Activist Profile: Brian Grupe
August 13, 2008
Vegan Outreach continues to profile some of our top leafleters. This week, we feature Brian Grupe, Vegan Outreach’s man in the northeast. This past school year, Brian handed booklets to over 40,000 students at dozens of different schools.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Northern California. I spent my early childhood in Davis, while my parents attended college. We moved to Sacramento after the birth of my sister. I moved to Boston, MA in April 2008.
What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?
I studied music in college and continue to actively pursue performing. Currently, I sing bass with the Sounds of Concord Barbershop Chorus in Lexington, MA, and play bass guitar and sing in a local rock band. In the past, I’ve played saxophone in musicals, jazz bands and combos, wind ensembles, honor bands, and have had the privilege of performing in Carnegie Hall in NYC. I’ve also sung in some of the oldest and most prestigious concert halls in Europe, and have been a professional Johnny Cash and Elvis impersonator. My musical ambitions have no boundaries! Music aside, I also enjoy working out, being outdoors and enjoying nature, and movies.
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
My mother, sister, and grandmother have been incredibly influential throughout my life. The strength and courage they have shown during hard times inspires and motivates me. I try to live my life with love and compassion based on the examples they have set for me. Also, everyone who works and volunteers for Vegan Outreach inspires me daily to be a better person and activist. Their dedication and perseverance amazes me and sets the bar high for what I know I can personally accomplish with my activism.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
In early 2007, I got an Even If You Like Meat booklet at my college, Sacramento State. I read it and went vegetarian that day. Most of the classes I was taking at that time centered on philosophy, and I decided to research the issue of factory farming and animal rights on my own. I read all the articles written by Jack and Matt on VO’s website and picked up Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. I went vegan soon after that, and emailed Jack to tell him how much of an impact Vegan Outreach had made on me. Jack invited me to leaflet with him at the local Warped Tour stop, in which nearly 5,000 booklets were distributed. I began volunteering and leafleting colleges and high schools in my free time and was offered a job with Vegan Outreach in October of 2007. I have now been with Vegan Outreach for 9 months.
What made you decide to start leafleting?
I decided to start leafleting because I felt that being vegan wasn’t enough to help animals. I carried a huge weight with me knowing all the suffering animals endure on a daily basis and how I had supported that for so many years. I was nervous the first time, but I took it slow. I only handed out 70 leaflets and did it during a quieter time on campus. It made me a lot more comfortable taking it at my own pace. The third person I gave a leaflet to was vegan. He sat down, read the entire booklet, and came back to ask for a few more for his friends. He said he always talked about vegetarianism with them but felt that the Even If booklet could really help in convincing them of his points. This encounter really touched me deeply and at that point I realized how necessary and important leafleting is.
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
I’ve had many great experiences, so I’ll give just one: I leafleted a group of guys in March 2008 in front of Folsom High School, a rich suburban high school near Sacramento. I had prejudged them based on their appearance, and assumed they were going to give me attitude and make rude remarks, but the exact opposite happened. They all opened up a booklet and began silently reading, circled around me. They asked a few questions and started talking as I walked away at how "messed up" the treatment of animals is. I was deeply moved by this encounter and use it as a reminder to myself that everyone deserves a fair chance to be compassionate and understanding of the animals’ plight.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
Start at your own pace. Put yourself in the most comfortable situation possible and leaflet as long as you feel comfortable your first few times. Let yourself grow at your own pace. Eventually, you’ll be like Stewart Solomon – able to hand out 2,700 leaflets to eager college students in a few short hours!
“At Keene State in New Hampshire, I gave an Even If You Like Meat brochure to a young woman who stopped to talk about how disturbed she was with what she saw in the pamphlet. She informed me though that she could never be a vegetarian. I told her that although I would love for her to be vegetarian, since that is the personal choice that prevents the most suffering, simply by reducing her consumption of animal products she could still be helping animals. She liked this and walked off. I later encountered her again and she told me she had called her mom because she was so upset by the images she saw. I gave her a Guide and reminded her once more of what I said before. She told me outright that she was going to do her absolute best to reduce her consumption of animal products, and we parted ways in smiles.
“Why is the way this interaction went important? A few brief reasons. If I had told this young lady that the only thing she could do to help animals in regards to her eating habits was to go vegan, she might have chosen to simply turn a blind eye. Instead, she now feels like she is part of the solution by reducing her consumption. Her awareness of the issue and conscious efforts will spread to everyone she knows. She can explain to them how she has altered her eating habits because of the cruelty involved in factory farming. All of the people she encounters from now on are potential vegans / vegetarians and even activists. If she had decided to turn a blind eye and leave our discussion feeling frustrated with both me and the material, she could very well give a negative ripple effect to all of the aforementioned people, potentially hurting animals more so than before.
“We have the potential as activists in our interactions to not only change one person, but many many more. Some food for thought in how we as spokespeople for the animals should consider communicating with people.”
Brian Grupe, 9/9/08