Vegancouragement - You Can Be Vegan

Heidi Cohen

Veganism Is My Life

Heidi Cohen Heidi Cohen

Passionate Vegan

My story begins in March of 1990 at age 19. I'm at a Grateful Dead concert in Albany, New York out in the parking lot enjoying the "Shakedown" scene prior to the show. A friend of mine from junior college is going around stamping people with something. When she arrives at me, she matter-of-factly asks me, "Do you eat animals?"

"Love Animals, Don't Eat Them" is written on the stamp. My response was, "Yes, I like the way meat tastes." However, as those words were coming out of my mouth, it's as if the epiphany was occurring! The lightbulb went on; the sugar-coated veil was lifted, and for the first time ever I actually made the connection that I was eating someone and not just something.

No one had ever asked me that question although I'm sure someone had asked me if I ate meat. It's as if I knew I was eating meat, yet somehow never realized I was actually eating animals, as society's deeply ingrained acceptance of systemic violence creates our cognitive dissonance towards our hypocrisies. I looked at my boyfriend at the time and said, "I'm never eating meat again!" He laughed at me, as I had just had a hamburger earlier that day.

I always considered myself an animal lover and even had pictures of cute animals plastered all over my walls - some things never change. Yet, how could I call myself an animal lover if I was eating (and using in other ways) some animals? From that moment on I became a sponge, reading and viewing everything I could about vegetarianism and animal rights.

My vegetarian journey was a transition beginning with still eating fish, eggs, and dairy. I can recall saying that I would never go vegan because that was too extreme. Yet, as I dug deeper and was honest with myself it became impossible to ignore the connection between the meat and the dairy industry. So, within a year I had gone vegan. I quickly thereafter became involved in activism. I also became aware of how considering myself an environmentalist prior to my veganism was ridiculous.

Throughout my 31 years of vegetarianism/30 years of veganism I have worked in a variety of areas within the animal rights movement. Some of these include attending hundreds of protests, including getting arrested for chaining myself outside fur stores, organizing protests, financial canvassing, starting an animal rights group on my college campus, co-owning and running a vegan restaurant, working at several vegan stores, running a vegan hot dog cart, volunteering weekly at a farm sanctuary for several years, rescuing and transporting animals, save vigils, cubes, Kaporos, doing presentations at animal rights conferences, humane education presentations in middle schools and high schools for Educated/ Ethical Choices Program.

I was married to a vegan food scientist for 17 years who ran that vegan restaurant with me. We also were involved in a vegan health food store deli, another buffet style vegan restaurant, vending and catering company. We vended food at various vegan events including the animal rights conference. I have raised a vegan dog who lived 17 years and currently have a vegan nine-year-old son who is extremely passionate about his veganism and even vegan polices me when I get a new item at the grocery store.

My current endeavors include working on starting a vegan food truck with a friend, participating in my friend's group Voices4Change using the arts (poetry, music, dance) to spread awareness of veganism and other social justice issues, occasional guest co-hosting interviews with a longtime friend and colleague who has been hosting a plant-based themed local college radio show for over 10 years. Recently we interviewed my friend who is a movie producer, author of a family vegan cookbook and raising two vegan children about vegan parenting. I am getting involved with the health committee at my son's elementary school with the hopes of getting plant-based meals offered in the cafeteria.

Veganism and animal rights is at the core of everything in my life. It's my passion, my spirituality, my guiding principles, several of my career paths, my parenting, one of my main purposes on this planet and my joy to live.

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