The stage is bare and in darkness except for three circles of light on the floor – one down center, the other two up from that, STAGE RIGHT and STAGE LEFT, forming an inverted triangle.
Out of the shadows steps MALE STUDENT. He goes to STAGE RIGHT spot.
No Meat in This House
My parents, my mom in particular, we’re deeply involved in the Animal Rights movement, back in the 70’s and 80’s, in the early stages of things. I was vegan, vegetarian my entire life. As a child I was never forced to be a vegetarian, there was never any kind of pressure. The only rule I grew up with was, no meat in the house. My mom was like, “I’m not buying meat, you’re not bringing it in the house, there will be no meat in my house. If you want to eat meat at school, at lunch with your friends, whatever you want to do on your own outside of the house is up to you, I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing, that’s a decision you have to make for yourself, but there will be no meat in this house. And I never ate meat.
I grew up around animals. My first word was the name of my dog, Shadow. I had a mama cat in my crib with me when I was a baby. I can’t even imagine eating animal flesh. It’s just not in my conception of things that are acceptable at all. To me, it’s kind of like cannibalism, people have that experience of revulsion at the very notion. Gee, I’ve heard about cannibal cultures and they say human meat is the best tasting meat. It’s a difficult thing to explain but I think most vegans understand how I feel.
YOUNG WOMAN appears in stage left spot.
Me Against Frank
I was like eleven or twelve years old and I stumbled across this catalogue from a group called PETA – I’m sure you’ve heard of them. I started reading about veal and I started reading about chicken and a certain fellow named Frank Perdue and particularly what he was doing.
I could relate to that, being from Connecticut and my family and I, we were all meat eaters, so I said to my Mom, “we eat Perdue chicken and clearly they’re doing bad things to the chickens, all the hormones and keeping them in crates,” so I decided to write Mr. Perdue a letter.
So I write him this letter from an eleven year-old perspective, saying, please I’m very upset about the treatment of your animals, can’t you put them in bigger spaces and what’s up the hormones. And he sent me back a “How To Prepare Your Oven Roasted Chicken Tonight” cookbook.
With him doing that, I said, okay this is war, it’s me against Frank. I never ate meat again.
FEMALE STUDENT appears in down center spot.
My brother was in a scout troop and they were going to go on “High Adventure” which is this big long hike that the scout troop does every year, it’s really for the older kids because it’s supposed to be really intense. The scout master was really controlling, he just had so many issues, he really needed therapy. He was always trying to save kids because he’d feel so good about that, even when they didn’t need saving. And he always thought that you needed chicken every single day. He was obsessed with protein, obsessed with chicken.
My little brother had gone vegetarian at that time. My mom was vegetarian, my dad wasn’t. My brother grew up vegetarian, then went vegetarian, not really a big deal. He was perfectly healthy, maybe a little chubby but basically fine. The scout master had said to my mom, “You know, if he gets sick and he needs to eat chicken, I’ll make him eat chicken!” And my mom was like, “No! He doesn’t need to eat chicken.” And the scout master says, “Yes, yes he does.” It was the most ridiculous conversation.
My mom said, “I was vegetarian over half my life, I went through four pregnancies, I’ve bicycled across the continent, all being vegetarian. And I didn’t eat chicken.” And he was like, “Well that’s not High Adventure!”
It’s funny, people get an idea in their mind, you need chicken, I’m going to force feed your kid chicken. And with me, as a vegan, I get people telling me you need dairy, you need eggs, you need some animal protein. I know they think they are trying to save me, just like that scout master thought he was trying to save my little brother. But I don’t need saving. I’m doing just fine as a vegan.
BLACKOUT. We hear a 38 second clip from Scoville by the Vegetable Orchestra while projected onto a screen set upstage are images alternating between pictures of tasty vegan food with animals in factory farms and then the words, THE VEG MONOLOGUES: VEGAN VOICES
Main Course I
Stage lights on to reveal a chalkboard CENTER STAGE, on which is written: “GROWING UP.” ROBB enters from STAGE RIGHT, walks to blackboard.
by R.C. Curtis
I think I was destined to become vegetarian, it just took a while. Veganism is just a logical extension of that. I didn’t become vegetarian or vegan out of health or environmental concerns, though those have become important to me. I became vegetarian because I did not want animals to have to suffer and die so that I could eat them. I had a deep concern for animals as far back as I can remember. But it wasn’t until I was in college that it all came together.
When I was a little boy, it troubled me to realize that the meat I ate was once part of a living animal. I wanted to know, why did animals have to be killed for us to eat? Was it fair to hurt them? Was it right to make them suffer? I think many children grapple with this on one level or another. Many children feel a natural affinity towards animals and when they are old enough to realize what it is they are eating they look for ways to make this all right. They look to adults to explain why this is okay. My father explained it all to me. He told me that the animals we ate did not suffer because they knew no other existence. They were raised to be killed and had no idea what it meant to be free, to live a full life. This was supposed to comfort me.
I work with young children and it breaks my heart sometimes to hear how they try to deal with the cognitive dissonance of being told to be kind and loving to all creatures on the one hand and then being given animals to eat. A little girl once told me that she didn’t eat animals. When I asked her what she liked to eat, she said, “chicken.” But isn’t a chicken an animal? I asked. She looked confused for a second and then said, “That’s a different kind of chicken.” The children also find it odd when I tell them that cows make milk for their babies, not for us. They think I’m joking.
I developed my own theory in my young mind to help me deal with the cognitive dissonance. I told myself that the animals who became my food were the “bad” ones. They deserved whatever suffering befell them. But it wasn’t a fully satisfying theory. And so I just didn’t think about it too much. When you’re a kid, unless you have the power to make decisions about what you are going to eat, unless you are able to make that connection between animal suffering and what is on your plate and have the ability to understand that you can make a choice – well, you just don’t think about it too much. After all, would your mom and dad feed you something that represented suffering and death? Would the whole world eat meat and consume animal products if it were wrong? It’s just the way it is. It’s just one of those things you don’t understand as a kid but you learn to live with not understanding. You learn to live with the fact that there is suffering and killing. You are told it’s the way of the world. Especially if you are a boy, you are told to grow up and stop being so emotional about things. You are given the message that it is somehow not masculine to care, to show compassion. That’s girl stuff.
When I was in junior college I met a girl who was vegetarian. We were in a broadcasting class together. Once we had an assignment to read a commercial for a Thanksgiving dinner. This girl decided to subvert the text: she told her audience to invite a turkey over for a vegetarian feast. I admired her moxy but wasn’t persuaded, just yet, to become vegetarian. After I transferred to the university, I took a logic class. I didn’t know it then, but the teacher was one of those animal rights guys. He had us read a chapter from Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation in which Singer lays out his argument that if we support equal rights for human beings we must logically extend that to include all animals — because of their capacity to feel pain. I found the argument to be valid but continued to eat meat. Then, not too long after that, I was cutting up a chicken carcass and rather ineptly. I stopped. I looked at what I was doing. Then I put the hacked up chicken into the trash. I had become a vegetarian. Thirteen years later I became a vegan because I could no longer kid myself that in continuing to eat eggs and dairy (and to wear leather , wool and silk) I was not contributing to the suffering of animals.
I had grown up.
ROBB walks off, stage right. Blackboard is wheeled to stage left. A map of Japan is pulled down in front of blackboard. A few seconds of music. YOKO enters from stage left stands to one side of map.
My Faith in Veganism
I was born in Japan in the south part of Japan where the big earthquake happened in the early 90’s or so and I moved to suburb of Tokoyo when I was five years-old. That’s pretty much where I grew up. When I was seventeen, I came here as a foreign exchange student and I graduated high school here. I was going to go to college but funds ran out so I have to go home and get a job and I came back when I was twenty-four and I got married, then I got divorced. My ex-husband was vegetarian, that is why I became vegetarian. But I really didn’t know what vegan was all about.
Around that time, I met this couple who are vegan – they’re very activist. They told me all about fish and cheese and all kinds of bad stuff about animal products. I was eating only fish and cheese. It was really hard for me to kick fish, because I’m from Japan. And also I love cheese. It took me a while to kick those but as soon as I got the knowledge about how bad it is and all of the suffering and mercury, and carbon footprint, the whole thing – I just quit.
Vegetarian or Vegan to Japanese people is mostly monks. When I became vegetarian my parents thought I joined Buddhist monastery – they thought I was going to become a monk! You must know, I was born in a Christian family, my parents are hard-core born-again Christians. They think God made animals for us so they think I came from Mars or something when I came back and told them I was vegan. They just asked questions like everybody else –where do you get your protein? Are you going to get sick all the time? – questions like that – they didn’t really feel happy about it for a while. I was angry at first. I felt they were ignorant. I tried to explain how I’m getting the protein, pretty much everything about how bad is eating meat. But they didn’t want to hear it. It’s very hard to talk to people about the food. Period.
Most of my friends are vegan – raw vegan. With others, I try the best I can to tell them about being vegan. But some people make fun of me. They call me hippy, or rabbit, whatever. I try to explain much as I can, for the health reasons, animal welfare. Especially now, it’s really important to become a vegan to save the planet. If they can’t see the connection, then I don’t know what to tell them. Sometimes I get frustrated. Some people will not listen to me whatsoever. I took this guy, he’s a musician and a hardcore meat eater, I took him to Japanese vegan restaurant. He ate the food, he said he liked it. Then fifteen minutes later he said, “actually, I want to go get burger.” They just have it ingrained that vegan food is not going to fill them. They already have that thought, so their brain is not going to let them feel full. This guy said he needed burger and wanted to go to McDonald’s. I told him, that’s the worst meat in the world, but he didn’t listen. Well, I can’t really waste my time if people won’t listen.
It makes me sad that people don’t understand, that they are so dis-attached from reality. It makes me really sad. I wish that people could understand that everything’s connected. They see a piece of meat nicely wrapped and they don’t see that as a whole animal – they just can’t see it. That makes me really sad.
There are so many sad things in the world, but living makes me happy. I think Life is a miracle. The sun makes me happy – I’m a sun worshipper. My dog and my cat, they make me happy too. I have a lot of love. I care about a lot of things – people and animals. Nature, everything. I think everything has a soul and is meant to be here. I want people to see me as a compassionate person. And I want people to see me as strong. My faith in veganism makes me strong.
BLACKOUT. A few seconds of music. Lights up to reveal a butcher’s shop window stage right with silhouettes of pigs hanging in it. ANDREA stands in front of it
The Only Vegan in the Village
I grew up in a very small village in Germany, about fifteen hundred people. The slaughter house was right next to me and every Monday I would hear the pigs scream. I’d press the pillows against my ears, trying to block it out, because to me they sounded like children, like humans – they screamed pretty loud. I always wanted to get away from it, I wanted to stop it – but as a kid, you don’t have any choice, you’re just born there and it’s where you grew up.
The butcher had three kids, but I never played with them, I thought they were pretty hideous looking, no necks! They had a little store downstairs and my mom would take me to buy meat. I would stand there, just frozen looking at that stuff, knowing where it came from. The butcher and his wife would always give little snips of sausage to the kids, they’d try and give it to me and I would just be horrified. My mother would say, “Don’t give her anything, she won’t eat it, she’ll feed it to the cat!” They already knew I didn’t want any of that! I was a vegetarian even as a child because I just knew, whatever screamed there on Monday, ended up in that glass case. I wanted nothing to do with it, it was too horrifying.
My parents also had a large garden at the end of the village, we would never go to the supermarket, we’d just go to the garden and pick our salad, whatever. My mom would cook from scratch. We didn’t have any school lunches, we’d go home for lunch, that’s how I grew up with pretty healthy food. I was lucky that my parents had that garden and that my mom knew how to cook. Of course she’d always say, “Aaarrgh, she doesn’t eat this, she doesn’t eat that, but there was enough other stuff for me to eat so my mom or my dad never said, you have to eat that. My brothers, though, were unaffected by the pig screams and all that – they didn’t care. My older brother, he’s an architect in his fifties now, he doesn’t even like animals. I don’t know what makes one person go the way I did and another person not care. I’m trying to figure it out. My brother and I, we don’t get along, of course !
Becoming vegan for me, it was a gradual thing, I already didn’t like milk – the only thing was the cheese, that’s one thing most people find hard to give up. Of course, back then if we had like Daiya cheese or all these substitutes it would be easier. Living here in L.A. it’s very easy to be vegan, easy to find substitutes. There has been general acceptance of my veganism but the family, I think, is the last thing that changes. Every family meeting turns into a fight over my diet. My brother says, “Are you still vegetarian?” He always tries to provoke me. It’s just very sad.
For me the sad part is, why am I the only vegan from this village? There was even a horse butcher. They have a racetrack in Frankfurt and they would get injured horses from there and they would get butchered. You’d think most people would be horrified. So, for me, to go back and visit my mom, to still see that store, to still see the butcher, I think I can’t believe I grew up there. But I’m glad I’ve had this experience because it gives me stronger arguments when people talk about sustainable, humane meat I can say – it doesn’t matter, there’s nothing humane, whether it’s twenty-thousand cows or five cows, it’s the same thing. People are horrified by these immense feedlots and such, but the small stuff is just as bad.
And people just don’t realize how bad the conditions are for dairy cows and chickens who lay eggs. My mom would say, oh, but eggs are okay! And I’d have to say, no, it’s worse, you don’t know how these hens are raised. Well, last year she went to a blueberry farm where they also sold eggs. She said she went into one of the sheds and there were thousands of hens in there, which is still considered a small operation. She was horrified. She said, “There’s no sunlight and they’re cramped in there!’ And I said, “That’s what I’m talking about, Mom. Now you see it!” And she said, “Okay, I can see it now.”
It’s frustrating, Germany is very conscious of environmental , ecological stuff like acid rain and you have to recycle religiously. But the meat issue is not talked about.
I don’t want to become an old cynic when I’m seventy sitting there saying, “Nothing changes, it’s all like a circle that just starts again, we make the same mistakes over and over again. I just wonder why some people are aware of things and others aren’t, or choose not to be, just being like plain stupid about stuff. I wish we could be just stupid for a week and have a break. I don’t want to know all these things I know! Most people, obviously, choose not to know. I wish I could wake someone up so they just don’t go mindlessly into a supermarket and grab whatever is there. I wish they would make a more conscious choice about their food and think, wait a minute, where did that come from?
People always think that vegans are such preachers. But I live with this burden of knowledge that most people don’t want to listen to. So where do I put all that?
It’s there, it doesn’t go away.
BLACKOUT. A few seconds of music. Lights up to reveal kitchen table center stage, laden with food. LARRY sits at table, facing audience. Stands.
by R.C. Curtis
About seven years ago I finally came out to my mother. I’d been living in L.A. and I’d been with my then boyfriend Richard for over a year. Richard was great; four years older than I, an academic, but with a wonderful, mordant sense of humor, a real mensch and a truly compassionate human being. He was the one who got me to go vegan. I’d never told my mother or any of my family about him or about me being queer and even though my mother never asked any awkward questions like, “when are you going to meet a nice girl?” I decided it was time to be open about it. So, in the fall of 2003 when I flew out to Chicago to visit my mother on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday, I decided to tell her.
So, my mother – well she’s a Jewish mother. Truly. She really fits the stereotype. You know, smothers you with love. And guilt. And food. Growing up, she’d practically force feed me, always concerned I wasn’t eating enough. “Have some more, have some more.” That was her mantra. And more and more. Roast chicken. Baked chicken. Chicken soup with matzah balls. Chicken soup with noodles. Noodle kugel. Gefilte fish. Knishes. Blintzes. Brisket. Bagels and lox. Corned Beef. Matzah brie. Stuffed Cabbage. Chopped liver. Kasha varnishkes. Strudel. So I grew up nice and fat. Fat and four-eyed. A nice, fat, four-eyed, gay Jewish boy. Oy vey!
Well, I get into Chicago on a chilly, windy day in mid-November and take a taxi to Skokie. About forty-five minutes later I’m at Mom’s place on Lowell Ave. And of course, the first thing my mother does when I enter the house is bring out the food. She sets out pickles. And rye bread slathered with cream cheese. And soup. And half a roasted chicken. “Eat, eat.” She says. And I look at that chicken and I look at my mother staring at me, waiting for me to dig in and I realize I need to tell her something else.
“ Mom,” I say, “we need to talk. I can’t eat this chicken.”
“What, did you eat already?” she replies, “When you knew I’d be making you something? You ate already? Okay, okay, just nosh on the pickles for a while. You’ll be hungry again soon.”
“No, that’s not it, Mom. I don’t eat chicken anymore. I don’t eat any meat anymore.”
My mother gets this look of horror on her face.”Oy! Don’t tell me you are one of those vegetarians.”
“Well,” I said, “Actually, I’m . . . a vegan.”
So, then I have to assure her I haven’t joined a cult and I try to explain just what a vegan is and she, of course, worries that I’m not getting any protein, worries that I’ll waste away, worries that I’m going to kill myself on such a radical diet, tells me that I’m going to kill her because I’m making her so worried about me, tells me this is the most foolish thing I’ve ever done and then demands to know who put me up to this.
“Well, I was getting to that. You see, uh, I’ve got something else to tell you.” And my mom has this agonized look on her face. I don’t want to prolong her agony so I just come out and say it, “ The guy’s name is Richard and he’s my boyfriend. I’m gay, Mom.”
Now, it’s hard to read my mother’s face but she certainly doesn’t look horrified. And then she says, “Larry . . . we all had that figured out years ago, darling. Tell me, this Richard fellow, is he a nice boy?”
“Is he a Jewish boy?”
“Yes, actually he is.”
“And do you two play safe? I mean, do you both wear . . .”
“Yes,” I blurt out before she can continue,” yes, we both play safe.”
“Well, alright, then,” says my mother. “But if he’s such a nice Jewish boy, I don’t know why he would want to go and turn you vay-gan!”
So I have to go over it and over it. I give her the ethical argument. I give her the health argument. I give her the environmental argument. She just keeps rolling her eyes and shaking her head. “If your father were only alive, he’d talk some sense into you,” she says. We’re sitting there in her overheated kitchen and I’m trying not to lose my cool, just wanting to escape. Then in walks my uncle Sidney. Uncle Sid, the kosher butcher.
“So what’s new with you, Larry?” he asks, slapping me on the back.
“You don’t want to know, Sidney,” Mom says, “You just don’t want to know. You’re going to plotz. Your nephew here has gone vay-gan . . . oh, and he finally came out of the closet.”
Well, Sid he thinks I’ve gone to Las Vegas and starts giving me tips about blackjack. “Always split aces and eights,” he says. “Always.”
My mother interrupts his spiel. “No, Sid, not Vegas, vay-gun.”
“Actually, it’s pronounced “vee-gun,” I say.
“You stay out of this,” Mom snaps.
“Vay-gan? Vee-gun? What in the world are you talking about?” Uncle Sid asks.
“He’s become a radical vegetarian, Sidney. He won’t eat meat – not even kosher meat—he won’t take dairy, eggs, nothing. Nothing, Sid. He’s driving a stake through my heart, I swear!”
My Uncle Sid scowls. “So what all of a sudden is wrong with meat? Do you want to put people like me out of business? All my adult life I’ve worked with meat. Meat put my daughters through college. Meat is the backbone of my life. Where do you get such foolish notions? So, what, am I now a bad man for putting food on people’s tables? Is that what you’re saying? I’m a monster?”
Then my Aunt Esther comes in, curious about the commotion.
“He’s gone vegan, Esther,” says my mother, at least this time pronouncing it correctly.
“Oh, I’ve heard about that,” says Esther. “Now, let me ask you – are you a hundred per cent?”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“You know, completely vegan. Because I hear there are different levels or what not. My friend Beth, she has a daughter about your age who’s a vegan but she eats fish.”
“If she eats fish, then she’s not vegan,” I reply.
“Well, I don’t know but I think you’re wrong. I think Beth’s daughter is pescavarian or what not.
“There’s no such thing.”
“Well,” says Aunt Esther, “I’m sure you know best but I think you’re wrong. Anyway, what else is new?”
“He’s out of the closet,” says Mom.
“Well, good for you!” exclaims Esther, giving me a little hug.
Just at that moment, my cousin Maxine wanders in.
“I came to wish the birthday girl a happy one but now I see Larry’s getting all the attention. What’s going on?”
“He finally came out,” says Esther.
“And he’s vegan,” adds my mother.
“Wow, that is news.” Says Maxine, “You know I’ve sometimes thought about trying that . . . I mean going vegetarian that is, not coming out,” she quickly adds with an embarrassed laugh. “I think that’s wonderful, Larry. But I don’t think I’d have the will power to be vegan. Maybe vegetarian, but I could never give up cheese. Never.”
“So, what do you eat?” Esther asks. And I run through a litany of vegan comestibles: Apples. Avocados. Bananas. Broccoli. Veggie Burgers. Bean burritos. Vegetable curry. Vegan cupcakes. Carrots. Green salads. Kale. Lentils. Mangoes. Oranges. Pad Thai. Pancakes. Pasta. Pears. Plums. Potatoes. Seitan. Tempeh. Tofu . . .
Mom stops me. “Satan? Like the devil?”
“No, Mom – it’s seitan – vital wheat gluten.”
“Oh, I’ve been hearing some bad things about gluten, Larry,” says Esther. “You should stay away from that stuff!”
“You see? You see?” says Mom.
“So what do you eat on Thanksgiving?” asks Maxine.
“Well, Richard and I like to have tofurkey.”
“No, really, it’s quite good,” I tell her.
“Oh my, god,” replies Maxine, “I thought you were joking.”
Then she adds, “Have you ever had a turduckin?”
“No. What’s that?”
“It’s a chicken stuffed inside of a duck stuffed inside of a turkey. You should try it some — oh geez, I forgot, Larry. You’re not allowed to have that, are you?”
So I tell her that it’s not a matter of being allowed to have something. I simply choose not to eat dead animal flesh.
“Oh, here we go!” shouts Sid.
“There’s no cause for being so gross, Larry,” scolds my mother.
I realize we’re getting nowhere, that I’m never going to win these people over. I’ve had enough and I finally lose my cool and my inner drama queen emerges. “I should never have come out here! I see I’m just ruining everything, ruining your birthday, Mom, everything. Excuse me for bringing such tsuris into this house! Excuse me for living. Maybe I should just take my horrible vegan self back to the airport and go back to California where I’m appreciated !”
Then my mother starts to cry. Aunt Esther and Maxine comfort her and Uncle Sid just stands there, shaking his head. I have to do a little back-peddling, a little smoothing of the waves.
“Look,” I say, “don’t worry about me. It’s my own thing, I’m not asking any of you to change or make special accommodations for me. I really didn’t think this would turn into such a deal.”
My mother, her mascara running down her cheeks, takes my hands in hers and she tells me it is a big deal because I’m her only son and she wants what’s best for me. And I tell her and my aunt Esther, my uncle Sid and my cousin Maxine that being vegan is what’s best for me, that I’ve never felt better, that I feel good about this lifestyle I’ve chosen, truly chosen. I tell them that I feel it’s the best choice I’ve ever made.
Then Maxine says, “I’m starving. What’s to eat?”
LARRY exits stage right. Music plays while food is cleared off of table and a computer is placed there. ROBB enters, stage left, goes to table.
by R.C. Curtis
When I first became vegetarian in the late 1970’s, I didn’t play it up, and I certainly didn’t exclude omnivore’s from my sphere of possible romantic partners. I mean, it was hard enough for me to make a connection with any reasonably attractive, sane, woman. I was happy just to find someone who didn’t openly disdain my dietary choice, who didn’t consider me a sissy for preferring a salad to a steak. Oh, I did seek women who were arty or into The Talking Heads or Devo. But finding a vegetarian was not a priority.
I hid my vegetarianism under a bushel, allowing it to shine only when I was confronted by family, friends and others who questioned my decision. Time and again I’d get the same questions thrown at me. Number one, of course, “Where do you get your protein?” — yes, back then, even when I was eating eggs and dairy! And, “But don’t plants feel pain too? Aren’t you a hypocrite?” And, “Do you care more about animals then you do about human beings?” And, “Weren’t animals put on Earth for us to eat?”
On the rare occasion when I’d actually date a woman, I’d usually take pains to assure her that this was my thing, that I wasn’t asking her to change but to merely accept my vegetarianism. Secretly, however, I was hoping that by example, I’d lead her to become vegetarian herself. It never really worked out that way.
And so it went for a number of years. But throughout those years my resolve strengthened, I became more confident in the compassionate choice I’d made, more proud of being a vegetarian. Then, at the ripe old age of 35, I finally went vegan. By the way, just so you know, I did manage to get lucky a handful of times in the intervening years. I don’t want you to think I was a complete loser.
As a vegan I knew I could not equivocate in my search for a romantic partner – okay, I did equivocate a couple of times, but what I desired ultimately was to find a vegan woman. A sexy, intelligent, lively, sweet vegan woman who laughed at all my jokes, loved the films of Hitchcock, Scorcese and Lynch, and was also into Elvis Costello, The Talking Heads and Devo. Was that too much to ask for?
Four years later I did find someone. And she was sexy, intelligent and lively. She laughed at some of my jokes, groaned and shook her head at others. She didn’t have a passion for the same music and movies that I did, but she did have passion. The best part, however, was that I convinced her to go vegan! She said she was already on the way . . . but it was me, I did the trick. I made it happen. I created a vegan woman!
The relationship lasted five-years. A tumultuous five years. Five years of passion, five years of pain. Five years of telling myself that she was vegan and the sex was great! And five years of denying that that’s not all it takes. At the end of those five years, at the end of that rocky relationship when a period of reflection, a time of cooling off was called for, there was only one thing for me to do . . . jump back into the fire! I needed another vegan woman to take away the sting. So I turned to the internet, to Veggiedate.com.
I contacted a number of local women, most of whom chose not to respond. One contact did lead to a date but none to follow. Then I decided to expand my search. If I, a 45 year-old vegan, were to find the vegan woman of my dreams – or a close approximation – then I had to be willing to look far and wide. And that’s when I found Kendra’s ad.
She was five years younger than I, on the cusp of 40, and what she said about herself and about the kind of man she was seeking jibed with my own ad in a way that could only be kismet. And it didn’t hurt that she looked cute in her picture. I’d found her!
The only drawback was that she lived about 2700 miles away in Philadelphia. But I wrote to her and she wrote back that day. I learned that she’d grown up in Arizona, had been divorced for two years, worked as a chemist at an environmental consulting firm, had been vegetarian for twelve-years and vegan for one. But most importantly, I found out that she was more than willing to relocate for “Mr. Right!
After about a month of e-mail correspondence and telephone conversations, we both learned a lot more about each other and felt a strong connection. But the real test would come with us actually, physically meeting, so I made a reservation to fly to Philadelphia. I learned later that Kendra was cautioned by friends and family against meeting me, a stranger she had just met on the internet. I could be some psychopath for all she knew. Yeah, that’s right. That’s the way we psychopaths operate. We lurk on vegetarian dating sites, meet women on the other side of the country, spend a month baring our souls by e-mail and pay our own way to fly 2700 miles to kill those vegetarian women and cannibalize their bodies. Well, I arrived in Philadelphia and our connection felt even stronger in person. So I decided not to kill her. Our journey had truly begu
Over the next few months we met a couple more times. Then Kendra’s company decided to transfer someone to their Davis, California, office. Kendra had wanted for some time to move closer to her family in Arizona and now, wanting to move closer to me, she jumped at the chance. And so, in August of 2000, four months after our on-line meeting, I flew back out to Philadelphia to help drive her and her four cats across country to Davis. That was quite an adventure, sneaking the cats into motel rooms along the way, the A/C going out in Utah, and Kendra in the throes of PMS!
I moved up to Davis the following summer. I had found my life partner, someone who loved me for who I was, accepted my flaws and helped me to recognize my strengths. Kendra brought balance to my life, brought organization where there was once chaos, and stability where there was once insecurity.
Music: Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti.” Projection: wedding, Reception
We were married in July of 2001 in the gazebo at the UC Davis Arboretum with only six in attendance: her mother, stepfather and sister; my two sisters and my best friend acting as best man. It was a simple, lovely wedding presided over by a retired Justice of the Peace. We chose to be barefoot as we took our vows. A week later we had a mini honeymoon in South Lake Tahoe. In the fall we had a beautiful reception with family and friends at my sister’s house in Simi Valley, replete with delicious vegan food, even the cake. And a band that played the loveliest rendition of Santana’s Samba Pa Ti. The following spring we had our “real” honeymoon in Paris.
Kendra and I lived up in Davis together for two years. In 2003 we both decided to move back down to Los Angeles. Kendra fell in love with L.A. and felt it was the place she was meant to be.
Projection: Village Green
In 2005, with some financial help from Kendra’s parents, we bought a condo at The Village Green, in southwest Los Angeles, a residential community set in 64 acres filled with trees and a large green flanked by two smaller ones. It was like living in a park. We both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in this beautiful place, growing old together. Two old, happy vegans, very much in love.
Projection: ROBB and KENDRA. Slow fade and then BLACKOUT
Lights up to reveal a refrigerator, stage right with a large calendar. One of the dates is circled and within the circle is written: “Go Vegan”. CLAUDIA is standing by refrigerator
The First Day of the Rest of My Life
I had a car accident in August of last year. I was a little on the heavy side and my doctor told me I had to lose some weight to take some pressure off my back. I had two bulging discs in my neck and two in my lower back. I happened to be on some medication that was making me gain weight.
I’d never been on any diet before because I never believed in them. I always thought, you just have to know what to eat, right? But my whole life I’ve spent trying to learn what to eat and I never figured it out. I did know there were certain things that weren’t good. In high school I stopped drinking soda because I was breaking out a lot. I never liked eggs. I never ate pork, my mom never fed it to us. I never liked eating greasy food, though of course, I had fast food and all that stuff. So I was always somewhat health conscious but didn’t know what to do.
After my doctor told me I had to lose weight, I started researching ways to be healthy. I read different books, watched documentaries. And I had a friend from college who’s always been vegetarian since I’ve known her, I’ve known her for eleven years now. We went out to dinner and her and her husband, they’re like, “Oh yeah, now we’re vegan.” And I’m like, “What’s that all about?” “And she said, we don’t eat animal products at all now.” And I thought, but you’re already vegetarian. Then she explained it to me. And I said, “Okay, cool. But I could never give up cheese!” Her husband said, “Yeah, everybody always says that. But Claudia, we’re the only species that drinks another animal’s milk.” I thought, “Oh, you’re right . . . how gross is that!” So it planted the seed.
So I called my friend’s sister a couple weeks later and asked her if she had any books she could recommend and she said, “Oh yeah, I’m reading the Skinny Bitch book.” So I went to the library and got it. So I’m reading it and thinking it’s going to teach me how to be healthy, learn what to eat and that sort of thing. And page after page, I’m like, Wait, what’s going on here? What’s wrong with the FDA and USDA and the Food Pyramid? I thought the government is taking care of us. All of a sudden I’m reading all these things. I don’t think I even ate for two days, I was in such shock! I didn’t know what to eat.
So this all happened at the end of last year and I didn’t know what to do. At the back of the book there was suggested reading with books and documentaries and that sort of thing so I started researching and I went on line and started following a couple of bloggers and I thought, okay, if I’m going to do this it’s going to be a lifetime commitment because I’ve never done any diet before.
So January eighth is my brother’s and my aunt’s birthday and I was at my family’s house and of course they had all this unhealthy food, fried chicken – to this day, I can’t go into Albertson’s without gagging because of the smell of the fried chicken. My family is from Guatemala but I grew up in Blythe California, a small town and the only market was an Albertson’s – so I’m looking at this food at my family’s place and I go, I can’t eat this. I just cannot eat this. So I’m like, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life and so that’s how it’s going to be – I’m going vegan. That was January ninth. I weighed a hundred eighty pounds and now, just about a year later I weigh one thirty four.
Now my family is getting involved, they’re eating healthier. I went home for Christmas, my mom didn’t have any meat or animal products in her fridge at all. She actually fits into my fat clothes now which is amazing because she’s always been heavy – and she has a bad back, too. I gave her a lot of literature, a vegan starter guide and recipes. She even made vegan pozole from a recipe I got from a friend. We had some friends over and my mom says, “Do you want some pozole?” Oh yeah sure! “Oh, but it’s vegan.” And they’re like, okay, we’ll try it. But we don’t know what that means. And they look at me and say, “Hey is that why you look so good? You look younger than your brother” – and everyone keeps saying that and my brother is eight years younger than me, he’s twenty-two! And she said, “Yeah, when you came last time you were a little bit heavier and you looked older, but now” And I’m like, “Go vegan!”
So my mom says, “Oh here!” and she’s passing out the veg starter kits and veg recipes. Go mom! Then when we were taking a picture, the girl says, “Cheese – oh, you can’t do that anymore.” Then she says, “Vegan mac and cheese” because she was reading the recipe book. So, they’re hard core Mexicans and they had just come from eating the real thing and they said,” It tastes just the same!” Stamp of approval.
BLACKOUT. A few seconds of ominous music. Lights up to reveal ROY sitting in Lazy-Boy chair, center stage. ROY gets out of chair, walks down stage.
Slaughterhouse of the Soul
by R.C. Curtis
It’s time to stop. Time to stop all the bullshit — and the chicken shit and the pig shit. All this talk about the omnivore’s dilemma. All this talk about pollo-tarian and pesca-tarian and how you’re such an animal lover —but you also love to eat them. And how you buy only cage-free, free-range, grass-fed. And the justifications, the appeals to the bible or to Darwin or to your friggin’ blood type. I mean, come on! Let’s just cut it out.
Let’s not talk in generalities. Let’s drop the euphemisms. This is no time for polite discourse. This is a time of war, a time of holocaust – animal holocaust. And I’m sorry if that term offends you but that is what’s happening and we should not have to be silent about it. The fact is, animals – living, sentient beings – are tortured, brutalized and slaughtered by the millions every day. It’s time to stop believing, as little children do, in Old MacDonald and his happy farm. No sign of suffering. No hint of the horrors. Because, folks, the modern factory farm is not any kind of farm we know from storybooks, not any kind of farm from yesteryear. It’s a big warehouse, a warehouse of horrors. A nightmare for all – the animals, of course, genetically engineered, confined, over-crowded, brutalized – but for the humans who have to work in such places — well, the factory farm is nothing less than a slaughterhouse of the soul. Now, before you start asking me how the hell I know all this, let me tell you, when I was a kid, my old man worked in just such a place, a pig farm, and if there was ever a soul-dead bastard on the face of this earth, good old dad was that guy. The brutality he witnessed and meted out at work, surprise, surprise, wasn’t left behind at quitting time.
I grew up in North Carolina. My father was a supervisor on one of the Murphy Family pig farms, suppliers to Smithfield Foods – you may have heard of them. My father would come home at some time in the evening, after he’d had a drink . . .or two. . . or three with his pals. He’d come home reeking of pig and booze – but it was the pig you smelled mostly. You just don’t forget that smell, it just clings to everything. No matter how hard my mom tried to wash it out, it stayed with us. The other kids always gave me shit about it and I learned to take care of myself, learned to be pretty quick with my fists.
Of course, not as quick, not as hard, as my old man. When he’d come home drunk he’d first start wailing away on my mother and when I tried to protect her, he’d start in on me. And I took it, yes I did – and I nurtured a seething hatred for this man called my father, nursed that hatred and grew it into a monstrous thing, a monster that stayed with me, consumed me long after my old man had died, a thing that would have destroyed me if I hadn’t turned it into something else.
Every night when I’d lie there in bed either trying to block out the sounds of my father raging or trying to block my own pain, I’d lie there and wish for his death. I’d say to whoever – I don’t know if it was God or the Devil – I’d say, “Make him die. Make him die.”
And when I was about twelve, he finally did. He was drunk, as usual, sittin’ in front of the T.V., watching football, a beer in one hand and a pork chop in the other, his face all red and covered in pork grease. He started to yell at the T.V. and then suddenly started panting like he couldn’t breathe. Then he grabbed his stomach and gasped “Oh, shit!” Then he collapsed in his chair, dead from a heart attack, as we found out later. And we just stared at him, my mother and me, didn’t do anything. Well, I was a kid, of course, only about twelve years-old but old to do something –but I didn’t. I was surprised and a bit frightened – he looked so strange—but other than that I didn’t feel much of anything, not even the pleasure of having my prayers answered. My mother, I don’t know exactly what she was feeling, whether she was just paralyzed or whatever, but she didn’t take a step towards him. I mean, she had spent her whole marriage trying to avoid the man, so I guess it was instinctual not to go near him. Anyway, like I said, we both just watched. Afterwards, as he slumped lifeless in his Lazy Boy, mother called 911.
Here’s the thing: though I’ve never forgiven my father for what he did to my mother or to me and I’m not overlooking his personal responsibility for his actions, as I’ve grown older and understood the brutality and heartlessness, the profits at all costs mentality of factory farms, I’ve come to recognize how it fucks people up. I see that in its exploitation of animals as well as humans in service to the corporation, it’s a perfect model of capitalism. My father, in a way, was just another cog in the machinery. He was brutal, yes, but fucked over by the corporation like all the other brutes in a factory farm, like everyone is — everyone except the CEO or CFO or president or whatever. And I’ve dedicated my adult life to fighting that. I’ve dedicated my life to making people aware that they live in a system that will eventually destroy everything just to feed the corporate fat cats. Being vegan is just one way of saying no to all that and yes to real change, to a whole paradigm shift , to a – yes, I’m going to say it—to a revolution of sorts. I’m not talking about taking up arms or planting bombs or anything like that. This revolution starts on your plate, starts with what you put into your body; starts with you becoming aware of how you are supporting cruelty and exploitation and greed with every hamburger, every piece of KFC, every pork chop, every glass of milk, every fried egg. But that’s just the start. After that, you’ve got to work to liberate the animals, work to shut down the factory farms, to make the slaughter houses a thing of the past.
And you just might save your soul while you’re at it.
BLACKOUT. House lights up. Music.
Main Course II
The stage is in darkness with one spot of light center stage. Paulina emerges from the shadows with her guitar, stands in spot.
A Part of Life (Brandi’s Song)
lyrics by R.C. Curtis
I grew up in the Midwest
In a rural and very small town
We always ate meat and I knew quite well
Where it was from.
For a time we raised rabbits —
That I’d watch my dad kill
And my father and brothers used to go hunting,
They still do.
It put food on our plates
And I grew up thinking
It was just part of life,
In the Midwest
In a rural and very small town.
As time went by
It bothered me
That they had to die –
But what could I do?
You think you need meat to survive
And I hardly knew
An example of what it was like
To be vegetarian –
Well, there was this one girl
A junior high friend
Who didn’t like meat
Didn’t care for the taste of it,
Which I found kind of strange
In the Midwest
In a rural and very small town.
I struggled with my conscience for a long time
Then when I was twenty-two
One day I felt sure
I didn’t want meat
and I thought,
Let’s see what happens
Let’s just see what happens . . .
Thus began my great experiment
I’d be the first girl,
Okay, the second Midwestern girl,
To live without eating meat.
So I gave it a go, one day at a time,
No big commitment, just give it a try.
The first day: okay, I didn’t die,
Then the day after that and the day after that
And on the fourth day
I awoke to discover – that I was still alive!
And I was a vegetarian!
And soon after that I looked at dairy and I looked at eggs,
And I didn’t like what I saw –
All the abuse, the suffering and cruelty—
Was just as bad, maybe worse
What I had to do became very clear to me.
You can probably guess the next verse:
This girl from the Midwest
From a rural and very small town . . .
My family did find it all a bit odd
But over time, they saw that it wasn’t a phase
And you’d be amazed how supportive they are
It’s part of my life, you see,
It’s the right thing for me.
When my sister gets back from the Peace Corps
She plans to become vegetarian
Even my mom is thinking that way
And my father and brothers . . .
Well, who knows, maybe one day, maybe one day.
Anymore it’s easy to separate
What you eat from what came before,
You don’t see what the animals had to await,
When it’s so nicely packaged there at the store,
I mean, I’m not a militant, not out to convert,
I’m not out to scare,
I just plant little seeds here and there
And one day, maybe one day
All those seeds of compassion will take root and grow
And it will be part of life everywhere, all around – – –
Even in the Midwest, in a rural and very small town.
BLACKOUT. We hear a rifle shot. Projection of woods and spot on LESA down right
Into the Woods With Reverence
by Lesa Miller
In the small town in rural Pennsylvania where I grew up, my brothers and I could simply step out the back door and be amongst the wild critters of the woods. I used to search for snakes, salamanders, toads, and insects, carefully capture them and then gently let them go where I had found them. I had no urge to keep wild animals captive as pets. I knew deep inside that they were better off free. Sometimes I would find injured or ill animals, which, with my limited knowledge and resources, I’d attempt to nurse back to health. The results, alas, were nearly always unsuccessful.
My father liked to fish and hunt. Being the first girl in three generations on his side of the family, and the eldest child, I was the one he took fishing and frogging. Kids in Pennsylvania were able to take a hunter’s safety course and get their hunting license at the ripe old age of twelve. Soon after I passed the test, I was in the woods with my father on my first hunting expedition. It was deer season. I felt nervous carrying a loaded weapon and I was not looking forward to killing anything. But it was the thing to do where we lived and this was, I suppose, a way for us to bond as father and daughter.
A couple hours after the sun rose, we were sitting still and listening to the trees above us quietly creaking in the wind. I kept looking at my gun, wondering if I’d have to use it that day.
Suddenly, we heard gunshots in the distance, and soon after a deer, a button buck, ran, stumbled, and then collapsed several yards away from us. Dad and I ran over to where the deer lay and we saw how badly injured he was, having been shot more than once. The poor thing was still conscious, blinking, and breathing shallowly. I hated to see any animal suffer. My father shook his head and muttered, “He needs to be finished off and quickly.” Then he turned to me and said, “You do it.”
It seemed like an eternity to remove my gloves, take the lock off safety, and take aim. My hands were shaking. All I wanted was for the deer to stop suffering. I fired from just two feet away, but missed the mark. Now my anxiety level was even higher. I was relieved when Dad finally delivered the fatal shot himself. I can still see the fear on that deer’s face.
I went hunting only a few more times after this, but didn’t shoot any animals. The last hunting trip was in the 1980’s with my then-husband. He would usually hunt alone or with buddies, but occasionally I accompanied him. It was opening day of doe season and the woods and fields were full of fluorescent orange figures. My husband was at the top of a hill and I was near the bottom . If any deer ran past one of us, the other might still get a shot.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a large doe and two yearlings with her. They were nearly full grown, weaned, and spots faded. They ran part way down the hill where I was crouched, waiting. The doe hesitated for just a few seconds, testing the air and watching for movement. I raised the gun, held my breath . . . and I fired. She went down immediately, kicked for about two seconds, then was still.
For several seconds I squatted on the ground, not believing she was dead and that a bullet from my gun had taken her life. Then I realized the yearlings were looking at her, waiting for her to move. They looked all around, confused and scared. They had always had her to depend on for guidance and safety.
But no more. All of that had been taken away from them. Any sense of pride and accomplishment I might have had was crushed by sudden grief and regret. I tossed the gun into the snow, a sacrilege to hunters. I knelt down on the ground, and I cried over what I had done.
By this time the yearlings had run back up the hill. Then I heard another shot but couldn’t see what happened. I just hoped they’d gotten away. Within five minutes my husband came down over the hill, all smiles. “Congratulations!” he said, “You got your deer.” Then he saw I was in no mood for celebration. I told him this was the last time I’d be hunting. He quietly acknowledged, but didn’t offer any words of comfort. In fact, to the contrary. He told me that last shot I heard before he appeared was the one fired by another hunter only 100 yards from me who had killed one of those yearlings.
On the drive home with the doe in the back of the truck, I hoped and prayed that the other yearling had survived. If so, he or she would be bedding down alone for the very first time that night.
This memory remains fresh in my mind even after twenty-five years. I’m compelled to share it because if I don’t, it seems that doe would have died in vain. She lives on in my memory and acts as an example of the cruelty of sport hunting .
My journey from venison to veganism was not an overnight transformation. It took some time for me to process, to figure out, but the more I learned about sport hunting and factory farming, the less meat I ate until on my twenty-eighth birthday, I officially announced to my family that I would no longer be eating animals – wild or domestic.
Since that time, I divorced the hunter, have written several letters to the editor, including my hometown newspaper, about the facade behind organized sport hunting by Fish and Game agencies.
I continue to be a voice for wildlife and factory farmed animals through volunteering with animal advocacy organizations, and simply setting an example for others.
I will always be drawn to the hills and wild places of Pennsylvania or wherever I am living. I am proof that you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. But now I go in peace and with reverence, marveling at the wild animals again like I did as a young girl in the woods.
Spot off LESA. Spot on PASTOR, down left at pulpit.
It’s not Going To Make You less Black
I’m studying to get my PHD in religion and I’m a pastor at a church. I’m also in the process of transitioning to veganism. I have within my Christian beliefs a compassion for creation. My foray into this movement started in an animal ethics class. Between that class and my dog getting sick and me being able to realize the immense compassion I have for my dog, it made me think, why don’t I feel this way about other animals? And it all snowballed into something else.
What really took me over the top, that made me go from cutting out meat on a limited basis to permanently cutting out meat, was the connection I was able to make between the oppression of animals and the oppression of black and brown people all over the world. Being able to find books and resources that were able to explain that was important. Really, what started all that was seeing pictures in The Sexual Politics of Meat that reminded me of pictures I’d seen of people in the slave trade. I thought, wow, this is crazy how this comparison is right there. Then I discovered a book called The Dreaded Comparison. After that I knew I had to make that change. Because when you see the commonalities of oppression, with one group of people in power basically using the same mindset to oppress African Americans and now using that on animals, I felt as an African American participating in the structure that I was participating in the same thing we fought so hard to overcome and are still fighting to overcome. I needed to help other African Americans to become aware of this as well.
In my nature as a clergy, in my love for others in my mostly African American church, I’ve looked at the health consequences in our culture, how we have a higher rate of diabetes and pretty much a higher rate of everything else, we don’t have access to healthier food, we have poor diets. A lot of what I’ve been able to do in my own congregation is talk to them about why I became a vegetarian and about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. The animal issues have begun to grow, but it was much more grounded in health and wellness – but also the treatment of animals related to the treatment of African Americans.
I recognize I’m coming from a position of power, even though I’m a young clergy person – I’m only thirty years-old and most of my congregation are fifty and up. In some ways they did have a lot of questions they were looking for me to answer. What I found really interesting is that a lot of the older African American women in my church don’t really eat meat anyway. But they don’t say they’re vegetarian, because for them a vegetarian has a connection with whiteness. Once I was able to help them move past words and realize there’s different ways we can eat and still have it taste good. There’s a fear as a Black person, that I’ve even experiences: how am I going to eat soul food?? How am I not going to eat fried chicken? How am I going to go home and tell my mom I’m not going to eat fried chicken? She’s going to freak out. The table is a huge part of our culture. In the African American Christian population, sitting down for Sunday after church dinner is a big deal. I’ve been able to realize there’s other things we can eat, that are still Soul Food, that are vegetables – greens, collard greens, all different kinds of beans, all different things I grew up eating – if you can make these minor changes. It can taste just as good if not better. And it’s healthy.
When I first started at my church, the first time we had a potluck, I made a different form of greens. Typically when most Black people cook greens, they use some kind of meat in the greens. I didn’t use meat. I used orange juice and I used raisins. A totally different taste, cooked it in olive oil. When people ate them, they were just like, wow! Who made these greens? They’re so good! And I said, “Oh, these are vegan greens.” They couldn’t believe it. I introduced to them that you can make these changes and food will still taste good. You’re not going to compromise your integrity. It’s not going to make you less Black to not eat meat.
BLACKOUT. A few seconds of music and then lights up to reveal DANIELLE center stage at artist’s easel which supports a canvas of which we see the back. She holds a paint brush and paints as she speaks.
An Activist With A Creative Block
I grew up in Wisconsin, a really shy kid, very sensitive. I feel that I’m an ethical person at heart. I’ve always loved animals. We always had dogs, rescued dogs from shelters, and cats. I remember going to the local humane society when I was in kindergarten and getting my first kitten. She lived for fifteen years, a good life. When I was around five years-old, I had a little “save the ants” campaign. It involved telling people they shouldn’t step on ants. Of course, at the same time, my friends and I liked to sharpen popsicle sticks and poke each other with them!
When I was in high school, after a failed attempt at being vegetarian, I read Diet For A New America by John Robbins. After reading that book, I went vegan right away. It was the ethical arguments. It was the way he describes the day-in, day-out life of chickens, pigs, beef cows, dairy cows. They’re tortured every day. I was shocked and horrified and sad that I didn’t know any of this. I stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs, threw out all the leather I had. My parents were really supportive, they actually went vegetarian, they’re still vegetarian and so is my little brother.
In college, I ran an animal rights group. We would table every week in the student union. It was hard for me to talk to people, try to get people to come to the table and ask me a question. Or I’d end up getting into fights with people. Now I talk to people all the time, and I feel that being an activist for a cause I feel so passionately about has helped me overcome my shyness. But I don’t preach to them – it’s just planting seeds. The seeds get planted and maybe seven years later they’re going to grow in the person’s mind.
I went to college in Milwaukee and studied Political Science and Philosophy. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with that. Then I applied to Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland Oregon to study animal law and met a lot more activists. That led to working for a semester for college credit at the Humane Society in Washington, DC.
After I graduated from law school, I went to Japan with Sea Shepherd to educate people about the mercury laden dolphin and whale meat that was being served in the school lunch programs there. After that I went back to Portland. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer and practice as an attorney. So I moved to the east coast and interviewed at the Humane Society for a job in their campaigns department. I was in D.C. for almost two years.
But I wanted to try something new. I took a position at Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, but was only there for about six months when a friend hired me to work for her organization, the Galapagos Preservation Society which protects wildlife there by spaying, neutering and finding homes for the thousands of stray dogs and cats that roam the islands and prey on lizards, small tortoises, iguanas and birds. She asked me to be her sole employee. It allowed me to move back to the west coast, which I’d always wanted to do, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I’ve only worked at non-profits for animals, pretty much my whole working life. My work pretty much dominates my life, but I try to have a social life as well. Most of my friend’s are vegan. They’re mostly artists or work in film rather than working for non-profits or doing full time animal rights work. It is daunting sometimes, though. There are days where I feel it’s hopeless. But there’s always something that gets me out of that. There’s always one person, one little thing I hold onto. And there are people I’m around who really care about the animals and the environment, who are so committed and passionate. Whenever I get down about stuff, I think about them.
I wish I knew what I’d be doing say ten years from now, I can’t really imagine going to work for a business. After working from home on my own schedule it would be hard for me to go back to an office. I want to keep doing something that makes the world a better place. Honestly, though, I sort of feel like an artist that has had a lifetime creative block. So I’m trying to do more creative things. I’m trying to figure out what I can do, some work that helps animals, people and the environment in a more creative way. I really feel I should have gone to art school, not law school. [turns the easel around to reveal a painting that says “Go Vegan!” She picks it up and exits, stage left.]
Lights dim. A brief video clip of a rodeo is projected. JOHANNA enters from stage right, delivers monologue from down right.
Unemployment Made Me Vegan
by Johanna Kesterson
I’m fifty years-old, a native born Texan, well-educated, a lawyer and MENSA member. I’ve been vegan for the past two years. You could say that being unemployed made me become a vegan.
Now, you have to know that Texas is all about beef. Steaks, barbecue, all of that. Vegetarianism is just not part of our culture. I was a meat eater, to be sure. Not just a meat eater, but a junk food junkie. I was living in the suburbs of Houston, working most of the time, had no time to cook. Every day, twice a day, I’d eat at McDonalds or Taco Bell or KFC. I was always thin and relatively healthy so I saw no problem with that.
In March of 2006 I started dating a man who ate very little meat for health reasons. Sometimes he’d have a hamburger or some chicken, but most of the time he’d eat lots of vegetables and stuff like tempeh. I’d never even heard of tempeh! On one of our first dates I invited him to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is a probably the biggest social event in Houston. I ordered a corndog and a fried snickers bar. He later told me that when he saw me eat that corndog and that fried snickers bar, he wondered if he could really date someone who had such an unhealthy lifestyle!
My boyfriend had a couple of friends he told me were vegetarian. I’d never met an actual vegetarian before and I just thought they were weird hippy types. But when it came to their vegetarianism, they never talked about it and I never asked . . . talk about don’t ask, don’t tell!
In 2008, the company I worked for closed its doors and I was left unemployed. My boyfriend had just moved to Palo Alto, California for a post doctoral position at Stanford and I followed.
The economy was bad, and I couldn’t find a job there, so I decided to take some continuing education classes at Stanford. One of the classes I took was a philosophy class. We discussed some of the works of Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher, nothing related to animal rights, but some of his other books and articles. I was so impressed with his writings that I decided to read more on my own. That’s when I came across Animal Liberation.
As I read the book it all made sense to me. I started to question whether or not I should be eating meat. I decided to go to the PETA website. I watched a video on how chickens were treated on factory farms, and after that I never ate a chicken again. About two weeks later, I summoned enough courage to watch another video and learned about how pigs were treated on factory farms and I stopped eating pigs. It took another week before I forced myself to watch the video about cows, this time knowing how things would turn out: I became a vegetarian and swore off all meat.
I bought a bunch of books and started reading about the issues. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to give up dairy too. That was a little harder though. For a while I would eat dairy only when I went out, never at home. By this time I was eating most of my meals at home, I wasn’t working and had time to cook. Eventually I just gave up dairy altogether. My boyfriend – the one who mostly ate tempeh and vegetables, was happy with my change but still ordered hamburgers when we would go out. Even at this point I still had never met a vegan. I was it.
Time passed and I still hadn’t found a job. I was running out of money and my boyfriend’s post-doc position was about up and he was going to move to Irvine, CA for another opportunity. I couldn’t afford to go to Irvine and decided to go back to Houston. I had friends in the legal community and I still had a house there that I had been unable to sell.
Well that was the beginning of one uncomfortable year. My friends and family were not interested in my vegetarian and vegan ideas. They thought I had lost my way while I was in California. They teased me, got angry with me, and mostly were just waiting for me to realize how crazy this all was and go back to eating “normal”. I joined a vegetarian/vegan meet-up group in Houston and met a few vegans for the first time in my life.
Sometime before July 2010 I heard about an animal rights conference in Washington, DC. I didn’t know a soul who was going and I really couldn’t afford it but figured if I didn’t get a job or sell my house soon I was going to be out on the street anyway – it wasn’t going to make the difference. That conference changed my life. I learned so much and was surrounded for the first time in my life by other people who were interested in animal rights issues. I never felt so happy to be anywhere in my life.
I learned that being vegan was more than just not eating meat and dairy. After that, I stopped buying leather and wool and just became more conscientious overall. Giving up leather was bigger than you might think, I had over two hundred pairs of leather shoes some of them very expensive designer shoes: Chanel, Prada, Manolo Blahnik, to drop a few names! I had an extensive collection of expensive leather purses. I had three leather couches. I gave them all up. I gave up my two fur coats. Just about everything I had acquired over the years that was of any value or lent any status I gave up. I swore off rodeos, circuses and zoos. Now my friends and family knew for sure I had lost my mind. Who would boycott the rodeo, the biggest social event in town?
My boyfriend was still living in Irvine, so I interviewed for a job there. Several months later, I got the job offer and my house finally sold and I moved to Irvine. But the job didn’t work out after all. I am still unemployed and my boyfriend has broken up with me, but I am happier than I have been in a very long time. I am now an active member of the Orange County People for Animals and have participated in numerous animal rights demonstrations and have met the most amazing vegan people in the world.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
BLACKOUT. A brief video clip of undercover footage from a factory farm is projected. Lights on center stage. COBY is standing at table upon which are numerous vegan and AR magazines and books.
We All Live Together Under This Moon
I was born and raised in Holland. I have been vegetarian all my life. I went vegan after seeing movies at the first animal rights convention in the 80’s. When you see these horrendous situations on factory farms, you will never touch any dairy or eggs – you have to make sure. Before that, we didn’t use much dairy but I was always looking for the low fat Dutch cheese.
My mother became a vegetarian for ethical reasons. When she was around sixteen she couldn’t stand the sight of meat anymore. Her father asked [demanding voice] ‘do you think you want to become a vegetarian!’ And she said, ‘I don’t become one . . . I am one!’ [gasps] The house was too small then! ‘Out!’ said her father. But he did pay for her studies, that was good. She became a teacher, she was only sixteen. She had to stay with friends.
It was very normal in Holland – you had people that were vegetarian and you had people that ate meat. When we were in grade school, in fifth or sixth grade, we went on a weekend outing with the teacher and she said, “Since we already have two girls in the class that are vegetarian, we might as well all go vegetarian so we don’t have to worry about meat in the freezer.” As I say, it was normal. In Holland you had plenty people vegetarian, but mostly they were India people – you had just as many people from other countries as you do here, in Los Angeles.
My father had as a child polio, his kidneys were damaged and the doctor said you have to for the rest of your life be on a vegetarian diet, as little protein as possible. My father thought, oh, this is something! Then he went to a slaughterhouse and that did it. He had no problems being a vegetarian, it was so horrendous, so important that you don’t participate in this.
There was not much. But we had lots of berries in the yard, blackberries and red and white berries and my mother grew all the herbs and such. We also had a health food store that came by car out of Amsterdam. We were never hungry – except when the Germans were there. Then we ate sugar beets and my husband, who worked at a big factory, brought home terrible salty syrup – it gave you calories but it was so unedible! So with a sugar beet, or a tulip bulb or so, we could just make it. Also there was a soup kitchen; but my mother said, and it was so true we found out later on, “They could put a cat or dog into that – we cannot eat that food!” Whatever they stuck in it, all the meat was for the Germans, not for us. The neighbors with their potatoes put the peelings outside to be picked up but we got them first, we ate the potato peels. How can I forget those things? Such a horrible time!
I became a nurse in Holland when I was twenty-two. Most people knew I was vegetarian and I never had any problems with that, even though the medical establishment back then didn’t know the benefits of a vegetarian diet. But maybe the doctors didn’t know I was a grass eater, as my mother used to call us! With the patients, with a child or elderly person, I’d always feeds them the potatoes, macaroni, vegetables. If they wanted the meat, I’d give them a piece, whatever. But I would never ever feed them first the meat.
I came to the United States in 1955. But in the beginning, not even in the phone book was the word vegetarian, so we had to write to Holland, could you please give us the addresses, we cannot find anything here? So they did and then you get the Vegetarian Resource Group or something like that and we got all the info.
I can’t stand the whole concept of killing for food, there is no need for it. The human body doesn’t require anything from an animal. I can only give people better education, tell them, read this book, read that book. You don’t have to believe me, but I know better. I read all these vegan magazines, vegetarian magazines, just to keep up because they find more and more tiny details that are so important for us.
For me it was very simple, so simple, to go from vegetarian to vegan. You see the cruelties involved, you don’t want any part of it. Now it’s so easy, they’ve come out with so many things like tofu and tempeh and seitan, all the vegan cheeses – it is so simple. You can just eat your tomato and lettuce and cheese sandwich like everybody else. No problem.
I know about human suffering. It is idiotic to say I only care about animals, not humans. I’m not forgetting humans. It’s not for nothing I became a nurse. Humans are just as important as the animals. We all live together under this moon.
Lights fade to black A few seconds of music. Spot on ROBB, down right.
Keeping Hope Alive
by R.C. Curtis
In June of 2006, Kendra started experiencing great abdominal pain. A trip to the emergency room revealed that she was suffering from non-malignant fibroid tumors in her uterus which she later found out were degenerating, thus causing the pain. We decided upon a partial hysterectomy which was performed in September of that year.
One afternoon, after Kendra had recovered from the operation, I came home and she said, “Honey, sit down.” A pathology report had come back and it revealed an endometrial sarcoma — a form of uterine cancer. Kendra handled the news much better than I. A complete hysterectomy followed in November and then the endless rounds of chemo and surgical procedures. But we always kept hope alive. At one point we thought we had it licked, with a PT Scan showing no detectable cancer cells. But the cancer came back and moved up to her lungs.
We ran through all the chemo options. Kendra was so brave and so committed to getting better. She even went on a completely raw diet after doing extensive research. But she had continued trouble breathing and a loss of appetite. On June 11, 2008, I took her to the oncologist to discuss putting her on a phase 1 clinical trial drug. However, after hearing how labored Kendra’s breathing was he said she needed to go straight to the ER.
We were in ER most of the day and then she was put in one hospital room and then another where she was monitored and had to wear a breathing mask. Several x-rays and a CT scan had already been taken and after studying these, the resident oncologist told us that the cancer had progressed to such a point (specifically surrounding her right lung but many other places as well) that all we could do was make her as comfortable as possible, put her on a morphine drip and wait. I can’t tell you how much that hurt, to hear there was no more hope. It felt like a sledgehammer blow to my gut.
I spent that Wednesday night with her and stayed with her all day and night the next day when she was transferred to a very nice room on the oncology floor. Her mother and stepfather flew out from Arizona and others came to visit. She was kept comfortable and was in and out of consciousness throughout Thursday. By Friday morning it was obvious the end was near as she was unresponsive and even with oxygen her breathing became quite poor. Her mother, stepfather and I were with her when she finally stopped breathing and was at peace. She died at twelve noon on Friday the thirteenth. A week later we had a beautiful memorial for her at The Village Green under a favorite bowing oak tree.
Some people will tell you that a whole food, plant-based diet has the power to prevent and even reverse some diseases, and there is ample evidence to back this up, most notably by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Some people will tell you that vegans don’t get sick. But sometimes, even vegans get dealt a lousy hand. And in my wife’s case I believe that out of control hormones and the fact that she worked briefly at nuclear power plants were a factor in her cancer. I don’t tell her story to refute the health benefits of a vegan diet. In fact, I believe if it weren’t for maintaining such a diet, Kendra would not have been able to withstand the ordeals she underwent. Three months before she died Kendra was in full vigor as we hiked in Yosemite.
At the hospital when the resident oncologist broke the news to Kendra and then asked if she understood, my dear wife raised a finger, looked at me and rasped through her oxygen mask, “One day at a time.” At the time I thought she still believed there was hope that she would get better. I now believe it was a message for me: all we can do is live life one day at a time. Kendra chose to live every day of her life as compassionately as she could and her greatest wish was to live long enough to see all animals treated with compassion. She wanted to see veganism become a part of the mainstream, not treated like something extremist. She had hope that one day most people would understand that the principles of veganism are worth aspiring to, that they reflect the best and most ethical in human nature.
Kendra believed in keeping hope alive. I do too. I grieved deeply over the loss of my life partner and still do, but I’ve also moved on. I joined a grief support group and that helped immensely. My family has bolstered me more than I can say. But what has also helped as I venture through this new world without Kendra is the support of the vegan community, my other family. I have met so many wonderful, compassionate, life-affirming people – though a good many of them are young enough to be my children. But they keep me young!
Sometimes I regret that Kendra and I did not have a child. Of course, I’m glad that we didn’t, considering what happened. Still, wouldn’t it have been wonderful, raising a vegan child? Someone who would grow up without ever contributing to animal suffering. Someone who would carry on a tradition of true compassion for all beings.
Someone to keep hope alive.
BLACK OUT. Spot on MINOO and puppet, Center Stage.
A Young Activist
by R.C. Curtis
My name is Marcie, I’m eleven years-old and I’m a vegan – I’ve been vegan for a whole year now. Before that I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian since I was seven. That means I had dairy and eggs. But I stopped all of that once I got educated.
When I was seven, one time my family went to a steak house for dinner. We sat by a window where you could see a meadow. Our steaks came and we’re all eating and I looked out the window, and there was a cow, eating grass in the meadow and just then the cow looked up, right in my direction. I was old enough to know that animals had to die to become the meat I ate, but I never had what could have been my dinner staring at me. And I didn’t like that at all.
I had once asked my Dad, “Why do animals have to be killed?” and he said, “That’s the way it is, it’s just the way it is.” But now I didn’t think that was a good answer. When we got home, I said to my mom and dad, “I’m not going to eat meat anymore. I don’t want to eat dead animals.” And you know what? They said, “Well, that’s your decision.” You see, they believe I have the right to make my own decisions – they’re great that way. They didn’t stop eating meat themselves, but they supported me, a seven year-old, because they knew how important it was to me. My mom did say, “Well, I’m not going to cook you anything special.” And I said that’s okay, I’ll just eat everything except the meat, which I did do for three years. I ate the vegetables, the fruit, potatoes, salads, bread, all that. But also eggs, milk, cheese, ice-cream, all that. And I thought I it was all good, you know, I was vegetarian and that’s all it took. I just didn’t know then what I know now.
Then, one evening last year when I was ten, my mom and me, we were walking through the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and, you know, they have all these performers, musicians, acrobats, but also people they call activists, who want to educate you about their cause. And we come up to this group of people watching videos some activists were showing all about veganism and the way animals are treated on factory farms, that sort of thing. My mom says, “Oh, I don’t want to watch this, it’s sickening. Let’s not stop.” But I wanted to watch, I needed to watch. Even though I was already a vegetarian, I needed to take it all in, I needed to learn more, it’s just the way I am. So I told my mom, “You can walk away if you want, but I’m watching.”
And I did watch. And I cried. I never really knew just how bad things were for the animals, how much they have to suffer even before they are killed. There was this one video, “Meat Your Meat” it was called, and it showed everything, but the hardest part for me to watch was the part about the laying hens and dairy cows and, oh my god, the horrible conditions and what terrible lives they had! The chickens are killed after they’ve stopped laying any more eggs and the cows are killed for hamburger once they can’t make any more milk, which they make for their babies anyway, and the babies are taken away from their mothers, the females to become another dairy cow and if it’s a male, it becomes a veal calf. A veal calf! Do you know just how horrible a veal calf’s life is? They’re chained in a stall they can’t even move around in and they’re fed stuff that makes them really weak and then they’re killed when they are really young and it’s just horrible, horrible.
And that’s when I really started crying, because, you see, I had been supporting all of that. Me, drinking milk, eating cheese, ice cream, scrambled eggs – and thinking all the time that I was doing the right thing. I felt so bad. But I didn’t know, I just didn’t know. And then this nice woman came over – I learned later that she was a veterinarian, and she talked with me and I told her about being vegetarian but not vegan and she told me that she thought it was great the decision I’d made back when I was seven. She told me that I shouldn’t feel bad, that most people don’t even become vegetarian until they are adults. Then she gave me a pamphlet called “Why Vegan” and she gave me her card with her phone number. She told me that if I had any questions to give her a call. When my mom came back I told her,” I’m going vegan.” Just like that, I’m going vegan. How could I not? Wouldn’t you? My mom said, “Honey, let’s talk about this later.”
So my parents were a little worried, they thought I might be taking the vegetarian thing a little too far. They worried about protein, stuff like that. They worried it was a little too radical, they worried I might harm myself. I said, “Mom, Dad, you’ve supported me all along. I’m asking you to keep doing that. If you saw what I saw, if you knew what I know now, you’d understand.”
And then my dad said something I’ll never forget. He said, “We want to learn about this too. If we’re going to support you in this, we need to know what you are getting into.” So they went on-line. They went to PETA, they went to Vegan Outreach, and a bunch of other places. And in the end they said they approved. They approved of my decision! But here’s the most amazing, wonderful thing. A little while later my mom tells me that she plans on eating vegan one night a week and if she likes it, she’ll try to go vegan too! I couldn’t believe it. I hugged her and I cried. But these were tears of joy.
So I also stopped wearing any leather or wool, anything from an animal. And I guess you’d say I’m sort of an activist myself now. I talk about the animals and being vegan all the time at school and some of my friends are even thinking of giving it a try. I try not to be pushy about it but it’s so important, I just want everyone to know what I know and feel how I feel.
I want people to stop hurting the animals. I want people to stop paying others to hurt the animals. I want them to love animals, not eat them. You don’t need to eat animals or things that come from animals. And vegan food is delicious! I know I’m just one young girl, just one small voice and why should you listen to me? But I’ve met so many others who do feel the same way, who know what I know. All our voices are there for people to hear. Sometimes people listen. Sometimes they don’t. But no matter what, we’ll keep telling the truth. For the animals. Go vegan!