This is the fruitarian interview with gorgeous Margaret, a vegan youtuber, the host of ModVegan. Below is the follow-up video (1:20:00) of my live conversation with Margaret:
Part 1: Introduction
1. Please, introduce yourself.
My name is Margaret Lozano. I’m the host of the ModVegan YouTube channel youtube.com/c/ModVegan and author of the accompanying blog ModVegan.com. I’m a historian by training, but my real passion is learning, and YouTube has given me a chance to share my ideas with the world! My channel is a bit different from other vegan channels, because I have a very modern, skeptical approach to many issues related to veganism. I try to give people interesting things to think about and then provide a place to explore those ideas without judgement (well, maybe with a little judgement, I’m only human).
2. How would you describe this stage of your life?
Right now I’m a young mom of two elementary school students (my youngest entered Kindergarten this year). It’s a great stage of life. I feel more confident than when I was younger, and a bit more sure of myself. I also feel stronger and healthier than I did in my twenties.
3. Tell us something about your background.
I was homeschooled until my last two years of highschool, and I think it gave me freedom to pursue independent learning and develop a natural love of knowledge. My parents were pretty romantic, back to the land-types, and I think that growing up that way made me a bit skeptical and rational. I was always fascinated by technology and was determined to live a high-tech life in a huge city when I grew up.
4. What inspires you in your future?
I want to see modern veganism grow and flourish. I think what most inspires me is my hope for the planet and for building a better, kinder world for my children and all the other living beings in this world.
5. What would be your best piece of advice to your 17-year-young Self?
Trust in your own decisions and don’t worry so much about pleasing others. I’m still working on internalizing this particular piece of advice, and it’s probably been my greatest struggle in life.
6. Would you like to live one thousand years, and why?
Absolutely. I love seeing changes in the world and I’m very optimistic about the future. Of course, I also care about a great many things, and I think a long life would give me experience that might help me to be better at helping others.
7. What are your greatest passions?
Learning, above all, for sure. Probably so much so that most of my other passions (aside from my loved ones) are dwarfed by comparison. I’m always passionate about the latest thing I’m learning about, but my abiding passion is definitely the quest for knowledge.
8. What do you create?
I’ve always enjoyed researching topics and talking with others about them. Now that I do YouTube, it’s perfect, because I’m able to make videos instead of just harassing my friends and families with my latest craze. I’m not that into more “traditional” forms of creativity, like art, poetry and cooking. I love beautiful things, but I’d rather spend time journaling, reading, or writing essays than producing conventional art.
9. How do you construct your meaning of life?
I find meaning in life by searching for the truth about things. Science is very important to me, as is skepticism. I question everything and search for the answers.
10. Who are you?
I’m a curious, persistent focused learner. I love the truth, and I will work endlessly to find it.
Part 2: Ethics
11. How would you summarize your ethical position?
Practical, but instinctive. I’m rational, but I also care about what is right.
12. What do you value in people the most?
Honesty. Loyalty is a very close second. But loyalty can’t exist where there isn’t honesty, so I’d say honesty is paramount. You know that part in “The Life of Pi” at the end, when Pi asks which story you would have liked to hear? Well, I’d want the true story, even if it wasn’t pretty or uplifting. But I do understand why some people prefer fiction.
13. To what extent your ethical principles motivate the changes in your life, considering your needs, wishes and resources?
I’m sure my ethical principles both reflect and inform changes in my life. The Golden Rule is probably the most important ethical principle, in my view, so if I feel like I’m out of step with that, I will make changes in order to bring the balance back in line.
14. Do you have enough freedom to live the life you want?
Yes. And that is a true blessing.
15. What energizes you in making such changes?
Passion for truth and my belief that this is the only life I have. I want to do the best I can with the time I have.
16. What was the simplest change in your lifestyle that might have benefited other living beings?
Going vegan, certainly.
17. How do you help yourself if you get discouraged?
I remind myself “tomorrow is another day.” I have experienced several periods of major depression in my life, and the thing that keeps me going is love for my family and faith that the darkness will end. I’m not a religious person, but I think faith in the future is a necessary and useful belief. What’s the point in being a pessimist? Being optimistic might get land you in the same position, but at least you’ll have a better journey.
18. What thought process do you use to make ethical decisions in complex cases?
I think about what is most practical, and weigh that against what I consider to be moral absolutes.
19. What kind of life is not worth living?
In some ways I think any life is worth living. BUT, in my own case, I wouldn’t want a life where I was unable to learn. If I wasn’t able to use my mind, I don’t think I’d consider life worth living. Being paralyzed would obviously be a terrible situation, but if I could still learn and grow, I think I could make it.
20. Would you agree that humans are superior to other vertebrate animals because only people can solve differential equations?
No. I don’t think intelligence is what makes beings superior or inferior. For one thing, it’s impossible to accurately and holistically measure intelligence.
21. If animals could experience no suffering of any kind, would it be alright to use them?
No. I don’t see freedom from suffering as the ultimate good. Preventing suffering is not enough on its own. We should give beings freedom to pursue their own wellbeing without interference, so long as doing so does not negatively impact the wellbeing of others.
22. When is it appropriate to restrict procreation of animals?
I don’t believe unlimited procreation is a right if it interferes with the wellbeing of others. If large populations of dogs are a threat to human safety, for example, it would be appropriate to limit dogs’ procreation.
23. Do you believe that mammal animals have the right to choose their sexual partners?
Yes. Obviously as long as it is mutually consensual, they should be able to choose any partner they like.
24. In what example situation you would not put a life of any animal over a life of a non-animal organism?
If the lives of other animals would be at risk if the non-animal organism wasn’t put first. For example, the health of the amazon rainforest is essential to the wellbeing of incalculable beings. So it would be wrong to, say, cut down every tree in the Amazon in order to find a single missing dog that might not be able to survive on its own in the forest.
25. Would you agree that a life of a vampire bat is more valuable than one of a fig tree because the bat has central nervous system?
The vampire bat has a greater desire to live, and that should be respected. I don’t really think the central nervous system is that important.
26. How would you compare the value of life of a fly and a pine?
They are different, obviously. Both are living, but I do believe the fly has a greater will to live.
27. Do you think people should have reservations in using or destroying plants, and why?
Yes, I do. For one thing, it’s wasteful. For another, although we need to eat plants to survive, we do know that they also want to live, in a way. One of the things I like about being vegan is that it actually wastes less plant matter.
28. Do you feel that an individual plant, which does not directly support other forms of life, deserves your protection?
Well, since most plants indirectly support other life forms (through oxygen, etc.), I’d say yes, it would deserve protection against unnecessary destructions.
29. If your neighbours decide to cut down an olive tree on their property because its falling fruits mess up their yard, what would you say?
I’d probably say it was sad to see it go. But I do see plants as property, so I probably wouldn’t chain myself to the olive tree.
30. How would you feel if an inexperienced gardener cuts all the branches from a blossoming bush?
A little confused (it would seem rather odd).
31. Would you oppose to spreading disinformation if it serves a good cause?
Yes. The truth always comes out sooner or later, and it isn’t helpful to lie in the long run.
32. If badly hurting one sentient being would prevent from dying hundreds of others, would you let it happen?
To be honest, I’d need more information. If the person/other sentient being could understand the situation, that would make a difference (if they were to volunteer, for example).
33. If tormenting one child would seem to be the only way to protect humanity from a disaster, would you do it?
No. I think if we surrender our humanity to save ourselves, we probably aren’t worth saving.
34. Where is the balance between accumulating wealth and helping others?
I don’t think they are necessarily at cross purposes. Obviously if you are providing for your family, you’re helping them.
35. Could you give an example of something legal but immoral in your opinion?
Our society permits children and animals to be treated like property. There are very few laws preventing the mistreatment of either group, and I think it’s completely immoral, and should be illegal.
36. What types of laws human societies should implement in the near future?
I think Universal healthcare is a human right (sorry to be speciesist here, but I’m going to start with humans here and move onto animals later). I live in Canada, where we are fortunate to have Universal coverage, but much of the world doesn’t have access to basic medicines like antibiotics that can save so many people for pennies. Lack of access to birth control is also a major problem that a law like that might address (for example, there are some countries in the world where it is nearly impossible to get a vasectomy). We can’t improve standards of living until our populations are sustainable. I’d love to see world governments really making sure that their citizens receive proper care.
37. Should we try to restrict human population growth, why and how?
I think we should educate people about the results of population growth. Most people in developing countries don’t want to have children they can’t care for. It’s the result of poor medical care and sometimes lack of knowledge. I do think making both permanent and temporary forms of birth control widely available would be a great first step.
38. Should we do anything against climate change caused by humanity?
Of course. We need to improve emission standards and encourage people to follow patterns of consumption that cause less damage (such as giving up animal products).
39. Do you think consumption of products with too much burden on the environment should be reduced - why and how?
The best way to improve patterns of consumption is to tax the forms of consumption we don’t want heavily, while offering incentives for less damaging forms of consumption.
40. What are the most important areas of scientific research, from your perspective?
Genetic research is probably the most important, from my perspective. I think preventing suffering by eliminating preventable diseases is extremely important.
Part 3: Lifestyle
41. How is your current lifestyle influenced by your environment and culture?
I’m sure it’s very much influenced by both those things. And aside from being vegan, I don’t think much has really changed in how we live our lives. We’ve always been a little different from other families, simply because we choose to live in an urban setting and have a very small footprint. That’s our choice, because we find simple living relaxing.
42. Is it easy for you to find people who share your views and your way of life?
I wouldn’t say “easy” but I think the people that I like and respect are very supportive of my choices. My husband, for example, showed interest in my decision to go vegan from the beginning. He respected my wish to make our home vegan, and he’s adopted a plant-based diet outside the home as well.
43. Do your closest friends and family members support or respect your unusual choices?
Yes, they do.
44. How do you feel about spending time on re-purposing things, recycling, searching for alternatives to new purchases like new wooden furniture?
Because we own very few things, I don’t feel bad about spending money as an alternative to spending time. We donate old things, and we tend to use everything else until it’s worn out. For example, I’m sitting on an 11 year old leather couch that is rather worn out, but we won’t be replacing it until we absolutely have to, in spite of being vegan. I just don’t like to waste things.
45. Is it easy for you to adjust your habits?
I’d actually say that it is. I find that as long as I start with the reason WHY I want to change my habits, change is relatively easy. If the “why” is strong enough, the “how” tends to take care of itself.
Part 4: Diet
46. Please, describe your diet.
I eat what would be considered the “healthy” form of the Standard American Diet, but vegan. Our diet probably most closely resembles a 1990s era food pyramid, but vegan.
47. What are your general principles for choosing food?
I’m a runner, so I tend to feel best when I eat a lot of starches, with fruits and vegetables to compliment them. I focus first on the ethics of my food, then health, but also promoting social well-being, as I eat with my family and I want them to feel like their meals are fun and special. So we try to choose whole food as often as possible, but we also eat fun foods like vegan pizza and beefless burgers.
48. How much do you rely on personal discipline to maintain the diet of your choice?
Not at all, really. I eat food I love. As I said earlier, I try to focus on the “why” and that makes my “diet of choice” a lot easier. I’m vegan because I care the lives of other sentient beings and I want my diet to be consistent with my values of compassion and justice. But I’m not overly concerned with having a “perfect” diet. I don’t think diet will make me live forever, so I eat moderately. I believe this is the only life I’ll ever lead. I want to enjoy it. So I eat healthfully, but I also eat for pleasure.
49. How your diet influences your mind?
I think being vegan has allowed me to have a more compassionate attitude towards the world. I’m very rational, and I think before going vegan, I had a bit of a cold outlook on the world. Being vegan has allowed me to have a more empathetic outlook than I did before.
50. How much fresh fruit do you eat?
My husband is Colombian, so he comes from a country where fresh fruit is available year round and he LOVES fruit. I probably average around 4-5 pieces a day. It feels very luxurious, because as a child fruit was expensive.
Part 5: Conclusions
51. If you had a possibility to be heard by most influential people in the world, what would you talk about?
The importance of eliminating racism, sexism and speciesism. I think all three are not only immoral, but a threat to society and the future.
52. If you had substantial financial resources, in what kind of project would you invest first, on a global scale?
I’d probably focus on providing birth control and family planning education to people in the developing world (and perhaps in developed nations as well). Preventing unintended pregnancies helps stop the spread of HIV and helps reduce the number of AIDS orphans. It also improves the financial status of families and improves infant and maternal mortality. I think until people’s basic needs are met, it’s difficult to move on to other topics, like ending animal use and abuse.
53. What would you like to add, what important relevant topic was not mentioned?
I think a little bit more discussion of science and technology would be interesting, because I’m sure every respondent would have very different answers to those questions!
54. What is the best way to communicate with you, and what type of messages are you welcoming, if any?
I prefer receiving messages through the ModVegan Facebook page (facebook.com/ModVegan) because it’s convenient and easier to respond quickly to people.
55. What do you hope people will think, feel, or gain, learning about you?
I hope my life is an example of the idea that you can have a very fulfilling life without compromising on the things you believe are most important. I’m probably about as far from counterculture as you can get. There is a common belief that somehow all vegans are alike, and that is simply untrue. Veganism is an ethical position that anyone from any background can hold. It’s not just for thin people, or healthy people, or people who eat organic food, for the wealthy, or for the punks. It’s for everyone. Compassion is not limited to any one age, creed, culture or gender.