Vegans Fuel McDonald's Identity Crisis

February 23, 2015

McDonalds Vegan

First of all, I acknowledge that I've sucked at keeping up my newsletter lately—but for good reason! I've been busting booty on a new project I'm hoping to announce very soon, so don't go away—stay tuned!

Speaking of delays, my topic today started with something I spotted last November 2014. I had come across a heartwarming article in Fortune magazine, "Can McDonald's Get Its Mojo Back?", about the once-dominant fast food chain's decline—today, McD's is losing its market share, losing sales, and suffering a corporate identity crisis. Warm and fuzzies! 

Don't get it twisted, they're still serving the dregs of animal flesh to millions a a day. But the news represents a hairline fracture that could potentially crumble the empire. Anyway, that's the scene I imagine in my head. 

The factor for McDonald's decline that I'm most interested in is the shift in market interests. The old "fast and convenient" selling point is losing appeal to a growing market (us, and the public we influence!) who are looking for "fresh and healthy." That's a major effing fundamental problem for them that I'm very excited about. 

None of their campaign overhauls are working because no matter what McDonald's says in an ad, they can't overcome the fact that they sell garbage. McDonald's has become synonymous with "junk food," and associated with obesity, "pink slime," lawsuits, expired meat, and animal abuse, all while the mainstream food market is moving toward unprocessed "slow food," healthy kids, and Meatless Mondays.

What's a company to do? 

When a public relations department can't distract the masses by throwing sand in their eyes, they often engage another tactic—embracing the negative and spinning it as a positive.  

Last night, my confidence in: a) McDonald's decline and b) our vegan influence on the public, was confirmed when I saw this McDonald's commercial on TV:

WOW, a little butt-hurt, are we??? I think we've insulted them.

It reeks of the insecurity unique to a bully that doesn't get his way and suddenly senses a loss of power (or an angry world-destroying monster robot right before it dies). You can almost feel the McDonald's executives raging like mad kings behind the scenes, "Take that, you vegetarian f*cks!"

Except it feels really, really out of date, and even for McDonald's own sake, it's a bad ad. Who even says "deconstructed?!" Did they mean "unprocessed?" Of course, they couldn't say that. I think the ad is so icky that it will only further isolate people—moms, especially—who are trying to be healthier, trying to do better for their kids. 

In any case, the ad sounds like a death knell more than a war chant. The people it will fire up are the dumbest of the dumb, who weren't going to stop eating fast food anyway, and vegans. And at this moment, it's our "campaign" that's winning. 

Now, we just have to get people off Greek Yogurt and onto the coconut milk kind. 

Keep on fighting. It's working. 

L.A. Event + Dealing With Vegan Haters

January 24, 2015

Guess what.

I just saw a freakin' Applebee's commercial advertising QUINOA on the menu...WTH?!

Of course Applebee's is far from vegan, but would you ever have imagined?!

It just goes to show that despite the haters and the flack everyone gives us about being veg, they're listening and watching and changing. You don't always need to deal with haters directly. Indirect action is working, too. 

Vegans are driving a big change in the market. We demand, the grocers and restaurants supply, and all the laggards give in to new, normalized choices (a decision they think they arrived at by themselves, haha!)  

The wield your power faster, make friends with your local restraunteurs and grocers so you can request more vegan products for the masses. It actually works. Here's a start:

If you're in L.A. (and if not, please share with all your L.A. friends), come hang out with me (and other cool vendors) this Saturday, January 24th, at the grand opening of Lassen's health food store in Echo Park (1631 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026; phone: 213-542-6535).

Vegans unite and the masses will follow! Think that to yourself next time you're dealing with haters.

Teaching Power without Domination

January 12, 2015

guns n grenades

A friend of mine once asked a question I’ll never forget.

It was in high school, on the first day of a small sophomore think-tank-like seminar, where we, the students, would be setting the curriculum for the semester (my high school was way better than college).

Suggesting a topic for class exploration, my friend posed a question he said he’d been wondering about: “Does every relationship—whether between two people or two countries—end up with one side being dominant over the other?”

Mind. Blown.

It was the smartest question I’d ever heard. With my neck stuck out, jaw a-slackin', I a little bit fell in love with nerd dude. Even the teacher’s eyes glazed over, I thought she might cry.

The question has stuck with me for 16 years. It never grows old, it has never become irrelevant.

Nerd boy’s question occurred to me again recently, when I spotted a 50¢
gumball machine selling miniature plastic “Guns 'N Grenades” on the street (my first thought, of course, was, ...but my children’s books about veganism are “disturbing”?). 

While I stood staring at the gumball machine in world-weary disgust, I filtered through my reaction...welcome to my brain:

Step 1: detect feeling.
Step 2: name feeling.
Step 3: analyze feeling.
Step 4: name correct feeling.
Step 5: repeat Step 3.

It’s not even that I’m necessarily anti-gun. I have family members who would have been murdered if not for guns in the hands of protectors. 

Really, what I felt was abandon; the abandon with which we allow kids to develop a taste for utter entitlement.

What truly disturbs me about “Guns 'N Grenades” is the distorted prerogative that playing with them instills in children. When little kids play “guns,” they’re not usually playing Rescue the Victim. They’re playing domination.

Maybe that raw tendency is human nature, maybe not…but now we have giant, “evolved” brains to deal with that, don’t we?

We have to teach kids about being powerful without domination.

Left unchecked, I do believe that the dynamic between any two given entities is liable to slip toward imbalance. The economic, environmental, and ecological crises we find ourselves in today are obvious consequences of unbridled, unrefined power.

Historically, learning to wield power effectively, honorably, and justly is warrior work. It is never achieved alone, but in a setting of checks and balances, where one has to practice deference, examination, restraint, and self-control; where one has to answer to an otherand be accountable for his or her actions.  

This kind of training is a subtle but very real benefit of ethical veganism. We learn to go through the steps of examined accountability—answering to our better judgement, to the environment, to animals, to the earth. It is inherently a restraint against tendencies toward reckless and unjust domination.

Kindly take the following request as it comes from the bottom of my heart: please consider gifting my books to a child in your life or to your local library. They are about more than veganism—they are about the kind of questions that last a lifetime.