At this year’s Animal Rights National Conference we were able to meet up with young animal activist, Genesis Butler. At age ten, Genesis became the youngest ever TedX speaker when she gave her inspiring talk on healing the planet through vegan eating. Now, she continues to advocate for animals through speaking engagements, social media, and has even started her own foundation called Genesis For Animals. Plus, she was this year’s winner of the Lisa Shapiro Young Animal Activist Award, presented to her by Compassion Over Killing’s Erica Meier! Despite her busy schedule, we were able to catch up with Genesis and ask her a few questions.
In your TedX talk you tell us a little about why you went vegan. After going vegan, what inspired you to get so involved in Animal Rights beyond a change in diet?
I think, mostly, I just love animals so much, I’ve loved them my whole life and I felt like there was something more I could do. My mom and I started doing research and found out about protests—so the main reason why I became an activist was because I felt like there was something else I could do. With veganism I know you’re saving the animals but I wanted to save more animals. My first protest was when I was 7 and it was against Ringling Bros. and PETA hosted it.
Is your whole family vegan?
Yes. They weren’t vegan before me.
Did you have any challenges transitioning to veganism?
Not really, when I first went vegan I told my parents and they were kind of like “well, we don’t really know about this.” I was five when I wanted to stop eating animals and then I was about six and a half when I asked them where we got milk from. They were kind of like, I don’t know if she’s just going through a phase where she doesn’t want to eat animals, but I was serious about it and they were cool with it once they found out I really wanted to be vegan.
What do you friends think of you being vegan? How do you address animal issues with them?
Most of my friends are vegan. After they started hanging out with me they wanted to go vegan. I try to tell as many people as I can about veganism and why you shouldn’t eat animals. So I try to talk to them as much as I can, and whenever I’m talking to them they’re always listening to what I have to say. I’ve gotten about 7 to 8 friends during the school year to go vegan.
What do you think is the best way to get other kids involved in animal rights?
I think talking about animals, because they’ll go vegan when they find out that when mama cows have their babies, their babies are taken away. And it’s really sad, it’s like what if someone came into your house after your mom had your baby sister and they just took away your baby sister. That’s really sad! And I think that talking about animals to kids will make them want to go vegan when they find out that animals are being killed.
Tell us about the inspiring work you do with your foundation, Genesis for Animals. How can people get involved?
Genesis for Animals will be raising money for sanctuaries all around the world, and if they contact me like, “I have this horse and his hoof is broken,” I’ll give them money so that they’ll be able to take the horse to the vet visit that he needs. I have a website, genesisforanimals.org, and if you look on there you can donate because I’m putting in a lot of my money but there are a lot of sanctuaries that are going to contact me so I’m going to try to get as much money saved to donate. You can also help out with my organization by contacting me at genesisforanimals.org or my Instagram, @aveganchildsjourney.
Is there anything else you want people to know?
I think to never lose hope because there is a vegan future and people are going to vegan. So just always remember to never lose hope.
Stuart McDonald is a Creative Writer at Compassion Over Killing (COK), a national non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, DC. She is passionate about making an ethical lifestyle easy and accessible for all and collaborating across social movements to create a kinder world. She writes about everything vegan: from plant-based eating to activism to legislation. Read her work on TryVeg.com and COK.net.