Josh Chapman: From Dolphin Whisperer to Vegan Animal Rights Activist

By Stella Haffner   |   June 10, 2021

Having grown up in a house on Miramar Beach, Josh Chapman has more than a few tales from his time in Santa Barbara. Between building forts from driftwood and playing dolphin whisperer with his friends, it would’ve been difficult not to develop an appreciation for the surrounding wildlife.

Today, Josh is a freshman at Griffith University in Brisbane, studying biochemistry and molecular biology. Since moving to Australia six years ago, Josh has become a dedicated animal rights activist who hopes to educate others about issues of animal cruelty and ethical consumption. In particular, Josh was eager to return to his roots here in Montecito to talk about his relationship with veganism.

Dear Montecito,

I wanted to come on the column to talk about veganism. I think a lot of people have a misconstrued idea of vegans and of what veganism is. As I educate myself more about ethical consumption and how the animal products we purchase are linked to animal abuse and exploitation across a wide set of industries, I think it’s crucial to talk to other people about this.

I consider myself an animal lover, and I’m starting to do a lot of animal rights activism in Australia, where I live, but my involvement with veganism and animal rights actually started kind of randomly. I began learning about animal ethics online, especially from a YouTube star named Earthling Ed. You know how it goes, I ended up down a rabbit hole of videos about veganism, animal cruelty within livestock farms, you name it. I knew I had to make changes immediately. I sort of interrogated myself and realized I just had no logical argument to justify my actions. So, I stopped those actions, and I replaced them with ethical ones.

The terminology can be kind of confusing to people. But it’s important to remember that veganism is very, very different from being a vegetarian. Specifically, veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude as far as possible and practicable all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Basically, it’s about ethics, and currently a lot of people don’t understand this.

People worry about the transition being hard. If I’m honest, becoming vegan has barely affected my lifestyle. Neither my food nor clothing has had to change that much because there are vegan substitutes for everything nowadays. I would actually say the hardest difference is how your friends and the people you meet will treat you when they find out you are a vegan. Your family may offer blind support, but having friends who are also vegan is nice, even better, since they understand why you’ve become vegan.

To people who are thinking of making changes in their life, I’d say this: You might want to consider what you’re actually changing about your life. It’s the sort of thing where you need to think about the position you are taking and if you’d take that position for any other form of injustice. Would you be alright supporting a company that used child labor, even if you don’t buy from there that often? I don’t think most people would be OK minimizing their contribution to an injustice; they’d want to cut it out completely. I’d like to say veganism is important to me, because it’s very important to the animals, they don’t have a say, so I have to be a voice for them. And, as I said, I’m an animal lover, so I have to put my money where my mouth is.

On a final note, for all the people that are only willing to make small changes, baby steps are for babies and cutting out animal products bit-by-bit isn’t a progression to ethical consumption, it’s an obstacle. It’s an excuse to keep contributing to something that causes animals unnecessary suffering. I’m not trying to force people to be vegan; I can’t force people to do anything. I’m writing this to talk about the truth, and you deserve to see it for yourself. I urge you to educate yourself on what is going on in our animal livestock system.



P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me at


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