Peggy Oki, best known as the only female member of the Z-Boys, was awesome enough to take a break from her life of skating, surfing, rock climbing, painting, and—oh, yeah—saving the oceans to talk to us lovely folks at peta2. For those not familiar with the Z-Boys, we’re sorry to be the ones to have to tell you this, but it’s time to do some serious skateboarding research! The argument can be made that the Z-Boys, named for the Zephyr surf team, were single-handedly responsible for bringing skateboarding out of empty backyard swimming pools and into the mainstream sport we all enjoy today.

In the years since her Dogtown days, Peggy has become quite the activist, speaking out against cruelty to animals and the demise of their habitats at the hands of humans. After reading Peggy’s interview, be sure to educate yourself even more by watching “Free Me.”

How long have you been vegan, and what made you choose the lifestyle?

I was vegetarian for about five years before becoming vegan about six years ago. I chose to go vegan after realizing how poorly animals are treated in factory farms. On the way to get to Yosemite Valley for rock-climbing trips, I’d drive past a factory dairy farm. The stench was horrific. The conditions that these cows were kept under were disgusting.

I chose to go vegan after realizing how poorly animals are treated in factory farms.What advice would you give to fans who are thinking about going veg?

My choice to go veg was mainly for ethical and environmental reasons. However, the health benefits of such a diet have been a reward. It is amazing how many food options there are now; and the options are growing. I enjoy tempeh, Tofurky Italian Sausage, Tofurky smoked “turkey” slices, Smart Dogs, and Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs. SmartGround is great for making tacos. And the Yves veggie burgers are amazing. All these that I’ve mentioned are lower in fat than meats and far better for your body.

What were some of the hardships you faced being a woman (the only female Z-Boys member) in a male-dominated sport? How does it make you feel to know that you paved the way for the Jen O’Briens of today?

I never really thought that what I did paved the way for female skateboarders. However, if somehow I’ve inspired females, then that’s a good thing. I think that it is a part of a female’s personality to take on a male-dominated sport and a truly personal choice to persevere through all the adversities. If a girl/woman is tough enough to go for it with skateboarding, then she’s also tough enough to keep doing it despite the challenges in sponsorship and politics.

You are doing fantastic work with your Origami Whales Project! Care to tell us a bit more?

Each year, Japan, Norway, and Iceland increase their self-made quotas to hunt whales. This year, Japan’s whaling fleet will hunt six species of whales, four of which are listed as endangered. Since 1986 … Japan, Norway, and Iceland have slaughtered more than 28,500 whales. The “Curtain of 28,500 Origami Whales” … is a memorial for the lives of whales lost since the moratorium on whaling. This project is global in scope, and children and adults of all ages, schools, organizations … and nations are invited to participate to raise awareness of the number that have been killed, as well as the need to halt further slaughter of these amazing beings.

Currently, peta2 has campaigns against fur and wool, and our “Kentucky Fried Cruelty” campaign is making people aware of how KFC cuts birds’ beaks off, breaks their limbs, and scalds them to death. What animal rights issues do you feel strongly about, and why?

I am concerned about all animal rights issues. I appreciate that peta2 is campaigning to raise awareness about the cruel, inhumane treatment of animals. Such violence imposed by humans on animals is unacceptable. In addition to the matters listed above, there is the issue of … mistreatment of circus animals. I am opposed to having animals in circuses as a form of entertainment for humans. I hope that more people will realize the suffering of circus animals. I ask readers to please boycott animal circuses.

What’s up next for you?

That’s hard to say. I need to focus on the Origami Whales Project to see it through to the IWC meetings in Alaska in late May. After that, I will probably take a climbing trip.