“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude,
as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to,
animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.“
I became a vegan in 2013. I wish I could say I did so overnight, but no, it has taken my whole life. I went vegetarian in high school because I was influenced by my participation in Food Not Bombs. I knew who PETA was, but beyond that, had no real idea about the concept of animal rights. I knew that I liked animals, though. Around the time I was 19 or 20, I stopped being a vegetarian because I craved animal products (meat). I gave in. And then I ate meat and dairy basically all the time. I know now that I was a very unhealthy vegetarian and my “craving meat” was really just my body desiring nutrients. Anyway, when I went to law school in 2009, I started getting involved in animal rights causes and joined the Animal Law Society. I still didn’t know much about the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.
During law school, I switched back to a vegetarian diet because it was weird to eat flesh when I was so involved in animal advocacy. At the time, I was focused on animal shelters and no-kill advocacy. I attended many protests. Some time after, while scrolling through a Nathan Winograd ebook, I saw a photo of me protesting!
I started my Twitter account, The Paw Report, around this time to cover issues of companion animals. That’s where my website name comes from, and even though I now cover all sorts of topics concerning all nonhuman animals, I am quite attached to my original name and I do not wish to change it.
Anyway, back to my story. The activists who I protested alongside at our demonstrations were almost all vegan. Soon it became apparent to me that continuing to consume dairy and egg products was also weird! A friend at a protest made a comment to me about eating dairy, which is a product of cruelty, while protesting against animal cruelty. His words stung, but he wasn’t wrong. I looked up some videos on farm animal cruelty and cried a lot. I decided to stop eating dairy and eggs because it was now clear that it was the right thing to do.
I was now wading into the waters of veganism and activism. I still didn’t really know what to eat, though. I remember going home to Rhode Island that Christmas and telling my family that I was not going to eat animal products anymore. That did not leave much for me to eat! I actually ate a baked shrimp while I was there and have always regretted it. At the time, I felt guilty for not eating the food my family worked so hard to prepare, but in hindsight I know that I should not have felt guilty about refusing to budge.
“Every time I sit down to eat, I cast my lot: for mercy, against misery; for the oppressed, against the oppressor; and for compassion, against cruelty. There is a lot of suffering in the world, but how much suffering can be addressed with literally no time or effort on our part? We can just stop supporting it, by making different choices.” — Bruce Friedrich (via Free From Harm)
I decided to use my guilt over having failed as a vegan so soon after I transitioning into one, to something positive. I had heard about the 21 Day Kickstart program through PCRM.org. The 21 Day Kickstart Program helps people transition to a plant-based diet beginning with a pledge, and was set to begin New Year’s Day. I took the pledge and immediately felt a lot better and more confident. Even though I didn’t end up using the program (which sends out daily emails with content such as recipes and advice), that simple click of signing up for it signified a commitment to a vegan lifestyle. It made me feel like this was it. I knew there was support out there.
And more importantly, I knew I was doing the right thing: There is no moral justification to exploiting animals.
These are just a few sites I could recommend. Note that I am linking specific sections of each site; I recommend that you browser through the sites fully to get more information.
If you are interested in a particular issue or want more advice, please do not hesitate to contact me.
As you can tell from my story above, my journey to veganism has been heavily intertwined with activism. Although I still support companion pet advocacy, I am more interested in the broader issue of ending speciesism (i.e. discrimination against nonhuman animals).
Near the beginning of 2015, I joined Direct Action Everywhere as an organizer with the New York City chapter. As a chapter, we do monthly days of action (i.e. disruptions), sanctuary trips, potlucks, and community events. We worked closely with another local activist group called Collectively Free and their NYC chapter. I no longer do much activism anymore.
If you’re a vegan and haven’t yet gotten involved in activism, then I urge you to please participate in activities that you feel would be appropriate for you and effective for the movement. This could mean leafletting or doing other forms of educational outreach, organizing or joining a protest, or even online activism such as petitioning, Twitter storms, or blogging. There are many ways we can teach and inspire others. If you’re interested in this model, please check out this talk by my friend Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere: “From Corporate Law to Climbing Barbed Wire” (video from Farm Sanctuary’s 2015 Hoe Down).
If you have any questions about getting involved then please contact me.
Last updated 12/19/2018.