Life as a COK Intern: Radhika and Sajani

by Stuart McDonald

Compassion Over Killing’s outreach internship provides an opportunity for students in the Washington, DC area to get involved in animal rights activism and learn what it’s like to work at a nonprofit. Interns take on all kinds of essential projects, like planning and taking part in local outreach events, writing for TryVeg.com, leafleting, and even helping to organize COK’s massively fun DC VegFest.

We asked Radhika and Sajani, who just finished up their summer 2018 internships, a few questions about their experience.

Sound like something you might want to do? Apply for a fall internship today!

What was your journey to becoming vegan? Did you grow up vegetarian?

R: I was raised vegetarian. Since both my parents are vegetarian due to Hindu principles, they have always taught me to respect animals and gave me the understanding that animals are not food. I never really thought that dairy was bad until I met a vegan in one of my classes in high school. She had really clear skin, and would always bring delicious-looking fruits and vegetables. She told me she was vegan and suggested I watch Earthlings. I was intrigued and after I watched the documentary and saw the conditions of dairy farms, I decided to go fully vegan that day.

S: Unfortunately, I wasn’t as lucky as Radhika to be raised vegetarian; I went vegetarian when I was about 13 years old. It came from living in extremely veg-friendly India, and from realizing some very questionable ethics surrounding eating meat — eating flesh of animals I adored and cared for.

Around the time I left high school, I was very aware of social issues, and became involved in social justice circles. Veganism was one of the facets of being socially conscious — understanding how animal cruelty, deprivation of resources for people from underprivileged backgrounds, especially people of color, and how much resources went to feeding farmed animals instead of directly feeding those grains to humans. It all tied in, and I couldn’t support dairy and eggs anymore.

How did you meet? Have you been friends for a long time?

R: We met in AP Environmental Science in high school about 6 years ago. At that time, we were both vegetarians and did not really discuss veganism. But after Sajani graduated high school, we lost touch for a bit since she was a year ahead of me. When she transferred to University of Maryland (UMD), we reconnected and found out that we were both vegan.

S: We are both brown vegans! A rarity! But we’ve always both bonded over being veg buddies, and even though there is definitely more awareness in South Asia about treating animals humanely, there isn’t really space for desi (coming from South Asian) vegans.

COK interns host film screening

COK interns host a screening of HOPE: What You Eat Matters

How have your respective backgrounds impacted your activism?

R: Being brought up in a Hindu vegetarian household with parents that were constantly telling me meat is bad allowed me to realize the slaughtering of animals is a cruel practice from an early age. Throughout school I was never really confident being an activist due to questioning and judgement from some other students. However once I started to gain confidence as I got older, and once I made my transition to veganism, I realized that helping animals is what I want to do.

S:I think veganism is really important to me as a woman of color, as this is awareness of social issues that impact all of us. Intersectionality is important and there are so many problems that veganism can solve, especially those that affect people of color, like food scarcity and access to healthier foods. I feel like veganism has this really one-sided image of really skinny white women who eat raw foods and are super healthy, usually with a healthy side of middle class privilege, but veganism can be accessible to everyone!

You both go to UMD. How did your activism in college start? What have been the highlights and the main challenges?

R: When I started college, I planned to participate in animal activism. As a freshman, I joined SETA (Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and we planned many outreach events. We have given out many free leaflets and vegan products such as makeup, Tofurky, lattes, cheeses, and burgers. During our vegan giveaway, we had about 300 people in line and we talked about the cruelty behind cosmetics tested on animals. I have found that it’s easier to draw people when free items are given out. I would like the club to have more events such as documentary screenings so that the vegan message can reach a bigger audience.

S: I joined SETA after Rad, and she has ultimately been my inspiration in getting involved in animal rights. There can be challenges in reaching people but having a conversation and letting people know something new about where their food comes from is always a win–plus I enjoy having conversations with vegetarians who have yet to make the connection about the dairy and egg industries. Highlights have definitely been just having that conversation with people and knowing that you might’ve had an impact in their choices.  

Interns grab a vegan lunch after a day of leafleting!

What kinds of things did you learn by interning with COK? What do you feel are the takeaways for your future activism?

R: I have learned many useful tips that will help me in my future activism. This includes methods for effective leafleting, applying for VegFund grants, and learning about many different vegan companies that I did not know about before.

S: COK has taught me so much. Every day is a learning experience, teaching me new ways to be a better activist and reach out to others. Last but not least, I’ve gotten to know all the amazing restaurants with vegan options located right near COK’s DC-area office.

A word of advice and motivation for future interns at COK?

R: There is so much flexibility within the office so I would really recommend taking advantage of all the resources you have there! You can really do what you put your heart to. There is also so much to learn from the COK team so I would also recommend talking to everyone in the office and learning from them.

S: Enjoy this beautiful vegan place every second! There’s so much to absorb so take notes. If you feel that your future is in animal rights, this is the right place for you! COK does so many amazing things, so there’s a whole variety of issues to get involved in.

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