Lindsay O’Donnell has been meat-free for almost 20 years and has been promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle for just as long through volunteering with organizations like Peta, Earth Save, and Sea Shepherd. She ran a cooking blog, hosted vegan supper clubs, and now keeps people informed on food issues through her Instagram page Lindsay is Vegan!
Today she runs the food marketing company Piquant Marketing and works to raise awareness on food issues and promote veganism. Let’s hear more from her!
How long have you been vegan, and what was the pivotal moment for making the change?
This might sound weird, but there are a few things in my life that I just always knew. Like I always knew I’d be a vegetarian and a vegan. I remember my mom having a friend who was vegetarian and I remember her skin just GLOWED. I remember just knowing that I would eventually be a vegetarian too. It’s funny because my kid isn’t vegan but she says the same thing to me- that she will be when she grows up.
But the catalyst to really make changes was when I really became an activist in my teens. I volunteered with Peta, Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, The SPCA, EarthSave and eventually co-founded an ocean education non-profit too. I felt like I was asking a big change of the world and I couldn’t expect it without walking the walk myself.
How long did it take for you to transition?
A long time! I get people that messaging me all the time and they’re apologizing because they’re cutting out meat but haven’t cut out cheese or whatever. I cut out red meat at 16, chicken a year later and seafood later. I went vegan at 26, making the transition 10 whole years!
The key is finding replacements instead of cutting stuff out (think abundance and fun, instead of restriction). When I first went vegan I just drank coke and ate bananas so obviously I failed (and was an idiot). If you’re making changes, celebrate that and now that we’re all on a food journey …and if you’re doing the first step of trying to be better with your food choices you are already making a difference.
If there was just one thing you wish everyone in the entire world know regarding veganism, what would it be?
God, it’s so hard to talk about being vegan without sounding smug. For example, I can’t really think of a good reason to still eat meat (unless you’re in a remote village and it’s your primary food source).
Ok, here’s the thing. Being vegan makes me feel AMAZING. My body bounces back faster than when I ate meat, I feel lighter, and I’m happier. Being vegan has given me so much joy. I wish people know how wonderful and beautiful it is. People think it’s about restrictions and deprivation but for me it’s been the best thing I could have ever done for my mental and physical health. I really think that if you haven’t even tried veganism…you don’t know what you’re missing.
You are SO inspiring over on instagram, and give out so many amazing facts. What are your favourite resources for finding vegan news/animal rights news/mind blowing research?
I really appreciate that! It’s funny, when I first when vegetarian it felt like it was a much more confrontational time. It’s hard to explain but people challenged you constantly on your food choices. Like I needed to have my reasons and facts for everything. Going vegetarian, and then vegan in the 90’s was like going to debate class.
So, I just signed up for every newsletter I could think of. That way I was constantly getting nuggets of information without being overwhelmed. I still get about 50 newsletters a day…which is now overwhelming! Now there’s documentaries and social media but I still mostly read books and get newsletters. My favourite newsletters are from Peta, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and Daily Kos.
What are your best tips for dealing with social settings for new vegans?
1: I constantly feel like I’m not making any difference in the world and feel sort of burnt out by it. Things take time. I once worked with a woman who said she would never give up meat or cheese and loved meat too much. Many years later she emailed me to say she went vegan, is now a big activist online, and said she always remembered some of the things I talked about with her! Seeds take a while to grow but know that by living by example you’re creating change.
2: Sometimes people are just trying to get a rise out of you. It’s about them, not you.
3: You convert more people by making them feel encouraged or empowered than by making them feel guilty or marginalized.
Where do you see our world in 2050 in regards to the plant-based movement?
This one is so hard because it blows my mind how main-stream veganism is. I sound so old, but I really can’t believe it. I’m reading statistics that says all meat will be plant-based by 2040 which…I don’t know if I believe?
I’m super curious to see what happens when lab meat starts becoming affordable. Many people are vegan for mainly ethical reasons, so if you only eat lab meat…are you still vegan or will that be something new? Like culture-vegans? I don’t know, it will be interesting.
I feel like consumers are generally going to have higher ethical and health standards but I can see the vegan community become fractured over things like lab meat but I also think that’s a wonderful problem to have.
I can see eating meat becoming like smoking…like there are many people that do it but it’s not seen as healthy or productive and it’s taxed heavily.
What was your main inspiration behind starting Piquant Marketing?
I feel like I kind of fell into the food business! I had actually always wanted to work at Lululemon and interviewed there a few times but…was never successful. I then saw a posting for a marketing job at Whole Foods Market and it clicked. It was like…this is where I need to be. These are my people! People who were passionate about farmers, food, the environment, and animal welfare.
I worked there for 4 years before being a part of a big layoff of their marketing division. I sort of bounced around and realized I needed to stay in food. It’s where I had made relationships and was spending all my spare time.
I basically wanted to do what I did at Whole Foods Market! So we started doing branding, social media, event planning, community partnerships, content marketing, and business planning for food brands. Then, last year I decided it was time to use the tools I had to make a difference and make a statement so we created core values for the clients we work with which included no meat products. Overall we have almost completely vegan clients mostly because that’s who is attracted to work with us.
Now we’re about to turn 3 years old and it’s totally wild.