Alumni Profiles

Living Vegan in a Nonvegan World

Emilia Leese

Emilia Leese became a vegan in 2013 because of her deep concern about animal use. Soon after, she began making friends with vegan business owners in London, England, where she lives. She quickly discovered that these small businesses didn’t have access to the type of expertise she provides to larger companies as a corporate lawyer, from raising capital to reading and finalizing contracts. So, she started teaching her friends some of what she knew.

“It can be overwhelming to figure out these things on your own, and I realized I had the skills that could help them,” Leese NLAW’97 says. “If you teach business owners how to read contracts, they can eventually do it for themselves and make smarter business decisions.”

During the summer of 2018, while working in the vegan information booth at Toronto’s Vegandale Food Drink Festival, Leese realized that the same systematic approach could apply to vegans (those who abstain from the use of animal products, especially in their diet) trying to exist in a nonvegan world. While Leese had written a number of essays on veganism and vegan ethics, the questions she was getting at the booth were very practical and highly individualized: Why should I go vegan? How can I talk to people about veganism? Can pregnant women stay vegan? Should I raise my kids vegan?

“My friend Eva Charalambides and I realized that what we needed was a workbook where we could pose different problems and scenarios, and help people learn how to work through these problems themselves,” Leese says.

The pair got to work on what would ultimately become Think Like a Vegan: What Everyone Can Learn from Vegan Ethics (Unbound, 2021). The book includes a collection of essays that address veganism from the basics all the way up to its intersection with the environment, personal health, and social justice movements like feminism and antiracism. Topics range from animal agriculture’s effects on people and the environment to food insecurity, the implications of organic and cage-free meat,  and even the economics of plant-based food.

The book also includes scenarios to help readers work through real-life conflicts they might encounter, such as a vegan eating a vegan burger made by a company that the government requires to test some of its ingredients on animals. The vegan consumer also eats vegetables and fruits picked by workers who were likely exploited and brought to market on the backs of donkeys. The book asks whether there is a moral difference between using animals for testing and using animals in producing crops. And it invites readers to unpack the issues within these scenarios and decide for themselves which path makes them most comfortable.

While the authors pose their responses, Leese emphasizes that “some answers aren’t perfect because we live in a non-vegan world”, and  “often there won’t be a satisfactory answer, which is also something vegans have to deal with,” she says. “All these various scenarios challenge people in everyday situations and help them not only square away their own beliefs, but also figure out how to practically live out those beliefs and communicate them in real life.”

The hardcover edition of Think Like a Vegan will be released in North America on January 18, 2022. The audiobook and ebook formats are available now, visit for details.