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March 30, 2015

Lauren Toyota's Mission to #BeCrueltyFree

Humane Society International/Canada

What do you do when you’re a broadcast media star by the tender age of 32? You take that precious equity and use it to help those who can’t help themselves—animals.

Former MuchMusic VJ and Fashion Television correspondent Lauren Toyota is beloved by her fans, and a friend to all creatures great and small. She recently joined Humane Society International’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign to end cosmetics animal testing and espouses humane eating. HSI also advocates for compassionate eating—or the Three Rs: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.

We asked her about what it means to #BeCrueltyFree, and how she hopes to influence others into becoming compassionate consumers.

Q: Why did you join the #BeCrueltyFree Canada campaign?

A: I think the #BeCrueltyFree campaign is important because when you really look at the facts about animal testing, it’s all completely unnecessary. With advances in technology and science, why are we still torturing and tormenting animals for our own superficial needs? People should know what happens to their food before they eat it, but also their beauty products and everything else they consume, like clothing. I really love animals and just want to help in any way I can by spreading the message and putting a stop to animal testing.

Live in Canada? Call for a ban on animal testing of cosmetics.

Q: Was there a moment or experience that made you realize how much you care for animals? What made you want to make a difference?

A: I was vegetarian for most of my younger years because I knew deep down that consuming animals felt wrong to me. I’ve also been an omnivore, and now I’m in my sixth year of veganism. And while I’ve always had a deep connection with and affection for animals, I wasn’t always conscious of my choices and how it affected their well-being.

Just over a year ago I attended a Toronto Pig Save vigil; I was with a group of activists bearing witness to the pigs going to slaughter in downtown Toronto. When the truck pulled up in front of us and I peered through a hole to make eye contact with the pigs, there was one that was just staring at me and we locked eyes. He/she was making noise, as if talking to me, as if the poor thing just wanted to be saved. I broke down. I still break down thinking about that moment. When you feel the suffering of an animal you have to do something about it. From that moment, I made a lot of serious changes. While I was doing a big thing by eating totally vegan, I hadn’t yet extended compassionate and ethical choices into all aspects of my life, and now I do.

Q: What does it mean to you to #BeCrueltyFree?

A: It means I am a compassionate being. And it means that by making my individual choice, I also want everyone to be compassionate toward each other and our fellow animal beings. To view yourself as better or superior to an animal is wrong. When we hear of people being hurt, abused, or tortured we get so angry and want to do something to change the circumstances and I really want everyone to wake up and understand that we’re doing the same thing to millions of animals every day for reasons that are completely unnecessary.

Q: You're a successful and talented broadcaster—what do you love most about what you do? And where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I love that after 10 years of being on television I now have a wider platform to voice my beliefs and opinions and be able to influence and effect change when it comes to how we live on this planet and the things we choose to eat and buy. Right now, I’m focusing on spreading the vegan message mainly through my blog that I manage called hotforfoodblog. I’ve been able to leverage my reputation in media and television to help spread that message and bring veganism to a mainstream audience, whether in magazines or on television shows.

I want to convince people by way of their taste buds that going vegan is incredibly delicious, satisfying, and fulfilling. I think food is the best place to start a conversation about living more compassionately. It’s also something that has to be more sustainable overall, or else we’re in big trouble. This way, I start people on a conscious journey with food that will eventually permeate all aspects of their lives, the way it did for me. In five years I want to be producing and hosting my own show about plant-based eating and clean living and have my hand in a lot of different things creatively that align with my message of living more compassionately.

Q: Tell us your favorite animal story.

A: There are a few! I have a cow selfie with an amazing cow from Wishing Well Sanctuary. I thought it was hilarious that she was almost posing for this picture and it looks like she’s smiling. I also napped with a pig named Truffles at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen (New York State). Here was this massive pig all nestled in hay and I just snuggled up beside her and took a quick cat nap. If you’re at all curious about farm animals or want to go vegetarian/vegan, I highly recommend paying a visit to a farm sanctuary so you can see how farm animals are supposed to live.

And I have to give a shout-out to my cat Snickles, who is quite the character. He’s just so sweet and cuddly. He likes to brush my face with his paws and cuddle with me all the time. Sometimes I wonder who he is, like if he’s a person reincarnated. He just has so much personality that it blows my mind. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @SnickleSays. Take action and donate to help end animal testing.

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