Entrepreneur and activist.
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
RS: Probably the strongest contributing factor to becoming vegan was the influence of my sister. She went vegetarian at age 8 and from that day forward, she always tried to bring me to my senses. Unfortunately the tactics of an 8 year old aren’t always successful, and I was stubborn so it took a while… about 15 years really. She would send me videos about slaughterhouses and I wouldn’t open them. She would try to tell me facts about animal production and I would ignore them. I would even make fun of her “extremist” beliefs with other relatives at holiday gatherings while serving myself another plate of turkey or ham. It wasn’t that I didn’t love animals, I just really didn’t get it. There were animals I pet, and there were animals I ate. It wasn’t until I was almost 20 that she finally got me to watch Food Inc. She didn’t tell me it was about animals, she told me it was about how messed up the American government was, and because I am always looking to be more informed about politics, I took the bait. That was my first exposure to the horrific treatment of factory-farmed animals. I was vegetarian by the end of the film. About a month later she recommended I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer. I already knew him to be an exceptional writer on other subjects, so I picked it up. This was during a family vacation to Mexico… one that I spent reading and crying on the beach. How had I been so blinded? My entire life I had questioned everybody; my teachers, my parents, religion, government, but why not myself? Why not what I was putting into my body? Why not question the fact that I was eating dead and tortured animals, the menstrual cycle of chickens, and secretions from cow udders that were so clearly meant for THEIR children? An entire education worth of science classes, and I never thought to ask why humans were the only ones taking milk from other animals? Sitting on that beach, I changed. I became a vegan.
SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes what was difficult and did it get easier?
RS: Yes and no. I craved cheese for a little while and one night after a couple drinks had some pizza, but with all of the amazing vegan food out there, I don’t feel like I gave anything up. In fact I enjoy food more now than I ever did. It’s a beautiful thing knowing that nothing you are eating was hurt. The hardest part really was the knowledge I had. Knowing that at every second of every day, an unfathomable number of animals were in complete and utter misery, and that most people just didn’t seem to give a crap, pissed me off. I still struggle with that.
SS: What are some animal rights related things that you participate in?
RS: I LOVE to protest. Whether it be fur, vivisection, circus, or fois gras, I yell as loud as I can for as long as I can. It can actually be really fun and it’s a great way to release some stress or anger. But most importantly, it can be really effective. My sister and I organized a fur protest back in Colorado while visiting our family and joined up with another protest group that hits the same three fur stores almost every weekend. I am happy to say that the largest of the three has now shut its doors for good. I also recently became a registered speaker for the Los Angeles Veg Society’s Outreach program and gave my first speech about veganism at a high school in Southern California. And finally, my sister and I are in the early phases of starting a vegan business, which we plan to use as a catalyst for awareness and to continue to promote conscious living.
SS: What are your favorite animal rights organizations?
RS: Lots of great ones, but my two favorites are easily Mercy for Animals, for the unbelievable undercover work they do at factory farms, and the Animal Liberation Front who literally put their lives on the line to rescue tortured animals all over the world.
SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?
RS: I would certainly highlight the health benefits (like significantly decreased rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses) and tell them facts about the environmental impact of animal production (like the fact that it causes more green house gas and carbon emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats put together,) but those aren’t the most important parts for me. For me it’s about living life the way it was meant to be. Peacefully. There is not a single reason that we should willingly hurt another being, and we should certainly not pay for someone else to. Nothing needs to die for us to live, so why should it? Gustatory pleasure? Baby cows shouldn’t be stolen from their mothers and sent to veal farms because people enjoy ice cream. Or cheese. Or milk. Or Anything. Male chicks shouldn’t be thrown alive into what is essentially a wood chipper. Pigs shouldn’t spend their entire lives inside crates too small for them to turn around. These are not just bad things. They are the worst things. So I would ask this somebody considering going vegan, to go vegan. That being said, I know that it isn’t the easiest thing for everybody to do. I am lucky living in Los Angeles because there are so many amazing vegan restaurants, with more popping up all of the time, and unfortunately that isn’t the case in most of the world. You might slip up sometimes, but is important to always try to remember why you made the decision in the first place. It can be hard being the only vegan in your friend group (or for that matter, the only vegan you know) so I would recommend reaching out to other vegans via facebook or websites like meetup.com, which allow you to search your area for groups of vegans to connect with. Get excited about it! Buy a cookbook and try awesome new recipes. Find cool new restaurants that you otherwise wouldn’t have tried. But most importantly, get excited about the fact that your actions are helping the world!