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Activist Profile: Dawn Ratcliffe

January 16, 2013

Continuing our series of activist profiles, we interview Dawn Ratcliffe, a longtime leafleter (over 100,000 reached, and counting!) and VO’s 2013 Southeast Coordinator!

Dawn Ratcliffe at UA

Where are you from and where do you live now?

Although I was born in Maryland, I grew up in Myrtle Beach, SC and Charlotte, NC, and currently reside in Orlando, FL.

What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?

I enjoy hiking, watching way more than my share of television shows and movies (especially horror) with our kitties, and eating delicious vegan food. Exploring historic neighborhoods, quaint downtowns, parks and wilderness areas are also favorite pastimes. I love traveling, and plan to do it a lot more.

Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?

My parents’ belief in the fact that I can do anything I put my mind to and their incredible support of me has definitely influenced me to be a better person. My dad taught me the importance of hard work, determination, and giving back to others, while my mom raised me to value honesty, openness, and communication. All of my friends have impacted me on so many levels – I’m grateful for the different things they’ve taught me. I have learned an incredible amount about outreach and strategy from my husband, Jeff Boghosian, and my best friend, Suzanne McMillan, and I am thankful for their compassion, support, and loyalty and couldn’t imagine my life without them in it.

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

I got involved in animal rights in 1994 through a cat and dog adoption group that served the Charlotte, NC and Chester, SC areas. However, I first started thinking about my diet when a friend (who was actually not a vegetarian) a couple of years prior had asked me, “If you love cats and dogs so much and wouldn’t eat them and are opposed to hunting and fishing, why do you continue to eat animals?” I also saw going vegetarian – and vegan six months later in 1995 – as a natural extension of my concern for humans and sustainability issues; I felt that I was simply broadening my circle of compassion by including all animals. This shift in my attitude was definitely influenced in part by critical thinking, English, and communication courses that I took at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte while pursuing my undergraduate degree.

What made you decide to start leafleting?

Having done a considerable amount of tabling, event organizing, and other forms of activism, I came to realize that just because a particular project requires countless hours of preparation, doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective and efficient use of time. And while leafleting may lack the glamour of other types of outreach, it is not only one of the best uses of time but one of the simplest forms of activism for effecting change. The work of Vegan Outreach definitely had an impact on me, although I didn’t quite understand how college leafleting could be so impactful until I actually did it.

What was your most positive leafleting experience?

There have been so many over the years, but it was an outing in September of 2012 at the University of North Florida that had a profound impact on me and reminded me how important this work is. A woman shared with me a story about two pet lambs who she had befriended and spent countless hours with every week over the course of two years during her childhood. One day, her parents slaughtered them and then fed them to her before telling her that she was eating her friends. She went vegetarian that day. She was thankful for the Compassionate Choices booklet that I handed her and is committed to going vegan, as she sees it as not being consistent with her values to continue eating animal products, especially when she thinks about her animal friends she lost years ago. Needless to say, we both started crying as she relayed the story to me. Her absolute love for those animals was so intense and her experiences will undoubtedly influence others to make positive dietary and lifestyle changes.

What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?

I would definitely let them know that some days will inevitably be easier and more fun than other days. Also, it’s best to leaflet in a way that’s more sustainable over the long run. And when possible, try to grab a friend to leaflet with, as it makes the experience more enjoyable. I also let folks know that although I’ve been doing this for years, there are still times when I’m somewhat apprehensive before leafleting, but the apprehension almost always fades after I’ve distributed a few booklets.