If you told people 30 years ago that you were vegan, they would think you were talking about a religion. Nobody was used to that word. What? No meat? No milk or eggs, either? No honey? What else was left to eat?
Animal products have been at the heart of most cultures. In Brazil, for example, Nestlé took over in the ’60s. Its condensed milk only was used to make baby formulas, at first. Then, it had the idea to create sweet recipes. That was a success. From then on, condensed milk was the main ingredient of every Brazilian dessert. Even in India, where there is a strong vegetarian culture, many traditional dishes contain milk.
For a long time, vegans had to stay out of most gatherings and dinner parties. It was too much work to cook for them when every classic dish had animal products. The lifestyle was considered strict and difficult to stick to, and only for crazy tofu-eaters.
But it’s not that vegans loved tofu and vegetables. They just had no other option. The first plant-based cheeses on the market were horrible. Desserts and treats existed in only a few stores, and they were expensive. There’s no doubt that a lot has changed since then.
In the last 10 years, there has been a big shift in the market. Plant-based products are everywhere. As the movement grows, big companies have started creating vegan versions of their products. Today, Ben & Jerry’s offers 19 vegan versions of its ice cream flavors in the USA. Most fast-food chains will have at least one vegan option on their menu.
You know when you go to the store and notice that a fruit’s price has gone up? Maybe you think, “Well, I need this for a pie, so I’m buying it anyway.” Some other people might have to give up and buy something else–or go home empty-handed. Not being able to afford food is a sad reality for many people.
Now, imagine that you are doing your shopping at a big retailer in Australia. After you buy what you need, you go around the parking lot and find a big dumpster behind the store. You open it. You cannot believe your eyes.
It’s full to the brim with fresh veggies and fruit that are not even ripe yet. You walk a couple more yards and find another bin. It is locked, but you can open it just enough to see what’s inside: fancy cheese, bottles of wine, artisan bread, candy bars….
The security guard comes along and tells you to leave. They say you can’t have that food because “they don’t want you to get sick.” All that food, enough to feed at least five families for weeks, is waiting for collection. It will all rot in a landfill.
“Unfortunately, if you go back on the following week, you will realize that the dumpsters are full again. We like to think that supermarkets would only throw food away if it is contaminated, expired or bad. That is not what happens,” Alberto Peixoto, a member of the dumpster diving community, said. He checks the bins from his local grocery store every week and uses the food he finds to feed his family. He also shares the excess with friends.
Pet videos have become super popular during lockdown. There are adorable clips all over the internet, and they bring a bit of joy even to the grumpiest person. Watching this kind of content can get someone through a difficult day. It is hard to believe that there could be a dark side to such an innocent trend.
Sadly, reality is very different from what we see on social media. “People forget that pets are living beings that need a lot of work and patience,” Brazilian vet Mariana Azevedo said. “They see a pet doing something cute online and want to buy an animal that will do the same. When the pet does not behave the way they expect, they get frustrated. Then, people try to get rid of their pets. They sell them or give them away. A lot of the time, they just put them on the streets.”
The problem is even worse in poorer countries, where people do not usually desex their pets. Desexing is a procedure that stops animals from breeding. Many cities around the world have an overpopulation of cats and dogs. Too many abandoned animals together can spread disease to one another and to humans.
Cats on the streets cause serious issues. Many owners do not keep their cats inside the house. That means domestic cats that have access to the street get mixed with street cats, increasing the problems they cause. “Cats reproduce fast, and they are good hunters. That is dangerous to local wildlife. Owners need to be responsible and keep their cats inside or build a cat patio. It’s not just that they cause trouble, but they are also not safe out there. Many of them get sick or hit by a car. Angry neighbors can poison them,” Azevedo said.
Taking the perfect picture and becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer is no easy task. After all, a Pulitzer Prize is the biggest honor a photojournalist can achieve. Those who choose this photojournalist path in life can no longer just live for the moment. They need to always be “on call,” in a constant state of alert. Always waiting for that fleeting moment that will change everything. And it might never happen. One second longer that it takes them to put on their boots, one trip to the bathroom, one day they don’t have their camera on them…. That’s all it takes to miss the photo of a lifetime.
As photojournalists, they are bound to witness things that will affect their mental health. They need to get close and many times immerse themselves in tragedies they know they don’t have the power to change. The only thing they can do is help tell those stories, and they might go through a very traumatic experience and not even manage to get a good photo.
Taking a Pulitzer-worthy photo is an unmatched accomplishment. After everything they had to go through, they will know they have fulfilled their mission and it was worth it. There will be those who won’t understand the importance of what they did and what it cost them. “This was happening right in front of you, and you were taking photos? Why didn’t you help?” People accused Frank Fournier, for example, of being a “vulture” for photographing Omayra Sánchez’s last moments, even though there was no way he could have helped her. He did the one thing he could have done: make sure she wasn’t forgotten.