Tarah Millen, dedicated environmental and animal rights activist. Sea Shepard volunteer and raw food lover. Courtenay, BC
Tarah is an environmental and animal rights activist currently living in Australia while volunteering with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. She has a passion for preserving our oceans and spends much of her time in Japan fighting against the slaughter of dolphins, traveling on donations from her fundraising efforts. An advocate for natural and healthful living, Tarah enjoys a raw food lifestyle and although travels frequently, feels most at home in the wilderness of Vancouver Island. Conforming to no specific title, she works in many different industries to fund her activism, and paints in her spare time.
MAB: Can you tell us a little about your passions for the environment and animal rights.
Tarah: Absolutely! I haven't always cared for or even thought about animal and environmental welfare. My passion started when I was eighteen. By chance, I read a book titled "Skinny Bitch" that opened my mind to concept of animal cruelty. It was disguised as a diet book but outlined the conditions for animals in factory farms. I'd never given it much thought before. At the time I was interested in environmental studies but didn't lead a sustainable lifestyle. I read "Skinny Bitch" through the night and it was as if a fire was ignited inside. The next morning I adopted a vegan lifestyle and started researching the impact of our diet on animals and the environment. Throughout my childhood I learned to respect nature but until given a reason to change I lived a very ordinary, unsustainable lifestyle. I had always been passionate about human rights though, so it was easy to feel the same passion for animals that were experiencing pain. From that moment on my passion for animal rights and the environment were entwined together. I feel very similar about a dairy cow as I do a native forest. Over the past four years I have become an activist. I simply feel that it's the right course for me. I often see things as black and white. Animal cruelty and environmental degradation feel intuitively wrong, and therefore I fight for the rights of non human animals and try to protect our natural environment. It stems from the love I feel for both.
MAB: What is the Sea Shepherd conservation society? Why did you choose to volunteer with them?
Tarah: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping preserve our oceans. Sea Shepherd uses direct action tactics to stop unethical and illegal slaughter and degradation of our oceans. I felt very inspired when I first learned of Sea Shepherd. They were the only organization who were successfully stopping the practices that were harming the environment using direct action. Being the only organization that can make that claim, it was an easy decision to volunteer with them. Not only am I in complete agreement with their purpose, I love to see the positive effect of actions taken to help our animals and environment. Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd's founder, leads the organization with conviction and purpose. It was his story originally that captivated me and started my passion for conserving the oceans.
MAB: You recently went to Taiji, Japan to protest the hunting and killing of dolphins. Can you tell us about this experience?
Tarah: One evening a couple of years back I watched the film "The Cove". Ric O'Barry brought a team of passionate, skilled individuals to Taiji to expose the slaughter of dolphins that occurs there. I laid there crying afterwards- you really can't help it...I watched it a second time a few days later and was shocked. It was all I could think about and seemed like fate when a few months later Sea Shepherd called out for activists to travel to Japan. The Campaign was titled "Cove Guardians". The idea was to create an international presence in Taiji, never letting anyone forget about the slaughter of dolphins there. I quit my job and flew to Japan shortly after. We were there to document and expose the slaughter. I knew after my first trip to Taiji that I'd be back. I spent my time fundraising to return. It's not a fight you can give up easily. I've been to Taiji three times now since my first trip in November of 2010. The Cove Guardian campaign is a difficult one. We're in a small coastal town in Japan where pride rules over everything else. This small group of dolphin killers claim that this is their culture, even though it's only been occurring for the past 40 years. Our days in Taiji start early. We watch from a high point to see if the killers are heading out to sea, checking the weather constantly. If they leave in their boats, the waiting begins. We watch from a promontory with binoculars, waiting to see their boats in formation, hoping that the dolphins will elude them. If they catch dolphins we start to document. We stand witness, taking pictures, videos and posting updates for everyone to see. Pictures of the drive, terrified dolphins rushing towards shore, the slaughter, the blood. Cove Guardians watch and document the gruesome slaughter for six months each year. The campaign is draining, but we all keep feeling the pull back to Taiji. Our passion bonds us to the dolphins. It's unique, because we can't physically intervene which makes it a very frustrating experience. The killers try to taunt us, knowing that we're emotionally attached. The experience is painful. We're all there because we love the dolphins. It's tough to know what's coming while trying to keep our sanity as we watch it happen. It goes against every instinct to document instead of saving them but it's all we can do at the moment. I feel very connected with the other activists in Taiji because we've shared the pain and loss together. Each day is like a rollercoaster. Anger, sadness, frustration, temporary happiness if it's a "no kill" day. I could go on about it forever. It has become an integral part of my life, and I dream of the day when we never have to return to Taiji because the dolphins are free.
MAB: Not only are you passionate about animal rights but living a healthy lifestyle as well. You are living a raw food life style - how were you introduced to the raw food life style?
Tarah: I was first introduced to raw food lifestyle after reading "Skinny Bitch". The book had me questioning everything I had previously believed about healthy lifestyles. It's a natural step once you are introduced to plant-based living, to further explore other avenues for health and vitality. I began researching raw foods and their numerous benefits. It didn't take long to realize that I wanted to be my most vibrant self! Luckily I had a relative whose life's work was health and nutrition. She provided me with books and videos that were very helpful. I transitioned into the raw lifestyle not long after.
MAB: How would someone start slowly on a raw food diet? Can you tell us a little about the benefits of a raw food diet?
Tarah: Anyone interested in introducing more raw foods to their lifestyle can simply increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables while decreasing the amount of animal foods in their diet. Beginning the day with plenty of water and a fresh fruit smoothie is a great start. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing approach. My advice to any budding raw foodist, or even the raw curious is to educate yourself. Knowledge is power. There are many books and online resources providing you with inspiration, recipes, success stories and information. The best book on the subject is "The 80/10/10 Diet" By Dr. Douglas Graham. A wonderful online resource is www.foodnsport.com andwww.30bananasaday.com When I first started eating raw foods I followed the mainstream "gourmet" cook books, promising great results while eating dehydrated cookies, cakes, pizzas and almost any other cooked food imitation you can imagine! I thought "great! I can look and feel great while eating foods similar to my old favourites". I struggled for two years, trying to remain raw but suffering from numerous health problems such as indigestion, scaly skin, acne, gum recession and weight gain. I was frustrated and realized that the high fat gourmet raw lifestyle did not deliver on any of its promises. It was at this time that I found the low fat, high fruit, raw food lifestyle that has transformed my health and well being. I have been living what is known as the "80/10/10" raw food lifestyle for two-and-a-half years and I experience excellent health. I simply eat all the fruit and vegetables that I care to and keep my fat intake low. I abstain from eating nuts because they do not agree with my system. I eat over 3000 calories each day, maintain a slim physique and feel wonderful. The benefits are so numerous! Some of them are: baby soft skin, weight loss, mental clarity, healing of diseases (such as Crohn's, heart disease, diabetes), very quick recovery after exercise, increased endurance, perfect digestion, bright eyes, endless energy , and eating all you care for!
MAB: You have travelled to some amazing places all over the world, what do you think Canadian women have to offer that is unique culturally that we can share with other women?
Tarah: Canadian women have the experience of living with so many other cultures. The trait that makes Canada distinctly different is that we're so multi-cultural, showing that we can all work together no matter our differences. We can offer our friendly personalities and helpful nature. Everywhere I travel I'm told how everyone loves Canadians. We also have the benefit of the Canadian First Nations culture. The women working within First Nations communities across Canada are so powerful. They're motivated, driven, and have a deep connection to this earth and their country. We can join together, harnessing our extensive knowledge and spiritual connection to create a sustainable future.
MAB: What does it mean to be a wise woman?
Tarah: To me a wise woman is one who nurtures her body, mind and spirit. A wise woman is a woman who recognizes her power and uses her intelligence and inspiration to follow her dreams and help create harmony in nature. A wise woman doesn't adhere to society's stereotypes and is proud to be her unique self. A wise woman cares about her fellow humans and other animals. She stays true to herself and her purpose, seeking to find balance in this ever changing world. She stands as tall as the trees, finds solace in nature and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty in the soil.
MAB: What inspires you today?
Tarah: People breaking free from the norm. I love to see youth (or anyone really) deviate from typical society and follow their dreams. I'm inspired by permaculture, sustainable building, community, travel and activism. Anything that nourishes the planet. I feel inspired by those acting on their passion.
MAB: What would you like to share with women today?
Tarah: Inspiration. You are powerful! Harness your skills and desires and go forth to create the life of your dreams. Travel. Love. Live. You'll only ever regret the things you didn't try, the opportunities you didn't take. Take risks and reap the rewards of this beautiful life.