Activist Profile: August 12, 2015
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up in the UK but have lived pretty much all my adult life in Canada. I currently live in Toronto with my three rescue cats.
What got you interested in going vegan?
Going vegan was a long process from early childhood to young adulthood. I always liked animals and didn’t want to do anything to hurt them. At the age of about five the penny really dropped when I came face to face with the turkey carcass that my family had bought for Christmas dinner. I can remember looking up to the animal on the counter and the realization sinking in that this was a real animal, and it was just because of us that they had been killed. I didn’t want to take part but I also knew that from my parents’ point of view this was the most important part of the most important meal of the year and they would have been very upset if I didn’t eat any of it. I think I went along with it that day but was a meat-avoider throughout my childhood. At about age 16 I started talking about it with a friend, and two others who were lacto-ovo vegetarians. I tried that out while my parents were on vacation for a couple of weeks the summer I turned 17, as I wanted to make sure I could do it before making an announcement. At that time I thought I was doing everything I could to avoid harming animals. I avoided all meat, read ingredients (in those days this meant avoiding many packaged foods) and when I saw free range eggs for sale I avoided buying non-free range. I can remember thinking, “If only there was something like a rule book that would tell you what is ok!” Pre-internet, you pretty much had to figure it out for yourself. After I came to Canada in 1988 I looked for local animal rights groups to get involved with. The issues we worked on were mostly fur, seal hunt, and companion animals. Most of those people were also lacto-ovo vegetarian, I think, and a few were vegan, but we didn’t talk about food issues much. By 1990, I had heard more about veganism and when I came across an early vegan cookbook, The Cookbook for People Who Love Animals, I never looked back.
How did you first get involved with Vegan Outreach?
I first heard Vegan Outreach mentioned in Erik Marcus’ blog on vegan.com in December of 2008. I went to the website and read everything on it with great interest as it all made so much sense. I had slacked off on previous animal rights efforts (things like the occasional fur demo) because it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference. Vegan Outreach’s focus on making the biggest change possible for animals and the idea of leafleting being something that anyone can do any time without having to organize a big event, and that the more you do the more effective you are were big draws. At first, though, I thought I would be terrible at outreach and worried that I might be so bad at talking to the public that I might even do more harm than good. I really liked the whole idea though so I sent in a donation. Shortly after that I was going through back episodes of vegan.com podcasts. On one of them was Joe Espinosa talking about his experiences leafleting with Vegan Outreach, and how he does it as an introvert. This made me think that if Joe could do it, then maybe I could at least give it a try too. I received my first box of 300 not sure if I would ever get through them. But it turns out that it is easier than you think!
Do you have a favorite leafleting moment?
It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve had people who have worked in the industry say that the leaflets are bang on. Some who come back after reading it to say they will make changes. And with leafleting the same local schools repeatedly you sometimes see people again from previous occasions and you can see how they are progressing, which is always nice. It’s also been great meeting other leafleters and working with them – Vegan Outreach people are the best!
You’re a musician, right? What do you play?
Yes, I sing in a community chorus of about 100 people. As well as having a lot of fun making music, it’s a great way to interact with people in the non-vegan world. I wear vegan and animal-friendly message wear a lot and many of these people are also friends on social media so they see my posts, so I have become the go-to person for any veg or animal-related questions and some have said they have been influenced to make changes as a result. It’s also good to have something fun and different in my life. I have also played piano since I was a child, and have picked up a bit of guitar, and have fun making my own songs and posting them on YouTube.
You self-identify as an introvert. How have you managed to be such a successful leafleter, and what would you say to fellow introverts who might be hesitant to get out and leaflet?
I definitely had doubts myself at first, but leafleting and introversion go together better than you would expect. Many prolific leafleters are introverts. In some ways it actually speaks to introvert strengths of self-motivation and dedication to the job and being able to do things without having to be in a big group. Making a plan to leaflet on a specific date helps. Any nervous feelings will wear off quickly once you get going. People are very nice, they either take the leaflet, politely decline it or just ignore you, which are all fine. It’s very rare that anyone is antagonistic. You can say a set line like “Info to help animals” as you offer the leaflet or just smile, either seems to work. Occasionally someone will ask a question, but then you are just talking one on one so it’s not as if you have to suddenly address a crowd. It’s usually something straightforward that is easy to answer, but if you don’t know the answer you can always tell them to go to a website. And even if you do feel a bit nervous at first, do it anyway – the animals need us!