In each issue Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.
Vegetarians in Paradise proudly bestows its 24 Carrot Award to vegan activist Erik Marcus for his efforts to bring the vegan message to the public through his writing and his internet web site. Erik is the author of Vegan: the New Ethics of Eating published in 1998. A revised edition of the book will be available in October 2000. Erik is also editor/publisher of www.vegan.com, his internet vegan voice.
When we interviewed Erik, we intended to write about him in a style we have used for previous awards. We found his answers so fascinating, we decided to print the interview verbatim.
What follows are the questions asked by Vegetarians in Paradise (VIP) and the answers by Erik Marcus (EM)
VIP: How long have you been vegan?
EM: I've been following a vegan diet since 1988, when I finished my third year of college.
VIP: What in your opinion is the best way to convince someone to become vegetarian/vegan? What steps should a person take in beginning the process. Do you advocate going cold turkey or making changes gradually.
EM: There is no one argument for going vegan that is more persuasive than all the rest. Different people respond to different arguments. I think that the best way to convince a person to become vegetarian or vegan is to listen to what they have to say about their current diet. Listen to the kinds of issues they bring up. If you're flexible, and can speak articulately about the issues that your friend cares about, you'll be far more effective. For this approach to work best, you'll need to get a solid understanding of all the arguments for becoming vegan--not just the ones that you happen to care most about. One reason I wrote my book was to give vegetarian advocates a one-stop resource for understanding all the primary arguments, so that they could become more effective in persuading other people.
VIP: People who work full time appreciate convenience foods. What are some of your favorites?
EM: In the summer months, my very favorite instant food is tabouleh. Chop up some tomatoes, add water and olive oil and you're in business. I'm also a big fan of Clif Bars, soy milk, and a new 100% organic corn chip (including organic oil!) from Kettle Chips.
VIP: What's your thought on some of the vegan foods that are ultra processed, such as many of the soy products that use soy components?
EM: Well, you obviously want to minimize your intake of ultra-processed foods. But even with that taken into consideration, I'd take ultra-processed vegan food over animal products any day. Tofutti "cream cheese" is one of the most heavily processed products going, but it tastes fabulous. My dad is hooked on it now, and I'm glad the product exists because it has given him one more alternative to putting turkey on his bagel.
One thing I've definitely found is that the less junky food you eat, the more it affects how you feel on the rare occasions when you succumb to temptation. I personally don't eat many heavily processed foods, not out of concern for long-term health issues, but rather because a big serving of these foods almost always gives me a four-hour case of the blahs. Feeling lousy is too high a price for making these foods a significant part of my diet.
VIP: In your newly revised book, what are some of the new findings that you've brought up to date?
EM: Too many to mention! Just about every chapter contains at least one ground-breaking piece of information from the past year. I also had the opportunity to re-read the entire book for the first time in three years, and having the benefit of fresh eyes gave me the opportunity to tighten up the manuscript. There's no doubt in my mind that this new edition is significantly superior to the original.
VIP: What sort of promotion will you be doing for the book?
EM: In September and October, I'm doing seven pretty big events in the Northeastern and Midwestern US. I will also be featured on dozens of radio shows over the next several months.
VIP: What prompted you to set up your web site? When did you begin your web site and how were you fortunate enough to get the domain name vegan.com?
EM: The trouble with a book is that once it's published, the contents are frozen until you do a revision. I see the web as my big opportunity to get the very latest vegan information to people. In a lot of ways, it completes the work I do with my book. Shortly before my book came out, I approached the owner of the Vegan.com domain. He was a vegan, and purchased the domain for his computer business, and then realized that he didn't have time to develop the site to its potential. I sent him a copy of my manuscript, and he liked the kind of work I was doing and decided that he trusted me to use the site in the best interests of the movement. He sold me the site for a few hundred bucks, and a dozen copies of my book. A year or so ago, I got an e-mail from him, and I was very gratified to learn that he is happy with how I've carried Vegan.com forward.
VIP: How much time do you spend on the web site? Do you have help?
EM: In the past, Vegan.com was a monthly magazine. I would typically write each issue during the last week of the month, and post it online. But for the past eight months, the site has been running in interim-mode, while I worked with a company called Eyephonic to completely re-design the web-site. I've also arranged for Beth Geisler, a professional writer out of Pittsburgh and an incredible local veggie activist, to take over the site as managing editor. I expect that the new site will re-launch right around October 1, 2000, and when it does it will have daily content, as well as a much richer feature set.
VIP: What do you estimate your readership to be?
EM: At least 5,000 people have been reading Vegan.com each month while it was in interim mode. I have no idea how much the site's popularity will increase following the relaunch.
VIP: In your book you mention that you went to college. What was your career choice and did you follow that path? Do you work full time? Give us some details.
EM: I have a Bachelor's in creative writing and a Master's in teaching writing in secondary schools. I've actually done very little teaching. My main "day-job" in the past has been writing computer manuals. But it has been years since I've done any for-pay work that wasn't directly related to vegan advocacy.
VIP: What do you do in your leisure time? Do you have any hobbies, pets, special relationships?
EM: I love to read, and I wish I had more time for it. Right now, I'm reading Churchill's history of WWII, which I adore. I make a point of exercising for a couple of hours daily--I run through the redwoods surrounding my house, and also spend time working out on my Soloflex. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my cat, Conrad.
VIP: What do you predict for the future of vegetarianism?
EM: I think vegetarianism, specifically veganism, will grow rapidly in popularity over the next ten years. I think the movement has made some strategic errors over the past fifteen years, and I will soon be writing and speaking about these mistakes and the possibility to turn things around.
VIP: Where do you see yourself in the vegetarian world in 5 to 10 years? How about long range future?
EM: Right now, I perceive that there are some enormous gaps in the vegan literature. I'm doing my darndest to fill these gaps with accurate and well-written material. Eventually, when this task nears completion, I'd very much like to get to work on the kind of animal rights activism that Henry Spira pioneered. I already do a fair amount of this kind of activism, but I don't see any point to publicizing the exact nature of these efforts. At this time, I can't afford to devote all my time to activism, since I still have to pay my landlady each month, and I'd like to save up to buy a house. Fortunately, I'm able to make ends meet through running Vegan.com and writing my books.
Our review of the 1998 edition of Vegan: the New Ethics of Eating can be found at http://www.vegparadise.com/vegreading10.html.
Erik Marcus's web site address is http://www.vegan.com.