Activist and entrepreneur.
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
JS:To the horror of my mother, I became a vegetarian at age 8 after watching “Babe” and discovering that pigs, my favorite animal, were killed to produce the meat I was eating. I was a huge meat eater as a child- hamburgers, bacon, corn dogs, you name it. However, through a combination of my love for animals and my stubbornness, I was able to pass on these foods at the dinner table.
For most of my life I was completely misinformed about vegans. I can’t count how many times people replied to my vegetarianism by saying, “But you’re not vegan, right?” and I replied, “No, those people are crazy.” Finally, at the age of 21, I saw an episode of “30 Days” that completely changed my perspective. In an hour I was given a crash course in the symbiotic relationship between the dairy industry and the veal industry, the deplorable conditions in which egg laying hens live, and the tragic fate of all male chicks born to egg laying hens (spoiler alert: they end up in a massive grinder, because they are the wrong breed to be raised for meat and they are incapable of laying eggs). That night was a turning point and the first step in what would eventually become the most incredible process of my life.
Also, my once horrified mother and my brother are now both completely vegan, and my father is vegetarian but working towards full veganism. Watching their transformation has been a crucial force in my activism, as I’ve now seen what a little information, a little delicious cooking, and a lot of patience can accomplish.
SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes, what was difficult and did it get easier?
JS: The transition was absolutely difficult. At first, I was inspired and motivated by the gruesome footage I had seen and the heartbreaking stories I had heard, but eventually, as my memory faded and food cravings grew, I occasionally caved in for a bit of cheese. Eggs were incredibly easy. The image of those chicks being poured into a grinder is incapable of fading in my mind.
The important issue to remember with cheese is that we have a strong addiction to it. Milk contains “caso morphins”, an addictive substance intended by nature to keep a calf from straying from its mother. Unfortunately, it creates the same morphine-like addiction in humans, which is why you’ll often hear people say, “I could give up meat but I could never give up cheese.” Quitting cheese is like quitting smoking. It seems impossible while you’re addicted, but once you’re clean, the thought of picking it up again seems repulsive. With so many incredible dairy substitutes on the market, I now have zero temptation to bite into anything that was once secreted from a cow.
SS: What are some animal rights related things you participate in?
JS: I attend as many protests and demonstrations as I possibly can, because I truly believe in them as a tool of social revolution (especially when you consider the influential protests of every other significant social movement). I also work for the most incredible vegan chef in the world at Madeleine Bistro, where I’m able to bring mind-blowing food to skeptical carnivores and enthusiastic vegans.
I’ve recently taken charge of the LA Veg Society’s Humane Education Program, which will bring influential, eloquent speakers into universities, high schools, and other public venues. I’m incredibly excited about this program and its enormous potential to reach curious and compassionate students through education.
Finally, I run a mostly vegan centric blog, www.treekisser.tumblr.com. In the past year I’ve reached almost 2000 followers, and I use this opportunity to provide information and inspiration to whomever is listening. I also provide my contact information and an open invitation for anyone considering veganism to reach out to me for help and advice. I extend the same invitation to any of you reading this.
SS: What are your favorite AR organizations?
JS: While I’m thrilled to see a wide variety of animal rights organizations, all with creative tactics and compassionate messages, my absolute favorite group is Mercy For Animals. They are incredibly smart with their money and their resources, and they are always launching campaigns that I believe will make a substantial difference. I donate to them whenever I can, because I have absolute faith that those dollars will be used to effectively change hearts and open minds.
SS: What would you say to someone who is considering becoming vegan?
JS: First I would promise them, without any doubt in my heart or mind, that not only would they not regret it, but that they’ll look back on it as the best choice they’ve ever made. I am a better person because of it, and not just with regards to my effects on animals. As Jonathan Safron Foer says, “Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with each use.” The more you are able to act with compassion, the kinder your heart becomes.
As with anything worth doing, it’s not easy at first. You’ll be taken out of your comfort zone, you’ll have cravings, and you’ll most likely be judged by people you’re close to. You won’t stop wanting your hamburger after one day, and you’ll have to constantly remind yourself why you aren’t eating it. Then one day, you’ll wake up, see that hamburger, and smile when you realize you have no interest in it. I still remember when I realized I no longer wanted cheese- it was a glorious moment.
Please, please, please watch Earthlings at www.earthlings.com and make the connection.
And, as an extra reward for your kindness, Mother Nature will throw in the extra bonus of fat loss, abundant energy, glowing skin, and drastically lower rates of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes!
SS: Do you have any memories in your mind that stand out in your mind about someone saving an animal? Or relating to an animal in a unique way?
JS: I could go on for pages here, but instead I’ll share the first story that came to mind. I was blessed to spend this past Thanksgiving in the company of two rescued turkeys who now reside at Animal Acres. Though they had come from places of extreme abuse and deprivation, they were so kind, so affectionate, and so wanting of compassion and a gentle hand. I distinctly remember sitting cross-legged with a turkey in my lap, holding back tears, thinking about how many millions of his kind had been murdered just the week before in the name of “tradition”. Moments like this are why I work constantly towards a day when people extend the circle of compassion to include not only dogs and cats, but all conscious, sentient beings.