#MyStory: Richa Thomas Uses her Voice for the Animals
Every month we hear of young and enthusiastic Living Free volunteers who are pushing the limits and affect change in their cities. This month we bring you an interview with one such activist, her name is Richa Thomas. Let's see what she has to say.
VF: What made you turn vegan?
RT: One early morning in September 2015, I heard the sound of what I thought was a baby bird calling out to his/her mother. I awoke only to realise that my neighbours had rescued a kitten who was about to be attacked by dogs on the street. After much pleading, my mother allowed me to bring the kitten home. Until then, I’d never really interacted with animals that much and I didn’t love them either. We ended up adopting her and that changed everything! I started noticing that my kitten’s behaviours were very similar to the behaviours of other animals. Street dogs and cows would fold their limbs the same way that Mynx (my kitten) would, and when they were feeling sleepy, they looked a lot like Mynx did when she was tired. I started finding these animals adorable. Then, one day, I came across two graphic videos on Facebook- one of the poultry industry and the other of a cow being slaughtered. That was one of the saddest days that I’ve ever faced. I looked into the eyes of the animals that were being killed and I couldn’t believe that I had participated in this madness for 19 years of my life. At that time, I didn’t yet know of the horrors of the dairy industry, but I was outspoken about animal rights. In January 2016, during my college fest, there was an animal rights stall and I was so excited to visit the stall because I wanted to talk to people who spoke out against animal abuse as vehemently as I did. When I went to the stall, the activists there told me about the dairy industry and at that point, I had had enough. I went vegan immediately and I haven’t looked back since.
VF: Who are the people who have helped you on your vegan journey?
RT: Abhay Rangan and Subhashini Ramaswamy from the Society for Animal Rights and Veganism really changed my mind about the way we should treat animals. After talking to Subhashini at my college fest (SARV had put up the vegan stall at my college fest), I didn’t want to participate in the massacre that is animal agriculture anymore. However, it wasn’t much of a journey since I went vegan as soon as I heard about why the dairy industry is also oppressive. After going vegan, however, watching Gary Yourofsky’s speech, discovering wonderful vegan YouTubers like Emily from Bite Size Vegan, joining Facebook groups like Vegans In India and Unapologetic Vegans and making many vegan activist friends on Facebook from all over the world, really helped me stay sane in this non-vegan world. I started doing activism with Abhay and that changed everything. Additionally, watching films like Vegan 2016 gave me hope and motivated me.
VF: What drives your passion for a life that is cruelty-free?
RT: I don’t believe that one can live a CRUELTY-FREE life as long as one exists. Veganism is about causing the least amount of harm to the extent that is possible and practicable. There’s really no big drive for it. Veganism is not a matter of kindness towards animals. It’s a matter of justice. Being vegan is just something that we’re morally obliged to do. In other words, animal rights are not a gift we give animals - it is a birth-right we have taken from them.
VF: Are you the only one in your friend group/family who is vegan?
RT: When I went vegan initially, none of my friends or family members were vegan. That was really disheartening! I constantly spoke about veganism and animal liberation with them and a couple of months later, my siblings, Ritika and Arjun, went vegan after watching Yourofsky’s speech. My best friends Ritwik and Teena are also vegan now. A lot of my other friends have gone vegan too. The movement is definitely growing and that’s awesome
VF: What do you have to say to people your age who don't know about veganism?
RT: I’d ask them if they agree with the fact that animals should not be put through unnecessary suffering. I’m sure they’d say yes. I would then proceed to explain that even though we’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to eat animals and animal products for health and survival, it simply isn’t true since we can get all our nutrients from plants. I’d urge them to watch Food Choices 2016 to understand that notion in more detail. I’d explain that since we can get our nutrients from plants, it logically follows that killing animals for food or consuming other animal products classifies as putting them through unnecessary suffering which they themselves are against. It’s simply a matter of cognitive dissonance which we’ve all experienced since we grew up in a society that made us see animals as commodities. Finally, I would advise them to watch 'The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear' by Gary Yourofsky and 'Carnism: The Psychology of Eating Meat' by Dr. Melanie Joy. I’d also explain to them that one doesn’t have to be an animal lover to be vegan and that veganism is a matter of justice and not kindness.
VF: What was the hardest part about going vegan?
RT: Going vegan wasn’t hard for me once I was faced with the information of the truth behind animal agriculture and once I looked at everything from the point of view of the animals. What was hard, however, was the fact that otherwise caring and intelligent people couldn’t understand veganism and weren’t ready to go vegan. Seeing the people you love and respect participating in the massacre was the most difficult part. Additionally, living in a non-vegan world where we’re reminded every second that animals have been reduced to commodities is painful. However, I focus on channelling the anger and frustration into action by being active for the animals and that has helped a lot. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, connecting with other activists is really cool.
VF: What role did FIAPO and the Living Free community play in your decision to become vegan?
RT: I was already vegan for a year before working with Living Free because of Abhay Rangan and Subhashini Ramaswamy from the Society for Animal Rights and Veganism, but I know that Living Free has played a huge role in transforming the lives of thousands of people and animals. I started working with Living Free recently and it’s been awesome!
VF: What is your favourite part about being a young vegan woman?
RT: There’s no favourite part about being a young vegan woman. I do, however, love the fact that I am living in alignment with my beliefs. Nevertheless, I wish that veganism was the norm and that using animals as commodities was considered extreme.
The last thing that I’d like to say is that the first step is going vegan. The second and more important step is to be active for the animals. The only reason any of us are vegan today is because activists decided to speak up for the animals. There are so many ways to be active - join your city’s Living Free group and engage in street activism, know your facts through continuous research and give college lectures and if you’re not confident at giving lectures yet, organise lectures for an activist in your city. Start a blog, website or YouTube channel, and use your talent/skills in art/design/visual communication, etc. to further the goal of the Animal Rights Movement. You may be scared and under confident and feel super awkward, but no matter how feeble your voice might be initially, do it anyway! You will gain more confidence in time. The animals are counting on us!
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