Activist, Law Student
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
GP: I went vegetarian when I was 4. I was riding my bike and I saw a truck full of pigs on their way to slaughter (I live in a rural farming town, so this was a regular thing to see, but it was the first time I had ever questioned it). When my mum told me where they were going, I was absolutely horrified. I loved pigs, I didn’t want to eat them. And I didn’t after that. I never doubted my decision to no longer eat animals, but when I was around 15 (and at a very vulnerable point in my life), I started getting picked on at school for it and I didn’t really know how to stand up for myself, or defend my choices. It was mainly my schoolmates just joking around, but it started to get to me. I didn’t have any other vegetarian friends in my group, I actually didn’t even really know any other vegetarians that I could talk to about it. So I started to cave, not because I really wanted to eat meat, I didn’t even miss it and I didn’t even really like it, but I did it because I didn’t want to feel different to everybody else. Then, when I was 18, I watched Earthlings with one of my best friends who I met at uni, she was vegetarian at this time and transitioning into veganism slowly. Afterwards, I was so angry at myself that I could be so selfish for coming so far and turning back, so I immediately went vegan with no transition through vegetarianism. It was the best decision I have ever made. It’s become such a lifestyle for me, and it’s helped me make so many friends that I have so much in common with.
SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes what was difficult and did it get easier?
GP: Actually, not really. Because I was vegetarian for so long, from such a young age, I was completely fine with not eating meat again. Sacrificing dairy and all other animal products was okay too, although slightly harder. I think once you are informed on the realities of not just the industry, but the health effects of dairy, it kind of puts you off. Of course I caved a couple of times, I did really love cheese. But obviously the suffering and health risks that are associated with dairy (and eggs) outweigh the satisfaction of a meal that would soon be forgotten. Once you get over the initial cravings, being vegan is easy, especially with all the really great tasting animal product substitutes and mock meats. I really don’t feel like I am missing out, ever.
The only difficult thing I have found about being vegan is struggling to feel accepted, and I think that is something that a lot of people find hard at first. I am the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, and nobody else in my family is vegan. Veganism isn’t super popular where I live. In fact, lots of people don’t even know what a vegan is, and I can’t even tell you how many times I have been scorned at by some of the local farmers. I soon discovered that it’s great to get involved with activism, or just network and find some vegan friends for support. Once you meet some people like yourself, it makes everything better. I have also learnt to take insults constructively, if your choice to be vegan bothers somebody, it probably means they feel guilty for their diet and lifestyle choices, and that they know deep down, that you are making the most compassionate choice anybody can choose to make.
SS: What are some animal rights related things that you participate in?
GP: I actually live in Australia, and I do a lot of protesting there. My first ever one I went to was against live export, and I thought it was the best thing ever. Ever since then, I have tried to rally as much as possible. I have stood out the front of a restaurant on it’s opening night dressed as a waitress, holding real dead factory farmed rabbits on a tray while all the customers walked in. We got them to stop serving rabbit meat that night. I have snuck into the jumps races with a huge banner and unravelled it in the crowd, and have also been involved with a runway being crashed at Melbourne fashion week where we asked an Australian designer to go fur-free (which she finally agreed to after that night, yay!). I also did the PETA ‘lettuce lady’ demo as promo for veganism and the launch of the PETA Australia website.
I love doing things that are attention-grabbing and are going to send a powerful message. I used to get a bit scared and nervous, but have finally realised there is no need to be. These animals need people to fight for them, and I want to be one of those people.
SS: What are your favourite animal rights organizations?
GP: There are so many! I love so many big ones- like Animals Australia, PETA and Oscar’s Law. But there are also some small ones that are very close to my heart- Freedom for Farmed Rabbits was started by a group of my close friends, and I do work with them to highlight the suffering of Factory Farmed Rabbits (rabbit meat is becoming very popular here). I also love the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, who work tirelessly to ban jumps racing and to protect, save and rehome racehorses so they all don’t end up at the knackery when their (often very short) career is over.
I could go on forever about my favourite organisations, there are so many amazing animal advocates all over the world, and our numbers are growing larger every single day. That makes my heart so happy.
SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?
GP: It was without a doubt the best decision I have ever made in my life. Not only are you saving the lives of so many animals by choosing to be cruelty-free, you are saving yourself too. Basically, animal products are toxic to your health, and being healthy is of paramount importance to me. In my opinion, you can’t be healthy if animal products are a part of your diet. When I chose to give them up, I felt happier, had more energy, my skin cleared up and I lost 15 kilograms (which I believe is around 33 pounds). Being vegan has also worked wonders for my immune system, I rarely get sick, and if I do, I get over it very quickly.
Something else that I think is really important to remember when going vegan is to not be mad at yourself for your previous lifestyle choices, which I struggled with for a while. We grow up in a world where animal cruelty is a learned aspect of our lifestyle, we are told it is okay, and ‘normal’ to eat animals- it’s okay to eat a pig, but not to eat a dog etc. And it also becomes normal for us to consider one animal a ‘pet’, and one animal ‘dinner’. I love the Phillip Wollen quote- “put a baby in a room with an apple and a bunny rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I will buy you a new car”. I think once you do go vegan, it’s important to share what you’ve learned, and what your beliefs are with the people around you, so animal cruelty doesn’t become a learned and accepted thing to them, too. And if you lose friends over it, then they weren’t real friends in the first place!
SS: Do you have any memories that stand out in your mind about someone saving an animal? Or relating to an animal in a unique way?
I kept changing my mind about what to write here. There are so many amazing rescues I have witnessed or heard about. But instead, I just wanted to talk about my Chinchilla cat, Stanford. I found him abandoned, dirty and starving in a bowling alley car park. His owners didn’t want him, so I adopted him. Sometimes I swear he is me in cat form, I know he will never let me down and he is my best friend. I love him dearly.
I also have to make quick mention to my two rescued farmed rabbits- they lived in rabbit hell for just over two years churning out litters of babies for meat and fur, until they literally couldn’t produce anymore. They were meant to be dead by now, but they are with me instead, where they can live out the rest of their lives happily with grass under their feet instead of wire, and will always be safe.