Eric Mirbach of Vegan Good Life

by Eric Mirbach


Hi, my name is Eric and I founded a magazine. Let me tell you: It’s a wild ride. I wanted to be an activist and from where I stand, activism might come in many shapes and sizes, but can always be measured by the the grade of it’s effectiveness. I had been looking for a way to raise awareness for everything that’s wrong with exploiting animals, and after some soul-searching, I realized it would indeed be effective to simply use the trade in which I was already an expert to help the cause I’m trying to push forward. Rather than trying to learn a new trade, invest time and work to wrap my head around something new, I knew that if I stuck to my guns, I could do something solid and start right away.

I’m a photographer as well as an editor and I have been working for magazines for a pretty long time now. I’m based in Germany, but I’ve been traveling, shooting and writing articles, and have been published hundreds of times – but only when I partnered up with ex-model Julia Koch, who had ended her international career simply because it was impossible for her to match her ethical views with the demands of the job, I started to grasp that I could very well keep doing all that. I just needed to shift focus, pick up another subject for my work.


So combining Julia’s inside knowledge of the high fashion world with my background in magazine making, Vegan Good Life Magazine was founded late 2014. With a background story like that and with our combined knowledge of fashion and lifestyle, photography, word-smithing, art and design, it was obvious that the magazine we would be putting out would have to be outside the box, taking the general idea of veganism one step further – especially when you look at the way vegans are still seen as radical hippies in large parts of Europe.

Vegan Good Life turned out to be a high end publication printed on thick, quality recycled paper, combining a slick design with superb photography, talking about all things nice and shiny, especially things other than food. We both felt that it only made sense to widen the view by leaving the most obvious (and easy) topic out and shift focus from food to all the other aspects of life which are, in the public eye at least, not connected to veganism at all – even if it meant taking a risk. At least at German newsstands, everything’s rather conservative and strictly categorized. This was reason enough for us to go and take another leap of faith by going bilingual. Vegan Good Life is both German and English (in one magazine), so we opened up to an international audience while keeping our roots deeply integrated into the DNA of the magazine.

The second issue of Vegan Good Life (with no other than The Discerning Brute’s Joshua Katcher and Vaute Couture’s Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart on the cover) can still be ordered online on our website:

Issue #03 is in the works right now and will be out November 2015. We work a lot, don’t go out too much, but we make a point of eating healthy, cooking a lot, exercise regularly. There’s always a ton of stuff to do – we struggle with the sheer amount of correspondence we now have to face everyday. Our inboxes are trying to kill us, basically. Oh and did I mention how insanely expensive printing a magazine is? And isn’t it crazy how it all doesn’t matter when you just know you’re onto something? When it all feels so right, there’s no reason good enough to stop doing it.

Feel free to check out Vegan Good Life. We’re making it for you!

Testing the Waters

by Barent Roth
Professor of Sustainable Design, The New School

This week at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) International Design conference in Seattle we will be trying something new, something called a Swarm. Borrowing elements of brainstorming, design thinking, and the intensity of a hackathon, designers will cluster in groups of eight to ten and try and harness the power of collaborative timed competition to create ______.

As a veteran of engaging, inspiring conferences that result in nothing more than digital handshakes in the aftermath, I will instead try to lead our group to take advantage of the incredible brain power in the room by creating something lasting and meaningful. It’s ambitious, and unlikely, but it can be done. In the fall of 2011 I started teaching Sustainable Design at The New School. The school and its collaborators at the Stevens Institute had just completed their entry into the Solar Decathlon, an amazing competition that challenges universities around the world to build a solar powered home. Seeing all of the entries at the National Mall in DC makes you feel like you are getting a little glimpse of the future, a stroll down an idyllic sustainability lane. Yet after proving their photovoltaic collectors can easily power the needs of a family by actually living in their new constructions, the students dutifully deconstruct the homes and take them back to campus limbo, all except for The New School’s entry, the Empowerhouse. The Empowerhouse is now a home for a family outside our nation’s capital. During the design process the post competition phase of the house was carefully considered and addressed. On a much, much smaller scale our Design Swarm will attempt a similar form of longevity.

The Empowerhouse (photo by Martin Seck)

The Empowerhouse (photo by Martin Seck)

During our 3.5 hour workshop, we will be creating an ocean trawl for 5Gyres to be created using Shapeways 3D Printing technology. A trawl is a simple tool pulled by a boat made to float atop the water’s surface and collect debris in a large net. The report last December that revealed the incomprehensible 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans was thanks to the 5Gyres organization pulling a trawl through the global seas.* This inspiring marine research non profit wants to make it possible for others around the world to build their own low-tech trawls in order to test their own waters. Shapeways not only allows 5Gyres to produce a trawl but equally important, Shapeways can deliver the Trawl parts directly to citizen scientists, or actual scientists, for assembly, helping to make this horrific submerged pollution problem more visible.

Trawl in Action (photo by

Trawl in Action (photo by

Details of the Design Swarm are being kept intentionally vague to keep the conference attendees and the Design Swarm moderators on their feet. What we do know is that we will work in thirty minute bursts and have design minions sketching, CAD modeling, and prototyping our ideas for us while we try to solve our chosen problem. Ideally we can follow the lead of The Empowerhouse and create something 5Gyres can actually use to help illuminate the scope of the worldwide plastic pollution problem.

Debris gathered from a 5Gyres trawl of the Hudson River NYC, June 2015. (photo by Marcus Eriksen)

Debris gathered from a 5Gyres trawl of the Hudson River NYC, June 2015. (photo by Marcus Eriksen)

There will be a follow up post after the Design Swarm to report on the results.


* PLOS One (Public Library of Science)

Animals On Film

I’m so happy to welcome an accomplished, award-winning filmmaker, Andrew Hinton, to The Discerning Brute’s roster of expert contributors. Andrew both meticulously crafts stories, ideas and feelings into compelling and visually stunning films, and looks at others’ films through a lens that assesses everything from aesthetics to ethics. – Joshua Katcher


by Andrew Hinton, Filmmaker

As a filmmaker and a vegan I’m fascinated by the way animals are represented and portrayed on the screen. I believe in the power of media to shape our behaviour – and therefore our world – and I want to understand how this power can be harnessed to compassionate ends.

I’m embarking a new film project which seeks to make sense of the complex, sometimes inspiring, often heartbreaking relationships between humans and animals.

On this journey of researching my own film I’m going to explore everything from Youtube pet videos to undercover activist films. Feature films to phone cameras. Natural history documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters.

…I want to find out who speaks for the animals.

Along the way I want to find out who speaks for the animals. To discover why so many humans love watching some species while eating or wearing others. And see whether film really can change hearts and minds – and save lives. I’ll review and share some of the most interesting examples I find along the way here.

“We Work For Them”

In the documentary A Fierce Green Fire hero of the high seas Paul Watson shares the story of a profound encounter with whales which changed his life. “From that moment on” he says, “I decided I work for whales. I work for seals and sea turtles and fish and sea birds. I don’t work for people.” I remember feeling something shift as I heard those words. Here was a human who answered only to nature with the courage and capabilities to really do something about the problems he was witnessing.

There are a number of heroes in Orlando von Einsiedel’s documentary Virunga, released worldwide this week on Netflix. It’s a beautiful film wrestled pretty much single handedly into being by the director who spent over a year living and filming in the Virunga National Park in Eastern Congo.

The film plays out an all too familiar story of a murky British oil company seeking to undermine the conservation work at this UNESCO World Heritage Site in order to exploit the park’s natural resources. Standing in their way are the last of the world’s wild mountain gorillas, a team of rangers whose job it is to protect them, and a brave young journalist who takes considerable risks to reveal the company’s underhand methods.

Against a backdrop of money, politics and armed conflict we see the beauty and wonder of the park’s biodiversity. Leading the rangers is Emmanuel De Merode, a Belgian prince who quite literally puts his life on the line to fulfil his duty to save the park and its inhabitants. He’s a man of huge integrity and as the fighting gets closer he declares confidently “I will be the last man to leave”.

But when the camp is evacuated Andre, one of the handlers of the orphaned gorillas also decides to stay. Repeatedly checking his gun as he prepares to defend his gorilla ‘family’ he tells us why: “There comes a moment where you have to justify your life. The gorillas are the reason for my life“.

Virunga is an uplifting film about fragile hope, the costs and rewards of a life of purpose, and the urgent need to appreciate and conserve the wild spaces we have left in the world, and the life that lives there.

Here in the US it’s the last of the wild buffalo who are suffering the effects of politics, consumption and human greed. Every winter the buffalo leave the cold high ground in Yellowstone for the more temperate lowlands. Unfortunately for them the Montana livestock industry doesn’t want to share the public grazing lands they use for cattle so the buffalo are subjected to a range of hazing techniques, from helicopters and four wheelers rounding them up for slaughter to being shot at close range.

Silencing the Thunder, a 26 minute film by Eddie Roqueta is a measured and stunningly shot piece which not only gives all sides a chance to be heard but spends enough time with the buffalo that you feel they are part of the conversation too. It explores the science surrounding Brucellosis, a deadly disease which the ranching community fears will be transmitted to cattle, and raises difficult questions about the ‘management’ of these wild creatures.

But the real heroes of the film are the Buffalo Field Campaign, a team of activist volunteers who patrol the migration routes and seek to document the worst of the abuses, while campaigning for the free passage of the buffalo.

Stephanie Seay from the group sums it up beautifully: ”What it really comes down to is the human commitment to coexist. All we’ve got to do is say yes, we can do this, we can coexist with these animals. We’re smart enough as a species to figure this out. We just have to want to.“

The film did a great job of making this viewer want to. There used to be millions of bison across the United States and the hounding of the remaining few to the edge of extinction should be regarded as a national disgrace. (If this is a cause that resonates you can volunteer with BFC).

Finally, a hard hitting campaign by vegan production company Environment Films about the trade in dogs for meat in Thailand has been making waves. They’ve been working with the Soi Dog Foundation on a documentary about this grisly business for years but their short film featuring celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench has just gone viral. The press ran with the story, expanded it to Vietnam and the NYT have just weighed in. Over 600,000 people have now signed this petition asking Thailand’s leaders to put an end to it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect all this international exposure has. Let’s hope there’s a happy ending and that the concern generated extends the debate beyond dogs to include all animals abused for food.

Pick a Phobia, any Phobia!

By Sid Garza-Hillman


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting The Discerning Brute/Joshua Katcher in person. He had been a guest (via Skype) on my podcast only weeks prior, and just by chance was able to come up to the Stanford Inn during a trip to Northern California. I head up the Stanford Inn’s Wellness Center and am the Nutritionist/Health Coach there.

Joshua, his partner James, and I sat down for dinner, and while we talked about many things (fashion included, though why anyone would wear anything other than rolled up 501’s and white t-shirts is beyond me. Maybe I should be more discerning.), the subject of protein came up. Not because any of us—all plant-based—were concerned with protein in the least, but because working at a vegan resort whose clientele are overwhelmingly NOT vegan, I am constantly asked the big protein question—where do vegans get their protein?


A couple times a week I hang out and walk through the inn’s restaurant and talk to guests. Almost nightly I get the protein question and am there to hopefully dissipate some of the fear around it. I was relating this to Joshua and James and we all decided it should probably be a phobia. And that’s when, through obviously divine inspiration, it hit: PROTEDEFIPHOBIA—the fear of protein deficiency. I think we nailed it, and now just have to figure out the hoops we have to jump through to make it official. Is there a phobia department of the patent office? Should we ‘tm’ it for now (i.e. protedefiphobia™)? Oh, the possibilities. I’m so excited about it that it must be something that deep down I’ve always wanted and finally got: I’m a co-owner of a beautiful baby phobia!


And yet, a reality check. Fear of protein deficiency is very real. As a species we are designed to protect ourselves and to survive the best we can. Often times corporations/companies/industries feed on this instinct in order to drive sales. The animal food industry is no exception. They succeed every time they convince someone that he or she will suffer greatly without intense amounts of animal protein. However, there are a few pesky facts that hurt their bottom line: 1) whole plants are full of protein 2) the human body performs best on a higher carbohydrate diet (not refined/processed carbohydrates, but whole plant ones) and finally, 3) more and more professional athletes are actually performing and recovering better after switching to whole plants. In my practice I devote a substantial amount of time and effort minimizing the fear around protein. But that’s one of the best parts of my job—helping people be LESS afraid. Less fear, more happiness and health. Pretty simple equation.

So, to those with protedefiphobia™, rest assured, help is on the way. It’s located in the produce section of groceries stores around the world.

Hit Back: Dispatch from the Farm, or Once You Stop You Start to Rot

By Adam Gnade

adam gnade hay bales

Tonight at dusk a big, grey owl swooped down and grabbed one of my favorite chickens–a young Barred Rock I call “Dodo Conway”–and five of Dodo’s sisters raced over and tackled the owl and drummed the hell out of it then chased it off, screeching. Ten minutes later I saw one of those same chickens strutting through the field clutching a snake she’d just killed. This is a rescue farm, a “sanctuary,” but that doesn’t mean the animals play by our rules. They hustle. All day.

The news has been bad from all fronts. There’s no turning away from that, and it’s taken its toll on me. No amount of Mexican beer or social isolation or denial will blot it out. You stay away from the newspapers. You ignore the Internet. Still, planes are shot out of the sky and bombs fall on houses. People are dying everywhere–real people, nice people, people you might’ve been friends with had you been born elsewhere.

It’s getting to me–to say the very least. One of the many burdens of human consciousness and memory is that an idea, a sentence overheard, a bit of news seen on someone’s Facebook feed can latch onto you and burn you up from inside. There are certain things you will never unhear. I remember that from Sandy Hook; some things stick with you forever and sometimes they’re the things you’d rather forget.

Quiet night on the farm with everyone on the road except me. Today two of the local farmers pitched in and hayed our field without even waiting for a thanks. Twenty-five hundred pounds of good brome hay; two and a half round bales, five feet tall by five feet wide, a few months of food for the sheep and goats (and my new place to sit and write). Tonight I’m going to go to town and get some Dos Equis and limes then come back and listen to Castanets’ new song “Out for the West” on repeat and try to write as many letters as I can until I pass out. It’s a way to stop thinking of awful things but it’s also a way to find some easiness of mind and fellowship and joy. These past eight months have been radio silence from me. I’m getting worse and worse at returning correspondence but tonight I’m vowing to keep in touch. People call out to you and you call back to them–if you’re worth a damn. Lately I’ve not been worth much, but I’m trying.

Does it matter? Does anything matter? Sometimes life feels like endless buckets of shit dumped off a cliff onto your head in slow motion while cheesy, porny saxophone music plays. Futile. Empty. Silly. Action without payoff. Ambition without the promise of acknowledgement.

There are no answers but you keep trying. You keep dreaming. You keep writing letters even when you’re a year behind and you keep fighting winged things that want to carry you off into the sky and you keep pushing forward with your dreams held tight. You pay attention but you also give yourself time to breathe.

column art go fight win

My motto right now is an old cheerleader chant Jessie Duke turned into a button for Pioneers Press: Go, fight, win. I wear the button too; right here on my lucky baseball cap.

I know what the inverse of action is and I don’t want anything to do with that. And I know this: Once you stop you start to rot. And by “stop” I don’t mean “relax.” By all means relax every single chance you get. The ability to relax and look inward in the midst of struggle is part of what makes us who we are. But you have to keep believing in your path and in a future where your life will be better than it is now. Belief counts for a lot. So does planning big and shoving yourself into the nasty thick of life. That’s what you need to do: believe, push, pay attention, know when to step back and heal, and don’t mess around with dreamlessness. Go, fight, win.