Jose Elias

Jose-BHSU-Oct14-2292Activist Profile: October 8, 2014

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from Grand Rapids, MI, but I live in Boston, MA.

What got you interested in veganism and animal advocacy?

The thing that introduced me to veganism was the subculture that I identified with known as straight edge. I kept seeing people that I admired going vegan and I thought that was so cool! So I said I was vegan and didn’t eat meat but I didn’t really understand why I was doing it aside from getting a rise out of people and showing people how “cool” I was. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I was informing myself on what to eat that I stumbled across the animal aspect of it all. Watching videos on the exploitative conditions that farmed animals are living in that comes along with eating meat – it hit me hard. That was when I knew that I couldn’t go back to contributing to an industry so vile and cruel to these sweet and innocent beings. That was when I knew I was doing it for animals. What got me interested in advocacy was moving from Michigan to Massachusetts. I knew that I wanted to do more than just change my diet, I wanted to become more active. My best friend and I, who began his vegan trek shortly after myself, moved together and found an organization in Boston called the Humane League. We interned for them for almost a year, and that internship is what got me involved with Vegan Outreach.

Who has been a major influence in your life?

Not to take the easy way out of not naming names, I find the most influential people in my life are those that I share space with in this movement. Their passion and positivity is infectious in the best way and it is truly inspiring. The Humane League crew as well as the individuals in this great organization make me want to be a better person and do all I can for animals. Shout out to all of you animal lovers!

What do you do for fun while not leafleting?

I’ve always been creative – expressing myself through art and music whether it’s drawing, taking photographs, or singing. Especially when it comes to being on the road, yelling my favorite tunes is always a blast.

What has been your favorite interaction on your current leafleting tour?

So far, I would have to say when I met a student that was very standoffish towards me when I was at his college. Our first interaction was me giving him a leaflet – he instantly put up a wall of defense, feeling attacked, as he grew up on a farm. I told him that what I do is advocate for the animals that suffer on factory farms, telling him that I would be there for most of the day so he could come talk to me after he read our literature. He took it (to my surprise) and went on his way. A few hours passed and he came back with some banter on if I was having any luck; like I was wasting my time – I shook it off and continued working. I would say the class change that occurred before I left that day, he came back up to me with a more calm demeanor this time. He asked me if I was there sponsoring an event or if I was just there to hand out information. I told him about VO and what we do and he just stood there for a minute thinking, smirked, and then we wished each other a good day. I didn’t see him after that. The thing about this story that I love so much is that you could tell the wheels were turning inside his head. He started with being defensive, angry, and then came down from it after chewing over what he read. People have to face themselves before making a change; they must recognize their actions before they can make a difference, and we as activists must be calm and supportive and feel empathy for the people we talk to about this issue. Only a lucky few of us were born into vegetarianism / veganism, so we must be understanding and let others know that we were once where they are and change is possible.

Do you have any advice for those hesitant about leafleting?

Go for it! I was incredibly nervous my first time. Sometimes we’re overcome with fear of rejection or possibilities of negative interactions and that’s normal, but once you get warmed up and start doing it, it’s a piece of vegan cake. For the most part, people who receive our leaflets aren’t rude; they’ll either take it or they’ll say no thanks. If you’re hesitant about it, bring a friend along, you can play off each other’s positive vibes and it relieves that shyness you may be feeling.