Internationally known for her work in animal ethics, Dr. Lisa Kemmerer is the founder of the educational, vegan umbrella organization, Tapestry. With a Master of Theological Studies in Comparative Religions (Harvard) and a Ph.D. in philosophy (specializing in animal ethics at Glasgow University, in Scotland), Kemmerer taught for 20 years at the university level. She has written more than 100 articles/anthology chapters and 10 books, including In Search of Consistency, Animals and World Religions, Sister Species, and Eating Earth. Dr. K retired in July of 2020 to become a full-time social justice activist with Tapestry.
Dr. Kemmerer’s sense of wonder in nature, smallness of self, and simplicity of lifestyle were enhanced by climbing and backpacking, month-long kayak trips, a bicycle trip from Washington to Alaska, and a number of close brushes with an early end. Travel abroad also shaped her worldview. She worked as a forest fire fighter and nurse’s aide in a nursing home to buy a ticket to the South Pacific, where she hitchhiked aournd, listening to the views of hundreds of diverse locals. She also traveled parts of Asia, where her understanding of time, “necessities,” and community were altered by rural Burma and Bangladesh and in little villages on the high ridges of Nepal.
She earned her undergraduate degree in International Studies at Reed College, where she founded her first Anymal activist organization and earned a competitive Watson Fellowship that took her on a two-year journey to explore the place of women and anymals in religions. She ventured to remote monasteries and temples in northern China, spent a month at the Dalai Lama’s school in north India, visited holy sites in Israel, stayed with Palestinians and visited patients at a West Bank hospital, and traveled to remote hermitages in mountain ranges of Egypt and Turkey.
“Those who seek greater justice in our world need to work toward a deeper understanding of oppression.”
— Introduction to Sister Species
With an eye to education as social justice activism, Kemmerer earned a doctorate in philosophy, focusing on anymal ethics. An appreciator of and participant in the arts, Dr. K traveled Western Europe with a classical choir while studying in Scotland.
After graduation, Dr. K taught at the university level for more than 20 years, where research in anymal studies took her to South America, Europe, Africa, and across the United States several times over. Kemmerer helped to re-envision methods of preserving both wildlife and rural communities in Kenyan wildlife preserves (reflected in Animals and the Environment). She scrambled through thick, steep jungles of Peru with locals to learn more about working with rural communities to protect endangered yellow-tailed woolley monkeys (reflected in Primate People). She spent time in bear and elephant sanctuaries in Cambodia, pondering the moral boundaries of sanctuary confinement (reflected in Bear Necessities).
Speaking engagements have also taken Professor Kemmerer to India, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, England, Canada, Luxembourg (repeatedly), and to many places in the United States. When Eating Earth was translated into Italian (Mangiare la Terra), Dr. K was invited on a two-week book tour through Italy; she was also invited to publish and lecture with a climate change think-tank in Barcelona.
Repeatedly walking away from conventional forms of education in a quest for broader and deeper understandings, Kemmerer came to see her way of living and thinking as just one among many. Without this, Dr. K would not be who she is as an individual, scholar, philosopher, or activist.
“We have extended ethics outward from self to family to community to all of humanity. We are now called to extend moral consideration to other species.”
— In Search of Consistency