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Interview with Dave Warwak

The Vegan Folk Hero Discusses Homelessness and the Veggie Pride Parade


You mentioned that you're currently homeless. How did that happen, and how has it affected your activism and your view of animals and the world?

I had my home foreclosed on. Prior to that, I had plenty of material possessions I had acquired over the years and so I sold those things off to continue paying my mortgage and I was free to do animal rights full-time and even overtime. I lasted about five years selling off all my things and eventually ran out of money and couldn't pay the mortgage and I lost my house and I went on the road with my dog. Wouldn't leave her behind. As far as it affecting my activism, now being homeless, it made it more effective in ways, because now without a car, without a home, being on the road and traveling, I'm able to cover more ground and go places and spend more time than I would versus just driving a car through a town. Now, I'm walking through a town and talking with people. And traveling with my dog has been great because it opens up a conversation and people would approach who probably wouldn't approach me if I didn't have a dog.They see this beautiful, white German shepherd and it opens up this dialogue. Then they find out that she's a vegan and that's why she looks so good even though she's ten, she's in tip top shape. Really, being homeless shouldn't affect anyone's activism because really, the best activsim is talking with people one on one and there's people everywhere and wherever you go, there you are. It's been a great thing. And people think you need money to be an activist but you don't. I started a campaign where I would just go door to door. Covered a lot of ground and people's homes and spread the word as best I could, despite not having any money.

You know, when you think of a homeless person, people don't want to see that side of society. It's an ugly side. Society has failed these people because they don't have a home and security. People look away cause they don't want to make eye contact because if they make eye contact, they might have to help. It's the same thing with eating animals. If people confront the issue, then they know they'll have to change, so they don't want to think about it and they don't want to delve into the problem. And really, no one is homeless because the earth is our home. The same goes for the animals. There are a lot of parallels between homeless people and homeless animals because we're making animals homeless now with our domination of the planet and it's getting extreme, to the point where certain species are extinct and people are dying too. Homeless people don't have medical insurance and they get sick, they're dying because they don't have enough to eat. They're dying because of the conditions of living outside, all kinds of dangers and hazards around every corner.

The most extreme part of the situation is homeless people getting beat up and society is bullying the homeless and keeping them down because they don't want to see them. In the process of being homeless myself, even though I thought I was compassionate, I wasn't doing anything to help these people. So I started helping homeless people. I started volunteering to work at soup kitchens and food pantries to help feed them. It was very rewarding. There's a lot that we can do. Even if we're too busy, you can at least give a couple bucks to a homeless person and let them get something to eat. It feels good to help them. We don't have to look away, and the same is true of animals and it feels good to help animals and to protect them and if we just continue to look away, the problem just gets worse.

You went through a lot to get to the Veggie Pride Parade. Why is this event so important to you?

I love the Veggie Pride Parade. Pamela Rice is a genius for pulling it off every year and for starting it here in the U.S. and it's not so much a parade as it is a protest. When you hear "protest," people tend to shy away from it, and maybe there's going to be a violent element or whatever. When they hear the word "parade" it sounds like fun and a celebration. I'm lucky - I spoke at the first Veggie Pride Parade, and I've been speaking every year since, and this will be my fifth year. It's great, too, because it's not a money-making event. There's free food and there's speakers and it's a whole day event. To me, it's the best thing going in animal rights. I live for this one day and I'll do anything to get to New York because I'm lucky enough to have Pamela let me speak. So, it's pretty cool.

Is there anything you want to add?

I think that you have to look at things in a universal sense and really practice basic tenets that are within all of our religions, which is to do unto others as you would have done unto you, and thou shalt not kill. Those are two important things that no one can dispute. Those are just facts of life and just how we should behave. When we're able to treat animals the way we would like to be treated, then it'll only benefit everyone concerned, both us and the animals. But if we continue to look away, we're only hurting ourselves. I think if people practiced what they preached and what they teach their children - don't bully and be nice to your neighbor - things would be much better off. We wouldn't like it if aliens landed on earth and dominated the human race and put us in cages and confined us and tortured us and used us for food and for clothing, and then used our children and their children and we were imprisoned and we had no food, we'd be very upset. And here we are, doing it to the animals and it's like we are the outsiders and we are the aliens. We need to get back in harmony with the earth and start acting like fellow earthlings and protect the animals and each other.

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