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Activist Profile: Anonymous

July 27, 2005

As we continue to profile the top leafleters in our Adopt a College campaign, this week we turn our attention to an anonymous Chicago acivist. Throughout the 2004–2005 school year, this person has handed out 5,885 Vegan Outreach booklets directly to college students. A prolific person, they also spends their time leafleting concerts and high schools, giving out free vegetarian food at Chicago festivals and running a weekly public access cable program that promotes vegetarianism.

What made you decide to start leafleting and if you were nervous the first time, how did you get over it?

I decided to give leafleting a try after Josh Balk of HSUS and Jon Camp of VO explained to me how effective leafleting is by quoting the numbers of vegetarian starter guide requests that came in as a result of their work. I couldn't argue with those numbers, so I had Jon leaflet with me one day.

At first, I was extremely nervous and very pessimistic about leafleting. I was not sure how individuals would react although I got over the nerves by going out with others as much as possible. It also helped that most people I leafleted were actually quite friendly.

Why do you leaflet colleges?

I try to promote vegetarianism as big business promotes products: I target my message to audiences that are the most receptive. It became very clear to me, after leafleting several times, that young people are very receptive. This makes sense, particularly on college campuses where students are learning about their world and challenging previously held viewpoints. But why leaflet instead of using other forms of outreach? Well, leafleting is cost-effective and easy; I can reach hundreds of students in under an hour. The emails from people who write to say they have gone vegetarian after receiving a leaflet make it all worthwhile.

What was your most positive college leafleting experience this year and why?

Well, my favorite experiences used to be when I would hear a passerby say, “Thanks for being here,” or “I’m vegetarian!” Now, however, I really enjoy visiting schools that are a harder sell. I remember just six years ago, before I was vegetarian, when I made fun of a person leafleting vegetarian literature on my college campus. I was extremely defensive, because somewhere deep inside me I knew that eating meat was causing suffering and that I should change. I didn’t want to change, so I closed myself off until years later. Now, as a leafleter myself, I’d rather hear defensive reactions than apathetic or even supportive comments. This way I know that I am hitting a crowd that needs to be hit.

What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?

For me, I just had to focus on how effective leafleting actually is. Looking at the numbers of estimated vegetarians created through leafleting on Vegan Outreach’s website really helps. It might also help if we ask ourselves, "If I were a pig in a gestation crate, what would I want vegans to do?"

How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested in this?

I’ve been involved in the animal protection movement for five years. It all started when I learned of a feral cat colony in my hometown that originated with one woman failing to spay or neuter her cats. Upon meeting the woman, I was infuriated that she did not want to take the time to catch and spay or neuter the feral cats, but she continued to feed them to make herself feel like she was helping. Thirty cats later, the anger she aroused in me was enough to get me active by going vegetarian and eventually starting an AR group at the University of Illinois. After three years of working on dissection issues at U of I, I learned about Vegan Outreach’s argument for spreading vegetarianism while at Animal Rights 2001 conference. Voila, here I am!

What was the last good book you've read?

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers.

Please name a major influence in your life and why he or she is such.

Jon Camp, Ariel Nessel and Nora Kramer. They all help me refine my activism to be more effective for animals, and inspire me to live a balanced, happy life.