I live in upstate NY, a little outside of Albany. I am a manager for LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics and a tour guide for the Catskill Animal Sanctuary on my days off! I’m a Certified Mainstreet Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through Victoria Moran’s Mainstreet Vegan Academy. As if that weren’t enough to keep me busy – I also recently joined the Humane Society of the United States as a deputy district leader for NYS and I’m on the board of the Albany Vegan Network! AVN is doing its first ever National Animal Rights Day ceremony in Albany this year and I was part of the event planning team for that. We’re really proud of the success we’re having and the event hasn’t even happened yet!! If you live near the Albany NY area we’d love to have you join us!! June 4th at the Crossings Park in Colonie NY. You can follow me on Instagram at @kattd and AVN at @albany_vegan_network!
What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?
To be honest, I’m not sure I remember a moment. I think for me it was a string of moments that built up to a point where I could no longer avoid doing what I knew was right. I was a vegetarian for quite a while at that point, I can remember both my boyfriend at the time and my best friend talking about wanting to go vegan. Whenever it came up I would get pretty defensive about it and just kind of avoid the topic. A couple summers ago I had the opportunity to hear Gene Bauer speak at a local event and he said something that really stuck with me – he said that he thought as long as you could truly say you were living a life according to your values then that was what mattered. I really thought about that and I realized that what I valued was compassion, peace and of course love. I realized that I could never 100% be living according to what I believed in if I was consuming animal products. At that time I had also been taking intuition development classes, my teacher stressed the importance of standing in your truth. He taught me a lot about setting boundaries for what was acceptable in your life. Those lessons really made me think about the choices I was making. I’m a Reiki practitioner and invest a lot of time into energy healing, meditation, and mindfulness. Like a lot of people, I also consider myself an animal lover. Those were two big truths I hold dearly that I realized I was contradicting by continuing to consume animal products.
How long have you been Vegan?
Why is being Vegan important to you?
When I went vegan my entire world changed. You always hear people refer to going vegan as having a ‘light bulb moment’. That is truly what it felt like for me. It was like the lights were finally turned on after 28 years of living in the dark.
At the very core of our culture is the systematic killing of animals that we as humans consider to be less than. We bring these sentient beings into this world for no other reason than to kill them for food. I don’t think there is anyone out there who would say they support animal abuse, yet every second of every day an animal is being slaughtered so we can have a taste sensation that lasts a few seconds. This practice has a devastating effect on the environment and our health as well, so why do we do it? It has taught me a lot about the human condition. It’s taught me a lot about communicating with people. It’s taught me a lot about myself and how I want to impact the world around me.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Yes! One of the most influential books I’ve read is, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, & Wear Cows by Melanie Joy. I’ve circulated it to my entire staff at LUSH at this point. It really speaks to the disconnect between why when we say we love animals it seems we only mean some animals. I also strongly recommend Where The Blind Horse Sings by Kathy Stevens. It’s the story of how Catskill Animal Sanctuary came to be. A lot of the books, podcasts, videos out there in regards to veganism can be pretty upsetting. This book is beautiful and gave me so much hope. Lastly, I tell everyone to read Mainstreet Vegan by Victoria Moran. I wish I had read it when I was in the process of going vegan. It gives a lot of really helpful and supportive information. Even if you’re already vegan it is a GREAT read.
Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?
Mercy For Animals shares great information on social media. I also really like Vegan Outreach and The Humane League. Of course, if you’re in upstate NY I recommend Albany Vegan Network of course!!
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
My two favorite documentaries are Cowspiracy and Food Choices. You can find both on Netflix!
Do you actively promote veganism?
I try to promote veganism in everything that I do. From wearing vegan pins on my apron at work, wearing a vegan t-shirt every time I go grocery shopping, protesting the race track in Saratoga, sharing information or videos on social media, doing pay per view videos with AVN, and posting what I eat on social media too! Not all activism has to be in the form of a protest, demonstration or sharing a graphic video. I think there is a lot of value in simply sharing what you’re eating online so people can see how easy it is. Or when you go out to eat asking the waiter what on the menu is vegan even if you already know the answer! It puts the thought of veganism into people’s heads and that’s a start!
What is your favorite Vegan meme?
I love the meme of the guy peeping around the corner and it reads something like “When they say they know how to cook vegan”. It’s so perfect because I think we’ve all been there.
What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?
That vegans are judgmental or aggressive. I try to respond by my behavior.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
Blossom in NYC is my fave. Locally here in Albany we also have the amazing Berben & Wolff, Little Anthony’s & Imagine Deserts. I love that I live in a city where there is a growing vegan scene! If you’re ever in the Albany area I highly recommend all three. Berben & Wolff has the most amazing Reuben ever. Even my brother, who is not a vegan or vegetarian, always requests to stop by when he’s in town!
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
The entire Thug Kitchen cookbook. Seriously. Everything in that cookbook.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Reach out! Find a support system. If you have questions or you feel hesitant because of the response you get from friends/family – don’t let that stop you. Find your people! The thing I most regret about going vegan is that it took me so long to get there.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
It means living a life where I am not causing harm. Of course, I don’t eat animal products but I also don’t wear leather or fur and I don’t use products that are tested on animals.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
LUSH! Lush is a vegetarian company but more than 80% of our products are vegan. Aside from amazing products we also support hundreds of grassroots charities across the world and have been fighting to end animal testing for decades.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
I don’t struggle to find much! I think the biggest obstacle I have is ensuring that the cleaning products or everyday household items I buy aren’t tested on animals. There can be conflicting information out there so I try to ensure I do my research.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
It can be tough to be the only vegan in your family. For me, it can be hard to understand why people I love and admire are still choosing to eat animals. I try to remember that it took me some time to get here and everyone is different. You can’t change everyone, nor should you necessarily try. I also find it can be a struggle when it comes to dating. For me, I wouldn’t date anyone who ate animals so that can be limiting.
What is one question you would ask other Vegans?
I just love talking to other vegans about vegan things. I love hearing why people went vegan. I went vegan for the animals but I’ve met people who have gone vegan for a million other reasons. I love learning from other people so I would probably have quite a few questions to ask other vegans!