Gene Stone is the author of 40 books, including five #1 national bestsellers and 12 New York Times Bestsellers. Normally a nonfiction writer, his recent and only novel The Awakening chronicles a day in which animals gain consciousness and go to war against people. It has been compared to George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm. Other books by Gene include Forks Over Knives, The Engine 2 Diet, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, How Not to Die, My Beef With Meat, Start Something That Matters (with Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes), and A Reader’s Companion to Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking). We asked Gene questions that no one has asked him before about his identity as a vegan and what it’s like to be a prominent vegan thought leader.
Q: Do you identify as a vegan? Why or why not?
GS: I do identify as a vegan but I also feel strongly that people should have a plant-based, whole-foods diet. A lot of the time “vegan” can be equated to eating potato chips, diet coke, and unhealthy food. I thoroughly encourage people who are interested in veganism to be very careful about what they eat, make sure that their food choices are healthy, and take supplements such as vitamin B12 and, if they live in northern climates, vitamin D (which non-vegans need as well).
Q: What do you think about the word “vegan?”
GS: I find that there’s a bit of a generation gap around the word. People my age tend to be much less comfortable with the word than millenials, for instance. But words are symbols. They only take on the meaning that we give them. If all vegans were wonderfully kind about it, veganism would have a better resonance with society.
Q: Do you write to teach, or do you write to think?
GS: I’d like to think that what I’m doing involves teaching, that the books I write have some kind of lessons for readers. But the primary reason I write is to make a living. I don’t know any other way to support myself.
Q: Do you think people are inherently good?
GS: That’s a tough question. Good, bad, these are just two words, two labels, that we like to attach to people because it makes life much simpler. I’ve certainly known people who I consider good do bad things. I’ve seen people who I consider bad do good things. So I guess the answer is, perhaps everyone has some inherent good and bad in them. It’s a matter of fractions. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who was 100 percent one or the other.
Q: Do you wear animal-free clothing? Why or why not?
GS: It’s a compromise. I like clothes and still own some pieces of animal-based clothing because I bought them in the past before I was vegan. I decided that I wouldn’t throw them out, but I try not to buy anything that’s harmful to animals if I can avoid it. I would guess I probably still make mistakes when shopping. It’s hard to get everything just right, so you have to cut yourself a little slack.
Q: What's the hardest part about wearing a vegan wardrobe for you?
GS: Vegan fashion’s not there yet. If I want Tom Ford or Vince or some other good designer, I probably won’t find much unless I’m sticking to cotton. Basically, I don’t dress as well as I used to. It’s not a big deal. I guess I’d rather be able to look a cow in the eye and say I’m not wearing anything that ever came from one of your dead friends than have a leather belt.
Q: What about Brave Gentleman and the work that Joshua Katcher with The Discerning Brute is doing?
GS: Joshua is great and I have some of his clothes. He’s doing a terrific job. I recommend his stuff to everyone. But he’s still just one guy. I wish there were a lot more.
Q: What's the hardest part about being vegan in general for you?
GS: I’ve been vegan for about a decade. When I started, a lot of my friends thought I had developed some kind of weird eating disorder. And some people stopped inviting me over because they were afraid either that they had to cook different foods, or that if I did show up and animal-based foods were being served, I’d go ballistic. I don’t do that. I’m comfortable around people who eat animals because if I weren’t, I probably wouldn’t have any friends left. But I certainly wish that more people were vegan-- the more you think about factory farming, the more you think about the eight billion animals who were slaughtered last year, the more you just feel bad, the more you just wish it would all go away. That’s the hardest part—not being able to change the system.
Q: Can you tell me more about your recent novel The Awareness?
My nonfiction means a lot to me. But The Awareness, which I co-wrote with my friend Jon Doyle, has a special place in my heart. It’s about a wild day when all animals suddenly gain human-like consciousness and go to war against us. Non-fiction is important and can change minds, but sometimes I think it’s fiction that can change hearts.
Q: Can you talk about your upcoming book on Mercy for Animals?
GS: The founder of MFA, Nathan Runkle, is an extraordinary man who was in high school when he started the organization with no money and just one other friend. Now MFA is a multimillion dollar, multinational organization that does so much good for animals. The book tells the story of how MFA was founded, as well as its investigations. It will be out probably in May or June of 2017.
Q: Sounds like you have your work cut out for you!
GS: I have a lot of work to do on this book as well as many others. But, you’re a lucky person when your career and your passion converge.
Check out our selection of Gene Stone’s books here.