Activist Profile: Jeff Boghosian
As we continue to profile our top Adopt a College leafleters, this week we turn to Richmond, VA activist Jeff Boghosian. During the 2004– 2005 school year, Jeff handed out a total of 4,997 Vegan Outreach booklets directly to college students. When not leafleting at colleges by himself, Jeff is actively involved with Compassionate Action For Animals out of Richmond and also involves himself with human rights causes.
What made you decide to start leafleting, and, if you were nervous the first time, how did you get over it?
I decided to start leafleting because
I was searching for new ways to
reach people in an effective and
direct way, but not through the
media. To me, promoting veganism
is about getting people to make
different choices – but first they
need to hear our message. So instead
of protesting or going through the
media, both of which have their
places, I decided the best thing
to do is to distribute flyers –
asking people directly if they'll
learn about the issue and consider
I was definitely very nervous in the beginning. Regrettably, my first box of Why Vegan? booklets sat in my closet for close to a year before I started. I got over my nervousness by realizing that it's just something that has to be done if we want more people to go vegan. I recognized that the VO brochures were accurate and effective, and also that there is nothing wrong with offering people information in a friendly way. I think most people don't want to cause animal suffering, and even though they may ‘like the taste of meat,’ they will be open for change if we present it the right way.
In my first time leafleting, I started small. I first searched for a place where I’d feel comfortable. I leafleted from the side of the sidewalk, skipping anyone who was in a hurry or who looked even remotely intimidating, and especially looking for people who made eye contact. I found that some people were curious and wanted to take a brochure regardless of what it was, while others didn’t want one. Once I started, the nerves (mostly) went away.
Why do you leaflet colleges?
I think leafleting colleges is the most effective way to reduce animal suffering. Young people are more likely to go veggie than the rest of the population, and it’s easy to reach them in large numbers at colleges. On a practical note, I believe younger people have a greater opportunity to pass vegetarianism on to their next generation since they have yet to create families and raise kids. Leafleting requires that accurate and compelling leaflets actually exist. Luckily they do, and VO produces some of the best. :)
What was your most positive college leafleting experience this year and why?
It’s hard to choose just one because I found every leafleting session to be positive, but for many different reasons. It’s gratifying whenever someone says they have become vegetarian because they previously received a brochure, or when students later pass by and sincerely thank me for giving them the info. Some days I might not get into any conversations, but still find it positive because I’m able to pass out many more brochures than I expected.
I especially find it liberating to leaflet schools where I am concerned I wouldn’t fit in because of my age or race, or fear that I will not be well received because of the conservative nature of the school. These days are usually the most rewarding.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
If you are hesitant about leafleting
because you are nervous, I would
suggest waiting for a day when you
are happy and confident, and then
find a place to leaflet where you
feel the most comfortable. Don’t
put expectations on yourself, and
if you get anxious or frustrated
because some students don’t take
one or because someone makes a comment,
take a break to regain your composure.
While leafleting I like to keep in mind that only some people will be immediately affected by it, even though we may pass out hundreds of booklets. It’s very similar to a mass mailing. It’s best to be polite and don’t get into any arguments, and just be your positive self. Keep the faith that over time we will start major change this way.
I was also personally hesitant because I know learning about factory farming will undoubtedly cause anguish and anger in people, and I’d rather not be the messenger. But animal suffering is real, and needs to be addressed both for the animals’ sake and because most people aren’t living true to themselves when they support factory farming. So even though the brochure will evoke uncomfortable feelings and possibly anger, I think most people will ultimately think it a good thing to have personally addressed the issue.
Also, if you are hesitant, the Adopt a College email list is very useful for tips and questions, and also to stay motivated.
How long have you been involved in animal rights, and how did you get interested in this?
I’ve been involved in animal rights for 6 years now. I got interested in animal rights after learning about factory farming, and became active right away in vegetarian outreach.
What was the last good book you read?
Because of activism and my recent addiction to blogs, I haven’t read many books lately. But being a political junkie, I liked The President of Good and Evil by Peter Singer.