Vegan Muse #3: Rebecca Schiffman

Musician, artist and writer.



Meet multi-talented artist Rebecca, who has just released her new single, "Every Moment Lasts Forever". She is also a founder/writer of Double Check Vegan, the most extensive online database of animal ingredients. 

Hi Rebecca. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in New York City on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My parents worked in Information Technology but encouraged me and my older brother, with whom I’m very close, to play music and paint. They took us to museums, concerts and ballets throughout our childhood. I was very frustrated at having to play cello as a kid, but later on I taught myself guitar and got into writing and recording songs on a 4-track and playing in bands, so I’m grateful for having some musical foundation.

Growing up, we never had pets. We actually never even had a plant, and I’m still uncomfortable standing barefoot on grass. I have had obsessive compulsive disorder since I was little, so irrational fears and anxiety were a big part of my childhood. In high school, music and art was an escape - until OCD caught up with that, too. I finally got the OCD more or less under control in my late 20s thanks to cognitive behavioral therapy.



Can you tell us about what you do?
I’ve been writing, recording and performing songs, sometimes solo, sometimes with a band, for about 20 years. I’ve put out three full-length albums but lately have been recording just a song or two and then releasing them one at a time. I recently released a single called “Every Moment Lasts Forever” and I also just finished recording two new songs with Chris Cohen (ex-Deerhoof), which I’ll probably release one at a time later this year. Meanwhile, I am working on a new album that I’m producing at home. I’m pregnant and due in August and am trying to get as much of the album done before then, but realistically, it will probably take me a year or two to finish.

For work now, I freelance as a reporter, writer, and copy editor. I did go to art school and still try to keep up with painting. I also studied wax carving and worked for a bit in the jewelry industry, and I occasionally still make jewelry, too. But a lot of my spare time goes to my website Double Check Vegan.

Rebecca at recording (left) and her new single "Every Moment Lasts Forever" (right)

How and when did you get started with Double Check Vegan, and what do you enjoy the most about writing?

I started Double Check Vegan mainly as an ingredient search engine/educational tool. When I first went vegan, I found it difficult to parse all the ingredients in a single product, especially in cosmetics. I had to Google each ingredient separately and even then, it was still hard to tell what was vegan and what wasn’t. I’ve always been into making lists and data entry, so I started compiling a database of every non-vegan or possibly non-vegan ingredient I could find. Not just basic ingredients like stearic acid which you’ll find on lists of ingredients for vegans to avoid, but every possible compound and derivative of it like Polyglyceryl-2 PEG-4 Stearate. I ended up with over 2,000 ingredients and I wrote descriptions for each and categorized them as “not vegan,” “maybe vegan,” etc. (By the way, stearic acid falls in the “maybe” category).

I then hired a programmer to add the real functionality to the website which is letting people paste and search an entire list of ingredients at once. I try to stay on top of new ingredients and update the database as much as possible.

 From Double Check Vegan

The blog posts and other pages on the website have to do with whatever I’m researching at the time. One of the more popular pages is my constantly updated list of vegan art supplies. I started researching art supplies for myself but now readers write in requesting information on a specific product – like right now I’m contacting companies about vegan waterproof fountain pen ink thanks to someone who reached out. I’m also just starting to write profiles on some vegan artists and entrepreneurs.
Overall, the website is geared toward harnessing consumer power. I think that consumer power is one of the tools that, along with on-the-ground activism, and education, will create a tipping point for animal rights worldwide. I already see progress in the responses I get when I e-mail companies. An art supply brand that gave me the runaround three years ago might now, after having received one too many questions from vegans, have finally checked with their own suppliers and will send an official list of vegan products, or an employee might even mention that they’ve just gone vegan.



How long have you been vegan?

Four years this June.  


Why did you decide to go vegan? 

I went vegan because I didn’t want to be complicit in animal suffering anymore. When I moved in with my now-husband Scott, he was mostly vegetarian, and he had a cat, Emily, and a dog, Rudy, who I came to know very well and love. I started to think more about animals’ experiences as individuals. I previously considered myself someone who “loves animals” but it was in a fetishistic way, like “I love sphinx cats,” or rather, I just loved the feeling I got from looking at cute animals.  

I had some hang-ups that I think prevented me from going vegan sooner. For a long time, I wanted to be “one of the guys.” I despised anything girly, and I felt cool being into meat and whiskey and stereotypically manly things. It all had to do with internalized misogyny which I’ve just been coming to terms with in recent years and which has affected many aspects of my life, especially music.

I think it was a combination of living with Scott who is secure in his own masculinity and doesn’t seem to value those superficial “accoutrements” of manliness, and living with Rudy and Emily, as well as a growing public dialog about internalized misogyny, that gave me room to let go of some of those hang-ups that would have immediately shut down the idea of veganism before I even considered it. 

Because we loved animals we decided to get married at a zoo – and it was during the wedding planning phase, when I saw that the zoo had no vegan options for kids, that I had the thought - oh, zoos aren’t for animals, they’re for people – which got me thinking more. I became vegetarian, and by the time the date came around, we both had to eat the lame portobello mushroom option at our own wedding. (Apologies to Jen and Brendan, the two vegans who attended and anyone else who had the vegetarian or vegan options).

After I went vegetarian, I finally let myself start reading about animal agriculture and animal cognition. I realized right away that other animal products like eggs and milk were just as bad if not worse than meat in terms of suffering. I put it off for a few months because of a fear of giving up cheese, then made the total switch over night, and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. 


What's your favorite vegan dish / restaurants? 

This is hard to choose. I had always been a picky eater but since going vegan so many foods bring me joy, especially a good vegan cheese plate. My favorite cheese plates I’ve tried are at Hinterhof in Los Angeles and Le Faitout Vegan in Paris. In Los Angeles, my favorite restaurants are Little Pine (stuffed shells, gem salad, all of their desserts), Hinterhof (“The German” vegan cheese and bread basket at brunch) and Ramen Hood (ramen and side of broccoli). My favorite thing to make at home is carrot-ginger dressing, inspired by Yaffa Café and Dojo in NYC (both now closed), and to just pour a ton of it on a big salad, or really on anything.

Dessert at Little Pine (left), Cheese plate at Hinterhof (center), Cheese plate at Le Faitout (right)


What would you like to see in the world 10 years from now?

I’d like it to be a social norm to include all animals in our moral sphere. That actually seems more realistic to me than reaching a consensus on a lot of other political issues today. I’d also like to live in a world that doesn’t reward greed and consumption so much.

Who is YOUR muse and why?

I have a lot of muses: Scott, our cats Ronnie and Little Bear, a lot of my friends, random people on the street. I am especially inspired by people who are disciplined at following through on their ideas, and people who aren’t afraid to express themselves. 



Thank you Rebecca!