While other kids gleefully waited in line to ride ponies, a five-year-old turned to her dad and said, “You don’t have to do this for me.”
Melissa Karpel could sense the animals’ sadness from walking aimlessly in a circle, bound to one another in chains so children could wave to their families. More than 20 years later, Karpel tried to show a lifelong hunter this compassion.
Animal rights is a topic that stirs a lot of emotions, and it is the focus of Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days” on FX. The animal rights episode airs on June 17 at 10 p.m., and it shows George Snedeker giving up his hunting life to fly from his home in North Carolina to stay with the Karpel family while living a 100 percent vegan lifestyle in Los Angeles.
Karpel graduated from CSUN with a bachelor’s degree in theater in 2002. At 25, Karpel worked as a manager for the Los Angeles Opera. It was during this time that Karpel logged on to www. peta.org and saw a video about animal suffering.
“I was horrified at the animal treatment,” Karpel said. “I decided to go instantly vegan.”
Soon thereafter, Karpel gained an internship with PETA and worked with the organization to promote demonstrations.
Over time, Karpel was able to travel throughout the world. Today, Karpel works as PETA’s senior campaign coordinator.
Karpel helped organize the annual “Running of the Nudes,” a wildly popular alternative through the same Spanish streets in Pamplona. She has also traveled to the Caribbean to follow Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles as demonstrators wore bear outfits to promote awareness of using black bear hide on hats worn by the British military.
Karpel, 29, can also include in her list of adventures working on the cast of Spurlock’s hit reality show, “30 Days.”
“The show actually contacted PETA, and when they requested an all-vegan family, PETA thought of me,” Karpel said.
“I went to the L.A. office and spoke with the casting director, filled out a multiple-choice questionnaire and endured a psychological test,” Karpel said. “We sent a tape of the family and after all that, we were selected.”
Karpel looked forward to her experience with Snedeker, who not only had to live a vegan lifestyle the entire time but also had to take part in various animal rights activities such as wearing a chicken costume outside of a KFC restaurant.
Snedeker wore the costume to publicly protest cruelty to animals. He also body-painted young women in the nude for a fur protest outside of a Burberry store in Beverly Hills.
At the end of Snedeker’s new diet, his cholesterol level dropped and he lost unwanted weight as he enjoyed the best vegan food that L.A. has to offer, as well as meals concocted by Karperl’s father, who she praises as a “great cook.”
In a press release, Spurlock, who is the cable reality show’s executive producer and star, said that “[robably my favorite episode of the year is a hunter from North Carolina. (He) moves to Los Angeles?with an animal rights PETA family for 30 days. It is probably one of the greatest hours of television I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s fantastic.”
Karpel said she and Snedeker “were busy everyday with some new adventure.”
“It was an amazing experience, as well as challenging; two different worlds with major discussions about fur, dairy and meat consumption,” Karpel said.
Currently, Karpel is at the PETA Headquarters in Norfolk for its’ Animal Birth Control (ABC) campaign, which promotes spaying and neutering animals, as well as adopting animals rather than purchasing them.
“Going vegan is the easiest and healthiest thing you can do for yourself and for the environment,” Karpel said.