Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Antonio Fernandez. I am the founder of the website www.inspirationalsouls.com. Inspirational Souls, founded in late 2016, is a site that celebrates the interconnectedness of all beings by spotlighting the compassionate lifestyles of humans who live a vegan lifestyle.
This site doesn’t care which political class, gender, ethnic background, social-economic class, sexual identifier, or really what planet you are from. It is our hope that you will find the stories on this site, written by vegans from every walk of life, sources of inspiration to make you want to go out and live a more compassionate life. Almost 400 stories.
In a world in which many people believe that there is so much devastation, evil, and destruction, this site would like to serve as a positive perspective that lifts you up when you feel you cannot find much good in anything thing you see or read. This site wants to show you that many amazing, creative, kind, intelligent, talented, compassionate, and passionate humans exist who are constantly striving to make this world a place of less suffering for all the living beings on this planet. By adhering to a vegan lifestyle, they have committed to a life without doing harm to other beings. Through veganism, they hope to teach others about the preciousness of life and the importance that many of our choices make on our health and the planet. But most importantly the impact these choices have on billions of animals every year.
Today, January 29th, 2020 I also celebrate 10 years of uninterrupted days of sobriety from drugs and alcohol. This day is more important to me than my navel birthday. If it wasn’t for my sobriety awakening 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t be here to write this spotlight. Every good thing in my life I have today stems from my recovery and tireless effort to create a better me, day in and day out. If you are struggling at all with drugs or alcohol, please reach out to me. I know there is a solution.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret about me. I am also an Aortic aneurysm survivor. This means I have a valve in my heart that is bulging out and could tear at any moment. I have to be very careful with certain types of exertion and at one point in the future, I might even have to undergo open-heart surgery to replace the valve. I think about this every day, probably dozens of times. It’s like living with a timebomb inside my chest. But, over the past 4 years, I’ve learned to think of this condition as a blessing. It’s a constant reminder of how precious life is. Having this condition has helped me take more chances because it is a reminder that this life could end at any moment. I feel lucky to have this reminder. So many people are walking around not living up to their potential thinking they are immortal. My heart defect is a daily reminder to live life to the fullest.
Today, I have been married 5 years to the most amazing woman on this planet, Janette Duffy, thank you for being an amazing partner to me on this journey. I look forward to at least 45 more years together.
Lastly, I am also a published poet and work as an innovation consultant at a local health care company in Portland, OR. I’m also an avid environmentalist. Here is a recent video I made to share some “Green” tips with the people I work with.x
I am always open to a good conversation on making the planet more sustainable. Please hit me up!
What lead you to veganism?
In late June of 2015, my wife and I participated in a class called the Enlightenment Program taught by Octavia Lindahl, our friend, and owner of Outside the Box; an amazing child education center in Southern California.
For one month during the Enlightenment Program, you are asked to voluntarily follow some basic rules. Many of the things on the list are ways to recapture your personal energy and cleanse your soul; put you back in touch with the spirit. Tasks like watch the sunrise and sunset every day, refrain from sex and practice veganism.
At the beginning of the class, Octavia kept alluding to a movie called Earthlings that she said we would watch on the last day of class and that if we watched it we would more than likely want to stay vegan. My wife and I took up the vegan lifestyle for the whole month of July. But before the month was up, we started to get curious about watching the movie.
A couple of nights before we were supposed to view the movie with the class, we decided to watch it. It was such an eye-opening experience. Literally, when the credits started to roll me and my wife looked at each other glassy-eyed and almost said in unison that we would never use animal products again. That was almost 4 ½ years ago, and we haven’t looked back. If you consider yourself an animal lover and still consume animal products, please watch the movie Earthlings. It will wake you up from the years of conditioning you’ve been subjected to by the dairy and meat industries. If you are curious about going vegan and need some guidance, please reach out and I would be glad to help.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
The day after we watched the movie Earthlings, we literally took all our nonvegan food items and donated them. I sold almost all of my clothing made of animal products within the first month after I went vegan. It probably took a whole year to get rid of all clothing.
Veganism is a transition. An awakening. It takes time to uncover all the truths and learn about which products are made with animals. So, take your time, research, ask questions, join Facebook groups, follow vegans on Instagram, learn all you can, but most of all, follow your heart.
If you are doing your best, that is all you can do. You will make mistakes. Almost nothing happens overnight and there is no such thing as the perfect vegan, animal rights activist, or the perfect way to transition or live a vegan lifestyle. As long as you are doing everything you can to not harm other sentient beings, humans and nonhuman animals alike, you can rest assured, you are doing an awesome job. Keep going!
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
There are many things people don’t understand about children’s psychology and how fragile children are when they young. Our children are vegan. One of them was even born vegan. There are exceptions made outside of our house for our children when the psychological damage outweighs them not getting a nonvegan piece of cake or some ice cream at a birthday party. When possibly my wife and I try and bring alternative vegan options for our kids but it doesn’t always happen. There is a lot of shaming that happens in the vegan community when parents admit things like this. Most often this comes from childless people or parents who don’t understand the psychology of what children can, and cannot, comprehend at different age levels. My wife and I understand that at some point, our daughters will probably want to consume animal products. Knowing we cannot control them when they are old enough and not at home, they can do whatever they want to. We hope that we are planting seeds the best we can so that they will choose to live a vegan lifestyle no matter what.
For myself, I don’t intentionally consume or wear any product that is made from an animal. As far as food is concerned, I’m sure I’ve accidentally eaten something with animal products in it or been given something by a well-meaning relative or friend when they’ve tried to make something vegan. Usually, if I have any doubt, I will just not eat it.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
One thing that I have been thinking about a lot lately is the absurdity around how children’s books are filled with animals who have loving relationships with each other- then we turn around and feed our children animal products made with the same animals used to teach our children about loving relationships, compassion, music, ABC, and many other important life lessons. When you really think about that, it is very odd, almost demented. Right?
It’s not easy raising a vegan child in a world where there are competing messages everywhere and at every stage of life. It’s the same with all these viral videos of animals we watch, things like @estherthewonderpig. How many nonvegans do you know who LOVE Esther but still eat pork and don’t even see the connection? It’s because we’ve done such a great job of teaching our children that some lives are more important than others and it’s okay to use others. Then we raise children who become adults who are warmongers, bigots, and racists.
My journey has really evolved since going vegan. First, I had to put together the equation that “meat=animals.” Then I learned that as a vegan if I’m to respect all beings it really means “ALL BEINGS” – humans, nonhumans, and insects.” Really to respect ALL of Mother Nature- the whole damn planet.
Conversations right now with my five years old are tough. It’s about helping her connect the dots. Teaching her that all beings have parents and families and community and if we destroy any one individual being, we could really upset their families – make them sad or confused, because they all work together. Just like us. It’s also about teaching her things like, cow’s milk is for calves and that when humans take it from the momma cows, the baby calves don’t get it. For eggs we say, if we eat eggs then we will never give the baby chicks a chance to hatch. And lastly, if we eat meat we say, the animal has to lose its life and then it’s family will be missing him/her. We know these conversations will only evolve and get more intense and difficult as our daughters grow older.
There is a psychological tightrope that we have to walk especially in social situations where we have to be aware enough to respect the importance of our child’s community-building skills, making sure that we’re not damaging their esteem and helping them build resentments towards us, while still upholding our family’s beliefs.
All these concepts of family and relationships our daughter understands. We use similar language when we discuss insects and bugs. The Internet is a great place for pictures also to show visuals of baby animals with their parents and so on. We feel blessed that we’ve at least exposed our daughters to the truth at such a young age. Hopefully, these lessons will help guide them to make the most compassionate choices.
Everyone is just doing their best, but as an animal rights activist, the best thing we can do is teach ourselves about emotional intelligence- about having the right types of conversations at the right time. Every interaction is different. But as vegans and activists, we carry the heavy burden as the minority trying to change the minds of a very well habituated majority- who for centuries have formed and passed down the same rituals without giving them much thought. Don’t get discouraged, things are changing. Peoples’ hearts and minds are opening. Keep at it!!
What does being vegan mean to you?
It’s as plain and simple as, “Doing my best to relieve suffering for any being I come in contact with.” This could be an ant or someone living on the street. As a man who lives a life of recovery from addiction, I’ve found that living a life of service is the best antidote to self-centeredness.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
Yes. But, activism, like finding veganism, has also been a journey. Most people don’t just go from meat-eater to animal rights activists overnight. There is often a learning curve and a lot of education and knowledge to be garnered so you can be an effective activist. There are also many different types of activism.
As an English major and writer, I do want to point out that the word vegan has become this lump sum of anyone who doesn’t consume animal products. If we created a continuum of who is often lumped into this group, we would have on one end, people who live a plant-based lifestyle, which is often people adhering to a diet of plant-based whole foods. Often people in this group still wear clothing made of animal products. In the middle, you would have the “vegan purists.” These are people who adhere to the standard dictionary definition of veganism, someone who doesn’t consume or wear anything made with animal products. On the other end of the spectrum, you would have Vegan Animal Rights Activists. These are vegans who also are involved in activism to try to raise other peoples’ awareness of cruelty to animals. Within the Animal Rights Activism community, there is also a whole continuum of the different types of activism.
Do I feel it’s important we label? Maybe? The jury is still out. I feel every moral movement needs a plethora of different participants. It’s no different with veganism and animal rights. All the groups mentioned in this response are doing good for the planet and the animals. If you are plant-based, please look into the atrocities of the fur and leather industries.
If you are vegetarian, which is also taking a moral stand against animal abuse, please do some research into the dairy industry. If you avoid meat because you don’t want animals to be killed, plain and simple, all dairy cows are eventually slaughtered prematurely for food or other human products. Vegetarianism is not really an alternative to animal abuse. Also, for pescatarians, please research about the atrocities of the fishing industry, especially “bycatch.”
What were your thoughts and feelings before your first activism event?
My first activist event was a Save Vigil with Los Angeles Pig Save. It was late 2016, right after the L.A. group formed. I can’t remember now where I learned about it but I was super nervous to see the animals face to face. I didn’t have any clue about what to expect.
I showed up, took pictures and gave the pigs water through the small holes in the steel trailer. As the tired, frightened and hungry baby pigs, stood wide-eyed and stared back out of the darkness at me from inside the truck. It was so hard to fathom that they were only a few minutes from their horrific deaths. When the trucks moved on and unloaded, you could hear the pigs scream and squeal inside the large slaughterhouse which was about 200 yards away.
I think at that first event I was pretty numb. I remember there were probably about 25 people or so. People crying, quiet, some telling the pigs that they were “sorry.” Saying, “I love you.” All there for one purpose, so that those pigs could possibly get a small bit of love before they were slaughtered for someone’s next meal.
It wasn’t until about a week later, I was with my wife and kids at a restaurant and it all hit me. I started to cry. I was overcome with such sadness for the life that humans have created for these amazing animals. Pigs are by far my favorite animals. Smart, with eyes like a human. At the vigils sometimes I would imagine that every pig in those transport trucks was a human reincarnated, trapped inside a pig’s body. Stuck, knowing something awful was about to happen, not able to do anything to stop it. Karmic sacrifices put on this Earth to hopefully one day teach others about compassion. To end the horrific slaughter that is factory farming.
What’s been your most memorable moment as an activist? Toughest moment?
Living in Los Angeles, I knew about National Animal Rights Day and always wanted to participate in it. In its purest form, it is on the more extreme end of the activism continuum because you use dead animal bodies to make your point. You can learn more here.
When I moved to Portland from Los Angeles in 2017, I was bummed that Portland wasn’t going to be hosting an event. In late 2017, I reached out to the founder of NARD, Aylam Orian, and told him I wanted to bring NARD to Portland. I surrounded myself with some of the most amazing activists on the planet and we had the most kick-ass event. We were so blessed to have Earthling Ed visiting at the same time. I told Ed, it was like the stars aligned and there he was, speaking at our event. We were also are so blessed that Tofurkey founder, Seth Tibbott lives here in the Portland area and he agreed to speak, too. He is such a force to be reckoned with.
Anyway, to go from no event to raising enough money to hold the event in downtown Portland and have about 400 people show up, I would say it was pretty successful. We now are going on our third straight year of hosting the event.
Also, over the past three years, I have dedicated time running the social media for Kindred Spirits Care Farm near Los Angeles.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I love everyone. Love is infinite. We are filled with so much love and yet we think we can only give it to a few people. We have enough love for every living thing on this planet and then some. I dare you to try and use it all up.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Inspirational Souls, Planet Protein, and any of the amazing blogs from any of the Inspirational Souls I’ve featured on the site.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Earthlings, Unity film, Dominion, Cowspiracy. Anything by Melanie Joy or Earthling Ed.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
The best meal has been the Cauliflower Fried “Chik’n” and waffles at City O’ City in Denver, CO.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
There is no right way. The only way is to be doing your best every day at trying to end as much suffering on this planet as you can.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
Portland is a vegan food mecca. It also has a small but mighty animal rights activist contingent. This year we are hosting the ARC. Living in a vegan-friendly city is a blessing. You can’t go a few steps without hearing someone telling someone else, “I’m Vegan.” And we have a vegan mini-mall and will be getting an all-vegan food cart pod very soon.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
The easiest way is to connect with others on social. Or partake in activism and meetups in your city or town. If there aren’t any, create one!
Have you connected with other vegan families in your city?
Yes! I live in West Linn, OR and we have a once a month community potluck. Really cool people show up with amazing food and our kids have a great time together. Definitely start a vegan potluck in your neighborhood. Great way to meet people and expose nonvegans to veganism.
What are your favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I love my boots from Tastemaker Supply.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
The biggest struggle is to find a balance between being a hardcore activist where everything is black and white and a compassionate human being who understands that this is all a journey and that I can only control my actions and lead by example.