Intern Interview – Gabriella Sodano
How did you develop your interest in a vegan lifestyle?
My initial interest in a vegan lifestyle stemmed from a health perspective. I eliminated animal products from my diet for the purpose of wanting to eat a more plant based or whole foods diet. After a few months of being a vegetarian, I realized that I had never given much thought to animal cruelty, or the detrimental effects animal agriculture has on the environment, despite being a self-proclaimed animal lover and having a background in environmental science. I became vegan after reading several books about nutrition and researching via internet the positive impacts that this lifestyle has on saving animals, the environment, as well as saving our broken food system.
Is there a particular animal on the sanctuary you connect(ed) with?
There are a handful of animals I have a great friendship with at the sanctuary, but there is one in particular who stole my heart from the moment I met her. A baby Holstein calf who we later named Magnolia came to the intern property from a dairy farm about 2 weeks into my internship at Animal Place. Although Magnolia was friendly with everyone who was willing to spend time with her, we undoubtedly had a special bond. She would often try to nurse from my hand, in an attempt to create the bond she never was fortunate enough to experience with her real mother. Every chance I had to socialize with the animals during work hours, or when I would visit the sanctuary on my days off, it was time spent playing or napping with Mags. I can only hope that when I come back to visit Animal Place that our bond remains as if I never left.
Aside from animal rights, what else are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about educating others on the corruption and power imbalance in the government over regulating our food system. I’m passionate about spreading the awareness that all of these industries are interconnected and how the only concern is how they’re able to make a profit, no matter who or what (other species, the environment, etc.) is destroyed in the process.
What advice would you give people interested in transitioning to a vegan diet?
My advice would be to research the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, whether your initial interest is for the animals, the environment, or your health. My favorite documentaries thus far are: Food Matters, which focuses more on the myths we’ve been told about nutrition, and Cowspiracy, which thoroughly covers all topics related to veganism. Both provide essential information to those interested in a vegan lifestyle.
Have you learned anything in your internship at Animal Place that you can apply to a future career or your home life?
My internship at Animal Place has taught me how to be a better advocate for animals by giving me the opportunity to spend time with the rescued farmed animals at the sanctuary. I now know firsthand that they are just like any other animal, no different than the dogs/ cats/companion animals whose lives people so often prioritize. I’ve also learned how to be a better advocate in effectively communicating with others about a vegan lifestyle in a positive yet direct manner. I believe these experiences have made me a better-rounded and humbled activist, and will only help in my efforts to promote a vegan lifestyle in my home/family life, as well as being a respectable credential for opportunities with other animal rights organizations in the future.
What has been your most memorable experience in the Animal Place internship program?
Although there were certainly many memorable experiences I was fortunate enough to have during the Animal Place internship program, the most memorable would have to be the rescue of 508 hens from a “free-range” egg farm that we conducted. It was the most heartbreaking yet celebratory experience to liberate those hens. Although we weren’t able to rescue them all (2,000-3,000 hens were at this specific egg farm), we were able to take comfort in knowing that at least 508 of them are free, living a happy life, and being treated with the compassion that they deserve.
Do you have any advice to anyone interested in applying to the Animal Place internship program?
Although the internship in animal care is hard work, it is the most rewarding work you will ever do! The time I was able to spend with all of the animals at the sanctuary, the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the internship about animal agriculture and animal rights, and the Animal Place staff that have become like family to me, is something I will forever be grateful for.