Sara Cozolino

Activist, animal rescuer, photographer and student.

SS: What made you go vegan and why?

SC: My introduction to veganism first came through being vegetarian. When I was in high school, a group came to our school called the YES tour, I believe it is the group co-founded by John Robbins (author of Diet for A New America, The Food Revolution, etc). Youth for Environmental Sanity. This is when I first learned about what goes on in factory farms. I had always loved animals and rescued and taken home many as a child, but had never thought about how the animals on my dinner plate arrived there; the process of making them dinner. What I learned stopped me eating them right then. A few years passed, and a friend told me she was recently vegan and that I should learn more about dairy, etc. I gave myself a month phase-out to go vegan and have never gone back; it made sense to not contribute whatsoever to any suffering involved in any animal product. That was 15 years ago. I truly do not believe my life is any more important than any other animal-human or non-human-and I live my life in such a way as to alleviate as much suffering as possible.

SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes, what was difficult and did it get easier?

SC: Honestly, it was not difficult for me at all. If you make up your mind to do something, you do it. I have a huge sweet tooth so I thought for sure that would be hard to stick to but it hasn't been. There are so many options now, so much information out there that it's really easy to do. I am from Michigan, where hunting is quite popular and meat is definitely a focus of the meals. I've also lived in other states and traveled to various countries, where I stuck by my veganism. I only say this because people think it's easy just because I live in California, when it's really a feasible lifestyle anywhere. Our society has led us to believe in an unhealthy food pyramid; quite frankly it's one that benefits big agribusiness. We have more problems from eating too much protein in our meat-focused society than anyone lacking it. Higher rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and numerous other health problems associated with a meat-centered diet. Notice the Milk: It Does A Body Good campaign has changed to Got Milk? Because it was shown that, indeed, milk does not do a body good so the ads were mis-leading.

SS: What would you say to encourage someone is considering becoming vegan?

SC: If you are trying to go vegan and are having difficulty, seek out assistance from those within the vegan community. There is a plethora of information available on-line. Google "Vegan recipes". Here's a few quick sites:

Take baby steps if you must but then stick to it and really educate yourself on your options. Don't give up because you get frustrated or may feel like you're the only one. Keep an open mind. People are often intimidated by veganism and think it narrows their world, when it really opens up many other healthier, colorful food possibilities. Find groups to join to garner support from and keep motivated with. Watch Earthlings or undercover videos from Mercy For Animals or PETA to fuel the fire as to why you are choosing to live a more compassionate life. The animals need you! It is undeniable that they feel pain. It's even been shown in recent studies that goldfish will avoid and try to escape water that is too warm (that will ultimately kill them); every being wants to live and every being deserves the chance to do so. Consider the environmental impacts, as well as the impact on human rights. Going vegan tackles all of these issues; it's the holistic way to live compassionately.

Question what you have been led to believe and look who is behind the "facts" you are given. Find out for yourself the immense power agribusiness has on what we are allowed to know about our food. A few books are: Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Food Revolution and Diet For A New America by John Robbins, The Ethics of What We Eat, The China Study, The Kind Diet, Skinny Bitch or Skinny Bastard, etc.

SS: What are some animal rights related things you participate in?

SC: I attend protests as much as I can. I write a lot of angry letters. I've collected signatures for animal-friendly ballot measures. Voiced my concern at city council meetings, as well as had my own ad hoc animal welfare committee. I volunteer with various animal rights, rescue, and welfare groups. I do my own independent rescues. I've taught humane education to school-age kids. It feels good to be progressive and help provide a happy ending to animals when you see so much pain and suffering that you can't stop. Educate, educate, educate. Some people need to be shocked by a video, while others just need access to recipes. I try to help people make the connection in whatever avenue works for them.

SS: What are your favorite AR organizations?

SC: I have many, there's so many that do incredible work. PETA, Mercy For Animals, Animal Acres, ARME, COK, ACI: Animal Cruelty Investigations, In Defense of Animals, Sea Shepherd, LCA: Last Chance for Animals, etc. I'm sure I'm forgetting many. Any group who focuses on the task at hand and gets the job done.

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?

SC: I have been fortunate to experience a connection with a variety of animals. I've had pet clams, snails, a praying mantis, dogs, cats. I've body-boarded and canoed in Florida and had dolphins playing in close proximity to me, curious about myself and my companions and the canoe. I've made eye contact with a giraffe in the wild, who watched my every move, lowering his head when I squatted and coming back up when I did. It's pretty cool to realize a giraffe is as curious about you as you are about them. I've felt the grumble of elephants in the wild, content with being amongst each other and free to roam. I've nursed feral kittens to health. I've worked at an exotic animal rescue and had birds say some pretty incredible things to me (not just something they repeat, but something that is correct in the context it was said). Anyone with a dog or cat knows they have a personality. They know they live life in a way that is fit for their species. They know they feel pain. This is true of all animals. If you allow yourself the time to really experience any animal, no matter their size, you will come to appreciate who they are and their place in the world, and their right to exist free of suffering and human interference.

I've seen the ugly side, too. I've seen the faces of animals that I knew would be killed within a short time, their curious, hopeful eyes looking back at me, and I knowing I could do nothing for them. Food animals stacked like goods in a grocery store, not knowing the fate that awaited them, lying stripped of their dignity and their livelihood. Walked dogs at the shelter, knowing full well they would not make it out alive. I cannot imagine what all of these animals must feel, taken out of their environment (wild or home, in the case of a dog or cat), thrown in a tank or cage and selected for death.

Watch any of their videos and tell me you don't see or hear fear in the animals unfortunate enough to have experienced this brutality:

Watch the entire movie of Earthlings, or even just the trailer, and tell me you don't see pain being experienced:

Connect with what you put in your body or what you choose to wear or attend (if you attend circuses, wear leather, etc), and truly ask yourself if what you are supporting coincides with your values; if this is something you would continue doing if you had to witness the process from beginning to end every time you made the decision to support it. If you had to do it yourself, would you?