Lawrence Ziese

Landscape designer, activist, and speaker.

Lawrence runs Ashcrow Landscape Design, one of LA’s leading sustainable landscape design firms, with a passion for native plants and wildlife preserves. When he’s not pouring over cantilever equations and pH soil tests, Lawrence spends a great deal of his time working in multiple activist fronts. In the Vegan movement, Lawrence speaks at universities and privately with people eager to learn more about the lifestyle. He trains and mobilizes a team of legal observers in Los Angeles. He also organizes Fur Free Pasadena, a collation seeking to ban the sale of fur in Pasadena, CA. He’s working on several books on his views on nonviolence and his involvement with OccupyLA. In his free time he enjoys vegan cooking, a capella music, cycling, and posting manifestos on Facebook.

SS: What made you go vegan and why?

LZ: At 32 years old, I was knee deep in a difficult Landscape Architecture program, juggling my design career and a mother in the hospital from a car accident. Life, in short, sucked. I had to skip an entire year of school due to a near fatal case of Diverticulitis, along with a wonder addition of IBS, gastric reflux, and an ulcer. My entire life my health had gradually been slipping away from me, and all the stress made it all come crashing down. After seeing several doctors I went with my gut, literally, and decided to try eating better. Instead of omnivore food, I ordered my meals from Vegin-out. For treats, I made desserts from “Vegan With A Vengeance”. I knew I had lactose intolerance, but eating vegan food made my feel better. In fact, it saved my life! I I still felt I needed to eat fish, egg, and yogurt until I started to meet other vegans. They were so happy, vibrant and healthy… nothing like the perception I had of them. Being a lifelong environmentalist, I was educated that my carbon footprint could be even smaller simply by going vegan. After getting to know so many exciting people in the community it was easy to make a lifelong commitment to veganism. I’m glad I did, I’ve since cured myself of all these lifelong afflictions. I feel younger, more energetic, and more ready to tackle life’s stressors head on.

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

LZ: I’ve learned in my 40 years that anything worth doing isn’t easy. Running a company in a horrible economy taught me to listen to myself and follow my instincts. Sure, at the beginning I’d crave a Pomegranite Pinkberry or some Calamari Fritti at the start, but in addition to the health aspect, I allowed myself to become fully educated on the animal rights aspect of veganism. Now, I can’t look at a glass of milk without seeing a veal calf (we get milk from cows being constantly impregnated) heading to a slaughterhouse. I can’t look at a piece of bacon without seeing a factory farm and hearing screams. I can’t look at an egg without seeing chickens crammed in filthy battery cages. I can’t look at leather without seeing it peeled off a corpse of a gentle cow. Health and Environmentalism brought me to the table, but Animal Rights has helped taken my lifelong love of animals and made it all real for me. But the magic is that now I don’t find myself craving meat or dairy. I love the flavor of raw fruit and vegetables… it’s though my whole body has adjusted to this lifestyle and embraced it like it’s always been there.

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

LZ: While I do attend some protests and help with outreach when I can, I also like to lend my talents to help in a larger way. I have been working on a massive redesign of the landscaping of Animal Acres. I also love going up there to throw around hay bales, scoop poop, and give the animals much needed rubdowns. Once the ball starts rolling I hope to share my designs with other animal shelters. I also love working with WorldFest in any capacity they’ll let me help, which last year was mostly moving around heavy things. Professionally my focus is to put indigenous shrubs and trees into people’s backyards so they can help be a part of the wildlife corridor of their neighborhood. People are surprised at first at the idea, but when they see squirrels and birds happily chomping on native berries or seeing their first Blue Jay nest, then they understand sharing their land with the animals is a very good thing.

SS: What are your favorite animal rights organizations?

LZ: I feel that PCRM (Physicians Council for Responsible Medicine) is doing a lot of good by showing the intellectual side of veganism, by promoting peer evaluated studies about the health benefits of our lifestyle as well as fighting to end animal research. I love the concept of Mercy For Animals, getting first hand evidence of animal abuse to shatter the concept of a “happy family farm” from our current paradigm. I also feel that PETA has grown to become synonymous with the Animal Rights movement as a whole, and thusly have wielded that power in a way that serves the animals best (while still having fun). Lastly I gotta give a shoutout to the hard working Environmentalist groups of the world, namely Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the Rainforest Action Network for protecting the animals and ourselves by their global and local actions. It’s all connected, folks.

SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?

LZ: I’d say, first and foremost, kudos for thinking different. For going against the dominant lie we’ve all been fed since childhood. I’d tell them that making a conscious choice to take that step will be a step that will make a big difference in their lives. To me, it’s a type of purity… my body feels younger than I did in my 30s… heck, I LOOK better than I did in my 30s. To someone trying veganism, you will feel amazing, but you will also feel better in their heart. Beyond the lack of saturated fats and cholesterol, their heart will feel more connected to the earth and the animals they no longer will be using for their needs. Oh, and another incentive.. the sex.. it’s better. Trust me.