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Talking with Emily Deschanel

Best known for her role as the forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan on the hit TV show Bones, actress Emily Deschanel's focus is slightly different in the real world. A vegan since her teen years, Deschanel is an outspoken advocate for a number of animal rights causes including working towards ending factory farming and speaking out about the Great Ape Protection Act.

Read on to learn more about activists that inspire Deschanel, an earth shaking slumber party, and her favorite vegan treat.

GOOD: You've expressed that veganism can help protect the environment. Can you elaborate on this?

EMILY DESCHANEL: There was a study by the UN that shocked even me, a vegan for 17 years. It said the factory farm business was worse for the environment than all of transportation in the world combined—buses, trains, planes, cars, all of them. That is huge! Everyone is concerned about driving hybrid vehicles, but not many people realize that the food they eat every day is much worse for Mother Earth. Right now most of the grains grown in our country are fed to farm animals. It takes a lot more grain to feed an animal over it’s lifetime before it is killed for food, than it does to feed that grain directly to humans. Not to mention the runoff from the factories which pollute water sources, like rivers.

Also, farm animals produce 130 times more waste than humans. These are just a few reasons why being a vegan/vegetarian helps the environment, and why I encourage people to at least eat less meat. It can also help your health to become vegan. If people want more information on becoming vegetarian/vegan or eating less meat in a healthy way, check out

G: How did you get involved with The Great Ape Protection Act?

ED: I got involved after talking to people at Physicains Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization I greatly admire. The act would end the use of chimpanzees in invasive research in the US. Right now there are about 1,000 chimps forced to live in labs where they are separated as babies from their mothers, kept in captivity, inflicted with physical harm, and isolated from other animals or humans. It is no way to live. Most of the apes who have been in these kinds of facilities show signs of physical and emotional trauma. These are such fantastic animals and we can’t let them live in pain like this. There are many alternatives to these cruel practices that don’t involve harming animals. People can support the Great Ape Act on the PCRM website by telling your representative to support the legislation, here.

G: Who are some activists that inspire you?

ED: I want to mention my friend Lisa Shannon who started Run for Congo Women and just wrote a book about her experience called A Thousand Sisters. It shows us all how we can make a difference in the world, even when it seems so overwhelming, and so far away. She started a 30-mile run to raise money for women in the Congo. Lisa is fearless, she visits war torn Congo regularly.

There are so many! One of my heroes was the late Gretchen Wyler, who was actress on Broadway for many years and then turned her sights on animal rights. She started the Genesis Awards among other things, which celebrates the media for shedding light on animal issues. I also admire Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International. She came from a volatile background (her father was Saddam Hussain’s pilot), and she’s dedicated her life to helping and empowering women in war-torn countries throughout the world.

G: You’re pretty actively involved with PETA. How do you handle people who view members of PETA as extremists?

ED: I understand why people think that. Sometimes PETA makes statements that seem pretty extreme, but it’s important to realize that many victories for the animals were aided by PETA. They are very savvy about using the media to get attention for issues that people may not otherwise be aware of. Even I don’t always agree with what PETA or other organizations do or say, but I understand their importance in the movement. If you don’t agree with any particular organization, you don’t have to work with them. Don’t let it stop you getting involved; you can support a less controversial organization like the Humane Society.

G: What advice do you have for our readers who want to start or maintain a sustainable lifestyle?

ED: Start with baby steps and build from there. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on without reprimanding yourself. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Once you master one habit, add another one. Maybe start with recycling, then begin a compost bin, change your light bulbs to compact flourents, start reusing bags, change your diet one item at a time. Be kind but persistent with yourself. Maybe no one will notice if you don’t reuse your canvas bag at the grocery store, but it will make a difference to the earth if you keep forgetting.

G: You starred in a great "Funny or Die" video with a group of Hollywood starlets that depicted a slumber party interrupted by paparazzi. Do you have any funny slumber party stories from growing up?

ED: The one that sticks in my mind the most was actually my sister’s birthday slumber party. The 1994 Los Angeles earthquake happened that night, and there were about 10 13-year-old girls there. One of the girls cried out my name for help. I was upstairs in my bedroom. It was pretty terrifying. Luckily, nobody was hurt, and I think only one glass broke. I guess that’s not really funny.

G: We read that you don't necessarily like taking medication. What is your favorite, most effective natural home remedy?

ED: If I needed meds, I would take them, but I do believe some pills are over-prescribed. Also, so many over-the-counter drugs have unpleasant side affects that may not show up for a long time. If I get a headache the first thing I do is drink some water or coconut water. Hydration is a common cause for headaches. Then I check to see if I have been clenching my jaw. I look for the cause instead of covering the symptoms up with medication. Modern medicine has saved many people’s lives, but I do believe in doing research and looking for alternatives before taking something.

G: How did you first learn about veganism and what compelled you to take it up?

ED: I saw a documentary called Diet For a New America based on the book of the same title by John Robbins. I became a vegetarian immediately, and then became a vegan two years later. It sheds light on factory farms and their negative impact on all of us.

G: What is your favorite vegan dessert recipe?

ED: I am obsessed with the peanut butter cups from Alica Silverstone’s new book called The Kind Diet. So tasty! I use raw almond butter.

G: In an interview with Women’s Health you said, and I quote, “I think I can convince anyone to become a vegetarian.” What would you say to hard rock guitarist Ted Nugent, who is known for his conservative political views and his vocal pro-hunting and Second Amendment activism?

ED: I don’t know why I said that! I don’t proselytise, but if someone asks I am happy to discuss being vegan, because I so believe in it. Sometimes I wish I was bolder. I think I would start with the health angle with someone like that, because they obviously don’t seem to believe animals have feelings (which they do, if anyone is questioning it). There is a book called The China Study which discusses the largest nutritional study in history. They set out to determine that animal protein was healthy, but the results were the opposite. Sometimes people need to be grabbed by the health angle. I like to let facts speak for themselves.

G: If you could say one thing to President Obama, what would it be?

ED: That’s too hard a question to answer late at night. There are too many things!

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