Vegan profile #8: Jonathan Rosenberry

Name: Jonathan Rosenberry
Age: 27
Occupation: Freelance videographer

How long have you been vegan? I’ve been vegan for 1 year and 1 month.

Jonathan's 50-mile run

Jon, finishing his first ultra marathon (50-mile run)

Why did you choose to be vegan?
I chose to be vegan when I learned that it was the best thing to do for my health, the animals and this planet. I just see it as a win-win-win situation. I’m nervous about what will happen to our planet in 20 years if the majority of society does not adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet. Therefore, I want to spread the message by leading as an example.

Biggest challenge:
The biggest challenge for me was facing belief differences with my family and friends and in social gatherings. But once I overcame that fear, I realized I could embrace those moments of discomfort to spread awareness to others. Someone always asks, “so why don’t you eat meat?” And I can’t wait for that question because it’s such a good conversation starter and a great way to casually inform others about the issues of factory farming and what challenges our planet faces in years to come. My second favorite question is “so where do you get your protein from?” I get so much joy from this question and love educating people about the nutritional value of a vegan diet.

Best reward:
The biggest reward is to see those around me become influenced by my diet and beliefs. For example, after educating my dad more about the health benefits of veganism and having him watch Forks Over Knives, I got a text from him saying he had just thrown away all the dairy in the fridge and was going to try being vegan. He used to eat chicken, fish and dairy products, so to hear him say that made me so happy. And he’s been mostly vegan for several months now. Even just hearing from an omnivorous family or friend that they ate a vegan meal or made a vegan dinner is really exciting to me.

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.?
I’ve been a little hesitant to go full force into animal rights participation and vegan outreach because I was nervous about being confrontational, but I have taken baby steps into activism and leafleting and I do it in my own style and it feels really good be a part of it. Now I volunteer about once a week and have been on a leafleting tour through Vancouver, Canada with The Humane League.

Advice for new vegans:
There is so much advice I would like to share with new vegans or those thinking about becoming vegan. I jumped from being a pescetarian to being a vegan overnight which worked for me, but it may not be for everyone. I have found that if I give myself a rule or deadline to do something then I will actually do it. I made a rule that on my birthday, I would become vegan for one year, then after that one year I could change back if I felt it wasn’t right for me. But once I made the jump I never looked back, and now over one year later, I plan on staying vegan for the rest of my life. I like to think that not everyone needs to be a militant vegan if they’re afraid about the switch, just do what you can and do what you feel is right. I highly recommend getting a Vitamix or a decent blender, because making smoothies is so fun, easy and delicious! Just make sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in your diet.

Parting words:
Being vegan has been the best and most life changing decision I’ve ever made. It has positively affected my relationships, athletic abilities, achievements, and now I have a better outlook on life.

Keep up with Jonathan and check out his:

facebook page
instagram
cinematography portfolio

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To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #7: Jennifer Hillman

Name: Jennifer Hillman
Age: 51
Occupation: Director of Strategic Advocacy and Campaigns, The Humane Society of the United States

How long have you been vegan? 20 years this year!

Jennifer and friend

Jennifer and Little Lord Fauntleroy in his cat enclosure

Why did you choose to be vegan? It was purely out of a love for animals. Once I learned about the horrors of factory farming and put two and two together about the animals we love and the animals we eat, I just couldn’t do it anymore. There was no question about it.

Biggest challenge: When I first went vegan, literally within the first few months, the biggest challenge was remembering to read ingredients! Once I started doing that, it was really remarkably easy. Even twenty years ago before the plethora of alternative meats, cheeses, ice creams, etc, it was still such a decision from the heart, that I really didn’t find it that challenging at all. I literally had those animals and their gentle souls in my mind every time I bought food. Plant-based foods are amazing and creative and delicious and they always have been. The nutrition aspect was not challenging at all either. I immediately lost weight and gained energy especially as soon as I gave up dairy products. After that, I felt healthier than I’d ever been. As a vegan, I’ve run four marathons and have never once felt at a lack for animal products as being an “essential” part of my diet.

Best reward: Eating an amazing diet that goes directly, every day, every bite, toward saving animals from suffering, protecting our precious environment and sustaining a healthy life for myself.

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.? I work for an animal welfare organization so I feel lucky that I get to advocate for animals for a living, but I do my own type of outreach on my own as well. I enjoy cooking vegan meals for family and friends. I feel like I’ve matured as an activist over the years. I really do enjoy conversations that I have with people who aren’t vegan – and my favorite question is “what do you eat?” I love telling them that I eat a lot of the same foods that they eat and that it is easier than ever to make our eating habits help reduce animal suffering.

Advice for new vegans: Don’t think about what you can’t eat, think about what you CAN eat – the possibilities for delicious, nutritious and compassionate food choices is endless!

Parting words: Becoming vegan and advocating for a vegan diet is one of the things that I’m most proud of.

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Congrats on twenty cruelty-free years, Jennifer!

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #6: Heather Bolint

Name: Heather Bolint
Age: 28
Occupation: Seattle Director for The Humane League

How long have you been vegan? About 2 years

Heather and friend

Why did you choose to be vegan?
I became vegetarian overnight when I was ten years old because I had pet chickens that I loved and were my best friends. We never ate them, and it occurred to me one day that I didn’t want to eat any animal because I realized that my chickens were no different than my cats and dog, and that if I had a pet cow or pig, I wouldn’t want to eat their relatives either. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I attended Farm Sanctuary’s National Conference to End Factory Farming in 2011, that I learned how the dairy and egg industries are still just as bad and contribute to horrific animal suffering. It was a slower process for me to become vegan, but I finally went 100% vegan when I became an intern at Farm Sanctuary two summers ago, and I haven’t looked back since!

Biggest challenge:
How to effectively discuss my reason for being vegan with family and close friends. It can be especially hard around the holidays, and it’s still a challenge to not get too emotional when others still don’t respect my decision.

Best reward:
Being surrounded by a huge network of supportive vegans and animal rights activists who all share the same passion. It’s amazing the amount of love and understanding that this community of people share with each other all across the country and across the world!

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.?
Yes, it’s my job! The Humane League is a nationwide farm animal protection organization that focuses on public outreach and education. So much of my work includes distributing literature, tabling at events, giving classroom presentations about factory farming, and organizing people to become effective activists. I feel very fortunate each day to do what I love for work, and it’s rewarding to see others excited about getting involved as well.

Advice for new vegans:
Attend as many vegan/animal activist conferences, workshops and Meetups as possible to gain a stronger network of support. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone after making the decision to be vegan, so it’s very important to surround yourself with others who share your passion and are eager to make a difference. And for students who want to get involved in the movement, networking with people at these events is a great way to find internships and potential jobs – that’s what I did!

Parting words:
It sounds cliche, but it’s true: Be the change you wish to see in the world. When I was ten years old and made the decision to become vegetarian, I vowed that I would someday work to free all the chickens and give them good lives. And now, 18 years later, it’s incredible to find myself in a job that aims to do just that. Follow your passion!

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Find out more about the work Heather and others are doing at:

The Humane League
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #5: Michael Glew

It’s time for another vegan profile! Vegans come from all walks of life and I’m using this blog to introduce you to vegans who might be very different than–or a lot like–you. Today, I’d like you to meet Michael, who has excellent tips for living vegan:

Pleased to meet you. I’m Michael and 40, but you know they say 40 is the new 22. My achey
breaky back might disagree. I have been kicking around this vegan thing for about two and a half
decades now. I could brag and say I have been vegan longer than I have not been vegan, but remember
this is not a beauty pageant or student election. Vegans don’t bother getting burdened with seniority or
street cred. Every minute, every day, every week, and every month you spend vegan you are changing
the world.

Don’t ever expect to live perfectly vegan. Mistakes will happen. You could misread a label, you might
assume a product vegan when it contains a vague dairy ingredient, maybe you eat a handful of
chicken in a biscuit crackers, or get sick and need a vaccination. Get a few cookbooks and the oops
incidents will decline.

Activism is not for all vegans. It does not negate all the good you have done by not eating animals if you decide to be more reserved. The best part is you can always change your mind later. The animals are not counting vegan points. The ultimate goal is to help animals and it takes all kinds of people with differing levels of interest and participation to make this work.

It would be a mistake to make vegan political. If you do you will lose. Politics in America is like global
thermal nuclear war. There are no winners. Don’t force it on the people around you. Believe me–curiosity will bring them to you. Be prepared to answer questions, keep cool, and offer to share your snacks.

It’s going to happen. Some fool will get his hose in knot and make some crack. Don’t be baited. Use this
phrase: “I used to (feel, think, want) the same thing. I grew up with a fishing rod in my hand, (or your
own anecdote) but then I found out about the way animals are treated in the (circus, factory farms,
rodeo, testing, etc.). It’s funny how when you talk to people like people you get stuff done.

Michael Glew with his daughter

Thank you Michael for such sound advice!

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #4: Amy Webster

Name: Amy Webster
Age: 42
Occupation: Community Education Coordinator

How long have you been vegan? April of this year was 10 years!

amy at pigs peace 2012

At Pigs Peace, Stanwood, WA (2012)

Why did you choose to be vegan?
My compassion for animals started early but I attribute my determination to speak up on their behalf to the tragic story about my first dog companion. When I was a kid my family had a dog named Jeffy who was not allowed in the house. Jeffy was chained in our backyard 24/7 and I don’t remember Jeffy ever being off that chain. After Jeffy bit a neighbor kid so badly he was sent to the hospital for multiple wounds, Jeffy was taken by animal control and euthanized. I remember that day clearly, as the attack happened during my younger brother’s birthday party while we all watched in horror. Naive to the true cause behind the chained dog’s aggression, I blamed the injured kid for being the reason my dog was taken. Thankfully my family has evolved and we are all compassionate dog guardians today, but Jeffy has always stayed with me. I don’t have any photos of Jeffy or fun memories with him at the park. He never got to snuggle with us under the covers on stormy nights or play fetch on sunny days. He deserved so much better and I think I knew that even as a kid. I believe that’s where my drive to help animals started, with sweet Jeffy.

From there I grew as an animal advocate, always the girl who loved animals. I became a vegetarian when I was 19 on a challenge to try it for a week (and never looked back!). While my veganism is the accomplishment I’m most proud of, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me 13 years as a vegetarian before finally going vegan. I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do, but it took working for PETA and seeing what happens to cows for our dairy products, to open my eyes.

As my bond with animals continued to strengthen, my voice defending them became louder.

amy at farm sanctuary NY 2009

At Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY (2009)

Biggest challenge:
When I first went vegan, like many others, my biggest challenge was giving up cheese. Now that I haven’t had animal cheese for over 10 years it seems strange to think that I ever craved it so badly. Cheese is addictive and so prevalent in our society that as an American Vegetarian my diet was 90% cheese.

These days, as an experienced and confident vegan, my biggest challenge is dealing with others around me. The food part is easy. So is avoiding animal products and entertainment. Being vegan is as much a part of my life as having two hands is. But—handling the misguided masses whose reactions range from curious questions to disrespectful teasing and ignorant confrontations is exhausting and at times disheartening. As much as we’d like to, most vegans don’t live in a bubble or in a commune filled with kind, like-minded peace promoters. Even in Seattle—one of the most progressive cities in America—we are painfully reminded of animal cruelty by way of unapologetic associates eating animal flesh at our table, leather shoes worn by otherwise compassionate friends, the baffling celebration of animals imprisoned in zoos, cheap hamburger ads (seemingly everywhere!), and predictable wild-animal-killed-by-authorities-after-hiker/boater/camper/surfer-strays-too-close-and-is-bitten news. It’s a lot to handle when your eyes are open to the suffering.

Best reward:
So glad you asked, it was getting a bit grim there. There are many rewards for being vegan! For me, the biggest reward comes from within. At the end of the day, I know I am making a difference for animals. Just in eating exclusively vegan I spare about 200 animals a year from unimaginable pain and suffering. Additionally, my ethically-minded consumerism spares countless animals from misery in testing laboratories, performance training, egg production, slaughterhouses, puppy mills, dairy factories, and skin and fur production. That feels really good. Knowing that makes me happy, fills my spirit, and drives me.

Being vegan has also led me to try many delicious diverse and ethnically varied foods. As a kid my blue-collar-Midwest upbringing kept my plate limited to a pretty dull repetition of the same gravy-covered, nutrient-deficient meals. As a vegan, I am continuously trying new flavors and expanding my favorite dishes. I’ve become a creative cook, and not just because I need food to survive, but because I get real joy from crafting new cuisines with a growing assortment of fresh ingredients and spices. I love to eat (a little too much sometimes) and have fun trying new things (but still hate cooked carrots).

Oh and I can’t forget the cancer. When I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with stage 3 breast cancer, I was told by two different doctors that if it weren’t for my vegan diet, my cancer would have been worse. You can read my blog (www.rainydayvegan.com) to follow my progression through cancer treatment as a vegan.

Are you involved in AR, vegan outreach, etc.?
Yes, I’ve been active in helping animals in many capacities for more than 20 years. I remember attending my first animal rights meeting in Toledo, Ohio. When I left, I felt exhilarated and inspired! Even though we were a small group, it was somewhat of a spiritual experience to talk openly with others who saw what our society does to animals and agreed that not only is it not okay and worked tirelessly to stop it. From then on, I’ve been an active advocate of animals by bringing awareness of their suffering to others any way I can. Animal activism is my primary hobby and my proudest attribute.

In my tenure as an activist I’ve worked in several animal-saving jobs and volunteered with many animal-helping organizations—wildlife rehabilitation centers, veterinary clinics, PETA, ASPCA, vegan advocacy groups, and animal shelters. I’ve attended thousands (give or take) of protests and have been arrested twice for civil disobedience, chaining myself to others in remonstration of the fur industry and sales.

amy protesting fur at Nieman Marcus in Toledo OH 1999

Protesting fur sales at Nieman Marcus in Toledo, OH (1999)

Today my voice is also heard through my work with a local animal welfare organization that annually helps thousands of dogs, cats, and wildlife in the Pacific Northwest through foster care, sheltering, spay/neuter, adoption, community education (my job!), and rehabilitation.

amy working for PETA's local field division community animal project 2011

Working for PETA’s community animal project (2011)

I continually strive to do more for animals. When it seems overwhelming, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by an amazing community of vegan activists who get it. My closest friends are those fighting along next to me one day, and commiserating with me over vegan mac and cheese the next. I gain strength from my fellow activist comrades and couldn’t do what I do without them.

amy at fur free friday 2012

At a Fur-Free Friday demo with Jes Cochran, Franziska and Claudine (2012)

Advice for new vegans:
Remember that you are the only person that decides what you eat, wear, allow, and spend money on. It may seem daunting to remember to read labels and ask about ingredients. You’ll make mistakes, we all have. But embracing a vegan lifestyle is the most satisfying and important decision you’ll make. Every bite you take, shoe you wear, pillow you sleep on, and performance you attend that doesn’t support animal suffering, is an exercise in your strength. You are going to love being vegan!

Parting words:
The planet is suffering and she needs us all to help. With each choice we make, we all hold the power to make the world better. This may sound cliché (we’re all friends here, right?), but, go vegan!

~

Thanks for the touching stories and motivating ideas, Amy, and for all you do for the animals!

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #3: Fernando Cuenca

Name: Fernando Cuenca
Age: 35
Occupation: Engineer

How long have you been vegan? Around 14 years

Fernando

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.

Biggest challenge:

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.

Best reward:

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.

Parting words:

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!

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan profile #2: Luke Jones

Name: Luke Jones
Age: 22
Occupation: I’m a blogger at my site Health Room, where I explore and share ideas in plant-based nutrition, moving freely, living mindfully, and existing sustainably. I write a little for Mind Body Green and Natural News too. I have also just published my first eBook about plant-based nutrition, so I guess you could say I’m an author now as well, which sounds a bit surreal to me…

Handstand Luke

How long have you been vegan?

I first tried the vegan diet a few years ago in 2012. I initially did it for 6 months, then switched to a more of a paleo type diet for a couple months, just to see how that made me feel. I definitely preferred the vegan diet for a number of reasons, so changed back to that, and I haven’t looked back since!

Why did you choose to be vegan?

I’ve had a few health problems since my late teens, and they worsened whilst at university. I would get run down a lot of the time, with mouth ulcers and stomach issues. It wasn’t too fun!

So I initially turned towards the plant-based diet to help with these health problems, after reading about it on the web and listening to Rich Roll on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. And I can definitely say that the change in diet has helped significantly.

I also noticed that it improved my athletic performance. I’ve always been really active, and love martial arts, bodyweight strength training, climbing, football, yoga… All sorts of things. I feel that this diet lets me perform better for longer, and helps me recover quicker.

And aside from the benefits to me personally, there are also those wider impacts on the planet and the other species we share our home with. It’s staggering how much energy, land and water is needed to sustain the standard western diet. Being vegan significantly reduces the impact we’re having on the planet, and I think that’s great.

Then there’s also the ethical benefits, which are becoming increasingly important to me. I’m thriving on a plant-based diet, and I can’t justify taking a life when I don’t need to. I think everyone is naturally compassionate, and no one wants to cause unnecessary suffering, but there’s such a disconnect between what goes on in the slaughter houses and what arrives on people’s plate. Most people have such strong ingrained habits that they will turn a blind eye to what’s going on. But I don’t want to be a part of that if I can help it.

Best reward:

Aside from the benefits I mentioned above, I love the fact that I can share this message with others, and help them realise their health potential. It’s always great to hear stories from readers who have taken charge of their life, maybe losing unwanted weight or curing a lifelong illness. It’s amazing the power of a few changes in diet and lifestyle.

And it’s not people just online I get to interact with. I love that I get the chance to share this experience with those closest to me – my friends, family and my beautiful girlfriend (who is also vegan). Making meals with her and sharing similar views is so awesome, I’m very lucky.

Biggest challenge:

I actually didn’t really struggle with the change to a vegan diet. I had been interested in nutrition for a few years prior, so had already cut out dairy, reduced the amount of processed foods, and upped my fruit and veggie intake. So the transition was pretty smooth. I also knew that it would benefit my health massively, and the thought of that was much stronger than any cravings for chicken.

The only challenge now I think is seeing so many people who are basically poisoning themselves and their children with unhealthy foods, often because no one has told them otherwise. It’s quite difficult to watch that happen all around you, every day. But I do still feel optimistic for the future!

Favourite vegan food:

You can’t beat some ripe bananas and juicy medjool dates. In terms of cooked meals though, it’s a tie between homemade Mexican burritos and homemade Indian food. I’m getting hungry now…

Are you involved in animal rights, vegan outreach, or other types of activism or education?

I’m not involved in any activism as such, but I try my best to share the positive message and educate others via my site, Health Room.

I try my best to present the information in an accessible way and avoid preaching. I wanna help people, but I think there’s a fine line between educating and forcing our views on others. Sometimes it can be hard to find that balance.

I don’t ever want to tell people what they have to do. So I try to share what has worked for me, and then let the readers make their own decisions. Take what resonates with them and throw away the rest.

Advice for new vegans:

Firstly, thanks for making the decision to try a vegan diet! It could be the best thing you ever do for your health, and for the planet.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to make the transition slowly. Go at your own pace, maybe cut out dairy first, then cut out meat when you feel comfortable. Do what you need to do to make your changes sustainable.

Finally, try your best to eat mainly whole foods. Fruits, veggies, legumes, whole-grains, nuts and seeds. Being vegan is great, but being a healthy vegan is even better. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people out there willing to give a hand, me included 🙂

Parting words:

Eat more plants. Move your body. Laugh, smile and help others. Go after your dreams. Don’t leave a trace. And create more than you consume.

Thanks Jean for the opportunity, and keep up the great work!

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Thank you, Luke! Your profile is inspiring!

Interested in having your profile featured? Check out the profile intro page and contact me!