I had a great time over the weekend taking part in the ARZone live chat. It was a really positive experience and had a great vibe. It was a pleasure to be involved. I received 14 questions from various ARZone members and I wrote over 7000 words in response to them. I had some great questions and some hard ones. I hope you like my responses.
Photo by Carol Slater Photography.
Could you please tell us how you became vegan and how you began to advocate for other animals?
I became vegan over 15 years ago after being vegetarian before that for two years. When I was younger, my family and I used to eat a leg of lamb for Saturday night dinners. I knew that it was someone’s leg because that was what it was called. There was a piece of the leg my sister and I used to like to eat, and I asked my Mum one night what part of the leg it was. She said it was the Achilles tendon. I looked down at my leg knowing that I had the same tendon as the roasted lamb’s leg on the kitchen bench.
That was when I first made the connection between the life that once was and the death I was about to consume. I was in year 10 at high school and this was the beginning of 1994. I stopped eating “red meat” then but was still consuming chicken flesh and calamari. When I went on a month-long school camp in mid-1994, we looked after chickens and I never have eaten any chickens since. I didn’t want to eat others that I knew had to be killed for me to eat. At this stage I didn’t know too much about what a vegan was and also didn’t know about the dairy and egg industries.
I found out about veganism through the Vegan Society of New South Wales here in Australia who sent me the information for Animal Liberation Queensland and the Vegetarian and Vegan Society of Queensland – my home State. Through these three groups I found out about the horrors of the egg and dairy industries:
Eggs – de-beaking chicks without anaesthesia, many hens held captive in a cage about the size of an A4 sheet of paper unable to spread their wings or dust bathe, forced starvation and dehydration to induce other egg cycles, then killed around 18 months. All of the male chicks are killed, as they are deemed worthless (also a gender equality issue). Hens in their natural environment can live up to 15-20 years. “Free-Range” eggs are just as bad.
Dairy – raping/inseminating female cows (also a feminist issue), then after a couple of cycles of pregnancy and birth at around four years old they are killed, and will end up on someone’s plate. Plus a large majority of the calves born into the dairy industry are male and deemed worthless (also a gender equality issue) so are turned into veal or sold for pet food. Cows can live up to 25 years under natural conditions. “Organic” milk is just as bad. I didn’t want to contribute to killing animals, that’s why I became a vegetarian. I also didn’t want to contribute to the other industries that use and abuse animals. So at the beginning of 1997 I became vegan.
I believe in speaking up whenever I see or hear of any injustices as well as not supporting companies that profit from exploitation. From social justice and human rights, to third world and poverty issues; to racial slurs and “jokes”, to feminist and gender equality issues; to fair trade and labour, to useable land and clean water for all of the earth; to overconsumption and waste, to anti-corporations and multinationals. All of these are as important to me as much as anti-Speciesism. Veganism is the best way for me to live a compassionate lifestyle in line with all of my ethics of anti-exploitation.
I am a committed vegan because I believe that we all need to tread as lightly as we can on the earth and to cause the least amount of pain and suffering to others while we’re here. Veganism is the best thing that I can do and the best way I know how to lead by example to stand against ALL injustices and exploitation that exist.
I enjoy and am good at communication in all of its forms so I use my skills in various ways to get the message of compassionate and anti-exploitation out. Writing content for my websites VivaLaVegan.net and GreenEarthGroup.org (I also have EpicentreEquilibrium.com and Leigh-Chantelle.com) Along with articles, blogs and books; giving talks and lectures, social media, promotion and events, along with all my videos, podcasts, interviews etc. I live for all of these sorts of things!
Viva la Vegan! started in 2005 with my recipe calendars and was focused on educating vegetarians and keeping vegans informed. Green Earth Group started in 2009 to hold the first all-vegan festival in Brisbane, to educate the mainstream to environmental issues and in particular the use of animal-based industries on our natural environment. Green Earth Group is volunteer-run and a not for profit.
I was interviewed recently for the latest Vegan Mainstream “VStream” magazine that covers a lot about my work etc. Here’s a sneak peak if you would like to read my interview.
Being a creative person, what value do you place on using music and art in communicating a vegan message? Do you think they are valuable tools?
I find Music and a lot of creative industries and products to be a great connecting tool to link us to others. The connection is created when another understands or gets where you are coming from with what you are creating. Connection to others who want the same thing as you creates a tribe and this tribe become a great avenue for enacting change.
Think about all the things that you like, and that have inspired you over the years. Photography, Film, Music, Art, Design. All these things have the potential to influence people greatly in a (mostly) non-confronting way. And if you use your creative influence for good, only great things can come. I know a lot of people – especially in the USA who went vegan due to the influence of punk, hardcore and straight edge bands. I think if someone is appreciative of your work and you get that initial connection, then afterwards what you are also interested in can also influence others eg veganism.
I used to sell recycled lyric clothing with my lyrics handwritten on the items of clothing. Various lyrics connect with various people. At the beginning of this year I created a few Art pieces for an art exhibition here in Brisbane called Paper Girl. It was a great idea as the art pieces were collected and then distributed by volunteers on bikes. This happens worldwide. Here’s what I submitted. They were really well received and a lot of (vegan) people have downloaded the pieces to use as activism in various places. I have a few more similar pieces coming soon. You can also get the t-shirts.
A lot of my songs are about heartbreak, but I do have one intense spoken word piece called “Piece by Piece” about the beginning to end of the killing room floor from an animal’s perspective. I’ve performed it at a few vegan events. Here’s the video, and the lyrics. For more on my music, see my live videos and music clips on my YouTube channel.
I’ve had an almost two year break from creating and performing music and it’s been good. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and needed a break from the whole scene.
I do think that if you are given a gift in whatever way that you should do everything in your power to use this gift. Can you make money or make a living from this gift? Maybe. Maybe not. You have to be okay with that. I try to focus on the things that I have in common with people that I meet, and the things that connect us rather than the things that push others away. Music and other Art forms connect, inform, inspire and can truly instigate change.
You speak publicly and have been a performer. Do you think that online activism has the same impact as activism “in the real world”? Do you work on other social justice issues? In America, there seems to be some animosity between the traditional civil rights movement and the AR movement - the analogy between nonhumans as slaves and humans as slaves isn’t one that is easily accepted. Are there similar problems, in your experience, concerning conflicts between movements in Australia?
I think it depends on your interpretation of “online” and “activism” to be honest.
In my opinion, it’s best to utilise your skills and expertise and work out how to be the most effective with your activism – whether that is online, offline or both. I think combining both online and offline can be extremely effective – look at Syria’s uprising that combined the spread of information on Twitter as well as physical protests.
Let’s play… “Is It Effective?”
Someone who is physically unable to protest but is quite good at organising and spreading the word of protests online is being effective. If you only have vegan friends on Facebook and share a lot of gruesome videos all the time, this is not effective as these people are already vegan.
If however you burn a pile of these videos to DVD (note Creative Commons & Copyright licenses) and drop them off at libraries or other public places with the name of the latest blockbuster written on the label, this could be quite effective. Spending a lot of time online getting into debates is a big drainer of time. If you feel you have something to say, say it. But be polite, keep it short and don’t respond or read any of the comments if you know you’re not going to like what’s said. As for myself, I give a talk and 50 people turn up to hear then hundreds more people watch my video in the years to come.
What is the most effective use of your time?
How do you really know?
How can we really gauge the effectiveness of anything we do?
There’s a new website coming: Inspired Action Zone that I will be regularly writing for on Social Media and Online Etiquette issues. Especially how causes and movements can utilise Social Media to further their cause. More info.
I’ll share my experience in regards to learning about the most effective use of my time.
When I was organising, promoting and marketing my two all-vegan festivals for Green Earth Group in Brisbane - March 2010 and 2011 - this literally took over my life. I was putting an excessive amount of time, energy and money into something that, realistically, is only for one day. Not to detract from the fact that 3000-4000 people were at the first festival and 1000-2000 were at the (pocket-sized version) second one. From these two days a lot of people found out about the vegan lifestyle and quite a few are now vegan. But being completely overwhelmed and heading towards burnout is not helpful to me or our animal friends in the long-term. I’m now focusing on educating others with content that is shareable and that I don’t have to be there when others see it or spread it.
For example I’m writing and compiling some books at present based on content I already have. What Do Vegans Eat? will be released shortly – this is based on one of my most popular YouTube videos. I’m also creating more videos of interviews, how-to information and speeches as well as all my online content that exists in various forms on my 3 websites, guest blogs, and regular article writing for others.
I believe that all social justice issues are important but a lot of people both here in Australia and throughout the world don’t seem to agree. I know it’s hard to sometimes get involved with other movements that aren’t your main passion but you can learn a lot from other movements. We all need to be open to learning from others – whether or not they agree 100% with our own ethics. It’s all interconnected whether we realise it or not.
Identifying as vegan, I am perturbed by some (including large agencies) advocating "Vegetarian" over "Vegan". Whilst I can understand the basic "communication" in that many people are not aware of what vegan means, it does worry me. What are your thoughts?
That’s a great question as I definitely have an issue with this too. But I guess you have to think about why people wouldn’t use the term. From a marketing standpoint the term vegan is seen as very dogmatic and strict. [Someone pointed out to me recently that I should say “committed” vegan instead of “strict” as it’s less threatening. He was right.] I think the term “vegetarian” is seen as subtle and more ambiguous so I guess it’s the “easier” one to use.
I use the term “plant-based” for most of my Green Earth Group content. “Wholefood diet” is good for health-based groups. It also is irritating when people use the term vegan and aren’t aware of what it exactly means, or call themselves vegan when they are not. But that’s where we all need to step up. I think it’s up to all of us to get out more and communicate the positive aspects of veganism to as many people as you can.
What are your skills, expertise? What are your favourite things to do? I’m sure you can promote veganism in your everyday life no matter what you do. If we can promote the positive aspects of veganism more (and maybe even better), then I hope the term “vegan” will be less scary for people to use in the future. I wrote an article “Promoting Veganism” that was published in Vegan Voice, TOFU and Chickpea magazines. You can view it on page 25 here.
There seems to be a lot of negativity in activism these days but you always have a smile and positive outlook, how do you stay so positive?
haha - LOVE this one! The secret is: I am positive because I choose to be. I surround myself with like-minded people who are on the same life path as me. I have an amazing group of friends and family. I try very hard to get rid of negative thoughts about others as well as self-limiting thoughts. I no longer surround myself with negative people or situations. I stay clear of drama and people who like to create drama. I believe one of the most powerful things you can do is be thankful for what you have now – focus on this – now and everyday.
I focus on the things that I have control over and don’t worry about the things I don’t. I really think it helps when you enjoy what you’re doing and know the best ways that you can be the most effective in all areas of your life. I always search for the positive aspects of any situation. I find the lesson and move on. This really helps. I truly believe that everyone believes that they are doing the best they can do in the best way that they can. Some people are just not aware of their true potential. Some people will never be.
Make sure you do the things that you love, that make you smile and make you happy. For me this is:
- Road trips
- Spending quality time with my true friends
- Making new friends
- Meeting new animal friends
- Watching reality television
- Watching the Brisbane Lions play AFL (Australian Football League) well
- Walking on the beach in the sun
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch – my favourite movie
- Reading music biographies, English literature and Astrology and Tarot text books
- Giving Tarot and Astrology readings
- Second-hand shopping
- Dancing and singing aloud to my favourite music
- Pretending I’m Stevie Nicks (especially when I’m at…)
- Seeing great bands and artists perform
- Eating great vegan food
- Visiting animal sanctuaries
- Spending time in Nature and feeling the grass beneath your feet
- Lying under the Stars on a clear night
- Adventures, and a lot of them.
Remember to look after yourself. Eat well. Don’t pollute your body with any toxins. Sleep as long as you like. Drink enough water. Laugh a lot. Always take your goals seriously but never yourself. It’s pretty simple: Love & Compassion – towards yourself and others.
How does one 'maintain the rage' or keep one's spirits up in the face of an insurmountable challenge? I see so many burn outs, disappointment, etc.
I guess you have to take time out for yourself and enjoy the things you love doing.
After my first festival I decided I was going to watch every single Brisbane Lions (my AFL team) game and I thoroughly enjoy that!
As for maintaining the rage - why do you need to have rage? It's great to remember why we're vegan so we can continue to be vegan and educate others to the reasons, but as for rage, that will only drag you down.
You co-ordinate social media marketing, and advise others on issues relating to online etiquette. There is a lot of passion surrounding advocacy on behalf of other animals, which can often lead to heated and aggressive online discussions and arguments.
Do you have any advice for how best to deal with situations like Facebook aggressiveness and insults amongst advocates, and do you think there is a reason that many people seem to find it relatively easy to be aggressive and mean online?
I think a lot of people forget that Humans are Animals too.
If you’re compassionate then be compassionate. If not, then learn. This was originally said in my 2006 recipe calendar and was aimed towards people moving towards a compassionate diet and lifestyle with veganism. It seems though that I really do think people just need to be compassionate in general. I truly believe that everyone believes that they are doing the best they can do in the best way that they can. A friend said to me once that when her and her partner first became vegan it was just another reason for them to be angry. I see this in a lot of people in social justice movements. It’s hard when there’s a lot to be angry about. But if you focus your energies on where the anger exists that’s exactly what you will create and attract.
Empower yourself. Know that you can enact some changes that we need. Don’t wait for others to do things “better” than you, get out and be active. A lot of people don’t get any personal interaction with others in the flesh so they crave any interaction. Something divisive always gets some good interaction. I feel that a lot of people now don’t know how to express what they are feeling and lash out in many ways on others (online). Be compassionate towards people - you don’t know what’s going on in another's life. But they are the only ones who can help themselves. And more importantly, they have to be willing to change the patterns they’re in.
People don’t realise that everything they share online is a permanent reflection of you that may never be erased. It may even be used against you. Just because you may never meet someone you converse with online in the flesh doesn’t mean you should be less than courteous. The Internet makes it easier to attack or ridicule people, rather than accept, embrace or forgive. Realise the Power of Words, the context and the written tone you are using.
The best tip I can give online and in general is for people to act rationally and not react emotionally. Negativity hurts people and harms reputations. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t write on a postcard and send in the mail. Like drinking or texting when driving, emotions and the Internet don’t mix. If someone says something online that upsets you and gets you angry, wait to respond until after you’ve had time to cool down and you’ve thought things through properly. Even leave it overnight, sleep on it. Write your thoughts down – somewhere private – and if you still feel the same, share it when you’ve cooled down.
Some of My Online Etiquette Tips:
- Act Don’t React.
- Don’t let anonymity bring out the worst in you.
- Always use the correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.
- If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face or post it on a postcard, don’t say it online. Keep private matters private. If an issue arises, deal with it by sending a private message or email.
- Don’t attack people or be disrespectful.
- Credit people/groups if you use something they created.
- Consider how someone will react before you post something.
- If something you’re saying is rude, mean or sarcastic, don’t send it.
- Be careful what you share and think about who will read your posts.
- If you think something you have will embarrass someone, get them into trouble, compromise their privacy or stir up drama – keep it to yourself, better yet – delete it.
- NEVER talk about not-so-legal activism tactics online.
- Don’t abbreviate or use slang. Just because you know what it means, doesn’t mean others will.
- Be your Kind Self
Within any movement there’s always going to be issues, drama and people you don’t get on with. You don’t have to spend any time with them. You don’t have to be friends with them online. You have control of this. Try to understand others as best you can, be courteous in all your dealings with other people even if you disagree with what they believe in. Take responsibility for everything you do online.
Thanks for that question – this is one of my favourite things to talk about!
On your website, the emphasis appears to be on what some might call the “lifestyle aspects” of living vegan. Has it been your experience that it’s easy and better to talk to people about recipes, cosmetics, health & nutrition and so forth as a way of introducing them to the ideals of veganism?
To me veganism IS a lifestyle (not a diet or a dogma) so I guess that’s why I focus on the different aspects of (my) vegan life. To give some history, and in case you haven’t read the About section on my website:
VivaLaVegan.net started out in 2005 to promote my recipe calendar. Back then I pretty much had recipes, sample recipes from the calendars, links, a contact and an about section. I’d just finished studying Naturopathy, Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicine (I don’t practice) when I launched the website so they were the things I was most passionate about, then.
I think the best way to promote anything is to focus on the positive aspects, your interests and what you love doing. I love makeup and I have a few new articles and videos coming shortly.
I’m only this year happy with where the website now is. It has evolved over time to what exists now: an interactive, multimedia community for vegans; focusing on positive education, information and vegan outreach. Including:
Top Searches (from my Google Analytics as of Dec 2011) on the website are: vegan recipes, vegan food, vegan desserts, vegan forum, vegan makeup, detox recipes and detox desserts.
If you know what your audience wants, you should give them that, and more. This year I’ve focused on supplying more content in the form of Articles with various regular writers contributors in their field of expertise:
Mondays - Health, Tuesdays - Environment, Wednesdays - Animals, Thursdays - Fitness.
I think every aspect of veganism is important to promote and I’m seeing a lot more people reading things on the website that they maybe wouldn’t have been interested in before.
Other than the Health articles, the most popular Article this year so far is Veganism: Necessary But Not Sufficient by Vegina and my most popular Blogs so far this year are about Vegan art: Sentience: hidden lives Exhibition in Perth & my Love Us by not Eating Us - Art as Activism art pieces. The most popular Pages/Sections of my website are the: Recipes, Articles, Store, Updates/Blogs, Mentors (in that order) so I’m quite happy with where people are going when they’re online. I’m always open to suggestions and feedback. Plus, if you’re interested in writing for Viva la Vegan! get in contact with me. I also shared this link in my first response above, but it explains a bit more about the transition of Viva la Vegan! and Green Earth Group.
Do you regard yourself as an abolitionist vegan? If so what are your thoughts, from that perspective, on the recent rollover of a truck carrying live sheeps in Victoria, and the subsequent death of all but around 10 of those 400 sheeps.
I think the term “vegan” should suffice, but I do sometimes also use “eco-feminist as well.”
I feel that certain terms and labels can be used to segregate rather than connect our movement.
From a marketing perspective, focusing on one term or definition is much more effective as the interpretation of the message has less of a chance to be convoluted. I feel saddened by any deaths, whether non-human or human.
Animals Australia, and other organisations in Australia are currently advocating for banning the battery cage in favour of “enriched cages” for hens. Could you please explain what, if any, benefits you see to this change, who would benefit from this change and why; and if you believe that incremental changes such as this one will lead us toward the end of speciesism.
I personally don’t agree with bigger cages or regulating/banning parts of the industries that use and abuse animals. I think these sorts of things are good for consumers who haven’t fully made that conscious connection yet as it makes them feel a bit better when their conscience calls out.
I think the following is necessary going forth:
- Promoting and marketing veganism in a positive light
- Targeting specific markets with relevant information eg environmental facts and figures for the environmental movement
- Utilising our skills and expertise in the most effective way for the movement
- Focusing on what connects us rather than what segregates us
You recently spent some time in the US, attending the annual AR Conference. Can you tell us about your experience, what you learned and how activism in Australia may be different from what you saw there?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time networking, speaking, performing, attending vegan and Animal Rights events, making wonderful friends, train and road trips, and interviewing inspiring vegans. Plus not to mention the great food I ate and the wonderful animals I met eg Squirrels! I’ve blogged about my travels, maybe that would be the best way for others who don’t know about my adventures to find out as I could go on about this for ages. My 2010 Adventures starts here and my 2011 adventures starts here. There’s a Podcast as well (see iTunes) and I’m currently proofreading my USA Adventures book – keep your eyes and ears peeled for that. It will be a bit weird not being in the US again this year and not seeing some of my closest friends for almost two years, but I have other adventures to partake in. I will however be back in May 2013 to cross some more States off from my list – I’ve been to 14 out of 50 of the USA states so far.
Sometimes it can seem as though a lot more people are active and a lot more things are happening in the US, but the US has a larger population that Australia does. Plus, there’s always something to do if you know where to look. I learned that our movements are quite similar in many ways. I was mighty worried about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) when I first heard about it and am thankful Australia is not that scary for activists (yet).
A lot of animal sanctuaries do quite well in the US in comparison to here where we don’t have many massively well-known public figures to endorse a particular sanctuary. There were a few things I had to adjust to, such as in Australia an entrée is a starter and the meal before your main course, whereas in the US an Entrée IS the main meal. Gas = Petrol, the light switches go up instead of down to turn on a light, sugar may not be vegan in the US and it is here. There are a lot more straight edge vegans in the US, there’s nothing better than sunsets on road trips (this is valid for wherever I am!), there are just SO many vegan alternatives everywhere in the US, and the Americans are SO obsessed with peanut butter – on everything!
I guess it comes down to this in both countries: within any movement there’s always going to be disorder, in fighting and people who don’t agree with others 100%. You can either let this divide our already small movement, or just get on with the job of outreach and activism in the most effective way you can. All over the world there’s the people who talk and there’s the people who walk. Know which one you are. Change it if you need to. If you don’t feel as though there’s enough activism in your area, get out and meet some new people or start your own activism.
In next year’s Australian federal election, there will be a Brisbane based vegan nominating as an independent Senate candidate. He will be running an entirely electronic campaign, with no paper handouts/throwouts. His environmental platform talks about the use of solar and wind farms etc. Have you considered not using paper in your advocacy, and will you be supporting this candidate, in the upcoming election?
Green Earth Group
Some people don’t have computers and some don’t have mobile devices. Sometimes I have to change or re-direct my tactics towards the most effective ways of engaging with others. Green Earth Group tries to spread the message to people who are not like me in various ways. We have video viewings, letter writing, food outreach as well as leafleting and outreach. See our Events list.
We have put on two successful all-vegan festivals, we attend various events and hold market stalls to spread the message and encourage more paid members. We also have had great success with the Green Earth Group handouts I’ve created including All About ‘Zines, Letter Writing Tips, Food Outreach, Forks Over Knives, plus Baking Tips.
We used to not leaflet for the environmental reasons but a lot of people still prefer to have something that they can hold, some people don’t have access to online materials, and leafleting is still a very effective way to spread the vegan message in quite an easy way. Fill a bag with vegan brochures and hand them out the next time you’re in the City or at the train station or somewhere with a high traffic area.
The reason I changed my mind with my views on leafleting was after I found out that Nathan Runkle had gone vegan from a Why Vegan? leaflet he was given. Nathan has gone on to form Mercy for Animals and they have done so much that I think is great vegan outreach, especially in regards to their undercover work and the Farm to Fridge campaign. If I/Green Earth Group can inspire one person to be vegan who ends up doing even half of what Nathan has done, then that’s grand and that’s why I support leafleting.
Green Earth Group just printed our last Members Magazine this month. You can View here and Download here. We have always had the PDF downloads on our shop that non-members can buy for AU$2. This is a step towards our online magazine which is one of our mid-long term goals. The short-term goal is to launch our new GreenEarthGroup.org website with various regular writers and contributors providing content on all things green. If you’re interested in writing for Green Earth Group get in contact with me.
The majority of our paid Members are under 55. Not to be ageist, but for those who are over 55 a large percentage of them do not have access to email, the Internet or mobile devices. But most importantly, they do not WANT to have access to them. So obviously the print medium still works for people like this, but it is fast slowing down. The print vs online dilemma is an ongoing issue for many groups and businesses.
I support anyone who is using their skills and expertise to help the animals and market veganism more into the mainstream. Teachers who provide a positive example of veganism to their students, Lawyers who are working with legislations that exists and Politicians who are trying to create new legislations that better help our animal friends. I personally support MPs and Senators who are involved in the community and who I’ve seen get their hand dirty on a variety of issues from various groups in the community. So, someone who will benefit the community, who has proven over time that they help the community, who’s in the game to give back to the community and not for the acclaim, then yes, I would support them. Not just because they are vegan.
As an Independent candidate, it’s quite hard to get into the Senate without major Party support and the preference deals Parties are able to make. In case my overseas friends don’t know, Australian people vote for Parties not People. Plus a candidate would need solid Networks across the State and a huge campaigning budget. Even some high-profile Queenslanders would have a hard time getting the 300 000 votes needed to get a seat in the Senate. Most Independents get about 15 000 or less.
Also, though I commend the paperless campaign goal, the majority of voters have no idea until they get to the voting booths who they will actually vote for – until they get that piece of campaign material. From a marketing perspective, the paperless campaign also depends on your target demographic. Not everyone has access to the Internet, emails or mobile devices – or wants to eg many people over 55. Good luck and great question!
Green Earth Group has held showings of movies such as Crude, which was focused on the impact of crude oil on the planet, and the movie Dive, about dumpster diving, which condoned consumption of animal products. Are these two movies aligned with your own beliefs, and if not, what is your goal in showing these movies?
Green Earth Group was created primarily to focus on educating the mainstream to environmental issues. It is NOT a vegan group. There are a lot of vegans who come along to our events, who volunteer and who are paid members, but not as a rule. We screen quite a varied selection of videos that you can see here.
As I said above, in the initial question, I am just as passionate about pollution, clean water, human rights, multinational power (Crude) and overconsumption and waste (Dive) as I am about veganism and animal rights. I believe that all of these things are just as important as the other – some don’t agree with me on this – that’s their prerogative.
There are a lot of things I could pick apart if I wanted to. I try very hard to see the positive aspects in all situations and even though some of the parts in some of the documentaries we screen I may not agree with, I do agree more so with the fact of providing education. My goal therefore would be to educate others to as many issues that exist and for others to make up their own minds. Don’t let mainstream media, multinational corporations or even me (!!) tell you what to do. Trust your instincts and your heart to do what is right every time.
You’re known as an environmentalist and you work on issues and initiatives such as Earth Hour. Do you think that animal rights advocates are involved enough in the environmental movement? Do you think that the general public assumes that environmentalists and animal rights advocates always share the same goals?
I do hope that all movements will be more open to other avenues of activism. A lot of vegans and Animal Rights Activists don’t tend to work well with/in other movements. I know a lot of vegans who don’t want to be associated with the “hippy” culture of the environmental movement. I know a lot of environmental people who don’t want to be associated with the “anarchists”, “health freaks” and/or antagonists in the vegan movement.
I think the mainstream public sees a lot of these movements as similar if not the same due to (if nothing else) the going against the grain of the mainstream views. Sometimes it’s hard to be involved in other groups and open up to other ways of thinking, but I do think it’s essential to move forward, as in my opinion they’re all connected.
It may be old news now, but some time ago there was quite a furore in Australia over the slaughter of Australian cows in Indonesia. What good, if any, for other animals has come about as a result of all the news coverage and publicity, and do you support Animals Australia and the RSPCA’s campaign to end this live export and send frozen bodies overseas instead?
This was a massive media event in Australia. The day after this programme was screened on our free to air TV station, the most popular hashtag (#) on Twitter was related to live trade. Letters pages in newspapers, talkback radio stations and even our parliament were in overdrive. The programme was even repeated a few days after for those who had missed it the first time.
Animals Australia created the media event based around their own content (the footage) and then utilised their websites and information online to further educate people about the matter.
The advertising afterwards by Animals Australia and RSPCA targeted our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and used this as a lobbying tool, which got her attention. It caused a LOT of havoc for the livestock industry. A lot of people shared this programme and the information. A lot of people spoke about something they knew nothing about before. A lot of people cared about this issue and I saw a lot of people on Social Media websites say they were now vegan.
Groups need to get their topic into the public eye. Animals Australia did this. Once something relating to the use and abuse of our animal friends is in the public eye, it’s up to every one of us to use this to argue our facts about veganism and promote the changes we so desperately need.
Do you support the Animals Australia/RSPCA campaign asking for the cows in this expose to be killed on Australian soil, and sent, frozen, overseas?
I support veganism and the promotion of a vegan diet and lifestyle through various forms of outreach and advocacy.
I personally really just love being around people who are doing things and not just talking about the way others are doing things wrong, so a lot of the people I'm drawn to are people who are inspiring with their actions. The interviews where neither of us took ourselves seriously are also great. I can't really choose a favourite - you'll have to help! Here's the link for my US interview and here's the AU ones.
I really don't particularly like EVERY aspect of any group to be honest, but I like great tactics and outreach from various groups: Mercy For Animals, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and in Australia, I just love Patty Mark and her dedicated team at Animal Liberation Victoria.
As a feminist vegan, how would you compare the effectiveness, in terms of impact and notice ability, of your outreach events when compared to the stunts such as PETA’s lettuce ladies, their new XXX adult site and other such tactics from PETA?
I guess it depends on your target audience and on what you're trying to promote. I prefer outreach, advertising and videos more about the Cause not the Conversation. Most people know that sexism sells in our mainstream society. But I do prefer tactics that are classy, clever and don’t push one cause over other causes.
I do know that PETA sends out a huge amount of vegan information due to people who visit their websites. I do hope that the people who they are trying to target get the right message. I'm personally unsure of what it is a lot of times... Maybe it's: The more offensive, the higher probability there is of something going viral. Maybe. Is it okay to me? No. I don't really like to compare anything or anyone as I don't think that helps. But, I guess when our Green Earth Group volunteers dressed up as animals and I was Bo Peep for World Farm Animal Day, there was a lot more interaction than simply just handing out brochures. Here's the pics if you're interested.
I saw that you posted some great photos of other animals with captions in a series you call Love us by not eating us. Some activists claim that we need to show people the gruesome reality in the slaughterhouses and battery cages if we’re going to get them to change. I’m guessing that you don’t believe that. What’s your position on the kinds of materials we ought to be presenting.to the general public?
Yes the art pieces I submitted for Paper Girl (see question 2 above) I also scanned and uploaded to FaceBook. I had great responses from this and there's some others coming soon. I really wanted to link the gorgeous photos of the animals with basic facts relating to humans and a call to action. eg. a photo of a pig would have “Pigs are very similar to dogs as they are incredibly intelligent, friendly and loyal.” And “Love us by not Eating Us” and they are also t-shirts. Clothing Outreach is also very effective - just ask our friend Gary Smith!
I spoke about this at the Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR about how to keep things positive as much as you can. But obviously there's some footage and imagery that we want others to see.
So, I suggested that you show the heavy stuff and follow it up with a "How You can Help" section so that people don't feel completely overwhelmed and miserable. Rather ready to use the anger to help our animal friends. Some examples would be to share a video or photo of a rescued pig - if you've just shared some undercover footage/photos - and a link to some animal sanctuaries that you can visit, volunteer at and support.
I think animal sanctuaries are a very effective way of getting people to meet and connect to others. A lot of people - including vegans - have never actually met a "farm" animal before!
Do you support the Australian Government’s Carbon Tax/Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that is going to start on 01 July, and do you think it will have any impact on the way that people use polluting resources? For those on tight budgets, will they continue doing what they are doing, basically robbing Peter to pay Paul, by going without in other areas.
I definitely agree that large businesses/industries should pay for "balancing" somewhat the destruction they create. Is this going to be effective though?
At present the media seems to be focused on scare tactics to put people off a serious debate without emotions involved. It's the "hippy" greenies –vs- the "real" workers and I don't think that helps at all. I'm really worried for my State of Queensland after our last election. Our new Premier is quite intent on destroying almost all of the great environmental habitats - that are great for tourism - at the expense of industry. It's very concerning. I personally don't think that the industries and the big corporations who cause the most destruction and emissions will be affected. I'd like to see how it will realistically change for average people. Time will tell I guess.
I think a lot of us know that by changing to a vegan diet and lifestyle that we can help the environment a lot more than the other things we're told to do: use less water when you shower, change your light globes for more energy efficient ones etc. But it's a hard one. I think you need to focus on the purse strings.
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