I am super stoked to be featuring our very first sponsor, Cary Smith of Moo Something, through my interview series!
I found Cary's company when I was searching for vegan apparel on etsy.com, and even though I haven't formerly met Cary (we've only chatted through email), I felt so much closer to her after perusing her shop. Her products all seem to be born out of a complete love and passion for animals - something I can really relate to. Moo Something's whole mission statement is to support animal welfare by selling custom animal paintings, photos and apparel that promote humane treatment of all animals - a perfect match for KMIV! sponsorship, in this lady's opinion.
Pitbull Tee and Puppy.
(how cute is that?!)
Professional, deft, and committed only begin to describe this inspiring woman whose favorite quote also comes from a committed, inspiring activist, Albert Schweitzer:
"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."
I am beyond honored to not only share with you Cary's beautiful, funny, and moving story, but to also implore you to check out this amazing woman's shop! (Well, read the interview first. Shop immediately after!)
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?
Cary: Well, first I became vegetarian. I knew at a very young age that my passion in life was to help animals. My sister used to call me Elmyra (as in Elmyra Duff from the cartoon TV show Tiny Toon Adventures), and I deserved the nickname. Elmyra Duff is obsessed with animals and cute things. She hugs them and squeezes them and makes them her little play things. She really means well and doesn't understand she's actually mistreating them. When the animals do manage to get away from her, she pouts, cries and wails. That was me! I was going to love animals, and they were going to love me back, no matter what.
Moo Something Vegan Tee.
So, I was about seven years old when I first became vegetarian. I was extremely stubborn, and it was "my way or the highway." Unfortunately, me being vegetarian didn't last long simply because I had no idea what contained meat and what didn't. So when my mom put cut-up pieces of ham on my plate, I happily ate it. My sister would wait until I was done and then tease me that I just ate Babe. I cried and gave up.
I tried again in high school and college and failed but eventually gave it up for good once I graduated college. I remember one day asking myself why the hell I was still eating meat, and haven't touched it since.
Becoming vegan was a much more gradual process. Right after becoming vegetarian I tried going vegan but was overwhelmed by the amount of foods I normally ate that contained dairy. So I decided to take a gradual approach by slowly replacing dairy with substitutes. That worked much better. I also work for a large, non-profit animal protection organization. Therefore most people I work with are either vegetarian or vegan. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people can really help, and it's a great way to get some good recipes too!
I feel like now is the perfect time to become vegetarian or vegan. There are so many resources and substitutes that make it a breeze to transition. After trying soy milk and almond milk, you couldn't pay me to go back to dairy milk.
KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?
Cary: Just knowing that I'm not contributing to the pain and suffering so many animals endure for our benefit is the greatest reward.
My greatest challenge has been trying to get my friends and family to understand. I made the decision on my own, and I never preach to them about going veg. I tell them I don't mind if they eat meat in front of me because I don't want them to feel bad. But that has caused some angst for me because I want to be educating them and showing them how horrible it is for these animals, yet I know that it won't accomplish anything but distancing myself from them. I guess I'm still struggling with that. Any suggestions!?
KMIV: Tell me a little about Moo Something. When did you first get into painting animals, and how did that lead to opening up your own online shop?
The name Moo Something came from wanting to inspire and motivate people to do something about animal welfare. And that's where I got it - take "do something" and add some animal to it - don't just sit there, Moo Something!
Princess Fox Art.
I actually just started painting about two years ago. I remember having this painfully stressful day at work, so on my way home I stopped at Michael's and bought some canvases, brushes and paints. I got home, mixed up some paint, and without having a clue as to what I was doing, I started painting. Much to my surprise I realized how therapeutic the process of painting was. After that I became a painting machine. At work I would anxiously await 5 o'clock, and upon arriving home, I would run to my craft table and sigh with relief once I finally had a brush in hand. My first painting was of my friend's dog, Amelia. When I gave my friend the painting, she liked it so much that I decided to paint more of my friend's dogs and give them as gifts. The positive feedback I got was unexpected and very encouraging, so I decided to open up an online store where I could sell my animal art and welfare items.
As for the shirts, I feel as though there aren't enough fashionable yet educational shirts for animal advocates. I want my message to be able to grab someone's attention and be simple enough for them to quickly read. I have a had a few people ask me what factory farms are while wearing my "Cluck Factory Farms" tee. So I know there are even more people going home to Google it and learning the truth behind our food. I smile every time I catch someone trying to read my shirt. I love knowing that I'm spreading a good message. I plan on making many more shirts soon!
Cluck Factory Farms Tee.
KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?
Cary: Take it step by step. Or if you really want to get your butt into gear, watch some undercover videos taken at factory farms. A lot of people ask me how I do it - not eating meat or dairy. I tell them, work where I work and see what I see everyday, and you wouldn't be able to eat it either.
But really, there are so many resources available to people who want to go vegan. Take advantage of them! Make a plan to replace one dairy item with a substitute every week, and stick to it! Ask people you know who are vegan to help. I had my friend at work write me a vegan grocery list to get me started! And bookmark an undercover factory farm video if you ever need to be reminded why you chose to become vegan.
KMIV: Okay - you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?
Cary: Purely Decadent Blueberry Cheescake ice cream, Amy's Organic Split Pea Soup, and Kellogg's Corn Pops (with Silk Vanilla Soy Milk to go with it!!).
A big hug and thanks to Cary Smith for this interview. To learn more about Cary's company, please visit: http://www.etsy.com/shop/moosomething.