Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is J. Lee, and I live in Walnut Creek, CA. For a living I’m a supervisor/ lifeguard coordinator at a university pool. My job includes facilitating swim programs, scheduling lifeguards, and supervising the pool. I’m also a CPR/First Aid instructor under the American Red Cross, and a certified open water and pool lifeguard instructor.
When I have free time, I volunteer and teach CPR and First Aid at a non-profit organization that works with underprivileged children. For hobbies I develop a website which is www.diyzine.com, and when time allows, I organize small festivals and gatherings.
I sing in an anarcho punk / animal rights band called Resist and Exist. We have played over 500 shows, and all over the United States. Feel free to follow me on my personal Instagram account: @veganpeacepunk
What lead you to veganism?
I got into vegetarianism as I was involved with the anarcho/peace punk movement in the 80’s. When I got the two EP’s, “Flux of Pink Indians” – Neu Smell EP, and “Conflict” – To The Nation of Animal Lovers EP, it really made me think of animal rights. These two bands are Anarcho Punk bands that had strong messages on animal rights and welfare. I became a vegetarian in 1985, and then became a vegan in the late 80’s.
I’m 50 years-old now, and I was 16 when I first got into the movement. A person who greatly supported me was my high school friend Rob, who was a drummer for a peace punk band called “Blind Justice.” Because of him, I had many close pen-pals like Rosa from Student Action Corps for Animals, and many other amazing organizations who used to send me big packages. I learned to deeply respect animals, and I didn’t want to eat them or support their torture anymore.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
It was easier because I was surrounded by Korean culture. My aunt would buy me groceries at Korean grocery stores, which carried an abundance of vegan and vegetarian options, including tofu and soy milk, in the 80’s items you wouldn’t find at most conventional grocery stores. As for clothing, I wore my leather things I owned at the time until it was useless to be resourceful, but people started to question me wearing leather products at protests, so I gave all my leather boots, jacket, belts, etc. to my high school friends.
Do you make any exceptions? for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
I do not have children at this time. I can share some insight into this question as I think of my friends that are vegan parents. My friend Scott has two daughters, and they were raised vegan since birth, but as they got older he gave them a choice to choose what they wanted to eat, and I think that is awesome.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
We should always be honest with children. Even if it hurts their feelings, we should not lie to them. There are always clever ways of conveying a message without traumatizing or being vulgar.
Showing children videos of slaughterhouses may be too traumatic. They may have nightmares. We need to find a soft way of sharing information, and when appropriate.
What does being vegan mean to you?
Veganism was considered to be quite radical when I first got into it. The vegan community was usually seen as all dirty hippies, anarchist punks, revolutionaries etc. Veganism today looks very different than what it used to, it means so many different things because it became a part of the mainstream, which is overall good. There were times when I thought about ditching the word “vegan,” and wanted to call my diet the Shaolin monk diet, because monks are known to be peaceful, practice martial arts, don’t eat animals, and they don’t even kill insects. They don’t eat garlic or onions, due to practicing Buddhism, and I eat those so I couldn’t say I really practice the Shaolin monk diet. I considered changing my diet to be called “plant based” as well. One day I became disgusted that there was so much deep fried, vegan junk food that was out there and popular in the vegan community, but I had to think veganism is not always practiced for the health benefits. I’ve experienced ongoing mixed feelings to this day. Sometimes I’m really proud to wear my vegan shirts, buttons, etc., but then there are times when I hear about vegan restaurants in L.A. that are gentrifying poor neighborhoods, or seeing a racist vegan on social media, and I become ashamed to associate myself to vegans sometimes.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
I feel that being vegan makes you an activist to some level. Overall, no I do not think it is a duty, because people should live how they chose to. We should be open-minded, and not pressure people aggressively to become an activist for animals, because it can push people away.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I have many non-vegan and ex-vegan friends. I don’t put people down because you aren’t always informed of what they went through in their life, if they have a medical issue for example and can’t be on a vegan diet for safety. If they ask me questions, I try to answer the best I can, and offer a lot of information with brochures.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Decolonize Your Diet – Luz Calvo
No Meat Athlete – Matt Fraizer
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
One of my favorite new films is “The Game Changers” that you can stream on Netflix. I do have my own video channel on YouTube. I’ve uploaded over 500 videos there. My YouTube username is : Soynoise
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
Flore in Los Angeles.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe.
Green ice cream – I use a blender and I put kale or spinach, with a little bit of soymilk, frozen pineapples, frozen mangos, one teaspoon of spirulina powder, and blend it. I then sprinkle hemp seed on the top.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
If your ever frustrated or don’t feel right, feel free to ask any questions. No one is judging you for a lack of commitment or inconsistency in remaining vegan, it’s not a competition.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
Living in Northern California, in East Bay, there are always things happening for vegans. There’s the Berkeley Animal Rights Center that holds weekly meetings, have vegan restaurant booths as a pop-up, potlucks, workshops, and other fun and educational activities. There’s a great shop with some events called the Animal Place’s Vegan Republic, which is an all vegan grocery store in Berkeley, and a non-profit that supports Animal Place Sanctuary. There are two vegan gyms in Oakland, which sell vegan protein powders and food, and of course we have Anonymous for Animals, Vegan Outreach, Compassionate Living, who organize the annual Berkeley Earth Day, and other events.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Social media is definitely connecting vegans to each other now. I recommend going to different VegFests, especially in Oakland, S.F., and in Sonoma County. Events like this can be a great place to network with other vegans.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
it means causing the least amount of suffering as possible. Doing the best, you
can to support cruelty free options that are not tested on animals, including
products and businesses. Treating humans with respect is absolutely
within my morality and ethics.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
To make a list of my favored vegan products and companies would take a long time. There are many products I’ve come across, but I honestly can’t recall the names of my most favorite at this time.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
So far Follow Your Heart’s Thousand Island salad dressing is challenging to find. Everything else seems to be available readily at most “health food” stores.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
When I have traveled, I’ve struggled finding a well-rounded vegan option to eat. When there’s nothing to eat, I have to go to the grocery store and get avocados, raw greens, trail mix, etc. I usually take healthy snacks with me, including raw nuts, protein bars, and more in my backpack when I’m on a road trip. However, now I use the “Happy Cow” app on my phone, and it gives a list of health food stores, and vegan friendly places all over.