There are a lot of diet trends out there, but not all of them have their own holiday. With “Hug a Vegan Day” coming up so soon, who better to chat with than local artist and animal rights activist, Brittney West?
West’s Beliefs Show up on Her Plate and Her Canvas
West spent three years as a vegetarian before ditching the eggs and dairy completely to adopt a vegan lifestyle. After working in the meat and cheese department of a grocery store, West couldn’t ignore the consequences of eating animals and their biproducts, even the local, organic, and “humane” kind.
“I dove into documentaries, books, scientific and medical studies, and just saw enough evidence I couldn’t ignore. My consumer choices were not aligned with my values if I wanted to actively reduce unnecessary suffering,” West says.
So, for the last six years, West has been thinking about what she puts on her plate and how this directly impacts the environment and health for all animals, including herself. She sees the way she spends money as the act of casting a vote for her values.
Another way West demonstrates her values is through her art; all the research she did on animal agriculture started appearing in her conceptual work. Her “Animal Activist Artwork” series features oil paintings, installations, drawings, and sculptures inspired by her reflection on animal welfare.
You can see one of her installations in the photo included with this article. It shows West’s installation “Into the Fold” – hundreds of origami cows folded from paper printed with vintage meat and dairy recipes.
According to the Vegan Outreach website, there are studies that show choosing a vegan diet can lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer. As the world population increases, some scientists argue that diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable.
When it comes to scientific studies, you can find one to support most dietary choices you make. But for a lot of people who choose a vegan lifestyle, it comes down to animal welfare. West recommends checking out documentaries like The Ghosts in Our Machine, Cowspiracy, and Forks Over Knives, if you’re curious.
Even if you don’t want to fully commit to a vegan diet, West advocates for people to reduce their meat and dairy consumption for the good of the planet and for themselves. She also invites you to join the Corvallis Veg Education Group, and participate in monthly dine-outs and potlucks every second Saturday at 6 p.m.
“You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to join, but this experience is a great way to try plant-based meals with a diverse and growing group of wonderful people,” West says.
Some restaurants the group frequents include Nirvana Indian Restaurant, Laughing Planet, Café Yumm, 2Mix, and Nearly Normals. West also offers to be a mentor to anyone interested in trying out the vegan lifestyle. You can also find a free mentor on the Vegan Outreach website.
Want to explore veganism on your own? Having worked there for six years, West recommends both First Alternative food co-ops. Both locations specialize in alternatives for the vegan diet, as well as vegan cosmetics and body care.
“Play a game with yourself each week [and] try a new vegan product or recipe,” West recommends.
“A simple Google image search is a great way to find that vegan dinner, easy vegan snacks, or specific recipes, such as a vegan version of your favorite dishes. Go with the image that makes you drool the most.”
As for approaching West for a hug on September 30, she’d welcome you with open arms.
“I would be ecstatic and would even give an exceptionally larger, more loving hug. Heck, any other day of the year, you can always ask this vegan for a free hug and I’ll give you my best squeeze,” she says.
“Just ask first,” she adds, “don’t steal ‘em.”
You can view West’s art by visiting www.brittneywest.com or by stopping by her studio during the Corvallis Arts Walk every third Thursday of the month from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
By Anika Lautenbach