10 Questions: Everyday Vegan Changemakers with Anne Elizabeth McGuigan

I am excited to shine a little spotlight on Canada-based Anne Elizabeth McGuigan, a.k.a. Vegan Annie, as this week’s Everyday Vegan Changemaker. I love Anne Elizabeth’s story of “coming home” to her own values and ethics that were always rooted in her before she awakened to her passion for animal advocacy and veganism. I’m glad Annie is out there doing her phenomenal work and setting an example of compassionate living for so many.

1. To start, we’d love to know how long you’ve been vegan.

I became vegan about nine years ago, give or take.

2. Wed love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

The why of vegan was very easy for me. I am a very family oriented and as a daughter, granddaughter and sibling, I always took my role as helper very seriously. I did not like to see people I loved struggle in deep ways, so I would always try to be there. Becoming a mother deepened this commitment to not creating harm, as well as to helping others out of harm’s way. This love extended to other animals as well, but sadly only those species, such as dogs, cats and budgie birds who were in my limited sphere of understanding, The how of vegan in terms of food consumption was also fairly easy. Interestingly enough, I did not like the taste of most meat, fish, dairy and eggs which were staples in our home growing up. Cheese, milk, eggs, most flesh, all aquatic animals were foods that I avoided wherever possible, unless they did not resemble the animals from which they came. I gravitated toward highly processed foods whenever possible. My favorites were ham, hot dogs, back bacon, hamburger etc. I would cringe when a salmon salad was placed in the middle of the table or eggs of any description.

3. What was the catalyst (or were the catalysts) that made you go vegan? Was it a film? An experience? Someone else’s influence? A book? Was it overnight or did it take a while?

After “becoming vegan”, I started out by eating only plant-based foods myself, yet still cooking non-vegan food for my husband. I wish now that I had done this differently, but sadly, can’t go back for a redo. Fairly soon after I stopped buying and cooking animal products for him, then asked him to keep his food in the garage fridge. On the eve of asking him not to bring anymore animal products in the house at all, we attended a lecture by Dr. Will Tuttle. My husband came out of the hall, a vegan.

4. What were your biggest challenges or obstacles to going vegan and how did you overcome them?

Funnily enough, my biggest challenge was switching from leather shoes to synthetic. I have funny feet and could not find anything appropriate to wear; there simply was nothing that would give me the support that I needed. My beloved Birkenstocks had to go as well as any comfy shoes I had sitting in my closet. I still have only one pair of dress shoes. It is a good thing that I don’t like to dress up that much. LOL! I am a very casual gal! My other challenge was not being able to answer the usual questions that people would ask with a view to discrediting veganism. I simply was not well informed. So, I started to do some research and continue to do so today.

5. What is the world like as a vegan today compared to when you first went vegan?

Wow! That is a tough one to answer. Certainly there is an ever-growing movement of advocacy and activism. More and more young people are becoming involved and asking the older generation to step up and be accountable. We see some stories about harm to “food” animals, for instance, making mainstream news from time to time, even though the focus is mistakenly placed on welfare, instead of on abolition. Governments are passing laws ending fur farming, shark “finning”, capture and captivity of cetaceans for entertainment and cosmetic testing on animals. Consumer-based industries such as fashion are following suit in the area of fur, for instance. And what can I say about the explosion of plant-based foods? Beyond Meat is now trading publicly on the stock market and doing well. I think that plant-based packaged and processed food is here to stay, the consumption of which is now being driven by non-vegans as well as vegans.

6. Please tell us your “why vegan” elevator pitch.

We do not need to be doing this to them. When we believe that it is okay and even desirable to exploit other species of animals for human wants, not needs, we open the door to all manner of abuse. End the exploitation, end the abuse. Veganism…for the animals, for the planet, for humans!

7. What is your favorite thing about being vegan?

Of course, the knowledge that I work daily to limit my contribution to the exploitation of others, both human and non-human and the planet is the best feeling ever. We live in a non-vegan world, so perfection at this point is impossible.

8. If you could tell someone some simple advice for shifting away from eating animals, what would it be?

I would ask people just to stop if it is possible, and for so many of us it is. I would ask them to think about the why, telling them that this will help with the how and the actual doing of it. I would offer any assistance and support I could in order to get everything in place for them to succeed.

9. Can you tell us about a time that you think you had a positive influence on someone considering your vegan or compassionate living message? What do you think made it effective?

I remember a now fellow vegan and activist telling me that she was greatly affected by my saying that other species of animals have an inalienable right to agency over their own lives: therefore, humans do not have the right to exploit them.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is…”

“To me, being vegan is about having kindness and compassion for all beings, both human and non human.”

Extra credit: Please let us know your favorite vegan organization.

I am very interested at the moment in the Nation Rising movement in Canada. For the second year, activists will be meeting in the capital, Ottawa to march for the end of farmed animal agricultural subsidies. They are asking for this money to be diverted to retraining farmers to grow crops instead of exploit animals. Activists are encouraged to meet with their representatives to talk about the benefits of growing plants. Nation Rising has put together a package to take to these meetings.

My all time favorite activism is grassroots, which is what I do in my daily life. I have a website which covers all the areas of veganism and activism. I love the grassroots activism that I see on social media, particularly FB. Some of these activists have become very good friends of mine and I learn daily from them how to improve my advocacy for the sake of the animals who so need our help.

Marla Rose is a Chicago-area writer and co-founder of VeganStreet.com and VeganStreetMedia.com.