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Activist Profile: Cobie deLespinasse

March 28, 2012

Continuing our series of activist profiles, we move northwest to meet Cobie deLespinasse, who is closing in on 13,000 individuals reached.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up in Adrian, Michigan, lived in the Lansing Michigan area, and now live in Corvallis, Oregon.

What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?

I like playing viola, singing, puppets, walking in Oregon’s outdoors, and hanging out with my housemates and other friends.

What other activities are you involved in?

I belong to Congregational United Church of Christ. I’m in a group called Unlike Minds, which brings together people with different political views to have friendly conversations. In recent years I’m increasingly spending time learning about various issues that affect humans and other animals.

Who is a major influence in your life?

1. My parents: They introduced me at an early age to issues that affect others, and taught me to help others and to think very carefully about issues.

2. Nettie Schwager: I went vegan shortly before I moved to Oregon, and after I’d been here a few years I joined a group where I could meet other vegans like Nettie. Nettie taught me a whole lot and introduced me to activism. She and I very frequently leaflet together.

3. Vegan Outreach has been a major influence: Most important is what the organization does for the animals, but they also give us leafleters a chance to make a big difference. Vegan Outreach has helped make the past few years a very exciting time for me.

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

I think it was shortly after reading The Vegetarian Handbook by Gary Null that I went vegan.

I had been vegan for more than a decade when I heard Nettie telling someone at a vegan dine-out about a thing she was doing called leafleting – which I hadn’t heard of. I expressed interest in leafleting with her. This was the first time I’d been very involved in activism.

What made you decide to start leafleting?

I leaflet because I’m glad so many of today’s college students are given information about this issue, and I hope someday all of the students will be given this information. A lot of students tell me they really didn’t know what was happening until we opened their eyes.

What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?

No one positive experience, but a number of people have told us they moved toward a plant-based diet because of booklets we gave them.

What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?

I was hesitant about leafleting, for two reasons. First, I am awkward and often forget to make eye contact. Before I started leafleting, I wondered whether I should practice making eye contact for a few months before I tried to leaflet, because I was afraid I couldn’t be effective. Then I decided to go ahead and try leafleting, and many people took the booklets from me. I’ve been leafleting ever since. The fact is that most of the however-many-thousand booklets I gave out, I actually didn’t make eye contact with the people, and if I can improve on this in the future it will surely increase the take rate. But I’m very glad I didn’t wait to start leafleting until I was perfect.

The second reason I was hesitant about leafleting was that, although I had been vegan for the animals for more than a decade, I wasn’t sure when I started leafleting what I thought about the so-called “humane meat” issue. But I decided that people should have an opportunity to find out about what was happening to the animals, and I didn’t need to wait to start leafleting until I understood every aspect of animal issues.

Some suggestions: Try reading the Notes from Our Members in Vegan Outreach’s enewsletters, or suggestions on the Adopt a College and Vegan Outreach websites, to get some ideas on how to leaflet. Join the Adopt a College leafleting list to get support from others. One thing that may have helped me was that the first several times I leafleted were at showings of Food, Inc. at a fairly small movie theater where I usually handed out 20 or fewer booklets; I wasn’t trying to leaflet for hours.