Sunday 13 December 2020

Festive Events Campaigner Rehana Jomeen gets up close and personal with notable vegan children's writer, Robin Raven, author of Santa's First Vegan Christmas.

I went vegetarian as a child because of my deep concern for animals, and I later went vegan when I realized the cruelty of the egg and dairy industries. It has always been about animals to me.

Robin is a journalist who covers such topics as travel and vegan dining. Her work can be seen in The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Grok Nation, Paste Magazine, and many other publications. Robin is also the author of Santa's First Vegan Christmas.

I had the pleasure of picking her brain about her wonderful children's book, Santa's First Vegan Christmas, her take on reindeer used in festive events and what made her become vegan...

Q: Santa's First Vegan Christmas is a favourite in our house, especially with my vegan 3 year old! But could you tell us a little bit about the book for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet?

It is the story of Dana the Reindeer, a kind, strong reindeer. She is also curious and compassionate. When she has a chance encounter with Santa Claus, she changes the way he sees reindeer, and they set off on a mission together to make the world a kinder place.

Q: What inspired you to write about reindeer?

Well, I was inspired to write the book after seeing a lot of scenes in films and paintings where Santa openly whips the reindeer. I know it's fiction, but I think actions from the heroes in our fiction matter. Children are watching and taking these tales to heart. Santa is always depicted as the ultimate "good guy", while his hitting of reindeer is completely ignored. So, without villainizing Santa in any way, I wanted to change the narrative in Dana's story. She deserves better. She knows it, and she helps create the better world she envisions. I wish that all reindeer would also be respected for the amazing individuals they are.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your tale of Santa and the reindeer, Dana?

I didn't set out with a specific mission. I just wanted to tell this story that I felt so deeply in my heart. I am so grateful that readers connected with it because it was a story that I just felt I had to tell. What has meant so much to me along the way has been that families have told me that reading the book is now a tradition for them every Christmas. That touched my heart and made me so happy.

Q: I understand that you're a long-standing vegan, what influenced you to make the decision to become vegan?

I went vegetarian as a child because of my deep concern for animals, and I later went vegan when I realised the cruelty of the egg and dairy industries. It has always been about animals to me.

Q: Our Festive Events Campaign is now live. We usually have many live reindeer events across the UK at this time of year, but Covid-19 has caused the majority to be cancelled. Where you live, is it common to see reindeer used in Christmas events too? If so, can you tell us about any that you've witnessed firsthand?

Sadly, I know that live reindeer are often used here in the same way, but I do my very best to avoid all situations where live animals are used and exploited. I don't want to reward cruelty with any kind of support. I do want to say thank you for this campaign you are doing. it is so needed, and the reindeer deserve to be protected. So, thank you so much.

Q: How has Covid-19 changed how animals are used where you are?

Unfortunately, I am not aware of it changing much here. I hope that more people have discovered veganism this year, though. So, it's my genuine hope that it is changing for the better. That more people are realizing that there is no reason to torture and kill animals for their meat, breast milk, eggs, or any other byproduct. We don't need to hurt them to live happy, healthy, and full lives. There are so many incredible vegan foods that you don't miss out on anything worthwhile by being a vegan.

Q: Do you think we've learned anything from how we use animals and the repercussions of this pandemic?

I think time will tell, but I truly hope so.

Q: If you had a wish for all the reindeer we're campaigning for, what would it be?

That they would all never have to participate in these cruel events that ignore their well-being and what's best for the reindeer. I hope they find wonderful sanctuaries where they can live happily and freely. I wish for a kinder world in the future where reindeer are never used or abused.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading a few books at once. I am finishing The Queen's Gambit. I am reading Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society by Dr. Amie Breeze Harper. I am re-reading an Alice Hoffman book called Practical Magic. You know what I was excited to see? Santa's First Vegan Christmas isn't the only vegan Christmas-themed children's book any more. The wonderful Derek Walter and Steve Jenkins wrote Esther’s Christmas Coat that was newly published this year. They do so many amazing things for animals, and it's a lovely, important book.

Q: How will you be spending Christmas this year?

Nothing outside of the home beyond going for a couple of rides to see Christmas lights. I will be social distancing and staying home where I live. As this pandemic seems to be worsening here, I want to do my part to stay safe and also to protect others. That said, I will definitely be enjoying holiday traditions at home. I love drinking vegan hot chocolate, dancing to holiday tunes. reading holiday books, watching Christmas movies, including A Very Brady Christmas, eating a Tofurky roast, baking vegan cookies, and more.

Also, I am excited to say that I am putting the finishing touches on a book that is something of a sequel to Santa's First Vegan Christmas. It follows the further adventures of Dana the Reindeer.

Our Festive Events Campaigner Rehana Jomeen will be doing a live reading on Facebook of Robin’s book Santa’s First Vegan Christmas on Christmas Eve at 6pm, so be sure to tune in!