Is there an event that you’re most proud of?
I’m a bit uncomfortable with the word “proud” but when I lived in Japan, and now to some extent from afar, I supported what I and many others would consider Japan’s best animal shelter, Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK). I lived in Tokyo, in the east, and Kansai is in the west. It always seemed to me that all the fun events for ARK were held in Kansai with Tokyo often missing out despite having a good number of supporters.
So, I formed a group in Tokyo to support ARK. I never intended it to be a fundraising group, but it turned into that and the first fundraising event I did brought in the most money of any event I’ve ever done. This gave me a taste for fundraising, and this was the start of my passion for it. It basically launched me into focusing much of my effort for animals on raising money.
I look back fondly on that event and, yes, have a certain feeling of pride at what I achieved (of course with the help of others) with no previous experience nor qualifications in fundraising.
What inspires you to continue doing this work?
A strong sense of justice and wanting to use my privileged life to help those who need my help. You only get one shot at life and a life of service is far more meaningful to me than a life just focused on oneself.
I’m also inspired by all the new and creative ways of doing activism, and the wonderful people doing it.
In your time as an activist, what changes have you noticed?
In terms of duck shooting here in Victoria, the numbers have gone down substantially. There was a time when duck shooting was just another regular activity, not really frowned upon. Now, people mostly oppose it.
Another shift is the word “vegan” is now far better understood than it was before. I remember as a kid people not even understanding what a vegetarian was. This shift may be partly due to more vegan options being available and more information on veganism and animal rights also being available, for example, through films such as Seaspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Dominion.
Finally, there may be more people involved in activism now, and a wider range of people. However, I have no solid evidence to back that. Maybe it’s just that many of us are now connected on social media and so it feels that way.
What’s one simple thing each of us can do to advocate for animals?
I’m not sure if I’d describe this as simple, although looking at it in the context of event organisation it’s a pretty simple event, but I was involved in an initiative, until COVID put paid to it, called the Kind Food Table.
We would regularly have a table on a shopping strip and give out free samples of plant-based chocolate, cheese and milk.
I found myself chatting with people and before I knew it I was doing outreach, in spite of thinking this isn’t my forté. I felt comfortable doing this because people would get a free sample of something delicious. This was a way to draw them in, to connect over food, and it was easy to talk about the product itself. Then the conversation could be steered to the fact the product was cruelty-free. People were open to the information this way.
Also, this was a good way for people to try the products before buying them.
What advice do you have for someone new to activism?
I would encourage people to consider their skill set, talent and interests and see if there are ways they could employ these to do their activism, or to form part of their activism.
Also, it’s important to detach from activism to have fun. The horrors inflicted by others should not have to be a burden of guilt you carry. Engaging in interests outside the animal rights/vegan movement, and not even talking about the issues at those times, is important to help you avoid burnout and to ensure that you experience joy. Without joy, and with only misery in your heart and soul, it’s very difficult to sustain yourself.
Who inspires you in the animal rights movement?
Laurie Levy, who is the face of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting (CADS), is one. He has consistently, since 1986, been fighting this issue. He is much reviled by the shooting fraternity and is not a young man anymore, but he’s still fighting the good fight.
He once told me that to win an issue you need to focus on that issue and that issue only, and that’s exactly what he’s done.
Sadly, duck shooting is still legal here in Victoria, but we are far closer to banning it now than we were back in 1986. Laurie can proudly and unequivocally take much of the credit for this.
I am also inspired by Dr. Melanie Joy for the way she has been able to eloquently, and convincingly, give a name, carnism, to the practice of eating of animals.