Category Archives: vegan psychology



I would always cringe when I would hear the gym teacher at the end of the class say, “Now go get lunch and be sure and eat a lot of protein.”


Yesterday was a fundraising day for the Y and this teacher who, by the way, is a wonderful person, was giving away ham and cheese sandwiches as part of the effort. She offered one to me and I said, God no, I’m vegan.

“I didn’t know you were vegan,” she said. “Why did you do that?”

I told her that it was for the animals, but I’d also learned that not eating animals has some real health benefits. She said she knew that and I asked if she’d seen “Forks Over Knives.” She said she had and then she asked if I didn’t miss those foods. I said that aside from brief cheese cravings at the beginning, absolutely not and added that since I’d found out about the animals and the health benefits, I had thought, why wouldn’t I do that?

Then somehow she managed to zero in on what can be tough about going vegan – the social aspect. “That’s the hardest part – huh?” the fitness instructor said.

I’ll cut to the chase – today after the gym class she said she wanted to invite everyone to the next fundraising day – which would be vegetarian.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

The fight over the “morality of meat-eating” rages. It’s on Facebook, on Twitter, in the newspaper, on TV and radio, in our dining rooms and in our classrooms. Recently on social media, I read the question, “How can my wonderful, kind and generous friends keep eating animals? Are they evil?”

I would suggest that flesh-eaters aren’t bad and certainly not evil, except maybe Donald Trump and/or Jeb Bush. (And no, Hitler was NOT a vegetarian.)

People are just hypnotized by the culture. It’s like there’s a micro-chip lodged deep in our brains that keeps us from realizing the suffering of animals and often, the suffering of other humans.

I’ve only been vegan for six years. For most of my life I ate the flesh and secretions of animals. My consumption tortured and killed animals on a regular basis, yet I loved animals. I only read horse books as a child. I cried when my companion animals died. I adored the movie “Babe.” I saw the “in-your-face” animal rights artwork of Sue Coe. Even though some of these things disturbed me, they didn’t cause me to make any connection between my behavior and the suffering and murder of animals.

It was like being under a spell or sleep-walking. Almost by chance I woke up. I saw some images in a movie and I knew I could never knowingly eat an animal or her bio-fluids again.

As animal rights activists, our job is to break the spell – throw cold water in the face of our flesh-gnawing, secretion-sucking society.

But how? My favorite tools are loud obnoxious public demonstrations and disruptions; blogging; making videos and films; writing books; and writing songs. There’s also tweeting, letters to the editor, complaining in restaurants, and, yes, posting on Facebook.

What about getting to people’s hearts via the stomach, or, if you like, the digestive tract?

These days, I’ve kind of given up on that tactic. Of course, vegan food is great and I really appreciate the love and the effort that goes into vegan cooking, but tasty meals aren’t going to change our society. I would suggest that neither the best vegan cupcake in the world or the best vegan sushi in Manhattan is going to trigger any serious soul searching or moral questioning. (Not the way graphic imagery of animal suffering might.) Sad to say, but I don’t think Ben & Jerry’s new vegan ice cream is going to liberate animals (both human and non-human.)

Activist and author of “Whitewash – The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health” Joseph Keon said to me recently the most typical response he hears when carnists eat delicious vegan food is, “Wow, if I could cook like this, I’d be vegan.” Translation: I don’t have the time or the skill to cook vegan or care enough to make the time and learn new cooking skills.

Just as the civil rights movement, the gay liberation movement, the women’s movement, the abolitionist movement hinged on ordinary people speaking up, the animal rights movement is going to need to get noisy if we are to succeed. Heard at the recent National Animal Rights Conference 2015: “Never miss an opportunity to say what needs to be said.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

It’s the old pitch: “heart disease, blah, blah, blah, diabetes, blah, blah, blah, cancer, blah, blah, blah, cholesterol, blah, blah, blah, obesity, blah, blah, blah, saturated fat, blah, blah, blah, arthritis, blah, blah, blah and on and on and on.

Their eyes glass over and then they say, “Protein, blah, blah, blah, calcium, blah, blah, blah, omega 3’s, blah, blah, blah,” and/or “My uncle ate eggs, steak and cheese every day of his life and he lived to be 117.”

And, maybe, maybe, maybe, “OK, OK, OK, I’ll try it.”

Another ex-vegan is born.

Actually, when you think of it, why would anybody think they could persuade anyone to do anything based on health? Have you ever gone to a birthday party and said, as the cake was being cut, “You know we shouldn’t eat this because it’s bad for us.” Or maybe, you’re at a ballgame and your friend is just about to bite into a hot dog and you say that could give you cancer or a heart attack.”

What about saying to someone who has just settled into a little TV watching that they should really be out there running?

I changed my eating because of the animals. I just couldn’t be a part of the holocaust. But I didn’t think other people would be moved to go vegan because of that. I pitched to friends’ and family’s self-interest. I talked about health and weight and I talked about health and weight some more. Talk, talk, talk, until it was suggested that I do something that is anatomically impossible.

The reason the health argument doesn’t work is that it depends on human will-power. Is there any power on earth weaker than that? Cheese, which contains an opiate called casomorphin, is actually physically addictive. It takes about 10 pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheese. “Like it or not, mother’s milk has a drug-like effect on the baby’s brain that ensures that the baby will bond with Mom and continue to nurse and get the nutrients all babies need,” said Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Cow’s milk is “mother’s milk,” folks, just not your mother’s milk.

In addition to addiction, animal rights activists are up against an inescapable, 24-7 barrage of milk, meat, dairy and fish advertising and lobbying. (Remember, if those stupid and insulting ads didn’t work, they wouldn’t spend billions on them.)

Recently I found another clue as to why the vegan health argument doesn’t work in an article by New York Times columnist Jane Brody. In it, she wrote about a new book by Michelle Segar called “No Sweat: How Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.”

Segar, who is the director of the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, told Brody, “Health is not an optimal way to make physical activity relevant and compelling enough for most people to prioritize it in their hectic lives.”

Brody went on to write, “Though it seems counterintuitive, studies have shown that people whose goals are weight loss and better health tend to spend the least amount of time exercising.

“Rather, immediate rewards that enhance daily life – more energy, a better mood, less stress and more opportunity to connect with friends and family offers far more motivation, Dr. Segar and others have found,” she wrote.

Doing the right thing, i.e., stopping the exploitation of animals in our daily lives is also something that offers immediate rewards. Suddenly a weight of guilt is lifted. Nothing offers a better sense of well-being than knowing you’re living in accordance with your deepest values.

Esteemable acts create self-esteem.

It’s not rocket science: When you’re doing shitty stuff, you feel shitty.

Animal agriculture is torturing and murdering animals – you would have to be living under a rock to not know that. It takes a lot of energy to keep trying to push away awareness. Become truly aware and whoosh! Feel the energy.

Yet, standing up for animals can be a lonely job in this society. And you might not feel that great arguing with family and friends. You might not feel that great not arguing with family and friends and keeping everything inside yourself.

Perhaps, try not arguing AND speaking up for animals. Something small. A friend of mine, Mike, works at a place where the management serves lunch. There’s nothing for him to eat so he goes out and gets his own food. When his co-workers would ask him why he did that, he used to say, “because I’m vegan.” Now he says, “I don’t eat animals.”

Mike has also found that the very best solution to the “Lonely Vegan Syndrome” is finding friends who are also working for Animal Liberation, ideally an animal rights group that gets together for not only protests, but for fun.

Last week I went to “Pizza Night” at the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) House. I had several kinds of pizza including some chocolate, banana and brown sugar pizza (I hate that expression, “to die for,” but in the case of that chocolate pizza it seemed right on.) The get-together was fun and a lot of friends were there as well as several newcomers.

It made my day. Well, that and going to the gym.

P.S. I once chatted with one of the godfathers of the vegan health movement Dr. John McDougall. McDougall has been in the trenches for decades. He knows what plant-based doctors are up against. He knows the truly depressing recidivism rates among people who try a vegan diet. I was talking with him about some animal rights activism I was doing and he said, “It’s you guys (meaning the animal rights acitvists) who are going to make this whole thing happen.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

(By the way, my new book of humerous drawings, The Sex Lives of Cats, has just been published. Check it out here.)


Mary McCartney, vegetarian and daughter of rock legend Paul McCartney.

By Leslie Goldberg

Even the beautiful and rich daughter of Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles’ fame has known the isolation of being vegetarian. Mary McCartney told the Daily, “In a way (being a vegetarian) made me feel a little bit of an outsider. When I was at home it was perfect… but when we would go out, it would be a bit of a different story.”

She told the English online publication that meals out with friends when she was in school in the ‘80s used to turn into interrogations: “It would feel like I was being grilled about being a vegetarian. It was quite difficult. I came away feeling like, ‘Leave me alone.’ ”

God knows what it would have been like for her back then if she’d been vegan.

Mary McCartney said she doesn’t feel so bad anymore and she’s glad there are many more vegetarian foods available now.

Yes, yes, yes, there are more meatless and vegan foods available, but for many, that stereotype of the “lonely vegan” isn’t a stereotype. It’s real.

I remember one day a few years ago – I was tired and hungry, but mostly lonely. My friend and I went to grab something to eat at the Museum of Modern Art Café in San Francisco.

Since she was a long-time vegetarian and I was a relatively new vegan we’d talked about factory farming and about some of the health problems associated with eating animal foods. I tried to talk about the atrocities rampant in the egg and dairy industries. She was sort of non-committal. She wouldn’t really say where she stood on the issue of veganism but my impression was she wasn’t going to give up eggs or dairy any time soon. While there was no animosity, there was a wall between us that hadn’t been there before.

Standing in front of the café pastry counter, I guessed that nothing was vegan. I didn’t want to ask. I was sick of being the picky vegan, always focused on food, always pleading my case. I didn’t like the wall. Somehow I wanted to show her that vegans are like everybody else. I was the same person I’d been before. Fuck it. I ordered a bran muffin and a cup of coffee.

When we finally sat down, I took a bite of the thing. The taste of butter almost made me gag. I set the fork down. “Does it have butter in it?” she asked me.

I couldn’t say anything. I just nodded yes. Later, still hoping to dissolve the wall, I told her she could have the muffin if she wanted it.

Personal isolation weakens the Animal Rights Movement and maybe even our resolve to stay vegan.
My sense is, getting out of vegan solitary confinement is super important.

It can be tough because a lot of vegans are kind of loners to start with. We’re willing to stand apart from the crowd if the crowd violates our convictions. Maybe some vegans feel closer to non-human animals than human animals.

But it can get to be too much.

A lot of us need somebody to mirror back to us that we’re not crazy, strange and/or deluded. We need to know we’re not the only people horrified by the animal cruelty implicit in animal agriculture and we’re not the only people worried sick about what animal agriculture and the public’s eating habits are doing to the environment. We need to know we’re not the only people pissed off by the whole thing.

Living in the Bay Area, I go to a lot of vegan functions – veg fests, lectures, seminars, vegan group dinners. And I’m a member of some online vegan groups.

Still, the most important thing is not only having a vegan partner, but belonging to some vegan face-to-face groups (not to be confused with Facebook groups.) For two years now, we’ve gone to a wonderful twice-a- month vegan book meetup, the Marin Vegan Book Group and we belong to the local DxE chapter which gets together every week.

DxE is the first vegan group I’ve encountered which takes the problem of vegan isolation seriously. In his recent lecture titled “Why DxE?” organizer Brian Burns cited “animal rights activism of the past” as “vegan consumerism.”

He described it: “We want people (usually people we know) to change their diets,” he said. “That approach is lacking in community and has focused on incremental changes like ‘Meatless Monday’ and California’s ‘Prop 2.’ It’s ‘welfarism.’”

He talked about this activism as being nice to everybody, getting your friends to change, making sure nobody gets upset. “That leads to isolation,” he said.

No shit.

That kind of activism has also done nothing to stop the number of animals killed for food from increasing. He noted that today vegetarians are 5 percent of the population compared to 6 percent in 1999.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that DxE is hoping to buck that trend by causing non-violent animal rights disruptions or protests. It’s kind of a “Forget changing your friends and your siblings who seem to have made it their life’s mission to disregard any and all of your suggestions. Don’t try to change friends. Change society. Change the system.

OK, that, and get together for vegan potlucks and farm sanctuary work days once in while.

And never forget “animal food” is NOT food, it’s VIOLENCE.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


When it comes to image, Obama’s got the same problem as vegans.

One day, Fox news says he’s a dictator bent on closing down churches, taking everyone’s money and forcing kindergarteners to watch gay porn and the next day, he’s a namby-pamby and the secret owner of a pink sweater.

Same with vegans: one day we’re overbearing assholes trying to take over the world, giving the vote to cows, pigs and chickens and forcing everyone else to eat nothing but tofu and spinach. And the next day, we’re yoga-fied, space-cadets in need of hospitalization due to protein deficiency.

A friend of mine, also an activist, asked me, “Why did you call your blog, Vicious Vegan?”

“Oh, it was because I wanted to try and make veganism seem more cool – less New Age hippie and more punk.” I said, off the top.

Actually, Vicious Vegan is a joke, poking fun at the idea of vegans as cruel sanctimonious fun-killers or as militant threats to people and property. It’s also poking fun at the idea of the 90-pound, aroma-therapy sniffing, lettuce-munching vegan air head.

So the mystery remains: what IS the most ideal “vegan image?” Wow, that is such a Guy Debord kind of question!

Don’t know Guy Debord? I don’t really know either, but from what I understand, the French philosopher argued that our whole society is based on image. Even when you fight the pressure to have an image – you’ve got one: “the person who fights having an image” or “the rebel.”

Hopeless, huh? Oh those depressing French!

Well, the image thing is kind of important, according to Nick Cooney who wrote the super book, “A Change of Heart” where he argues that activists embrace a kind of image flexibility. If you’re talking to a group of stuffy businesspeople, put on a suit or a nice dress, for godssakes! Banish “fuck” and “shit” from your vocab. If you’re, say leafleting at a Warp Tour concert, that cut-up black T-shirt should work fine and you can say “shit” all you want.

Cooney insists that activists best to avoid an “us versus them” scenario, if you possibly can. So far, that tactic hasn’t worked very well for Obama. Maybe vegans will have better luck ducking the negative images society has for us.

Right now, though, I better stop writing. I’m feeling weak from protein deficiency. I think I should lie down and eat some soy nuts before I faint.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


If you’ve ever tried to talk a relative into going vegan you know how bad family arguments can get. Sometimes even just preparing and serving vegan food to a relative can devolve into an unpleasantry: “I’m leaving!” “That’s fine.” “Fuck you.” Slam. Screeching tires.

Out of desperation I once offered my brother $50 to watch “Forks Over Knives.” I might as well have asked him to jump over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. Actually, I think he’d rather try to jump over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle than watch “Forks Over Knives.”

Then there was my friend who picked up a Vegan Outreach (VO) pamphlet from a pile of them I’d left strategically in our bathroom. No, ultimately that didn’t work either.

I even tried to convert a whole classroom of fellow students to go vegan. Well, I’ve tried that with a few classes. Basically that didn’t work as far as I could tell, although I think I heard some mumbling about trying to go vegan from a couple of people.

Still, it is possible that I was a catalyst for someone going vegan. I’ve handed out hundreds of VO leaflets and the organization says that out of a 100 leaflets you probably convince two or three to go vegan. There’s an important difference, says Vegan Outreach, between proselytizing strangers and proselytizing friends. Strangers are strangers and can often be way more open to other strangers.

But friends and family members are generally animal rights sermon-resistant. Vegan Outreach says they’re a waste of your vegan activism time.

There is one way, however, that you might get through to a family member or a friend. It’s called “Silence.” That means you NEVER mention anything vegan. You don’t talk about the animals, you don’t talk about the environment and you definitely don’t talk about health or weight loss. I repeat: you definitely don’t talk about health or losing weight.

What if they ask? Psychologist and co-author of “The Pleasure Trap,” Doug Lisle suggests really low-keying it, saying something like, “Oh, this is just something I’m trying for a while – seeing how it goes.”

A vegan friend, David, has a niece who has recently gone vegan after seeing his quiet example. The teenager had heard about veganism and was curious. She figured it must be OK, since her respected uncle was doing it.

Yes, I know it’s frustrating to simply shut up and just be a vegan, but as author Will Potter details in his book, “Green is the New Red,” industry and some government officials see that lifestyle choice as indeed quite powerful.”

Animal experimenter and advocate for the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (a federal law that has been able to reclassify some non-violent animal rights activism as “terrorism,”) Edward J. Walsh has argued that “simple acts such as choosing not to wear fur, eat meat or attend rodeos ‘quietly, but effectively, promote the dissolution of our culture.’”

Whoa! Who knew that?

I don’t think we vegans are trying to promote the “dissolution of our culture,” unless “our culture” means animal cruelty, barbecues, fast food places, “Turkey Day,” Easter egg hunts, circuses and cheese fondue.”

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —