It’s University Thursday! Last week it was young vegan Thursday. I’m not really sure what the official name of MoFo Thursday is around here, but I’ll let it be known that all these interviewees are either matriculating, preschool age, or somewhere in between. It’s very specific.
Today’s interviewee is Louzilla Ryan! She’s a professional writing major at Kutztown University and the president of her school’s Vegetarian Education Group. She was a live-in caregiver briefly at the Watkin’s Glen Farm Sanctuary and is now on the board of for the Animals Sanctuary in Blairstown, NJ. Louzilla also teaches dance classes and has some mad hoop dancing skills.
I met Louzilla over 5 years ago on the PPK Forums and we’ve been seeing each other in real life 1-3 times a year since then, most recently at Vida Vegan Con! She blogs over on Louzilla Lovegood Letters, and you can find her on Twitter.
What is your favorite restaurant meal ever? Favorite dessert?
There are so many awesome vegan-friendly restaurants out there, it’s hard to choose! I’m going to have to say the garbage plate pizza at Stronghearts in Syracuse, NY. It has a super thick crust topped with french fries, “sausage” crumbles, mac and cheese, and tons of Daiya. This of course gets washed down with a super thick milkshake… so unhealthy, but so good!
Of course my favorite dessert is anything from Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA! I have to say that because it’s close by and all, but it’s also true. Just don’t try to make me pick one favorite from there, everything is amazing!
When and why did you become vegan? Was it a challenge being young and the only vegan in your family?
Well, I went vegetarian when I was 14, simply because I didn’t like meat. I then found out about the Post Punk Kitchen community, where I learned all about the horrors of how animals are treated in the dairy and egg industries, and went vegan in about a year and a half. It was a bit of a challenge, but right from the time I told my mom I was going vegetarian she told me I had to cook my own meals… luckily I found out I love to cook!
The hardest part for me was making the commitment to being fully vegan. I was transitioning for quite a while, and kept saying I would be vegan sometime in the future, when I went away for college or something and wouldn’t have to deal with family. Finally I realized I was just being a hypocrite, making bullshit excuses for myself, and decided I could no longer do that. I’m very lucky to have an extremely supportive nuclear family as well as the community on PPK that has become a family to me.
What is your style of activism? What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in activism and doesn’t know where to begin?
I don’t think I have one style of activism, I’m all over the place. Sanctuary work has definitely become my biggest form of activism recently though. There are a number of sanctuaries that rescue animals from the food industry and let them live out their lives happily, and so many smaller sanctuaries (such as for the Animals, where I work) don’t get much love for all the hard work they do. Not only do they rescue and rehabilitate animals, but they provide an amazing educational resource. They teach others about the cruelties of the industry and let them connect firsthand with farm animals.
[Hint, hint, the donating instructions at the end of this post are great forms of activism!]
When I first got into activism, I did a lot of work with Humane Teen (now HSUS Student Outreach). They had a lot of resources and projects to help me find how to get involved. Though PETA and HSUS aren’t for me, I definitely recommend them as starting points if you’re interested in getting involved and don’t know where to begin. I also learned a lot from the PPK community about effective activism, getting involved, DIY, and how not to be a shitty vegan.
What kind of advice would you give to other students interested in starting a vegan group at their school? What is your job as president and what kind of events does the group present?
Probably the most important advice I could give other students is to expect to do most of the work yourself. And running a successful group is a lot of work! A lot of times you’ll find many people who are interested in joining the group, but when it comes down to needing help with things they flake on you. High school and college students are really rather apathetic, or too worried about getting their schoolwork done.
As president of VEG I’m highly involved in planning and setting up of events, leading weekly meetings, networking with other on- and off-campus groups, and representing VEG as the vegetarian/vegan voice at Kutztown. Our group does a lot of vegan bake sales and movie nights as well as bringing in some speakers to talk about different aspects of veg*nism. We also participate in local on- and off-campus events such as Earth Day in April and Love Your Body Day in October.
Is VEG advertised as an animal rights group? What factors affect the type of audience you draw in?
We are not advertised as an animal rights group, but a large part of our focus is on animal rights. Since there are no other veg groups on our meat-loving campus, we try to be a unifying voice for all vegetarians and vegans at the university. As such, our events and campaigns cover a wide variety of topics related to a plant-based diet such as health, environment, and human welfare in addition to animal rights. That said, we are pretty involved in helping stop pigeon shoots in PA, which is an issue that is very local and I feel very pertinent to the group.
What kinds of upcoming (or future) vegan-related projects do you have planned right now?
Right now I’m working on a number of things for for the Animals Sanctuary, because one of their cofounders just left, causing a major financial crisis for the sanctuary. I’m in the middle of putting together a vegan cookzine to raise money for them. I’ve also been working on a VEG guide to Kutztown to advertise the good food options local restaurants have to offer and show the campus and local community that there are good meatless options.
There are several ways to help out for the Animals Sanctuary right now:
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is currently running a charity auction for the Sanctuary with PPK Aprons, and there is a rumor she’ll be auctioning the Crass shirt she wore on the cover of Vegan with a Vengeance. There’s a little over a day left to bid on the aprons, so GO BID.
You could be the proud owner of that very same apron John McDevitt is wearing!
A straight up donation to for the Animals on their website.
If you live near Blairstown, NJ, you can attend their visiting days or work parties.
If you can’t donate (this one is the easiest, quickest, and can be just as effective), use Twitter, Facebook, and blogging to spread the word! People will see your message, pass it on, and it will reach more people than if you didn’t say anything because you couldn’t donate. What to say in your post? I think Louzilla worded it perfectly in her answer:
“one of their cofounders just left, causing a major financial crisis for the sanctuary”
Pull out your wallets and get your typing fingers ready! I’m going to try and resist ranting about people on Kickstarter and their vacuous attempts to con people into funding their vacations and shit when they could be using some of that money to give to charities and organizations that need it like THIS ONE, but…oops. Don’t let my anger sway your actions.
Donate to for the Animals Sanctuary!