January 10, 2013 UPDATE: So terribly sorry to learn this morning of Rynn's death, and I've posted a tribute here.
If you're vegan, if you've ever lived or worked in New York City, or if anyone has ever attempted to liken you to Hitler because of your vegetarianism or veganism, you owe a debt of gratitude to Rynn Berry.
The prolific author and longtime vegan who serves as Historical Advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society has spent his life educating and informing people about how to celebrate veganism—no matter how hard it can sometimes be to live so differently than the rest of society.
Long before the Internet made vegan restaurant searches and reviews so easy, Berry published The Vegan Guide to New York City. The guide even featured a graphical "thumbs up" icon next to featured reviews a decade before Facebook popularized the image—let alone existed. I had the good fortune of meeting Berry twelve years ago when he inscribed the 7th edition of the guide for me at the Union Square Greenmarket. At that time, I'd only been vegetarian for about four years—and he was the first person I asked about veganism.
If you're "meeting" Berry today for the first time, enjoy this fascinating chat with a modern vegan pioneer—and take a look at (and help spread the word about) some of his other important work!
New Vegan Age: How have you been? How are you spending most of your time these days?
Rynn Berry: Having just run a 10K race in Brazil, and having just put out the 19th annual edition of The Vegan Guide to New York City, I’m in tip-top condition, physically and mentally. Currently, I’m working on the 20th anniversary edition of The Vegan Guide to New York City, as well as several other literary projects.
NVA: Please share with us how your early life experiences led to the dedication of your life's work to vegan research and writing. Were any animals, authors, or ideas particularly influential? How did they enter your life or come to your attention and impact your work?
RB: When I was 19, and an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, I learned that before they are slaughtered to supply humans with meat, animals excrete adrenaline in anticipation of their death. That was enough to convince me that animals are fellow sentient beings who should not be tortured and dismembered for human delectation. I became a vegetarian on the spot, and decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to mitigating and eliminating animal suffering at the hands of humans.
NVA: Your popular Vegan Guide to New York City, a must-have for vegans and vegetarians who visit, live, and work in the city, is now in its 19th edition. How did the first edition come to fruition?
NVA: What have some of the highlights (and challenges) of the guide's updating process been through the years?
NVA: How has the introduction of the mobile app for the guidebook changed how people use and interact with the guide?
NVA: In addition to the Guide, you've authored several other books on vegetarianism, including one refuting the famous assertion that Hitler was a vegetarian. How did that project come to be, and how has it been received through the years?
have been poisoned—for one hour a day from 11am to 12 noon, for a period of 800 days.
NVA: Well, on behalf of vegetarians and vegans everywhere, thank you for your tireless work to clarify this important historical issue. Speaking of history, during your years of service as the historical advisor the North American Vegetarian Society, how have societal attitudes towards vegans changed? In what ways have they improved, and what can ordinary vegans do to help perception continue to improve?
NVA: What current and upcoming project or projects most interest you at present? Are there any ways for others to contribute to/support them or otherwise get involved?
NVA: And how can readers find out more about you and your work?
NVA: Any final thoughts?