As a passionate actor and musician, Harley Quinn Smith is no stranger to speaking out. In fact, the transition to veganism might have seemed like an inevitability for the busy Los Angeles-based Smith, who’s currently on the Texas set of the new Jessica Biel-produced series Last Summer. When she’s not working alongside the likes of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, Smith—who is known for her roles in films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and her director father Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot—is a singer and bass player for the bubblegum punk rock band The Tenth. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Vegan for the animals
Smith has been vegan for three years, and although her transition was gradual—she went vegetarian a year before becoming vegan—she unquestionably did it for the animals. In fact, her veganism is firmly rooted in a history of animal advocacy.

“I did it for the animals, most definitely,” Smith told VegNews.

“When I adopted my rabbit, Cinnamon Bun, I showed her love,” Smith says, “and after months she finally started coming out of her shell and began to trust me.” Cinnamon Bun came from a hoarding situation and had suffered terrible abuse and neglect, arriving with a torn ear and unattended metal stitches. “It showed me how powerful showing love to an animal is, and I thought I would be hypocritical if I didn’t make the change to being vegan.” Although Smith characterizes her vegan journey as easy and positive, she advocates for a gentle approach and encourages those considering it to cut things out gradually and not be afraid to take things slowly. “It hasn’t been difficult, diet-wise, because I did things gradually,” she explains. The bigger challenge is considering the breadth of things that extend outside of the diet, such as clothing and cosmetics, and realizing, “Oh, I can’t wear those things anymore, or I can’t use this product anymore,” Smith says. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A strong influence
Although her mother has been a vegetarian since she was born, Smith was the first person in her family to go vegan—and she’s already had a profound influence on them. After her father suffered a heart attack, she was determined to convince him to make a change. “I made him go vegan; I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” Smith says. “I knew it would help him, and he lost over 100 pounds, and he’s never been healthier. It was frustrating in that his doctors weren’t supportive and didn’t think he needed to go vegan or even vegetarian. I went into it thinking it was temporary, which would be better than nothing, but he’s been vegan for over a year, and he’s committed to staying vegan.” Smith’s sphere of influence extends, rather impressively, to her grandparents, who recently became vegetarian, which is something she’s extremely proud of. “They called me up and said, ‘We finally heard what you were saying and we’re making the change,’” she reports. As is so often the case, the approach is everything, and Smith’s advice for vegans who want to encourage family and friends to make the transition is to not force things. “Don’t push,” she advises. “I’m always going to be available to talk about veganism if a friend wants to, but I’m never going to sit them down and say, ‘You’re contributing to animal cruelty.’ I would encourage them to do things gradually. Cut one thing out at a time. You don’t need to be perfect. Be gentle with your message and it will be heard.”

 
 
 
 
 
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Speaking up for the voiceless
Smith wishes people understood not just how doable veganism is but how impactful it is—not only for animals but for the planet. Her desire to speak up for animals is paramount, “because they have no voice,” and greenwashing frustrates her. “I wish people understood exactly how much animals suffer, and I wish people understood how many animals suffer,” Smith says. “And it’s not a fair, humane process.”

“There’s no such thing as humane meat or humane animal products; it does not exist, and I wish people understood that.” 

“I wish people understood that animals can feel—they have hearts; they have minds; they have feelings; I wish more people understood that. I wish more people understood how similar we are to them.” Smith laments the quality of human nature that sees people conditioned to overlook and compartmentalize what it really means to eat animals, and it’s more important to her than ever to encourage others to consider going vegan. “It’s so important to bring light to it because it really can’t be ignored any longer. So many animals are suffering, but on top of that our environment is suffering, and our world is going to come to a dying end if we don’t do something,” Smith explains. “Now more than ever, it’s so important to speak up for the betterment of animals’ lives and our poor suffering earth and for everybody’s individual health. That’s why I think it’s so important.”

Marika Collins is a writer, editor, and photographer in search of the perfect doughnut and her next cup of coffee.

Photo credit: Storm Santos

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