I have been a vegetarian since 1977, when I was 14, after I read Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet. In high school, I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, and wore a button that said “Lab Animals Never Have Nice Day”. My brother became a vegan (no use of animal products whatsoever) when he was a teenager, and in 1990 I dated a passionate animals rights activist who, with my brother, inspired me to stop wearing leather, wool or silk and to not use any products tested on animals. I have cut down on my consumption of dairy (a particularly cruel food group, believe it or not), but I am still not a total vegan, although I admire greatly those who are. I will not patronize zoos, aquariums, circuses, or any other places where animals are kept in captivity. I oppose the buying and selling of animals (get your pet from a pound, not a puppy mill!), and I deplore fur of any kind. I believe in an animal’s right to live free and pain free, therefore I am against animal testing of any kind. My heroes on animal issues are my brother, Jonathan, my friend Chris DeRose (www.lcanimal.org) and filmmaker Michael Tobias.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was shocked by the devastation and the suffering that the citizens of New Orleans and surrounding areas had to endure. I immediately donated to my favorite relief organization, Operation USA (www.operationusa.org). I had traveled to Nicaragua during the war there to deliver medical supplies with Operation USA, so I know how hardworking and efficient that group is. Vietly traveled to Houston to help at the Astrodome, and she found a homeless family I could sponsor. But I was especially upset by the plight of the thousands of pets that had to be left behind when the city was evacuated. My heart just broke to think of them wandering the flooded streets looking for food and shelter, or starving and thirsty, locked up in homes because the owners thought they would be back a couple days after the storm hit. My brother, a long time animal advocate ( www.americaswhalealliance.org ), tried to get down there to rescue pets, and couldn’t get into the city. I contacted a volunteer in Biloxi and he told me not to come down – extra bodies meant less resources like water, transportation and shelter for the those already down there. I dreamt about the animals in need; I got depressed over my inaction. I went about my busy life and in the back of my head and weighing on my shoulders and deep in my heart I still felt that nagging feeling – what about the animals?
Six weeks after the hurricane, I got a call from my friend Chris DeRose (www.lcanimal.org) who had just returned from helping at the Best Friends rescue operation in Tylertown, Mississippi. "They still need volunteers, Alexandra, they are still finding live animals in New Orleans". I went down the next week, and Vietly joined me. The following is my account of the 3 days we spent at the shelter.
To learn more about the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism and veganism, and about animal rights, read “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins and “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins (both listed in my Favorite Books section) or go to his organization’s website www.earthsave.org.