Lisa Shapiro: 1964-2015
Advocating for Animals Right Up to Her Final Moments
By Paul Shapiro on June 12, 2015
(Note: Lisa’s close friend and hero for animals Seth Tibbott has published a more extensive obituary about Lisa’s life that’s very worth reading. Below is my own personal remembrance of Lisa.)
Fifteen years ago, a woman I’d never met came bounding with joy out of an elevator at an animal conference, shouting “Do you know how many people keep asking if I’m your mother?”
That was the beginning of my friendship with Lisa Shapiro.
While she definitely didn’t look old enough to be my mother, we certainly felt like family. Bound together by far more than a common last name, we were kindred spirits trying to give farm animals a voice in a world that too often ignores them. We shared the goal of stopping violence against these animals, and we often worked together, both in her time in the natural foods world, and in her time with Tofurky, a company which treated her like a cherished family member, including through her difficult final months.
Whether it was scaling her apartment building to get onto her balcony when we were locked out of her front door or tabling together and passing out literature, I always knew Lisa as a fun, funny, selfless soul whose meaning in life was obtained by easing the suffering of others.
So it was more than fitting that, in Lisa’s last months, it was her friends who sought to ease her suffering. They banded together to stay in her apartment with her. They took her to the hospital, cared for her cats, and did many other things that enabled her to experience her final few months on our planet with more comfort than would’ve otherwise befallen her.
Just a few weeks before her death, I was talking with Lisa by phone while she lay on what she very clearly knew was likely to be her deathbed. I listened to her struggles and hopes, and shared my thoughts on where our movement is headed. She told me many things, but what struck me most was that, even in her compromised state, she never stopped advocating for animals.
“My eyesight’s not good due to my pain meds,” Lisa would tell her friends who aren’t part of the animal movement, as a means of getting them to read her articles about vegan eating and animal protection. She casually quipped to me, “I’m dying—what are they gonna do, say no?”
And it worked. Some of them told her they were already starting to eat less meat because of those readings.
That story summed Lisa up to me. We laughed that even cancer couldn’t stop her from spreading the word about compassion for animals, and she joked that maybe death wouldn’t stop her either. She told me she hoped that her legacy would live on, not merely in fond thoughts about her as a person, but in the form of action for farm animals.
Nothing would please Lisa more than to see more people getting more involved in this historic struggle to help the most oppressed group of animals on our planet—those raised for food.
The truth is that Lisa was more like a sister than a mother to me. And she was like a sister to so many other animal advocates across the country who learned and took inspiration from her. And she’s a sister who’ll be deeply missed by our whole movement. May we all strive to honor Lisa’s legacy by furthering her work of building a more humane society.
Paul Shapiro is the vice president of farm animal protection at The Humane Society of the United States and the founder of Compassion Over Killing.