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The Doctor—Er, The Vegan Is In

Filed under: Activism New York City
Photo by John Harper, NYC

Photo by John Harper, NYC

You know the booth Lucy sits behind in the Peanuts strip, doling out advice? Well, one of the wacky geniuses up at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary thought, Why not do the same thing, but instead of advertising that the doctor is in, invite people to ask a vegan?

So a couple of months ago, Joy Askew and I headed to Union Square Park and set up a booth with the words “Ask a Vegan” emblazoned across the top. We covered the table with animal rights & veg literature and Woodstock FAS brochures, and we waited. Finally people came over and started to, well, ask us questions (one of the most popular being, “So what should I ask you?”). And we’ve been at it ever since, every other Saturday, weather permitting.

So far we’ve had an interesting array of visitors. Already converted veg*ns make a beeline for the booth, happy to see us proselytizing plant products. The conspiracy theorists love to chat us up (one even tried to get us to pass out flyers about the Bilderberg Group). And of course, some people just want to argue or ask really insightful questions like, “What’s your favorite type of hot dog?” We’ve even gotten some free hugs (I’m a slight germophobe and could have done without mine, particularly when the swine flu scare was at its worst). But I’m happy to say that a fair amount of folks have been genuinely interested in what we have to say and how they can begin to transition to an animal-free diet. I even created a couple of fact sheets in response to the most frequently asked questions.

And as is inevitable in New York, two weeks ago we had our first brush with celebrity. Well, it was Rachael Ray. Anyway, RR was doing a short interview in the park, and after she finished, she and her husband, John, and their dog, Isaboo, started to walk past us. Joy couldn’t contain herself and called out, “Rachael! Ask a vegan!” Rachael looked perplexed and came over to shake Joy’s hand, but as soon as she saw what our sign said, she took Isaboo and ran. John stayed and talked shop with Joy for a while, since they’re both musicians and have worked with some of the same people. But that was it. They were gone. I guess it’s not just the Food Network that’s afraid of vegans!

Joy and I are usually in the park for about four hours from 12:30 on. Look for us this Saturday (if the rain holds off) on the 14th Street side of Union Square Park, across from Whole Foods and inland from the green market and street vendors. And bring your burning questions!


  1. Comment by


    on #

    aw i like this idea!! & hi Roseann! maybe i’ll stop by this Saturday!

  2. Comment by


    on #

    Why am I not at all surprised that Rachel Ray ran for the hills rather than be confronted with her own massive hypocrisy. This is an awesome thing you are doing, and if you are still doing it in November I’ll come by and say hi.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight!

  3. Comment by


    on #

    disregard the username-but i would have died if i was running an “ask a vegan” booth and ray ray came by.

  4. Comment by


    on #

    Who are the Bilderberg Group? Are they a bunch of happy vegans somewheres in rural New York State?
    BTW: I’m a new member of SuperVegan and my user name is peter,so a Big hi! to all members. –peter.

  5. Comment by


    on #

    i love you roseann and joy

  6. Comment by


    on #

    This seems to be a take-off of This American Life’s recent-ish and rather successful cross-continental “Ask an Iraqi” booth — but I think this is a great application of the concept. I gotta suggest, though, that you guys maybe have some vegan treats (but not necessarily Vegan Treats) on hand for skeptics…

  7. Comment by


    on #

    I love this idea. Can’t wait to go see it.

    Before I went veg, I was a huge Rachael Ray fan (I’m still a fan; her recipes are easy to veganize) but less so. I get upset by her frequent talk of “loving animals,” having them on her show to pet and “awww” over one minute and cooking them the next. I get even more upset every time she (and pretty much everyone else on Food Network) makes a “vegetarian” dish that has chicken broth, anchovies, and/or worcestershire sauce in the recipe.

    But that’s not the point of this: the booth is an EXCELLENT idea. What a great way to educate and inform about such a serious issue in a non-intimidating and whimsical way. Kudos!!

  8. Comment by

    Roseann Marulli

    on #

    We had a great day with the booth in Washington Square Park on Sunday (7/26). You need a permit to table there (we had no idea), but the very nice cop who checked us out worked hard to get his supervisor to let us stay the rest of the afternoon–which was great because the booth, chairs, brochures etc., are really heavy and bulky and a pain to lug around. Lots of people stopped by for info on going veg–a very different crowd from that of Union Square, maybe because there are no vendors in WSP–and a new Facebook friend from Florida and her pal stopped by. So all in all, a great day. Alas, it’s back to Union Square next time (8/8 or 8/9). I’ll keep you posted!

  9. Comment by

    Melissa Bastian

    on #

    Are y’all still at it? I’d like to come say hello!

  10. Comment by

    Roseann Marulli

    on #

    Melissa: Depending on the weather, yes, we are. Joy was away for most of August, so we’ve been out of commission for the last little while. I’ll post a comment with details when we’re set to reemerge. Thanks for your support!

  11. Comment by

    Roseann Marulli

    on #

    Joy & I will be in Union Square today, Sunday, Sept. 6, at 4:30pm. Stop by and say hi!

  12. Comment by


    on #

    With celebs, I think it’s great to show you’re a fan first. THeir lives are ego-based, so you have to stroke their egos. “Confronting her with her hypocrisy” as “Athonwy” suggests might work online, but no one wants to be yelled at or argued with in person. About 99% of people will either run, or get mad and vengeful/insulting. It’s good you found common ground with her husband. I think it’s so important for us to establish relationships with others first, and THEN credibility and respect. The preaching should be last….if ever. THanks for caring, you two!