Dublin VegFest is back in September and All About Vegan Food is a media partner this year. As part of our support we’re interviewing the guests who will talk in the festival, happening on September 11th 2016.
Our first interview is with Emily Barwick, the mind and heart behind Bite Size Vegan. I have to say I’ve watched some of her videos before but didn’t know much about her so it was great to have the chance to read more about Emily and her work. Hope you all enjoy the interview.
How Bite Size Vegan was born?
Many people struggle with going vegan. My struggle wasn’t with going vegan—it was learning how to talk about veganism. I remember as a child and adolescent feeling so small against the enormity of suffering in the world. I was baffled by how everyone around me seemed to go about their daily lives as if everything was okay—while I felt intensely aware that every second of every day, all around the world, countless innocent beings were living in absolute terror, abject misery, and incomprehensible pain.
And anytime I tried to speak about the importance of what I now know as veganism, the intensity of everything behind that conviction caused me to either freeze up completely, or explode in some caustic remark.
Unsurprisingly, these approaches were not effective.
Later on in life, as I’d begun to use my art as a way to speak about veganism, finding new approaches that seemed to have potential, but not a large enough platform, I came across Gary Yourofsky’s rather iconic speech online. And here, for the first time, was someone saying the words I’d been searching for—and in such a grounded manner.
So I studied him. I watched his speech again and again. I even reached out to him and am now honored to have him as a dear friend, as well as my self-appointed mentor.
And that’s how I started to conceive of Bite Size Vegan. I wanted to reach as many people as I could. And, for better or worse, most people today are on social media. I threw myself into making videos, without any experience, and releasing them on YouTube, which I’d never really used.
My approach from day one was to create vegan content for non-vegans. The challenge was presenting the information in a way that was accessible and approachable for non-vegans, without compromising the truth. I never pull my punches. But there’s a difference between pandering or sugar coating and crafting your presentation to be as effective for your intended audience as possible.
The name Bite Size Vegan reflected how I attempt to take all the complexities and over abundance of information that no one really has time to sift through, and condense it into “bite size” “vegan nuggets.” So as not to be overly reductionist, I provide further resource and citations on the blog posts for each video on my website.
Overall, my focus is showing people that veganism isn’t an extreme lifestyle—far from it. It’s simply aligning our actions with the values we already have. Most people don’t want to harm innocent animals. Most people don’t want to destroy the planet, harm their health or the health of their children.
But most people haven’t assessed the facts for themselves. We’re not given access by default. In fact we’re told from day one that eating animals is normal, natural, even necessary.
So it’s no surprise there’s a great deal of resistance to veganism. My hope is to provide people with the logical arguments and concrete resources to make the decision to go vegan for themselves. Because that’s really the only way it’s every going to mean anything. And certainly the only way it will last.
You’ve announced in the beginning of August some changes in the website and in the production of the videos. You also mention the e-courses, can you tell us a little bit more about the new focus and what you want to achieve?
I’m really wanting to overhaul the website in order to make it more navigable and searchable. More of a functional database. A library of sorts to dig into the countless aspects of veganism. Unfortunately technology is not my strong suit, so I’m certainly going to need help with that implementation.
The ecourses are another project I’m excited about. The long-term goal is a full online academy of more in-depth courses, most likely focusing on the more “practical” sides of veganism. The “hands-on” aspects, so to speak. The first course I’m working on is a bit of a catch-all or Vegan 101 almost. Walking people from no experience with veganism, through the basics of what to eat, how to deal with challenges, and even getting a little into activism towards the end.
Subsequent courses will cover a wide variety of topics more in-depth. There may be intensives as well. I hope to have an entire activism course, if not multiple. I am never short on topics to cover and ideas to implement. But I am certainly short on time more than anything else! And technical prowess. But that’s at least surmountable.
The challenge is always keeping everything going. I’ve yet to find a way to make this sustainable. But I’m working on that as well. So that I can sleep some day. Ha!
You’ll be speaking at the Dublin VegFest this year. Have you been to Ireland before? Do you know much about how veganism is around here? Do you have any expectations?
I’ve never been to Ireland and I certainly wish I was able to stay longer! I’m so honored to have this opportunity. I’ve been deep in research for the talk, so I have a concept at least of the farming, agriculture, regulations, and overall astounding amount of paperwork and detailed documentation regarding animal agriculture. It’s unrealistic that I would of course have anything near a complete understanding or conception of exactly how Ireland operates.
As much as I strive to be diligent in my research to the best of my abilities for every topic and talk, it would be a grave misjudgment on my part—not to mention incredibly presumptuous—to assume I am in a position to tell a culture, religious group, or entire country “what’s what.” Especially as an American!
I try to always be clear that I do not know everything. And I will tell you if I don’t know an answer. I also admit I can be wrong. I track any errors found in my work—be myself or anyone else—on my website.
The great thing about veganism is I don’t have to make things up. I don’t have to try and mold the truth to fit my “agenda.” The facts are on the side of veganism. The challenge is cutting through all the crap we humans create to obfuscate them!
As far as the vegan presence, I have a general impression from what my gracious VegFest hosts and other Irish contacts have relayed to me. And a couple places I’ve been told to check out while in Dublin. I’m certainly excited to come
What can we expect from your talk?
While I do mold every talk to my intended audience, doing my best to take into account variations and unique aspects, the overall message remains the same. At the core of all of it, that’s really what it comes down to. It’s not America and our factory farms. It’s not kosher and halal ritual slaughter. It’s not genetic engineering, intensive farming, caged vs. free-range, grass-fed vs. grain.
All of that is the noise we create to ignore what really matters. That’s the purpose of the talk. To try and parse out the deafening cacophony and get down to what really matters.