Kim Dooley of Townsend knows the stigma attached to being a vegan and an animal-rights activist. She’s heard all the criticism.
“People ask me why I’m into animal rights and not human rights,” says Dooley, 23, a student at Delaware Technical & Community College in Dover. “I’m for the rights of all living creatures.”
Dooley says cooking vegan food is both healthy and spiritually rewarding. She meets regularly with a vegan group in the area and tries to educate people on the merits of the philosophy.
Vegans eat only plant-based foods — no meat, dairy products or anything that comes from an animal, including honey. They fill their protein needs with soy-based products instead. Vegans note the health benefits of their diet, since meat and dairy products contain saturated fat and cholesterol. Vegans also promote alternative health care such as homeopathy, citing mainstream drug manufacturers’ testing on animals.
“Billions and billions of animals have been slaughtered,” Dooley says. “I just want to have the peace of mind that I’m not contributing to their deaths. Hopefully I can lead others by example.”
Dooley’s parents, Joe and Robin Hartman, are also vegan and say they don’t miss eating meat. They have joined their daughter in promoting animal rights.
The Hartmans and Dooley are admittedly the unlikeliest of vegans and animal-rights advocates. Coming from San Antonio, the family grew up on meat, especially beef. “I’m glad we don’t have the smell of meat in our house anymore,” Joe Hartman said.
Dooley first learned of poultry-raising methods many think are cruel while serving in the Coast Guard. She read books about animal-rights abuses, including the de-beaking of chickens prior to their deaths.
It unsettled her. During a stay in Yorktown, Va., she went to a restaurant and ordered a veggie burger for the first time.
Since then, Dooley has committed herself to veganism and animal activism. She even became a “pinup” for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which featured her in its “I’m Too Sexy for Leather” campaign in 2005. She joins PETA protest and education efforts in Washington, D.C.
Dooley now plans on going to law school to become an animal-rights lawyer. She and fellow vegans will use the Great American Meatout March 20 — a day when non-meat eaters promote alternative diets — as an opportunity to get more people to give up meat.
“More and more people are going vegan,” she says. “I want to let them know that there are others like them.”
For more information on the Great American Meatout 2006, go to www.meatout.org.