In your opinion, what role does an activist play in society?
A very important role. Throughout history, it was always activists who led the way to change. We are here to create awareness and to amplify the voices that are not heard by the majority of people.
What has been your biggest challenge in doing this work—some of the problems you face?
That you can’t make people care. It’s really hard seeing so many animals suffering, knowing you can’t save them, and the majority of people will not be looking at the footage that you take—often because it’s too hard to watch yet they continue to tribute to their suffering.
Staying positive and patient can sometimes be challenging. The violence against animals is so normalized in our society. For me, a visit to the supermarket can be hard at times. Seeing the chopped-up body parts of the animals I fight so hard for. Seeing people wear their skins without even realizing that that was once a living soul.
There are times I feel really disconnected from society. It’s so important to take care of your mental health and it took me a while to find a balance.
In your opinion, has activism changed since Regan Russell’s death?
For me, it made it clear how vulnerable we are and that the risks of doing activism are getting so much bigger. The violence against activists is increasing. Yet I see more people willing to take that risk. I believe Regan’s death also lit a fire in many of us to continue our fight so her death will not be in vain.
Can you share some victories in doing this work?
A year ago, I negotiated the freedom of 6 little piglets. They were raised in a factory farm and meant to be slaughtered at 6 months. The conversation with the farmer was so unexpected. We really connected. I never thought that was possible but by opening our hearts and being open-minded, we could speak as people instead of activist/farmer. They changed their business from raising pigs to growing flowers—something they were thinking of before they met me. Seeing the 6 piglets grow up and thrive at the sanctuary is such a blessing and they became symbols of hope here in the Netherlands.
Is there an event that you’re most proud of?
For the 6 piglets, we built them their own piggy forest. For weeks, the whole community helped to raise funds to build their fence and shelter. So much work had to be done. We worked on it ourselves and so many people came to help. It’s one of the greatest experiences in my life to help make it happen.
Does this work fulfill you?
I feel with activism I have found my life purpose. For the first time in my life, I feel I am exactly where I need to be. I believe we ARE changing the world, even though change comes slowly. Working with so many brave and dedicated people is really inspiring.
What inspires you to continue doing this work?
Our community, seeing a shift of consciousness on a global scale. It takes courage to speak up, but I see more and more people stepping out of their comfort zone and joining the movement.
But most of all the animals inspire me to continue doing this work. They are the most innocent and vulnerable beings on our planet. Even in the most horrible conditions, they often still show affection and seek connection. Being close to them and getting to know them makes you realize how similar they are in their capacity to feel. They deserve to be seen and for people to fight for them.
Is there a particular animal whose life has touched you?
The ones I’ve rescued will always have a special place in my heart.
How do you educate the public about the suffering of animals?
By sharing their stories and showing footage of how they live and die. My approach changed over the years. I’m more patient and accept that people often take little steps. I try to be supportive of that.
How do you deal with haters?
No matter what you do, people will always disagree. Especially with activism. I’ve been criticized for not doing enough when I shared petitions and attended marches and for being too radical when I occupied a farm.
I believe with all my heart I am doing the right thing. If no one is upset we aren’t having an impact. I don’t engage with haters or respond to threats, so it doesn’t take up time and energy.