Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Kacie Bernhardt – I Always Put Myself in the Animal’s Situation and think, “What if That Were Me?

I am a Graphic Designer who currently resides in Bend, Oregon. Aside from animals, I have always had a passion for art. Whether that is design, painting, photography or sketching, I’ve always been someone who appreciates creativity and tries to implement that into my everyday life. And even into my activism, as well!

Water color Painting from “Animal Tributes” collection

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

Growing up, I always felt so connected to animals, more so than people. The same goes for today. I’m from Alaska so my connection to nature and wildlife has always been tremendously strong. Despite the guilt, I would feel when I consumed animal products, I continued to eat them because like the majority of us, I was told these products were necessary for my diet. However, after college, I started doing my own research and came across a lecture by Gary Yourofsky that forever changed my life. His words rang so true to me and I thought to myself “nothing has ever made more sense.” I immediately became vegetarian, not fully understanding the cruelty of the dairy and egg industries. About a year later, I came across a PETA video that showed the horrors of baby calves in the dairy industry. I was disgusted and heartbroken knowing I was paying for animals to be treated in such unimaginable ways. I told myself “No more. These animals don’t need to suffer to sustain me.” That day, nearly three years ago, I became vegan and never looked back.

National Animal Rights Day, Portland, OR. 2018.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

It just took some thought and creativity at first. Of course, my meals weren’t as exciting then as they are today because it takes knowledge and practice, but I really didn’t struggle when it came time to phase out my non-vegan items. There was no “going back” and therefore I forced myself to find alternatives. Being stern and holding myself accountable really helped in that sense. As far as clothing, I donated a lot of items that I no longer wanted and I just adjusted to buying cruelty-free items.

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?

My partner, Adam and I don’t currently have any children, but we are both vegans and talk frequently about how our children will be vegan. The idea of raising compassionate, kind human beings makes me really excited at the idea. I like to think that they will be pioneers of the future, one day fighting for animal rights as Adam and I are doing. Maybe by that day, things will have taken a dramatic shift and I can tell them that we were on the right side of justice. I want to make them proud someday.

Adam and I. Three years vegan together

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

I think there is a fine line between not traumatizing children but also showing/telling them the truth. Not having children, this is difficult for me to elaborate on, but I do believe there comes a time when they need to know and see the truth. I’ll leave it at that!

What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?

To me, it has always meant having compassion for ALL living beings. Whether that is a bug or a pig or a bird, there is never a time when I think, “This life has more value than the other.” It’s been a blessing and yet a curse to sympathize so deeply with other humans and animals. I always put myself in their situation, often times thinking “What if that were me? Would I want that done to me?” It has allowed me to relate on another level, yet it can be overwhelmingly sad at times too.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

Absolutely, yes. As vegans, it is our moral obligation to spread awareness not only about animal exploitation but we also need to serve as a voice for the oppressed and the defenseless – the animals. They so desperately need us to speak up for them right now and reveal the truth about the cruelties and injustices that are happening against them every day.

Human Meat Tray Demo, Portland, OR. 2018.

I realized this one day when I said to myself “being vegan is just not enough.” And it was because I would see footage of animals suffering and dying on our behalf, and I just had this fire within me to tell and show everyone. One of my all-time favorite quotes is one by Desmond Tutu and he says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We can’t be “neutral” right now, too much depends on us and our work as activists.

Human Meat Tray Demo, Portland, OR. 2018

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

I’ll be completely honest… I struggle with this and it is something I am learning to be better every day. When I first became active, I would get so angry with ALL non-vegans. I would think to myself “This is your fault. How could you support this and let this happen?” But then I started to think back on the 23 years of my life when I was consuming animal products. I didn’t know the truth about these industries and the ways in which animals suffer immensely for our pleasure. And I relate that to every non-vegan today… they just don’t know. This has allowed me to develop compassion for non-vegans because at our core we are loving, kind people but we are fighting a deeply conditioned way of thinking.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Right now, my partner and I are obsessed with Ichiza Kitchen, which is a pan-Asian, completely vegan restaurant in Portland, OR. Their mock meats are so cutting edge and unlike anything, we’ve had before. Every time we eat there, we still give each other that look of “WOW, this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

I truly have SO many favorites. My partner and I love to cook and try new things, so we are always experimenting with different recipes. Some of my go-to websites for recipes are:

The Full Helping

Oh She Glows

Food 52 – The Vegan Section

Minimalist Baker

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

YOU.CAN.DO.THIS. I know in the beginning it’s difficult and overwhelming. You’re breaking a cycle that has been familiar to you your whole life and you’re going against virtually everything you’ve learned but I’m here to tell you that it can be done! And it’s worth it! Aligning your actions with your morals is one of the most rewarding feelings. Knowing that your decisions are saving lives and making the world a better place is unexplainable. You’ll also be investing in a better future for yourself, as well. Also, find other vegans to talk to. A support system will make all of the difference! And of course, please reach out to me personally if you need inspiration, recipes, advice, or just someone to talk to. I’m here to help!

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Bend (central Oregon) is becoming well adjusted to fit the needs of those who are plant-based. We have restaurants popping up frequently that feature vegan options and we have plenty of places to grocery shop like Whole Foods and Natural Grocers. The activism scene is also on the rise with events happening pretty regularly. In a nutshell, the vegan scene in Bend is getting better every day.

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Speaking from experience, and I know this might sound lame, but Facebook changed my life when it came to meeting other vegans. I discovered the magic of “Facebook Groups” and I have developed so many new connections with like-minded individuals. You can find local groups and stay up-to-date with news and events in your area. Another recommendation would be to join or volunteer at a local animal sanctuary in your area. Chances are, there are vegans that work and volunteer at these places and not only will you get the opportunity to spend time with and help the animals, but you’ll meet some amazing people as well!

Harmony Farm Sanctuary, Sisters, OR. 2018

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
A few of my favorites are:

It does, for sure. Living a compassionate life means having compassion towards all living-beings including us and other humans. If we want to set a good example and lead a life that aligns with our morals, then that means having sympathy towards everyone.

What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

W3LL People (makeup): Cruelty free, vegan options

Mad Hippie (skincare): Cruelty free, 99% vegan

Herbivore Botanicals (skincare + wellness): 100% vegan

Birkenstocks (sandals): Vegan options

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

For me, it has been leather… when it comes to shoes, that is. Finding vegan shoes and/or boots has been challenging, so if you have any recommendations, let me know!

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

To be honest, there are still times that I struggle with veganism. As vegans, we are still the minority and we are advocating for something that has not yet been socially accepted. (“Yet” being the important word there.) We are fighting against years and years of social conditioning and therefore, we are going to face challenges along the way. One challenge that comes to mind is learning ways to be most effective in my activism without offending others. Advocating for less violence and more compassion has a way of offending people, believe it or not. I’ve been accused of acting “better than” or “superior” to those who consume animal products. People assume that because I’m vegan that I consider myself to be more important. This can be frustrating because at the end of the day, being vegan has nothing to do with me rather everything to do with the animals. And then you get those who mock you, laugh at you, or just wont give you the time of day. Being an activist definitely requires some thick skin.

Secondly, probably the most challenging thing for me is watching my friends and family (most of whom are not vegan) consume animal products. It’s unbearable for me to watch or be around, and therefore I’ve made a conscious decision to not partake in these sorts of situations. In other words, if there are animal products at the table, I will excuse myself out of pure respect for the animals. It’s not something I can or will ever be able to support.

Debating with a bystander who was highly offended by the Human Meat Tray Demo in Portland, OR. 2018
Tastemaker Supply – 100% Vegan Footwear – Pictured – Women’s Taste Artistry (Red)

1 Comment

  1. Such a great interview. Kacie you’re doing amazing work putting out the word for all animals. I am seeing great progress. Especially with our youth of today who are the future

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