Activist Profile: Amanda Schemkes
April 27, 2011
Where do you live?
I live in the Seattle area.
What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?
Other forms of animal rights activism, reading, writing, spending time with my family and friends, cuddling with my dog (rescued from death row) and watching her get to be happy, road trips, listening to music, having long talks, working out, going on amazing hikes and other adventures, laughing.
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
In regard to activism, Dave Bemel of Action for Animals is a major influence. It was through working with him for Action for Animals that I really got involved in activism and I learned a lot about grassroots vegan and animal rights outreach. His trust and support helped me to become less shy about doing outreach and to see what I was capable of accomplishing, and working with someone as driven as Dave helps to keep my expectations for myself high. I’m lucky to know many other inspiring activists as well, and to have always had an amazing amount of support from my family.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
It started when I was five. A friend told me that meat came from killing animals. I didn’t want animals to die so that I could eat them, so I stopped eating meat that day. In college, I learned about all of the issues surrounding the exploitation of animals and knew that I had to be vegan. It wasn’t a choice as much as something I knew I had to do, and that feeling carried into my getting involved in animal rights activism. My first exposure to activism was visiting the Action for Animals booth at Warped Tour, and I was so excited to see that I wasn’t alone in wanting to help animals. I started doing things on my own like writing letters to companies that use animals, then eventually got involved with the animal rights group at my university, and then with Action for Animals.
Why do you leaflet?
I leaflet because I believe in the value of one-on-one engagement with people about important issues; education and awareness must be at the core of real social change. You never know who you’re going to affect and what impact they will then go on to make – I want to do something that gives people that chance to have their thoughts opened to truly considering animals, and something like an informational booklet can be a great start to that.
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
I love leafleting at Warped Tour, mostly because it’s outreach to young people. I do a lot of leafleting from the Action for Animals booth on tour, and seeing teenagers look at the information can be an incredible experience. There are kids who will stand there and read through the whole booklet; sometimes they’ll end up in tears. Whatever they’re feeling, the emotion is clear on their faces and it’s a very inspiring and humbling experience to watch the moment that a young person becomes aware of what animals go through and know that day changed their life.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
I get nervous, too! I’m naturally pretty shy, and when I leaflet I still get nervous about offering the first booklet to someone. So I tell other people what I tell myself – it’s okay to be nervous, but what’s important is to remember that you’re doing this for a reason bigger than you. No matter how I’m feeling, I know that the animals’ need for help is so much more important and I want to be there for them. If you really think about what they’re going through, passing out booklets doesn’t seem so scary. You literally have the power to change and save lives by leafleting, so embrace that and your hesitation will decrease with every thank you and smile that you get from someone. And remember that you’re not alone: there are a lot of other activists – people you haven’t even met – who support you and are in this fight with you and the animals.