined to start their own. The Takeaway Data-driven technologies can connect people with the information they need right here, right now. Power can be taken away from opponents by offering insights into the staggering data that could sway a caring population into actions driven by compassion. We research, interact, organize, and strategize online, and we unify offline. This is the power of effectively presented data, and it is on the verge of unleashing its real potential.
Meet The Vegan Hacktivists Team: Team Leader Stephan de Vries!
Stephan is the team leader for Team Carrot! This team works on projects like 5 Minutes 5 Vegans, Daily Nooch and many more. Stephan is also one of our most senior team leads, recently celebrating one year with us. He is one awesome developer who never loses sight of our ultimate goal - saving the animals. We think you’ll like him just as much as us, keep reading to learn all about him!How did you end up joining and finding out about VH?  When going vegan I was very interested in health and nutrition. I watched various YouTube videos on these topics and read How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger. After a couple of months, I had accumulated a lot of knowledge and realized that many people were suffering from horrible diseases they probably could have prevented. I wanted to get the word out, help people live longer, healthier lives, while also introducing them to the ethical argument. I started initiating conversations with people and quickly realized there was so much information, I couldn’t remember every little thing. Being a developer, I decided to create a website where this kind of information would be readily available. It would allow me to quickly look up information and share this with people. The information would be supported by scientific studies, it would feature vegan alternatives, a list of documentaries to watch, etc. In short: a vegan cheatsheet. Turns out, this already existed: VeganCheatsheet.org! On the website, it said: “This sheet is maintained by VeganHacktivists.org”. I clicked and learned about Vegan Hacktivists and the projects they had been working on. Amazing! A group of like-minded people, working on projects that try to spread the message and reduce animal suffering. I had to apply. Stephan on his trip to The Philippines, enjoying the view of El NidoWhat's your role and how long have you been with VH?  On May 28th, 2020, I got an invitation to join VH. I was assigned to Team Carrot as a developer where we’d be working on the DailyNooch.org website. Five months later I was asked by the team leader at the time to temporarily take over. I’d only take their place for a week or so, but this turned into weeks, then months, and finally I became the permanent TL of Team Carrot.What’s your day job?  During the day I work as a full-stack developer for a media company in The Netherlands, where we’re building a customer service website. I’ve been a developer professionally for about 8 years now, with a preference for frontend development. I’m passionate about creating websites that perform well, are accessible and have a great user experience.What do you love most about being part of the VH team?  The community. It’s amazing to work with like-minded people, people who want to prevent animals from being harmed. They are making the world a better place and I feel so honored to work with them. The animals are my motivation for putting in the work, but the community makes it fun!Have you had any challenges you’ve overcome within your VH role? Definitely. It’s sometimes difficult to manage time. There are only so many hours in a day and when you have a full-time job, a social life, household chores, etc, there’s not a lot left to work on VH projects. And of course, I’m not the only one with this problem, most people working at VH do this in their own free time. Because of that, projects take longer to complete and people lose motivation. Checking on people when they haven’t been active for a while and motivating them to work on projects can be challenging at times.How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan? I’ve been vegan for nearly 2 years now, since July 1st, 2019.  At the beginning of 2019, during the lunch break at work, a vegetarian colleague of mine was talking about people eating meat. She argued that it wouldn’t hurt anybody to give up meat at least once a week. Back then I couldn’t imagine eating a single dish without meat, but when I went to the canteen at the university in the evening, they had vegetarian and vegan options. I decided to give the vegetarian dish they were serving a try and ended up really enjoying it! This led me to try out other vegetarian and vegan dishes. A couple of months later I was browsing YouTube and stumbled upon a video called “How Eating Plants Changed My Life", which was a talk by Nimai Delgado. I watched the talk and learned about the negative health effects of eating animal products and how you can thrive on a plant-based lifestyle. One thing that particularly stood out to me was “Plant-based diets have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer by up to 35%”. I was shocked. Nobody had ever told me that before. So I started looking more into the health claims and it convinced me. I decided to no longer buy meat and instead use meat alternatives. Slowly I stopped eating beef, then chicken. Giving up eggs and dairy proved to be more difficult because I didn’t know what else to eat. But after doing more research I was once again convinced this wasn’t in my best interest, so I stopped buying those products. I was entirely plant-based! Then in May, I travelled to The Philippines and quickly found out it was impossible to find vegan food. I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t an ethical vegan just yet, so I went back to eating animal products. At the end of my trip, on my way home, I realized that I felt much better when eating plant-based and so I decided to be fully plant-based. It was later when I learned about the ethical argument. I watched a TED talk by Earthling Ed and other videos explaining how animal agriculture works. I watched documentaries like What The Health where they also covered the ethical argument, and it completely changed my worldview. Innocent animals are being bred into existence, they are separated from their mothers, imprisoned, sexually abused, physically abused, and then murdered, just so that people can eat their flesh and drink their secretions. It’s not right! I instantly went from being plant-based to being an ethical vegan. Photo Stephan took during a hike through the forest of Amsterdam on a cloudy dayWhat do you like to do outside of working on VH?  In my free time, I enjoy going for hikes and enjoy nature. I also like working out and travel to as many countries as possible while listening to Latin music!What is one piece of advice you’d give to yourself in your early stages of veganism?  Focus on the victims. Going vegan has many great benefits like improved health, lower impact on the environment, lower risks of zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance, but none of that matters. It’s about the animals. It’s about being against systemic oppression. Learn about the horrific things happening to animals and put yourself in their position. They experience pain, pleasure and they deserve a life free of suffering. Don’t be the reason other earthlings have to suffer.What is one anti-vegan argument you can’t stand?   There are so many anti-vegan arguments I can’t stand, haha, but if I have to pick one, I’ll pick “Plants feel pain”. Apparently chopping up a carrot is the same as chopping up a cow. Plants aren’t sentient, they don’t have a nervous system or a brain, they don’t experience emotions. And it turns out that animals eat plants! So by eating animals, they are indirectly causing more plants to “suffer”. It’s a ridiculous argument. Hope you enjoyed learning all about Stephan. Check out our last meet the team post all about our founder, David!
Compassion. Creativity. Code. (We're rebranding!)
Hey everyone! Since we launched in 2019 we scrapped together a logo and a website in haste to get things moving. We've made some minor changes here and there but ultimately we felt that our development and design time could be spent better focusing on projects and organizations that needed our attention right then and there. Almost three years later, we've decided to take some time to rebrand our organization - both our logo, our fonts, colors, tagline, and everything else that comes with it! We recognize that if we want to recruit more vegan talent (and we always do!) we need to be able to convey in our branding the attractiveness of volunteering for us. Our website right now looks pretty outdated and more like a personal project, it doesn't convey what we've grown into: a professional organization of over 100 volunteers that have worked with some of the largest animal rights organizations in the world! So we brought on Kate, a vegan and expert designer and illustrator to create our brand. We asked her to create something that conveyed veganism, technology and "fun". She took a lot of inspiration from The Humane League and other organizations and came up with our new brand! It's more colorful, playful, modern, and professional. See the attached PDF so you can see the exact changes and branding elements we've taken. One example of our new branding, the new tagline: Compassion. Creativity. Code. This properly captures everything we're about in 3 words, compassion as our motivator to help animals, creativity in building unique projects as our goal, and code as our means to meet those goals. We're also building a new website that comes with this new branding. Click here to see really early versions of what it may look like, but we're still making several changes. That's it! If you're interested in learning about the entire rebranding and the thought that went into it, click this link. More importantly, we'd love to get your feedback! What do you think?
Developers! Join Our New Open Source Community - VH: Playground
Are you a vegan developer looking to use your skills to defend animal rights? Join our latest venture, VH: Playground!  VH: Playground is our open source community where you can contribute to animal rights projects. We acknowledge that developers are busy people and volunteering on our core team can be a major commitment that developers don’t always have time for. This community allows you to pop in and out as you please and allows you to contribute on your own time.  Due to limited spots on our core team, we only recruit developers that are active in VH: Playground. Our team leaders are heavily involved and will take note of developers who frequently and consistently contribute quality work to projects. So, If you are interested in being a part of the core team and applying to Vegan Hacktivsts, you should also join this new community. If you are a vegan developer, join our Discord: https://discord.gg/Yt3zADeJKx and help us fight for animal liberation!
A quick update on Vegan Bootcamp!
Hey everyone! 👋 We haven't talked too much about Vegan Bootcamp since it's 2.0 release, so we figured we'd do a quick update and give you some insight on how it's doing! 🥰We now have over 10,000+ registered users!Exactly 3725+ courses have been successfully completed.A whopping 125,000+ clicks have been recorded from referrals.Our signup ratio for our landing page is a very, very impressive 4.97%.Dominion has been watched 500+ times.We have 3000+ members on the forum, with new posts every week. We've just recently released some new features, including a detailed Search feature on the courses page, and Tags feature for filtering. 👌 More importantly, we've made significant updates to our backend to make Vegan Bootcamp faster, more efficient, and easier to update moving forward. We have some big news to announce in that regards, but we'll save that for another post! 😝 As always, thanks for reading! 💕 🐓
Meet The Vegan Hacktivists Team: David Van Beveren - Our Founder!
Vegan Hacktivists (VH) wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for our supports, patrons, and readers just like you! We are so grateful for every person that engages with our projects and content. We want to give you the chance to learn more about us and the people that dedicate their time to keeping VH operating. Who better to start with than the founder himself, David Van Beveren!  What inspired you to create VH? When I first became an activist I was frustrated with the number of tabs open in my browser. I was searching how to become an activist and I had several organizations open and several more pages of information that was hard to follow. I decided to make VeganActivism.org, a website where you could easily find and apply to animal rights organizations that needed volunteers. After release the feedback was overwhelming and I got a ton of requests to help build it up further - which was amazing. We created a discord group to communicate, named it, and it naturally fell into "what's our next project?" - at that point I knew that building this "group" up to continue these types of projects was the path I wanted to take for my little part in the movement.Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating an organization?  In general, it's a lot of administrative work that requires creating structures upon structures. Our group is pretty unique so over the course of the past two years we've had many different types of structures for our teams to see how they work. Creating a volunteer-based organization is especially challenging because you have to offer something of significant value that's not monetary to keep folks motivated to work, for the animals, for the challenge, for the experience, and the community. I had to create a structure of how we recruit, how we communicate, how we do reports, how we submit code, how we collaborate on changes, how we manage calls, where we communicate, how we group up in teams and how those teams interact with each other. The list goes on and on - but I'm pretty happy with what we've accomplished and we're always evolving!What experience did you have before creating VH?  Before VH I used to run my own company called Campus Orb, we were a software development business that built software for Colleges, Universities and K-12 schools. I had about 50 clients, including Duke and Princeton University. When I saw Dominion for the first time and decided to become an activist, I immediately stopped working on Campus Orb and fully focused on helping the animals in whatever way I could. Eventually, the clients I had moved over to other companies as I was no longer offering updates or services - which was a massive hit on my income and I've been living off savings and donations since then (no regrets!). Before that, I was going to Edinboro University for IT and Business but eventually dropped out to work on Campus Orb as it was growing.Long-term goals for VH? My long-term goals for the organization's health as a whole are for teams to become more self-sustainable, for activists to feel more empowered with the work that they do with us, and for the community to be built up stronger between teams. For members, I want us to eventually be this massive global animal rights organization where activists and organizations can use us to help support them in tech-related needs that have, and be able to keep up with those requests. Right now we get far more requests for help than what our team can offer and it kills me that we have to turn people down due to a lack of volunteers that aren't already busy. It's incredible how much support people need that even if we doubled from 80 to 160 volunteers, we still wouldn't be able to keep up. I want to fix that sustainably. For projects, I want to create more data-driven projects than experimental projects (but still do those, but less) to maximize our impact on animal lives.What has been your biggest challenge with VH? Undoubtedly my biggest challenge has been to create a working environment where our volunteers feel like they are being effective with their time for the animals. When you build software online and work behind a screen you can quickly forget that the strokes of your keyboard really do create real-world actions and consequences for animals. We have to constantly remind ourselves of why we're doing this, reward ourselves when finishing tasks, and remember to look back at past accomplishments. We're always working hard to be able to see the exact numbers, effectiveness and impact we have with each of our projects. One way we're working to accomplish this is with our new data team led by our amazing Project Leader, Suan Chin, and her 5 data scientists! David with Moona (who passed away last year) What has been your proudest moment? There are so many! Likely the most obvious of them being the release of new projects that help animals, but besides those... one that comes to mind was when I met up with 3 other team members in Amsterdam, a project leader, a developer, and a designer. We all had pizza, played some board games, worked, and talked about the organization. It was an incredible day, especially to see a small community growing in the physical world where we could learn more about each other (pre-corona). Since that day I've made an effort whenever travelling to do small meetups with team members - I think the community is second to none when it comes to being effective and happy in what we do.What do you like to do outside of working on VH? I love playing my Handpan (musical instrument) and playing Apex Legends. Besides those two things, I love spending time with friends, working together in shared office spaces, and eating watermelon. :)Do you have advice for anyone who wants to start an organization? Starting an organization is really hard if the topic doesn't revolve around your passion. If it doesn't, you can still find success, but it's likely going to take much more time and much more stress, energy and willpower to make it happen. If you start an organization around your passion, it's easy - you'll always have the drive and energy even on your worst days to get things done. Never let money be your driving factor - ever. Be particularly careful if your organization is animal rights-related, without good self-care, even if you're passionate, you can quickly burn out. I know sometimes it feels like caring for yourself and taking time off for yourself is counter-productive, but the animals rather have you working for them at 100%, 70% of the time than 40%, 100% of the time.  Thanks for reading & stay tuned for more interviews with the VH crew! Check out our last post: Your New Vegan Homepage: Daily Nooch
Your New Vegan Homepage: Daily Nooch
The internet is a vast collection of websites and pages, it’s difficult not to get lost in all the information thrown your way. In the vegan community alone there are various Instagram feeds, subreddits, recipe blogs, and so much more. It’s impossible to keep up with the latest news and posts unless you’re connected to the internet 24/7. For this very reason, we created your new homepage: Daily Nooch!What is Daily Nooch? Daily Nooch is a single-page website that has compiled all the most important and latest vegan information to keep you updated with a single glance. The site features recent news, fresh posts on r/vegan, nutritional facts, memes, and more. Daily Nooch also incorporates a few of our own projects such as 5 Minutes 5 Vegans to get your daily activism in, Animal Rights Map for an update on new vegan groups around you, and Vegan Bootcamp to learn something new today. We highly suggest you check out our in-depth blog posts about 5 Minutes 5 Vegans, Animal Rights Map, and Vegan Bootcamp to learn more. Photo by Kyle Hanson on UnsplashBookmark DailyNooch.org! We recommend that you click the “…bookmarking this page” button to simplify your daily internet routine. This way you will always be in the loop and up to date on all things vegan. No other vegan website provides a new fact daily, with changing recipes to try, all alongside new articles and a meme of the day! Your support means the world to us, so head on over to DailyNooch.org and tell your friends! 
Living With Non-Vegans
Living with anyone can be challenging, no matter how much we like the people we live with. There are countless stories about people regretting living even with their best friends. Now imagine living with the people you don't share views with. In that case, you have one more issue on top of the usual concerns. Some people are quite vocal about their non-veganism, and if you have to interact with them, negative feelings may arise on both fronts. While that is certainly difficult, there are ways to make such cases a bit less hard on you. Here are some pieces of advice you can use to deal with negative situations and to even turn them into positive ones. Keep Your Cool Faced with sneery comments, you may be tempted to snap and rant. Sounds cathartic? Sure, but only for a short time. The feeling of letting everything out will soon deflate and you will feel drained. Communication is a two-way street, and to achieve meaningful communication, both parties have to participate. Any words said during a frustration-infused monologue will likely fall on deaf ears. Though ten times more difficult, it would be better for you to remain calm. This takes a large amount of patience and self-control, but it’s rewarding because it enables communication. By active listening and showing interest in questions and comments of non-vegans, you display that you are taking them seriously. Nobody ever learns by being yelled at. Instead, to accept something as valid, we have to come to that conclusion ourselves. Therefore, if you aim to help somebody understand what animals or the environment are going through, try to provide them with a safe space for conversation where they won’t feel attacked. As vegans care deeply about animals and are sensitive to their suffering, it sure is difficult to approach such topics with calmness. I know it is for me. So when I sense I’m getting stirred, I try to summon my inner Earthling Ed. Just like Ed, focus on your desired result and ignore all the instigation. Your goal is to inform, not to "win" an argument. Keeping your cool is easier said than done. You can't always control your anger, but one thing you can do is learn to recognize it. When you notice you're shouting words out of frustration, stop speaking. If needed, go away for a while until you cool off, and try to resist the urge to argue just to be right.You’re Not Alone Feeling isolated from time to time is completely normal. But as a vegan, you may get that feeling a bit more frequently than you usually would. Even if you have some vegan friends, that worm of loneliness can still get to you; maybe they have supportive families or roommates and you’re struggling with yours. But you can turn such doom and gloom into something positive. Knowing you’re experiencing such feelings means that other vegans have also been in your shoes, and if they made it, you can too. Even without local support groups in the form of vegan potlucks or vegan activist groups, whose in-person activities are probably hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, there are online communities where you can share your thoughts and hear from others. Since you’re already reading a blog post on the Vegan Hacktivists site, we invite you to join us at the Vegan Bootcamp. The Bootcamp is a place for all vegans; from those starting veganism and looking for tips and tricks to the long-term vegans who are there for chatting with the community. In whichever ways you decide to cope with isolation, always remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to people. While we all live in different circumstances, talking to others in vegan communities can help you feel less isolated. Ross Sneddon – UnsplashYou’re an Advocate for the Animals When things get heated and when we feel cornered, we will naturally get defensive. If agitation persists, we tend to use any means to save ourselves, and some of these means are not necessarily glamorous: sarcasm, witty remarks, or maybe even insults. These often won't achieve anything, the other party won't instantly turn vegan because we outwitted them. If anything, such behavior will make them warier of vegans and veganism. Being vegan is about adjusting our lives to live a bit more selflessly. Of course, that doesn't mean putting ourselves last, but it means that we have a higher goal in the background of our actions. While it's easier to snap at those making us uncomfortable, we need to ask ourselves if that approach would be beneficial for the vegan movement; for the animals. If I yell at my sister in a debate and accuse her of being a selfish omnivore, I probably won't inspire her to try a vegan cheese alternative. But if I calmly ask her how come she loves her dog so much, and what exactly makes her dog different from a pig, she might consider a package of fake meat next time when she's shopping. These were just examples, but the point here is to remember that we're not doing this for ourselves, we're doing it for the ones who can't speak, so we'd better be careful with our words to make them count. Alexas_Fotos – UnsplashPlant a Seed Living with non-vegans presents many chances for feeling discomfort, whether you're sharing the fridge, utensils, or just talking about climate or animals. As all households and social dynamics are different, there's no perfect formula for distributing vegan and non-vegan fridge shelves properly. If you have direct issues with someone, explain your situation to them. You should always feel comfortable where you live. But that's just one part of the problem. A bigger issue is communication, especially about veganism. If it comes to it, remember that you can't force anyone to go vegan. The best you can do is to potentially inspire them to give veganism a go, and if you can do that, great! However, don't forget to respect yourself and your mental health. You are a complex person, not a walking encyclopedia on everything vegan. You have a right to distance yourself from an uncomfortable situation. But if you decide to discuss veganism, remind yourself who you're doing it for. At the end of the day, we only have control over our lives. If we live compassionately and if we make others feel encouraged to ask questions, we can unwittingly plant a seed of curiosity. If anyone is aware of the importance of seeds and the mighty plants they become, it's us, vegans. Ulleo – Pixabay If you're interested in topics like this one, we once again invite you to the Vegan Bootcamp. We have different courses ranging from information on the dairy industry to fitness, but the ones which would specifically be useful to people living with non-vegans are: Self-Care, Family and Friends, Community and Effective Vegan Outreach (written by Seb Alex!).
We're assembling a new Data & Analytics team! 🍓
We've just started up a new team dedicated to collecting and analyzing data on both Vegan Hacktivists as an organization and the projects that we make. For the past 2 years we've been gathering random statistics on each project but haven't done much further. 🍓 This team, unlike our other teams, is dedicated to data. Team Strawberry's job is to first analyze what data we already collect per project, what data we should be collecting in addition, assign developers to build the data collection we need, and then collect and analyze that data for presentation to leadership. We'll take this data and periodically release 3 month reports on the effectiveness our active projects are achieving, and then use this data to see what our next steps are for either those projects and future ones. 👋 We want to be more effective, and Team Stawberry is the key to that. Team Strawberry is led by our new Project Leader, Suan Chin, an Data Scientists and AI Engineer. She's currently recruiting through our applications that feature data experts as we speak for Team Strawberry. We've never been as excited as we are now for this new team, and we're looking forward to telling you more about the team when it's assembled! 🙋🏻 If you'd like to support our work, please check out our Patreon! We hope everyone had a great holiday and new years! 🎉
Eating Vegan Doesn't Mean Losing Your Favorite Foods
As with most of the things we do for the benefit of others, adopting a lifestyle that excludes the products of animal exploitation often requires a number of sacrifices. How we may experience these various loses and inconveniences affects us each differently, yet as I continue to see the topic of veganism discussed around me, it seems that the greatest struggle arises around those special foods that we have each allowed into our lives. I, like so many others, carry memories from my childhood notable for their presence of various foods, recollections of summer evening ice creams, celebratory steaks, or grandmother’s Bolognese. Just the mere thought of their aromas can fill these distant memories with freshened life. Yes, it may all just be food, but food so often becomes a part of who we are as individuals, families, and even as peoples. The majority of those who adopt a vegan diet typically don’t do so until they are nearly twenty years or older. So, whether you are merely considering, or have already been eating a vegan diet, it is quite likely that you have at least a few decades of meat and dairy products in your past. Foods that have become a part of who you are, that live within your memories. The thought of giving up these intimate parts of ourselves can seem painful. Countless times I have heard others say that they could go entirely without meat and dairy if it were not for one or two beloved meals, that they could not forgo their monthly burger or weekend pizzas. Firstly, if it is but a few items that you feel are barring you from eating vegan, then at the very least, remove all other animal products from your diet and, for the time being, keep those cherished few. It is far better to start somewhere in the journey than to never begin at all. Having said that, do not think that those who have pursued veganism never had their own love for certain meats and cheeses. Many of the community’s tastes were, and are, beyond that of just quinoa, black beans, and avocados. We all have our favorites and finding ways to keep them alive without the use of animal products can ease both the transition and persistence of the diet. I am, of course, in no way advocating for what they call a ‘junk-food vegan diet’, but we all have those cravings we need satiated from time to time. Fortunately, as the vegan diet has grown in popularity, so has the market and quality of plant-based alternatives. Every day I discover new foods, restaurants, and recipes that make me genuinely feel as if I am missing nothing at all in my decision to eat as cruelty-free as possible. So, whether you are considering, curious, or have already transitioned to a vegan diet, below you will find a number of plant-based alternatives that should provide you with a few tools to keep your own favorites alive and possibly find new ones altogether.Cheese and Pizza Pizza has been claimed as the most popular food in the United States and even the world. While we may each imagine this modern delicacy differently, there is one thing that tends to remain the same: cheese. So how can one enjoy a slice without its utmost ingredient? Well, it is actually quite easy. Foremost, I would recommend using cashew cheese. When I began eating a vegan diet, I was never quite in love with plant-based cheese alternatives such as those from Daiya, though admittedly they have grown significantly as time has passed. So, of course, I did not find many plant-based pizzas to be very appealing. All of this changed when I went to a local pizza place and tried their take on vegan pizza, where they used a cashew blend instead of a cheese alternative. I know this may seem like an odd replacement to some, especially to those who are not a fan of nuts, but I think it goes far beyond what any may first think. I was likely as skeptical as you are now, so trust me when I say you have to try this one at least once. I do not think you will be disappointed. You will want to soak your cashews in water before blending them into this cheese alternative. Simply put the nuts into a bowl and cover them with water. I typically let them soak for about two hours, but you can certainly leave them in overnight if you wish. To get the most out of this ‘cheese’, mix it with pizza sauce before adding it atop the crust. In my experience, this allows the flavors to work best with one another. It is worth mentioning that this cheese alternative works for more than just pizza. Try adding it to pastas, nachos, or anything else you can think up.Cookies and Baked Goods Nearly all beloved baked goods require a handful of dairy ingredients, and whether its milk, butter, or eggs, there is almost always a plant-based workaround so that you can remain cruelty free and still indulge in your favorites. Cookies are as good a place as any to start, with big names such as Betty Crocker sharing their own vegan chocolate chip recipe. For this version, I have, at times, replaced the melted coconut oil with plant-based butter. It tastes great either way, so if you don’t like one butter alternative, experiment and try another. In fact, the blurb at the beginning describes vegan baking best: “Vegan baking isn’t all that different from traditional baking. By swapping out just a few ingredients and making some minor adjustments, we’ve created vegan chocolate chip cookies that are sweet, chewy and satisfying. In fact, you may find that everyone in your family, not just the vegans, starts asking for these delicious treats.” So, if you love to bake or just have a sweet tooth, know that with a little tweaking and online research, you can make equally ‘delicious treats’ without the use of animal products.Ice cream A personal favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it has cream right there in the name, and so I of course thought it to be one dessert I would never see again once dairy was off the menu. Luckily, such worries could not be further from the truth. While I have not experimented with making dairy-free ice cream recipes at home, as most of them are based on coconut products (which I personally feel overpowers the flavor), I have managed to find plenty of products in stores that manage to go above and beyond in satisfying any cravings. This is one that certainly requires some experimentation to find your own fit. I have tried many brands that were just too hard or icy, and while I will not list every product I like or dislike, I will share my favorite: CoolHaus dairy-free. Their ice cream sandwiches are as good as the real thing, if not better. If ice cream is just one of those things you cannot go without, this brand proves that you don’t need a drop of dairy to achieve a creamy texture and delicious flavor. Check to see if they have a distributor near you, or order it directly to your home.Beef and fast food Hamburgers have often been stereotyped as an American favorite, but ground beef is used in a wide variety of recipes around the world. Products like Impossible Food’s Burger and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef have been at the forefront of plant-based substitutes for quite a while now, with fast-food chains like Burger King adopting the plant-based whopper (hold the mayo). Both of the previously mentioned brands can now easily be found at a wide range of grocery stores, and those who have a taste for fast food may be happy to know that their plant-based options are about to expand drastically. For example, McDonalds will be introducing a line of plant-based items on their menu in 2021 under the name “McPlant”. Taco Bell has for many years now attempted to provide a number of meatless options. Those of us who are fans of the fast food chain were sad to see their potatoes leave the menu in 2020, narrowing our plant-based options by a significant degree. Luckily, it has been heavily rumored that they will be adding “vegan meat” to their menu in 2021. With three of the biggest names in fast food adding meat alternatives to their menu, more are sure to follow. So, be sure to keep an eye out for these upcoming additions as well as potential others from your own favorite fast food chain.Change Does Not Always Mean Loss The few examples I have provided above hardly even scratch the surface. My goal here was not to show every alternative to the multitude of meat and dairy products out on the market, but to show that there are plenty of options out there that do not require the beings of this planet to be exploited so harshly. Know that these substitutes do not always taste the same as their animal product counterpart. They can be as different as a fast-food burger is from a burger grilled at home or a Pepsi is from a Coke. Some are better, some are worse, and some taste very, very close. If you try something that you do not like, don’t be discouraged. Some things take time to get used to, and there is always a different brand or product to try. The more distance you put between animal products and yourself, the more appealing their counterparts become, and the more opportunities you have to practice recipes with them. Change is a part of life that we must embrace, particularly when we seek to improve ourselves and the world around us. Hopefully, these substitutes can aid you in your own vegan journey and the changes that inevitably come with it. Enjoy.            
Veganism Tour Around the World! – What Does Veganism Look Like in Other Countries?
"Where we go depends on what we know, and what we know depends on where we go" while this quote may be straight out of a comedy-crime novel (Tess Gerritsen, The Surgeon), it surely applies to real life. When it comes to being vegan, you may be tempted to stick to your routine. Why try out ten brands of tofu if you've finally found the one you like the most. Why risk disastrous experiments if you've already found that perfect combination of veggies for Pad Thai. Naturally, whatever we do, we tend to assume that everybody is doing the same thing. But, being vegan is an experience which can vary from country to country. Since traveling helps broaden our views, it certainly is a great way of learning more about veganism in other countries. We can't really travel at the moment, but we can daydream and create our travel bucket lists, all while being heroes for staying at home. In this article, you will find an overview of four countries observed through the lens of veganism, starting from the traditionally meatless ones, to the countries with a bright and promising future for veganism. If you are on a mission to explore the places on Earth which have the most to offer to vegans, this article will equip you with information useful for planning future trips. Mana5280 – Unsplash Let’s start this list by tracing veganism to its roots. Although we can’t pinpoint who or when first started practicing veganism, Buddhism and Hinduism surely spring to mind when discussing the origin of veganism. Ahimsa (non-violence in Sanskrit), a principle of non-harming, is present in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. It applies to all living beings, meaning that a lot of followers choose to abstain from eating animals.India I remember learning in primary school that cows are sacred in India and that people treat them like royalty. That was before the Internet was a thing, so I just believed it because it sounded cute and carried on with my life. Now I know that’s not exactly the case and that cattle there are treated (read: exploited) like everywhere else. Still, there are vegans in India, possibly because Hinduism is the largest religion there, and Hindus usually practice Ahimsa. Regardless of the origin, we owe it to Indian culture for many delicious vegan dishes, such as kitchari, kofta, chana masala, pakora, and many more. One thing you’ll notice all these dishes have in common is being spicy. India is a hot country, so before the age of refrigerators and preservatives, people came up with adding spices to food to prevent spoilage. As a result, we can now enjoy dishes with flavors of turmeric, cardamom, coriander seeds, garlic, mustard seeds, and cumin. When traveling to India, make sure to check if the dishes you order contain ghee or other dairy products. If possible, ask to substitute those for oil. Since it’s hot there, don’t eat things that have been sitting in the heat for a long time. If you see restaurants with the word vegetarian in their name, give them a shot, chances are that a lot of meals will already be vegan, just ask for the list of ingredients. Language matters, so as always, equip yourself with vocabulary; learn the words for no dairy, no eggs, no fish, no honey, no meat.Singapore Out of all of the countries of Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, how to choose which one to represent? Countries such as China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam have all contributed to veganism by offering us their traditional vegan meals or giving us opportunities for veganising them. Just think of the times when Chinese takeout saved you from starving! I decided to write about Singapore because that country is a true medley of cultures. A multicultural country whose citizens are Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians, and which is a home to many non-residents from different countries, Singapore gives you a taste of all these cultures in one place. Since Buddhism is the largest religion in Singapore, you can find many vegan establishments there. One of the peculiarities you will probably encounter in Singaporean restaurants is being asked “no onion, no garlic?”. That question also has to do with religion. Some Buddhists don’t eat pungent vegetables such as onions and garlic, so many restaurants either cook onion and no-onion dishes separately, or don’t serve onion at all. One fewer thing to worry about if you take your date to dinner! Sergio Sala – Unsplash If you love mock meats, then go ahead and book the tickets to Singapore right away. Well, maybe not right away, but, you know… right away after this pesky global pandemic. Singaporeans have mastered the art of crafting fake meats so convincing that you’ll have to do a double take. If you’re more on the whole foods side, worry not. Many restaurants cater to patrons who choose to eat whole foods, gluten-free or raw food. Overlapping of all the different cultures in Singapore has resulted in many cuisines, and no matter how picky you are, you are bound to find something for yourself.Germany German culture, like many other European cultures, relies heavily on animal products. However, awareness of veganism is continuously spreading. In 2020, USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service issued a report on the vegan revolution in Europe. In the report, Germany is said to be leading a vegan revolution in Europe, with approximately 814,000 vegans residing there. Even people who aren't vegan have positive attitudes towards meatless food items being available in stores. Alex_Berlin – Pixabay While you may not find many vegan options in rural areas, as you come near bigger cities, your chances of scoring a nice meal improve. You can choose between vegan restaurants, vegan options in non-vegan restaurants, and street food. If falafel is your thing, you're in luck! Falafel places are virtually everywhere, and even vendors who sell non-vegan street food usually offer falafel (just remember to ask for it to be grilled separately). The opulence of the vegan lifestyle in Germany doesn't stop here. There are also many vegan festivals, such as Vegan Street Day, Veganes Sommerfest Berlin, and VeggieWorld festivals. If you're a vegan visiting Berlin, Veganz stores are must-visit places for you. Veganz is a brand that first started as a plant-based food company, and they later became the first vegan supermarket chain in Europe. And due to Germany's strong economy and fondness for veganism, you can find German-made products in supermarkets all over Europe.California, USA As much as Europeans love dairy, Americans like meat. This maybe used to be true, but hopefully, such stereotypes may soon become obsolete. But in the meantime, we can't just ignore the fact that meat products are in demand. Enter food entrepreneurs. The reason for including California on this list is because this is where the two globally popular plant-based meat substitute companies, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, were founded. Some people go vegan for the animals, for the climate, for their health. Rare are those who go vegan just because they dislike the taste of animal products. Of course, it's possible that after some time being vegan your taste preferences change and the cravings for non-vegan food stop. For many people, these cravings are what make them stumble on their way to veganism. But now, with so many meat and dairy alternatives, it's getting harder to come up with excuses for not being vegan. Due to the increasing demand for plant-based products, the profits of such companies are rising. Beyond and Impossible are just some of the companies which make veganism more accessible. However, let's remember that there are many more vegan options other than fake meats, especially in Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and California, the most vegan states. In a melting pot (or a salad bowl) such as the USA, all vegans can thrive, regardless of their cuisine preferences. It wasn't long ago that the only vegan options for travelers were beans and fruit from grocery stores. Today, a lot of cities have so many vegan options that you can travel just to eat local food. Almost anywhere you go in the world you'll find some new delicious vegan dishes to explore. If you haven't already (and once it's safe to do so) I urge you to travel somewhere outside your comfort zone. The experiences (and recipe ideas) will stay for life!