Two Eugene residents have dedicated themselves to fighting for animals in unexpected ways.
Lin Silvan, 69, and her husband Robert Jacobucci, 76, are devoted to creating awareness of a vegan diet for a variety of reasons — personal health, the health of the planet, and because they believe animals deserve it.
Silvan and Jacobucci met in South Jersey, and moved to Eugene in 2002 after living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Both had retired from corporate jobs, and they wanted to give back. They started Eugene Veg Education Network, or EVEN, in 2005, initially to distribute vegan literature at a University of Oregon street fair for Earth Day.
They had originally planned on EVEN being a short-term effort but following that day they continued to receive hundreds of phone calls and emails from people wanting more information. Now, EVEN is their full-time job. Silvan is executive director and Jacobucci is webmaster.
“People often ask us why we’re not on a tennis court or basking in the sun in some retirement community,” Silvan says. “Of all of the very worthy causes that we could have pursued this seemed like one that was crying out to be represented. We had the skills and the know-how and we ourselves saw that when you know better you do better, so we wanted to share that with other people.”
Both Silvan and Jacobucci turned to a vegetarian diet in 1991, in large part after reading a book by John Robbins, published in 1987, called “Diet for a New America.”
Robbins, the son of the founders of Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlors, shocked the world with a book that exposed the inhumane treatment of animals on factory farms. The couple began to question things like why people keep cats as pets but don’t feel bad about eating pigs.
“I was raised to think that eating meat was necessary,” Silvan says. “Whatever was put on the table in the 1950s you ate it and you were grateful for it and you didn’t question it.”
But by her early 40s, she did question it.
“I now know that meat is not only not necessary but is actually damaging to people’s health,” she says. “At first I cut out meat but still ate dairy. But then it doesn’t take long before you realize that the horrors of the dairy industry are just as bad as the horrors of the meat industry, so you want to cut that out, too.”
For Silvan and Jacobucci, when they went vegan they were surprised that some physical issues improved. That’s a happy side effect, she says.
“Everybody’s looking for health and quality of life and although I love to see people get healthy, which they do, we didn’t establish this group for people’s health,” she says. “We did it for the animals. They have no voice of their own. We dominate them. We slaughter them. In EVEN we emphasize non-violence and the fact that we have a choice to be kind. Animals are sentient creatures that have their own lives to be lived. We’re not entitled to take those lives from them any more than we would want someone to take ours.”
EVEN sponsors events locally and nationally, hosts a lecture series, speaks at high schools and colleges, organizes potlucks, plans farm tours and more, all to inspire others to try veganism.
A large part of their outreach is based on the notion that when people have better information they make better decisions. Silvan says many people just aren’t aware of how animals are treated in factory farms, so when they find out, it is often enough to get them to make changes in their diet.
The group offers free Veg Starter Kits, which contain information and recipes to help people make the transition. Silvan says people often are interested in being vegan but have basic questions about what they can eat and what the facts about nutrition really are.
“We try to meet people wherever they are along their path and provide them with the tools and the resources and the answers to their questions, whatever those questions are,” she says. “We have a library and we work with many national nonprofits that provide us with nutritional information, recipes and other resources and we pass them on.”
There are many reasons why people omit animal products from their diet, ranging from their own health issues to their concern for animal rights and their views regarding the environmental impact of the meat industry as a whole.
EVEN’s starter kits address these issues, as well as including recipes, where to eat when traveling, and how to explain to your family what your choice to be vegan is all about.
“We provide resources,” Silvan says. “Whatever people need. But people themselves have to make the changes and necessary choices. If we can play some small role in that, that’s what we are happy to do. I can’t think of anything else that I would want to be doing in my retirement.”