Tell us a little about yourself.
I live just outside of Portland, Oregon, and I am a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, where I direct the Animal Law Litigation Clinic, which is the only law school clinic in the world dedicated to farmed animal advocacy. I’ve practiced and taught animal law for more than a decade.
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
I became a vegan as a teenager, more than twenty-five years ago. Like most kids, I loved animals. I received two piglets as a gift, and I bottle-fed and cared for them, only to abruptly find out one day that they had been slaughtered. That sent me on a research mission checking out every book I could find from the library (this was before ready internet access) about farmed animals and factory farming, and I pretty quickly became a vegan and an animal advocate.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
It was challenging, as there weren’t as many vegan alternatives available, and I was still a teenager so I wasn’t doing my own shopping. Add to that that my family wasn’t super excited about me becoming vegan. My mom was sure it was a phase (but now she too has been vegan for more than 15 years). I just did the best I could.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?
I don’t have kids but having companion animals has posed some challenges over the years. I don’t currently have cats, but I have in the past. They are obligate carnivores and my conscience has always struggled with feeding other animals to them. Currently, two of my three dogs are vegan (freegan, really–I don’t prevent them from taking treats others give them). My eldest is thirteen and has a lot of health issues and has been put on a non-vegan prescription diet, which is hard for me.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
I don’t think it’s my place to tell someone what they must do. Each of us are in different places. Personally, I feel fortunate that I am able to have a career that so thoroughly reflects and embodies my values, and that I get to help others achieve that as well.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I aim to be very compassionate toward non-vegans. They are animals too! And, like I once was, they are influenced by the many powerful forces at play trying to keep us in the dark about the cruelties inherent in animal agriculture. I stand ready to answer questions for anyone who is curious, but don’t try to foist things on folks.
Any recommended Vegan books?
There are so many good ones! Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation was hugely influential for me and is a classic that has stood the test of time.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Most of my media are scholarly animal law articles that most folks probably don’t want to read. But they’re here if anyone does.
I do try to write Op-eds as often as possible to reach a broader audience. Here are a few recent Op-eds: Easter Ham During a Pandemic—Rethinking Tradition, and As Facilities Close for Covid-19, Stranded Animals Could Suffer.
And here are a few recent podcast interviews I’ve done: Blood on Their Hands: How the U.S. Department of Agriculture Is Complicit in Tiger Abuse; and The Case of the Speedy Slaughterhouse.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
This I definitely can’t narrow down to one. I love to cook and I’m always trying different recipes, including non-vegan recipes that I just veganize. Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s cookbooks and recipes are definitely favorites though, including her Chipotle Mac & Cheese recipe.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
You don’t need to be perfect! This isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing the best you can from where you are right now. Each and every one of us is imperfect and has room to grow. What matters is that you are trying.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
The internet has made this so much easier. When I first went vegan, I didn’t know any other vegans. The first vegan friends I had were friends who I inspired. Eventually I forced myself out of my introvert shell to go to local vegan potlucks. Now you can find not just vegan friends, but vegan friends who also share your other interests through online resources like Facebook, Meetup, and more. But I would encourage you not to hang out exclusively with vegans.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
Yes! I try to be kind and compassionate to all beings, including humans, and to meet them where they are. In the last couple years, I’ve started practicing mindfulness meditation and this definitely helps in this effort.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I love our local vegan clothing shop Herbivore. They have amazing designs. I’ve started trying to gift myself a piece of their clothing for my birthday each year. I also love Scapegoat, the vegan tattoo shop just a few doors down from Herbivore. Brian Thomas Wilson, the owner, has done three pieces for me, including one of the pigs whose deaths inspired my veganism.
He also did one of Nosey, an elephant I was ultimately able to help rescue from an extremely exploitative circus and take to a sanctuary.