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Jasmin Singer: Compassion Unlocks Identity

Dec 2, 2017

Guest: Jasmin Singer
Host: Ari Nessel
Moderator: Preeta Bansal

Welcome to Awakin calls. Every Saturday, we host conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life. Speakers whose personal journeys awaken and inspire our innate spirit of service. Thank you for coming together to plant seeds for  a more compassionate society.

Preeta: Good morning, good afternoon or good evening depending on where you are in the world. My name is Preeta and I'm really excited to be hosting our weekly global Awakin call this morning. Welcome and thank you for joining us. Every story is the beginning of a conversation whether it's with ourselves or with others. Across time and cultures, stories have been agents of personal transformation because they have the power to change our hearts as well as our minds. The purpose of our weekly calls is to share stories from incredible change makers who are around the globe. Through thoughtfully guided conversations with them, our special guest speakers share their personal stories and inspire us through their actions, their experiences and their insights. Our hope is that these conversations will plant seeds for a more compassionate and service-oriented society fostering to foster our own inner transformation. Behind each of these calls there is an entire team of Service Space volunteers. This invisible work allows us to hold this beautiful space. We're thankful to them and to all of our listeners for helping to co-create this space.

Today we are grateful to have a remarkable guest with us, Jasmin Singer, whose personal journey is not only inspiring but has had a tremendous impact on so many people and other sentient beings. Thanks again for joining today's call. Let's start with just a minute of silence to anchor ourselves into this space. 

Welcome again to our weekly Awakin call. Today we're in conversation with Jasmin Singer. Here's how these calls work. In just a few minutes our moderator, Ari Nessel will engage in a deep dialogue with our speaker Jasmin Singer. So this week's theme is ‘Compassion unlocks identity.’ Really kind of a fascinating notion of how through serving others and showing compassion for others, we unlock our own love and compassion for ourselves. Our guest this week has led animal rights activism through the practice of self care. Compassion to serve herself blossomed into compassion for all sentient beings. We have the great pleasure of having a remarkable moderator today, Ari Nessel. For those of you who don't know Ari, he is a star of the ServiceSpace ecosystem. He is a successful businessman, a philanthropist and a remarkable animal rights activist himself. Ari, thank you so much for joining us.

Ari: Thank you Preeta. So grateful to be online with everyone here today. Well, I have the honor of interviewing today Jasmin Singer, who I have known for a number of years. I'll give you a little background on Jasmin. And I'll start off with a quote from one of her talks. She says, "What I want to stand for is compassion for myself first and then for all those other individuals, human and non-humans, whom we so easily cast aside, the ones we marginalize, the ones we choose not to see, the ones we don't call beautiful." Jasmin is the co-founder and co-host of Our Hen House, a nonprofit multimedia hub that aspires to work for animals. She is also the senior editor of the award-winning VegNews magazine. She's passionate about mainstreaming veganism. 

Helping people achieve better health by being aligned with their values. She was bullied through her childhood and her adult years for being overweight. Her life changed dramatically when she began to take self-care seriously and her weight dropped by 100 pounds. In the world that had overlooked her before, so many started taking notice of her. Then suddenly, the social implications of this fueled a deeper inquiry into her relationship with herself -- for the first time on her own terms. Discovering a self-compassion that transcended labels and judgments soon flung open the door to compassion for all living beings. There was no looking back. Today Jasmin is the author of the acclaimed memoir ‘Always too much and never enough’ and the co-host of the Webby recognized ‘Our Hen House’ podcast. 

Online and on screen she appears in the "Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan" podcast, the award-winning documentaries Vegucated and The Ghosts In Our Machine, and she has also been featured on the Dr. Oz Show and HuffPo Live. She speaks regularly across the country and beyond its borders on veganism and animal activism.

Jasmin's invitation to the world is for each person to step up and be a better version of themselves, an invitation she vibrantly embraces herself -- with a potent mixture of honesty, humor, grit and empathy. She recently moved to Northern California from NYC, and is the companion human to a sweet pit bull named Rose and a cute kitty called Stella. Welcome to the call, Jasmin.

Jasmin: Thank you Ari. It is so great to talk to you. I'm such a big fan of all you do and I am honored to be here today.

Ari: For those who are listening, I have been interviewed a couple of times by Jasmin so it's really now for me to turn the tables here and get to listen to your wisdom.

Jasmin: Laughs

Ari: I'm just...starting off, like how many years have you been interviewing people for ‘Our Hen House’?

Jasmin: Our hen house is in its eighth year so we are on episode four hundred and ten. So we've been going every week for the last four hundred and ten weeks without ever missing a single. We have two interviews on each episode so eight years many many many interviews.

Ari: Well I am just trying to imagine what it would be to interview every week for over four hundred weeks, someone that inspires you or someone who you see as doing great work in the world. How are you different, from having had that relationship, having that question-answer with someone every week like that?

Jasmin: That's a great question. I feel so unbelievably lucky to be able to co-host ‘Our Hen House’ with Mariann Sullivan because it's not only for our listeners to find a safe place, to have community in this shared cause of animal rights and to also find their own place to change the world for animals, but it's allowing me to do the exact same thing. So it puts me in the exact same position as our listeners in that I'm learning from our guest, like you, from change makers of all walks -- lawyers and actors and kids and parents and teachers and entrepreneurs -- you name it and we interview them, if they are changing the world for animals. So the main way I would say it has changed me is that it has humbled me and it has shown me without a shadow of a doubt that there is no one right way to change the world for animals. We absolutely need a multi-pronged approach.

Ari: Well what are the things of our call here is that idea that compassion unlocks identity. And I'm wondering if you have seen this in your own experience, what do you think is the relationship between self-care in service or self-care and taking a stand on behalf of the well-being of others in the world?

Jasmin: That is a big question. I would say that my own experience has led me to believe that I could not show up for others as fully as I'm able to, once I finally started to prioritize showing up for myself, first and foremost. I mean it's that incredibly cliche statement about the oxygen mask going on your self first, before it goes on the person next to you, even if you love them really a lot, you have to love yourself first or you're not going to do any good for anybody else. So for me you know I went vegan fourteen years ago when I was 24 for animals and I immediately started working tirelessly in the animal rights movement, and immediately started neglecting my own animal rights, and it wasn't until I was sick myself that I realized that I was not even close to my potential as an activist, let alone as a friend or as a partner, or insert the blank, because I was neglecting my authenticity.

Ari: Could you share that journey of the practice of self care and how you start off. One thing I really connect about your story is the empathic response of having suffered yourself, and to know the experience of suffering, intimately, and then wanting to alleviate the suffering of others. I think it's a common thread among a lot of the activists that they become more -- through their own experience of being more marginalized or being left out, out of some kind of pain, physical, or mental, or torment -- they begin to identify with others who then proceed to experience something similar. Could you share a little bit about your journey there?

Jasmin: Sure, thank you. I wound up, ultimately, in a unique position of having to jump through a fence from somebody in the world who was previously ignored and pushed down to somebody that the world has decided was acceptable and celebratory.  I wound up losing a bunch of weight and the world changed the view of me drastically. Because I suddenly realized how pushed aside I had previously been. As you mentioned before, I was a bullied kid when I was growing up and was a bullied young adult, and I had a lot of experiences being treated as a less-than by a society who did not look at me as valid. Because of the fact that I didn't conform to their view of what beautiful was. 

That later informed my animal rights activism and various forms of activisms that I pursued because to me, they are different spokes on the same wheel. It’s the same exact rational for oppressing one group as it for oppressing the other; they are less than, they are not worthy. And so, for me it was jarring when I finally realized that the animals who I was spending my days and nights fighting for tirelessly, as you know, Ari, because it's what you do, were me and were a reflection of me too, and I needed to also just show up for myself. So I had a long journey in coming to terms with the fact that I was treated better once I became more acceptable by society, and at first it gave me a little chip on my shoulder, and ultimately it emboldened me and further informed my activism, and strengthened my resolve to never accept complacency or oppression, no matter who is the target. Whether that's a human or a non-human. 
Ari: Noticing as your weight changed that you felt more seen by others, acknowledged in what you had to share was well-received -- was it gradual? Was it gradual that you re-entered notice or was it really, there was an immediacy to it? And how much of that was that related to the way people viewed you, versus, the way you viewed your self? 

Jasmin: I knew you were gonna say that because I wrote an article several years ago for Mind Body Green and it was about this: it was about how when I lost the weight, the world started treating me differently. And that article went viral, like overnight. That's how I wound up with a book deal. And the reason why it went viral was that people were either irate and just furious that I would make what they thought was an assumption about the way that they personally treated fat people. Or, the other side of it was that people were like: Yes, exactly this is what I've been trying to say, this is my story. 

So, to answer your question, it was gradual because my weight loss was gradual. My weight loss took 3 years. But slowly, over time, I started to realize that men would hold doors open for me and women would compliment my blazer. And I was downstairs at my mail box of my walk-up apartment in lower Manhattan, when my neighbor whom I had seen for many years by that point, but never even acknowledged me started talking to me and asking my name. It was like little things like that, that made me go "What is happening?" And that's when I realized it was their perception of me. 

The reason why when I wrote that article people became so irate was because that they thought what had changed was my self confidence and that's why people were treating me better. And I think that's a really narrow way for looking at things. I mean, yeah, my self confidence changed as I became more align with who I was and making healthier decisions that made me feel better in the morning when I woke up, but we live in a sin-centric society, that celebrate people of a particular skin color, people of a particular hair color, people of a particular body type, and people of a particular class. And it would be really missing the point to just throw that entire argument under the bus that we don't see heavy people, for example. And that's actually something that I had to explore in myself, because I realized that I also held that prejudice. So that's kind of the beginning of the issues explored in my book and hopefully that answers your question.

Ari: Yeah and I'm wondering, because I see this in myself. I used to see that -- in my family, my own prejudice that if people were overweight, I would make judgements about their self control or stuff that’s about the choices they make. And I would be like...and wouldn’t see their wholeness, and I'm wondering in your experiences whether that's saying that we make judgements around the lesser because of their body shape or their ethnicity or their age? Or their species? Is there something you come across that's very skillful to see our own ignorances, our own disability to see the wholeness in others? It’s just something I want to know because I want grow on it very much. 

Jasmin: Yeah, I want to grow on it too. I mean I think that we should always be growing in it 'till the day we die. I've definitely not reached the point where I'm like "Yay! Done. Got it. Check, moving on."  I think that one thing that I've found to be true, and this is something that I talked about in my Ted talk of the same name ‘Compassion unlocks Identity’, is that I had to stop allowing other people's perceptions of me to define me. And once I stopped allowing people’s' perception of me to define me, then, I had to check my own behavior. Because I realized that I was allowing my perception of people to define them and it's really not up to me to define anybody else, just like it's not up to anybody else to define me. So it started with, just to reiterate, it started with me stopping the process of allowing other people' perception of me to define me. "Oh you're great because you're thinner!" "Oh, you're not so great because you're heavier." Like who cares, it's up to me to define myself. And at that point, I had to pay attention to the messages that I was telling myself about others. Like they are abusive, they are not whole, because they are this, that, or the other. Well, I don't know their set of circumstances. It would be arrogant as hell to imagine that I had any idea of their set of circumstances. So that's where compassion comes in. It has to be compassion for ourselves first. 

Ari: I was just thinking of this idea this morning, I'm speaking at an event tonight and what it is that I want to communicate. A lot was about how the way we see people is more self-fulfilling...I want to say it more specifically...The way we see the world has greater relationship to ourselves than it is to the world. And therefore from that, the way we see others, they begin to self-fulfill that idea. And if we see someone, their goodness, their capacity for compassion, for service, then they're more likely to fulfill it, than if we see what's wrong with them. Do you ever notice that yourself? Do you notice that as you were perceived by others to be more whole, that it was easier for you to step into your wholeness in some ways?

Jasmin: I would say it's not linear, so yes, I think there is truth to that, and I don't think that that's necessarily a great thing. And I think that part of that for me, since I'm human, and humans are extremely flawed creatures that, I think I let in the messages that I was starting to get from the outside world. 

And I allowed it to help inform my view of myself and therefore my view of the world. But that can only go so far. Because at the end of the day when we turn off Facebook and Instagram and all of these, like pretty empty platforms for communication, we realize that fulfillment doesn't come from the Instagram feed. It comes from how we're feeding ourselves. Sometimes literally and sometimes emotionally. So - yes, it did impact the way I saw myself and it was many years after that, after the weight loss, after the article, that I had to take a proactive step in stopping this cycle of allowing other people's perceptions of me to define me.

Ari: Yes - Sounds like this is something that you really pay attention to. Do you see this any kind of internal monologue about things that are still defining you in a more limiting way? 

Jasmin: Sure! Yeah! absolutely! I mean I'm very sensitive, I am a very sensitive person and I'm constantly having to remind myself, that what other people think of me is none of my business. I mean you know, like we are humans and therefore we have egos . And sometimes it's that ego, that wakes me up in the middle of the night thinking about how like my older brother and I got in this horrible fight around Thanksgiving. And he thinks all these things of me, but they're not true. They're just not true. But it's like I have to kind of let that go. So because it doesn't matter. It's just a waste of energy, I need to go back to sleep. So yes -- it is definitely something that is an ongoing struggle and an ongoing journey of letting go and focusing on goodness.

And focusing on you know what I want in my life and I don't want that kind of spiralling going on. I mean if we're social justice activists, like we are, there are other things to be concerned about, other than just our ego. And in order to be able to show up for those other things in full, it is my experience, anyway, that we need to kind of be as grounded and centered as possible.

Ari: How does this idea of compassion unlocking identity -- how does identity fit having - so one of the words you use a lot is vegan, being vegan. Or your identity as an activist. How does that support your identify. What are the flaws that you see there in really strengthening a sense of identity? Almost like separating ourselves. 

Jasmin:  Well I think that labels are complicated. I think that labels were created for an important reason and I think that sometimes we latch on to them, because they are kind of like little smoke signals for others who are like us. For example, I am a lesbian and I like that label. It's an important label for me. But there's a lot of other people who  would say, "I really don't want to label myself." But you know, there have been historically really important reasons why queer people have labeled themselves as LGBTQ. It has helped us to find our people. Our community, our chosen family. And it has also kind of helped us to show the vast majority of the world that we are valid members of society as well.

So I think that labels and identity for me have been very, you know, very closely tied together. The label of vegan to me is really important, because it shows you know - social change still happens person to person and by example. So if I wear my label of vegan loud and proud, then that becomes something that people might associate with a valid choice. Maybe even understand that for some people, it can be considered a moral imperative, like it is for me. 

So identity is, for me, is tied up with the labels that I give myself, but it's a little bit more fluid than that, you know, and I think that there's there's a time and a place for self exploration, and often times self exploration is not tied to a specific label.

Ari: Yeah - it's definitely is my own practice as well. Because I think in some ways I see that -- there is an identity that has an aspirational quality. And setting an identity is almost like setting a North Star, you know. But it's sort of like in some ways -- there are identities that help me cross the river and to the point if I'm ever able to cross the river, I can leave identity behind at that point.

And then to take that more broadly, I think veganism sometimes is that. We were talking about it before the call, to Preeta, this being this aspirational quality. What I would say to that --  it's ahimsa - what they talk about in Yoga - which is non-harming of others, physically oriented towards the direction of the 99.9% of species that aren't human, in a much more broader ethos of morality, of caring, of compassion, of consideration. And I think that, I've also seen in myself, that I have clearly at times asked myself "Who are my allies?" and then by default, "Where are the people who aren't my allies", and so while it also has encouraged an increase in capacity, for compassion for those who are marginalized, it also in some ways led to a feeling of separation from others, from some others rather.

Jasmin: Yeah - I agree with that and it's a really good point about allies. And the other thing I guess that I want to add is that - I have found that people who stay away from labels - they're like "Why do you have to label yourself? Why do you you have to call yourself this? Why do you have to call yourself that? " Often times that is the majority speaking - so you know, "'Why does it have to be marriage?” You know, marriage equality? At the moment anyway, it is still relevant. Still a thing - but you know there's been plenty of people who have been naysayers and like "Why does it have to be called that? Why can't you just do what you're doing? Why do you have to like label yourself like queer? Why do you have to be physically queer? Why do you have to label yourself vegan?' 

Often times it is people who are uncomfortable with their own status - you know and just have a level of discomfort when it comes to dealing with a marginalized community. It's tough! I mean all of this stuff is tough. I don't think that there is one particular answer. Because like you said about crossing the river. I think that there is a time and a place where it is not necessary to use a label. For example, I don't really care if people call themselves vegan. As long as they're not eating animals or oppressing other animals.

It doesn't matter to me. If people want to call themselves vegan or plant based or vegetarian or veganish. Or whatever. I don't care. But at the same time I have to recognize that the one of the reasons veganism is mainstreaming now, is becoming a lot more mainstream that it had been, is because the word is recognizable. So both of those things are true.

Ari: I thought a little bit about this idea of considering that two groups of people that I see are those who are, and I am using this word aspirationally, not positionally -- Vegan and Pre-vegan. And I say that because it allows me to see someone, I mean you can do the same thing, you can do this in other areas. People that are generous and pre-generous -- who haven't yet developed that seed in them. All these aspirational qualities that are worth being and people who aren't yet embodying those. And what it helps me to do, when I can start stepping into that approach, is see the seed that still exists in those who are not yet, do not yet have this insight or this view. 

Jasmin: I think that's beautiful and that really speaks to what I know about your character and your openness and your compassion, and I agree. I mean it, it actually sets us up for success. When we wake up in the morning to look at the world as like vegans and pre-vegans.

Because it immediately doesn't put people off from our cause, for example. You know, as opposed to "Nobody's going to hear me! Nobody's going to understand". And the truth is that whether or not someone is vegan -- people are making more and more vegan choices. And going more and more vegan than they certainly ever had been before. And that is affecting the bottom line. That is why the plant-based food industry is booming and that is why we are on a trajectory for fewer animals to be needlessly abused and slaughtered each year. So that's happening because people are leaning more into the inner zone. As they are hopefully also becoming fully vegan. 

That is an important point when it comes to our advocacy that maybe we won't reach some, 100% but as long as we are open to change happening, person by person, and not being wedded to what the ultimate goal is going to be, we'll be able to rest-assured that fewer animals are suffering at the end of the day, as a result of our positive attitude.

Ari: So prior to the physical change that led to all these other additional insights as well, you still had allies -- people that were there, that saw you, saw your goodness. One of those people you talk about is your grandmother. I'm about who are the people that sort of believed in you before? Like when you were, when you didn’t feel like you were seen in the world. And what are some the things you've learnt from them? Are there any stories you can tell about how you were shepherded in that time of your life when things felt little more alone?

Jasmin: Yeah there are the two people that spring to mind -- my grandma, who you mentioned, who passed away four years ago now, and Mariann Sullivan, my partner for ten years and the co-founder of ‘Our Hen House’ -- she was you know there throughout the whole process.

With my grandmother, one of the things that I always think about is how she was just this beautiful, effervescent, open person -- she actually went vegetarian at 86. So when people say you know, “Too late for me, it's too late for me”, I just think of my grandmother going nearly vegan in her mid eighty's. At the end of her life, she had to be in a wheelchair because of a benign brain tumor that impacted her limbs working. And I would push her in her wheelchair and all these people who had previously adored her, began to dismiss her. And I don't know if you've had the experience of pushing somebody in a wheelchair, but frequently they talk to you -- you know, passers by will speak to you, instead of the person in the wheelchair. And that happened with my grandmother. People would address me instead of her and she would just look them in the eye and answer for herself. And that's because my grandmother answered to herself and she wasn't going to let anybody define her, for her. 

And so I had in my grandmother the opposite of what happened to me I had jumped the fence to something that the world wanted and my grandmother had jumped the fence to somebody that the world didn't see anymore. And it was infuriating for me and she didn't let it bother her at all. And the reason she didn’t let it bother her is because she didn't let other people's perceptions define her. So yes, she has been a great influence. And she never, she just always saw me. She know, she and Mariann were the 2 people who just always really saw me throughout all of these years. No matter what. They believed in me, they were my cheerleaders, but they did not enable me. They didn't change their perception of me when my body changed and that will put them like in my forever book of the best people I've ever known.

Ari: And thinking about that, this is just something you want to do is to be a mentor to other people as well. I remember you hosted at my house a little event, sort of a day-long exercise. What was the name of the event you did? I forget the name, it had a great name.

Jasmin: Yeah, you know, I was actually a guest speaker at that. I was very lucky to be there. I wasn’t the organizer of it and I’m also blanking on the name of it, but it was about, just body acceptance and body equality. Just loving our bodies and loving ourselves and bringing in a holistic approach to it, to how we eat and how we live and meditation...I did not lead the meditation part. I’m still working on my meditation skills!

But you know, we talked a lot about self-love and how that can actually ultimately change the world, so that was great. And to answer your question, I do think that it is absolutely valuable for anybody to be a mentor and to have a mentor. I mean I try to always be a mentor and have a mentor, but I'm not sure I, like, seek out being a mentor. I think it just might happen. I think for all of us, it can happen for each of us. If we're surrounding ourselves in circles where we can grow, then we are going to just inherently be in circles where we are a mentor and where we are finding a mentor. You know, I found -- I was on a sixty city book tour with my book in which I speak about many of these same issues, and so many people came up to me afterwards and said ‘This is my story!’ and I realized how universal it is to consider yourself always too much and never enough which is the title of my book.

And I realize too that it's not actually about me. I mean if people come up to me and say “This is my story”, it's not about me and the fact that I just wrote this incredibly-exposing, vulnerable memoir. It's about the fact that this story resonates with them, and therefore about them. So I'm not sure that makes me their mentor, but it provides an in-road for others to find their own truth and tell their own story.

Ari: I love that! Is there any feedback you've gotten from people that have like -- you telling your own story has encouraged them to tell their own story?

Jasmin: Yeah! I mean, I have. I’ve been lucky enough to have been told that people are starting writing groups in their own communities where they’re exploring their own personal narrative and one thing I speak about frequently is that -- I think that personal narrative is an underused way of impacting social change. Especially in the animal rights movement, I think personal narrative is not, it’s hardly used, it's just barely there. And historically, in other movements, it's been like a big part of the change that has resulted from the liberation of that particular cause, that particular group. So I always encourage people to tell stories. And that’s why I'm passionate about personal narrative and that's why I'm passionate about media. So that's why -- my work is in media. It's, you know, as the senior editor of VegNews and as the co-host of Our Hen House podcast, I want to provide platforms for people to be able to tell their story and share their wisdom, because that is -- that becomes --  actually Wayne Pacelle said it, the C.E.O. of The Humane Society. He said that “Our Hen house is an oral history of the animal rights movement”. I think we need an oral history of it, and we need a written anecdotal history of it from people who are working through these issues in their own lives and creating change.

Ari: I love that you're talking about this. It's actually a central quality to ServiceSpace --  this idea of telling our story and sharing our stories. And we think that we can see things in this objective way, but everything we have is through our lens of experience that's unique to us. But what's unique about in terms of rights movement and activism for animal advocacy, not entirely because there's some other ones, other efforts as well, but that those who are most marginalized cannot speak for themselves, at least not in the ways that we can hear, through language. 

And I'm wondering like, I think that has actually kept us from telling our stories, because we felt like it undermines the stories of the animals. But I heard Wayne Pacelle speak last night and I love what he said. He doesn’t use the word animal rights, because what he said he goes to is ‘human responsibility’ -- because it's not about giving animal rights -- it's about humans being responsible to not take away the ability for others to live and just be themselves. Is that something that makes sense to you? Does that speak to what you are mentioning a little bit about here as well.

Jasmin: Yeah I mean you have a couple important things there -- just the idea of rights is inherently flawed because it's something that the major group basically gives or grants to the minority, so the majority gives to the minority. So I'll say animal rights because it's just the common term. And you know sometimes that's just the word I need to use. But I really appreciated that you said that oftentimes people will find that telling our story undermines the animals. Because it's not like the rescued chicken or the oppressed chicken is writing her own story. We're writing our own story and after all animal rights, for lack of a better word at the moment, is not about liberation of vegans. It is about the liberation of animals. 

You know the reason why I still think that personal narrative is extremely important for this movement is because the numbers are astronomical of animals who are abused and slaughtered. It is 286 farmed animal/land animals per second in the United States alone. 24/7. I mean those numbers are just like impossible to wrap our heads around. And they are all individuals, every single one of them are individuals. Once you start to think about that, why not just tune it out because it's just so much easier to tune it out. But the sole reason why they're oppressed and killed is because humans who are pushing them out of our consciousness are consuming them. And so the only thing we have available to us is our voice. The only thing we have available to impact change is stories and facts. And the only way that we can get that through to others is with compassion. 

Often times when you just throw facts at people, they will just stop listening. But what's beautiful and powerful about personal narrative is that “My story is my story”. And so the person listening to it doesn't get defensive because all they're hearing about is me. They're hearing about the fact that when I was 24, I watched a documentary about factory farming. I was already a long time vegetarian by then (not vegan yet). I sat there and my leg was shaking, and I don't have shaky legs. So I was like what is going on. I had so much energy that I jutted out of my feet, watching on the screen as there were babies being torn away from their families. I thought of my own broken home and my heart really hurt. And then I watched as dairy cows, and egg-laying hens were being exploited for their female reproductive capacities and I thought of my own experience - being raped, and being violated for my own reproductive capacities, my own parts basically. And I realized I could not continue to support the egg industry or the dairy industry and continue to have the understanding of feminism that I held close to my heart, for me. So when I tell stories like that people aren't going to listen and hear "I'm doing something wrong, I'm eating animals", what they're going to hear is that's one woman's story and they'll reflect on how that feels for them. That's the importance of personal narrative, that's the reason we all need to tell our stories.

Ari: You know, I love how you bring feminism into our food choices. It is not a common thread that I hear. Yet when you just mentioned it, it's really powerful. I just think of my wife who has nursed our first son for 2.5 years, and our second son for 1 year and so connects to this bond of providing milk for her child, or the idea of like the beauty of giving birth and raising a child. I think there's half of our population that really connect to that idea -- to take what is one of the most beautiful aspects of life and turn it into its most abusive aspects -- of forced rape, taking babies and taking mother's milk away. It's a powerful way to express this idea. Is that something that you've explored? Are you hearing a lot more about that approach? How do people, especially women, how do they relate to that? Is that a thread they can connect to or  is that just too far reaching to connect their spirit as a human with a non-human?

Jasmin: You know that you're asking the big question . I think that there are a lot of women who are making the connection. This is obviously something that really became popular with Carol Adams in the sexual politics of meat. And I think that when it is framed as a feminist issue, women can relate to it. And men who are feminist can relate to it, in a different kind of way. But I think I probably do hear those connections made because I live in somewhat of a vegan bubble -- a lot of my friends are vegan, a lot of my family members are vegan. But I think, out there in the non-bubble, it's still a concept that people don't talk about.

And you know, as veganism becomes more mainstream, the issues of the exploitation of female bodies and female reproductive capacity will continue to be a discussion that will get a lot of reactions on both sides. For example, last week I don't know if you saw it but the New York Times had an article called "The changing culture of feminist cheese" and it was about a bunch of women who have small cheese facilities and how they are relating their cheese facilities and companies and products to feminism. And of course, I wrote a letter to the editor and lots and lots of other people I know also wrote a letter to the editor because it is an oxymoron. I mean you cannot possibly call something feminist when it is reliant on a system that is oppressing female bodies. There's nothing else to say about that. The culture is changing and it's changing toward cashews and coconut & soy. And that's because there are alternatives to every single kind of oppressive animal product out there, so why not take the alternative? The world is starting to wake up to that. The world is starting to wake up to the fact that we are living on a planet that cannot support animal agriculture, whether it's factory farming or the seemingly benign facilities. Unless we want a world where the rich eat animals and the poor eat nothing, we have to start to shift toward a vegan world. I mean those are the only two options.

Ari: It's interesting to me that this advocacy for meat reduction, say eating less animals or no animals, has been mostly the advocacy coming from animal rights people. It seems curious to me that if you care about global warming or care about oceans, or you care about food accessibility for those who don't have access to food or less access to food, if you care about the rainforest, care about species diversity, you care about females, like all these things, you should care about this issue. And I'm just wondering what is it that you see, or your allies see that other people don't see, that they should see and why don't they see it?

Jasmin: I think that people don't see the reality of what's going on specifically in regards to the inherent cruelty of animal production. So I think that a lot of people would know that it's a problem on some level, but they wouldn't realize that you can't have the veal industry without having the dairy industry. They wouldn't realize that the boy chicks, who are the products of the egg industry are killed even in the most seemingly benign facility because there is no use for them. They won't see the forcible semen extraction of the boy cows. They won't see the forcible insemination of the female cows, otherwise known to me anyway as rape. They won't see this system that is well beyond just one bad day for a cow or a chicken or a goat. 

They don't see it because of these pervasive images that are backed by billions of dollars and are just commonplace in our culture and in our society. They won't see it because of dietary racism and McDonalds being the only restaurant available that's affordable in certain lower income areas. They won’t see it because we have a systemic issue, we have a systemic problem. This needs to be addressed on a systemic level. And that hearkens back to what I said before about the fact that like what I have learned eight years of doing Our Hen House is that there is no one right way, we need every single inroad possible.

Another thing people don't see is the emergency of climate change. You have kids. I would be terrified if I had little kids. I would be terrified for their future. I am terrified, I don't have to be a parent to be terrified for your kids. I am scared for future generations and I think a lot of people don't realize that it is an emergency of astronomical proportions and it's going to also divide by class. So the people with the means, their kids their will be fine. The people without, their kids will not. Unless we start to move toward veganism. A lot of people think that moving toward veganism is not going to do any good because it's just one person and how much change can that make. But real change happens, person to person. We don't litter. We don't throw like a soda can on the highway when we are in the car. But why not, if one person's impact doesn't matter why not litter? We would never do that. So take that same mentality, flip it and realize that supply is driven by demand and we each need to do our part to change the world for animals.

Ari: Beautiful! One thing I noticed is that -- you have mentioned this before, the extent of this problem: You know, the number of animals that are that are killed every minute. And not just that they're killed, it's not just like one bad day, as you said. It is an excruciating life. It is like moment-by-moment -- how the pain of confinement, of separation from family, inaccessibility to anything that is natural in their life. But because of the robustness of the hell, It's really hard for me to connect to it sometimes. It's so big, it's like my heart.... it's like there's a protective mechanism that closes down and becomes very intellectual about it. As has been said many times - one death is a tragedy, a thousand deaths is a statistic. Is there's something inherent in us that doesn't allow us to speak?

When we speak about the largeness of the problem -- I think it's the same problem with actually climate change, it actually has a sort of opposite effect unfortunately of course of pulling people down. I'm wondering how do you keep yourself connected to the heart space of the problem? And not just of it, but the magnitude of it. Like the individuals you know that make this up, one by one going down the assembly line.
Jasmin: I don't always. I mean I'm not always connected to it. I'm always fighting for it, but sometimes I have to just fight for it without being overly emotionally connected to it or I will go insane. I mean, I think we have to make sure that we're taking care of ourselves and part of taking care of ourselves is sometimes not like sitting and wallowing in the reality. Like - how many animals died since we started talking on the phone? Well that's not going to make anyone feel good. It would feel much better to focus on the fact that, in a world and a climate where we have very little control, we actually have control over how we're spending our money and we have control over what we're eating, what we're putting on our plate three times a day or however many times that you are eating. We have control over something that is so.... the single, most personal, political move there is - which is eating. Food is a deeply personal, political act. And I find that it is empowering to remember that I have control over that, when I feel like there's so much that I don't know about. And I try to connect with individual animals as much as I can, whether it's a pigeon.... that's my meditation, Ari. Like just looking at pigeons outside or just speaking about the fact that like for any, of any flock of birds. Look at them! It's like choreography. 

I mean I've gone to see the rock acts at New York City multiple times. That's not choreography. I could save myself fifty bucks by just looking up at the sky. It is basically this amazing, beautiful, synchronized show for me. So sitting and looking at that and realizing that this is so far beyond my scope, I have no idea what impact that little bird has on all his little bird friends and all of his little bird connections and he fits into that V just perfectly, well that's really humbling. So I try to find empowerment wherever I can and I am very inspired by the fact that animals that have come out the oppressive background still have the capability to trust again. We see it time and time again at animal sanctuaries. We see animals that have come from the dead pile and were literally left for dead, frolicking and loving, and having social circles, and being silly and having a bad day. I have a dog, a pit-bull -- Rose. I see her learning to trust again, after she was being used, probably being used as a breeding dog and she trusts again. That inspires me and keeps me going. So rather than focus on the individual lives that are being killed and ruined every second, I focus on the individual lives that are being saved.
Preeta: Wow! That was so powerful.
Ari: One of the things you mentioned in your TED talk was how just by being yourself -- a Lesbian, tattooed, vegan activist, you piss people off. And I think that's true. In our world you can upset people just by being themselves and that can be because they're a person of color or because of the religion they practice, or because of the way they want to live in nature and simply, or because they want to be an activist. How does one to step in to being something that's authentic in that way and also trying to be peaceful? Knowing that just by trying to be peaceful, in some way the ripple unintentionally becomes creating separation. Not because by your choice but by the choices of others and how they relate to you. How does one walk that line or more specifically how do you walk that line?
Jasmin: With a sense of humor, first of all. And an understanding that I'm incredibly privileged, even though I'm a lesbian. Like I'm a lesbian who can pass as a straight person. That's way different experience in this world than like a butch Lesbian, for example, who could probably be the target of violence in like a lot of places in...this is a country, where I could just walk around and they would just think I was an edgy looking person. So understanding of my privilege, a sense of humor and safe spaces.

So safe spaces for me are my friends, my chosen family, my workplace and my home. I also know people who would always have my back, if I needed it. And just constantly assessing toxic people and toxic patterns in my life and do what I can to let go of them. So yeah, I think that's probably it. One more thing -- I think recognizing that it's not about me. That's hard you know, that's like my highest-self thing. I have to be in a real good place to recognize that -- if someone is going to judge me, it's not about me. It's actually about them and their discomfort with themselves not about me AT ALL. So keeping those things in mind helps me to not care so much.

Ari: I think that's really something...not something I struggle with, but people around me struggle with. I haven't had difficulty in expressing my being, expressing myself. But by doing so, people around me have felt uncomfortable because they found me.. they found what they either describe as political or divisive, in some way.

Some people just want to walk what I think Martin Luther King called in the past, or what I've heard other activists call it as a 'false peace' -- the peace that you get from not speaking about things that cause separation, that actually exists in the world or some harm is done, or we have divisive views from others.

I heard this one grand-kid of pollination project, Koza. He spoke about how in Alabama, when they were desegregating the University of Alabama, I think there were four or five young African-American students when the force integration came, the university was in chaos and there were racist chants and hatred beyond belief. And after a few days of being escorted around to their classes by the marshals, I don't know if it was few days or weeks or months, these kids couldn't take it anymore and they left. A journalist came and talked to some people there. They were like, "Look how peaceful our campus is now. Look around -- it's quiet. People are calm. This integration is a bad thing. It creates a sense of like terror. And now we have a sense of peace." 

In some ways I think that's the false peace that we get, people prefer that by not speaking to what is, the harm that exists -- we think that we have a peaceful existence, when in fact the harms are not in front of us. They're being separated out of the view of those who are in privilege.

Jasmin: Ahmm, yeah, that's powerful.

Ari: And I think, do you see that?  So much of what you do now. It seems like you've gone a certain path in terms of your advocacy, seems to be about building a sense of community for those who already care about the animals. A little less so than other people who are trying to bring people into the community.

Jasmin: Mmhmm.

Ari: Why that choice? Why did you want to strengthen those who already sort of share this view?

Jasmin:  I think I wear two hats. So there is 'Our Hen House' and then there's VegNews. And then there's my book. So really there's three. I think that they all have different roles. So speaking to what you were just talking about, Our Hen House is for people who get it already and who want to change the world for animals and they already understand what's going on, at least to some extent with animals and that to me is vitally important for the retention of vegans and of animal advocates that we have spaces like Our Hen House which is a community space. That is like Our Hen House. To me that's the magic of it. We need spaces like that, absolutely. We need to be able to have difficult dialogues. We need to be able to explore new concepts. That's Our Hen House.

Veg News is different in that it is not for people who get it about animals. We sell VegNews at Walmart. It is for people who are...It's for mainstreaming veganism by way of food, but when you open the issue, you'll see that we also have some hard-hitting political pieces, like meat-eating in China or we have the human toll of factory farming is coming up. We have pieces about slavery in the chocolate trade. But we also have like pull out thanksgiving vegan cookbooks in this issue, the November/December issue of VegNews. And we have amazing recipes and celebrity interviews. And that is for the general public and people who want to make some amazing food and shift toward veganism. That's about mainstreaming it.

My book is more about people who are soul-seekers and who are interested in the coming of age story and then when they are not really looking, getting in a lot of messages about veganism and animal rights. And hopefully they will then graduate to VegNews, and then graduate to Our Hen House.

Preeta: Great. Thank you so much Jasmin. We have a few calls in the queue. I also have a few questions, but I'll put those on hold to get to our callers. So with that. Here we go. Go ahead.

Kozo: Hi Jasmin and Ari. This is a beautiful conversation. Thank you so much. My name is Kozo. I'm calling from Cupertino, California. The home of Apple. I wanted to disagree with one thing you said, Jasmin. You were talking about people don't litter. How we just don't do it. So just yesterday, some Apple employees, they are riding their bikes and they jumped off the curb and one of them dropped this big cup of Bobba tea. 

And it fell on the ground. And they all laughed and they just rode off.  You know, they didn't even, none of them said, hey pick that up. None of them, it didn't even occur to them to pick it up. And so, my question is like, it's kind of complex, but it seems like not only are we disconnected to the earth and to the things like litter, we are disconnected obviously to animals and animal production. And we are disconnected to each other. I've been to a Thanksgiving where twenty people are on their devices sitting in a room together. It seems like that disconnect is a major part of the problem of all these things we are talking about. Whether it's you know climate change, animal rights, you know, on not seeing people in their homes, as Ari said it. So, I'm wondering what your views on that are. And the digital revolution and how that's affecting all these movements.

Jasmin: I appreciate your question and I want to clarify one thing. I totally agree that people litter. When I said we don't litter, I was actually talking about the people on this call right now, the people who are listening, and I was just saying that hopefully and presumably, people listening to this would have a higher consciousness and they wouldn't do, that unfortunate thing like you just said, but I exist in the real world and I know that there's lots of litter. I was just saying that chances are we're not gonna just have part of our minds set. I'm gonna throw this cup out, I'm gonna just throw it on the ground, sounded like just the way that you told was like a lack of consciousness and really unfortunate, but I don't think they woke up that morning and said "What's the difference if I liter?" It doesn't make it okay though. 

But to answer your question, yeah, I mean I don't have much to say except that I agree. And I think that Ari hit on it as well. We are disconnected. We are disconnected from others, and we are disconnected from ourselves. And I think that like the digital age, like you said, has been remarkable, in so many ways, but one of the fallouts from it has been that it has resulted in us severing our connection to our authenticity. I mean, how many people including myself like go to sleep with my phone in my bed, looking through my Facebook feed, as if that should be my last thought at night. And in the morning, how many people wake up and the first thing they do is respond to other people's emails.  That makes us reactors. That sets us up for a day where we reacting, instead of acting. And so yeah, I agree, I think that the positive things that were thrown over there was that veganism has provided me with community and more real, authentic connections than I've ever had before.  

Preeta: Thank you, thank you, okay we will go to our next caller. But, I wanted to actually ask a question -- to go back to your personal story, which is so powerful and like you said, stories are the instruments of change. I wondered if you could just walk us back to that moment, when you embraced veganism. If you could describe your eating habits growing up, how they shifted, and kind of also how they interacted both in terms of time and in impact on your health journey.

Jasmin: I went vegetarian when I was 19 because I thought meat was icky and it was like an extension of being a theatre student in Philadelphia wearing all black and smoking closed cigarettes. I thought that I'll call myself a vegetarian now. So, I went vegetarian and I used to introduce myself as a vegetarian, but not the mean kind. And I didn't know anything about factory farming. I just stopped eating flesh because it was viscerally gross to me. 

I went vegan when I was 24, so five years after that, because I was working as an AIDS awareness actor educator. An actor educator in an AIDS awareness theatre company and through that, I met someone who showed me a documentary and that was when I learned about, as I mentioned earlier,  dairy cows, and egg-laying hens, and the oppression in those systems I would say that dairy and eggs are the two most cruel sub-factors of animal agricultural-business. And it was the first time I learned about factory farming, even though I had been vegetarian for many years. So, that speaks to the story I told earlier about watching this documentary and watching babies be wrecked away from their families and all that.  

So, I went vegan at that point, became an activist immediately, and simply replaced the life of food-addiction with the vegan version of it.  So, all I ate was processed junk food, because that's all I had my whole life.  I grew up in the fluorescent 1980s when the only thing they ate was Cheese-its and Oreos and little weight-watcher meals that my mom used to buy for me. They were these tiny little, square, microwavable meals and I would eat them, even though they were completely disgusting because  I didn't see food as a way to nourish myself.  I just saw it as a vehicle to lose weight. So, I took that disordered mentality, and after going vegetarian, and then vegan, I just replaced it with a vegan version of that until I was 30. And I had a Master's degree in health and I had been a holistic health counselor, and I was sort of a long time vegan by then. And I was told I was on my way to heart disease. I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to check a pretend text message, really so that I could catch my breath. 

And I was handed a copy of a documentary called, "Fat, Thick, and Nearly Dead," in which a man juices his way back to health through regular juice fasts. I went on a juice fast, because of all of those things colliding at the same moment. And for the first time in my life, I took a break from the toxic over-consumption of food that I had been doing for my whole life. For the first time in my life I had a vegetable. Not until I was 30! And food changed its value and its import in my life. It became something that would nourish me instead of something that would deplete me. And I changed my relationship to my veganism. I went from being a junk food vegan to being a wholesome vegan, and I found my way back to health. 

Preeta: It's fascinating that you say you were vegetarian at 19 and then had your first vegetable at age 30! We have a couple of callers. Let me get to the next one. Pancho?

Pancho: Hello. Can you hear me now? Ok, it was me just a few moments ago. Well, first of all, it's so heart-warming and weird calling from here, from East Oakland, Joserra and I. My family calls me Pancho, and the moment that I saw that this call was happening, Jasmin, right away, I had a meeting already, so I changed it. I said, I need to listen to Jasmin, and then I heard you talk and got so inspired and moved, and then as you were saying that you -- well, first of all, so moved by your authenticity and vulnerability that invites me to be in that place. So as a recovering sexist and a recovering left-brainer, it's always inspiring to be surrounded by people who embody those values, because it invites me to that space. And so when you were saying that you used to have a heart disease, I think that we all as a collective, as a humanity, we still have that heart disease. Because we're not seeing that. 

What I was curious is because in one of these calls some years ago, that's how I became vegetarian. It was our elder, John Malloy, who was sharing how Cesar Chavez was vegan. And I was like, what? You know, me as coming from the part of the planet we call Mexico, I had no pretext for not being vegan any longer. Now how you embody your message, that sometimes bothers people. Well, here we say that we are proudly undocumented and unafraid.

And the question, with all this context that I have, I'm very curious if you have any insights about -- now that we are living the end of patriarchy, the end of capitalism, the nation-state and form of democracy as we know it, now that they're dying, and it's going to be hitting harder and harder on people of color, pretty much -- is there anything that you can see from this lens of a compassionate diet that could help to dissolve all this nonsense? Borders and... you mentioned a little bit about how to be aware of where our food comes from, but is there anything else that may be emerging right now, through this moment, or through your experience as a very compassionate and loving and fierce and courageous human being? 

Jasmin: Wow, thank you so much for all of that. I'm also just really excited to hear you say that we're approaching the end of patriarchy. Because I'm not sure i realized that, but I hope that's true. And I think that there are very direct connections between food, and specifically animal food, and continuing this system of oppression.

Because animal-based foods is like the embodiment of the patriarchy and the embodiment of capitalism. So in addition to boycotting the cruel process of animal farming, by going vegan, we're also standing against a system that is reliant on our willful ignorance to consume more and more and more. 

Which is something that was going on with me for all of those years when i was literally addicted to junk food. I, of course, was going to the solace of the food to combat the sadness I was feeling from being a bullied kid and a bullied young adult, but at the same time, I was literally addicted to these foods. Because they were produced in such a way that they would go down my gullet at exactly the right speed and hit that part of my brain that could never be sated. I was a victim just like anybody else is in this system that is reliant on our food addiction to keep their bottom-line strong. So in order to stand against that, we have to start to shift to a vegan diet that is ripe with whole, unprocessed foods. And that to me is extremely consistent with what you're saying. 

Pancho: Thank you.

Preeta: We have a comment from the web. From Beth in Portland, Oregon. She says that she knows that there are many spiritually-oriented practitioners of Yoga, Buddhism, and other practices who identify strongly with Ahimsa and non-harmfulness as foundational principles, and yet they do not include animals in their conception, and they continue to eat and support activities that harm animals. How can animal advocates help add compassion for animals, and especially for those seen as food animals, to that particular group of people? And then to their sense of identity? 

Jasmin: Well, I'll speak to that briefly, but i'd also love to hear what Ari has to say also, just as somebody who practices Yoga. I agree that that's extremely frustrating and inconsistent, and we could point out inconsistencies very similar to that. We could point out doctors, other change-makers, other social-justice activists, who in the middle of their talk about social justice, can talk about how much they loved their bacon this morning. And I guess one thing I would keep in mind for those situations is that, as frustrating as it can be, these people often also have something else to enlighten us about. So it's not as if we've reached a higher level of consciousness that they have not reached.

We have reached maybe a higher level of consciousness in one particular area, but chances are the next guy has reached a higher level of consciousness in an area that we don't yet know about. So keeping that humility firmly intact, to me, helps me to get through my days and get through those incredibly frustrating moments. That being said, within the yoga-sphere, by itself, the Jivamukti practice is based in veganism. There's incredible ambassadors, like Sharon Gannon, who founded the Jivamukti Center in New York City and has some books out about veganism. And beyond that, I will hand it to Ari, if that's ok. 

Ari: Sure! It seems like all religions and religious practices and personal practices happen within a context of culture. And that it's unknown sometimes what the purity of those practices are, because it's passed on over stories and millennia or generations. And those stories get more and more imbued with the dominant paradigm. I hear the aspirational qualities of Patanjali or the Buddha, or the Mahavira in Jainism, and they're very clearly speaking about a very, very robust form of Ahimsa -- of non-killing, of not harming. They don't say, non-killing towards humans, they don't say non-harming towards humans. It is in terms of all aspects, to all beings. So it's not clear to me that there's anything flawed with the underlying ideas, rather it's just the way that it's received into a culture that is inherently delusional and ignorant -- and to our own experiences of delusion and ignorance, that hopefully many of us are trying to overcome. I know i am. And I still have much to do there. 

But in terms of how to incorporate and include these spiritual and religious practices that you'd think would be natural allies, it's a good question. I think that, I always looked to my Buddhist teacher that I used to listen to when I lived in Chicago. Someone was always asking him about -- was mentioning maybe meditation and other practices that have been so impactful for him. And he wanted to share it with everyone, but Buddhism is a non-proselytizing religion. So how do I share this with my friends and family, who I so want to imbue with these practices, which have brought me such good well-being, so much joy.

And the teacher said, "Well, if you want to spread it, you have to be helpful, be energetic." And then one day people will start asking you, Why are you so happy? Why are you so helpful? Why are you so energetic?" And then they're want to learn about those practices that have been so important to you. So I think the answer to me is for people who do get it and see this value. Like Pancho, who was just speaking, is a beautiful ambassador, as are you, Jasmin, of demonstrating another way of living, and another philosophy, and a virtuous way of life. And that has a ripple that starts changing these dominant paradigms within spiritual and religious practices. 

Preeta: That's so beautiful. Both of what you say is so profound. Jasmin, your statement about the need for humility that people are on different parts of the path, and they may have different forms of enlightenment, or enlightened interest in different ways, and to keep humble about that. And Ari, your statement that, just the power of example and the ripples, and the stories that happen when people just walk the walk. So really, really powerful. Thank you for that. 

We have one last comment that I'll read out -- from Mish from New York City, from the web. She says, "Jasmin, wondering if you ever go into schools to share your powerful message with children. I truly believe children hearing what you shared here with us today would stop eating animals. Grateful that animals have you out there, educating people as you do."

Jasmin: Thank you. Well, I don't generally, but one of the stops on my book tour was in Tucson, at a high school, and it was a Quaker school, and it was mostly LGBTQ kids. And it was one of the most terrifying stops for me on my tour, because of my aforementioned experiences being bullied in high school. I'm not a teacher. I was nervous about what that would be like. And it was the single best experience i had on the 60-city tour that I did, by far. Because i realized it's not about teaching and being above these people. It's just about talking to individuals, the same as I would talk to anybody else. And what I found, of course, is how much these kids taught me.

So one poignant story that I'll just mention really briefly is that I asked these kids, "Who had any companion animals?" and most of them raised their hand. And I asked them, "Does anybody want to tell me a story about their animal?" And this one 14-year-old girl raised her hand, and she had a pit bull, which of course spoke to my heart, since I have a pit bull. And I said, "Tell me about your pit bull." And she said, "He's silly, and he's funny, and he's sweet, and he's playful, and he's really handsome." And then I said, "And tell me a story about what happened recently -- anything that springs to mind." And she told me a really sad story about how the pit bull was just sitting on the porch, and a bunch of people came by and started to throw rocks and other things at the dog, and a kerfuffle ensued. And the police were nearby, and they came by, and the pit bull wound up being blamed for this. And everything was fine, the dog was fine, ultimately.

The kid telling the story was very sad and troubled. And I said, "What was that experience like for you?" And she said, "My dog is just so misunderstood. He's so funny and silly and playful, and people just see him as someone he is not." And I said, "Who does this remind you of?" And every kid in that room raised their hand, because they are also being oppressed. They are also being marginalized. They are also being cast aside. And they are also being misunderstood. And that goes back to what I said earlier about trust, and how these kids, like this dog, like the farmed animals that have been lucky enough to be rescued and rehabilitated and brought to sanctuary can trust again. So that story has really helped inform the last year of my life, and I am constantly moved by these kids. And to your point, I would do it again. I think I would probably still be a little scared. But the best things in life that are worth doing, probably frighten us at some point. 

Preeta: Wow. Well, we often like to close with a question for all of our guests. So, how can we, globally, as an ecosystem of people who are committed to inner-transformation and inner-change, how can we support your work, and your journey, and your service in the world? 

Jasmin: Thank you for that question. I think I encourage everybody to have an honest conversation with themselves and about what they're eating and why. And see if it's in alignment with their ethical beliefs, and if they're not sure, do some research and start to have some dialogue. Being vegan is the very best possible thing that I've ever done, and there are just so many resources out there, so I encourage anybody to join us.

And when you do, I hope you start to listen to the The Animal Law podcast, because we have a lot of fun over there. Check it out at My book is also available to you, of course, if you're interested. "It's always too much and never enough." And you can find me on social media. My name has no "e" -- so it's Jasmin Singer. So i'm on twitter at jasmin_singer, and on instagram, it's jasminsingerauthor, and on facebook, you can just look up my name, Jasmin Singer. So, I mean, to support my efforts, I just would love it if you subscribed to Our Hen House and grabbed a copy of my book, and grabbed yourself a copy of VegNews and stayed in touch with me, because I'm always excited about other people's stories and journeys.

Preeta: Well, thanks. I was so moved by so many things you said, in particular the idea that social change happens person by person, and by example. And the really moving stories you told about, as you said, keeping inspiration not by the animals that are harmed, but by seeing the animals that are saved. And hearing the story about your dog, your pit bull, and the capacity to re-trust that you've seen in animals, and to regain trust. It's really, really beautiful, and it's wonderful to hear the passion in your voice as you talk about that. So, thank you for your amazing service in the world. Thank you for all that you are. Thank you for sharing your story with such openness and vulnerability in the world, and for helping unlock and uncover so many other people's stories, by that example. I'm sure you're affecting so many people daily just by who you are. 

Jasmin: Thank you. I really appreciate it. Thank you for providing this platform. 

Preeta: Great. So, just in gratitude, we will hold a collective minute of silence, to be grateful for all that you are. 

Thank you. Thank you again. Thank you, Ari, for being such a remarkable moderator, and thank you, Jasmin, for a beautiful conversation. It was like hearing two rock stars talk between yourselves, so we're just grateful to be privileged enough to be witness to that. Thank you so much. 

Jasmin: Thank you. 

Ari: Thank you, Preeta. Thank you, Jasmin. 

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