I met the beautiful Liz Kaitan ("Elizabeth Ruiz" now that she married a Los Angeles sheriff, who is also a vegan athlete!) on an anti-vivisection protest line over twenty years ago. I immediately felt a kinship with her, like I had met a soul-sister. She was a very successful actress back then. We lost touch for fifteen years and found each other again on a protest line last year. She has since left acting to work in nonprofit, but one thing she will never leave is the animal rights movement.
I feel like I am a pretty good animal rights activist--except in the presence of Liz. She's indomitable. And her passion is infectious. I'm honored to stand next to her in solidarity for the animals.
1. How did you get involved in the animal rights movement?
There were a few incidents in my life that opened my eyes to the plight of animals. One of the earliest was when I was four years old, living in Hungary. We had a neighbor who had a pig whom I befriended and visited every day. He always came running to greet me and I played with him for hours. One day the neighbors brought meat over to give to my family and in the conversation the pig's name came up. Horrified at the implication, I went running to the neighbors backyard calling the pig. Of course, he never came.
I cried for weeks and I was never able to separate meat from being an animal again. After that incident, I would have to be forced to eat meat through my childhood. The second incident was when I was about fourteen. I was watching the news one night and they showed the clubbing of baby seals in Canada. That affected me very deeply and those images have never left my mind. The last incident happened in 1986, I was driving down Wilshire Blvd. and in front of the Federal building I saw an anti-vivisection protest with shocking, graphic posters. I was stunned that we actually did that to animals. I parked my car and joined the protest. After that, there was no turning back.
2. What aspect of the animal rights movement is closest to your heart? (Vivisection, factory farming, fur, etc.)
That's a toss up between vivisection and factory farming (really any animal farming). If I HAD to choose one, it would be factory farming because it happens to billions of animals every year all over the world.
It is unimaginable that so many living beings are treated with such absolute disregard and then murdered at the end of their short lives for something we do not NEED.
I am all for turning everyone vegan.
3. What is the most important thing you have learned as an animal rights activist?
I have learned to not let my shock and grief at what we do to animals make me so depressed and numb that I avoid fighting the fight because it's too painful to face everyday. I have learned to use the horror as fuel to fight harder to stop it. I have also learned that there is truly hope to end this.
I am seeing things now I never thought I would live to see. I am seeing laboratories closing down, I am seeing more and more vegans, more vegan restaurants, and everyday there is new scientific information about why animals products are bad for us.
There is still a lot of work to be done on every level--sometimes it seems endless--but we are moving in the right direction.
4. What would you like the general public to know with regard to animals and/or animal rights?
We, as humans, HAVE to listen to that feeling inside of us that makes us flinch in horror at the pictures of animals being slaughtered, tortured, tested on or laying dead next to their hunters, because that voice is telling us that we are instinctively against such pain and treatment of living beings. So please listen to that part of yourself and take action to do everything you can to not be part of it and to help stop it, because that part of you is your conscience and nothing will free you more profoundly than listening to that consciousness within.
5. Do you have any companion animals? If so, how do they affect your activism?
I have two of the sweetest, gentlest kitties that are foster fails. They constantly remind me that animals are just as individual as humans. They have their own distinct personalities. I watch them go through the same feelings that I do. Sometimes they are scared, sometimes they are happy and playful, and often the girl is clearly highly annoyed with her brother. As far as their ability to feel and to like and dislike things, they are no different then we are, therefore they deserve the same consideration we expect from others.