At 12, I went to my first acting class. I loved it. I loved being with all the older kids. I loved feeling like I could touch a different world, one that provided so much excitement and possibility. In acting class, I discovered my passion and began to consider the meaning of commitment.
My commitment to not eating animals, however, was faltering. I'd wake up and declare, "I'm a vegetarian today!" but it was sort of hard to keep the resolution. I'd sit with a friend and she'd order a steak and I'd say, "Umm . . . are you going to finish that?" and take a bite. "But I thought you were a vegetarian!" she would remind me, and I'd counter with, "But you can't eat all that. I don't want it to go to waste!" I'd use any excuse.
I was 18 when Clueless came out. Going through adolescence is strange enough, but becoming famous at the same time is really weird. It felt good to be recognized as an actor, but after Clueless, it was like I was sucked up into a hurricane. You might assume that fame brings you more friends, but I actually became very isolated. I was no longer simply a girl with the freedom to make mistakes and have fun. There was enormous pressure, which put me in full survival mode. And being in survival mode made it hard to stay in touch with my truth; I just couldn't hear it anymore.
Well, almost. One of the really good things about being a public person was that animal rights groups were hearing about my passion for their cause and began soliciting my help. I worked on all sorts of campaigns: antidissection, antifur, spay and neuter, as well as animal rescue. All of that stuff made perfect sense to me; in an otherwise chaotic life, these gestures were simple and straightforward and good. But, at that point, nobody had talked to me seriously about vegetarianism, and I was still doing my little dance back and forth.
After a heart-wrenching day at an animal shelter, from which I took home a grand total of 11 dogs who were scheduled for execution, I found myself thinking, "Now what?" I was doing what I needed to do for my heart, but deep down I realized it wasn't a practical solution; the next day the shelter would just put down another batch of dogs . . . and then another . . . and then another. I was committing my heart, soul, time, and pocketbook to these poor creatures, and that's when it hit me: How could I spend so much energy saving one group of animals, then turn around and eat other ones? There was a fundamental hypocrisy in my thinking. Weren't they all living beings? Why did we buy some of them cute little doggy beds while slaughtering others? I had to ask myself—in all seriousness—why don't I just eat my dog?