Shannon Elizabeth first caught the attention of audiences with her sexy turn as Nadia in the “American Pie” series. Now years later, the actress is not only garnering attention for her film roles, she’s also making an impression with her animal advocacy work.
It was recently announced that Shannon is the spokesperson for Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt A Turkey Project, where instead of eating a turkey for Thanksgiving, people can save a life and sponsor one of the rescued birds that reside at Farm Sanctuary’s shelters in New York and California.
Shannon recently spoke with AccessHollywood.com to explain why this issue is so important to her, why she’ll never eat meat again, and why being compassionate is an attractive quality.
AccessHollywood.com: Why is Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt A Turkey Project so important to you?
Shannon Elizabeth: I’ve been vegetarian for over 12 years, and I try to be vegan as much as possible. I think this campaign is so great, because it helps bring such awareness. It’s weird to me that our traditions are something that have become such a cruel and inhumane act, and I don’t think a lot of people think of it that way, but it is. I know with birds, in general, when you slaughter an animal that is scared like this, that is sick, that is terrified, they release hormones as they’re being slaughtered and you’re eating that. They have diseases and you’re eating that, and people aren’t thinking about what they’re putting into their bodies. They’re not thinking about the torturous acts that these poor animals go through.
Access: In that regard, I read that you feel just as much affection for turkeys as you feel for cats and dogs. So, why do you think people should treat turkeys just as kindly as they do cats and dogs?
Shannon: Because they have the same capacity to love. Most people don’t realize turkeys are friendly, they’re social, they’re loyal, they have emotions. When I went and visited Farm Sanctuary, there’s a turkey that’s walking around that greets you and she followed us around the entire time and hung out with us. You can sit there and pet her, you can play with her. It’s amazing. That was my first real one-on-one experience with a turkey and that’s what really started opening my eyes to what amazing, smart animals they are.
Access: What made you decide to go vegetarian all those years ago?
Shannon: I went to an award show called the Genesis Awards and I was presenting the last award of the night. [The event] was about highlighting people that have brought to light and changed animal cruelty. I sat through the whole ceremony and I cried the entire time. They read excerpts of a couple of different things that had been written about how a cow gets to the plate, and how a lot of the time it doesn’t die in the slaughterhouse. It goes to the butcher and the butcher starts cutting it up while the cow’s still alive. The name of the article is called ‘They Die Piece By Piece.’ It affected me so deeply that never again was I going to touch meat.
Access: Since turkey tends to be the centerpiece of most American Thanksgiving meals, do you have any ideas for alternatives to turkey?
Shannon: There’s four alternatives that I know of, but I haven’t tried them all, so I can’t testify necessarily for how they taste. One of them is called Gardein, one is Field Roast, and then Tofurkey, which a lot people know of, and then the last one is called Quorn. These are all turkey alternatives, and people can add some of their own touches to them; you don’t have to just take it as is and put it in the oven. Make it your own, add what you would normally add to turkey, and you can build such an amazing meal around it.
Access: Do you have any advice for how people can get their family to get on board with that?
Shannon: I think that if you’re someone who has a traditional family that is not part of that, the best thing you can do is bring some of your own dishes. I’m going to be going to a Thanksgiving party at a friend’s house and they’re not vegetarian or vegan, but I’ve been thinking of things that I can bring. That way I know I have food for myself to eat, and I can bring things that they’ll love. That way I can start introducing them to the idea that you can have amazing food without hurting an animal.
Access: Going green is really catching on, so how is cutting out eating turkeys good for the environment, as well as a person’s health?
Shannon: It’s definitely good for people’s health because when turkeys are bred the way they currently are, they get heart disease, they suffer from a lot of lung issues (because of contaminated air), and then you’re eating that. They have a lot disorders because of what’s being done to them. People need to realize that what they’re putting in their body is very toxic and it’s going to lead to a lot of health issues. You do it all the time and there’s nothing green, environmental or humane about it.
Access: Assuming that you consider compassion an attractive quality, what do you think is sexy about being compassionate toward turkeys?
Shannon: Well, it’s just being a compassionate human being in general, like when you’re around somebody that cares about animals. If I’m around somebody who says, “I don’t like dogs,” I don’t think I can even be friends with that person (she laughs). I mean, that doesn’t make sense — who doesn’t like dogs? It’s the same with all animals, turkeys included, we just don’t all have turkeys in our homes as pets, but they have the same capacity, the same loving ability. I think compassion is an important quality in people in general.
Access: How can people get involved and Adopt A Turkey?
Shannon: People can visit adoptaturkey.org, and there are a lot of great recipes on that website as well. They can also call the Turkey Adoption Hotline at 1-888-SPONSOR.
On top of being the 2012 spokesperson for Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt A Turkey Project, Shannon also has a handmade, vegan jewelry line that she co-founded with her cousin, Tamsen Fadal. For more info, visit www.ShansenJewelry.com or go to Twitter — @ShansenJewelry. And, in April 2013, she’ll be appearing in “A Green Story,” which chronicles the story of the founder of Earth Friendly Products.
-- Christopher Locke