If you’re part of the New York vegan/animal rights scene, then there is a good chance you’re familiar with Jill Carnegie. As the co-founder of NUMU Vegan, campaign strategist for the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, co-founder of Vegans of New York (VoNY), and an active participant of numerous other vegan/animal rights efforts, she has made her mark in the movement and continuously proves to be boundless and persevering in her activism–in fact, she recently did a TEDx Talk discussing her work, as well! Jill was kind enough to take the time to talk with us about her activism, journey to veganism, and so much more–read below to learn more about this fabulous woman!
Can you tell us your going vegan story?
I’m fortunate to be “incubated” vegetarian! My mother was a vegetarian and our family was always animal-focused–we avoided meat, fish, down, silk, and leather as much as possible. We also regularly rescued cats, dogs, and birds. About 11 years ago, I was reading Kathy Freston’s book Quantum Wellness and there was a chapter about compassionate eating that contained stories from dairy and egg farms. From that moment, I went from vegetarian to vegan. As soon as I filled my mom in on what I had learned, she became vegan, too.
The transition to veganism was easy for me, except for craving cheese. Especially pizza. There was nothing even close to decent vegan cheese when I first transitioned, so I just went without. Now, there are several great brands available – with more on the horizon, like NUMU! Since I grew up vegetarian in a time where that was stranger than it is to be vegan now… well, socially, I had practiced to be vegan my entire life, haha!
What is it like being vegan where you live?
New York City is HEAVEN for vegans! We have some of the most innovative vegan restaurants in the world, and several fully vegan stores such as Moo Shoes and Brave Gentleman. There are also few better places to engage in animal rights educational outreach given the incredibly dense pedestrian traffic here.
Can you tell us the story behind NUMU Vegan–how it came to be, how long it took to turn into a reality, etc.?
NUMU Vegan is a cheese company based on a delicious new vegan mozzarella created by Gunars Elmuts. When Gunars was a New York City DJ and vegan, he dreamed of the day that more late-night fast food spots and pizzerias would offer vegan options. He had been impressing non-vegan friends with his cooking for years, and set his sights on creating the perfect cheese for pizza. After a year and half of experimenting in his Brooklyn apartment, he had created something amazing! Since I had a lot of connections in the vegan community and an interest in entrepreneurship, Gunars approached me to get this mozzarella out to New Yorkers – which we did starting in 2015. Now, NUMU has brought on incomparable investors and partners sharing our mission of taking animals out of the food equation. We are poised for massive growth throughout 2019, and can’t wait for the world to enjoy pizza, lasagna, burritos, sandwiches, burgers, and many other yummy dishes with the deliciousness of NUMU and without the cruelty and environmental impact of dairy!
What do you do as part of your role with the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos?
Kaporos is the ritual slaughter of over 60,000 baby chickens in the streets of NYC every year. The ritual is performed around the world humanely, without chickens, but certain segments of the orthodox Jewish community have yet to embrace that approach. The annual mass-slaughter in New York City violates over 15 city and state laws, but public officials look the other way as the practitioners represent a powerful voting bloc. This campaign is among the most challenging in NYC, as it is controversial on many levels. Kaporos with chickens is also some of the worst cruelty one can witness, and all out in the open – this poses a special challenge for activists. To learn more, I recommend following the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos Facebook page, and also check out the extensive videos on theirturn.net. As Campaign Strategist, I am privileged to be one of several people working tirelessly to navigate the paths forward to help stop this cruelty while exposing that chickens have feelings and do not belong on anyone’s plate.
What are the struggles associated with helping to run a vegan/animal rights nonprofit organization?
The biggest struggle with running a vegan company: keeping ethics out in front while still inviting the masses into your brand.The biggest struggle with being a leader of a nonprofit org or campaign: aside from the endless reminders that vegans are still the minority, the sad truth is that even animal advocates are still human, and humans are messy. The politics of the animal rights landscape can be heartbreaking; but fortunately there are a lot of beautiful and amazing people in the movement who make it bearable, and of course the animals saved make it the most gratifying work in the world.
As you mentioned, animal rights activism can be heartbreaking and take a toll on your mental health. At the end of the day, how do you show yourself some self-care?
I still struggle with what self-care means for me. I was diagnosed with PTSD last year, and have learned a lot about what trauma really means and the many ways it can express. The widely-accepted practices to alleviate symptoms (cutting back on work, meditation, gardening, taking a vacation) have proven to not work well with me. What I have found so far is that acupuncture is a life-saver, being fearless about disengaging with people who compromise my well-being was necessary, and staying busy is tremendously helpful. CBD oil also seems to be helping my chronic insomnia. However, I still have a long way to go to get back to 100% function. As long as we are honest with ourselves and observe what our own limits really are, then we have a shot at finding a lifestyle that is sustainable.
Lighting Round! List all of your faves:
Restaurants? Ladybird, the vegan menu at Paulie Gee’s
Documentaries? Speciesism: The Movie, Dominion
Books? How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Blogs/Websites? Nutrition Facts, Challenge 22+, Their Turn
Influencers? Jane Velez-Mitchell, Domz Thompson, Leah Doellinger, Damien Mander, Anita Krajnc, Liz Dee, Chloe Jo Davis, Simone Reyes, Dan Mathews, so many others! Those are just the first who come to mind because I consider them friends or because I’ve been connecting with their content most recently–the list truly is endless.
Products/brands? I’m partial to NUMU Vegan, of course! Also love to either wear or support those I consider to be activist brands such as Vaute Couture, GUNAS New York, Brave Gentleman, BHAVA Studio, Derma-E, Oatly
How did you first discover GUNAS?
I was first exposed to GUNAS about six years ago at a Seed event. At the time, I didn’t have the income or the mental bandwidth to invest in local, sustainable, ethical brands – I was only focused on not buying animal parts. Recently, I’ve been shifting to “slow fashion” and expanding the scope of voting with my dollars. GUNAS was a no-brainer when I needed an attractive bag that could fit my laptop or a multitude of documentation equipment. The Miley is my first GUNAS purchase and I’m obsessed! I’m about to get a backpack for use during animal rescue. After all, when you’re an activist, everything you use has to not only be functional but beautiful! The quality and details that make up each GUNAS piece are perfection, and I love that the brand is supportive of activists while being unapologetically vegan!
Another thing that I love about GUNAS is how passionately they support animal activism and rescue. One of my favorite places, Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary, launched a brand-new charter membership this year – and GUNAS was among the first companies to partner with this incomparable organization by offering member perks! I hope anyone interested in learning more about this safe haven for animals and the humans who love them will visit TamerlaineFarm.org to become a member.
How would fellow #GUNASGIRLS describe you? This is a tough question to answer – you would have to ask them!
Sugandh says: Focused, passionate, warm hearted
Krystal says: Compassionate, noble, ambitious