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November 1994
How I Became an Activist
By Andrea Lieberman

My own slow journey into animal rights activism started out as a curiosity and has developed into a strong ethical and pragmatic conviction that the use and abuse of other than human animals for human gain is morally reprehensible. At the tender age of nine, my sister Amy decided one day that eating animals was disgusting and wrong. I was fifteen at the time, and looked upon this revelation as interesting at best. I certainly enjoyed a thick, juicy steak or a tender chicken, although the only fish I ate came from Mrs. Paul’s freezer. Amy began sending the few dollars she owned to animal protectionist and rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She carefully escorted outside the bugs who mistakenly wandered into our house and deposited them on the front porch. She also adopted Max, our neighbor’s cat. Max loved Amy as much as she loved him, even sleeping with her, much to my mother’s chagrin.

I always read through Amy’s animal rights magazines, registering horror and dismay at the way animals are being treated, and, over the next two years, I educated myself through the reading, and found myself discussing animal rights issues with others. I had yet to make any changes in my lifestyle.

My earliest recollection of internalizing animal suffering came on my sixteenth birthday. I was getting ready to leave on my date. My mother and I were standing in the foyer, choosing a coat, when she pulled out her waist length silver fox for me to wear. I put it on, and then realized that not only was this a little ostentatious, but that I felt very uncomfortable in it. I still, however, had not made the connection between the coat and the suffering it had caused. I left for college at seventeen and a half, and by this time, I was only eating meat, as I explained to people, that was not in the same form as it was on the animal.

My animal product diet consisted of all dairy, turkey and cheese sandwiches, chicken salad and ground beef in any form, preferably in taco salads or as hamburgers. After a while, however, I tried to hide my turkey meat under mounds of lettuce and tomatoes, my taco salads under generous helpings of salsa and sour cream, and my hamburgers under cheese and as much relish as the bun could hold. I also always asked the waitress to check to see if my burger was cooked by bouncing it off the wall and onto the plate! During my visits home, Amy, who was in high school at this time, would tell me stories of the horrible treatment of animals that she read about in her animal rights’ magazines. She was also writing poems and short stories about the pain and suffering of animals, and talking to her classmates and teachers about the subject. In her senior year, she organized a group at school which addressed issues about the environment and animal rights activism. I was slowly being sensitized more and more about the plight of an animal.

I visited Israel for the summer of 1987, where the meat was below par and chicken was on the plate for every meal. I was a volunteer in the army for one month, where I could not eat the mystery meat served, so I survived on salad and bread. I left in August for London for the first semester of my senior year in England. After my first week, my flat mates and I finally found an apartment, and we dined out to celebrate. I, of course, ordered a hamburger, and after one bite was finished. The meat was so repugnant that no amount of ketchup or cheese could disguise the taste. I decided that, when eating out, I would stick to vegetarian meals. I was lucky that the animal rights movement had hit London a lot earlier than it hit New York, because every restaurant featured at least one vegetarian entree.

On October 7th 1987, I was cooking ground beef, my second attempt at red meat in England, with lots of ketchup and cut up vegetables to disguise the taste. I took one bite of this concoction, threw it all out and said to myself that since I had been thinking about becoming a vegetarian, now was the time. I will always remember that moment which changed my life forever. I immediately purchased a vegetarian cookbook, ate at all the Indian restaurants in my area, and began my life as an animal rights activist.

Andrea Lieberman is a long-time animal rights activist, educator, and happy co-habitor with her feline companions, Sam and Winky.


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