In Conversation with Earthling Ed: “Veganism is not about what you lose, it’s about what you get.”
Ed Winters (better known as Earthling Ed) is a vegan educator, public speaker and content creator, widely known for his viral debates, speeches, and video essays. His passion for veganism is rooted in education, empathy, and understanding. His book, “30 Non-Vegan Excuses & How to Respond to Them” advises vegans or vegetarians on the right verbiage and knowledge on how to defend their decision to protect animal rights. Ed is the co-founder of non-profit organization Surge, a grassroots animal rights organisation determined to create a world where compassion towards all non-human animals is the norm. His curated playlist is now on Argo here. Check out our conversation with Earthling Ed: Argo: In your YouTube video, “You Will Never Look At Your Life in The Same Way Again,” you talk about how a truck crash that killed and brutally mutilated several animals led you to pursue a life in veganism. Was your transition into veganism completely black and white, or did you begin phasing animal products out slowly? Ed: It was a slow transition. After the news of a truck carrying a lot of chickens crashing and many of these chickens dying, I went vegetarian first. However that all changed when I used the documentary Earthling, a film that used undercover footage to objectively show what happens to animals in food, including dairy and eggs, as well as clothing, testing and entertainment. I’d never seen anything like it before. I was devastated after watching the film. And then, watching my pet hamster eat I realised, how all the animals exploited on my behalf are the exact same as my hamster. They suffer, have personalities, are individuals. I realised being vegetarian wasn’t enough. So I went vegan 6 years ago. Here’s a short story of my vegan journey. Argo: As someone who formerly loved eating meat of all kinds, what advice can you give people that are trying to turn vegan? Ed: Advice for people trying to turn vegan: 1) EDUCATE YOURSELF further via resources and documentaries such as Dominion, Earthing, Land of Hope and Glory, The Game Changers, Cowspiracy, Fork over Knives, Seaspiracy. Have a look into what foods will provide you with the decade nutrition on a plant-based diet (protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, etc.) 2) VEGANISE YOUR FAVORITE DISHES. There are plenty of recipes online and countless videos on Youtube. Veganism is not about what you lose, it’s about what you get. It’s good to have some very simple dishes that you really like on days when you might be in a rush, as well as leaving an opportunity to discover new things. You can veganise just about any dish. Just make small alterations to your favourite dishes, for example, in Spaghetti Bolognese, replace the minced meat with soy meat or even lentils which are cheaper and healthier. I also recommend our Youtube video on this topic. 3) TRACK YOUR FOOD INTAKE a few times a week when you are just starting with a vegan lifestyle so you make sure you get all the calories and nutrition you need. Sites like Chronometer or nutritionfacts.org can help with this tracking and also ensure that you take B12 if needed. 4) DON’T WORRY IF YOU HAVE CRAVINGS for animal products at the beginning. It is normal. If you are craving something, remind yourself of what you went vegan; think of the animals you can spare when choosing the vegan options. But if you make a mistake, don’t let this slip up affect your confidence. Just move on and learn from it. Focus on one day at a time. 5) INFORM YOURSELF. People around you will ask you a lot of questions about you being vegan. So inform yourself so you can respond well to all the questions and arguments against veganism you receive. Argo: Your videos and educating style uses a lot of irony, comedy, and probably most importantly, remaining calm and rational (it’s very effective!). How do you remain cool when faced with people who challenge your views in more aggressive ways? Ed: It is very important to remain rational and level-headed and also empathetic and polite and most importantly that we listen to others. If we listen and feel relatable, we can have genuinely effective conversations and the conversation will feel two-sided and not just one-sided. Remain light-hearted too and laugh as well. In my interview, I use the Socratic Method: a philosophy that boils down to using questions rather than giving bold answers. So, for example, instead of saying, “there is no humane way to kill an animal”, ask “do you think there is a human way to kill animals that don’t want to die?” Argo: You’ve managed to amass a very engaged following on YouTube and have spoken at universities and schools across the world. As you transition to other projects (including opening a 100% vegan restaurant in London where the proceeds will go to causes that help animals), how do you manage to keep creating videos and public speaking? Tati (Ed’s Associate): Even though Ed is very busy, Surge has a small team that also helps Ed with things like editing the videos, creating designs, organising speaking arrangement, writing for the website, coordinating volunteers, etc. Due to covid, Ed has not had to travel a lot for speaking engagements, which has given him and the team time to focus a lot more on the videos. Argo: We hate to include a pandemic question, but we have to know – what has this year meant for you? Has it led you to find new ways to educate and inform people? How, and in what ways? Ed: This time of covid and isolation has been a time of self-care while still doing a lot of projects, many virtual of course, except for the sanctuary opening. I have also tried learning more from others how to better communicate, and also tried getting myself into the habit of eating more whole foods and this time is probably a good time to get ourselves into similar good habits. We can learn so much in this time, for example, there are so many tutorial videos on Youtube or listening to books on audible while cooking. But apart from being productive and learning new skills, don’t forget self-care: Right down how you are feeling, do some yoga, meditation, exercise, eat healthily and take time to enjoy your lives, watch movies, hang out virtually with friends and family. I really hope we can all learn something from this as a species.
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