Sirrus was a Fall 2014 Student Activist Winner!

SirrusName: Sirrus Lawson
School: Capital University
Year in school: Junior
Major: Economics and Political Science
Club Name: Capital for Animal Liberation
Position with Club: President

Why are you vegan? Why do you promote veganism?
I went vegan at the age of 16 and am vegan because I firstly, acknowledge that the lives and welfare of all sentient animals should be respected and protected as they are on the earth to live their own individual lives, and secondly, because I realize that in terms of humanity’s relationship to non-human animals “their destiny is tied up with our destiny” we share a world wherein raising livestock animals for food leads to soil erosion, water and air pollution, biodiversity destruction, the spread of disease, and egregious worker’s rights violations to name only a few widespread consequences.

What are your hobbies outside of the veg club?
I debate for Capital University, and enjoy playing bass guitar.

What are you studying in school and what do you want to do in the future as a career?
I am currently majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Public Speaking. In the future, I would someday like to work for PETA professionally in Corporate Affairs to change what and how corporations produce. It impresses me how one change in a company’s production line (i.e. a store chain refusing to sell fur) can not only deal a massive economic blow to industries based on animal cruelty but also have a more subtle but also extremely important impact on what American consumers demand.

How did your family react to your veganism?
Very well, my mom actually shifted from vegetarian to vegan because of me, and luckily is also the best cook I’ve ever met so she started making new and awesome vegan foods.

How do your friends react to your veganism?
My friends react well. As I have gone over to friends’ houses I have been very fortunate because their parents have been very accommodating in making sure I get things I can eat. I also had the good fortune of having the parents of a close friend go vegan for health reasons (arthritis). In terms of discussing veganism with non-vegan friends I’ve had some success in speaking to them about it and getting them to try vegetarianism, but I’m still working on getting friends to go vegan.

How is the vegan scene at your school?
It is okay currently and getting better all the time! This past year other C.A.L members and I worked diligently on a “Vegan Mondays” campaign for the dining at Capital. The students I’ve discussed the topic of Vegan Mondays with have been very receptive on the whole and the school administration and dining services have been very easy to work with as well.

How long has your club been around?
We were established early in the spring semester of 2013 so we’re looking forward to our second full year second full year as Capital’s first Animal Rights org!

What types of events and activities have you planned?
Quite a few! We have in the past year done film screenings (i.e. Forks over Knives), leafleting with peta2 and Vegan Outreach, vegan bake sales, bringing peta2 to campus to hold their “Glass Walls” and “I, Chicken”, petitioning for Vegan Mondays, and volunteering at Sunrise Sanctuary and the Franklin County Dog Shelter.

What have been your biggest challenges?
At the beginning of my sophomore year I wasn’t A member of C.A.L. I was THE member so building from there on took some time. Keeping members interested is always a challenge because people became members for different reasons, some are interested in the vegan aspect of the group and some are interested in the service aspect of the group.

What has been your biggest mistake?
Rather than one biggest mistake it’s more of one hard learned lesson. If you run an organization make sure you are perceptive of what your group members want to work on in the group. While as the head of an organization it is important to help members stay on task if you put them into sub-groups based on individual interests (i.e. one group focusing on promoting veganism, one group focusing on volunteering at animal rights organizations) it can build your organization very well. While it is possible and sometimes necessary is neither practical nor efficient to run an organization by yourself in the long term when you have other people perfectly willing and able to help you.

What was your favorite activity or event?
Probably hosting an entirely vegan food bar in the Main Dining Room at Capital (complete with house made vegan desserts and vegan lasagna) while gathering student signatures on the Vegan Mondays petition. Although getting to host “I, Chicken” with peta2 was a really cool and unique experience that got a lot of positive student feedback.

What has been the club’s biggest success?
Getting a bill and petition signatures submitted to student government for the “Vegan Mondays” campaign.

Who has been your biggest inspiration? Have any books or philosophies or people been important to you?
My mom without a doubt from a young age, she raised me to be compassionate toward animals, and was an animal activist while raising me and working a job. And yes Meatonomics by David Simon blew my mind the first time I read it, it describes the connection between U.S. ag subsidies and the factory farming industry, and how the United States supports one of the most globally destructive and morally abhorrent food production systems operating today to the tune of billions annually. Rather than a philosophy there is also a quote attributed to Plutarch that really resonates with me “but for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and the light and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy”.

Why is in-school activism important?
In school activism is extremely important for multiple reasons. Firstly, it provides a wide crowd of people to inform about animal rights issues, secondly there are younger generations of activists who will be fighting for animal rights long after my own has stopped, every era has the opportunity to shape the world for the better and if in school activism is fostered in this next generation the U.S. may be free of things like vivisection and factory farming by the next century.

Do you have any tips for youth who want to go vegetarian or vegan?
Go for it! Make sure you have a good amount of “staple” foods (i.e. peanut butter sandwiches) something healthy to fill you up on standby. I also try to eat some fresh fruit with every breakfast I have. And make sure to keep an eye on the VegYouth website because they will soon have cheap guide to eating vegan for students posted!

What advice do you have for other youth activists?
Don’t get discouraged, even if you are working alone! Every bit of work you do and every mind you influence makes a positive difference for the animals. Connect to other activists via social media (check out the VegYouth page)! I met my best friend and so many other hard-working, kind-hearted activists, you might even be able to connect with other youth activists in your area.