Morality is Hard podcast episode 6 – Elie Hassenfeld of GiveWell

After a short hiatus, the Morality is Hard podcast is back with a new interview featuring Elie Hassenfeld, one of the co-founders of GiveWell. Find the interview on iTunes, below or here!

Elie Hassenfeld and I spoke about the charity he co-founded with Holden Karnofsky, GiveWell, and how it analyses charities to determine how effective they are at alleviating suffering.

We also spoke about Open Philanthropy Project, a sister organisation of GiveWell, which started with the question of “How can we accomplish as much good as possible with our giving?”

Unfortunately due to venue and time constraints, we had the record the interview in the back room of a restaurant, and you can heard some of the chatter in the background. I hope that doesn’t take away from the content too much!

If you’re interested in finding out how to make sure your charitable donations are having as much impact as possible, this is the interview for you.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with the podcast and to join the discussion.

Melbourne steakhouse protest – acceptable in what circumstance?

Several days ago, a group of activists peacefully (by all accounts) entered a Melbourne, Australia, steakhouse restaurant with signs, and began repeating phrases relating to the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses. The aim: to show the diners what had happened to the food on their plate while it was still sentient.

I wanted to weigh in on this, but not for the same reason many other animal advocates are. There has certainly been a general divide among the animal advocacy community regarding whether this was an effective way of achieving our ultimate goal – reducing suffering and/or exploitation of all sentient beings.

I actually don’t know whether this was effective. It has been a good platform for raising awareness and may show that a lot of people take this seriously (pros), but it may backfire, as it seems to have already done, and make people think those who care about all non-human animals are ‘crazy’ (con). Both sides are true. Which one outweighs the other? I don’t know.

The point I want to get to here is this: I think that a lot of non-vegans who are opposed to this protest aren’t actually opposed to the means as they say, but to the message behind the protest. Let me give you a thought experiment.

Suppose a new restaurant opened up in your neighborhood, and you find out they serve human. Humans who did not want to killed for the enjoyment of others. You might feel compelled to go and protest at this restaurant. You might feel a duty to educate the diners there on what the humans went through during their final days; the pain, the fear. I’m willing to go out on a limb and suggest that you would feel comfortable with the exact same peaceful protest that took place in Melbourne. If not you personally, you would surely be in support of the protest.

This is why I believe that many people opposed to this protest are opposed to it for different reasons than they claim. Not all, of course, and maybe not even most. After all, there are many vegans who opposed the protest. But I would ask you, dear reader, to make sure you ask yourself exactly why you are against the protest. Is it because you think the protest was harmful, or disrespectful? Or is it because you don’t really agree with the message behind it?

2017 Per Capita Young Writers’ Prize 1st place: Effects of Livestock Industry on Climate Change and the Environment

I’m pretty chuffed to have won equal first prize for the 2017 Per Capita Young Writers’ Prize. I was hesitant to apply at first, as I didn’t think an article about the livestock industry would be seen as relevant enough to do well, but I’m glad I tried. Below is the essay in full.

The question was: “If you were a Federal Cabinet Minister in a leading portfolio (Environment, Health, Education, Housing, Transport, Industry, Science, Treasury) what would be your principal policy priorities, taking account of the long-term national interest? Explain the reasons for your priorities and outline your strategies for implementation.”


As the Minister for the Environment and Energy of Australia, I have decided to focus my policy priorities on animal agriculture. This is based on extensive research and understanding of national priorities and risks, which will be outlined below. I have also presented a list of policy actions which I will seek to undertake over my term as Minister.

Effects of livestock industry on climate change and the environment

The 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations discusses the environmental impact associated with animal agriculture. The livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, there is a disparity in where climate policy focuses. Climate debate and policy, both in Australia and internationally, rarely acknowledges the role that animal agriculture plays. There is a disparate focus on the energy and transport sectors.

Globally, the livestock industry produces around 130 times more waste than the global human population. This waste can contain a host of diseases, and if water ways become contaminated, can be a serious risk for human health. If the waste reaches the ocean, it becomes a source of major environmental degradation. The Australian livestock industry also uses a disproportionate amount of water resources. In Australia, there is a substantial level of protest around the expansion of fossil fuel extraction, especially the practice of hydraulic fracturing and its impact on water. Given the high water use of industrial animal agriculture, it seems likely that protest and attention will also turn to this industry.

Effect of the livestock industry on human health and animal welfare

Not only does this industry affect wild animals and environment, it also creates an immense amount of suffering for the animals used as food. Undercover investigations have revealed excessive cruelty and suffering as standard practice, particularly in industrial Australian pig and chicken farming. Many Australians are already against animal abuse. While we mitigate the environmental issue, we can also align government policy with the ethical preferences of Australians. The proportion of people who completely eschew animal products, vegans, is also a growing population, and will become a considerable voting force in its own right.

The health impacts of a diet high in animal products are non-trivial. Notably, the World Health Organisation announced in 2015 that they have listed processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans), and red meat as a Group 2A carcinogen (probably carcinogenic to humans). While processed meat does not pose as much of a risk to cancer as tobacco, studies have suggested that a diet high in plant-based food leads to lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and a reduced risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. As the Australian Government, we have a duty to protect the health of Australian citizens.

Case study – Impacts of climate change on the Pacific Ocean

Global analyses show the upper Pacific Ocean warming. Sea temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef have increased by about 0.4°C over the past 100 years (Lough, 2000). The Great Barrier Reef is an important Australian landmark. It brought US$4.48 billion to Australian businesses in the 2004/2005 financial year, and resulted in the employment of 63,000 individuals (full-time equivalent). It also plays a critical role in biodiversity.

The GBR is most under threat from rising sea temperatures (resulting in more intense and more frequent coral bleaching events), and ocean acidification (reducing the ability of corals and other organisms to calcify). The 2007 IPCC report on climate change outlines the risks to the Great Barrier Reef and likely outcomes in more detail.

Policy recommendations

A multi-level policy is proposed to achieve long-term national interests. We should gradually replace the livestock industry with plant-based farming. This is a trend we expect to occur globally regardless of our involvement, and it is in Australia’s best interest to start laying the groundwork for this transformative shift early. This can be done by reducing livestock subsidies and raising a small tax on animal products, creating disincentives for consumers and producers.

We should assist farmers as they shift from livestock to more sustainable produce. The revenue from the animal product tax can be used to facilitate this support, and may come in the form of grants for land use change or subsidies and tax breaks for producing plant-based foods. Arid land in Australia typically used for grazing livestock can be used to grow other foodstuffs such as almonds and dates, or be used for carbon sequestration.

We should support the Australian food tech industry to develop plant-based and cellular agriculture alternatives to animal products. Already we are lagging behind as USA and Europe develops this technology. We should provide the industry with subsidies and research & development credits. We should host international collaborative events to facilitate technology transfer, particularly with USA and Europe, and also aim to encourage new food tech businesses and partnerships in Australia.

Australia can become a respected leader in this space whilst much of the world lags behind in action on animal agriculture. Whilst Australia’s net emissions are relatively small for the region, our greenhouse gas emissions per capita are amongst the highest in the world. One of our greatest tourist attractions, the Great Barrier Reef, is in danger and relies on a healthy Pacific Ocean.

We should promote a plant-based, whole foods diet through national public health campaigns. Whilst also reducing the public-health burden of Australia, this will have the added effect of reducing the consumption of environmentally damaging animal products. This type of public health campaign has already been demonstrated to work through anti-smoking campaigns, and may result in savings based solely on the public health burden reduction. Our current national health guidelines do not reflect the latest body of evidence on the impacts of animal products, and the healthfulness of a diet high in unprocessed plant foods, and should be urgently reviewed. Other countries, including China, are already beginning to alter their dietary guidelines to reflect the latest evidence on health and environmental impact, and Australia is, once again, lagging behind.

Australia is also well poised to supply Asia with a range of healthy, environmentally friendly and cruelty-free food. As Asia moves out of poverty and demands more luxury foods, we can provide them with high quality meat alternatives. Vegan Australia is developing a series of recommendations for moving to an animal free agricultural system in Australia, which may be beneficial in formulating our own policy.

This is a multi-disciplinary issue, and it requires multi-disciplinary action. A committee of agriculture reform should be formed to facilitate these changes. The policy recommendations outlined here fall under the portfolios of the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and thus each of these ministers’ offices should be directly involved.

Respected individuals, including Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, and Tom Hayes, CEO of Tyson Foods, are making public statements that they believe plant-based foods are the future, and they have good reason to think so. Through these policy recommendations, Australia stands to benefit financially both in the short and long term, ensure the long term sustainability of our agriculture and tourism industries, and align government policy with public values.

Interview with Dr Melanie Joy on the psychology of eating meat

Yesterday I interviewed Dr Melanie Joy on the psychology of eating meat for LiveKindly. Jodi was kind enough to allow me to display the video on my website as well, so here it is and I hope you enjoy. Please also consider checking out LiveKindly, it’s a great resource and read for vegans and non-vegans alike.

Policy brief: The role of the Australian food industry in climate change

I’m grateful to have been shortlisted for the 2017 APRU New York Times competition titled ‘The future of the Pacific Ocean’. Unfortunately, as I wasn’t placed in the top 3 my essay won’t be published, so I’m hoping it will get some use here. You can see the winners here.

The essay was pitched as a policy brief to key Australian ministers on the risks of climate change to Australia (specifically relating to the Pacific Ocean) and the role of the food industry as a solution. I focus primarily on a actionable solutions relating to a transition from an animal-based industry to a plant-based industry.

Impacts of climate change on the Pacific Ocean

Global analyses show the upper Pacific Ocean warming. Sea temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef have increased by about 0.4°C over the past 100 years (Lough, 2000). The Great Barrier Reef is an important Australian landmark. It brought US$4.48 billion to Australian businesses in the 2004/2005 financial year, and resulted in the employment of 63,000 individuals (full-time equivalent). It also plays a critical role in biodiversity.

The GBR is most under threat from rising sea temperatures (resulting in more intense and more frequent coral bleaching events), and ocean acidification (reducing the ability of corals and other organisms to calcify). The 2007 IPCC report on climate change outlines the risks to the Great Barrier Reef and likely outcomes in more detail.

Effects of livestock industry on climate change and the environment

The 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations discusses the environmental impact associated with animal agriculture. The livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, there is a disparity in where climate policy focuses. Climate debate and policy rarely acknowledges the role that animal agriculture plays.

Globally, the livestock industry produces around 130 times more waste than the global human population. This waste can contain a host of diseases, and if water ways become contaminated, can be a serious risk for human health. If the waste reaches the ocean, it becomes a source of major environmental degradation. The Australian livestock industry also uses a disproportionate amount of water resources.

Not only does this industry affect wild animals and environment, it also creates an immense amount of suffering for the animals used as food. Many Australians are already against animal abuse. While we tackle the environmental issue, we can also align government policy with the ethical preferences of Australians.

Policy recommendations

A multi-level policy is recommended. We should gradually replace the livestock industry with plant-based farming. This can be done by reducing livestock subsidies and raising a small tax on animal products, creating disincentives for consumers and producers.

We should assist farmers as they shift from livestock to more sustainable produce. The revenue from the animal product tax can be used to facilitate this support, and may come in the form of grants for land use change or subsidies and tax breaks for producing plant-based foods. Arid land in Australia typically used for grazing livestock can be used to grow other foodstuffs such as almonds and dates, or be used for carbon sequestration.

We should support the Australian food tech industry to develop plant-based and cellular agriculture alternatives to animal products. Already we are lagging behind as USA and Europe develops this technology. We should provide the industry with subsidies and research & development credits. We

should host international collaborative events to facilitate technology transfer, particularly with USA and Europe, and also aim to encourage new food tech businesses and partnerships in Australia.

We should promote a plant-based, whole foods diet. Whilst also reducing the public-health burden of Australia, this will have the added effect of reducing the consumption of environmentally damaging animal products. This type of public health campaign has already been demonstrated to work through anti-smoking campaigns, and may result in savings based solely on the public health burden reduction.

Australia can become a respected leader in this space whilst much of the world lags behind in action on animal agriculture. Whilst Australia’s net emissions are relatively small for the region, our greenhouse gas emissions per capita are amongst the highest in the world. One of our greatest tourist attractions, the Great Barrier Reef, is in danger and relies on a healthy Pacific Ocean.

Australia is also well poised to supply Asia with a range of healthy, environmentally friendly and cruelty-free food. As Asia moves out of poverty and demands more luxury foods, we can provide them with high quality meat alternatives. Vegan Australia is developing a series of recommendations for moving to an animal free agricultural system in Australia, which may be beneficial in formulating our own policy.

This is a multi-disciplinary issue, and it requires multi-disciplinary action. A committee of agriculture reform should be formed to facilitate these changes. The policy recommendations outlined here fall under the portfolios of the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and thus each of these ministers’ offices should be directly involved.

Through these policy recommendations, Australia stands to benefit financially both in the short and long term, ensure the long term sustainability of our agriculture and tourism industries, and align government policy with public values.

How to influence stuff – what didn’t work

A few months ago, I wrote a post on ‘How to influence stuff‘. My motivation for this was that I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it’s easier than people think to have influence organisations and individuals to change or do stuff differently. People assume that it’s hard and then don’t try, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here I want to talk about some of the stuff I’ve tried that didn’t work, because it would be remiss of me to only talk about the stuff that did work.

What hasn’t worked

Contacting podcasts

Similar to what I said in the first post about getting websites/organisations to change stuff, I try asking podcasts to make corrections to factually incorrect statements, especially when I think it’s an important topic.

In this podcast, the host said some factually incorrect (and frankly, defamatory) things about the Good Food Institute. The most surprising to me was that the host claimed GFI was a business that could be sold to Monsanto. GFI is a charity, and can decidedly not be sold to Monsanto. I emailed the host and asked them to change this and other wrong things. They refused, and even attacked my character. Luckily, it didn’t escalate further, but this is an example of some wasted emails.

I also emailed Sam Harris after he misrepresented the field of wild-animal suffering research on his podcast (through ignorance, rather than malice, I’m sure – I’m usually a big fan of Harris’ podcast and work). I emailed him asking for a correction to be issued, but never heard back.

I’m not sure I did anything particular wrong in either of these cases, it’s just a matter of not being 100% successful. I still think you are more likely to affect change in this way than you probably think. I did have some minor success with the Skeptics Guide to the Universe when they spoke about charity and overhead. They claimed something to the effect of ‘a charity with 10% overhead is always better than one with 20% overhead’ (if you are familiar with effective altruism, you will instantly see why this is not necessarily true).

The did read my comments in full on the podcast which added nuance, however they had a minor retreat to their original position before ending the segment. I’ll still chalk that up as a win.

Op-eds and letters to the editor

I’ve written a lot of op-eds, opinion pieces and letters to the editor, mostly in Australian local and national newspapers, and am still yet to get one published. Part of me wants to chalk this up to the fact that the things I’m pitching are controversial and therefore not something the papers want to publish (e.g. “Care about X? Then go vegan.”). But part of me thinks there has to be more to it. There must be tricks.

The below are some tips that have been offered to me, mostly by Jacy Reese (who has been successful at getting op-eds etc. published on topics similar to what I write about).

  • Make sure you find the personal email address of the opinion editor, or at the least.
  • Calling them and making a personal contact is even better. Engaging with them on social media, especially Twitter, could be a good way to do this. Bonus points if you can make it relevant to something they work on.
  • If a journalist writes about something you can comment on, just try emailing them saying “Hey, I’m a source, reach out if I can be useful”.
  • Lead with your credentials, especially if they are relevant, and if you have published anything before (even online articles) lead with a mention of your best one.
  • Have your submission text in the body of the email rather than an attachment. It is more likely to get viewed, and may allay and concerns of viruses.
  • Make sure the submission is timely, especially relating to a recent major news event.

Social media

I use social media a lot – arguably too much. I sometimes use Twitter and Facebook to try and pressure organisations into changing their position, much in the same way as I use email as I mentioned in the previous post (sometimes I use both). I don’t seem to have a lot of success with this – I do better with email or phone calls. I think there is a decent chance that social media is just too easy to brush over or ignore. There might be an argument for a concentrated social media campaign involving a lot of people, but as one person you’re unlikely to do much, especially for a big organisation, unless you’re pretty famous.

Three notable examples of times I’ve tried to influence via social media are:

  • I tried to convince a BBQ day for prostate cancer (or something) that they were being super hypocritical because of the impact of processed/red meat on prostate cancer. They just gave me some stock-standard responses.
  • I got a non-vegan meal on a flight after I ordered a vegan meal, and they ended up having no vegan meals on board. I tried to a) get them to change their policy (their meals listed as ‘vegan’ were all non-vegan) and b) get a refund via social media, but got nowhere. In the end, I called them and got a $100 flight voucher (if you ever order a vegan meal and don’t get one, don’t forget to try and claim your voucher!).
  • I often leave Facebook comments on posts by Greens (an Australian political party) members, calling into attention their hypocrisy (they’re all about environment but are anti-GMO, anti-nuclear and pro-animal agriculture). The party or members have never responded, but I once called their office and said I was a past supporter of the Greens (not untrue) but was concerned that their blatant hypocrisy was harming their reputation. The staffer thanked me. As an aside, there’s something to be said for approaching such conversations as a concerned supporter rather than an angry external.

I also spend a lot of time debating people online. Mostly, this just makes me angry. A few times, I have been able to shift someones’ opinion, but most of the time, we talk past each other. I think there are definitely better things one can do with their time. I’ve even gotten a few death threats, which isn’t great. I sometimes try to salvage some of my effort by taking the good parts of my comments and turning them into blog posts.

Others

As well as successfully contacting a bunch of famous/important people for advice or help, I’ve been unsuccessful with a bunch as well. Same goes for scholarships, entering essay/writing competitions and correcting news articles. Not much to say here – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Volume (as well as actually trying) is the key.

Why God probably does(n’t) exist

I’m genuinely shocked that The Conversation allowed this article, titled ‘Arguments why God (very probably) does exist’ to be published. This isn’t science-based journalism. I’m still harbouring some hope that it was satire.

Before reading my comments, you should read it yourself, as I speak directly to the points made. In short, the author seeks to outline some arguments from logic for why God probably exists. The author presents an inexplicable misunderstanding of most. The article also seems to be a thinly veiled promotion of the authors’ book:

In my 2015 book, “God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God,” I look at physics, the philosophy of human consciousness, evolutionary biology, mathematics, the history of religion and theology to explore whether such a god exists.

Disclaimer – I am a Conversation published author. I feel compelled to write this because this article harms the credibility of the site, and thus all other authors.

On to my comments.


The author pointed out a few people that have doubts over evolution, but failed to acknowledge the reams of evidence in its support. They may as well be denying the existence of climate change.

The second to last point can be easily explained by confirmation bias (you don’t remark on the almost- or non-coincidences, only the ones that actually occur), and the last is not a reason to believe the existence of a god at all. It is possibly a reason to believe that humans have a hunger to be a part of something greater than themselves, whether it’s spiritual or otherwise.

That the universe seems strange and unlikely in many respects can be explained by the anthropic principle. If the universe didn’t quite have the right characteristics for life to exist, we wouldn’t be here to think about it, so it’s not that surprising that we observe the universe to look this way. It’s like saying, ‘wow, I exist, how unlikely’. If you didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to ponder that thought. It’s quite staggering that the author didn’t mention this.

Consciousness is weird and hard, but it is not therefore divine.

Adventures on the east coast of USA

I went to the east coast of USA for the first time a few weeks ago. The trip started off very well. I bought a magazine from the book store at the airport, and the chap said “Enjoy your flight”, to which I responded, “Thanks, you too.” I then boarded and showed the flight attendant at the entrance of the plane my ticket so they could check it. Apparently this isn’t a thing in USA, because the flight attendant and I just had a staring contest for a few seconds before I awkwardly lowered my ticket and walked towards my seat.

“Enjoy your flight.”
“Thanks you too.”
This was a good read, which makes up for the awkward exchange.

First stop was DC, which was pretty neat. Since my existing views of the city were formed by a combination of House of Cards, The West Wing and Miss Sloane, it’s fair to say that it was a little different.

When I was walking from the train station to my hostel, a man came up behind me and asked, “Are you going to the vegan conference?” I was kind of surprised, so I just said yes without thinking. “Oh cool, me too.” he said. I asked how he knew I was going. For a brief moment, I wondered if I was famous, but he just pointed the the vegan sticker on my luggage.

Anyway, turns out I was going to the conference, I just had no idea what he was talking about at the time (sorry!). It was the Green Festival Expo, with a combination of environmental and vegan stalls and presentations. I spent the afternoon there and got to try some of Quorns’ new vegan food line up, as well as meet some people from the Humane Party and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, one of whom happened to be an effective altruist. He was very excited when I told him I used to work with Effective Altruism Australia.

The one downside of the conference was, as is seeming more and more common, the general disdain towards GMO food and blind positivity towards organic food. To avoid sounding like I’m repeating myself, I’ll just refer you to here for my feelings on this. In short and simplistically, it’s not backed by science.

One evening at the hostel, I was sitting in the common area working on my laptop (covered with vegan stickers), when a woman sitting next to me told me she liked them. “I’m vegan too.” she said. I’m pretty late to the ‘put stickers with messages on things you own’ party, and I always assumed it was mostly to try and convince others of the message, but now I’m wondering (from my anecdotal data) whether there’s more value in signalling what you’re interested in to other people, and meeting people with similar interests.

Strangely enough, you can’t see Capitol Hill from every point of the city.

I was lucky enough to get a tour of Capitol Hill (which you can do by contacting your local congressperson or senator). I saw a Trump supporter at Capitol Hill (I could tell because they were wearing a ‘Make America great again’ hat and a Trump t-shirt), bringing the number of Trump supporters I’ve knowingly seen in person up to two.

I also enjoyed the never-ending selection of museums, almost all of which were free. I especially recommend the National Museum of American History and the Newseum (which was around $20 – it was worth it, but there are many free alternatives which are good).

The first dog to drive across America and his car and hooman.

I made some friends and went looking for politicians and staffers in local bars known to be politician hangouts like Bistro Bis, but failed. Until I left DC I was still holding some hopes for discussing socialism with Bernie Sanders over a stout.

No Sanders, Underwoods or Spaceys in sight.

In Philadelphia I stayed with my cousin, who moved to America 15 years ago for work, met and married an American then never came back. He took me mountain biking, and only told me that he once snapped his collar bone after I agreed. While rolling down those rocky paths and swearing in Australian I was very grateful that my university’s health and travel insurance included leisure travel.

The post-survival selfie.

I didn’t get around to exploring many of the classic tourist sites in New York as I was at the Reducetarian Summit for most of my time there, but I did get to sample some of the fine Manhattan vegan foods (see below for a compilation of bomb vegan food I found on my trip) and not so fine bars.

I had a pretty interesting experience at one very small bar I went to with my friend. It was very dark and underground, with a single bartender and about 10 patrons. My friend gave me some money to buy us a drink then went to the bathroom. I ordered him a beer and got a coke for myself. “I don’t serve that kind of thing here.”

“Oh, I’ll just get a water then.” He gets me the beer and water, then says something to the effect of “If it gets busy tonight, I’ll have to ask you to leave if you don’t order anything.” I was pretty surprised but he looked deadpan serious so I just said ok. When my friend got back, I told him what happened and he agreed that was kind of strange. The bartender must have overheard because he comes back and says “If you’re going to make me sound like a dick to your friend at least tell him the full story.” “I thought I did.” “You left out half of it.” “Which part?” “Where I made it clear I was joking.”

It can’t have been that clear. He said I didn’t understand hospitality and had probably never worked the industry. I told him I did for several years, unless the Australian hospitality industry was totally different to US. He backtracked a bit and became the nicest guy ever. Weird. I told another friend later and they said that happens sometimes in Manhattan.

Vegan Philly cheese steak from Hip City Veg in DC.
Vegan Burrata from some place in DC.
Another vegan Philly cheese steak from Wiz Kid in Philadelphia. Even my non-vegan cousin agreed this was pretty good. “I could tell its not steak, but not that its not meat.”
Plant-based sushi from Beyond Sushi in Manhattan. So good! My non-vegan friend who dislikes new foods tried one then asked for more.