Vegan Like Me aims to profile fellow vegans, from all walks of life from everywhere in the world! We’ve all been beginners and I think its important for folks to hear people’s stories in order to motivate themselves to keep going. This feature is intended to do just that. If you are vegan and would like to participate, get in touch with me and I’ll be sure to send our questionnaire along to you.
Name: Lisa Drapkin
Where do you live? Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
How long have you been vegan? ”1 and a half years”
What inspired you to take on a plant-based (vegan/vegetarian) diet? ”
“My journey to veganism started when I stumbled upon the Mercy for Animals web site. On their homepage was a video of an undercover investigation (
) they had recently done on a dairy farm in Texas. It was devastating, and showed calves being tortured. I had never even thought of calves being associated with dairy, and it was very clear to me from that point on how consuming dairy products directly related to this cruelty. I immediately stopped doing so entirely, and soon after became aware of how horrible animals were treated in the meat and egg industries as well. Before this I had no idea what factory farms were and the horrors they inflict upon so many innocent, helpless creatures. This information affected me greatly. However, my transition from here was kind of a weird one. I decided to try not eating any animal products at all anymore, but didn’t express to anyone what I was doing because I wasn’t really sure myself. At the time, I didn’t know anyone vegan, and had the idea in my head that it would be too hard.
After a couple of weeks, I was already giving up, as I wasn’t fully invested in the idea of being vegan yet, and so hadn’t even tried researching all the amazing vegan food options I now know to exist. Instead, I started looking into “humane” farms. I decided I was ok with the idea of an animal being killed for food as long as they lived a good life. Though I knew I didn’t want them to be abused, I didn’t think that unnecessarily killing a chicken or cow for human consumption was wrong because in my mind they were in a separate category of animals than the dogs or cats I had known. I researched all the different “humane” farm labels, and only one – Animal Welfare Approved – held any even remotely significant standards relating to the welfare of animals. They accounted for LESS than one percent of farms in the U.S., and it happened that a venue in a nearby Farmer’s Market sold their products. So for about a month, I was in this kind of limbo period in which the only animal products I was consuming at all were from this stand.
Either way, what I had learned about the abuse of farmed animals was something I couldn’t get out of my mind. I wanted to become involved in some kind of activism for this cause but I had no idea how. I decided to call a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time, one who I knew was an activist for many causes. This person had always been someone who I found to be incredibly intelligent, inspiring, and who I respected greatly. Though at the time I contacted him, I didn’t know he had himself become vegan a few months back. When we met one day, I started off by saying that I had recently been informed of the suffering of billions of animals, and felt deeply disturbed by it. The first thing he said excitedly, was, “are you vegan now too?” And I told him yes, I was. I knew at once it would appear ultra-hypocritical to tell him the truth that no, here I was asking him how to help resolve my pain that came along with empathy for these animals, while still contributing to their exploitation myself. So, from that moment on the lie that I told my friend became a truth, but I proclaimed it with the intention of that happening.
From then, I let my heart open fully. My perception of the world completely altered, and my psyche evolved into who I have become over this past year and a half. I now realize how crazy it was that I wanted animals to live a good life, but then didn’t care if they were violently killed for my consumption. I now understand that eating animals and their secretions is far from being a personal choice, because the animals didn’t have a choice but to be confined, mutilated, and slaughtered. I began to see all animals as individuals who deserve to be free from harm and suffering, and how warped society causes our minds to be in the way in which we feel only certain animals should be treated with compassion. However, I know fully that I never would have even come close to comprehending this had I not stopped contributing to their exploitation. I had to first take that step back and see things from a different perspective. I now recognize the cruelty that lies behind every facet of our society, and am aware that animal exploitation is absolutely everywhere. Although, despite the sadness that occurs when that veil of ignorance is lifted, I wouldn’t go back to my blindness for anything in the world.”
What do you love most about being vegan? ”What I love most by far is the fellow vegans that I’ve become connected with just through our shared beliefs, and the community of like-minded people I now have in my life. I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known over this time, especially those I’ve met from doing advocacy work together.”
What three items do you always have in your pantry? “Peanut Butter – always a great source of quick protein, especially when I’m broke:)
Nutritional Yeast – used to think it was a weird food item but now I LOVE sprinkling it on pasta
Olive oil – always using it to cook”
What is your favorite vegan comfort food? “The all-vegan Champs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is my go-to place for vegan comfort food and pretty much everything I’ve gotten from there is amazing – whether it’s chili, pancakes, burritos, cheese fries, nachos, or apple pie – for vegans that love having those items we thought we would miss (but don’t have to) – Champs is a great place to go.”
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about taking on a plant-based (vegan) diet? “I would say, start reading, and learn all the facts for yourself. Know why you are doing it. If to you, the reason means something, than it will be much easier to do, and to stick with. Start substituting foods you like with vegan options, like soy milk and veggie meatballs. Go at the pace that works for you. The more foods you find and like, the easier it will be. If there’s one thing you can’t seem to give up right away, then give up everything but that!”
Do you find anything difficult about being vegan? “What I find difficult is the absurdity of living in a world where we (vegans) have to justify and are considered abnormal for thinking it’s wrong to inflict suffering onto powerless beings for the mere fact that we can. I don’t know how that part will ever get easier, unless more and more people start to wake up to the truth, but besides for that, everything about it is wonderful. The food part is the easiest because you start to learn just how many amazing options there are that you never would have tried previously.”
Any other comments you or words of wisdom you would like to add? “If you’re vegan and you’d like to help educate others learn about the cruelty behind animal products, a great way to do so is through leafleting. Vegan Outreach is an organization that provides wonderful leaflets to distribute to students on college campuses, or in busy areas. Go to VeganOutreach.org to learn more, or contact Emily for my information if you’d like to help me leaflet at a school in the NYC/NJ area in spring 2013!”
I can’t even begin to tell you what an awesome advocate Lisa D. is in the AR world! I met Lisa last year when we were both volunteering at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s rooftop benefit in Brooklyn… she told us about Vegan Drinks, marching in the NYC Pride Parade with Mercy For Animals, and we see each other at countless AR/Vegan events around the NYC area. Her story is compelling and I’m so grateful to have her share it here on Jersey City Vegan. Thank you Lisa, for all you do for the vegan movement, animal rights and most of all, the animals.