Julia Feliz Brueck is the author and illustrator of the first ever vegan-themed board book for babies and toddlers, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. As an artist, non-human animals have always been her favorite subject to draw, and she hopes to continue to use her talents to give them a voice and spread compassion towards them. She has been an ethical vegan since 2008 and is also a mom, who enjoys creating art for her sons and coloring by their side.
Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass and it’s time for Its All About Food! Thank you for joining me! Thank you for tuning in to this live show where we tune in love. That’s what I like most about this program. Tuning in love because I believe that love is the only answer. There’s a lot of hate going around and it is so much easier to hate, than it is to love. It takes energy, focus, mindfulness, and courage to work with those voices that we have going on in our heads all the time that are trying to control things when other people are doing things that aren’t what we like or want. Then those voices make us feel not as good as we want to and that really takes a lot of strength, effort, and focus to take in a good breath and turn those voices off! It’s amazing how powerful a little smile in someone else’s direction can be. I know that living here in New York City, just walking through the crowds, we’re always trying to ignore everybody because we’re all in our own little world rushing to get wherever we need to go. But, just that little connection can lighten someone else’s load. And it makes us feel good too… just something to think about because things are ugly these days! And I’m not going to fall into that ugly trap. I’m going to do whatever I can to make a positive difference on this planet while I am here, and that means tuning in love, all the time. Now, this tuning in love thing starts early. It starts… not I don’t want to say when we’re born, but it starts even before we’re in the womb. And that’s why I think what my next guest has to offer is so very important. My guest is: Julia Feliz and she’s the author and illustrator of the first ever vegan themed board book for babies and toddlers called: Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. As an artist, non-human animals have always been her favorite subject to draw and she hopes to continue to use her talents to give them a voice and spread compassion. She has been an ethical vegan since 2008, is also a mom who enjoys creating art for her sons and coloring by their side. Julia, welcome! You’re here from Switzerland, correct?
Julia Feliz: Yes
Caryn Hartglass: There you are! So far away, and yet right here! Thank you for joining us.
Julia Feliz: Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! Anyway, what I was saying is that there really is a lot that is formed within us—I think even before those first few cells come together. And our culture forms a lot of our thoughts and what we think… and a lot of things happen when we’re so very young in the womb and as babies and toddlers. And I was thinking a lot about that when I was reading your book, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. Why did you write this book? Why did you draw this book?
Julia Feliz: About three years ago, my mom actually convinced the family to let this turkey go, and I remember she sent me a message that the family was going to let her go. It was around thanksgiving and they actually had her chained in their backyard and she called me, “what should I do?” “What should I do?” So I discovered a sanctuary, and I felt kind of guilty just leaving her at the sanctuary and you know, that was it. I kind of made it my mission to try to raise funds for her every year, and at the same time I came up with the idea for the book… I was taking an art course and my son was also eighteen months. I realized that there was nothing out there for his age group, and by his age group I mean a book that wouldn’t get completely destroyed. But also, a book that spoke a very simple language in a way that he could start understanding what our life style actually means. And why we choose to live this life. So, I decided that I really wanted to give Libby a voice and I could do that through my art. But at the same time, I could create a tool for parents to nourish their compassion that we basically are born with.
Caryn Hartglass: We are all born with it and unfortunately, in many ways we get blinded or numbed to that compassion. I was speaking with Raven a couple of weeks ago, she has a children’s book called Santa’s First Vegan Christmas, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. And we were talking about the notions that she was showing or exposing, and how there was actually these evil, exploited undertones in the classic stories that many of us know and love. Just the simple idea of Santa using a whip to drive the reindeers that are pulling his sled… and we don’t even see the whip because we’re so accustomed to this hierarchy that we have where humans dominate other non-human animals and it’s okay… but it’s not okay, and these images and beliefs starts… when life starts. So a BOARD book, I never even thought about it… but you just opened this whole concept to me—the images shown in a BOARD book!
Julia Feliz: Yeah, and that was another thing… Every time I went to the store to look for books for my baby or toddler, everything is farmed. It’s with a farmer and it’s so frustrating because the exploitation is so normalized and that’s not what I want for my kids. It’s not what I want them to learn. So, I thought I was going to try to do this, and I was fortunate enough to have support to be able to do it. So, I’m really grateful to have everyone who has been involved: my publishers, [8:16] and of course my kick starters and supporters.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, all good and important organizations, we love them all: vegan publishers, Well Fed Worlds… I’m so glad they’re out there and I wish there were more—there will be more as time goes on. But, you mentioned the images and the BOARD books that you were seeing and these farm images are in some ways is this big myth. That’s what our foundation of what the world is like as we see it as babies and toddlers is a myth. These farms don’t even exist anymore. And the story in this BOARD book that you’ve created is very simple, and the images are simple. I imagine that maybe some parents wouldn’t want to present the concepts, even though they’re presented in a very simple way to their baby…because they might say “I don’t want my child to see this violence.”
Julia Feliz: Yeah, I figured that if a non-vegan parent pick up the book. It would make them think as well. I think once a parent reads this book, I don’t think that they can stop thinking about what I’m representing. It’s very simple. It’s a very simple story with very simple images, but the part where the kids find Libby and they secretly don’t want to hurt this non-human and ask if there’s another way—the parents, the figures that the kids follow, have the choice. It’s up to them to lead by example. So, I purposely didn’t add anything violent. I know she’s chained, but I hope it would just make people think. Hopefully, people would be open to the message and not shy away from it once they start thinking about it themselves.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, absolutely! I’m just imagining that little baby or little toddler growing up and then seeing the Thanksgiving turkey on the table and speaking up about it.
Julia Feliz: Yeah, and the other thing as well is that I wanted to expose the normalization to farm exploitation, but I also wanted to give parents a tool to help explain sanctuaries. Because I don’t think that there is anything out there really available to be able to explain what sanctuaries are, and they’re such important places where most vegans will take their kids. And even non-vegans, so it’s all very centered about compassion, but also safety in sanctuaries.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you’re in Switzerland right now! May I ask what you’re doing there?
Julia Feliz: Yes! I’ve been in Europe for quite a long time. I fell in love with a German, and he asked me to move to Europe with him. So, I finished my schoolwork a long time ago and we decided to get married. So I’ve been here in Europe ever since.
Caryn Hartglass: And I know that there are sanctuaries in the United States, how about in Europe?
Julia Feliz: There’s not as many… if there are they’re very small and not very well-known. I just found out that there’s one about twenty minutes from where I live! They have alpacas, horses, and goats that they rescued. But, the concept isn’t as well-known as it would be in the U.S. But, I think it’s starting to grow, which is a good thing.
Caryn Hartglass: So, how old are your children?
Julia Feliz: My baby is five and a half months, and my toddler is two and a half.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh okay, so they haven’t entered the school system yet.
Julia Feliz: No
Caryn Hartglass: And do you plan on sending them to the local school when they’re old enough?
Julia Feliz: Yeah, my toddler he actually goes to [13:31] it’s a nursery, and they’ve been really accommodating. We told them that that we’re vegan and they said, “Okay! [13:42]” And it was really cool, they would confirm if something was okay. “Is this okay?” “No, it has eggs.” So, that was really great. But the only weird thing is that he can only go in the morning, and he does so because he’s really social and active. He always wants to be around other kids, so that’s where we decided that he’ only go a few times a week. But, with lunch they’re a little more unsure about it, so they won’t let him stay past 12 because they’re unsure of what to do. It’s really funny, but I’m sure I’ll have to deal with that when they go to school so we’ll see about that.
Caryn Hartglass: I used to live in the South of France in the early 90s and I was a vegan then. There were some wonderful pates in Switzerland that were in the local health food store. So there were some forward thinking folks back then.
Julia Feliz: Yeah! I’ve been here now for five and a half years and it’s amazing the amount of vegan items that are now in the stores, versus when I first moved here it was basically nonexistent. And now we even have a Vegan grocery store in Germany! They’re now selling their products in our local grocery store! And they’re big grocery stores so it’s really taking a hold and it’s great, because I can pretty much get anything I want… except for, of course it’s not the same. I still miss things like [15:21] and things like that. My aunt actually makes me mac n cheese as comfort food, and I love it because they don’t sell that kind of stuff here. But I mean I can pretty much get anything and everything. So it’s come a long way and it’s really exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: And where can people find your book, Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary
Julia Feliz: You can find it on Amazon and on the Vegan Publisher’s website, and on Facebook where you can follow for updates and events. I actually have a reading event in a bookstore in Florida coming up in January, which is really exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, do you have another book on the horizon that you’re planning?
Julia Feliz: I have several. My dream is actually when I started with this book, I wanted to be able to use my abilities to create other books to tell the stories of other non-humans in other sanctuaries. So, hopefully I have some more ideas and I’ll be able to create more.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Julia well thank you for joining me in It’s All About Food! I really enjoyed looking through your book, it opened up a whole bunch of new thoughts for me which I’m excited to start thinking more about. And that’s how we influence the really really young…the babies and the toddlers. This BOARD book is an excellent beginning, thank you for that. Thank you for joining me today!
Julia Feliz: Thank you so much!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, that was Julia Feliz all the way from Switzerland and if you have a baby or toddler, or someone that does… this is a lovely little book to put in a stocking this season. Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary. Okay let’s take a quick break and I’ve got my guest for the next part of the show in the studio, so I want to get started with them right away! Let’s take a quick break.
Transcribed by Victoria Nguyen, 1/3/2017