Activist Profile: Lana Smithson
April 21, 2010
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up in Massachusetts, and I currently alternate between Florida and Maine.
What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?
Spending time with friends and family; art (painting); reading; taking walks; traveling (I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to over twenty countries on five continents); scuba diving (though I haven’t gone in a long time).
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
My parents influenced my love for animals. We had quite a variety of animal friends as part of our household while I was growing up.
Years later when I started becoming an activist, my journey was (and still is) influenced by all the wonderful folks at Florida Voices for Animals. Through VO, Matt Ball’s A Meaningful Life was very helpful, and I get daily inspiration from VO’s dedicated and compassionate staff and volunteers.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
In January of 2002, I watched a short video of a cow being dragged to slaughter and I stopped eating meat that day. I went vegan about a month later. I don’t know why it took so long in my life to reach that point. I had always claimed to love animals but didn’t think about the animals in agriculture. Even in college, when my minor was animal science, my mind didn’t really open to the “food animals.” For some reason, seeing that video years later just clicked for me and I had to align my ethics with my food choices. I also felt compelled to get active to raise awareness about the suffering. I believe the images and information in the VO booklets are doing the same for many people as that video did for me.
What made you decide to start leafleting?
After going veg and getting involved with Florida Voices for Animals in 2002, I did a variety of activism: demos, tablings, leafleting, letter writing, producing programs for public access cable TV, and even participating in a couple rescues of pigs and goats. To help the most animals, over time I found leafleting to be a very effective use of time. I started using VO leaflets in 2005 (and even wrote about the Adopt a College program in a Florida Voices for Animals newsletter) but didn’t start reporting the numbers to VO until 2006 when a wonderful fellow leafleter encouraged me. I still participate in other forms of activism but focus on leafleting. It gives me a fantastic sense of accomplishment because of the many positive interactions with people. We’re presenting important information directly to many individuals and answering questions in a non-confrontational way.
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
Every single time is a positive experience! Every single time I’m so glad I went! Every single time there are people thankful for the information.
I’m realistic in knowing that changes in society will be slow, but I feel like I’m part of something big. Positive changes are happening, and the rate of change is increasing.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
If you were suffering you would want someone to help you. Helpless animals are suffering and you can do something about it. That’s powerful. Ultimately, consumer dollars control everything, so we need to present the information directly to the consumers.
Keep in mind that leafleting is tremendously effective and quite easy. Most people will be willing to take a leaflet and some will be extremely thankful. Negative comments are not common. When they happen, don’t worry at all about them; just smile and remind yourself that perhaps sometime in the future, those folks will be willing to hear the message with an open mind. There’s always hope. For that moment, just be friendly and move on to the next person if you feel there won’t be a productive conversation.
Also, even if you go leafleting by yourself you are never truly alone: Other leafleters are out there every day in other areas and we all cheer each other on. You’ll be part of a wonderful team and that is very motivating.
Lastly, in any crowd of people there are many who are potentially interested in the information but they don’t even realize it yet! You’re going to be the one presenting the information that will change their lives and help them on their journey of compassion! They will be grateful to you. Countless animals will be helped. Wow, aren’t you excited? Now get out there!