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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Rynn Berry: In Memoriam

Many New Yorkers remember seeing him, Saturday after Saturday, in just about any weather, standing outside at the Union Square Farmers’ Market selling copies of The Vegan Guide to NYC. He assumed—rightly and with some prescience—that getting someone to taste the food would whet her appetite for the philosophy, as well. To that end, this highly educated and academically gifted man stood at the edge of the park, with the beggars and the street performers, slowly and steadily creating a more humane world.

Victoria Moran on Rynn Berry


Last week, beloved vegan author Rynn Berry passed away at the age of 68. After he collapsed while out for a jog on New Year’s Eve, the New York City running community spread the word on social media to get him identified. The doctors said it was his asthma that brought about the illness, and after a week and a half-long coma he passed away on January 9th.

Of all the excellent lectures we enjoyed at Main Street Vegan Academy, Professor Berry’s was my favorite. In his talk on the history of vegetarianism he displayed a rare combination of erudition and approachability—and serenity, too, which is not a word I often hear used to characterize men living in the “real world” (as opposed to, say, the monastic life). Through his message and his demeanor, Professor Berry gave me the impression that he had nothing to prove and everything to teach (which is something I can only hope somebody is kind enough to say about me someday, several decades from now).


I’m so glad I had enough cash on hand to purchase a copy of Famous Vegetarians & Their Favorite Recipes, which he kindly signed for me. You will recall, too, that I quoted extensively from Professor Berry’s Food for the Gods in my post on the Christian fundamentals of simple living and nonviolence, which logically requires a vegetarian diet.

P1090675I am very grateful to Professor Berry not only for giving me a sturdy historical framework for veganism, but for inspiring me creatively as well. I haven’t explicitly blogged about this little phenomenon before, but when you’re developing a new novel idea and you remember to keep your eyes and ears open, you find that people give you the most perfect clues or leads without even knowing it. When this happens it feels utterly magical—there’s nothing accidental about it. In this case, during his MSVA lecture, Professor Berry put up a slide about animal rights literature in the United Kingdom in the 18th century, and it included a title-page screenshot of Humphrey Primatt’s The Duty of Mercy. As soon as I saw the Enlightenment-era typesetting, I knew the book was going to be very important to me while writing my Edinburgh novel. I needed to know that there were indeed philosophers publishing on the subject of animal rights that early on. I sat on my floor pillow, scribbling furiously to the very last page of my notebook and fizzing over with excitement and gratitude. Professor Berry gave me that, and The Duty of Mercy now rests on my bookshelf, patiently waiting its turn.

And at the time, of course, I thought I’d have many more opportunities to hear him speak. I wish I’d had another chance to tell him just how much his lecture inspired me, because at the time I didn’t want to sound too enthusiastic. Now I know it’s better to err on the side of enthusiasm, if there’s even any such thing.

If you know me well, you’ve probably heard me joke on the square about dying at the age of 103 in the middle of a headstand, and I’m going to be honest here and say that my first reaction to the sad news was, but he had so many years left! A few days later, I was in the middle of explaining to a (non-vegan) friend how important a figure Professor Berry was in the vegan community, and I realized something. Longevity is not about living to 100. However many years you’ll get, the important thing is that you don’t finish them out with bed sores and terrifying gaps in your memory. Whether I live to sixty or a hundred and sixty (hey! you never know what 21st-century science has in store for us!), I want to die on the move after a life fully lived—just as Rynn Berry did.

 duty of mercy


Some links to check out:

Rynn Berry’s biography and book credits on VegSource.

 The Vegan Guide to New York City, 2012 edition.

Stephanie’s post on Professor Berry: Our Cause Has Lost a True Pioneer.

Rynn Berry left us a few hours ago – a lovable vegan historian & a great friend on


1 Comment to Rynn Berry: In Memoriam

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    January 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I think one of the most convincing arguments is about taste and food itself. It is easy for people to forget about disturbing images of animal cruelty, but if they like what they are eating, they will stick with it.

  1. By on July 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm
  2. By on April 13, 2015 at 5:08 pm

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.