Activist Profile: Jodi Chemes
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I am from Rochester, NY which is where I first got involved with a group called Compassionate Consumers. I was their campaign coordinator at the time that they produced the documentary "Wegmans Cruelty" about an open rescue of egg laying hens. I now live in New Port Richey, FL (40 minutes northwest of Tampa).
What do you do for relaxation / entertainment, and what was the last good book you read?
I like to hike, kayak and bike. I also read a lot and watch movies. Playing games and hanging out with friends seems to relax me the most. The last good book I read was The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
Matt Ball, Jon Camp, Jack Norris and everyone at VO of course! Vegan Outreach is what I spend most of my time on because I feel it is the most effective way to help end animal suffering. Matt Ball’s essay A Meaningful Life really helped me not to panic that I wasn’t doing enough, and to focus my efforts on what really makes the most difference for animals. Also, Joe Espinosa, a fellow VO leafleter, has been there for me when I need a motivational speech. And Erik Marcus, another VO leafleter and author of Meat Market coached me about the animal rights movement and what I could do to help when I first went vegan.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
I’ve been involved for a little over 3 years. I got interested after seeing a video of a sheep being shorn and then subsequently thrown over a fence. For some reason when I saw that, it all clicked for me. I thought, wow, if they are doing that to sheep, what are they doing to chickens, cows, pigs, and turkeys? I researched my question, did not like what I saw, and realized that I had to do something to help end their suffering.
What made you decide to start leafleting? If you were nervous the first time, how did you get over it?
I decided to start leafleting because I realized I had a responsibility to spread the word about farm animal suffering. I knew these animals could not wait until the rest of the world stumbled across a video on the internet like I did. I began leafleting when I was involved in the "Wegmans Cruelty" campaign. I used to hand out cards with our website on them. Subsequently I was introduced to Vegan Outreach and Adopt a College through my fellow Compassionate Consumers’ members. Yes, I was nervous the first time I leafleted, and to some extent still get a little nervous. I just tell myself that these animals need me; if I were one of them, I would want someone to overcome their nerves and shyness to speak up for me. Another way to overcome nerves is to just try leafleting to one person and use a simple phrase such as "Info on helping animals?" Once I hand out one or two leaflets, my nerves immediately go away, because I realize I am accomplishing my goal of raising awareness and that is a good feeling!
What was your most positive leafleting experience this year and why?
My most positive leafleting experience was at the University of South Florida in Tampa. A young man came up to me and said, "Hey, I just wanted you to know that you gave me one of those last semester and I went vegetarian. Thank you." I have positive experiences every time I leaflet because there are always people who thank me for being there or who take an obvious interest in the material.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
It is hard to put ourselves out there sometimes because we are afraid someone will make fun of us or be rude to us. However, just remember that this is very rare. I’ve handed out thousands of leaflets and 99% of the time the interactions are positive. I’ve learned to brush off the negative ones and just let them walk away. Also, just remember this one phrase that I think I picked up from Chicago activist, Omnia Ibrahim: "That’s ok, I just want you to read this." It pretty much works with every comment you could possibly get from people. Also remember that the animals are counting on us to speak up for them. The people we hand leaflets to might otherwise never have been exposed to this issue, and might not have changed their eating habits to help animals had you not given them a leaflet. That is powerful!