My name is Rachel Wojciak, and I am a eighteen-year-old vegan activist and advocate for peaceful protesting and animal rights. I was at the University of New Hampshire majoring in English and minoring in animal sciences/animal rights. I left University of New Hampshire for mental health reasons, as I had been living with post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder that hadn’t been diagnosed for several years. I was hospitalized and then went to a program where I was treated for my depression, anxiety, PTSD, and BPD, and I am a much happier and healthier person overall now.
I will now be attending University of Connecticut in the fall of 2017, and I am switching my major to psychology. After how helpful the psychologists I saw in my program were, I was truly inspired to help other people better their lives by improving their mental health as I did. I’ve always loved psychology, so I’m very excited to switch things up and pursue psychology as my major. My passions and hobbies revolve around veganism, Marilyn Manson, art, and nature.
My main social media for vegan purposes is my Instagram account @hclfrachel, and I have a YouTube channel as well (the channel name is just Rachel Wojciak). While classes are my number one priority at the moment, I am still doing everything I can to help out my animal brothers and sisters. I am also going to create sugar scrubs, lip scrubs, and lip balms to begin with on my Etsy page (RachelWojciak). Depending on how that goes, I would like to create and design some of my own vegan t-shirts as well, and create even more beauty and skincare products! And yes, all of my products will be vegan and cruelty-free.
What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?
I had stumbled across Freelee the Banana Girl’s vegan YouTube channel, and she really opened my eyes to the high carb low fat vegan lifestyle, the impact animal agriculture has on the planet, and the cruelty these animals are put through due to human consumption. Unfortunately, I no longer support Freelee as her approach is more aggressive than I am comfortable with. I believe others should be treated the way they would like to be treated, so I do my best to spread the message of this lifestyle in a kind way.
After doing more research on my own, I was blown away by what the meat and dairy industry had been hiding from me nearly 17 years of my life. My love for animals and my love for nature were too strong, and I knew that my lifestyle of consuming meat and dairy at the time didn’t support being kind towards animals and nature. After that moment, I knew I had to change immediately. I have never once regretted going vegan since that day.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been Vegan for 18 months now!
Why is being vegan important to you?
I have the utmost respect for this planet and the creatures inhabiting it. I am constantly in awe of nature and the beautiful gifts that it blesses me with every day—why would I want to harm this planet and the beings living on it all because I want a cheeseburger? That doesn’t add up to me.
I love nature, I love all animals, I love my health. Those are three things that I respect and cherish immensely, and if I knew I was causing damage to any of them, I would do something to change that as soon as possible. That’s why vegan made sense to me back when I converted, and it still makes sense to me now.
I know that this is the next big movement. There have been so many landmarks we’ve hit recently, that women are capable of doing more than just cooking and cleaning and deserve equal rights and gays and lesbians deserve being with the loves of their lives, regardless of their sex or gender. While there still is tension with all of these topics and things aren’t perfect, we have come a long way. Veganism is going to be the next big movement. Non-vegans often laugh at me, insult me, call me crazy, threaten me even. But that will never change how important this movement is to me, or the fact that veganism is the answer. People are starting to catch on to that.
Bottom line is, there is no world in which I could support the longest ongoing Holocaust because I would prefer to eat steak. I see animals as equals, and I believe that they shouldn’t be treated any less than us simply because they’re not the same species as we are. Each animal is beautiful, gifted and loving in its own way, and that’s something that people are definitely starting to recognize. Being vegan is important to me because it allows me to speak up on behalf of those without a voice, and help others recognize that these beings deserve a chance just like we do.
Do you have a blog or favorite vegan blog you read?
Not particularly, I have never been too big into blogs. I like to scroll on my Instagram feed a lot (way more than I am proud to admit), and see what new dishes people are making or which animals this sanctuary has taken in today, etc. The vegan community on Instagram has been one of the kindest and most supportive places towards me when it comes to my vegan lifestyle. While there is the occasional rotten apple in the bunch, it is predominantly positive and peaceful vibes.
Any recommended vegan books?
Yes! “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows,” by Melanie Joy is phenomenal, a great introduction to the vegan lifestyle. A great explanation of how saying “I love animals,” yet choosing to continue on eating them doesn’t quite add up. “The Inner World of Farm Animals,” by Amy Hatkoff is a truly touching book as well. It covers the social, intellectual, and emotional capabilities presented in factory farmed animals, that not a lot of people are aware they even possess. Both are two great reads that I cannot recommend enough.
Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?
I loosely follow PETA (sometimes I do not approve or agree with the way they deliver their message), and I do my best to support them and their causes when I agree it’s handled in a mature and a non-aggressive method. I highly recommend finding local animal sanctuaries and looking into those. You can find amazing places to visit that share the same passions as you do, that rescue and care for animals who have been adopted from the circus or scooped up before they wound up on somebody’s dinner plate. It’s a great way to volunteer and get involved in the community, and to help the animals and the planet while doing so.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
I cannot recommend watching “Earthlings” enough. “Earthlings” covers all the cruelty animals are put through due to humans, whether it be puppy mills, the meat and dairy industry, how leather is made, etc. If you are looking for ethical reasons to go vegan, this is the one. Whenever people tell me they couldn’t give up x y or z to go vegan, I tell them to watch that documentary and then tell me how they feel about their previous statement.
“Cowspiracy” is another great documentary as well, not graphic like “Earthlings.” “Cowspiracy” covers the impact meat and dairy and animal agriculture has on our environment, and is a great educational documentary to watch regarding the reasons to go vegan for our planet.
“Forks over Knives” is very well done as well, a documentary covering the health reasons to go vegan, and why a vegan lifestyle is so much healthier for the human body as opposed to the typical American diet of loads of meat and cheese.
“Blackfish” is a heartbreaking documentary that shows another example of animal cruelty. A lot of people forget the bigger picture when it comes to animal cruelty, that if you eat a plant-based lifestyle you are rid of all the cruelty in the world. However, “Blackfish” covers the torment killer whales must go through, trapped and spending their whole lives in SeaWorld. A great documentary to watch if you’re looking for evidence of animal neglect in zoos/circuses/tourist attractions such as SeaWorld.
Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
Absolutely. There is my vegan Instagram I have that I promote the lifestyle on every day, whether it comes to food, supporting sanctuaries, vegan facts and information, etc. I make YouTube videos whenever I have the time and the topics are predominantly based on veganism. I do charity work by creating campaigns for these animal sanctuaries and donating to them as often as I can. I am creating my own vegan beauty and skincare products to show that you can have products that are cruelty-free and vegan that work amazingly. I get messages once in a while with people thanking me for converting them to a vegan lifestyle; I’ve got about 30 of those messages and I started counting around 4 months into veganism already!
Do you miss any non-vegan foods?
Absolutely not. After you learn the process of the cruelty, slaughter, rape, torture and brutality that goes into making those foods, there is no appeal at all. I would never want a being to suffer on my behalf so I can enjoy a grilled cheese, and I wish I had known more so I could have converted much sooner in life. There is also the damaging impact of meat and dairy on your health and on the environment, and those are two things that I would like to avoid as well.
Your taste buds change and adapt over time as well. I can’t really tell you what a steak or what bacon or what pork chops or what cheese tastes like anymore—and I’m glad for that! Gardein makes amazing products that taste scary similar to the real thing (to the best of my recollection for that matter), and Chao Cheese have some of the best vegan cheeses out there if you want delicious vegan substitutes. Your taste buds will change quickly and drastically over time, and the veganized alternatives taste like the best damn things around. As I like to tell many non-vegans, “Anything you can eat now, I can have vegan!”
What is your favorite vegan meme?
This was the most unexpected question yet and I love it! I couldn’t say honestly. I love the one where Sorsha posted a new YouTube video titled “KYLIE JENNER EATS DEAD BIRD ON SNAPCHAT” and then the next frame is a picture of a turkey and cheese sandwich. The caption reads “SMH why are vegans so extra I was so ready to see Kylie eating a dead bird.” I just don’t understand how some non-vegans can be so ignorant, and I think that amuses me more than the memes themselves sometimes. Last time I checked, turkey cold cuts are the decaying flesh of another being, so it seems to me somebody’s being ignorant in this case! Most vegan memes are pretty great though.
What is your favorite vegan stereotype?
My favorite vegan stereotype is that we don’t get enough protein by choosing to not consume meat or dairy. As a matter of fact, my mother bought me a bumper sticker for my car that reads “VEGAN: Don’t ask me where I get my protein.” I love it! There’s a difference between being genuinely curious, and then just being a troll for the sake of it, and I find it amusing that people can convince themselves that we don’t get enough protein on this lifestyle. It’s absolute complete nonsense; people will make up anything they can to bring you down when they know you’re doing the right thing.
I respond politely by giving them a list of protein-rich vegan foods I consume regularly. I also remind people that plant-based foods are not as calorically dense as foods with animal proteins, so the portion sizes I eat of these foods are typically much larger than the portions non-vegans would eat.
What’s your favorite vegan restaurant?
I really love Oak House, it’s right by my University and has the best vegan sausage I’ve ever had. I haven’t been to too many vegan restaurants unfortunately though. However, if you are looking for the best vegan cheeseburger around, I suggest finding Marty’s Burgers in New York! I tried them in Vegan Vitality at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary this past year with my father and I have been craving one ever since!
What’s your favorite recipe?
Google “Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce” by Chloe Coscarelli—you won’t regret it! I use coconut milk instead when I make the recipe, and lessen the amount of sun-dried tomatoes used just a smidgen—just based upon my own personal likes. This has got to be one of the best damn pasta dishes of all time that I’ve ever had, I cannot recommend it enough. Also, her “Tomato Bread Soup” has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever tasted before. Make both for dinner one time! The leftovers keep great as well, an additional bonus.
What is the one big stereotype you hear about vegans that you want to dispel?
That all vegans are angry, abrasive, cruel people who care about animals and the treatment of them more than the treatment of humans. I can’t think of one stereotype that is more discouraging than that one! I understand how people can perceive vegans that way, especially online. The first month I was vegan, I used an abrasive approach, and I quickly found myself getting so worked up over these trolls online. I found that when I put out angriness, I received angriness, and I quickly changed my habits.
I am a proud supporter and advocate for peaceful protesting when it comes to veganism, it is something that I believe firmly in. I will admit, sometimes I give people online much more attention when I should. It’s hard to stay positive all the time when people hate you and the lifestyle you’re promoting when they don’t know a damn thing about you! So that can really be hard. But I do my best to block people online who are creating problems with me for no reason, and I do my best not to get frustrated (infuriated, even!) with people who take this lifestyle and my beliefs as a joke.
Like I said previously, with very few exceptions, the vegan community that I follow and am a part of on Instagram is incredibly supportive, positive, and encouraging. There are the few rotten apples that give us a bad reputation, and I want to help people see and realize that majority of vegans are not like that. It can really turn people away from veganism, them thinking that they’ll become some hateful individual when they convert, and people need to realize the importance of the example that they’re setting when they do/say anything online. I have yet to meet a nasty vegan in person; I think it really is a common misconception that gets blown out of proportion unfortunately. If there was one thing I could change, I would want to eradicate the belief that most vegans are hateful, angry, nasty individuals. That could not be more far from the truth!
Some encouraging words for new vegans?
Stick with it! If you’re viewing this more as a diet than a lifestyle and are missing meat and dairy, you have not done nearly enough research. Make a list of reasons to go vegan and why you should vow to never consume animal products again.
Stay positive. The energy you put out is the energy you receive, so make sure you are putting out good, strong, peaceful and positive vibes. It is that much more difficult to attract hate and negativity that way.
Don’t get discouraged by the naysayers. There is an unfortunate number of individuals out there who spend their time online dragging every account they come across down that is somehow different than the norm. Block people! There is a block button for a reason. Put them behind you and don’t listen to their cruel words. I know how hard this step can be, it’s something I still need to work on too.
Be mindful of the golden rule. Not everybody is going to accept a lifestyle that is considered to be “extreme” in this day and age immediately, so treat others the way you would want to be treated when referring to the topic of veganism.
Are you a cruelty-free vegan?
Absolutely. However, with that said, if you have things like leather jackets or UGGS that you purchased before going vegan, DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY! You have the option of either wearing them out until they fall apart, or you can donate to charity.
What are your favorite vegan non-food products or companies?
Compassion Co. is an awesome place to get really cool vegan t-shirts and other merch. I just love collecting shirts, stickers, etc. from animal sanctuaries that I have visited; I’m proud to wear the clothing around and support them!
What is the toughest vegan item to find that you need?
I struggle with finding a full-body vegan soap to use in the shower. I have very sensitive skin, and I have tried several different cruelty-free soaps and I have unfortunately not found one yet that doesn’t irritate my skin. Vegan soap is easy to come by, but it’s harder to find one that works with my skin type.
Are you doing absolutely everything that you think you can be doing right now for the animals and for the planet?
Yes! I am spreading the message through various social media platforms, I visit and donate to animal sanctuaries, I create and run fundraisers for animal sanctuaries, I am doing my best to work on putting cruelty-free and vegan skincare products out to be sold as soon as I can. If you’re not, go out and find a new form of spreading the message in a peaceful way. The health of the people, the animals, and the planet will thank you!