How Karen Saved 557 Animals [Case Study]
What if you could easily save 557 animals?
Would you do it?
I recently got the chance to have a Q&A with Karen Stevenson who is quite the animal hero.
She has saved over 557 animals (very conservatively, probably way more) by doing something we can all do....
Let's jump right in and get some tips for how we can save over 557 animals just like Karen did!
How did you first hear about animal agriculture?
I think I’ve always been aware of animal agriculture to a degree as I’ve always loved animals and hated that they are killed for food. It wasn’t until the last decade that I really became aware of how horribly they were treated though. And even then I have avoided seeing many of the videos, etc., as I am just so sensitive to their pain. It was also avoidance because I didn’t want to admit I was causing some of that pain. It was easier to live in denial.
How much meat did you eat before finding out about animal agriculture?
I was a carnivore and ate meat every day, if not twice a day. I had very few meals that revolved around something other than meat, except for breakfast - I've never liked bacon.
How much meat do you eat now and how long has it been since you reduced your meat consumption? (This will determine the exact number of animals saved)
Okay, so in early 2015 I started by just giving up pork, but I subbed in other meats so it didn’t really lower my overall meat consumption. There’s a story behind that step that I’ll mention later. Around the beginning of 2016 I became a vegetarian, no longer eating meat or fish. Then in September of 2016 (officially) I became a vegan so now there’s no meat, eggs, dairy or honey. I’m not sure how many animals that means I’ve saved, but I’d love to know. A huge part of my journey has been directly linked to animal rescue.
What made you decide to reduce/eliminate your meat consumption?
So, my journey started with a pig named Esther. If you haven’t heard of Esther the Wonder Pig, start following her on Facebook. I stumbled into her page somehow and started following the antics of two gentlemen from Canada who adopted what they thought was a mini pig (and who turned out to be a full sized pig). But, much to their dismay, they fell in love with her as they discovered she really wasn’t any different than their dogs in personality. Through their journey they became vegans (or Esther-Approved as they put it) and it inspired me to give up pork. I couldn’t eat it anymore after I, too, started to fall for this rather large, adorable pig. But, I still didn’t know how to take the next step and would have struggled a lot more if I hadn’t also met my boyfriend who is vegan. With his help and a visit up to Farm Sanctuary and Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in NY, I made the rest of my journey.
How do you feel now that you gave up meat?
There are two answers to this question. First, I don’t feel any different at all — that is, I don’t physically feel different. There are some moments where I still crave certain dishes and whatnot, but not very often. Health wise, my doctor is thrilled with my new diet and lifestyle. The other answer to this question is that emotionally I feel happy. It’s comforting to know that I am doing everything I can in my own life for these animals who suffer so much. There’s a release of the former guilt that I had which is wonderful. It’s still painful to know the reality, of course, but I like that I’m doing my part.
How did you give up meat? What do you eat at home and at restaurants? What exact steps did you take?
So, my process to becoming vegan was interesting. My boyfriend, having decades of vegetarianism and veganism under his belt, at first was just like “okay, don’t eat any of this anymore”. It wasn’t so easy for me to follow that though because I had no idea what to eat instead of meat. I didn’t want to just sub in fake meats (although there’s nothing wrong with that) and I’ve also been a very picky eater so trying new foods was stressful for me. So, anyhow, together we ended up approaching this differently. We started with easy things like having a veggie pizza instead of one with meat on it. (Full disclosure here: I am lactose intolerant so giving up dairy wasn’t too far of a stretch for me as I ate very little of it to begin with.) Then we explored new recipes one at a time and built up a great selection of go-to recipes that were so delicious that I wanted to eat them instead of most of my old meals anyhow. It was really all about adding in new options as opposed to eliminating the old ones. It made it so easy.
As for what I eat, there are too many things to list, but here are some of my favorites: chili, minestrone soup, pasta with a chickpea “meat” sauce, pizza, black bean burgers, stir-frys and jambalaya, eggplant parm, pea soup, potato and chickpea masala, portobello fajitas… Those are mainly the dinners because breakfast and lunch didn’t really change much for me. Cereal, toast with peanut butter, salads, fruit, veggies, etc. are all the same. Desserts are pretty easy too as you can easily sub in applesauce for eggs, and vegan chocolate chips, etc. There’s also great vegan products out there from butter and mayo to ice cream and cheese, etc. And then of course, chips, pretzels, salsas and the like that were vegan to begin with.
Eating out can be a bit more challenging, just to be honest. Not many restaurants offer vegan labels and so you need to ask questions and clarify. But, often they’re happy to leave off the dairy, etc. Indian and Thai restaurants are fairly easy. Mexican and Italian, too. But, others can be tough. But, you just prepare for it by calling ahead or checking out their menu online, etc.
Advice you have for others who are new to reducing their meat consumption?
This is easy. Go on Pinterest, type in Vegan Recipes and try something new that looks good and has good reviews. Or buy a vegan cookbook. Don’t approach this with a “can’t have” attitude — instead just add new delicious recipes to your revolving menu and over time it’ll be an easy transition. Also try taking your favorite recipes and subbing in vegan ingredients and options. Like the portobello mushrooms in fajitas instead of meat. So easy and super healthy.
Any particular resources you find helpful for people who need help with reducing their meat consumption?
Well, my boyfriend was my best resource as he’s been doing this for so long, but I would really use Pinterest and cookbooks. We love Thug Kitchen (if you don’t mind lots of swear words, lol), Vegan Richa and Dreena Burton for recipes. Oh, if you want to take it even further, you can check that your alcohol is vegan at Barnivore.com That’s another great resource.
How do you feel knowing that you are preventing hundreds, and eventually even thousands of animals just like our dogs and cats from going through factory farms?
It’s heart-warming knowing I am doing my part. But, also heart-wrenching knowing how easy some of these changes are and seeing very few people making them. But, the trend is on the rise, especially with millennials, so I like where the future is going.