Name: Fernando Cuenca
How long have you been vegan? Around 14 years
Why did you choose to be vegan?
To me veganism is the extension of the struggle for justice to non-human animals. For the vast majority of people the need (not desire) to consume animal products is non-existent. That unnecessary killing is unjust. I was first introduced to the concept of veganism through a hardcore band called Earth Crisis, but never considered a viable choice until I started attending anti-bullfighting protests in my hometown. Once I had that aha moment, I never went back.
Two things. First, eggs. Not actually craving eggs, but the fact that they are in so many things that you really need to be careful to avoid them. Second, going vegan in two different languages. When I first went vegan I was back in Colombia, where I am from, and had to learn a lot of new terms regarding animal ingredients. When I moved to the US it was almost like going vegan again. It was a lot of new words that didn’t tell me anything about their origin (whey for example, which in Spanish is proteína de leche – protein from milk). I had to spend long hours at the supermarket reading labels with the help of an animal ingredients list.
My family and friends. My wife is also vegan (we are a Veggiedate success story) and we have a 4-year-old son that has been vegan since birth. I also have friends who in the beginning didn’t understand why I chose this lifestyle and when they expressed interest I gave them information that made them go vegan themselves. They have gone on to be outspoken about animal rights, start their own vegan families and raise vegan children. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that our impact will spread beyond our own lifespans.
Are you involved in animal rights, vegan outreach, or other types of activism or education?
In Colombia I used to run a vegan outreach group with some of my friends called Verdadera Compasión (True Compassion). Since moving to the US I have done volunteer work for PETA, also been involved in Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals (first in New York City, now in Seattle). I currently volunteer for NARN and with my wife we run a Meetup group called Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families.
Advice for new vegans:
Don’t let it overwhelm you. I think that in every vegan journey there’s a point in which you see that animal exploitation and abuse is pretty widespread. At that point it is very easy to get depressed, to feel that your efforts are worthless, not making any difference. But push through it, see the positive in what you do. Enjoy the fact that you can look at an animal in peace, visit a sanctuary if you can (there are quite a few around Seattle). Tell someone or get involved, it may change their lives and the lives of countless animals forever.
If you are vegan, the animals thank you! If you are not, please consider it, it will be one of the most impactful decisions you will ever make.
Thanks Fernando–for agreeing to the interview and for all you do for the animals!