Add 3 parts compassion, 1 part coffee, 2 parts advocacy, and you’ve got the recipe for an activist like Chef, PETA staffer, and BAVeg volunteer Alex Bury.
Website: www.PETA.org (I work for PETA in addition to watching animals do cute things)
Are you vegetarian or vegan, and for how long? I have been vegan for 11 years now. Myshkin has been vegan for 8.
What motivated you to make this change? Animal suffering. I was busy working with homeless and abused dogs in Anchorage, AK, when I saw my first video of what happens in a slaughterhouse. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I saw that stuff happening to my dog or cat, I would never forgive the person doing it or the person eating them—and cows feel the same pain as dogs. When I first went vegan I didn’t have much information and I thought my health would suffer. Instead I lost 20 pounds, gained more energy, and when the meat-eaters around me start talking about their cancer fears and heart disease, it’s like they’re speaking a foreign language.
What are you working on? Getting the word out. The more people see animal videos (www.petatv.com) or read a Vegetarian Starter Kit (www.goveg.com), the less animals will be killed—period. Professionally I raise the funds to keep PETA’s massive outreach going. If people don’t donate, animals don’t get the help they need. As a volunteer for BAV, I like to hand out VSK’s at busy festivals and help people with food. I hear daily from people who would go veg—but they don’t know what to eat, so they don’t. Sometimes giving a person a delicious vegan meal is as powerful as showing them a video!
How can others get involved? I enjoy leafleting with at least one other person, so if you have a free hour and a favorite place, let me know! And I always need help finding cheap (free) locations for BAV cooking classes. If you work with a school, community center or church, please contact me and I’ll come feed you and your colleagues.
Who/what inspires you to keep going?
*Myshkin, my 14 year old rescued dog.
*Ingrid Newkirk the founder and President of PETA, who is going strong after 25 years of speaking out, changing the world, and not sleeping.
*An urge to do something, however small, with the time I have on earth. I think doing things is better than talking about doing things.
*And of course, the animals, and the powerful images of how they suffer behind closed doors. They cannot pick up the phone and call 911 or the local Animal Control Officers. If I don’t speak up, nobody will speak up, and I don’t want to be an old woman full of regrets. Well, unless it’s regrets about eating too much great vegan food.
What advice would you give to an aspiring vegan?
I swear up, down and sideways—you WILL get over the cheese! Always the last thing to go, and people feel so addicted that they’re sure they’ll never stop craving it. I have helped many people go vegan and they all say the same thing: The cheese craving goes away fast once you make the commitment and get it out of your diet.
Don’t hate yourself if you fall off the wagon, the closer you get to veganism, the more you’ll stick to it and the easier it will be. You’ll feel so much better over time that you’ll realize you’re not giving anything up, instead, you’re gaining a wonderful, vibrant life.
Think of the last time you moved. At first your new neighborhood was confusing, you didn’t know where to get your car serviced or do your laundry or buy your favorite groceries. You didn’t know the shortcuts and you got lost a few times. But after two months it had become second nature, remember? You didn’t even have to think about it anymore. You knew where to go and how to get there. Make the commitment to go vegan, do some reading, try some new recipes and foods and stores, and in a couple of months you’ll forget what the meat counter or dairy aisle looked like.
What advice would you give to an aspiring activist?
I will never forgive Nike for owning this phrase…Just Do It. If you’re nervous about handing out a leaflet or making a phone call or speaking up the next time your office plans an all-meat dinner…take a deep breath and do it. You will feel a million better times better when you’re done, you will have gained some respect from the people around you, and you will have opened some minds to the suffering of animals.
Meet and hang out with veterans (BAV events are great for this), and read:
Do you want to a grumpy old person who wishes they had said X, Y or Z? Or had been more active and done more good? Or do you want to be a happy old fart laughing about all that you achieved in your youth? Like it or not, you’re choosing one or the other right now.
Favorite saying: “Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes”
Favorite dessert: Maggie Mudd coffee island jitters or mambo mariachi vegan ice cream
Favorite restaurant: Pizza Plaza or Fellini’s right now, but this changes constantly…we’re so lucky to live here and have these options.
Anything else you want our readers to know
Volunteering has the same bad rap as old-fashioned veg food. 25 years ago vegetarian meant sour tofu, groats, kale and then some more kale. All without any salt. Likewise, volunteering meant long hours, endless meetings and carrying large bags of hard-to-read newsletters everywhere you went.
Time to get with the times. Veg food now means Maggie Mudd’s and Herbivore, and volunteering means having a life instead of giving up your life.
Volunteering for animals doesn’t just help animals. It’s a very selfish thing. It’s a great way to meet interesting people, people you share a passion with and who will become good friends. It’s a way to get to know a community, to learn new skills, to get out of the house and away from the TV, to get into festivals free, and to eat lots of good food while laughing really hard.
Volunteering is much easier now that we have the internet. You can stay at home and write letters, organize an event without ever picking up the phone, and encourage others to go veg via e-mail. You can get out to a gorgeous local park and hear live music, dancing while you hand out literature (Chris and Tammy still won’t admit this, but they were dancing when Michael Franti played at Power to the Peaceful and I have a picture to prove it).
You will also reap the emotional benefits. It’s not fun, sitting at home and feeling bad about animal suffering or the enormity of the problem, feeling guilty that you didn’t join the protest, feeling lazy and frumpy cuz you’ve been eating on the couch for 6 hours. The last time you achieved something—a new job, a diploma, a raise, whatever—did you feel great, or what? You felt great. I know you felt great, because I’ve been there. Sometimes we get hooked on that endorphine rush and go on to more achievements, but sometimes we coast on it until it fizzles and then we miss it.
Joining an event for animals is the easiest way to get back in shape—emotional shape. You don’t have to study for months and months, or deal with an obnoxious boss. You just show up for 3 hours out of your weekend and voila, you walk away feeling like you did something fun, energizing, effective, and…fun. Animal suffering is not funny, but when I’m around other animal activists I laugh more than with anyone else. Perhaps because everyone involved feels the same way, and it’s easy to laugh when you’re with kindred spirits.
BAV has a very large mailing list, but a very small pool of volunteers. 4,000 members and, what, 20 volunteers? Look at how much the group achieves—just think if there were 100 volunteers helping 2-10 hours a month! Just think if PETA had double the activists, or if Vegan Outreach had double the college leafleters. Keep thinking it, then walk over and look in the mirror…