17 Years Old Vegan Activist Rachel Wojciak- Feature Fridays

 If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would be doing everything in my power to fight for those who are voiceless, I would have told you that you were insane. However, today I spread the vegan message through my two Instagram accounts, @hclfrachel and @rachelwojciak, and I make YouTube videos regarding veganism as well (the channel is also named Rachel Wojciak). I donate to animal sanctuaries that have rescued animals from farm factories and raise awareness about the cause through peaceful protesting, such as wearing shirts advertising veganism in public. My message is currently reaching around 2,700 people, and I wish I had a voice large enough so that the whole world could hear me. However, when I started my vegan Instagram back in September, I never thought I would gain over 100 followers, so there is hope!

I fell in love with nature when my father and I took hikes and went camping as a child. Those memories are still present in my mind today, and I am grateful to have had an upbringing where nature played such a profound role in my childhood development. I have loved animals for as long as I can remember, and I even wanted to be a veterinarian when I was 3. After discovering the vegan lifestyle via YouTube, it simply didn’t make sense to me anymore to continue on consuming meat and dairy. I loved the animals far too much to cause them any more suffering and pain, and I wanted to put a halt to the destruction our planet faces every day.

So, I made the switch over to veganism back in September! While there are endless health benefits to a vegan lifestyle, such as the 38 pounds I’ve lost, the decrease in migraines, my acne vanishing, never being sick, etcetera, the most rewarding benefit has been my life coming full circle. I now finally practice what I preach, regarding love and peace. I can say I love animals and truly live a lifestyle that proves it, not otherwise. The love that developed for Mother Nature as a child has matured greatly, and this lifestyle is a reminder of that every day. All of the lessons I learned as a child finally add up in an honest way living this lifestyle.

While I am a much happier person vegan, being vegan in a world filled with so many non-vegans can be quite discouraging. My parents are not vegan, my boyfriend is not vegan, no other individual in my high school is vegan. It can seem so overwhelming to be part of a minority that receives so much hate from those who don’t understand the lifestyle. With that said, my message to any other individual who is new to the vegan lifestyle or who is currently struggling with this problem is to stay positive. While there are so many heartbreaking atrocities to be depressed over, crying is not going to promote any change. Besides, there is so much to be hopeful for!

While the number of animals slaughtered every day for human consumption is staggering, it is important not to be discouraged by it. If you are reading this very article, you have already discovered veganism in some way shape or form! That in itself is progress. Us vegans know for a fact that millions of other individuals would not continue to consume meat and dairy if they knew what went on in terms of producing it, so all we can do is spread our knowledge regarding factory farming and the vegan lifestyle. Unfortunately, not everyone will transform into a vegan overnight, but that is to be expected. As long as you have brought up the topic of veganism with an individual, you have planted a seed of thought in their head. Odds are even if they don’t transition over to a vegan lifestyle, they will certainly look at meat and dairy products in a different light.

Other than staying hopeful, my other big pointer would be to spread the vegan lifestyle in a positive and loving manner. Lead by example! Some vegans struggle with turning away individuals from this lifestyle, simply because their method of spreading information is too aggressive. While your heart is in the right place, it is beneficial to check if you would appreciate somebody presenting this information to you in the way you are delivering it yourself. Be a positive example for veganism! Lead by love, positivity, patience, and kindness. While it may be frustrating at times, don’t be discouraged by others and their excuses not to transition over to a kinder lifestyle.

Overall, stay positive! While there is an overwhelming amount of information to be depressed about, just remember all of the new individuals who discover veganism every single day. The world certainly is changing, and the vegan message is spreading. The animals need us and the planets need us, which is why I will never stop fighting for this cause, and I encourage you to do the same! Veganism is not something to be ashamed about because it is not openly accepted by others. Do what you know in your heart is right, and don’t back down because this lifestyle isn’t the popular opinion. I am so blessed to have discovered this lifestyle, and I will continue to fight for it every single day. The animals and the planet desperately need us, and I will always make sure that I’m doing everything in my power to protect them and to put an end to the destruction of these beautiful souls and this beautiful planet.

*Photo Credit verkeorg Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

My Vegan Story-Part 2

*Read Part 1 here

This piece is about a squirrel. You may have guessed it from the picture. Actually, it is about many squirrels.

They seem to be showing up in my daily life a lot lately. I took it as a sign that I should tell you this story.

A couple of months before I became vegan, I had this idea that I should carry around a notebook and write down all the interesting stuff that I would see while walking around. (There’s lots of people watching to be done in Montreal) It was to be a sort of experiment in my quest to find a neverending source of inspiration. *Cough* Not at all “pretentious sounding artist” here *Cough*

Anyways. I set out on this beautiful summer day. It must have been early June, exactly about 3 years ago. I had just graduated and was contemplating the vastness of the universe as much as I was dreading the black hole my bank account had become.

My part-time nanny job was soon ending, the boys were about to leave for their summer in Europe.

I was walking down the street, on my way to the kid’s school when I heard the weirdest sound coming up from above my head. I don’t speak squirrel but I know without a doubt that it was a cry of help before I even looked up.

The poor animal was dangling from the power line. His little body was trying to get back up on the wire.

He didn’t succeed.

The fall down to the ground must have been at least 15 feet. I watched him crash to the ground.

I had never felt so moved and helpless before in my life.

He lay on the ground motionless for a few seconds. Then he got up and tried to walk. He stumbled for a few feet, then fell on his back. His whole body went into spasms.

I witnessed a life leaving a body, a small body for sure, but still a life.

These past weeks, I’ve seen dead squirrels almost every day. The fact that there is a large population of them in the neighborhood doesn’t make it any less sad.

Whenever I see one, I think of that day.  It may seem like an inconsequential event, I mean we all die some day.

It was not about the death though. It’s the suffering that got to me.

It was a new piece in my puzzle. The vegan puzzle I didn’t know I was trying to complete at the time.

I stopped and stared at the poor squirrel who died on someone’s perfectly green always freshly cut manicured lawn.

I couldn’t bear it. I kept walking, trying to figure out what it meant to me.

I did the most cliché thing ever in my new quest as a writer on the prowl.

I went into a cafe, ordered a latte and noted everything interesting I saw that day.

“There’s the squirrel that fell off the roof and the vegetarianism that it inspires me. Deep down we’re all more or less in distress on this earth, animal or not.”

Then I sat there for a while sipping on my cow’s breast milk filled sugary drink while pondering on what I would do with MY existence.

To be continued…

*Photo credit: likeaduck flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Young Women Will Change the World (New Series on Influencers)

I woke up this morning to these two news:

  1. A young women was burned alive in Rome by her ex-boyfriend while by-standers did not help or call the police
  2. Pakistani women are standing up against a new law proposition that would let men “lightly beat” their wives #TryBeatingMeLightly

There is sadly nothing new or shocking about these two headlines. It’s not like there isn’t similar news everyday.

Actually, just yesterday I read about a 16 year old girl shot dead by her boyfriend while she was babysitting her 3 year old niece.

It’s not like Middle Eastern women haven’t been under attack by government officials for years either.

I’ve heard horror stories of violence against women ever since I’ve been aware of the news.

I have also had actual women tell me their stories. The most poignant one coming from a medicated schizophrenic women flatly telling me how her ex-husband killed her children.

The point is, there is still a lot of work to do to get equality.

I was a feminist long before I became vegan.

As it goes for most social movements, they can be both mutually exclusive and not, depending on the person.

It sounds strange but it’s actually quite common.

I don’t remember who it was but some guy activist in the #Blacklivesmatter movement was arrested on charges of women trafficking and prostitution.

In a similar fashion, feminists are not typically vegan as well as vegans are not all feminists.

The root of oppression may look the same but its expression takes different forms.

We develop a particular attachment to a cause from our inherent disposition.I would even say depending on our possible gain from the advancement of said movement/cause.

Veganism is somewhat different in that sense. The direct benefit from adhering to its ethical principles is pretty elusive, especially to the general population.

I do believe however that we are slowly moving away from activism derived from the personal experience of oppression.

The latest generation, mainly those born in the late 90s and early 2000s, are quickly catching on to the need for activism on animal’s behalf. Young women, especially, are leaders in this new movement on social media.

I see more and more teenage girls raising awareness on Youtube and Instagram everyday.

Many people decry that today’s youth is mindlessly addicted to social media but I say that this very same “addiction” is the best thing that could ever happen.

Our generation has tools for reaching the masses in a way that is unprecedented.

While all you may see are young girls idolizing the likes of Kylie Jenner and other models, I see 14 year olds from all over the world posting about body positivity and the impact of animal agriculture on our planet.

There is still hope and it is in the hands of those that had no voice for most of this world’s history.

If you are a young women trying to change the world with social media, please get in touch. I will do one feature a week on my blog to celebrate you and raise awareness about the work still left to do.

If you are interested, leave a comment or get in touch with me on the Contact page.

Thank you!

*Photo Credit verkeorg Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Social Responsibility

These days we teach kids in school to turn off the lights at home, not let the water run while they brush their teeth, to recycle and even compost.

I remember my first encounter with the idea that I, as little as I was, had a responsibility to protect the environment. That my actions had an impact on the world. When I was in 6th grade, the recycling movement was still a new thing and we had a lecture given to us about it. I remember feeling terrible that my parents didn’t make any effort to recycle. For months, I screamed at them for throwing away soda cans in the trash.

If you’re a millennial like me, you can probably relate.

We’ve been told all our lives that the world is fucked up and we are the ones that need to do something about it because our children’s future (if not our own) depends on it.

They say when there is a will, there is a way.

Few of us would ever say that they don’t care about the tragic destruction of our planet. Most young people (and a lot of old too!) have a tremendous will to do better than previous generations. Although the will is there, the way is as elusive as ever if you don’t look outside what the mainstream tells you.

I mean, what power do we have when multinational corporations and governments are bffs?

We’ve all read this on social media:

“The earth is 4.6 billion years old. Let´s scale that down to 46 years. Using this analogy, humans have been here on this planet just 4 hours. Our industrial revolution began just one minute ago. And in that meager 60 seconds, we have already destroyed more than 50% of the world´s forests.” (TrueActivist.com)

It looks so grim that it’s almost hopeless. What can one person do? Between our 9-5 jobs, kids, friends and what else, the little time we have would never be enough to make any difference, would it?

Better read gossip on Facebook and enjoy life if we’re all going to crumble soon.

It’s not our fault anyway, we can’t control what big corporations do.

We do our best, we vote, don’t we?

We aim to drive Teslas or take the bus, recycle and buy composting bins for our backyards.

The most zealous of us try a minimalist lifestyle with emphasis on “zero waste”.

The scope of our reach seems so limited that we get stuck in the status quo. Our lives are not directly impacted so why should we strive to do more and more importantly to find out how to do more.

Believing that we have no control, no power, is the number 1 reason so much wrong is happening in this world.

Apathy is the poison that is plaguing all of us.

I say, it’s time to bring back the concept of social responsibility to an individual level. It’s a term you may or may not be familiar with. It’s usually used in reference to corporations.

Here’s what it is in a nutshell:

“Social responsibility means eliminating corrupt, irresponsible or unethical behavior that might bring harm to the community, its people, or the environment before the behavior happens.” Naomi Enevoldson – Social Entrepreneur

So I’ve been on this journey of discovering my own desire to be more socially responsible for the past few years.

I still don’t have all the answers. I mean if I did, or if anyone did, then the world would already be saved.

My point is, we shouldn’t stop trying to find an answer. We need to start applying the concept of social responsibility to ourselves first and encourage others to do the same.

The world needs more activists.

Go be one. Day in and day out.

Who’s with me?

*Picture credit Dave Gingrich Creative Commons 2.0

If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls Everyone Would Be Vegan?

Who wants to see that on their Facebook wall?

I sure don’t.

Death and violence, blood and innards hanging out is disgusting to everyone. Unless you’re a psychopath.

I know I started a series about how I became vegan, but today I want to explore how I didn’t become vegan.

The majority of people would not become vegan (or vegetarian) if slaughterhouses had glass walls.

Footage of horrendous violence towards animals doesn’t make most people change their ways.

I applaud those who changed their ways after watching one of those dreadful clips.

I wasn’t one of them.

I was very aware of the terrible things that happened in this world long before I went vegan.

Between the news of people getting bombarded and killed in foreign countries and the lion killing an antelope on discovery channel, it’s easy to realize we live in a harsh violent world.

It’s just the way it is.

We can’t get around it.

One person cannot change that. There will always be blood and death.

I have always hated this “fact” of life. I despised that violence and death had to occur for me to be “healthy”, I disliked that this was the way humans had to eat.

I actually think it would be hard to find someone that didn’t agree at least a little with that.

The truth is, finding out how gruesome it was to get bacon on our plate is not really shocking to anyone.

We wish things were different, but we can’t see how they can be.

I didn’t become vegan until I finally saw how things could indeed be different than what I had assumed for all these years.

I thought eating meat was normal, natural and necessary.  

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to find out I was wrong.

Acknowledging the dark parts of this world and showing it is not sufficient. I think this is where the clash between meat-eaters and vegans/vegetarian originates from.

The same gruesome footage is viewed very differently once you operate under a new frame work.

Try looking at the image on this post while thinking that eating meat is natural, normal and necessary and try it again thinking that it is not.

In both instances there is disgust and a certain outrage (I mean, did he really have to smile??). However, in the former framework, there is anger stemming from having to suppress guilt. We are not supposed to feel guilt when something is natural, normal and necessary.

There is an underlying hopelessness attached to not being able to see that it is not.

Who wouldn’t get angry and annoyed by someone telling them to change something that you feel you can’t change?

On the other hand, the latter group sees the same picture and thinks “what kind of psychopath can look at that and continue to support it when it’s not normal, natural and necessary to eat meat”?

What do you think? Which group can you relate to?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

*Picture credit: Rachel Tayse flickr Creative Commons 2.0