Friday, July 19, 2013

TRAVEL GUIDE: VEGAN IN BERLIN

REFERRED TO AS “VEGAN PARADISE” IN A RECENT GUIDED TOUR, Berlin is the undisputed heart of Germany’s nearly one million-strong vegan population. Reasons to love Berlin are countless. A diverse range of fabulous vegan food abounds in the capital: innovative restaurants, cafés and snack bars that cater to every taste, from fast food to haute vegetable cuisine. There are a multitude of places to shop for vegan food: not only are there small vegan grocery stores, but also two vegan supermarkets. There is a thriving vegan fashion scene; tons of options to get beautified, vegan-style; and of course, an active animal rights community. Here are some of my absolute faves and hidden gems:

FASHION
Berlin has something known as “the vegan avenue” in the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg!

[1] The best place for compassionate and chic fashion shopping is Dear Goods. You will find clothing for girls and boys as well as a small selection of jewelry, bags, wallets, and home accessories. But the store is not only animal friendly; eco- and human-friendliness is also crucial for the owner Nicole Noli. Dear Goods is located in Schivelbeiner Straße 35, 10439 Berlin

[2] To complete your vegan outfit, go next door to Avesu. There, you’ll find elegant and chic footwear from Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather, sneakers from Veja or Ethletics, non-leather Doc Martens, and hiking boots from Vegetarian Shoes. They carry tons of styles for women, men, and children. Avesu is located in Schivelbeiner Straße 35, 10439 Berlin

The vegan and eco conscious brand Jonny’s Vegan (pictured) launched recently. The first collection soon became a favorite of veganistas and shoe lovers alike. Manufactured with fair labour in Spain. (Available at Avesu.)

[3] Founded by twin sisters Anja and Sandra Umann, Umasan is the world’s first vegan high fashion brand based in Berlin. They only use the finest eco-innovative materials such as Seacell, Soyfiber, Bamboo, Protein Fiber, Energear, Smartcel and Tencel. As for the designs: timeless, avant-garde and incredibly chic and comfortable. The Umasan flagship store is located in Linienstrasse 40, 10119 Berlin

[4] Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather. This innovative vegan brand has built a cult following not only in Germany, but has crossed over internationally. Large selection available at Avesu.

BONUS! Also part of “vegan avenue” is the vegan supermarket Veganz. It’s right next to Avesu and Dear Goods. Your can find everything there, from fruits and veggies, to raw foods, a huge freezer filled with vegan ice cream, pizza, every vegan meat imaginable, as well as a great selection of cheese, plant-based milk drinks, candy bars, cookies, and chocolate. Basically everything that makes you feel as if you’re in vegan food heaven. The bistro Goodies is located in the entrance area of Veganz, serving bagels, salads as well as smoothies, coffee and raw cake. Veganz is located in Schivelbeiner Str. 34, 10439 Berlin. Recently a second location opened in Friedrichshain in Warschauer Strasse 33, 10243 Berlin.

DINING

[1] My favorite place for a lazy afternoon with coffee and cake: The prettiest location in town is Café Vux, where the yummiest bagels, the most delicious cakes and the best coffee are served. Located in the popular district Neukoelln and right across the street from the vegetarian & vegan Italian restaurant Ponte Verde for a seamless transition from late afternoon coffee to the dinner table. Sunday is brunch day at Café Vux. Café Vux is located in Wipperstrasse 14, 12055 Berlin

[2] The best vegan food in Berlin: The vegetarian restaurant Cookies Cream is a hidden gem in Berlin-Mitte. Once you have made your reservation (please note that you wish to eat vegan) and made your way through the delivery yard at the back of the Westin Grand hotel, you will enjoy a delicious three-course meal made from fresh regional and seasonal ingredients in a stylish but yet inviting location. Cookies Cream is located in Behrenstrasse 55, 10115 Berlin

[3] The absolutely divine Vanilla Chocolate Cupcake at Café Vux.

[4] A very particular Berlin speciality: Vöner serves the typical Berlin dish – a döner, a doner kebab – vegan style. Located in Friedrichshain, one of the districts where the vegan scene is really happening, Vöner has become an institution for greasy, savory and delicious fast food. Insider tip: order the “Wagenburger” and french fries with vegan cheese sauce. You’ll be saying, “Mega lecker!” (it means “extremely delicious” in German). Vöner is located in Boxhagener Straße 56, 10245 Berlin

 

VEGAN BEAUTY
These brands are not to be missed:

Over 30 years ago, Ingrid Stamm founded i+m Naturkosmetik: the Berlin-based natural cosmetics brand. At that time, she was a pioneer – and she still is. The brand is certified organic, 100% vegan, uses only cold pressed oils, no artificial ingredients or mineral oils, no preservatives, like parabens, does not test on animals, and supports fair trade projects. The product range includes skin, hair, and body care. The packaging is also environmentally friendly, following the cradle to cradle design. Reflecting the spirit of i+m’s hometown, the Berlin-line was created, which also comes in a very nice travelling package with shower gel, body cream, hair shampoo, and conditioner. This makes a great, eco friendly, and vegan souvenir for all loved ones at home, or a way to remember this trip when back home. The products are available at whole food stores, such as Bio Company, LPG Biomarkt, Basic, Alnatura or Bio Company.

Luckily, great cruelty free and vegan beauty products can be found all over town. Here are a few brands and where they can be found:

Drugstores: Terra Naturi (Mueller), Alverde (DM) and Alterra (Rossmann) – organic skin and haircare, vegan products are clearly labeled

Supermarkets: bulldog (Rewe) – organic and vegan skin care for men

Health food stores and organic supermarkets: benecos skin and hair care as well as make up (tip: great nail polish) is an organic brand with a great vegan selection.

One of the first German organic skin care brands was Dr. Hauschka, with many vegan products to choose from. (Tip: the Cleansing Milk is a staple in my bathroom.)

ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISM IN BERLIN
When it comes to meeting like-minded people and fellow animal rights activists, Berlin Vegan is the place to go. Twice a month this group of regulars meets in a vegan location to share news, tips and plan upcoming activities. New faces are more than welcome, and help for their various projects such as a website, a restaurant guide app, and an annual summer festival is always highly appreciated. This year the summer festival will take place August 31st, 2013 at Alexanderplatz. Yummy food, great people, informative speeches and cookery shows – be there, or be square.

 

About the author: Franziska Schmid is a vegan writer and blogger living in Berlin. When she became a vegan in 2008, she wanted to continue to visit nice restaurants and cafés, enjoy good food, cosmetics, and use red lipstick and wear cool shoes. She started her site Veggie Love to share her finds and inspire others.

LAIKA Magazine is available at Berlin’s do you read me?! bookstore! They currently stock the Premier Issue, with our Second Issue coming there soon!

 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A CLOSER LOOK: THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE

“THINK OCCASIONALLY OF THE SUFFERING OF WHICH YOU SPARE YOURSELF THE SIGHT,” philosopher Albert Schweitzer once famously said. In the new documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, we are asked to look directly at what society routinely averts its gaze from—the lives of the animals we share this planet with. In reality, of course, as this film shows—”sharing” is inaccurate. With over 150 billion animals killed for human consumption annually, and billions more killed for fashion, in vivisection, and exploited for entertainment—”dominating” is a more fitting description of our relationship with our fellow earthlings. Nearly every global industry profits off of the bodies of animals. The film urges the viewer to consider the pain behind ubiquitous things like a pair of leather shoes; the container of milk at the supermarket; a household cleaning product; the circus tent, or the aquarium. The Ghosts in Our Machine arrives at a timely moment, when we as a society are starting to more actively address the moral conundrum and the injustice of hurting animals for our perceived benefit. The film follows renown photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, as she tirelessly documents animals in captivity and in freedom over the course of a year. Through her journey, we discover not only the gravity of animal suffering, but also the depth of animal sentience, as well as our undeniable bond with animals. Here, director Liz Marshall, who has been creating social justice-related projects for close to two decades, offers us some insights into her latest film.

 

 

One can’t say that this documentary is about animals alone, with Jo as a protagonist. It’s also about the human-animal experience. Was that the goal? To make the subject matter more relatable to those unfamiliar with the situation by showing it though the eyes of a compassionate person?
As a social-issue filmmaker I look for creative engaging ways to tell complicated stories, with the hope of elevating tough issues. Not an easy task. It is an issue film, yes, but it is also a cinematic narrative about a photographer. The sentience of animals is at the heart of the film and the sentience of Jo-Anne McArthur is the connective thread that weaves the stories of animal enslavement and liberation together. Through Jo’s heart and lens we meet a cast of nonhuman animals. My instinct to feature Jo as the films’ protagonist was the narrative device that helped me get clearer about the vision I wanted for the film. I knew I wanted the film to focus on the four main animal industries: Food; Research; Fashion and Entertainment, but was looking for a story. Anchoring the issues through an accessible human story of courage and purpose was a way for us all (including the cinematographers and editors) to illustrate ideas and values (like empathy), by showing and not telling.

By changing just one word (“the” to “our”), the title turned a common expression into something deeply reflexive and compelling. But did you ever worry that our fearful cultural associations with the word “ghosts” could misconstrue the title for anyone? Or has that word and title in fact worked to your advantage in bringing more attention to the plight of animals?
Thanks. I love the reflexivity of the title – and believe me I laboured over it – tossed and turned at night! ‘ghost in the machine’ is a common phrase, like ‘return to sender’, I made sure to get legal consultation about this title issue and then we did a professional name search as well, for insurance purposes, because the title was just too important and I wanted to lock into it with confidence during our development phase!  I wanted a variation on the phrase, so that we aren’t looking outward, wagging a finger at someone or some corporate entity, but rather looking at ourselves: Oh, I am part of the machine! Aha! What can I do about that? Also, importantly, a good title inspires the filmmaking process. THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE is a conceptual title and it is always with me, informing the project. The ‘ghosts’ are the billions of animals used within the machine of our modern world; they are hidden in the shadows of our highly mechanized world.

Jo-Anne McArthur during a fox fur farm investigation, Europe. Photo by Liz Marshall.

What did you learn about animals that you didn’t know before you set off
on this path?

A lot. About their moral significance. About their sentience, as defined by the latest scientific reports. About the global magnitude of their suffering. These are things I knew about before, and had sensitivity to, but in living and breathing this project for almost 3 years now, I know it more deeply, as do other key members of our team.  Also, I got to spend time with rescued animals, and form relationships with some of them. It was mind blowing to know Fanny, a former spent dairy cow featured in the film. She is remarkable, so unique and gentle. I miss her and hope to see her at Farm Sanctuary again soon!

And similarly, what did you learn about yourself?
I think I have learned a lot about myself. On a personal level I have learned that it is possible and so vital and important to embrace and connect all forms of social justice: human rights, environmental rights and animal rights. They are interconnected. I didn’t really know that was entirely possible before but do now! On a professional level, I can see that the years and years I have spent (well I am not that old, but since 1995) honing the craft and exploring the language of documentary, and traveling the world with projects, and exploring social issues, I feel that everything has come together with this project. And how that manifests is that I am at peace with the film, it is the film I wanted to make. With other films, there was always something nagging at me that I wanted to change. Don’t get me wrong, there are some details in the film that I would love to change, but I can live with them, I am at peace. Also, the experience of working within this genre and industry has given me added incentive and determination to try to do everything we possibly can to make an impact with this project.

Do you feel like you have a different purpose as a filmmaker now?
Not a different purpose no, but a more defined one. My next project won’t be a romantic comedy, let’s put it that way!

Any future plans to make more films on the subject of animals?
I can’t imagine what it could be … There are many many films about the subject of animals to be made, and they will be made. This my offering, for the ghosts.

 

The Ghosts in Our Machine is currently screening in Canada, and preparing for its release in the United States. The filmmakers are seeking investors to ensure the widest release possible and are also accepting donations.

Learn more about the film:
The Ghosts in Our Machine

Read our exclusive ten-page story, featuring the photography and
narrative of Jo-Anne McArthur in our new Summer 2013 Issue.

Top photo by Jo-Anne McArthur
Introduction and interview by Julie Gueraseva

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

THE SECOND ISSUE HAS ARRIVED!

LOVELY READERS, WE ARE SO THRILLED TO SHARE OUR Second Issue: Summer Abundance Issue! Brimming with vibrant content, bursting with color— this is the place where creativity and compassion converge. We have compelling profiles on future luminaries like our amazing cover star Clara Polito, who at only sixteen years old is already leaving an indelible mark on the world with her vegan bakery Clara Cakes and her passionate activism. Style and substance come together in our first-of-its kind stunning 8 page feature on vegan and ethical fashion, styled by Joshua Katcher. And we continue to showcase the most brilliant discoveries in everything from food to beauty. Of course, as always, we dig deeper with uncompromising features on animals. Like the photo essay and exclusive narrative from groundbreaking photographer Jo-Anne McArthur— for the first time in print, including never-before-seen images from her archives. Contributors like renown author James McWilliams return with spectacularly thought-provoking essays.

Clara Polito Clara Cakes Laika

We get invited into the homes and lives of paradigm-shifting trailblazers like triathlete and Vega founder Brendan Brazier, who shares his lifelong expert knowledge on wellness; and Chef and restaurateur Makini Howell of the celebrated Plum Bistro who gives us an inside look into her signature cuisine. We travel around the country to bring you the most fascinating stories from activists, some who are raising their kids vegan, and others who are declaring their compassion in the form of tattoos.

And that’s just the beginning! With nearly 20 pages more content than the Premier Issue, we have the most innovative and exciting subject matter in the vegan community covered. Made with love, from the heart, this issue is a bold declaration of the limitless possibilities of compassionate living and the abundance of sensory enjoyment that it holds for everyone.

We hope you love our Second Issue: Summer Abundance Issue as much as we loved making it! It will be arriving to our subscribers in the first week of July and hitting newsstands soon after that, and is now available to order on our site! Stay tuned for extras, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes videos. We’re so thrilled and grateful to have you along for this ride!

Cover photographed by Sylvia Elzafon

Clara Polito feature “Girl Wonder” photographed by Joel Barhamand

Fashion feature “Summer Fling” photographed by Balarama Heller

“Philly Flavor” photographed by Hannah Kaminsky