LOS ANGELES—Although only in its second year of operation, Deaf Empowerment For Animal Freedom (D.E.A.F.) has been succeeding in disseminating its message and making an impact on the community.

Founded in July 2014, the non-profit organization is committed to defending the rights of all animals and educating the deaf community about animal rights through the use of American Sign Language (ASL).

D.E.A.F's logo.
D.E.A.F’s logo.

Canyon News obtained an exclusive interview with D.E.A.F founder Roy Abueg. 

Abueg, 38, was first inspired by East Bay Animal Advocates, an animals rights group based in Oakland. He began researching animal welfare, animal cruelty and the conditions of slaughterhouses in the United States. “It impacted my moral belief,” said Abueg. “I realized the animals have no voice, do not have the power to fight back, no place to escape for survival and they do not have their rights to stay alive.”

D.E.A.F. founder Roy Abueg has over 15 years of deaf advocacy experience.
D.E.A.F. founder Roy Abueg has over 15 years of deaf advocacy experience.

According to Abueg, roughly 20,000 animals suffer daily without medical care or treatment, before being killed for human consumption. “I started having discussions with my deaf friends and the deaf community about the animals. They weren’t aware of what was going on…they did not know what veganism and animal welfare were about.” This realization prompted Abueg to devote himself to being a vegan animal rights activist and advocate, while educating the deaf community about veganism in his spare time. Thus, D.E.A.F. was formed.

Although D.E.A.F is his first immersion in the world of animal rights activism, Abueg is no stranger to non-profit work. ASL is Abueg’s first language, and for the past 15 years, the Bakersfield resident and has held a multitude of different positions with deaf advocacy organizations.

He currently serves as a Community Advocate for Bakersfield Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (B-GLAD), and is a certified Deaf Victim Counselor and Advocate with over 400 completed hours of service with Rape Victim Advocates in Chicago, IL. Previously, Abueg interned as a Deaf Services Coordinator with Progress Independent Living Center Coordinator in Forest Park, IL. Upon completion of the internship, he accepted a job offer with Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA) as a Client Advocate. After that, Abueg worked with various non-profit deaf organizations as both an Advocate and Department of Rehabilitation Employment Specialist. Amazingly, he also finds time to work a part time at Trader Joe’s.

Bun, D.E.A.F's Educator Coordinator.
Bun, D.E.A.F’s Educator Coordinator.
DeSantos with a rescued pig.
DeSantos works as D.E.A.F.’s Farm Sanctuary Coordinator, where she often rescues animals like the pig pictured above.

D.E.A.F. primarily functions with the help of Abueg’s volunteer staff, Angela Bun and Debra DeSantos.  Bun, based in Boston, MA, works as the Educator Coordinator, where she helps provide information to the deaf community about animal right and upcoming protests.

DeSantos is a resident of Reno, NV, and serves as the Farm Sanctuary Coordinator; her duties include rescuing many animals, nursing them back to health, and preparing them to find permanent homes. Both are also Animal Advocates, and they educate in ASL on D.E.A.F’s vlog.

In reflecting on his current and past experience with deaf advocacy, Abueg’s passion is palpable.

“I love working with the deaf community,” said Abueg.  “I want to ensure I empower, advocate and encourage them to accomplish their goal as a disability person.”

However, Abueg’s ambition does not stop with D.E.A.F. Abueg and business partner Desiree Mehrez are gearing up to launch V-Earthy, a 100 percent vegan food truck that plans to feature various types of cuisine, including Italian, Mexican, Indian and more.

Desiree Mehrez, an animal rights activist, is Abeug's business partner.
Desiree Mehrez, an animal rights activist, is a co-founder of V-Earthy Food Truck.

The business is not yet up and running due to a lack of funding. “We are attempting to reach every community, friend and family members for love, support and donations to get the wheels turning our business,” Abueg explained. You can donate to V-Earthy’s crowdfunding campaign by clicking here.  He plans to donate a portion of V-Earthy’s profits to D.E.A.F. as well as other animal protection organizations.

On Saturday, October 17, D.E.A.F. will be hosting a Halloween Dog and Owner Costume Contest and Social Fundraiser.  A suggested $10 donation will ensure prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners for best costumes. The event will take place from 2 – 5 p.m. at University Dog Park in Bakersfield. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/kerncountydeafevents/.

For more information and updates about D.E.A.F., visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DeafEmpowermentAnimalFreedom, or send an email to DeafAnimalActivists@gmail.com.