Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Lana Weidgenant, I am 20 years old, and a college student at Johns Hopkins University. I am a Brazilian immigrant who was raised in Orlando, Florida and am now going to college in Baltimore. At Johns Hopkins, I am a rising Junior studying Public Health. I am also Co-President of CARE (Compassion, Awareness, and Responsible Eating), a student organization that educates on veganism and animal rights issues at Johns Hopkins, and serve as an elected senator in the student government. Outside of my university, I am an Advisory Board Member at Plant Dining Partnerships (you can follow us on Instagram at @plantdiningpartnerships or Twitter at @PlantDining) where we work to increase accessibility to plant-based eating in all communities. I also organize in the climate movement as Co-Deputy Partnerships Director at the international youth-led climate justice organization, Zero Hour and as Press Leader for DC in US Youth Climate Strike.
What led you to veganism? How long ago?
Moving out of my parents’ home and to my college led me to veganism. This was 2 years ago. I gained newfound control over what I had for every meal when I left home and the industries my grocery money went towards. I had always considered myself an animal lover growing up and felt for a while that I should be at least vegetarian. College offered me an opportunity to bring my morals to my plate. As I educated myself more on issues within the dairy, egg, and other animal product industries, I went from vegetarian to vegan to continue my commitment of living up to my morals, given the further information I had learned about these industries.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
Non-vegan food I phased out almost overnight, buying vegan groceries for my new dorm and never going back. Non-vegan clothing and other items I slowly phased out in order to not be wasteful in products that I had gained as gifts over the years or been using unknowingly. I made plans to buy the more ethical, vegan version once the old item was used.
What does being vegan mean to you?
For me, being vegan means reducing suffering and violence in the world where possible. I do not require for an animal to suffer and die in order for me to have the food and nutrition I need therefore I choose not to lend my support towards this form of unnecessary suffering. At the same time, my veganism seeks to be effective in reducing the most suffering possible and saving the most animals that I can with my actions. This means not excluding others that see or practice their veganism or plant-based lifestyle differently or those who are on a different step on the path to becoming vegan than I am. It also means not engaging in counterproductive arguments around purism and perfection in the vegan movement.
The compassion that I exercise through veganism also extends to other humans and for me, the fundamentals of veganism are incompatible with a lack of compassion towards other humans and serious issues facing humans.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
No, I would not say that it is every vegan’s duty to become an activist. I believe that every vegan should seek to make change for animals in the form they are best fit to do so, given the knowledge and understanding they have of issues that many others have turned away from and willfully ignore. However, I understand that activism is not accessible to everyone and it is a privilege to be able to partake in activism.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
Extremely. Almost none of us were born vegan which means that almost every vegan alive today has been in the same place as non-vegans currently are. Think back to the person you once were and seek to be a source of both education and understanding.
Any recommended Vegan books?
“Ready to go Vegan?” by Danni McGhee is a great book and I highly recommend “Animal
Liberation” by Peter Singer for the ethical and philosophical understanding.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
DaJen Eats by Jen Ross in Eatonville, FL! (near Orlando, FL!)
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
In 2019, there is a vegan version of just about every food you would eat as a non-vegan! Also, don’t focus on the small things and little mistakes – it happens to everyone in the beginning and it will happen to you. Just keep thinking about the larger impact you will be having over time and why you started in the first place.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
I absolutely adore the vegan scene in Baltimore – in no other city have I seen the call for food justice so beautifully meet the worldview of veganism. Huge applause to Brenda Sanders and the teams at Thrive Baltimore and Vegan Soulfest for all the amazing work they do in the city!
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Get involved in your local community! If there is an animal rights or veg organization with on-the-ground meets and organizing local to your area, this can be a great way to get involved in action and meet others! Otherwise, a Facebook group for vegans in your area is a great way to get started!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
Definitely. Having a vegan lifestyle means that we are making an active effort to live in a way that supports less cruelty in the world (obviously there will often be injustices behind other products we use in our lives whether that is the sourcing of fabrics in our clothes or farmworker issues behind the vegetables we buy and those should not be overlooked in the ‘cruelty-free’ label). However, I see it as morally inconsistent to not treat humans and human issues with compassion if we as vegans are seeking to pursue this ethical lifestyle.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Hand Sanitizer is amazing and Hero Pet Supplies is a great company!