Choose your words!

Hello and welcome to the newsletter that brings the third heat: it’s Taste This!, the official newsletter of!

New! Download the MP3 (22 minutes) or watch this on YouTube (10 minutes)!

LIVE Class this week: Thursday, 2PM Eastern

In this issue:

  • Welcome!
  • Why burnout is optional
  • We’ve come a long way!
  • Office hours notification list!
  • What you missed, what’s ahead
  • Thanks!


Hello again! How’d last week go for you? Here at Thrust Manor, things went about as well as they possibly could. Our kitchen is almost done (office hours viewers caught a preview of the backsplash,) so we’re looking forward to doing something with cooking videos soon, and I got to spend a day hanging out with a three year old. Let me assure you, you can learn a lot from a three year old child, and not just the lyrics to every song on the Tinkerbell DVD! No Big Lessons from that to share with you right now, but I hope you had a great week too and are as excited as I am about what’s coming up!

This week we get to welcome new subscribers Lisa, Penny, Tom, and Jackie! If you’re new or even if you’ve been around for a while, please let me know what you think and how we can be even more helpful – as always, you can reach me via the contact form. Also, when new readers sign up, they get to tell me what the best tip I could give them would be (the topic, not the tip itself,) but longtime subscribers didn’t have that option, so don’t be afraid to send me a mail with your requests!

Why burnout is optional

On Wednesday I wrote a post about activist burnout, and while I had promised I’d do that, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see it, it wasn’t the post that I thought I was going to write.

When I got to writing, it seemed like there was a bunch of stuff that needed to be said before I could get to what I was hoping to say. Also, the post I wanted to write sounded better in my head than it looked on the screen, so I thought I’d take advantage of the newsletter’s audio and video formats to deliver the concepts that I wanted to bring, so this became a newsletter topic.

And here we go.

This week I want to talk about what I think is the number one reason activists burn out. And before I do that, I want to point out, like I did in the Matrix of Activist Burnout post, that even if you don’t consider yourself an “activist” (note the air quotes,) your very existence in the face of a whole civilization that does things differently is a form of activism. From a burnout perspective, it might be the most important type of activism of all, because if you burn out, it means you fall back to the “normal” way of doing things, and we lose you forever.

When people go against the grain, there’s a word that comes to mind:


We’re fighting to raise awareness. We’re fighting to get our voices heard. We’re even fighting to get a sandwich at the local deli that doesn’t get made with that knife covered in mayonnaise.

Not only are we fighting, but this is a fight that’s expected to go on for a very long time, if not our whole lives.

Now, you might be thinking that I’m going to say something like “get that word out of your head and you’ll be happier!”

Nope. It’s a good word that pretty accurately reflects what we’re doing.

Where activists (and vegans in general) get messed up, in my opinion, is when they associate other words with words like fighting.

When you think about really long fights, it’s hard not to think of a war. And in a war, you’ve got the Heroic Soldier.

[Apologies to the women reading this – I’m going to go with a masculine pronoun here, but it’s mostly because I’m a guy and it’s easier to channel that way. Women can be (and definitely are) Heroic Soldiers too! I’m also not trying to glorify war, etc, etc – it’s a metaphor, that’s all!]

The Heroic Soldier is alone and a long way from home. He’s left his family behind, and in his darkest hours the best he can hope for is that his name gets to go up on a wall honouring the dead who sacrificed their lives for freedom. He’s struggling to keep it together, take that hill, and simply endure. Like they say, war is hell, right?

Think about it: alone, struggle, sacrifice, survival. Hell.

And wars generally end! With your veganism, you hope for some notable victories, and that the world is going to be a better overall place than it was before you started, but there’s no end of the tour of duty for you. There’s no end game, no point you can look forward to where you’ll be able to say “OK, we’re done here, let’s go home.”

This might sound a little silly, but I’ve met activists at various stages of their fight, and those are the best words I can find to describe things in their reality: alone, struggle, sacrifice, survival. And yes, when you live like that long enough: hell.

In that context, is it any wonder that people get less effective over time? That they get bitter, cynical, and resentful? That they eventually give up and instead of looking back on the past however many years as some of the best work they’ve done, they think they just wasted their time with the whole thing?

Now let’s think about some of the other words we can associate with a long fight.

How about winning? Maybe not for your generation, but someday, sure. And there are lots of things to celebrate in the meantime – lots of hills to be won, if I can keep the war analogy going.

Or hey, how about pride, honour, and integrity, if I can really work the war angle and swipe from the Marines for a second?

How about having something the other side wants so badly that they’ll try to crush you to get it? I’m not being over the top here – as vegans promoting a plant-based diet to others, there are a number of industries that would be seriously threatened if everyone took up the cause, and Bob and Barry, who we talked about last week, would love to see you fail!

And finally, what about the knowledge that gives you that confidence, that look in your eye, that, I don’t know, that spring in your step that says “I’m doing things differently, it’s working, and I’m not leaving?”

If activism is a fight, then we’ve got one thing on our side that will make all the difference: the “other side” knows, deep down, that we’re the ones in the right, and long term, you simply can’t hold a position where you know you’re wrong. I believe this 100%: if veganism was easier, everybody would be doing what we do. And it gets easier every day.

In the meantime, it’s a fight. But remember, it’s up to you to decide what kind of fighter you’re going to be, and thinking about winning, integrity, and being on the right team is going to carry you a lot farther than thinking about the sacrifices you’ve made and the struggles you’ve endured.

We’ve come a long way!

Speaking of progress… I read this quote in last week’s Office Hours, but I want to repeat it here. It’s from a book I finished last week called Fordlandia, by Greg Grandin, which is about Henry Ford’s attempt to build a rubber plantation in Brazil. This is one of those books that don’t have anything to do with veganism, but as always, my eyes go right to the parts that do, no matter how much I need to twist things in my head to make the connection.

In this case, it was just a passing reference to vegetarianism. Ford was against World War I, and at one point he’d arranged for a boat to go to Europe to protest the thing. Who else was on the boat? Well, here’s what page 48 had to say…

“Most of the country’s prominent liberal internationalists, intellectuals, and religious leaders… respectfully declined… That lead Ford with an odd and volatile assortment of lesser-known dissenters, vegetarians, socialists, pacifists and suffragists as companions.”

Don’t you think it’s interesting that two hundred years ago there wasn’t even a name for how we eat, and one hundred years ago we were a fringe group that was loosely associated with pacifism and socialism, and now we’ve often got a section to ourselves in major grocery stores?

It wasn’t even that long ago that if you wanted tofu, you had to make it yourself. When I look at what’s starting to happen with vegan cheeses, or all the different coconut milk products entering a market formerly exclusive to dairy (coffee creamers and yogurt?!?), the version of me from even ten years ago must think we live in a fantasy land that rivals the jetpack future we were promised.

I’ll warn you now, I’m getting into history a lot lately, so you can expect a few more reports from ages past. I think that there are a lot of parallels between past events and current challenges, with one crucial difference: we’re a zillion times more connected than we were back then, around the world, and that means that change can happen a lot faster with the right lineup of events.

Oh, and if you want to read more of my thoughts on Fordlandia, I’ve got a review on my personal blog that you can read here.

Office hours notification list!

This is the last week (for a while, anyway,) that I’ll be giving Office Hours its own heading in this newsletter. Briefly, in addition to the MP3 and video versions of the newsletter, I’ve started doing a live class that goes deeper in depth, because people learn in different ways, and there are limits to how much I can cover in an email.

For example, last week we took the Bob and Barry segment and dove deep into the power of stories, which is something I didn’t even touch in the other versions of the newsletter. (You can see the replay here, by the way.)

For now, we’re doing them on Thursdays at 2PM Toronto/NYC time, but that might change from week to week, and so I’ve created a new mailing list just for the Office Hours.

Sign up here and you’ll get a reminder every week with an agenda, and a followup mail on Friday with a summary, a link to the recording, and any links that might have come up during the talk.

This is separate from this newsletter, so the only way to get those mails is to sign up here. This mail you’re reading is a Monday only thing (unless something big happens) and I don’t want to flood your inbox if you don’t care about Office Hours.

Oh, and this Thursday might be your last chance to see my beard in action! I said I’d grow it in January, but I might shave it off as early as next Monday, Feb 1….

Click here to sign up for Office Hours notifications!

What you missed, what’s ahead

Here’s not only what’s been happening on the Better Network of websites but what’s going to happen this week – it’s like I can SEE THE FUTURE or something!

Taste Better had some (in my opinion) great stuff last week, including some thoughts on fighting the rise of fur and the post I already mentioned about avoiding burnout. This week we’ve already done a followup on avoiding burnout that’s all about how to be happier, and we’ll have something else up on Wednesday along with some Office Hours and newsletter stuff later in the week.

Vegan Porn has finally found its voice again! This is the site where we have a little fun going over the news, just like we always did, but I was having a hard time after I decided not to complain anymore about the meat industry. Last week I realized I could still talk about the news that didn’t complain, which was a huge breakthrough for me! So we covered a goat breaking into a strip club and a man who, if he’d just gone vegan, could have avoided a lifetime with an unfortunate nickname. Oh, and we also covered how pigs “do it.” It’s not exactly activism at its finest, but it’s a lot of fun.

This week we’ll see another porncast (our VP podcast, natch) on Tuesday and some more silliness on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Barnivore continues to grow its vegan-friendly alcohol listing base, thanks to Angels’a relentlessness, and this week we’re adding some more filters so you can, for example, browse wine by country.

Spawn Better covered animal industry propaganda on children’s television last week, and this week is honestly still up in the air – I’m waiting for a few stars to align…

Also, if you’re a vegan parent who’d like to help other vegan parents and parents-to-be, the Council of Vegan Parents is accepting applications!


Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces in the world, and I’m immensely grateful for each and every one of you for subscribing, replying, and inspiring me every week. Thank you so so much!

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