Activist, actress and blogger.
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
LW: Something completely accidental. I had been happily dining on meat, dairy, and eggs for twenty-four years of my life before an unexpected experience completely changed me forever. Back in 2007, my husband, who was just as much a carnist as me at the time, and I were at home watching Fast Food Nation – you know, the indie film about the horrors of fast food? Well, I fell asleep during the middle chunk, a bad habit of mine while watching cinema during the day. At the end of the movie, Steve (the hubby) woke me up and said, “Linds you gotta watch this – it’s crazy!”, and showed me the last scene in the movie, which was the kill floor of a cattle slaughterhouse. I was an emotional wreck, my shirt soaked with tears, and I could barely control the shame and shock overcoming me, as I watched what was horrifically occurring onscreen - scared, innocent animals screaming out in fear and desperation, trying to do everything they could to save their own lives, were being violently killed for their flesh. In that moment, the lightbulb of my conscience lit up deep inside, and I knew in my heart that my life would never be the same.
It took a year and a half of dipping my toes into the waters of vegan eating – first I cut all land animals from my diet, then about a year later, I dropped fish off of the menu, and in the late summer of 2008, I began secretly cheating on my vegetarian diet by having “vegan days” – days where I would only eat vegan meals. And I fell head over heels in love. See, once you learn all about the meat, dairy and egg industries, it’s hard to ever want to support them in any way, shape, or form. And if you can arm yourself with delicious, satisfying, fulfilling vegan food, it becomes a no-brainer. It did for me. By October 2008, the “vegan days” led me to take the leap and commit 100% to a vegan lifestyle – not only in my eating, but in all of my purchasing and living. And I have never looked back!
SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes, what was difficult and did it get easier?
LW: Yes and no. The hardest part was re-learning how to make food for myself and also unraveling all of the myths I had learned – milk being needed for strong bones, needing to eat a lot of protein to survive, and that a vegan diet is naturally vitamin deficient, to name a few. It took me about a month or two to get used to this way of life, and, once I replaced old habits with new, compassionate ones, they stuck!
So, I would say – even though it was a bit difficult at first, it got way easier. Mostly because, when you choose to do something for a cause bigger than you, empowerment and humility naturally result. Every day, I get to honor animals and the sacred beauty of our Earth by eating and living vegan. It is my gift to the world, and it’s the very least I can do. Even when I’m inconvenienced (which is rarely, to be honest), I still feel so thankful and so ready to make little sacrifices for such a big payoff. And reminding myself that every vegan saves an upwards of ninety-five animals a year certainly helps!
SS: What are some animal rights related things you participate in?
LW: Well, right now, I’m working on a cage-free egg campaign in So Cal through the Humane Alliance of Southern California, and I’m loving it. I get to interact with students, many who happen to be young, intelligent women, and empower them with ways to be an awesome student activist and create change at their universities. It’s pretty amazing. And we get to help chickens at the same time! Another great organization doing fabulous work for caged chickens is the Humane League in Philadelphia (www.humaneleague.com). Love those guys!
I also love supporting and protesting with the Animal Protection and Rescue League (www.aprl.org) – they are doing a fabulous foie gras campaign in Los Angeles right now, which I highly recommend checking out.
I am also a huge fan and frequenter of Animal Acres, a local farmed animal sanctuary in Acton, CA (www.animalacres.org). If I could live there, I would! Farmed animal sanctuaries hold a very special place in my heart, not only because they are places of rescue and relief for highly abused farmed animals, but these animals serve as ambassadors of their kind – every weekend, visitors can interact with pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows, and other beautiful beings and make the connection between the food the eat and the animals whose lives are needlessly sacrificed for our palates.
Finally, there’s Kiss Me, I’m Vegan!, my blog – www.kissmeimvegan.com. KMIV celebrates the “happy vegan” and animal rights activist in all of us. Through my blog, I’m able to connect new vegans and vegans-in-the-making with animal rights all-stars, so that everyone can learn how to be activist in their daily life. I’m so humbled by and grateful for the hundreds of supporters I have on KMIV – what started out as a tiny little blog has blossomed into an international family of compassion, and it’s one of my greatest joys in life.
SS: What would you say to encourage someone is considering becoming vegan?
LW: I would share my absolute favorite quote, which is by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks (www.compassionatecooks.com). She says:
”Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something, anything!”
I love that concept – that anything is better than nothing. Taking baby steps is what helped me to go fully vegan two years ago, and I think it’s an important part of the vegan-to-be’s process. Be forgiving and patient with yourself, and arm yourself with the knowledge of why living vegan is such an awesome way to be. I have a great section on my blog called “Three Steps” and it serves to help people break down the walls between wanting to go vegan and actually going vegan. You can find out more here: http://kissmyvegan.blogspot.com/p/my-favorites.html.
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?
LW: Oh yeah. This is an excerpt from a blog post I published back in June about a pigeon I rescued in Brooklyn (to check out the full story, visit: http://kissmyvegan.blogspot.com/2010/06/icarus.html):
I had a really wonderful Father's Day. Dad came in from Jersey, and I took him and some of my family out to one of my favorite places in Brooklyn - Dao Palate (the yummiest vegan restaurant in my hood). After dining, we set out to peruse the local fair in Park Slope that filled the streets that day, and, despite the heat, we had a fun time looking at handmade necklaces, linens, photographs, and other items for sale.
As we were all crossing to head back to my step-mom's car, I noticed something in the middle of the street - a small pigeon, struggling to move, helpless against the cars coming her way. It didn't take me longer than a moment's time to run over to the bird, scoop her up in my arms, and bring her to the side of the street. It was clear that this poor bird was in shock - as she tried to flap out of my arms, my dad suggested I lay her down on the ground to see if she could fly. And fly she did - until her legs failed her, and she came crashing back down onto the ground. She didn't leave my arms after that.
As I held little Icarus closely too me, I felt dread that we wouldn't arrive at my apartment in time, where I was planning to make a soft bed for her outside in the backyard. We had already exhausted the option of taking her to a vet - when Steve called the local animal hospital, we were sadly informed that Brooklyn does not care for its wounded or sick pigeons.
This isn't surprising to me. I think I am one of the rare people in Brooklyn who has an affinity for pigeons. I happen to also have a soft spot for rats (and even cockroaches, on my best of days - don't judge me!). Why? Because these are the beings that most people have no regard for. These are the beings most people walk hurriedly by as if they are an inconvenience, at best. These are the beings that should matter, but don't in the eyes of most people. Which, of course, makes me want to love them more.
On the day I chose to live vegan, I decided then and there to start living in the least cruel way I possibly could. I made a vow to start caring about where I was stepping (both literally and figuratively) in life, and more importantly, I decided that each step I'd take would be as careful and compassionate as possible. This includes making room for the occasional line of ants on the street, or allowing the spider in my bathroom to find its way into my tupperware jar, so that I can release it gently back outside. There also happens to be an all-inclusive "pigeon loving" policy in my new lifestyle.
Icarus was not doing well - her little heart was beating right out of her chest as she lay in my arms while we drove quickly home. It was also becoming more and more evident how severe her injuries actually were. Through everything, what amazed me most was that this little pigeon let me carry her and hold her the entire ride to my apartment. Once we got inside, I walked quickly to my bedroom, and Steve helped me open the window to the backyard. I sat down, fluffed a spare blanket from our closet, and set it out for her. As I placed Icarus onto the blanket outside, something began to happen. Little Icarus began to shake uncontrollably, and, within seconds, her head sank down, and the life from her eyes left her. She was gone.
I spent the rest of the day guiltily backtracking my steps - Did I squeeze her too tightly when I held her? Why did I let her try to fly? Steve ultimately helped me to see that no matter what led Icarus to her end, I gave this little bird peace in her last few moments. I showed her love in a situation where many people would have chosen to ignore her. I cared.
So often in life, we busily and carelessly walk from one destination to the other, totally unaware of the world around us. I know I can be thoughtless during parts of my day, especially in the moments I'm least enjoying. But on Sunday, thankfully, I was paying attention. Because of Icarus, I will try to pay even more attention.