Interview: Slovenian vegans

Vegan Without Frontiers is not just about us traveling and enjoying ourselves, learning lazily about the world. We are on the road to promote veganism, to meet up with vegans in different countries, and to try and create a positive vibe and a good outlook for the future of veganism. On our route we went through Slovenia, and discovered that Slovenia has its own vegan society, called “Slovensko Vegansko Drustvo” which translates directly to “Slovenian Vegan Society”.

Created about two years ago, it seems to be getting increasingly more support and more members, and in return the society comes up with new and exciting events for vegans and non-vegans to attend and enjoy. As we drove through Ljubljana, we met Dani Susnik from the Slovenian Vegan Society and Nina Osenar from the “Drustvo za Osvoboditev Zivali”, translated roughly as Animal Liberation Society.

Happy vegans: (from left) Jonathan, Nina, Dani
Happy vegans: (from left) Jonathan, Nina, Dani

We expressed our surprise that there seem to be a lot of vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly options considering the small size of the country. Dani and Nina didn’t share the same surprise:

Dani: There are perhaps a lot of vegan friendly, but not entirely vegan restaurants. More and more restaurants are opening, like the Loving Hut, and each year the vegan restaurants have more customers. You can see how the places become more popular in just a couple of years.

Leaflets from Dani and Nina
Leaflets from Dani and Nina

After the initial chat of getting to know each other and what we do, we started talking about more serious issues.

Jonathan: I think there was some suggestion in the UK press recently that this is the year veganism becomes mainstream.

Dani: I think it also depends on how we view these things. When we move in mostly vegan circles, we tend to think that there are a lot of vegans around.

Jonathan: Do you find that it really helps, mixing with other vegans?

Dani: Yes, and that is also the purpose of the Slovenian Vegan Society.

Nina: I don’t mix with too many vegans because of my job. I think it’s a good thing, because people are asking me about veganism, and I am able to tell people some recipes, or just what veganism is about. The meat-eaters can see that I am a normal girl, I am just like everyone else. There is nothing wrong with me just because I am vegan. I think it is important to mix with meat-eaters to educate them about veganism, because vegans already know a lot of things about the meat industry and animal suffering.

Jonathan: When you make the decision to become vegan, it helps when there are other vegans around to help you along the way. But if you then become isolated and just stick to other vegans, then you’re not helping other people along the way, are you?

Dani: There is no sense in preaching to each other basically.

Jonathan: It makes you feel good, but it’s easy and it’s lazy. One of the things we’re trying to say this year is that you don’t have to be vegan to make vegan choices.

Dani: I saw this notion promoted on the UK Vegan Society, but there were so many complaints from abolitionist groups, like “they say you don’t have to be vegan”, ignoring the “to like vegan things” part. I agree with what you’re saying. Veganism should be promoted in any way it can be. Everything you can say about veganism, everything positive, should be said either way. Even if one is not becoming vegan, or a “plant-eater”, because of ethics, at least they are not harming animals, and this becomes a good thing regardless. Slowly they will understand about ethics as well, and it will be easier for them to accept and understand the ethical side of not eating animals.

I asked Dani to talk more about the two societies that he and Nina belong to. The Animal Liberation Society has existed for about ten years, and they started out as a vegetarian group. The Slovenian Vegan Society is much younger, and started immediately as a vegan group.

Dani: I think an ever-growing number of people wanted to do something more for veganism in Slovenia, such as have events, have a website, and to share more information about the movement in general. We decided to make our own Vegan Society. We’ve had a lot of projects since then, such as the “Vegan challenge”, which is a challenge to be vegan for thirty days, which I think is very successful. You can subscribe to our website and get all the emails, and you can also get mentors. We also have festivals, and Nina’s society used to organize “vegetarian festivals” which served only vegan food but they didn’t want to be called a “vegan festival” because it is a taboo statement, as there is more prejudice against veganism than vegetarianism. Now we started having a “vegan fest” and we do this together with the Animal Liberation Society. What we want is to join vegans and different related groups as much as possible. I have observed that there are so many people who are willing to accept this choice, and they are just waiting for more information. I think we can do things together much better, like we did the last Vegan Fest together. It was very big, and people could see that there are so many vegans in this country. People start reading about us. For example, so many people are looking at different diets, like the paleo diet and so on. Why not write more articles about veganism as a projected diet, so when people search for new diets, they come across vegan diets, and perhaps get interested, and later learn about the ethics behind veganism as well. They can come into contact with veganism by whatever path. We don’t care how we are trying to make a vegan world, we just want to make it as soon as possible. For example, when we have events like “Vega Friday”, I talk to the manager at Loving Hut, and for that Friday they give 30% off on all vegan food. So many people come for cheaper food and then also for the lecture, and they hear about veganism and learn more. Every time we have some new people that come and talk to us afterwards. We are trying to be loud and we are trying to spend our limited energy to make a big impact.

One of the leaflets contrasts the beautiful pictures of animals with the abuse they receive
One of the leaflets contrasts the beautiful pictures of animals with the abuse they receive

We talked in depth about other issues vegans face, and of course, no vegan talk is ever complete without mentioning the film “Earthlings”.

Dani: Did you see Earthlings? I’ve seen it, but you know, I am not exactly watching it every day. I don’t have to see it any more.

Katana: I couldn’t watch it.

Nina: Me neither.

Jonathan: I actually turned vegan after the day of watching “The Animals Film”.

“The Animals Film” was an earlier film that was credited turning people vegan, but took a more subtle approach to make people think about our relationship with animals rather than simply shocking footage of what goes on in the treatment of animals for consumption. Katana stopped eating meat after literally clicking on a few websites and finding gruesome footage of industrialised animal farming online.

It was time to ask Nina about her Animal Liberation Society and her path to veganism.

Nina: I have joined this society about two years ago. I am an animal lover and have been all my life, but I was also taught that eating meat is normal. I was a vegetarian for ten years, and I am vegan for two years now. Slowly I developed this awareness about what’s happening, how to get my “milk” and so on. And finally two years ago I decided to join the society, I finally decided I’d had enough, I was going to be a happy herbivore from that moment. Since then I am trying to do my best to help the society. We did a great movie for Christmas last year. We chose some Slovenian celebrities, and joined them in the ad, and all the Slovenian television was airing it. It was so beautiful: we had a little baby pig, and in slow motion a hand was petting the pig. The celebrities gave speeches about warmth and love for Christmas, and how animals deserve the same, that they are our friends. This had such an impact on people. Even my Mom became a vegetarian, which is a big step for her. I was so happy about it, because it was so well accepted, lots of people were talking about it, some people became vegetarian, and some of them even vegan. We are trying to do our best, and this society is doing its best for a few years now.

At the end of the conversation we ate a hearty meal at the Loving Hut and Nina had some encouraging parting words for us and for every vegan.

Nina: We are basically trying to do our best in the most kind and gentle way we can. Being positive sometimes is very hard. Every day that I see the abuse of animals, and it gets to me and my heart. I start to feel emotional, I feel sad but then I pick up my good mood again and try to be a gentle and overall better person.

Eating at Loving Hut: (from left) Jonathan, Katana, Nina
Eating at Loving Hut: (from left) Jonathan, Katana, Nina

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