Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
Interview with the Founders of VegSource
Sabrina and Jeff Nelson founded and maintain VegSource – www.vegsource.com - a huge veg website that houses, amongst its voluminous treasures, the IVU website.
1. How and when did you become vegetarians?
We became vegetarians in 1990 after reading John Robbins’ book, “Diet for a New America.” The health arguments in the book really made a lot of sense to Jeff; Sabrina was moved by the appalling treatment of animals. So, we initially came at it from different directions. In 1996, Sabrina was diagnosed with a potentially fatal autoimmune disease called Relapsing Polychondritis (see relapsingpolychondritis.com ) and after suffering for a year, taking prednisone and other drugs, we came across a John McDougall MD book revealing the role of dairy in many common autoimmune diseases, and so we decided the family would go vegan. Within a month, Sabrina’s autoimmune disease went into remission where it has since remained, thankfully.
2. What exactly is VegSource?
VegSource is a news, information and community resource for vegetarians, vegans and anyone else who enjoys hanging out with a great crowd of people. VegSource is our form of “kitchen activism.” We could contribute something positive to the planet without leaving our house. We give web hosting to a few hundred vegetarian and animal rights organizations, and look for ways to promote plant-based eating. VegSource is one way we try to give back for our good luck in saving Sabrina’s life through the vegan diet.
3. When did you first start working with IVU? How did your collaboration come about?
It must have been in 1996 or 1997. I think maybe IVU was being hosted by a non-profit called Envirolink, which went under. I may have contacted several orgs who were losing their hosting to offer space on our server; in the case of IVU, perhaps John Davis contacted me first, and we offered to give him hosting. The more we learned about IVU, the more we wanted to be there for them if they needed it. Over the years, John has introduced me to some wonderful folks who are part of the organization, and being a supporter of IVU is a source of pride. IVU.org is also one of the largest and busiest sites we host.
4. You’ve just completed a film titled, “Processed People”. Tell us a bit about it, please. What does the title mean?
Fast food, fast medicine, fast news and fast lives have turned many people around the world into a sick, uninformed, indebted, “processed” people. This documentary – available January 2009 – features insightful interviews from nine preeminent health and environmental experts/advocates. They discuss how and why we got into this mess, and what we can do to break the “processed people” cycle.
Processed People examines these topics:
* Why are we so fat?
* What is health?
* Health care or sick care?
* Are we what we eat?
* Do we need to eat animal products?
* What's the role of exercise?
* What's a processed person?
* Can you "de-process" yourself?
* What happens if we don't change?
Watch trailers at www.processedpeople.com
5. Why did you choose that theme for your film?
We believe this is one of the most urgent issues that people on the planet are facing today. Tragically, many in the world are victims of a system and way of life which are devastating to our overall well-being. To those running our system, the bottom line on the money we're able to spend is more important than the bottom line on our health. Many – particularly here in the US, where healthcare costs are responsible for 50% of all personal bankruptcies – are caught in a perpetual grinding machine, unable to escape.
It’s nearly impossible to be liberated when there's so much confusing, conflicting information, and when the “authorities” giving you advice -- be they the government or industry-controlled organizations like the American Dietetic Association -- don't necessarily have your best interests at heart.
6. What are your future plans for the VegSource site?
To keep on growing and expanding and turning more and more people on to the healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
7. You also do an annual event. Please tell us about that.
In 2001 we started our annual Healthy Lifestyle Expo, which is a conference where we bring in top experts in the world of healthy living for two and a half days of cutting-edge presentations. We videotape the presentations and make them available on VegSource after each event. We also have exhibitors of healthy vegan products during the weekend, and have put on the event in a convention center here in Southern California, attracting around 9,000 attendees. It’s a lot for the two of us to put on, and we took a break in 2008, but we’ll be announcing the schedule for our 2009 Expo soon.
8. What is one thing that other veg activists could learn from your experience?
We tend to think of ourselves as people first, rather than activists. Sticking a label sets you apart from others, which we’re not interested in. We always look for ways to connect with other people, not to judge or disconnect. Being judgmental or disdainful turns people off, and is ultimately unproductive – not to mention it’s just more fun to make friends and focus on the positive. You know, that old Gandhi saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We may not always succeed, but we try.