Activist Profile: Barbara Bear
November 11, 2009
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota. I’ve lived in Boulder, Colorado since 1995.
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
Farmed animals and animals in general are the major influence in my life. The choices I make on a daily basis are driven by whether or not it will cause harm to them. I feel like my purpose on the planet is to help eliminate as much suffering as possible, and since animals being raised for food suffer immensely and in the greatest numbers, alleviating their suffering is my main focus in life.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
I became a vegetarian in 1990, but other than writing letters in support of animals and talking to friends, family and coworkers about going veg, I didn’t really become an activist until 2002. It was then that I became involved in a campaign to make the city of Boulder into a wildlife sanctuary in order to save prairie dogs, pigeons and other animals who were being poisoned. From there I branched out into protesting against the rodeo, circus, animal testing, fur stores, etc.
What made you decide to start leafleting?
While there were some successes in getting people to consider the animals’ plight during protests, they were few and far between. I started thinking about the number of animals who suffer to become food (which far exceeds the number of animals suffering and dying for all other reasons combined) and decided to make promoting veganism my main focus. I wanted to do what I could to alleviate the most suffering. I began tabling for farmed animals and showing Meet Your Meat on campus with a couple of local activists on a regular basis and that spun off into leafleting on campus. It makes so much sense now to leaflet a more receptive crowd. I only wish I’d come to that conclusion earlier in my activism.
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
There’s not a single experience that was the most positive, but I always love to hear from someone that they’ve gone vegetarian or vegan because of reading a leaflet. I also enjoy the “turnaround” conversations where a person is initially hostile towards the message but by the end of the conversation they leave with a leaflet or at least wearing a smile on their face.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
I’m a shy person but felt like I had to do more to help farmed animals, so I forced myself to give leafleting a try. Of course I was nervous, but it got easier every time I did it. Everyone is nervous their first time out. If you can find a friend to go with you, that will help a lot. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers, just speak from your heart and keep the focus on the animals’ suffering when people ask questions.
Something else that might help is to take yourself out of the equation when you’re leafleting so you don’t feel personal rejection when someone refuses a leaflet. Think of yourself as a vending machine for compassion. ;) If a person passes by without taking a leaflet it’s no big deal because the next person might be happy to get one.
I used to feel awkward and even a bit sly offering people brochures that contained pictures of animals suffering. Then I realized that going vegan was the best decision I’ve ever made, so now I feel as if I’m giving people a gift when I give them a leaflet. And of course you’re giving the animals the best gift you can by asking people to consider their plight.
I have to say that every time I go out to leaflet I’m SO glad I did. Even if I don’t have any particularly wonderful interactions, I know I’m planting seeds of compassion and creating awareness about the treatment of farmed animals. Over time, with enough of us leafleting, we’ll create a whole new culture of compassion. And as a bonus, you’ll feel less frustrated about how animals are currently treated because you’re doing something about it.
My biggest tip is to smile your best smile when you’re out there – it makes the leaflets disappear much faster.