Mix equal parts of compassion, determination, and willingness to help, and you’ve got the makings of an activist. Meet Sara J and learn how and why she decided to put her compassion in action.
Are you vegetarian or vegan, and for how long?
Vegetarian for 10 years, vegan for 5 years.
What motivated you to make this change?
I always hated the idea of animals being killed or mistreated, but it took a while before my feelings translated into the action of giving up meat. Eventually the accumulation of images I had seen and stories I had heard overcame my passivity. Around the time I stopped eating meat, I had become interested in Buddhism, so that was also an influence. I didn’t yet know that animals who produce eggs and milk are abused and killed. Then I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins, and became vegan overnight.
What are you working on?
Since I’m new to animal advocacy, I’m trying to educate myself about factory farming and animal rights by reading and going to hear speakers. For my fledgling activist efforts, I am taking advantage of the wonderful network of people and range of activities offered by Bay Area Vegetarians.
I currently host a monthly Letter Writing Party in Berkeley and a monthly tabling at the Berkeley Farmers Market. I’m setting up a display on vegetarianism at the El Cerrito library for the month of December. I recently started leafleting at Trader Joe’s with Christine Morrissey of East Bay Animal Advocates.
How can others get involved?
If anyone would like to participate in a letter writing party or help with tabling, please RSVP through the Events list on the Bay Area Vegetarians website. I would also encourage others to host an activity, solo or with a team. The more people willing to organize events or contribute new ideas, the more vibrant the whole veg/AR community will be.
Who/what inspires you to keep going?
First, reading about and seeing images of animals in distress. I believe everyone can do something to help – it doesn’t have to be saving the world overnight, just contributing or supporting in some way can make a difference. Second, other activists are very inspiring in their commitment and courage. Third, it’s satisfying knowing you’re trying to help, and seeing signs of progress (e.g. an organization abandoning a cruel practice because of public pressure).
What advice would you give to an aspiring vegan?
Especially in the Bay Area, there’s a tremendous variety of delicious vegan food. There doesn’t need to be any denial or penance in going vegan. Learn the basics of nutrition; one good source is Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating, a new booklet from Vegan Outreach.
What advice would you give to an aspiring activist?
Start at an easy pace so you don’t become overwhelmed. Try an activity, let yourself absorb that, then take another step. Sometimes you’ll have to push yourself outside your comfort zone, but also respect your own rhythm and needs. Let yourself discover what activities are harmonious with your personality.
Favorite website: www.veganoutreach.org