What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
I went vegan when I was 15, so 11 years ago! I was very depressed at the time and I discovered a video of animal cruelty. I was shook and furious that such violence is happening and no one told me about it. I searched online ways to help animals and immediately went vegan and join the local animal rights group.
Tell us about our journey to activism?
As soon as I saw footage of animals being brutalized, I knew that I had to dedicate myself to stop it. I knew that not participating in the violence by being vegan was not enough, because by being vegan we’re simply not paying people to kill animals, be we’re not doing anything to STOP them from doing it. Non-participation is not enough! So, right after learning about the cruelty of animal agriculture and veganism, I immediately began to google animal rights groups in the area where I was living. I organized my first protest, which was also the first protest I had ever attended against KFC and I haven’t stopped since. I got involved with NARN – Northwest Animal Rights Network, Action for Animals, HSUS, and any and every group working to help save animals’ lives. I gave it my all – and still do! I started an animal rights club at my high school call Students for Animal Rights and organized protests, vegan food giveaways, movie screenings, and campaigned against dissection. Now I organize with the global animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and I have never felt more inspired and hopeful to change the world for animals!
Why are you an activist?
It is absolutely our responsibility and moral obligation as beings on this planet to fight for liberation and an end to violence against all oppressed groups. I’m an activist because I want liberation for all, and that includes the refugees in ICE detention centers, innocent people in prison, and animals in slaughterhouses! I’m also motivated to be an activist because I absolutely believe we can and we are changing the world, poco a poco, we’re doing it! We don’t have time to be comfortable live day by day following the rules and allowing for heinous cruelties to be committed. It is never too late for us to get outside of our comfort zone and take action for compassion, justice, and a better world!
What type of activism are you involved in? Please feel free to share the groups you participate in.
I’ve done a lot of different forms of activism including leafleting, tabling, vegan bake sales, collecting signatures, protesting, civil disobedience, and open rescue among other things. I’ve volunteered with literally more groups than I can remember. My experience volunteering and organizing with DxE has been the most motivating and impactful for me!
What were your thoughts and feelings before your first activism event?
I was so excited when I did my first protest! I had never been to a protest before or organized one, but I figure that’s how I will learn. I was so young I barely remember what I was thinking beforehand. I know I was really hoping to get my other friends from high school excited and involved in activism too.
How did you feel once the event was over?
I felt good that everything went according to my plans, although it was a very simple protest. I was eager to go to more actions and learn about how to organize and do more impactful actions. I definitely feel like my protest didn’t make much of a difference haha.
How do you feel you are most effective as an activist?
We all have different skills and passions and we can use those to help animals. I truly believe that activism takes many, many forms and there’s a place for all of it in the movement for animal liberation! For me, I feel most empowered and effective doing community building and nonviolent direct action. I organize activist Circles and community meetups for DxE because I love people and community is the base of the movement and we need a strong base – a strong community – to sustain ourselves as activists! The protests, civil disobedience, open rescue, and other forms of nonviolent direct action (NVDA) that I have participated in I also feel has been really effective and impactful. Through NVDA we have inspired and mobilized tons of people to take action, gotten serious press and public attention around the issue of animal liberation, saved countless lives of precious animals, and really changed the narrative around animal rights and veganism.
What’s been your most memorable moment as an activist? Toughest moment?
The most memorable and the toughest moment has been open rescue. Carry animals in my arms to safety and taking them away from those awful facilities inspires and motivates me. Now there are activists and groups around the world doing open rescue and knowing they are out there saving lives makes me so happy! At the same time, going to the frontlines of animal torture and bearing witness to their pain has stuck with me. It really motivates me as an activists and reminds me how urgent it is that we fight for animal liberation. It breaks my heart to think about the animals that we couldn’t save… to know that all the animals I met at the facilities I’ve been to are dead now. It’s just unimaginable, but it’s real, and we have to change it.
What is your favorite type of activist event?
Mass open rescues and disruptions! Mass open rescues are so incredibly inspiring, often get media coverage, raise the bar for animal rights activism, and save lives! Disruptions are creative, unique and be done by anyone at any time, we don’t need anything but our voice to speak up and disrupt to violence!
Who are your activism role models? Why?
Everyone! I’m genuinely inspired by everyone in the movement, everyone who is out there taking action and being the change!
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
I just did it overnight, it was extremely easy for me because I identified so strongly with the victim’s perspective. I ate super simply, just things like bagels, rice, and veggies at first. The only non-vegan thing I had were my sneakers and I didn’t have any money or support to buy new ones so I just wore them until I found new canvas ones on the sidewalk.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products?
It definitely depends on the person. I think when we are really young, we’re not always able to process what we are seeing. I know I wasn’t ready to think critically about animals and social justice until my teens.
What does being vegan mean to you?
Vegan means doing the best we can to reduce harm in the world. I don’t think it’s possible to be a “perfect” vegan and it’s a waste of time to argue about. We are here to do to best we can, do our best to not support industries of violence, and I would say we, as vegans, should also being aware of and fighting for other social justice causes. All oppression is connected.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
Yes! How can we stop at being vegan? If someone were killing our loved ones we wouldn’t say “that’s terrible, I’m not going to buy their dead body when you’re done”… we would say “Hey! Stop!” and do everything we can to stop them! That’s activism!
Are you the activist you want to see in the world? Why?
Hell yeah! But I don’t want a world of people like me, I want the world we have – people with different passions and backgrounds taking their own creative and bold forms of activism!
What is the activism scene like in your city?
AMAZING! Berkeley is an amazing place to be an activist!
What personal recommendations can you make for people to get involved in activism?
Search online and on FB for local activist groups, find the community and get involved! It’s never too late! I also highly, highly recommend coming to the Animal Liberation Conference which DxE organizes out here in Berkeley and is a life-changing conference!
What do you feel is your biggest area of opportunity for growth in your activism?
I’m not sure! I know I will find it.
How do you balance your well-being and activism?
It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can take care of myself and not feel guilty about it or mad at myself for “not doing enough”. I have a routine, which I think really helps me. Every day I work out, stretch, and run before I get to work. I also surround myself with people who care about the world and we inspired each other and keep each other positive.