Ashley Leslie, a.k.a., The Vegan Peach, is a straight-talking, down-to-earth and unapologetic vegan activist who also happens to love herself some cruelty-free products, with an emphasis on body care products. As one of the most up-to-date people out there on the subject of cosmetics testing, an industry that always seems to be frustratingly hard to pin down, she always seems to have the most reliable information because in the cosmetics industry, a company that is safe for vegan consumers one week, can get bought out by an animal-testing conglomerate like the L'Oréal Group the next week. Before I turn anywhere, I check out Vegan Peach and her videos to get a run-down on the companies I can trust with my money as well as other cruelty-free products. I appreciate Ashley’s passion, wealth of knowledge, commitment to details and her hold-no-prisoners honesty when it comes to cruelty to animals, as well as, frankly, her frankness about some of the cruddier aspects of the larger vegan community. I am grateful for Ashley’s candor and her commitment to building a more compassionate world. For this reason and more, Ashley Leslie is a Vegan Rockstar you should know.
1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?
From a very early age, I felt strong connections with everything around me, being told I was highly “emotional” or “sensitive” making me feel like there was something deeply wrong with me. Now I realize it was a gift, one that has given me my ability for compassion. In the summer of 2002, my family rented the movie K-Pax. In the movie, Kevin Spacey believes he is from a distant planet. In one particular scene, he mentions how cows are killed and processed and at that moment I had a huge awakening. I gave up beef and pork at that time. In 2005, I met my now-husband who happened to be a vegetarian. He introduced me to the world of veggie meat alternatives. When I realized I could still enjoy the taste of “chicken” without harming any, I became vegetarian overnight. Flash forward six years, I got up one morning with no rhyme, no reason and simply said, “That’s it, I’m going vegan.” I had been feeling guilt for quite some time after learning the truths behind dairy and egg industries and finally made the leap. I’ve never looked back. I’ve now been vegan for four years and a few months and it’s honestly the best decision I ever made. I found purpose that day.
2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?
I am all about honesty and education. Everyone is different, some people are very receptive with very little effort and others turn away with just the word vegan being mentioned. For me, it was a very small moment that pushed me on my journey. Personally I am highly connected to other animals so I truly believe showing people the truths behind their food, clothing, cosmetics, entertainment, etc. is very important. I also am big on showing the amazing vegan food options available to people. You don’t need to kill something to have a delicious meal. In fact, I love food more now than I ever did before and my diet is much more varied then my pre-vegan days.
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
I believe we are strong, passionate and relentless. Every day I see the strides veganism has made through products on the shelves and sheer numbers of vegans across the globe.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
Honestly, each other. It saddens me to see how much “in fighting” and attacking of one another happens. I think our passion can do wonders but at the same time, it hinders us. We won’t always agree on everything but it’s important to stick together as a cause, even if we don’t personally like each other.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
I don’t think “Thou shalt not kill” should be limited to humans.
7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?
I am inspired by many vegans, one actually being Marla and Vegan Street. I really enjoy the films Speciesism, Ghosts in our Machine, Vegucated, Got the Facts on Milk, Cowspiracy and Bold Native. HappyCow.net is one of my favourite websites where you can find local vegan-friendly restaurants.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?
I think sometimes unplugging from social media is important. If you find yourself getting extremely upset and depressed by the endless amounts of cruelty, take a day or two off. I like to spend time in nature, walking by the ocean, in the public parks, exploring and taking photos. Also, of course spending time with my cats always makes me feel better. If I were closer to one, I’d definitely recommend visiting animal sanctuaries where animals are treated like they should be.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
It’s really hard to pick one. I am passionate about all aspects of animal rights. I do feel very strongly against animal testing, though, if I have to pick one, as I feel it’s something that gets overlooked, so often. I actually created my website in the beginning to have my own cruelty-free list, it evolved from there. Beauty definitely doesn’t have to come at the expense of other beings. I also feel very few people realize what exactly goes on in labs. The very animals you share your homes with are those being abused so people can have longer eyelashes and plumper lips.
All animals deserve to be free. All animal cruelty breaks my heart into pieces.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”
A reason to exist.