Halfway through May, the Vegan Round the World: The Series team arrived in Los Angeles to begin a busy week of filming with PETA, Rich Roll, Mercy for Animals, Beyond Meat, Tia Blanco, and the Eat Drink Vegan Festival.
Every day, we were to cover a different story in a different part of Southern California. It meant a lot of 5am wake-up calls and even more 2am bedtimes, especially when taking Los Angeles traffic into account.
However, we mentally prepared, packed-up plenty of hummus, and started off on the first adventure; heading into downtown LA to Sunset Boulevard to meet with Lisa Lange, PETA's Director of Communications.
I remember the difficult inner monologue that I had with myself before originally sending a message to PETA, asking to feature them as an expert speaker in Vegan Round the World: The Series episode on Global Vegan Activism.
PETA is a household name, but one that frequently comes with negative connotations. I knew that featuring the charity could help the series reach a wider audience, but so many people, including my vegan friends, advised against it, noting that PETA's controversial message could hurt the progress of the series and hinder its ability to speak to a wide range of audiences.
But after I got the green light to head over to their headquarters, I figured that it couldn’t hurt and added it to the California filming tour.
'Wild world of PETA'
PETA’s downtown LA location is nothing short of impressive. Appropriately named the Bob Barker Building (because, well, he donated it), the beautiful facility is creatively designed and home to more than 100 passionate employees. We got our gear set up and sat down with Lisa for an hour to talk about the wild world of PETA.
To date, I think this was my favorite interview. Lisa didn't back down when I asked more challenging questions, like why the charity feels the need to create controversy and what its staff think about people calling it a malevolent organization.
More than anything, Lisa made me realize that we all have a pivotal part to play in the vegan movement. For PETA, it's creating controversial content with high shock value. Why? Because it makes people look, so she explained.
The trailer for James Hoot's documentary series
It makes people take a second from their day and say, 'there goes PETA and its nudist animal rights activism again. Those people are crazy'.
But for that brief second, while their eyes gaze over a sea of painted breasts and anti-dairy messaging, they may just look upon a picture of a dairy calf with the message, 'I just wanted to be with my mother' and perhaps for that one second they will think, 'wow…that’s a shame'.
That's PETA's role in this movement, and it's damn good at it.
You might not be a fan of PETA, and that's fine. However, you do need to respect its end goal and the hard work that the charity has put in for decades in reaching it.
PETA's tagline is 'animals are not ours to wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way', and that’s something that, as vegans, we all need to be supporting. However, if you’re not a fan of PETA, then instead of looking at them negatively (as I used to do), try instead taking a positive stance into your own role in the vegan movement.
Because in order to continue the fight towards animal liberation, we all need to get active. We need to get creative. We need to take a stand. Find your form of activism and blare it out to the world on all channels, because that’s what we need. It’s what the animals need - and they need it now.
In order to help fund the remaining filming for 2018, James Hoot has launched an international crowdfunding campaign.
Rewards on offer include 100 percent organic and sustainable t-shirts, virtual high-fives, early episode release access, and vegan cruise line tickets.
The organization has teamed up with Trees for the Future, a non-profit organization that plants trees in rural communities in Africa, to offset 100 percent of the carbon emissions created by the project.