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Activist Profile: Mikael Nielsen

Riley and Mikael

September 14, 2011

Continuing our series of activist profiles, today we feature Mikael Nielsen (along with daughter Riley), who’s reached many thousands of individuals (although generally recorded as part of a group) through his dedicated efforts!

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I was born in Aarhus, Denmark and moved to the United States when I was 10. Currently living in a suburb of Chicago.

What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?

Just hanging with my daughter, Riley, and playing with all the rescues that live with me (1 dog, 2 cats, 3 guinea pigs and coming soon…2 mice). Getting in some gym time always feels good.

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

I have always been influenced by my family, but since getting into activism my biggest heroes are people like Nathan Runkle, Jon Camp, and the power couples of Leslie Patterson / Joe Espinosa and Marla Rose / John Beske. Every one of these selfless people has a dedication that is second to none and makes me want to learn and do better each day. Also, Nick Cooney’s book Change of Heart has been a huge influence lately. A must-read for any and all activists!!

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

I made the switch to vegan in 1998 in college, but it wasn’t till 2002 that I first started getting active. That was when I realized that just being vegan wasn’t enough; if I wanted to truly reduce the amount of suffering in the world, I would have to start educating people about where food comes from and the implications of their choices. I started working with a group called EarthSave Chicago, which put on conferences and did tabling events. Just an awesome group of compassionate people. I eventually became their outreach coordinator and it just grew from there. One of my proudest moments was being named Mercy For Animals’ Activist of the Year in 2008.

What made you decide to start leafleting?

Some of my first leafleting was with our COW (Compassion On Wheels) video van back in 2003. We would bring it to different spots in Chicago, play Meet Your Meat and hand out VO literature. It was such a simple, yet very powerful tool, and the more I did it, the more I saw the positive impact it had.

What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?

I don’t really have one great experience, but I always feel really good after any day of leafleting. Even on a day where it feels like I only reached a small number of people, that is less suffering in the world – to be a part of that is pretty neat.

What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?

If my 10-year-old (who’s been doing it since she was 5) can do it, so can you. Don’t think about it too much and just get out there. Read the FAQ section on the VO website and familiarize yourself with the answers. It’s rare that people stop to ask you questions, but it’s a nice confidence boost to know that you are prepared if they do. Read or re-read A Meaningful Life (which I do from time to time). And it might be a little uncomfortable to get out there for the first hour or two, but that is nothing compared to what farm animals endure every second of their whole lives. They are worth it.

Oh and give people the biggest smile you can!