Meet Allyson. Allyson is the newest vegan badass to join the YDV Team. She’ll be writing for Sanctuary Spotlight, bringing you stories from sanctuaries, wildlife rehabilitators, and rescue groups from around the globe. Please join me in welcoming her to our team, I’m looking forward to many cute photos of rescued animals- I am sure you are too! – KD


As I write this introduction, I am haphazardly snacking on a very rich, very chocolatey tofu mousse I made last week for a lunch with family. Five years ago, when I originally decided to become vegetarian, I had no idea that I would, over time, turn into the kind of person who could peddle tofu on others, or make detailed mental maps of what places near my home are vegan friendly.

I had decided to become vegetarian for health reasons in 2008 when I was 17. I don’t know what propelled me to, but I was riding my bike at the time and it felt right. It did not take long, with research, to find out that I had made a choice that woke up feelings in me I never knew I had: ethical ones. I watched movies like Earthlings with my mouth open, and realized I wasn’t vegetarian for health reasons only anymore. I had (or thought I had) come to the same conclusion as the famous line of Earthlings, which was to “make the connection.”

But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon my first sanctuary, Safe Haven Sanctuary, in Poughquag, New York, that I really did. Safe Haven is a tiny sanctuary run by Bill and Ellen Crain, and that was where I met such residents as Emma the turkey, Corey the mini-horse, and Duncan the goat. The “connection” became clear because of Emma. I saw her clipped beak and her pure, bleached-white feathers and the large, oblong shape of her body, all side effects of being bred industriously. A deeper sense of understanding came over me, and I became vegan that week.

I can say with certainty that if I had been visiting a sanctuary in 2008, instead of riding my bike, I  would have become vegan immediately. Sanctuaries are veganism’s greatest advocates. They are a physical space that allow you to “make the connection” in a way that a film, a dish at a restaurant, or a bumper sticker cannot replace. And these sanctuaries are operating yearly around the world, giving homes to animals that need a place to feel safe and secure. The best way to use your connection, to make your activism count, is to help these sanctuaries by donating, volunteering, or letting others know they exist.

I am proud to now be a part of the Your Daily Vegan team, because  I want my veganism to be about helping others like myself to make the connection, and because I want my own connection to never stop evolving. I now harbor a small dream to operate my own small scale sanctuary some day, even if I can only help a handful of animals at a time. Until then, I am happy to live in my little vegan apartment paradise in New Jersey, where my boyfriend and I house our bunnies. They constantly play tricks on us and chew our furniture, but we love them anyway. We all need to start somewhere!