The Ghosts In Our Machine

Interview with Kristin Bauer van Straten

Kristin Bauer van Straten
Actress / Activist
Photo courtesy of Grace Chon

Lorena Elke, our Research Consultant, conducted the following interview with Kristin Bauer van Straten:

LE: Many people unknowingly contribute to the systemic oppression of nonhuman animals. What changed in your life that led you to become an animal advocate? What were the challenges and what have been the victories? 

KBVS: The first step for me was making the conscious decision to want to know. I hear it all day, “I don’t want to know.” And I used to think, yeah neither do I! Then one day I actually asked myself…is that true? Do I want to contribute to the suffering of another? Do I want to harm another? And I don’t. One of the worst sensations I have ever had in my life is regret – Regret that I hurt someone and it can’t be undone. We all do it every day in a modern world but we can try to do better and I think that effort is important! The main reason I now “want to know” is for my soul, my peace of mind. I must at least try.

The challenges, like anything in life, are easier in some areas than I thought they’d be, and harder in areas I didn’t even think of. To be kinder to others we’ll never meet is easier than one would imagine in today’s world. There’s a site that tells you if anything in your house has tortured a bunny in a box — and on every shelf in every store you can just reach 3 inches to the left and buy a cruelty free biodegradable product. There are now endless vegan food options that taste even better than the old paradigm — like Earth Balance “butter” – OMG.

One of the harder things for me is to encounter those who are just not ready to care. To stare in to the face of no empathy, breaks my heart. Most people are so good hearted and don’t want to harm, but there are those who just aren’t…yet. Mainly money drives those bargains. But they are very few in comparison and we can all nullify them by just reaching 3 inches to the left at the grocery store and voting with our dollars. The largest most heartless corporations (mostly) have their mortgages paid by us — one purchase at a time on that conveyer belt at the store. We can, one scan at a time, change the world — if we just decide to care a little more. As mundane as that sounds, everyone can make a difference starting right now. We are far from powerless.

LE: In an interview with Natural Pet World, you mention the greatest disappointment you feel about our relation to nonhuman animals is how greatly they suffer. How important do you think bearing witness to the suffering of nonhuman animals is in changing people’s consciousness? What role do you see empathy playing in relation to this change?   

KBVS: We live in a world where we are disconnected from the process of how we get stuff. We don’t cut down the tree to make the desk, we don’t raise and kill the chicken for dinner, we don’t plant the lettuce seed. We mainly have a relationship to our stores and our expenses. That is the modern world with many advantages. One of them is that we can pay other people to do all that stuff while we do other things. We forget this because we can’t see the strawberry being sprayed with toxic chemicals, the fur being stripped from a living animal, the veal living in a box…we are disconnected from the process that we are PAYING someone else to do — for us. But we can and should tell them how we want it done! We can say, I want food I know wont harm me or my family or earth, I want nice clothing made by well paid people, I don’t want a desk made from the last mahogany tree. The benefit of this diverse modern world is we have choices!

And the more of us who say, “I do care and that is a start,” I hope the closer we will evolve to societies who acknowledge that everything we do affects other living beings who want to be happy just as much as we do. And to me that is the beauty of “empathy” and could be the greatest asset we can cultivate — through endless tiny decisions we make all day. All we need to do is start trying to do better, and maybe that is succeeding in and of itself.

LE: I absolutely must ask about Pam, your sensational character on True Blood. What aspects of Pam do you admire? Do you think Pam could ever be an animal rights activist? If so, what would that look like?

KBVS: I admire Pam for being completely honest, loyal and she has astounding integrity (or consistency at the least). She is free from the worries of being liked, aging, death or being broke so she has the luxury of a freedom I can only imagine when I play her. She is able to be brutally honest and direct and I find her very refreshing. She also loves beyond concern for her own life — mainly Eric but maybe he is also the only person who’s ever earned it. AND….Pam never ever harms an animal — she only eats human volunteers or bad people. Maybe she even recycles?

I am good with all of Pam. I wish I was more like she — but…I do play her so she’s in there.

Kristin Bauer van Straten is our Featured Animal Ambassador for November 2013.


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