Activist Spotlight: GW Animal Advocates, Washington DC

Earlier this year, GW Animal Advocates held a Vegan Ice Cream Sampling event in Washington DC and reached 150 people! Activists served Ben and Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice cream and handed out lots of educational literature. VegFund interviewed Susanna Israelsson of GW Animal Advocates to find out more about the event and their other outreach.


GW Animal Advocates, Washington DC
Vegan Ice Cream Giveaway

VF: What inspired you to get involved in vegan outreach?

GW: I never really truly understood the horrors of the dairy industry until recently.  I think that people don’t realize the amount of abuse that these poor animals undergo, but when I read an op-ed on the subject, that was pretty much the only incentive I needed.  I think of it as a duty to encourage vegan alternatives to help relieve these animals of the abuse.

VF: What other activism and/or vegan events have you been involved in?

GW: Well, I’m a member of my University’s Animal Advocacy group, so I’ve participated in vegan activism at any chance that I get.  We have given out free coffee on campus with soy milk, vegan valentine’s day chocolates and host many other vegan-food themed events to encourage vegan alternatives.  We have a close relationship with Peta2 which helps a ton with funding and literature for these events.

VF: What were some of the common responses and/or discussions you had during this event?

GW: Well, the event was a free giveaway of the new dairy-free Ben and Jerry’s flavors, so a lot of the common discussions revolved around the taste of the ice cream.  This really drew in a big crowd, and people are content and willing to talk about this issue while they’re eating free ice cream- so I found it quite easy.  Mostly I found that people were surprised at how good the alternatives tasted and I also found that people were more willing to talk about veganism if I suggest that they just make a simple change from dairy to non-dairy ice cream instead of urging them to change their entire diets.


VF: What was the highlight of this event for you?

GW: The highlight of the event for me was when I was able to talk with a student who had been considering veganism but was afraid of how hard it was.  After tasting the ice cream and talking with me and some other friends working the event, she left with the commitment to try veganism for the summer.

VF: What barriers did you face during the hosting of this event?

GW: I often find that getting people to try vegan food is the biggest issue.  Once they try it, they are much more willing to have a discussion, but up until then they’re afraid that it will taste gross and healthy.  There is such a stigma against veganism- people think it’s elitist and pretentious, but it’s easy and simple and humane, so it’s important to break the stereotypes.

VF: Do you have any quotes / paraphrases from attendees at your event or anecdotes that may be of interest to other activists?

GW: It was just really nice to see everyone so open to trying and sticking with vegan alternatives.  Most people don’t want to hurt animals, so once we introduce them to easy cruelty-free alternatives, it’s all the push they need to cut out certain things from their diet.  I always encourage people to start slow, go with soy milk and dairy-free ice cream first, and then cut out eggs and build from there.  It’s encouraging to see people who never really considered veganism to open up to the idea of vegan alternatives.

We’d like to thank Susanna Israelsson for taking the time to be interviewed. You can also follow GW Animal Advocates on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their latest news!

There are so many ways to inspire people with your outreach efforts, and VegFund would love to help you! If you want to host an event similar to this one within your local community, we may be able to offer you some funding. Please read our Programs Overview for information on the types of grants we offer and how to apply.

July/August 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Hanshew

photoI have always loved and cared for animals, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I took my love and care to the next level. In 2012, I became a vegetarian, and it wasn’t until I watched the documentary Vegucated that I decided to become vegan. I learned that being vegan is the best way to live a kind and compassionate life and that animals don’t deserve to be killed for food.

Since becoming vegan, I have taken a great interest in animal rights and wish to promote veganism as much as possible. I started with my family by explaining to them my reasons for being vegan, and I have shared with them my knowledge of the horrific, yet very real, treatment of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses. My biggest supporter is my mom, and even though she is not vegan, we enjoy a vegan meal together several times a week.

My drive to promote veganism to others is what attracted me to intern with VegFund, and it is thrilling to start my first venture as an animal activist. I am excited to use my educational background with writing and social media to successfully engage and interact with others through VegFund’s blog and their Save Farm Animals Facebook campaign. It is an extreme privilege to have this chance to help others help animals, and I am excited to continue my activism in the future.

May/June 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Curit

VegFund intern, Rachel Curit, talks about her life as a vegan advocate and her many unique volunteer experiences.

Rachel CuritI have been an animal lover for as long as I can remember. It’s a quality my mother instilled in me. Have respect and kindness for animals. I know I wouldn’t be vegan today if it hadn’t been for her. She was the person who would yell (not too mean, though) at the local kids for harassing the ducks at the lake. We went to a circus once, and I remember her eyes filling with tears when the tiger or lion jumped through the ring of fire. And we always had companion animals living with us.

She was vegetarian in the 90s and fed me with a lot of vegetarian food. In fact, there was only a four or five year period in my life when I ate meat. As a toddler I was vegetarian and then I went vegetarian on my own when I was I was 8.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I started reading vegan cookbooks and trying vegan recipes. I went vegan for a short period then, but finally made the official, permanent switch at the age of 19. After that, I scoured the internet for as much information as I could get my hands on. I listened to podcasts, read blogs and articles, and watched YouTube videos.

The defining moment for me was in February of 2012. I was sitting in my college dorm room, listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast Food for Thought. She was talking about the horrors chickens face in the animal agriculture system. That’s it, I thought to myself. I can’t do this anymore. About a month later, I made my veganism official and I haven’t looked back.

Since going vegan, I’ve started my own blog The Vegan Mishmash, interned with Eco-Vegan Gal and Mercy For Animals, started writing for One Green Planet, and, of course, I am interning with VegFund. From MFA I learned how to do grassroots outreach. That experience vastly improved my ability to confidently communicate with people about veganism and animal rights. Through the other opportunities, I’ve learned and continue to learn the ins and outs of writing and social media. I’ve written blog posts for VegFund, including a review of Carol Adams’ Defiant Daughters and an interview with Vic Sjodin on his experience leafleting. As for the future, I can’t wait to see where my activism takes me.

March/April 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Bruno Azambuja

Bruno, an activist in Brazil, describes how he became vegan and his work as an animal advocate.

BrunoMy first contact with vegetarianism was through a vegetarian friend who questioned my eating habits for the animals’ sake. I ignored his arguments for about three months until one day a bell finally rang after reading a few articles and watching a few videos. I realized that I was being selfish and inconsistent in my concerns for the environment and the lives of animals. I became a vegan on that same day. It didn’t make sense to continue using animals for any purpose whatsoever.

I went on to further study the subject and started disseminating all the information I could. A few months later, I learned about VEDDAS, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing awareness and educating the public about animal rights and veganism.  In 2010, I started actively participating in the group’s activities on a weekly basis. I am currently head of the VEDDAS-MÓVEL Pelo Brasil project which shows videos in the streets of several cities in Brazil, and I also take part in the volunteer training workshops. VEDDAS is currently present with regular weekly activities in five Brazilian cities and also holds monthly activities in 10 other cities. The activities range from protests to movie screenings to showing footage of animal exploitation in public spaces. By participating with VEDDAS on its multimedia projects, I have had the opportunity to reach hundreds of people–calling on their empathy and being able to provoke a deep reflection in many of them.

Since November 2012, I have also volunteered for VegFund, helping to manage a Portuguese language online social media campaign. In this capacity, I share information on the topic of animal rights and veganism. I also answer the questions brought by thousands of visitors every month, and help people transition to a vegan lifestyle.

For me, being vegan isn’t enough. We must educate others about veganism and share our experiences so that people can rethink their relationship with animals and, as a consequence of that, come to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It is a privilege to be able to take part in actions that favor this change.

Jan/Feb 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Leslie Brefeld

Leslie describes her journey to veganism and why she decided to pursue an internship with VegFund.

My path to becoming a vegan started when I read Skinny Bitch. I can’t imagine what drew me to the book in the first place, but now it seems like there was some divine intervention. Specifically, I recall the part about how omnivores are eating the fear and terror that animals experienced just before their deaths. I read the book during a camping trip with my mom, and I decided right then that I would become vegetarian. I continued for four years before seeing the light, so to speak, and turned to veganism. The film Vegucated reminded me of the horrors of factory farming, and I tried being a vegan. However, it wasn’t until I read The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle soon after, that I began to really have the conviction to be a vegan.

Assisting with blog writing for the VegFund internship is my first real venture into animal activism. I have been looking for a change from my current job, and I saw this as an opportunity to do something meaningful. The World Peace Diet helped me imagine a world where nonhuman animals and human animals co-exist peacefully, and I see writing for VegFund as moving toward this ideal.

Nov/Dec 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Wendy Eikenberry

Wendy talks about her journey to veganism and shares her approach to animal advocacy. 

I have two amazing sisters who have always been an inspiration to me. Despite the fact that our parents were meat-eaters, both of my older sisters went vegetarian at a young age. They helped me “make the connection” and stop eating my animal friends when I was about seven years old. We went vegan about 4 years ago when my oldest sister found out about the horrific cruelty behind dairy and eggs. For all those years, how could we not have known or questioned it? I felt a moral obligation to share with others what I had learned. It was then that I found my true passion and started advocating for animals.

At first I thought that surely people would change if only they knew the truth, but I quickly learned that that wasn’t usually the case. Although dealing with many challenges such as willful ignorance and apathy can be discouraging, I strongly believe in leading by example and presenting the information in a non-confrontational way. I try to use a firm but understanding approach when advocating for veganism and animal rights. Most of us were not born vegan, and we’re all on our own unique paths.
I am lucky enough to be part of an incredible organization called Indiana Animal Rights Alliance. We educate through leafleting, protests, food sampling, letter campaigns, film screenings, and Pay Per View. I also volunteer for Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, and FARM whenever I can. For the past two and a half years, I have had the privilege of helping with one of VegFund’s online campaigns geared toward young people. I really enjoy educating the younger generation and being a mentor. I am currently going to school for nursing, and my goal as a future nurse is to be an advocate for healthy eating while also reducing animal suffering.

Sept/October 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Panullo

Sarah describes her unique path to veganism and her experience as a VegFund volunteer.

When I was a child, I lived on a small farm in Northeastern PA. I loved the animals and was amazed by them. They can’t speak our language, but if you listen, you’ll find that they definitely have their own. When I was just 4 years old, while playing upstairs at my grandparents’ house, I looked out the window and witnessed the horrific slaughter of a calf. It was the worst thing I had ever seen in my life, and still to this day is the worst. When my grandfather came upstairs, I asked why the man killed the calf, and he said it’s how we get meat. From that point on, I vowed to never eat meat again. As a young child, though, it wasn’t easy. My mom and grandma would tell me that I was going to die without meat and they would sneak it in my food and try to trick me. By the age of 5, I was watching them cook to make sure they weren’t getting any meat in my food, and by the time I was 8, I was reading ingredients to make sure things like gelatin weren’t in my foods.

At age 12, I found eggs to be disgusting, so I quit eating them. My family used to tell me that I at least had to drink milk and eat cheese, and I believed them. It wasn’t until 8 years ago that I went completely vegan. I met some nice vegan individuals online and watched videos about the cruelty of dairy. Cheese was the hardest thing for me to give up. When I stopped eating cheese, it was 2 years before I realized that vegan cheese exists. After I found out, I tried a few and found the ones I like best. Now I use Follow Your Heart and Daiya when I make pizza. I always read ingredients when buying a new product, just as I did as a small child, but now I know more things to look out for. There are so many great vegan foods, and lots of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. And, it feels good. I feel healthier and very happy knowing that I don’t contribute to cruelty.

Presently, as a VegFund volunteer, I help with an online vegan education campaign. I have the opportunity to tell my story and be a mentor to thousands of young people. I address misconceptions about veganism, provide people with recipes and other resources, and help them troubleshoot various issues (such as tensions with family). It’s wonderful to be able to play a role in helping people transition to a more compassionate lifestyle.

July/August 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Sally Thompson

Sally tells us about how she became vegan, her outreach efforts, and her experience as a VegFund volunteer.

Before I was vegan, I thought I understood the realities of animal agriculture and believed that being vegetarian was enough. But over time, people around me, not all necessarily vegan themselves, got me thinking. The questions they raised piqued my curiosity and I began researching the issue of animal exploitation more deeply. Then, one week whilst I was doing volunteer work, I happened upon a vegan cookbook called Another Dinner Is Possible. We were using recipes from the book for our communal meals. The information in the book, along with conversations I had with the other volunteers, gave me the confidence and inspiration I needed to take those final steps and go vegan. That was five years ago, and I have never looked back.

Since then, I have surrounded myself with people who share the same values and strive to make a difference for non-human animals. I volunteer with various local groups within West Midlands, UK doing vegan outreach in the form of stalls, fairs, workshops, and social events. Recently, a fellow-activist and I have been focusing our time on developing a not-for-profit organisation called Equality In Action. Equality In Action educates people on the connections between social justice issues and spreads a vegan message to help achieve equality for all. Our outreach involves attending various social justice events and holding street stalls and film screenings, and we are currently developing a vegan mentor programme. In all of my activism, I aim to connect the dots between issues of injustice and focus on engaging people with honest yet positive and empowering conversation. I believe this is key to encouraging more interest in veganism and strengthening the movement.

I am pleased to say that in June I started volunteering with VegFund. So far this has provided me with the opportunity to improve upon my writing skills, gain experience with online campaigning techniques, and contribute to the VegFund blog and VegVids. I am looking forward to all that’s to come during my time helping VegFund and I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with such inspiring people for an important cause.

May/June 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Norma & Estela Sanchez

Norma and Estela describe their path to veganism and their experience as VegFund volunteers.

We are twin sisters and thankfully we became vegan, and before that, vegetarian, at the same time.

When we were in school, we had to write a research paper for a class. We could pick any topic we wanted, so we chose “Animal Experimentation.” When researching information about this topic, we learned what happens to farmed animals and immediately decided to become vegetarian.

After 5 years of being vegetarians, we went to a fur-free protest in Beverly Hills. One of the people who organized the event asked us if we were vegan. We didn’t know what the word meant, so we decided to read about the topic. We read the information about how cows and chickens are treated in order for people to have dairy and eggs. The same day we read about it, we decided to become vegan. This has been the best decision we ever made! We are very glad that we finally made the connection!

We have always loved animals, and we started to help cats by volunteering for FixNation, a TNR program. We also worked as volunteers for Cats in Need for 6 years by feeding cats and cleaning their litter boxes and cages. Then, after becoming vegans, we helped farmed animals by leafleting with Vegan Outreach at different schools.

Working with VegFund as administrators of the Spanish vegan Facebook campaign “Detén el abuso” has given us a lot of gratification. We realize this is the best way for us to help animals. We are so happy that we can reach millions of people every month and help them make the connection that they need to stop consuming all animal products.

This has been a wonderful journey!

March/April 2013 Volunteer Spotlight: Corey Wrenn

Corey Wrenn discusses her journey to veganism and why she decided to pursue an internship with VegFund.

I went vegetarian at age 13 after watching a cooking show where the host visited a butcher shop. In seeing this, I suddenly made the connection between “meat” and the persons who died to create it. I vowed to go vegetarian on the spot. In my teens, I read more on Nonhuman Animal rights issues and quickly discerned that veganism was the most appropriate decision if I wanted to seriously respect the interests of other animals. I went vegan on my very first day of college at age 17, when I was able to purchase my own food. I am 29 now, so I have been vegan for about 12 years.

When I started college at Virginia Tech, I immediately joined up with the student Nonhuman Animal rights group and attended some protests and video screenings. The student group eventually fizzled, but when I began graduate school at Virginia Tech, I decided to resurrect the group and soon found myself spending 20+ hours a week organizing events. When I started my doctoral program at Colorado State University, I carried over that student activism and launched another Nonhuman Animal rights student group. After that, I began working with abolitionist grassroots groups online and writing for The Examiner. I also began to incorporate Nonhuman Animal rights theory into my research, publishing several academic articles and framing my dissertation around veganism and activism for other animals.

The VegFund internship position interested me because, while my academic work is hugely fulfilling, I had begun to miss on-the-ground, real-world advocacy. Working with VegFund gives me the chance to apply my years of study and research to tangible projects. I have the awesome opportunity to collaborate with the Nonhuman Animal rights community and put my work into action.