Book Barn: Kathy Freston Talks ‘Veganish’

By James Costa

Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over; her works include The Lean, Veganist, and Quantum Wellness.

Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over; her works include The Lean, Veganist, and Quantum Wellness.


Hi, Kathy, I’m super excited about your new book The Book of Veganish! Tell me what inspired you to write it.
I wrote this book with Rachel [Cohn] because we were having coffee one day, and realized that there’s so much more to going plant-based than just deciding not to eat animals.  How do you date (or marry) someone who is not on the same page as you; what do you say when someone makes fun of you, or taunts you for not being 100% perfect and pure; how do you make food that’s fast and friendly and hearty; what are the perfect swaps for eggs or protein?

So many questions a beginner struggles with… and we wanted to put it all in one place so that the guidebook is simple to use – like having a companion on the journey who is showing the way.  Plus, we wanted to offer super-easy, delicious recipes that had beautiful, color photos to go along with them so the reader could see what plant-based food looks like. It’s a less intimidating shift that way!

Who is this book for?
It’s for socially conscious young adults (and the young at heart!) who know they want to move away from eating animals, but just need some help on figuring out nutrition, social situations, and how to make seriously easy, fulfilling food.  A stunning 48% of young adults want to eat a diet without meat, so the book is a tool for advocacy.  It’s a gift for those already on board to give to their friends or family who are curious but have no idea how to start.

There are tons of vegan books out there. What makes this one different? 
The Book of Veganish speaks directly to young adults – those aged 18 to 25. That’s a hugely important sector of the population that could use some support. A few things about Generation Z that sets them apart: They don’t tend to like labels (i.e “vegan”); they’re more fluid with how they identify themselves; they aren’t tied to the 3-meals per day program; they snack and eat at odd hours, not needing an official “lunch” or “dinner”;  they are mistrustful of government and corporations, so they go with their instincts and personal experiences more; and they want more than anything to lead meaningful lives that will make a difference.  I respect these people enormously; they are smart and aware, and they are the ones who are just about to go out into the world and start businesses and families, so it’s really important to empower them with what they’ll need in order to be successful with a plant-based lifestyle.  Our future – the future of the animals – is in their hands.

Is being veganish easy or is something that only certain people should try?  Veganish allows the curious to find his or her way comfortably and in their own time. I’m really glad that I eased into this way of eating gradually, because it stuck. If I had to get it right all at once, I would have quit and gone back to the foods I grew up with.  If we want people to succeed and thrive, we have to give them the space to find their footing.

What should someone do if they slip and fall off the vegan wagon? I know a lot of people feel bad and give up.
I hear all the time, “I like the idea of being vegan, but I could never give up cheese fries.”  Or Greek yogurt.  Or sushi.  So I say, “Enjoy the fries; have the yogurt; go for sushi; and just stay awake and aware.”  Show yourself some love and you’ll figure it out.  Eventually you realize that you don’t miss much of anything, and you feel so good that those old foods become a non-issue.

Is it easier for younger people to go veganish or can you teach an old dog new tricks? 
Well, very motivated old dogs certainly can learn. But after a pattern is well worn into the grooves of our psyche for decades, those daily habits are harder to break. Veganish makes the shift less jarring, more do-able. [Young adults], on the other hand, are just figuring out who they are so it’s a lot easier for them to set some good habits.

Do you feel hopeful that things will change and people will finally understand that what we do to animals is just wrong? 
I am not only hopeful, I’m excited.  Read the testimonials and tips from the kids and people we feature in the book; you’ll see that the future is already unfolding in an unbelievably good direction.

What are some of your favorite parts of the book and you feel are the things that can easily get people on the road to Veganish?
I love the quickie tips for snacks and foods that [young adults] have come up with that are protein-packed and can travel easily.  I also love the easy-to-navigate charts on what to eat and how to swap things out for better choices.

Author Kathy Freston was recognized at Farm Sanctuary's 25th Anniversary Galafor her efforts to promote cruelty free cooking. (Photo by Lesley Marino)

Photo by Lesley Marino

What should people know about Farm Sanctuary?
Farm Sanctuary is the only organization of its size where you get to experience – really experience – what animal advocacy is all about. We’re reminded of why we care, and why we need to care more. You can look into their eyes and connect with these animals, feel who they are as individuals. You see up close their quirky sweet personalities, so your commitment comes alive. The flame in your heart is fanned by their proximity, their absolute vulnerability. There is no better advocacy then knowing whom you’re advocating for.

What’s next for you? Any exciting new projects you can talk about?
Well, I love fashion.  And I love helping businesses that are devoted to replacing animal products.  So you’ll likely see me associated with any of those things in some form or another….


This is the first column of “Book Barn” with Farm Sanctuary Board Member James Costa. An ardent animal activist and a regular contributor to Litbreaker Media, James is the director of the documentary Lunch Hour, which looks critically at childhood obesity and school lunch programs. Currently, James is working on a new documentary about Native Americans and diet.

North Carolina’s ag-gag law is an affront to human decency

By Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary President & Co-Founder


In 1986, while investigating Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania, I found a living sheep collapsed among the carcasses of the stockyard’s “dead pile.” She was a “downer,” an animal too sick or weak to stand, and she had been left there to die. She was the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, then a fledgling advocacy organization. We named her Hilda, and we shared her story, illustrated by a photograph of her lying on that dead pile.

Hilda inspired us to intensify our investigations of Lancaster Stockyards, where we discovered that the mistreatment and neglect of downers was business as usual. We organized a protest, which garnered media attention and exposed the stockyard’s disregard for animal welfare. The public was outraged, and Lancaster Stockyards was compelled to announce that it would humanely euthanize downed animals instead of leaving them to suffer on its premises. By documenting and publicizing conditions at this facility, we were able to bring about necessary reforms.

Were I to advocate in the same way for an animal like Hilda today in North Carolina, I would be committing a criminal act.



Postcard From the Road: We’re on a Roll

By Gene

The vegan movement is gaining momentum! In the last few years, I’ve seen more people than ever attend vegan events and more animal-friendly participation at mainstream events. This year, for instance, Farm Sanctuary fielded its first team to run for farm animals at the LA Marathon. I am always energized to meet other people who share an interest in running and sports and who demonstrate that athletic performance can be fueled by plant foods.


Team Farm Sanctuary at the LA Marathon

Farm animals are also gaining friends in the business community, where entrepreneurs are developing and marketing even more vegan substitutes for meat, milk, and eggs. And, during a recent visit to the Midwest, I saw farmers speaking out against factory farming at an anti-CAFO conference. Veg-friendly restaurants are popping up around the country, while books advocating plant-based lifestyles are topping best-seller lists. Individuals are lighting up social networks en masse with images and information about the wrongs of industrialized animal farming and the benefits of eating plants instead.

Plant-based living is not about deprivation and sacrifice. It is about living in a way that is aligned with compassionate values and healthy lifestyles. Vegan festivals have taken root in communities across the United States, welcoming attendees with food, entertainment, creativity, and enthusiasm. This spring, I attended inspirational events like Vegan Earth Day in Berkeley, California, and Worldfest in Los Angeles, which was held in an outdoor park with four stages, animal adoption booths, nonprofit and business booths, art displays, entertainment, and even a beer garden. I also stopped by VegFest in Charlotte, North Carolina, which attracted thousands and doubled its attendance from 2012.


Grilled veggies and polenta, one of the many incredibly delicious vegan dishes.


Meeting folks at the Charlotte VegFest

Of course, I have a special love for Farm Sanctuary events like our annual Country Hoe Down that I just attended in Orland, California. At our Hoe Downs, participants hear moving presentations, eat yummy food, commune with rescued animals, and experience a peaceful setting and welcoming community. At the Orland event in May, I spoke with many people, including Seth Tibbot, founder and president of Tofurky, who has been a long-time supporter of Farm Sanctuary and plant-based eating. He was living in a tree and I in a bus as our fledgling organizations started in the 1980s. We’ve come a long way!


This year we welcomed hundreds of attendees to our California Hoe Down.

I often say that “vegan is normal” at Farm Sanctuary, and it’s also a place where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to learn about food issues to begin their own journey toward more compassionate and healthful eating. With better access to information, and with more veggie food options available, shifting toward plant-based eating has never been easier. And with veg fests and other awareness- and community-building events, compassionate living is becoming an increasingly attractive way of life. This summer, keep your eye out for veg events in your area and bring your friends along for the ride.

P.S. You can still make plans for our New York Hoe Down, August 3–4, 2013 at our Watkins Glen Sanctuary!