By playing straight-up rock and roll with a sneer that could make Billy Idol blush, Joan Jett has become a figurehead for generations of female rockers, influencing everyone from this writer and the person at the next desk over, to L7, The Donnas, The Eyeliners, and Bikini Kill. She has been called the “godmother to female musicians with loud guitars and idealistic dreams” by The New York Times, as well as “the queen of punk,” “the original riot grrrl,” and “the last rock star.” We figured that since Joan, who has been vegetarian for several years, has done everything but interview with peta2, it was about that time.
Was there any one thing that made you go vegetarian?
I was on the road eight months a year, and meat was too heavy to eat late at night, so I ate other things. I slowly lost my taste for meat, and at the same time, I experienced a slowly dawning awareness that it is unnecessary to eat animals in order to live in this world.
You have a reputation for being pretty tough and kick ass. What do you think when people say that being a vegetarian or vegan is a sign of weakness?
I think it’s the opposite. People who say things like that are the weak ones for eating animals when it is completely unnecessary to do so in order to sustain life. To give into the urge to eat flesh just because you can—now that’s weak! It’s like eating your dog or cat. It may take something like bird flu or mad cow disease to convince people to stop killing animals for food.
What would you say to the CEO of KFC, David Novak, if you were stuck in an elevator with him?
I might point out that chickens recognize each other by their facial expressions and how most ignorant humans just aren’t aware of it. Maybe if you can plant that seed of awareness, it will gnaw at the minds of compassionate individuals.
How do you feel about people who wear fur?
I believe they are callous and self-involved. With such good-quality imitation fur available for making clothes, etc., there is no reason to torture animals. It’s the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ syndrome. Put fur lovers’ legs in a steel trap for a few days, or whack ’em on the head with a club, and maybe they’ll get it.
We understand that you’ve always been a big animal lover, even when you were a kid. What’s the craziest or most unexpected thing you’ve done to help an animal or animals in trouble?
I have four cats—all strays directly from the street or shelter. I feed lots of stray animals in my town and have picked up several lost dogs and luckily got them back to their families. I do not knowingly kill any living thing—including insects or rodents—and I thank my food for sustaining me. I’ve run around my house like a nut, trying to protect birds that have gotten in somehow, and my cats were closing in on them. The birds got out alive. I also save moths from my cats.
What can kids do to help improve the lives of animals?
Kids should really be involved in what they eat and where their food comes from. Support your local farmers! Read the book Diet for a New America. It discusses food production in America and how things go from being a cow in a field to being a steak on your plate. It’s a process, so take your time, and decide again for yourself, after taking in some of this info, what is right for you.