Interview with Rachel Krantz, Bustle Co-founder & Senior Features Editor
Posted by Unicorn Goods
Rachel Krantz is the Senior Features Editor and a founding editor of Bustle. She recently, and very publicly, became vegan, and is now working to increase awareness for veganism.We sat down to ask her a few questions about why she does what she does.
Do you identify as a vegan? Why or why not?
I identify as vegan. I try not to eat or wear or participate in anything that is a product of animal suffering, or human suffering for that matter.
How long have you been vegan?
I only became vegan a few months ago, so all of this is new for me. I’ve had conflicting emotions surrounding veganism for years. I made excuses that I hardly ever ate meat, but that was not the same as my decision to stop participating entirely.
Why did you become vegan?
I became vegetarian largely because of my partner. He asked me on our first date, “Are you vegetarian?” I gave him my normal excuses. But he didn’t accept them. He asked me, “Why aren’t you vegetarian?” When I blurted out, “Well, there’s no real reason why,” my answer jumped out at me. I saw in that moment that when someone confronted me directly about my reasons to not be vegetarian, in a way that was not antagonistic at all, and asked me to explain my reasoning, I didn’t really have good enough answers.
And then, we fell in love. My partner has been a vegetarian for nearly a decade. He’s a great cook, which made the transition away from meat easier. When I started living with him he cooked every night, and I had no desire to eat meat, especially when he was cooking food that was better than I had before. I was coming home to a home-cooked vegetarian meal every night.
A few months later,we watched the movie, Earthlings. I turned to him and said, “We have to be vegan. We can’t participate in this.” He said, “OK, you’re right.”. After that, we together started becoming 100% vegan. The movie really shaped my views on animal suffering. I realized that it was very hypocritical of me to abstain from some forms of animal suffering, and not other forms. It really upset me as a woman, especially, to see how dairy cows are treated. They’re given hormones their whole lives. And when they give birth, their babies are torn from them. The way dairy cows are treated seems like a worse punishment than death.
Now, there is no way that I can participate in the animal agriculture industry anymore. And my partner supports me. We support each other. We both became vegan that day.
Was is easier going through that transition with someone else?
It was so much easier going through the transition to being vegan with someone else to lean on. And for me, because my partner is also a great cook, it made it that much easier. The social support of having someone to back you up is important, too. Being together made our eating decisions a lot easier to explain when we went out, or with family, because it was like having an ally. Becoming vegan brought us closer together, because it was a transition we got to make together. There was a sort of reciprocity to it. He inspired me to make such a positive change in my life, and I started to give him the nudge to make a change that he’s been meaning to do for years. Becoming vegan together was positive gain for our relationship.
Why do you do what you do?
By telling stories and listening to other people’s stories, words are the way we understand things. I find the most meaning in helping people share their stories and articulating my own stories in order to make a narrative of my life, and process changes as they happen to me. I’m very lucky that I have a job where I can get paid to write about whatever I happen to be working through in my life, and there are certain things that other people can relate to also. I don’t know what much else I would be good at.
Do you write to teach, or do you write to think?
I write to understand more about what’s in my mind. Naturally, I write about topics that I feel a responsibility to. Bustle gets a lot of visitors a month, over 42 million at this point. It’s an open audience, but also a large, a mainstream audience. Right now, I want to talk about veganism and vegetarianism honestly. I want to show the subtleties of the issues. I know how I used to think about vegetarianism and veganism and the prejudices I used to have. If I can use this platform to encourage one person to curb their use of animal products, that’s great. I feel a responsibility not just to teach, but to share my experiences. I hope that even if it’s not necessarily to change people’s lives, it’s possible to help them understand what it means to be vegan.
Who are some vegans you admire?
My favorite vegan is Cesar Chavez, because he makes the connection between racism and human suffering and animal suffering, and there’s a great quote he has: there’s probably more suffering than in a glass of milk than in a piece of meat. I also love Erykah Badu; she’s a vegan. She makes total sense to me, because she offers an example to women who need a connection.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would make it so that there is more compassion. I think that a lot of our problems come down to a lack of compassion. That includes compassion toward oneself. Compassion towards oneself gets confused with materialism, and other types of indulgence. By that I mean, recognizing that all of us are one. We are the same as other people and animals in that we all just need just shelter, love and food. We need to feel compassion first and feel in sync with everyone and animals because we share these basic needs. When we lose sight of that and only see differences, then things start getting messed up. When we all start losing compassion for ourselves, then in turn, that anger moves outward to other people.
Do you think people are inherently good?
That’s a tough one. My boyfriend and I talk about this and he leans more on the side of “No.” “Good” is a value. I practice meditation and appreciate Buddhism. The form of Buddhism I like the most is the form is Shambhala, which does outline a belief in basic goodness. I believe that everyone has a basic goodness to them. That doesn’t mean that everyone is an awesome person until they’re corrupted, though. I think it means that we all have the capacity to love. No one is born evil. If everyone were nurtured and raised with those things, we would all have the potential to be positive and live that way.
Do you wear animal free clothing?
I do wear animal free clothing, and that was definitely a big deal for me. Wearing vegan is in some ways harder than eating vegan because style involves a lot of leather, and clothing holds a lot of baggage. Both of these were true for me. My mom was a vintage clothing dealer. Getting rid of the things I had inherited from her was hard because they felt like family heirlooms. But the identity of those objects had been thrown on me, it wasn’t something I chose for myself. It was incredibly liberating to get rid of things I had been holding on to. A lot of what my mother had given me were beautiful: vintage leather pieces, vintage cashmere, and things made of wool.
Now I get to decide for myself what to wear, and I’m lucky that I can afford to buy pieces I like. I’ve always treated myself to good clothes. Because ethically made clothing is more expensive, I have fewer, nicer things that I picked them out for myself. I used to overbuy cheap clothing from thrift stores in the past, but now I only buy what I need. The way a lot of people shop now is for disposable, seasonal clothing. I wear vegan clothing now. I try to only buy ethically made clothes. If that’s not possible budget-wise and I just really want to go shopping I will go to second hand stores, which I still love. Secondhand clothing stores are a more sustainable solution to shopping fast fashion.
If a piece of secondhand clothing is made with child labor, it it’s not ethical just because it’s vegan?
I always took pride in being an “animal person” but I care about people, too. It’s hypocritical when for vegans to care about animals but not about people. We vegans need to redefine veganism as a lifestyle in avoidance of suffering. We are trying actively not to consume suffering, where possible. The are complicated lines surrounding human suffering, and it is hard to know where they are sometimes, but I don’t think there’s any excuse not to try.
One thing I’ve appreciated when researching veganism is how to talk about it. Being a hardline vegan is annoying and impractical. PETA has some great information on how to be an agreeable vegan. They say that, for example, if you’re at a restaurant and you’re worried about what might be in the food, don’t make a scene about it or make your veganism seem like a food phobia. Making a scene gives vegans a bad rap. We have to lead by example. Invite people over for dinner. Cook them a delicious meal. Show them veganism is a positive lifestyle, not something obnoxious. We need to talk about veganism from a non-obsessive place.
Veganism is not about being obsessive. Being vegan is about the ripple effect you create. We need to be aware that we’re marketing veganism to other people. Vegans are setting an example. If vegans makes veganism look like a lifestyle that is unsustainable, strict, and filled with rules instead of joy, then it’s not going to look appealing to others. We need to think about how we are presenting our lifestyle. Veganism is a way of living your life. The best way to shift someone’s lifestyle is to lead by example.
What’s the hardest part about wearing a vegan wardrobe for you?
Sweaters are hard for me to find. Before being vegan, all of my sweaters were wool and cashmere. I was left with sweatshirts when I transitioned to being vegan. I have to replenish a good amount, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it because a lot of nicer vegan options are very expensive. I have found several nicer vegan sweaters in thrift stores. I still try to stay away from labels that I know are not ethical brands. I wish there were more warm vegan sweater that I could find. I usually end up with thin, cotton sweaters.
Right now, I’m wearing a Vaute sweater dress that’s actually really warm, and yes, it was a bit pricier. Its also ethically made and tells a great story. Having vegan clothing that tells a great story is a good direction for vegan designers to go in, and justifies a higher price point.
What’s the hardest part about being vegan currently for you?
I don’t want to push veganism on anyone, but when someone eats animal products in front of me, it bothers me. I’ve gotten use to having uncomfortable conversations with people who are judgemental and close-minded, even my close family and friends. I have to remember that I was that person once, too.
Vegan writer Carol Adams talks about how meat eaters are blocked vegetarians, and I think that’s a good way to think about, without superiority, which can be hard to keep in check. Everything is competing for attention, but you have to break through to people. The reason that people react with defensiveness, difficulty, and antagonism is that they feel there is a hypocrisy to their actions. Hypocrisy makes people uncomfortable. I have to remember that people’s defensiveness probably isn’t about me. The best thing I can do is to channel my compassion, ask questions, and share my experiences. That return is important. You get what you give.