In early 1987, I saw a television program about the plight of African Elephants, it awoke a sensitivity in me that a working class life in a small town had all but stamped out. I was sixteen years old, but it was as if I was seeing the world with new eyes. How could people kill Elephants for their tusks and how could people be at odds with Elephants over land use? I didn’t understand how the world could stand by and let any of this happen. I was saddened and angered by what I saw and learned, and the disgust that I felt was the catalyst for my journey into the idea of Animal Rights. I decided right then in that moment that I wanted to put an African Elephant on what would be my first Pro Model Skateboard and later that year I became a Vegetarian.

When I released the Barnyard Board in 1989, I had been a Vegetarian for well over a year and I had taken a lot of abuse for it along the way. Everyone around me thought that it was unnatural to not eat animals, that I was going through some teenage phase and that I’d grow out of it. Others were harsher, questioning my manliness and sanity. People were always trying to give me or make me eat meat. They didn’t understand that all that I saw in their hamburgers and hotdogs was the death of an innocent animal who was entitled to the possession of its own life and happiness. People scoffed at me. They told me to grow up. They wrote me off. I may have made a name for myself in skateboarding but my personal life had become increasingly isolated and I was without any kind of support system for my feelings and beliefs, other than my girlfriend (now wife) Ann, I didn’t know any other Vegetarians. But the Barnyard, with its Vegetarian Message of “Please Don’t Eat My Friends”, changed all of that. While it further enraged some people, for many others it was their introduction to the idea of Animal Rights and before I knew it, several of my friends had become Vegetarians and as I traveled around the world from skate shop to skate shop and from health food restaurant to health food restaurant, I would meet kids who were skating that board and who would tell me their lives had been changed by its message. This made me very happy.

After being a Vegan and Vegetarian throughout the 90’s, somewhere in 1999 I lost my way. There’s no excuse or valid reason at all for any of it, believe me, I made up plenty of excuses, all of them completely repulsive to me now. I somehow had buried that sensitivity in myself deep down beneath layers of self-loathing and self-denial and tried to live a lie. I had become my own suppressor. Then in 2014 while walking through Louisville, Kentucky, I accidentally came upon a Pig Processing Plant just outside of town. As I was walking along the retaining wall outside of the plant I heard screams of sheer terror. As a meat eater, these screams may have been easy to dismiss if they all sounded the same, but they didn’t. I heard distinct individual voices screaming out in fear, and it was these screams that re-awoken a part of myself I had long subdued. As I came around the corner and I saw the pigs being corralled towards their death, screaming for their lives, my journey into Animal Right began again.

In 2015, my wife Ann and our daughters Emily and Lucy all became Vegans. Shortly after, the girls started their own Vegan Cooking Blog, The Vintage Vegans, and as a family we have grown closer and more focused and we have never been happier or healthier in our lives. And in this spirit and our desire to share the Vegan Lifestyle with people all around the world, “Please Don’t Eat My Friends” is born.

— Mike Vallely

Please Don’t Eat My Friends is a 100% family owned and operated business. All of our t-shirts are made in the USA. Every month we will be donating 10% of our profits to a different farm animal sanctuary or pet rescue. If you are a animal sanctuary/rescue interested in working with us please email us at emily@thevintagevegans.com.