An interview with Yunuén Ávila, CAA Volunteer and Explore Veg Mentor Program Coordinator
What drew you personally to veganism?
I started choosing to be vegetarian (without really knowing that that was even “a thing”) when I was a baby. My mom said that I would spit out meat or feed it to my pets. I would also cry when I was forced to eat meat. As a young teen, I made my mom a promise, “When I turn 18, I’m becoming a real vegetarian and you can’t stop me.” My mom was offended and worried at the time, since the Hispanic/Latino culture relies heavily on meat consumption—you’re either “poor” or something is wrong with you if you chose to abstain from it.
I was a proud Lacto-Ovo vegetarian until I stumbled on the dark side of YouTube: videos of animal cruelty, animal testing, the dairy industry, and more. I remember I was sobbing in pain, feeling anger at the abusers, and feeling anger at my own hypocrisy.
“How is it that I say that I “love” animals, but I pay these monsters to torture and kill these living and sentient beings?!”
I remember setting my laptop on the kitchen floor and in rage, I went into my kitchen cupboards and threw everything out on the floor. I did the same in the bathroom. I sobbed on the floor as I read the labels on the canned goods and toiletries to see if they had any animal ingredients or if they’d been tested on animals. That day in May, seven years ago, was my true “AHA” moment. I had become a vegan for the animals.
Seven years ago, veganism wasn’t as popular as it is now and I relied heavily on social media pages that encouraged the vegan lifestyle. Although I had found myself, I still didn’t feel like I “belonged” anywhere. I was an outcast to the “meat-eaters” and an outcast to the judgmental vegan community I had found on social media. I struggled with veganism for a while until I stumbled across Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA). They received me with open arms and with them, I felt I had found my home and community. THIS is what veganism is all about: it’s about COMPASSION—compassion towards our animal friends and towards ALL people, no matter what stage in their veg-journey they’re on. I began being active with CAA and volunteering as much as I could. They offered veg-activism training and I wasn’t hesitant to attend. I’ve been volunteering at CAA for four years now and the only thing I regret is not being a vegan and a CAA volunteer sooner.
All in all, it’s never too late to have that “aha” moment. If you’re reading this, this might be the time to spark that change in your life and be the one whom our animal friends thank for letting them live their lives to the fullest.
How do you explain your vegan lifestyle to folks if and when they ask about it?
Veganism is not only about avoiding the consumption of animals or abstaining from wearing anything that derived from animals or that has been tested on animals. It’s a moral and mental awakening of the horrific suffering these living and sentient beings have to endure on their short-“lived” lives. It’s about making a conscious decision to not participate in the abuse. It’s also about perspective. If one frowns upon the other side of the world for consuming who we view as pets in this country, then why is it okay to consume farmed animals? If I stopped drinking my mother’s breast milk at a young age, then why is it viewed as normal to consume milk at an adult age, especially milk that doesn’t belong to us in the first place? Supply and demand. The more one demands plant-based food, the less suffering there will be. Take the leap with me.
What is your favorite dish to share with veg and non-veg folks?
My husband’s, Sanchez Brown, “famous” authentic, vegan tacos and my “famous” vegan spinach and cheeze lasagne. (P.S. If you want to try Sanchez’s tacos, they’re exclusive to CAA volunteer appreciation events. Sign up to volunteer today!)
Besides volunteering with CAA, what are you up to these days?
I advocate for workers (union activism) and for the voiceless. In my spare time, my husband and I like to throw parties, make tons of vegan dishes to share, and then show them off to our non-veg friends to try so they can get a taste of the beauty of veganism.
Looking to make a change in your life? You can find free veg resources on our website and sign up for the Explore Veg Mentor Program. To get involved with CAA, visit our volunteers page to let us know what you’re interested in getting involved with. All are welcome!