FEATURE: LeoLin Bowen

The first time that I heard of the word “vegetarian” was during my senior year in high school. I was on the dance team with a girl who became a vegetarian after her favorite chicken on her family’s farm became lunch. Growing up with a father who is from Mississippi and a mother who is from Belize, I had never heard of this term before, but I thought to myself I love animals and I don’t want them to get killed just so that I can eat them, so I’ll become a vegetarian too. Looking back on this time I laugh because although I stopped eating animals, I really didn’t eat any healthier. I survived on cheese fries and pizza. Thank goodness for a teenager’s metabolism and dance as a school activity. This time in my life only lasted for two years, but I always knew I’d come back to this lifestyle. 

During my time in college I thought that I’d become a veterinarian so I could help animals, but I quickly learned that being a vet didn’t necessarily mean you were an animal advocate. After taking several animal science classes I saw firsthand how animals raised for food are mistreated. This experience (and the video “Meet your Meat”) led me to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle again in 2007. 

I didn’t learn the term “vegan” until I was an adult volunteering at an animal shelter. This idea of someone who not only enjoyed a diet free from eating animals or anything that came from an animal, but who also lived a more compassionate lifestyle by not wearing animals or using products that were tested on them, appealed to me as a person and resonated with my core values. In 2009 I was accepted to a summer internship at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y. and this is when I made the switch to a vegan lifestyle. This is also the time when I became pregnant with my son, so not only did I have to navigate this change, I also chose to do it as a pregnant woman. Whenever someone questions whether veganism is healthy I laugh and say, “I grew a healthy human while eating vegan so I think that you’ll be okay”!

All that has led me to my dream job! I work for the Humane Society of the United States helping institutions such as schools and hospitals to incorporate more plant-based meals into their menus. Within this role I’m also focusing on increasing the number of people of color in the animal protection movement.  There’s a huge lack of diversity which is a hindrance in saving the lives of animals. 

After telling my son that I work to help save animals, he told me that he wanted to help me save animals too. This reminded me that as a parent my #1 job is to teach him how to be a compassionate person in a sometimes uncompassionate world. I am definitely up for the challenge! 

Social Media

Twitter @leolinbowen
FB: People of Color for Animal Protection
Website: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/eating/meatfree-guide-2011/