As a celebrated author penning her 14th book, film producer, founder of Main Street Vegan, co-founder of The Compassion Consortium among many other things, Victoria Moran has carved an impressive niche for herself within the vegan and animal rights community. I had the pleasure of sitting down with this iconic female trailblazer to find out what is behind her success and how ‘we’ can learn from her experience and wisdom.
Thank you, Victoria, for your time and willingness to chat.
Being such a celebrated and prominent figure in the vegan movement I know you have been interviewed many times over. What current projects are you working on right now that most excite you?
The biggest thing is my 14th book, Age Like a Yogi: A Heavenly Path to a Dazzling Third Act. It’s spent an exceedingly long time in the proposal stage (with traditional non-fiction, you write a proposal, then get a publisher, then write the actual book). Part of that is because I put so much into it, but it’s also because my agent insisted that I get a VictoriaMoran.com website, that having my only site as MainStreeetVegan.com would further niche me as a Vegan author who shouldn’t be writing about anything else. I have written books on other topics, including my Great Success (I like the capitals) Creating a Charmed Life. And this new book has Veganism all over it, talking about ahimsa, yoga’s first moral teaching of nonviolence and reverence for life; healthful eating; and in a Warrior Challenge when I throw down the gauntlet to readers and call a chapter “Get the Animals Off Your Plate.” But I want a good publisher, so I’m playing by the rules. It took me three designers and over a year but the VictoriaMoran.com site is up (I love it, actually) and I think we’ll have the proposal out by February 1st.
How have you managed to create success in so many areas of your life?
You’re kind to say that, but I don’t see that much diversity in myself. I can do one thing: words, written and spoken. And I have a little super-power — we all do; in Creating a Charmed Life I call that your “free square,” like in Bingo. Mine is connecting with people — helpful people, sometimes even famous people, and certainly people with whom I have strong, long-standing relationships. And everything I do is in one of two areas: spirituality, or Veganism/animal rights. Those are my passions and have been for just about all my life.
So modest; you do such a great job at juggling many different projects at once. Any advice to our readers on how to manage and split their time efficiently?
Not even sort of. I need advice on that. If I were advising myself, I would say: “Do what’s important and to hell with what’s pressing.” But it starts with the pressing. That wasn’t such a bad habit in the days before email and social media. It just meant doing some less important things on the to-do list before the more important things. But they got done, if not that day, then the next one. Now, however, letting the pressing take precedence is a fatal flaw, because when there are, say, fifty emails to answer in a day and some of them take, literally, hours, those are hours I’m not spending on the book. So: my grade for time management is “D but she’s working on it.”
As an author, educator, journalist, and vegan life coach is there anything about your past that you have not shared publicly yet, that you believe would inspire our readers and motivate them to proceed without fear?
Let’s see, not included on your list is “mom,” a very important job. My daughter, Adair, all grown up now, of course, is a lifelong Vegan, and she works as a professional aerialist and stunt performer. Back in her childhood in the 1980s and ’90s, I suppose we were seen as quite “alternative” — being Vegan and homeschooling; she was born at home and I worked from home. It was such an adventure, though, raising my daughter. Best thing ever.
Read THE FARM BUZZ’ fascinating story of Adair Moran and her pigeon Thunder in ‘A Blind Pigeon’s Flight to Main Street Vegan.’
Then there is the podcasting: I now host The Victoria Moran Podcast: Meetings With Remarkable Women, and before that I did the Main Street Vegan hybrid radio show/podcast for ten years. What a lot of people may not know is that in 2005 and ’06, I hosted two programs, Your Charmed Life and Your Charmed Life II, on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius (before it merged with XM) Satellite Radio. That was fun, going into a studio in Midtown Manhattan, swiping in with magical plastic cards, and running into Martha Stewart and Howard Stern on occasion. I got a lot of animal rights people on those shows — I remember having a great in-person interview with Gene Baur: Loretta Swit was the scheduled guest, but she was stuck in traffic so Gene and I ad libbed for both shows — two hours. It was great.
And I’m the lead producer for the 2019 documentary, A Prayer for Compassion, by filmmaker Thomas Jackson. When he asked if I’d produce, my thought was, “I don’t know how,” but then he said, “It’s about spirituality and Veganism,” so I figured I’d learn. (Also available on Amazon Prime.)
Is there anything you have wanted to tackle but have not had the time or opportunity to do?
I don’t think so. If anything right now, I want to be more focused on what I already do. My real purpose in life is to write books. I need to pull back from other things to concentrate there.
With book #14 on the way, what would you say has been your favorite topic to write about and why?
It’s whatever topic is actually mine, whatever comes from the well of inspiration. Whether I’m writing about Veganism or spirituality or healthy living, I always love it when I know it’s mine to do. When I’ve said yes to editors and others and taken on book-length projects that were their idea, the outcome was always dismal. I can write an article that someone assigns, no problem, but a book has to come from the heart.
As someone who holds a B.A. in comparative religions, what would you say is the difference between religion and spirituality, and how do people who consolidate the two get it wrong?
I think someone can be a very spiritual religious person and a very spiritual non-religious person. Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz once said, “There is no problem with being spiritual and not religious, as long as your spirituality has the rigor that religion requires.” I love that. I realize that the downside of religion can be getting caught up in the proverbial letter of the law instead of the spirit. I’m a champion of what Aldous Huxley called the “perennial philosophy,” the underlying mystical core of all wisdom traditions. That’s where we find the Love and connection, the power and the holiness. It’s not about having a corner on the Great Reality. As I see it, who could possibly have that anyway?
Can you talk about your recently launched spiritual center, the Compassion Consortium?
I’d love to. The CC is an interfaith, interspecies spiritual center for animal advocates, launched in April 2021. Our services and other events are via Zoom. Some of our members and regular attendees left other spiritual communities because their food choices and animal rights proclivities were terribly misunderstood. As one of our lovely members said early on, “I’ve been Baptist my whole life, but I just couldn’t go back after they roasted that pig.” If someone wants to identify the CC as their “religion,” they’re called Compassionists. Other CC folks, however, are very much part of a traditional faith but they want something extra that celebrates and includes all God’s creatures.
We meet at 4 pm Eastern Time on the fourth Sunday of the month, and our service includes a “sermon-ish” from Rev. Sarah Bowen, an animal-centric meditation, a song of compassion, a “compassion in action segment” where we highlight someone doing something amazing for animals, and my interview with our special spiritual guest. This is the “interfaith” segment when we actually talk about the guest’s Judaism, Native American spirituality, Catholicism, Sufism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Seventh Day Adventism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., and how their animal ethics and Veganism intersect with the teachings of their faith.
In addition to the monthly services, we periodically host Compassionate Book Night or Compassionate Film Night. Coming February 9, Book Night will recognize Valentine’s month and feature Maya Gottfried discussing her book, Vegan Love, and the sometimes star-crossed road of Vegan (or Vegan/non-Vegan) romance. You can find out about all upcoming events, read our Tenets of Agreement and more at The Compassion Consortium
In addition, we have the Compassion Consortium Animal Chaplaincy Training program. Students choose from three lengths and levels of study with the final one being ordination as an animal chaplain. Unique to the CC program is that the training does not stop with learning to work with people whose companion animals are dying or have recently passed, although that is fully covered. This program also gets into being an animal chaplain, understanding who animals are and what they need from us — wild animals, many under threat from human activities; enslaved animals in industries such as agriculture and research; and those other-than-human beings with whom many of us share our homes. Here is a link for info about the ACT.
I know you are an intricate part of a small team behind this project, who else is involved, and what are their roles?
The Consortium was the brainchild of my husband, Rev. William Melton. I’d been widowed for nine years before meeting William. This was back in the 90s and my daughter and I were living in Kansas City, MO — a great Vegan town these days, but twenty-five years ago, not so much. I’d dated only “spiritual vegetarians” but nothing had worked out with them, so I figured, “You may as well date somebody who doesn’t get your ethics but is otherwise nice. It’s not like you’re getting married or anything.” So I met William: then both a meat eater and an atheist. Long story short: he went vegetarian after he’d known me for two weeks. He stopped drinking cow’s milk after a year. Full Veganism took longer. Then, in 2011, when he read my book Main Street Vegan in manuscript form, he called me from a business trip and announced, “Now I understand. I’m Vegan.” Along with swearing off order-in pizza when I was away, he dispatched all leather and wool with great fanfare. As far as I knew, however, the atheist part was still intact.
Fast forward to 2019 when he announced: “I want to go back to school.” And I’m thinking, “Okay…a midlife crisis can happen later for Vegans since we age so slowly.” Then he said, “I want to study theology.” I didn’t faint, but if I were the swooning type, that would have been a good time for it. He explained that he wanted to learn about why the world’s religions had largely failed God’s other-than-human creatures. He wound up at the OneSpirit Interfaith Seminary in a two-year ordination program. About six months before completing the program, he came up with the concept of the CC, and I came up with the name. Then we brought on William’s dean at OneSpirit, Rev. Sarah Bowen, a Vegan who felt as if she already knew us because she had read my book, The Good Karma Diet. Rev. Sarah is the author of Spiritual Rebel and Sacred Sendoffs: An Animal Chaplain’s Advice for Surviving Animal Loss, Making Life Meaningful, & Healing the Planet.
How do you believe spirituality and veganism are intrinsically tied to one another?
The core conviction of the mystic, the central truth of the spiritual experience, is interconnectedness, the sense of being one with all life and with the Creator or Cause of that life. This means that life is sacred and that all living beings are — depending on theological fine points — either beloved of God or an expression of God. Either way, exploitation, cruelty, abuse, and killing are out of the question. Even something as simple as lack of awe at the way the Divine presents itself in a living form would have to be seen as error, or even sin.
The Sanskrit chant that often ends yoga classes is my favorite prayer. It’s “Lokah, samastah, sukhino, bhavantu” — may all beings everywhere be happy and free. In practicing Veganism (and some enlightened practices like carrying misplaced insects outside in a cup), our lives help bring the fruition of this prayer into being.
Do you believe that this tie is paramount to a future vegan world? How? Why or why not?
Obviously, a great many Vegans are fully secular and their Veganism is based on ethical living — no spiritual underpinnings required. And for others, their spirituality infuses their Veganism and their Veganism feeds their spirituality. I believe that in a Vegan world, there will be both kinds of people and we’ll coexist just fine.
The Vegan movement overall, although growing, is still very small, statistics say somewhere between 1%–3% of the American popular identifies as Vegan full-time. I’ve seen so many people start out with personal health as the reason for changing their diet and later on start to understand the animal issues involved. However we come to this, we are trying to do something that goes against societal norms; against what we’re presented by the government, industry, advertising, churches, and schools. The need to follow these dictates just because they’re handed down to us is not as bad as it used to be but it can still be daunting. As far as I’m concerned, if someone decides to do this for any reason, I am not going to put any more restrictions on them. They’ll find their way. It’s easier to understand the rights of animals when you’ve stopped eating them, for any reason. And if spirituality is supposed to be part of someone’s Vegan journey, it will be. We’re all different and if we want the world to be Vegan, we have to allow for people to come to it and grow in it in their own way.
Let’s discuss your Main Street Vegan Academy. With over 600 graduates located all over the world, can you tell us about it and how someone can get involved?
Another of my favorite subjects! Main Street Vegan Academy has been training and certifying Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators (VLCEs) since 2012, an outgrowth of the publication of my book, Main Street Vegan. We were in person in New York City — in my apartment — for the first seven years. The pandemic moved us to Zoom, which has been amazing, allowing for the live, real-time course to have more instructors from more locations, more course hours, and more practice and discussion time than we were able to have when confined to a 6-day intensive.
Our presenters are luminaries in the Vegan and plant-based worlds. Among them are Milton Mills, MD, Joel Kahn, MD, Marty Davey, MS, RD, Chef Fran Costigan, fashion designer Joshua Katcher, author Jasmin Singer and attorney Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House, cookbook maven JL Fields, animal rights social media influencer John Oberg, and Vegan biz wiz Stephanie Redcross-West. With the expertise of these instructors and several more — I teach some classes, as well — our graduates are experts on the Vegan lifestyle in all its aspects, trained to communicate this expertise through coaching, counseling, consulting, public speaking, online video, and the written word, and schooled in how to start and succeed with a small business.
Our graduates are coaches, authors, influencers, and entrepreneurs with businesses including V Marks the Shop (bodega in Philadelphia), Kat Mendenhall (custom-made Vegan cowboy boots, Dallas), Green Street Food Truck, and Green Street Cafe (Long Island), Bon Mot Vegan Ice Cream (Mexico City), L’Artisane Bakery (Miami Beach), Rancho Vegano B&B (Tucson), and Vegan Villaculla Cooking & Adventure Eco-Retreat (Belize). Other grads are employed by animal rights organizations and plant-based businesses. Find out more about the Academy, and the next course happening this fall, at Main Street Vegan.
We do have something special happening in February 2023: Our little contribution to romance is that for this month only we’re offering a special on tuition: if someone enrolls for our fall 2023 course, their spouse or life partner can take the course as our gift. We think of it as Cupid Goes Vegan! All the details are in a banner on the website.
I hear you have a movie in the works. What is the movie about? Do you have a title? What do you hope to accomplish with this film?
Miss Liberty is a screenplay about a cow who escapes from a slaughterhouse and the human drama that ensues. My husband, William Melton, developed the story and brought me on as co-writer. We didn’t know when we started what a huge undertaking it is to even think of a feature film. Documentaries are great — and relatively easy to make and to fund. Features can change the world — think, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Norma Rae, Philadelphia — but they’re expensive and complex.
So, where we are now is that four actors with names you’d recognize have agreed to be part of this, pending funding. My job right now is to raise $200,000 in development money; I’ve secured $100,000 in matching funds and this spring will set out to raise the rest through investors, donors, and crowd-funding. This could be a real game-changer for farmed animals, an engaging family movie that people would see who’d never watch a Vegan or plant-based documentary. The potential is limitless. If anyone reading this is interested in investing or in helping to raise funds for this project, please be in touch with me at [email protected].
Veganism is considered by many to be a healthier way of living with many benefits including maintaining one’s vitality. We all know that DNA, our mental state, and physical well-being plays a part in our health especially as we get older. Can you describe how your vegan lifestyle has contributed to and helped you grow older better?
I was overweight, sometimes obese, and pre-diabetic as a young person. I did not expect going Vegan to help my health (“all those carbs!”) but it did. To date, I’ve been free of the health concerns that plagued members of my family before they got to be the age I am now, seventy-two. I think much of that comes from good nutrition but also from the ease of mind that comes from not harming animals to survive. I know some people even talk about “the grace of the animals,” that some collective animal spirit exists that is so grateful to Vegans, we’re blessed with good health as a result.
On the other hand, I never want to gloat about health, because life is fragile and being well is never a given, regardless of a person’s diet. I know many whole-food Vegans who have died of various cancers. It’s terribly sad, and the saddest part of all is that many of these people were embarrassed to reach out for help when they needed it most. They thought that in getting sick they had “let down the cause.” That’s just wrong. A good diet is important for health, but everybody gets sick sometimes. We’ll all leave here for some reason or other, and we shouldn’t have to feel shame about that when the time comes. We’re Vegan because it’s the right thing to do. There appear to be substantial health benefits and the science backs this up. But no diet is the key to immortality and just like the marriage vows say that we’ll stick with a partner “in sickness and in health,” we need to stick with our fellow Vegans the same way.
I applaud your decision to include non-vegan guests for your Victoria Moran Podcast: Meetings With Remarkable Women. Can you offer advice to our readers on how we can better approach and/or respond to non-vegans when introducing and answering questions about veganism?
I did the Main Street Vegan show every week for ten years. When its sponsoring network, Unity Online Radio, closed its doors last April, I was ready to stop, but one of the Unity Radio execs had started another network and lured me back. Part of the reason for the format change was that, after ten years, I just wanted to do something different, so I opted for a women’s spirituality program that would feature a Vegan woman and a Vegan topic every fourth or fifth episode.
The strategy was to build a non-Vegan audience who would keep listening when an episode happened to be Vegan. I haven’t done well at all in sticking with that. We started out with a bang — Agapi Stassinopoulos, a well-known spiritual teacher in her own right and Arianna Huffington’s sister — but since then I believe my Vegan to non-Vegan ratio is 14 to 3. I have so many Vegan friends and colleagues who really are remarkable women that I haven’t been able to turn them down. Either I’ll have to start getting better at that for the sake of the larger cause, or just accept showcasing Vegans serves the cause in its way, too.
Can you offer advice to our readers on how we can better approach and/or respond to non-vegans when introducing and answering questions about veganism?
When I have a non-Vegan guest on the podcast, I’m simply interviewing them about something that does not have to do with animals or food choices. I’m not answering their questions about Veganism. I really believe in attraction activism. They say in the 12 Step programs that if you have what someone wants, they’ll go to any length to get it. I think there is tremendous truth in this. I can’t force someone to want to be Vegan or to value the lives of animals in some way that is beyond their current capacity. What I can do is live an aspirational life: be as healthy as I can, as happy as I can, as helpful as I can, and Vegan, too. It’s amazing how many people we can affect just by being there, being a resource for recipes, information, documentaries, or maybe a trip to a farm sanctuary. I sometimes hear from folks I knew back in Kansas City 30 or 40 years ago who’ll say, “We used to think the way you ate was crazy, but when my doctor said I needed to go on Lipitor, I remembered you and some of the things you said, and now I’m Vegan too.”
As Maya Angelou so famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you’re a Vegan who makes them feel good about themselves, they’ll feel good about Veganism. Some will come all the way. Others will make smaller changes. Eventually, I am 100% convinced, eating animal foods will be like smoking cigarettes: a few people still do it, but nobody wants to.
I noticed that you always capitalize the word Vegan. What is the meaning behind this?
Yes, that is intentional. You can check out the Main Street Vegan blog post, “Vegan Needs a Capital-V,” written by attorney Carissa Kranz and me. The reason is that being Vegan needs to be a protected class, like a religion. It has achieved this in the UK, meaning that, if someone needs, for example, Vegan food in a hospital, or to be left out of an office charity drive because the money will support animal experimentation, they have the same government backing as would someone who had a religious exemption to a medical procedure or serving in a war or something like that. The capital letter is a small first step toward achieving this in the United States.
Thank you, Victoria. Your humility and infectious serenity are palpable. You offer so much wisdom and your ability to articulate your answers is both impressive and inspiring. We appreciate the opportunity to include you in our CHARM program and we wish you the best in all your future endeavors.
Follow Victoria Moran on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay in touch and keep up with all her exciting contributions to the vegan and animal rights movement.
The Compassion Consortium is also on Facebook and Instagram
We can also follow Mainstreet Vegan on Instagram and Twitter
Interested in Victoria’s film project and want to stay in the know…Miss Liberty the film is also on Twitter.