Genesis Butler decided to become a vegan entirely on her own at age six. Five years later, she has earned multiple awards for activism, including the Vegan Kid of the Year Award from Vegans are Cool and PETA Kids’ Cutest Vegan Kid in 2015. Butler’s great-grand uncle was Latino American civil rights icon Cesar Chavez.
Being related to Chavez gives Genesis a sense of courage to keep speaking up for animals. “It feels good knowing I can use my voice for others just like he did,” she said.
In addition to Chavez, Genesis looks up to author and activist Gene Baur, because he co-founded Farm Sanctuary and pioneered the farm animal sanctuary movement that has taken the world by storm in recent years.
Genesis’ mother Genelle never imagined her daughter going vegan would result in everything that has transpired since she made the decision at age six. Genelle was never vegan before Genesis came along. She ate meat for all three meals of the day her entire life. When Genesis was three and announced she didn’t want to eat animals anymore, Genelle became a vegetarian with her, thinking it would pass.
“I thought it was the best way to support her, even if it was a phase,” Genelle said. “When Genesis decided to go vegan, I actually tried to talk her out of it because I didn’t think I could do it—I was one of those non-vegans who said “I can never live without eating cheese.”
Genesis was able to convince her mother that taking milk away from mother cows would be no different from preventing her baby sister from breastfeeding.
So, Genelle went vegan with her because she thought if a child was willing to give up her favorite foods to help animals, then there was no reason she shouldn’t be able to do the same as an adult.
“We created her Facebook page to document her journey into veganism, which is why we named it ‘A Vegan Child’s Journey,’” she said. “We didn’t think anyone would look at the page, not even family since they thought Genesis wanting to go vegan was just a phase.
Genesis started gaining followers on her page and it continued to grow. Soon, Vegan Everyday Stories, a documentary on vegans, contacted the Butlers after someone recommended Genesis. After the documentary’s release requests for Genesis at speaking engagements came pouring in.
“That’s how she became a public speaker,” Genelle said. “I am still amazed at how her vegan journey evolved.”
At ten years old, Genesis became one of the youngest speakers ever to give a TEDx Talk, an impassioned plea to adults to make more informed food choices as a way to help preserve the planet and save animals at the same time.
While Genesis speaks often at vegan events around the country (and Canada too!), she also enjoys football, singing, dancing and spending time with friends among other things. At just 11, Genesis tells those who challenge her as being too young to know what she’s doing that “you’re never too young to know what you want to do and to know right from wrong.”
“I didn’t feel it was right to eat animals, and even though I was young, I still knew that I was doing the right thing by not eating them,” she said. “I think once people find out that I didn’t want to eat meat after I found out I was eating animals, they understand that it was my choice.”
Some of Butler’s favorite memories since speaking out as a vegan include visiting animal sanctuaries and spending time with the animals she doesn’t eat. She calls it “the best feeling ever.”
While speaking to others about her choices, some tell Genesis they would become vegan too if it wasn’t so hard. “I tell them that I still eat the same foods I used to eat but just as a vegan version,” Genesis said. “Then they tell me they didn’t realize it wasn’t so hard to be vegan—I think if people find out that it’s not hard, then they are going to be more willing to go vegan themselves.”
Helping others realize how easy it is to become a vegan over the last five years is just the beginning of Genesis’ journey. In the next five years, Genesis hopes to continue working with animal activists around the world to accomplish total animal liberation.
In early 2019, Genesis made international headlines when she wrote an open letter to Pope Francis challenging him to go vegan for Lent in exchange for a $1M donation to charity. Standing alongside Woody Harrelson, Joaquin Phoenix and Paul McCartney, Butler urged the pontiff to eschew animal products during Lent because “farming and slaughtering animals causes a lot of suffering and is also a leading cause of climate change, deforestation and species loss.”
“I want to keep learning more so I can speak to people about this issue and raise awareness,” Genesis said. “Social Compassion in Legislation gave me a great opportunity to help them lobby for animals so I go to Sacramento to speak about animal related bills because I want to let our leaders know they need to help the animals.
As of now, Genesis is hoping to be the president of the U.S. one day. “I always say I want to be the first female president but that’s a long time from now and I want to see a female be president before that so I just want to be the president when I am old enough to run,” she said. “I also want to open sanctuaries all over the world because once we liberate all the animals they will need somewhere to live the rest of their lives in peace.”