Name: Chelsea Hassler
City: Champlin, MN
Occupation: Program Director for Animal Rights Coalition. ARC is one of the oldest, grassroots animal advocacy groups in the country. We're a volunteer-run organization and work again any form of animal exploitation, whether it's food, entertainment, etc.
What inspired you to switch to a plant-based diet?
My best friend ate basically meat, cheese, and potatoes. Then she read Skinny Bitch which made her go vegan overnight. She called me the next day to tell me she was vegan, and I said, "What's that? It sounds like a cult." A few days later, I went vegetarian because I read stuff that she sent me. Several months later, I went vegan too.
Did you notice any mental or physical differences after you made the switch?
I felt lighter, and I've heard other people say this. In addition to the food being less heavy most of the time, it feels like you can eat a lot more and not get that heavy, icky feeling. And of course, eating ethically feels like you're living in line with your values.
Are you a member of any other vegan-related organizations?
One of my biggest goals at ARC is to foster more cooperation among the various animal advocacy groups in town. So I'm trying to build bridges because we're all better if we can come together.
What do you do to stay physically active?
I have two little kids, and they keep me on my toes. I'm a gym-goer; I've been a gym rat my whole life. I love yoga and running.
Is there a book or film you would recommend about veganism?
We love to screen documentaries with ARC. Some of our favorites are Cowspiracy for the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, Forks Over Knives because of the nutritional component. There are so many that talk about ethics: Speciesism, Peaceable Kingdom.
As far as books, I really loved The China Study. It really got me over the edge because I'm really science-based. When I read that, I was like, "Oh, this isn't a cult. Actual science backs this up."
Favorite local restaurant: I really love Jasmine 26. The Salt & Pepper Tofu is the best ever. I can't make it myself, and I've tried about 100 times. It's just not the same.
Favorite place to buy groceries: I do a lot of cooking for myself and for ARC, and I do a lot of my shopping at Aldi. They have a ton of accidentally vegan stuff, and you can get your basics there for probably half the price of anywhere else. I'll do some at Target, and a few things that I can only get at Whole Foods or the co-op.
Favorite animal: Sea Turtles -- I just went to South Padre Island and got to go to Sea Turtle, Inc. which is a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center. It's amazing.
What's one thing on your bucket list?
My passion is food, so I would love to do something ultimately with a restaurant or vegan bakery.
What's one piece of advice you would offer to someone interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet?
My biggest advice is to find a community. It's really easy to read things and see the films, and then when you make the switch, you may not have a community. It can be easy to fall back on what you're accustomed to. If you have a community, you can bounce ideas off of people, find people to help you buy groceries and find places to eat. It makes the transition a lot easier.