Erica Settino is a long time animal rights activist and committed vegan. Three years ago, she founded Karuna for Animals, a non-profit based in Huntington, Long Island. This year, she is planning the first annual Animal Rights and VegFest on July 13. With speakers, artists and great vegan food lined up, this event is sure to be a success. I talked to Erica about her vision, what led her to this moment, and what we can expect.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: How did you come up the idea for the VegFest?
Erica Settino: I wanted to plan an event where, for those of us involved with saving the lives of all species of animals, without exception or discrimination, can come together to celebrate, raise money, and raise awareness.
Over the years, I have worked with other animal rescue and welfare groups across Long Island and saw firsthand the positive impact such events have on the community. I was struck by the great lengths people would go to, and the passion with which these events were planned and brought to fruition.
LDA: What is the activist community like on the island?
ES: Inspiring is the first word that comes to mind. I have met so many amazing, compassionate, and caring people, people I am sure I would never have had the pleasure of meeting or working with had it not been for our common thread.
Karuna for Animals has received extremely generous donations to help suffering animals find homes or receive medical care, and many of them come from people who are having a hard time making ends meet. Still they send a check for ten dollars. Or they volunteer their time, energy, and expertise. It is humbling. I feel blessed to be working alongside them.
It is my hope that through our organization, and our events, we can continue to grow this community of activists and extend our reach. The people of Long Island are becoming more progressive, more aware and conscious of the larger issues we as passionate activists are facing, and they are meeting the challenges. We always need more help, more awareness, more courage to promote change. But our foundation is strong and I am proud to be a part of it.
LDA: What is your goal with this event?
ES: The first is to bring together this community of activists in celebration of what we can accomplish when we work together for the greater good. So much of our work focuses on the atrocities committed by human-animals against animals of all other species. It can be really disheartening and many of us, myself included, have had moments of complete despair and hopelessness. This is a day where all the sadness, all the anger and disbelief with the world around us can be forgotten, if only for a few hours. While we concentrate on all we have done and all we will continue to do to help end this global pain and suffering.
We also want to help get as many animals as possible adopted. Numerous local shelters and rescue groups will be in attendance with adoptable animals, and nothing would make me happier than seeing a majority (if not all) find new families that day.
And, we want to reach those people who do not yet see what we see or know what we know. We want to empower people, arm them with accurate truths and knowledge so that they can begin to make decisions that benefit the lives of all beings. We want and need the non-vegans of Long Island (and the surrounding areas) to join us. The people who still choose to purchase animal companions from breeders or puppy mills. The families who still don’t understand the importance of spaying and neutering their companions, or why wearing wool is indeed cruel and unnecessary. This event is an opportunity for us to extend our reach as activists and through our own compassionate means provide inspiration for a more peaceful way of living.
LDA: Awesome. What can expect at the VegFest?
ES: Speakers, an art show and auction, seriously talented musicians performing, vegan cooking and baking demos, yoga clases for adults and children, and local exhibitors. We are even working on getting the necessary equipment to be able to offer a few movie screenings.
LDA: Can you tell us who is scheduled to speak?
ES: Yes! We are super excited that Jenny Brown, co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary will be speaking. She is a powerhouse in the world of farm animal activism and I am so honored that she is taking the time to offer her insight and guidance at this event.
We also have Long Island’s very own Jennifer Greene, organizer of Vegan Long Island Meetup, and activist extraordinaire, speaking and presenting on Carnism.
We have reached out to some others, so stay tuned!
LDA: I know one of your goals is to open a farm animal sanctuary on the island. Is that going to happen?
ES: That’s the big question. And the only answer I have right now is, boy, do I hope so. It is the goal of this organization to have a site where we can offer rescue and rehabilitation to animals of all species, as well as an educational center where we can offer yoga classes, workshops, summer camps, vegan cooking classes, and anything else we can think of that will help to spread the messages of compassion and non-violence. But being on Long Island we face the added challenge of extremely high property price tags and taxes. There is no doubt that it is going to be difficult. Additionally, there is the added challenge of finding quality and knowledgeable veterinary care for farm animals in or near this area. There is a lot to think about.
LDA: Well, it sounds like you have a big task ahead of you.
ES: Yes, we all do. But even with everything I know, with everything I have seen and learned about the injustices animals and people face at the hands of other people everyday, I am happy to use my voice, my energy, my time, and my life, to try to do something about it. Difficult or not, this is my path. The added beauty is that I love it.
For more information, and to help spread the word, visit Erica’s website www.karunaforanimals.com.
Photo credit: Karuna for Animals