Activist Profile: Phil Letten
March 24, 2010
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Memphis, TN and moved to Michigan when I was five years old. I have lived in four different cities in Michigan since then and now reside in Howell.
Howell is considered the ex-KKK capital of the Midwest. Though it is still a pretty backward city today, I have met quite a few vegans and vegetarians in the area.
What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?
I like hanging out with my friends and family, working out, partying, going to concerts, reading, riding my bike, breaking hearts, and sleeping in. I have recently gotten into baking. Flying is also really cool. I have a Private Pilot License but have only flown once since receiving it.
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
In regards to animal advocacy, Vic Sjodin has made a huge impact on me. He has taught me how to be more effective in one-on-one conversations and has helped show me that it is more effective to not be so fundamentalist in my approach. We should encourage all steps toward veganism no matter how small. Since I have changed my approach I have seen numerous people close to me go vegan and vegetarian.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
I first learned about factory farming from receiving Vegan Outreach’s Why Vegan? leaflet at a concert around five and a half years ago. After reading the booklet from cover to cover I decided to look up more information online. I came across PETA’s Meet Your Meat documentary and decided I needed to make some changes in my diet. I ordered a Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating from Vegan Outreach and went vegetarian soon after.
I immediately cut down significantly on the amount of dairy products I consumed, though I did not eliminate them all completely right off the bat. After being vegetarian for three years I decided to completely eliminate them and go vegan.
What made you decide to start leafleting?
I began to get involved with the animal rights club at Michigan State University called Students Promoting Animal Rights. Drew Winter, the president, helped me get involved with leafleting for Vegan Outreach. He brought in a bunch of leaflets to a meeting and explained to me how to order them myself.
In the winter of 2007/2008 I handed out my first leaflet. At first I just did it because it was easy. After learning more I began to realize that leafleting is the absolute most effective thing a person can do for animals.
Vegan Outreach is my favorite animal advocacy organization and the one I feel is most effective at reducing suffering: “Vegan Outreach works for maximum change – the greatest reduction in suffering per dollar donated and hour worked” (taken from A Meaningful Life).
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
I have had people tell me they ate something different for lunch, they are going to try to go vegetarian, they are going to try to cut down, they had no idea farm animals were treated like this, etc.
I guess my favorite experience was at the University of Central Florida when I leafleted with Vic Sjodin, Nikki Benoit, and Lana Smithson. Vic handed a girl a leaflet and she immediately threw away her bacon and egg sandwich.
I’ve also enjoyed meeting so many cool and interesting people while leafleting.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
Leafleting is really easy. Just standing in a busy pathway on a college campus for a couple hours can spare thousands of animals a life of suffering. Antagonistic remarks are very rare and easy to ignore. A majority of the kids are receptive.
If you are ready to leaflet but are beginning to have second thoughts, rewatch Meet Your Meat or any other video on factory farming or slaughterhouses. Watching any of those videos will make any hesitation you may have disappear.