OCEANSIDE — Erin Riley-Carrasco more than fits the picture of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ sexiest vegan over 50 years old.
At almost 54, she is gorgeous. Her skin radiates health and she is filled with glowing energy. The Oceanside resident beat out candidates from across the nation for the honor. Still, she does not view it as a beauty contest but as a platform from which she can advance her passion for a vegan lifestyle.
And she is passionate.
Riley-Carrasco explains that her health is one reason to be a vegan, but it is more her love and respect for animals as living beings with feelings and with lives of their own. She has been a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) member since age 19 and she has done her share of standing on street corners waving placards sticking up for animals that can’t sick up for themselves.
“You can’t love animals and eat them. How can you love dogs and eat pigs which studies show are more intelligent than dogs,” she said. “What gives us the right to torture, mutilate and eat their flesh? It does not sit well with my soul.”
In addition, she said she is horrified at the drugs given to cattle and pigs to encourage growth and discourage infection from the filth in which they live.
And its not just meat, she said. Milk and dairy products are filled with the same antibiotics and drugs. Think chicken is safe? Nope. They too are filled with the stuff, she said. Fish? Not as healthful as you think and for many of the same reasons. The solution, she said, is to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
In fact, she believes that if everyone became vegan, most of the world’s problems would fade away.
She said that it is cows, not automobiles that emit the most greenhouse gases.
“We don’t have a back-up planet,” she said.
And that world hunger could be solved if veganism was embraced by the rest of the world. Then instead of poor countries growing and selling their grain to countries that raise cattle for food, they could eat their own grain and thrive.
She works tirelessly on behalf of animals.
As part of a group, she and others have helped ordinances be passed in seven San Diego County cities that pet shops can sell only pets from shelters and not puppy mills. They are celebrating SB 485 signed recently by Gov. Jerry Brown that prohibits puppy mill puppies being sold at any pet store in the state.
“Erin is the most deserving person in the whole wide world to win this. She lives it. She walks the walk,” said Suzie Williamson, her lifelong friend. “She lives by example.”
Williamson, who farms in Mexico, has her own project of neutering and spaying stray dogs which are plentiful in her town of Vizcaino. She has been responsible for the procedures of about 1,000 dogs.
Riley-Carrasco is almost an Oceanside native having arrived at age 4. She went to Oceanside schools and then to San Diego State University. In 1989, she opened her dance studio, Dance Unlimited which has become a fixture on Oceanside Blvd.
She beat a rare from of adrenal cancer, having passed her fifth year cancer free recently and she credits her diet. Although she had only a 30 percent chance of survival, she refused to give up.
“I am a wife, mom and business owner. I had so much more to contribute.”
While she was undergoing treatment, she took the time to study food.
And although she was already a vegetarian, she learned much more about how food affects a body and went the next step to veganism.
Her husband Allen adheres to a vegan diet except he will eat fish occasionally. Her children 17 and 20 lean toward vegetarism.
Riley-Carrasco said she was completely surprised to be chosen the sexiest vegan because her husband entered her without her knowledge. In addition to advancing her passion, she also won a 10-day Caribbean holistic cruise with people who are like minded.
She recommends two documentaries, both available on Netflix: “What the Health,” and “Forks over Knives.”