Young activism: Interview with Lotus Kay | The Vegan Society

Young activism: Interview with Lotus Kay

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Lotus Kay on animal rights, kindness and why we should listen to young activists 

The Vegan Society interviewed Lotus Kay for our member's magazine The Vegan. Lotus tells us all about what it is like to be a young activist and how this led to publishing books about animals. 

Tell me about your vegan journey. Lotus Kay photo

I grew up in a household where we didn’t eat red meat. When I was 14 I started homeschooling and became very curious to learn a lot of things. I learned a lot from documentaries, and one I came across was called Unity. It was really impactful, and showed me that farmed animals aren’t so different from our dogs. The film isn’t gory, but to see an animal who is about to lose their life is so heartbreaking. 

My sister and I watched it together and we both went vegan. We told our parents and they went vegan too. Since then, I’ve been very passionate about animal rights and everything to do with it. 

How did you start your activism? 

When I was 15 I applied for a Roots and Shoots project grant. The scheme was set up by Jane Goodall. She started it so that young people can create projects about helping the environment or whatever they’re interested in.  

My sister and I came up with the idea when we were having a sleepover one night – it’s kind of funny, we like to have sleepovers even though we live in the same house. We were talking about ways we could help the world, and we came up with the idea of Bears for Cares. The idea was for me to write children’s books about animals, and for each book to come with a stuffed animal. 

Getting the Roots and Shoots grant was super cool. I think there are probably a lot of young people that have ideas like ours.  

Incredibly, you went on to publish the first book the same year. Tell me about your books. 

I’m a poet and a songwriter, so writing the books came naturally to me. I wrote the first one just on my iPhone notes – that was More Beautiful than Heaven, which is about the earth and how beautiful it is. 

After that I wrote Billie the Octopus, because I think even in vegan communities we don’t talk enough about the oceans and the life in them. It’s all about the ocean and how important it is, and how none of us could be here without it. And I wanted to raise awareness about plastic and how we’re polluting the oceans. 

Jenny the Chimpanzee is about how we think that humans are not animals, and think we’re the superior species, but we share so much DNA with chimpanzees. It’s reminding us that we’re all linked to one another, and we’re all interdependent. The book is also a tribute to Jane Goodall, since she did so much work on how connected we are with the chimpanzees. 

And then I wrote A Thanksgiving for Turkeys, which is about how bittersweet the holiday is. There’s obviously a lot wrong with it, given its origins, but one thing I struggle with is the idea of giving thanks while we’re supporting billions of animals being killed. The book is about a turkey named Milo who doesn’t know what ‘turkey day’ is, so he’s all excited thinking it’s a day all for him, then he finds out what it’s really about. The message is about having a vegan holiday. 

What kinds of reactions have you got to your books? 

Vegans love them. As for people who aren’t vegan and are just getting used to the ideas, I’ve also gotten pretty positive responses. One time I was showing my book to someone and they said, “Oh, these books are about kindness,” and I thought that was a really good way to describe it. I feel that kindness is a really important thing that’s overlooked in school where it’s all about learning knowledge intellectually. But being kind to one another is the most important thing we can teach to make a better world. 

A lot of the time when people first go vegan they’re so outraged. It’s easy to be angry and judgemental. I definitely went through that stage. Eventually you realise that the ignorance of the individual isn’t the individual’s fault but the fault of society.  

I love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, otherwise known as Joyful Vegan. She was a big influence on me having a joyful outlook on veganism and talking about it in a non-judgemental way. 

What is your experience of being a young activist? 

I think that often you look up to people in positions of power like politicians, but we should listen to young people too. We’re not jaded and we have some really important insights and wisdom. 

I recently found out that I’m on the autistic spectrum, and that’s something I want to spread awareness of too. I don’t think I would have been able to do all that I’ve done, and have the connection with animals that I do, if I wasn’t autistic. I see the world in a unique way, and I think I’ve done this stuff so young because I was so focused on it. It’s a really important aspect of everything I do. 

Thank you for sharing. Tell me more about this connection with animals you have. 

I’ve always really connected with animals. We live in upstate New York, so there’s a lot of wilderness around. I’ve had a few experiences seeing owls where the owl has stared straight at me into my soul – those are metaphysical experiences for me. I remember looking out my window at night and seeing deer and thinking, “Why do I feel like I understand you more than humans?”  

Sometimes I feel that other animals are so much easier to understand. I think that’s true for a lot of people on the autistic spectrum. We don’t need to make conversation, it’s just a natural connection. And that’s what makes me want to be a voice for them.  

Follow Lotus’ activism at @lotuskay or visit the bears for cares website

This article was first published in our membership magazine The Vegan Issue 2 2021.

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