Becoming a Vegan can be an isolating experience

Interview with Marybeth Fishman, Founder of Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup

by Teresa Melnick

Becoming a vegan can sometimes be an isolating experience. Non-vegan family and friends often don’t understand what motivates someone to adopt a plant based diet. “I wanted to meet other vegans in person,” says Marybeth Fishman, founder of Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup.  While there are plenty of on-line blogs and vegan websites, Fishman wasn’t able to find any local groups that met face to face, so she started her own. Just under a year old, Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup has grown to 225 members who meet on a regular basis to share their experiences and meet other like-minded people. It’s also a group that welcomes people who are not vegan, but who might be interested in veganism and who want to learn more.

The group, says Fishman, consists of people who have become vegan for a variety of reasons.  “We have some people who are environmentalists; some people switched to a plant based diet for health reasons, and there are people who are animal welfare advocates.” Fishman says for her, the switch to a vegan diet was mainly because of her concern for animal welfare.  “I saw the PETA video ‘Meet Your Meat’ on-line, and when I saw how farm animals are treated, all the suffering, that was the end of eating meat for me.”

The journey to becoming vegan started for Fishman, as it does for many, with becoming vegetarian first.  She thought that by eliminating meat, she was eliminating animal cruelty from her diet.  That, she learned, is only partially true.  “I didn’t know that cheese, butter, eggs, yogurt and other dairy products contribute to animal abuse as well.” After joining some vegan groups on Facebook, she read about how many animals are treated in the dairy and egg industries. Fishman then decided to eliminate all animal products from her diet, not just meat. “I became vegan that day!”

While a clear conscience was reason enough to eat a plant based diet, Fishman was pleasantly surprised by the added health benefits.  Suffering for years from stomach pains, once she changed her diet and eliminated animal products, her stomach aches went away. Fishman’s mother suffered from the same stomach problems, and also became vegan at Fishman’s encouragement and is now also pain free. “My husband is also vegan, and his cholesterol has gone way down,” says Fishman.

Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup meets monthly at various locations around the Central New York region.  “It’s mainly a social group,” says Fishman.  They often meet at coffee houses, and they have potlucks and picnics. “Most of our meetings involve eating!” Other meetings, says Fishman, focus on speakers or movies on vegan related topics. January’s meetup featured the movie “Forks over Knives.” Fishman is planning a near future meeting at her home.  “We have a professional vegan chef in our group, and soon I’m going to have him at my house so we can taste samples of his recipes.”

Fishman would like everyone to know that the Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup events are free.  Annual membership to the group is five dollars, which is due after a 30 day free trial.  For details about membership and events, go to  The group also has a Facebook page (“Meetup Group for Syracuse/CNY Vegans”) that lists the events and gives people a chance to ask questions and interact with other members.

As the group expands and evolves, Fishman welcomes new members and new suggestions for meeting topics and activities.  If you would like more information about the Syracuse/CNY Vegan Meetup group, visit the website, go to the Facebook page, or contact Marybeth Fishman directly at

Teresa is a member of People for Animal Rights (PAR) and interviewed Marybeth at our request.  We are delighted that people in the Syracuse area now have more choices of vegan socials.  People for Animal Rights also has vegan socials as well as other activities (such as speakers and films on a variety of animal rights and environmental protection topics). Contact PAR at P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, or call us at (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., or for internet at,