Viva!'s Rose Alexander meets vegan lead singer of up-and-coming metal band
Alissa White-Gluz can go from a perfect melodic pitch to a frightening death growl in seconds - which is extraordinary in itself - but she does it for the animals!
At 25, she is a woman of talent - strong conviction, incredible focus; she sings, paints and is an animal activist - the complete woman!
Canadian-based Alissa fronts The Agonist, a band which has taken the metal scene by storm - and they are getting bigger by the second. Her music tackles some of her deep moral concerns such as animal testing, drug abuse, eating disorders, environmental issues and man's inhumanity towards people and animals.
Encouraging people to think for themselves
However, she's not prescriptive and the band 's ultimate goal is simply to encourage people to think for themselves, open their mind and their eyes.
Promoting veganism since 2004
The Agonist have been working together since 2004, writing, recording music and touring as far and wide as they can. Alissa has worked to promote veganism amongst fans and in the metal scene and you can see her recent 'webisode' about animal rescue on the net. It demonstrates why pet shops should be boycotted.
"I rescue cats and dogs and find them homes so they are not euthanized in shelters," she adds.
London show at The Underworld
I caught up with Alissa at The Underworld in London after her show where she had given a truly impressive live performance. I'd asked if she'd be happy to be interviewed for Viva! and of course she was more than willing! More than that, she was incredibly lovely and polite.
Everyone has their own reasons for becoming vegan so I was curious to ask what had spurred her on. She replied: "I researched the milk and egg industry and realised I didn't want to have that kind of cruelty on my conscience, so I went vegan. I was 13. Since I was old enough to think, I've felt honoured and grateful to be able to share this planet with so many amazing and different creatures.
The joy I get from helping animals is something I can't live without.
"Being vegan allows me to devote myself to my cause every day of my life - and since I have been vegetarian from birth, I feel like I can be proud to have never contributed to an industry I vehemently oppose. I don't discriminate between race, religion, gender or species and being vegan is something that I know is right. I would not be able to live any other way."
I asked what makes her such a unique and successful song writer. "I find the human race to be a very disturbing and confusing thing," she replied. "There are so many injustices committed every day and we are becoming more and more desensitised to them. I get quite frustrated trying to quantify the reasoning behind certain actions and thoughts. I just write songs almost automatically - based on what I see and think and feel."
Foie-gras production is something that she is emphatically against. "I hate the fact that people see such things as a delicacy. They give it a French name and think they are high class for eating it. If they watched what went into the food they eat they might never touch it again but people are in denial and defensive - typical behaviour for someone who knows they are wrong."
Women and pig farming
Alissa has a powerful message for women on the intensive factory farming of pigs - in particular the crating of pregnant sows while they deliver and feed their young: "I would like every female in the world, just for a second, to consider how they would feel if put into that situation with their children. People refuse to admit that it bothers them... but there is no denying the cruelty."
She also has a lot to say about dairy farmers and their failings.
British badgers are still being accused of being the main culprits in spreading bovine TB, when in fact the real culprits are farming practices so intense that dairy cows face numerous infections because of weakened immune systems:
"The ignorance and denial of responsibility of these farmers is outrageous. It is so discouraging that people won't open their eyes! The spread of disease amongst farmed animals is unfortunately a world-wide problem and it amazes me that, even with the crippling of the planet to the point we are now at, people still want a scapegoat in nature to escape their obvious fault!
"Dairy farming over-exploits animals and is unnecessarily cruel. Cows are just commodities, not creatures. Clearly we North Americans don't need to consume anything like as much as we do yet corporations still exploit us by pushing sales for money. The farming of animals is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."
We talked of her feelings about the widespread factory farming in the poultry industry:
"This is one of the most unsanitary industries of all. Even a heartless murderer would probably think twice about eating a faeces-soaked bird... people are getting better and better at pulling the wool over their eyes because it's easy."
Food poisoning from chicken
Ironically, the very next day came an announcement from the UK Food Standards Agency that 40 per cent of the chickens on sale in our shops are crawling with the food poisoning bug campylobacter - not just in the bird's flesh but all over the exterior of the plastic wrapping!
Alissa had some inspirational advice for aspiring vegans:
"The best change you can make for yourself, physically and emotionally, as well as for the planet is to go vegan. Read up on the subject, explore the options and give it a try, at least for a couple months. There are a lot of good resources online and once you learn the awful impact you're having by eating meat and dairy, it shouldn't be too hard.
"And if you want to do something extra to help, please join Viva! and make a real difference!"
Favourite vegan food
As a foodie myself, I was dying to know some of Alissa's favourite comfort foods. She didn't hesitate:
"I make a great vegan lasagne but my real comfort food is rice ice cream!"