Sandy Lewis | Fall 2003
Olivia Lane is a 24-year-old student at Hunter College who has recently embraced a vegan lifestyle. She lives with one human and three non-human roommates-Misty, a rescued parakeet, Sandy, a rescued hamster and Sasha, a rescued kitten. Her ambition is to be a writer. FoA asked her to talk about how she decided on a vegan lifestyle.
FoA: How did you decide to become a vegetarian and then to go vegan?
Olivia Lane: I’ve always loved animals, and I was fortunate enough to find a friend, a mentor who offered me support and helped me network with others. I spent lots of time at the library, taking notes and educating myself. Then I would sit down with my friend and ask questions, and share what was going on with my journey. I found it very easy to become a vegetarian, and the next step, becoming vegan, was just obvious and important.
FoA: What made veganism an obvious next step?
Olivia Lane: It felt like a logical progression to cultivate in my own life what I would like to see in the world. Diet is one important aspect of a healthy, compassionate lifestyle, but awareness can’t end there. Other issues present themselves in rapid succession-the use of animals for clothing, entertainment, and so forth. It was a bit difficult for me, confronting my “animal consumerism,” because I used to be a clothing and shoe addict. I counted about 40 pairs of shoes that were made of animals and was afraid to even look at my collection of handbags. All my jackets were criminal. I had no idea I killed so many animals in my life in my fashion escapades.
My roommate is constantly talking about the corruption and greed of corporations and industrial farms, but she continues to financially support them because she says she likes meat. I think a lot of people are not aware of the greed we all have to conquer in different ways every day, and a desire to just do whatever we want with the planet and its inhabitants is one of those things. People shouldn’t feel helpless and just surrender by doing what “everyone else” is doing. I think that everyone has the capacity in their hearts for compassion, but people also fear change. And some people have low self-esteem. They have no vision of the value or importance of their own actions, and just see themselves as sort of insignificant. Those people need support; they’re stuck in an overwhelmed state of being. Sometimes becoming an animal caretaker, adopting a rescued animal for instance, will prove to be the connection that they need to feel like they can make a difference.
FoA: Do you get challenged by your family and friends about the vegan lifestyle?
Olivia Lane: When I began living a vegan lifestyle, my friends would say, “You used to be a normal vegetarian, but now you’re crazy.” Or people will say things like, “What about vegetables, don’t you feel bad about killing them?” I try to respond by taking them seriously, instead of just dismissing their statements as attempts to get me on the defensive. So, for instance, I’ll tell them that as far as we know, vegetables do not feel pain. But we definitely know that animals DO feel pain, and that’s what’s important.
FoA: What do you think of some animal welfare groups promoting “humane” treatment of animals about to become ‘“food”— as an alternative to veganism?
Olivia Lane: So-called “humane slaughter” is an oxymoron. It’s very difficult not to be seduced by the prospect of less suffering for the animals, but I think pushing for less suffering rather than abolition only serves to lessen a human’s guilt about doing something cruel. I’m good to the animals I care for, but if I killed them so I could eat them almost everyone would think that was wrong. What’s the difference between that and “humanely” treated farm animals? I have many friends who grew up on farms where they played with cows and other animals, only to never see them again. I think people just get used to a cycle of murder and see it as part of “nature” or “tradition.”
FoA: What are some other typical concerns people have?
Olivia Lane: Many people are concerned that a vegan diet would be expensive, or unavailable if they’re not at home. I live on the proceeds from a part time job, and I eat quite well. FoA’s Vegan Starter Guide is really comprehensive and tackles these kinds of concerns. I’m sharing it with friends.
FoA: Do you think that your roommate will ever change her diet?
Olivia Lane: I’m relentless. I’ll wear her down. She’s going to be swimming in the vegan pool, soon!
This interview appeared in Act•ionLine (Friends of Animals; Fall 2003) at 18-19.