“Before December 26, 1999, I probably spent less than five minutes in my entire life thinking about the animals who are killed for food, clothing, and other products,” says Gary Loewenthal, Founder of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale (WVBS), Co-founder of Compassion for Animals, and Director of the PB&J Campaign, of his pre-vegan years. “I probably ate meat every day.”
“Then Mike the Cat appeared on the scene,” Gary states. As he learned about declawing, the killing of free-roaming community cats, and horrifying experiments on cats, “I was outraged and without a second thought I became an activist for animals. I never saw this coming. It’s like something inside me was activated.”
Gary’s awareness of the gratuitous and institutionalized cruelties inflicted on other animals, including those killed for food, made him re-think his diet. “Passion and dedication can unlock all sorts of doors.”
Although Gary’s lifestyle already included not buying animal-derived clothing and using personal care products not tested on animals or using animal ingredients, giving-up animal products was rough and unfamiliar.
“I invented excuses and convenient versions of reality, so I wouldn’t have to give up meat, dairy, and eggs,” Gary remembers. Ultimately, he realized his excuses were unsupportable. “I owed it to the animals to be honest and do what was right – quit eating them.”
“Within a few months, it was second nature. By 2004, I was fully vegan in habit and spirit.”
“The transition was easier than I thought it would be,” Gary says. “For every food I gave up, I added lots of new ones. Cooking and eating became more satisfying and diversified.”
Soon, Gary channeled his interests and hidden talents in music, working in the garden, cooking, and career in computer programming, into activism. Gary and several of his friends decided to form their own 501(c)3 group, Compassion for Animals, to reduce human-caused harm to animals by educating people on animal-friendly lifestyles.
“One of the things I like best about Compassion for Animals,” Gary says, “is that if someone has an activism idea, we nearly always do it.”
And they’ve been extremely successful. Their idea to hold a vegan bake sale transformed into the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. Honored as “2009 Veg Event of the Year” by VegNews Magazine, anyone, anywhere all over the world holds a vegan bake sale; participants decide how their proceeds will be used.
A year later, Board Member Holly Sternberg came up with the “Pay Per View” Outreach and Funding Program, which pays people $1.00 to watch a short graphic video. If you watch the video, you will understand why they are promoting veganism.
“People tend to like foods to which they’ve become accustomed,” Gary believes. “We like tastes and textures. We like familiar foods, comfort foods, and have an emotional attachment to foods.”
In addition to the social aspect of food, we have been conditioned to think we need to consume dairy for strong bones and animal products to get enough protein. “The meat industry spends billions of dollars to perpetuate these myths,” Gary states. “These claims are refuted by research and abundant evidence.”
“People fear giving up animal products in their diet because it’s so ingrained in our culture.” Gary adds, “If they know about tasty plant-based alternatives, one step follows another, and you never know where that will lead.”
“Eating plants directly is far more efficient than feeding them to animals and then killing and eating the animals,” Gary reasons as he explains The PB&J Campaign.
Focusing on the environmental costs of eating animal products mixed with lighter topics such as peanut butter trivia and contests, The PB&J Campaign celebrates any step that anyone takes. “The PB&J Campaign reminds people that many of their favorite foods are already plant-based, not to mention simple and inexpensive.”
Gary adds, “A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the epitome of this.”
Join Gary Loewenthal and the many notable activists at the Anti-Fur Society Animal Rights Conference, May 31 to June 2, 2013, in Alexandria, Virginia.
“If you’re attending the Anti-Fur Society Animal Rights Conference and are not yet vegan, but are interested in the concept, feel free to stop me in the hall between talks, or during lunch, or at any time,” Gary says. “I would be happy to help.”
“It should be a great conference. I hope everyone who attends will gain knowledge, hope, empowerment, and new friends by the end.”
Register for the Anti-Fur Society Animal Rights Conference, May 31 to June 2, 2013, at the Sheraton Suites in Old Town Alexandria, 801 N Saint Asaph Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.
Read the featured speaker biographies at the 2013 Anti-Fur Society Animal Rights Conference.
Follow Compassion for Animals, the PB&J Campaign, and the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale on Facebook.