Interview: Vegan Paul Shapiro is Not From Las Vegas

pshapiroMost of the interviews at Weird! Why Aren’t You Vegan? are with people who are unique and different (read: not vegan). This has the normal people (read: vegans) feeling a little left out. So, to appease the masses, we will – once a month – feature a regular old, nothin’ special, run-of-the-mill vegan. Starting with a person some feel is the King of Vegans, Paul Shapiro.

Paul (I call him Paul) is the Vice President of Farm Animal Protection at The Humane Society of the United States. He also founded Compassion Over Killing, a national non-profit that works to end animal abuse. See? Just your average guy.

When I first reached out to Paul, he was totally game for participating in this interview. When I reminded him about it later, he said, “Wait, I agreed to do this interview? Who set this up?” but it doesn’t matter, because he did it. He’s here. He’s really here.

Meet Paul Shapiro.

What is your favorite show that’s not on TV right now?
Jerry Springer. Just kidding. Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Do you drive? If so, what kind of car and what, if anything, is funny or interesting about it?
I bought a used Prius C last year. What’s funny about it? Well, it wasn’t until I got it (again, in 2013) that I learned what Bluetooth is. Yep.

Do you share your home with any non-human animals? Tell us a funny story about them.
I literally have more cat furniture than human furniture, which I think pretty much officially means I’m a crazy cat lady.

Do you share your home with any fellow human animals? Tell us an embarrassing story about them. Just kidding, tell us one about you.
One time I did a live radio interview from a gurney in a hospital.

Some readers have indicated they’d like to know about your veganism. That seems weird to me, since being vegan is the norm and not very interesting, but here goes nothing.

paul and lisa

Proof that I know Paul Shapiro. Whatever. Carry on.

When did you become vegan and what motivated you to do so (aside from the fact that being vegan is pretty much a given nowadays, and that there are a hundred reasons that support the decision and none against it)?
I became vegan in ’93. For all you mathletes out there, that means my veganism is now old enough to drink. Back then, people didn’t know what the word meant, or even how to pronounce it. If anything, people thought it meant you were from Las Vegas. And the reason I stopped eating animals is because, well, I figured I’d rather live and let live.

What is your favorite meal? It can be real or made up.
Made up: Ambrosia. Real: Anything with nutritional yeast. But seriously, we need a better name for this real-life nectar of the gods. Or at least of me.

What food item do you always have in stock in your kitchen?
Did I mention nutritional yeast?

Do you just eat vegan (aka, the bare minimum) or do you also speak out against cruelty? If so, what do you do? If not, what is your problem?
Um, I was under the impression you were interviewing me because my career is based entirely on waging campaigns to prevent cruelty to animals…

What is the easiest thing about being vegan?
Getting more than enough protein. Duh.

Out of the one and only reason it’s hard to be vegan (the people around you, of course), who is the worst offender and why?
Honestly, the worst offenders seem to be vegans who view being vegan as some type of personal purity contest. Being vegan is about doing what we can reasonably do to reduce animal suffering; it’s not about some long list of microingredients to avoid. Being vegan is easy, but asking if the veggie burger was cooked on the same grill as the hamburger gives the opposite impression and does nothing to help animals. Sorry, I know that’s not very funny, but sometimes the truth’s gotta be told…

Song: “An Age Undreamed Of” – Conan the Barbarian
Recipe: 20 Great Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast

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One thought on “Interview: Vegan Paul Shapiro is Not From Las Vegas

  1. I love the good Paul Shapiro does for animals. I even subscribe to his email newsletter. But my experience in nearly two decades as a vegan is that regardless of the approach (lenient/judgmental, cheerful/angry, agreeable/argumentative) or emphasis (ethics, health, environment), people either change or don’t based on their own outlook and desires. Unfortunately, most people don’t change, and the few who do often revert to their previous ways.

    So while I’m quick to encourage any moves towards veganism and try to avoid open confrontations, my personal approach is to promote “purity,” at least as much as is possible in this animal-product-tainted world. People will choose their own path anyway, so rather than promote half measures, why not start from an absolute stance that it’s wrong to hurt one animal even one time?

    After all, most Americans have no problem insisting on zero-tolerance when it comes to the abuse of cats and dogs. Few if any think it’s okay to hurt a pet a little bit now and then if one is so inclined.

    If omnivorous Americans were suddenly teleported to a traditional Korean culture, most wouldn’t want their food cooked on the same grill as the dog or cat. Neither would they think it overbearingly difficult to read a food label to make sure it contained no dog or cat ingredients.

    So why is it considered pushy and counterproductive to promote the same zero-tolerance policy when it comes to pigs, cows, chickens, and fish? Are vegans saying these animals are worth less?

    Of course, I agree that preaching and judging only serve to alienate. We should “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Our goal should be to present a simple truth that most people already agree with: “It’s wrong to willfully hurt one animal even one time.”

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