Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Alexandra Bernal: Do No Harm but Take No Shit

Tell us about yourself.

I am an actress and fitness instructor. I am originally from Colombia and moved to NY to pursue my acting career about 10 years ago. I have been teaching fitness classes for a few years now. I teach a little bit of everything: boxing, kickboxing, HIIT, yoga and barre classes around various gyms in NYC.

My Instagram is @TheNoMeatGirl and I’m working on creating a blog around my vegan life and experiences www.thenomeatgirl.com (coming soon) 

If you are in the acting or modeling world my acting website is www.alexandrabernal.com and for modeling inquiries my modeling agency is @LoveLightModels. An all vegan modeling agency! 

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I have always been an animal activist since I was a little girl. I grew up in Colombia where I witnessed firsthand how animals were killed for food. I saw many cows and chickens murdered right in front of me before I even hit middle school. And I protested since then. I’d go on mini hunger strikes. Since then I became a vegetarian. 

The dairy and egg industry are a little different back in Colombia. Most farms do treat their cows well and let them roam free. Same with chickens. Though we lived in Bogota, a big city, we had a farm a couple of hours outside the city with cows and chickens that we named and loved and used their milk and eggs for ourselves, so I wasn’t aware of the industrialized side of these industries (pardon the redundancy) and the cruelty it entailed.  I didn’t go fully vegan until after I moved to the US. I watched a video on Facebook where it showed a baby calf been taken away from his mom minutes after been born. The cow was crying and running after the van that had her baby and it was heartbreaking. I’ve been lucky to have witnessed many cows give birth and the first 30 minutes of the mom and baby together are absolutely amazing. That’s when they learn how to walk. It really is indescribable to see the first few minutes of the life of a creature and see it from womb to running all thanks to mom. So, the thought of someone yanking the baby away was gut wrenching. I immediately went through my fridge and discarded any non-vegan items and vowed to be vegan til death. I’ve been fully vegan 5 years now. Alcohol free for 3 years in case anyone was wondering. 

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

Luckily clothing wise since I was a vegetarian before I went vegan, I was already cruelty free in that department. But as a model/actress I have to make sure to tell any projects I’m working on to please refrain from having me wear any leather, suede, silk, cashmere, fur, etc.  Diet wise since I was going from vegetarian to vegan, I cut all diary and eggs from home. Meaning the first month I still had trouble when eating out so I kept it strict at home but lose when eating out. Then once I learned more about what exactly I was eating and what I liked I fully cut all animal products from my diet. 

As a Latina rice and beans were always a big part of my diet and that was the base for my vegan transition. 2 different types of grains and whatever vegetables I had in my fridge. Instead of eggs for breakfast I started eating oatmeal, smoothies, protein pancakes, peanut butter toast and other protein packed foods. 

Beauty products and cleaning products were harder because I genuinely did not know what may have been tested on animals or had any animal products so that took longer for me to fully get educated in all the brands, products and ingredients to look out for. 

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?

I am 27 years old and single. I live with roommates and have family far away. So right now, I only work on myself in that sense. I tried finding a vegan roommate and sadly that didn’t work out but that would be a goal of mine next time I move so I don’t have to have any animal products at home. 

Though I don’t date vegan men exclusively (I once read that per every vegan man there are 7 women and in NY it feels accurate) I do know that by the time I get married my partner must be vegan. I will refuse to raise children with someone who would still eat meat at home. And my children will be raised vegan.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

Yes, they should be shown. I was exposed to this cruelty from a young age and against my family and culture I was able to form my own decision and felt very strongly about it and refused to eat animals. I think sometimes adults make the mistake to want to shield their kids from all suffering and tragedies, but that means kids grow up desensitized, ignorant and numb to cruelty. 

What does being vegan mean to you?

Been vegan to me means not hurting animals to the best of your ability. There is no actual need for any kind of product, food or otherwise to come from an animal. We have survived, nay, stride without using animals. So been vegan means continuing to live without the need of using any animals in any possible way. So yes, that includes not hurting bugs if possible, and not patronizing vegan products by non-vegan companies etc. It creates demand. It saves animal lives. I care about the well-being of animals and the earth. And that’s my main concern. 

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

I don’t think that’s a fair question. Activism comes from the heart. At least on a personal note, I feel so strongly about my activism, about speaking out against cruelty and doing everything in my power to stop it. It’s like a reflex. I just feel it and don’t have much control over it except my actions or approach. 

But if someone doesn’t feel that strongly then as long as they are vegan and are already reducing animal suffering, I don’t think they have to be activists. It would be great, but duty entails obligation. And a sense of moral obligation cannot be forced. 

Just by vegan already entails activism. Any time anyone asks if you are vegan and why, you plant a seed, you create demand and awareness. 

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

That’s hard to describe. Depends on the day (cue laugh). I used to be more ‘understanding’ but after years of taking a lot of ‘crap’ for been vegan sometimes all the cruelty and suffering and hate towards compassion can get to me. I try to educate rather than judge or criticize. But sometimes as I’m sure many of us feel, I feel like a crazy person for been the only one that cares. ‘Do no harm but take no shit’. It’s hard finding a balance. I want to be kind. But that doesn’t remain letting people hurt me in the process. 

Any recommended Vegan books?

In defense of animals 

Meat is for pussies 

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

I am working on creating a blog: www.TheNoMeatGirl.com talking about veganism around my life, fitness, easy to make food (I’m a lazy cook;) and lifestyle. It’s not up yet but stay tuned!

I’m more of an IG girl so here are my favorite Instagram vegans 

@whatsgoodberto 

@conscious_muscle

@veganbodegacat

@superdopemin

And if you are local to NY @Vegan.nyc.app

Click Image to download the new Vegan Everything App and Join the Revolution!

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

As an athlete ‘The Game Changers’ is a now ultimate favorite documentary.  I’ve shared a few times the video that made me go vegan about the cow chasing the van that took her newborn (sadly there’s many of them out there). 

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Champs Diner in Brooklyn 

Please share your favorite vegan recipe.

I have been recently making a Mexican Casserole/Lasagna 

On a baking dish you put a layer of tortillas or chips, then a layer of tomato sauce, add black beans, corn, onions and other veggies you may want, a layer of v sour cream (I like to add hot sauce or v chipotle mayo to make it spicy), and top with vegan shredded cheese. 

Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. 

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

You are not alone. Find other vegans. It truly helps. I met most of my now vegan friends through meetup.com looking for vegan meetups in my area. It’s hard at the beginning because you feel so vulnerable and a bit lost and you will sadly get a lot of ‘crap’ and hate from friends and family because they don’t understand it. Even the online community can be a helpful resource for recipes, restaurants, products, brands, tips, events, organizations and causes. 

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Brooklyn and NY in general are very busy and popular luckily. Lots of options, restaurants, events, as well as activism and organizations devoted to veganism. 

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Meetup.com! Also, Facebook groups (i.e. I’m in a ‘Vegans Of New York’ Facebook group) 

What does living cruelty-free mean to you?

Yes. Again, I have my moments were my patience is tested. But Veganism means kindness. To animals. To the earth. To the planet. And that does include non-vegans. 

‘Do no harm but take no shit’

What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies? 

Pacifica and Sugar Rush for beauty products. 

Also, the cruelty free shop.com 

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need? 

I have everything I need luckily. I’m sure there have been times I crave something to be veganized but I can’t think of anything right now which means I don’t really need it or miss it 🤷🏻‍♀️

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

I’ve never struggled in the self doubting sense. I have never found it hard to live like this or have thought of giving it up. I have many vegan related tattoos so I’ve always known I’m in this for good. 

But I’ve struggled with a lot of hate, trolling, mocking and been put down by others just for been vegan. It’s a form of discrimination. It’s hard when no one else understands you and people attack you when it’s uncalled for and all you are doing is living kindly. 

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