Lovers of Goodness: An Interview with Erin Wilkerson

Erin and Star spend some time together at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

Erin and Star spend some time together at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

There is beauty and significance in the individual, but this is something that can be difficult to remember.

Our world sees many revolutions, many transformations. Even when it seems that everything is in flux, the heart of social movements resounds, with core beliefs never wavering, always certain and enduring.

Within these social movements there are people, matchless individuals, who tirelessly pursue the agenda of morality. They provoke the changes that better the world. Indeed, they are the ones who save the world. The everyday activists, the lovers of goodness, the ones who chase peace.

They are behind the beauty of every revolution… so here’s to their spirit. Here’s to their resolve. Here’s to their patience and passion.

In celebration of activists, I will be writing a series entitled Lovers of Goodness, which will feature an interview with an individual who lives the compassionate vegan life. The first installment of this series is an interview with my roommate and good friend Erin Wilkerson. Erin and I met in our first year of college at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and I have consistently been inspired by her understanding of social justice and her desire to help better the world in which we live. Without a shadow of a doubt, I can say that Erin is an advocate for empathy, benevolence and a more warmhearted world.

Here is my discussion with her about veganism and its importance for the creation a more peaceful, healthy world:

1. How long have you been vegan?

I have been vegan for seven months, but I began making a conscious effort to transition to veganism three months prior to that.

2. What was the precipitating factor in your decision to become vegan?

I was vegetarian for a few years beginning in third grade after my dog Sam I Am died. My sister and I both went vegetarian as a symbol of respect to her. But at that age, I didn’t know how to eat a healthy, balanced vegetarian diet, so I reverted back to eating meat. Even at my young age, though, I was sensitive to eating meat and would cry if someone gave me meat on a bone. I started doing some research on animal welfare issues, namely factory farming, in high school, and when I came to Simon’s Rock, I realized that I had access to a dining hall with vegetarian choices and was now informed enough to make balanced dietary choices. So I became vegetarian but also started talking to vegans on campus about why they were more than just vegetarian, and I started to become aware of the issues with dairy. I knew what was happening to dairy cows was wrong, so I decided to become vegan. Recently though, I visited Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary where I learned about the connection between dairy and veal. That solidified my decision and was when I knew I would never consume dairy again.

3. Can you speak more about your experience at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary?

Visiting the sanctuary was a moving experience. The information provided on my tour was less graphic because there were a lot of children on the tour. But I certainly enjoyed seeing the animals in a space where they are respected, loved and cared for. I also got to meet and hang out with my Star babe!

4. What is your advice to new vegans and those individuals considering adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle?

It’s important to know your reasons for becoming vegan. If you have difficulty not eating certain foods, just remember why you have chosen not to eat them, for the good of the world. I personally had trouble not eating cheese, and I still haven’t found a cheese alternative that I love. I do, however, recommend Earth Balance mac and cheese. Mostly I just remember that I’ll live not eating dairy, but the cows who are forced to produce it won’t.

5. Has veganism changed the way you perceive the world around you?

I am far more aware of the horrors that exist for animals in this world. It’s baffling to me how the majority of meat is produced in inhumane factory farms but yet many people are still not aware of this. I think what’s more frustrating though is the people who are aware and yet don’t do anything. Also, it’s strange to me that people think they have the right to question my dietary habits, specifically since I’ve become vegan.

6. So how do you cope with this frustration and attempt to lead others towards an understanding of the vegan lifestyle?

To cope with the frustration, I have to remember that I’m doing all that I can and talking to others about it. And while it’s my responsibility to help make others aware of what’s going on, I am not responsible for their actions.

7. Have you experienced any health benefits since becoming vegan?

My skin has cleared up, and I am definitely conscious of my nails being much stronger.

8. Do you believe large-scale societal evolution towards veganism is important and/or necessary? If so, why?

I think that for the sake of the environment and animals, people should be eating plant-based diets. Looking at current water trends, we use so much water to produce even just a little bit of meat, and we are running out of water. That’s definitely something we need to be thinking about.

9. Describe one of your most joyful or unique experiences as a vegan thus far.

I was driving up a hill on my campus, and I saw this creature running next to me and thought it was a dog, but it turned out it was a fawn. I had this realization and all of the sudden tears started to stream down my cheeks, because it hit me that some people eat these beings. Then I had a sense of joy because I realized I was no longer contributing to that destruction.

10. Complete this sentiment: Compassion is… respecting all beings.

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