Activist Profile: Steve Erlsten
February 13, 2013
Continuing our series of activist profiles, we chat with SoCal-based Steve Erlsten, who is currently on tour, leafleting throughout the Northwest!
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Ohio, I grew up in Orlando, Florida, and I have spent the past year in Los Angeles. I still miss Florida’s springs, but I’ve been amazed by the waterfalls in Southern California!
What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?
I love hiking, especially exploring waterfalls and taking in the incredible ocean and mountain views in the area. My girlfriend and I recently discovered some amazing natural hot springs that are perfect for soaking in after a long hike!
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
I first got into animal rights when I was ten years old, when I learned about the horrible abuse happening in factory farms. I went vegetarian and later vegan, but it wasn’t until years later that I became an active advocate for animals. In 2005 I moved back to Orlando, found an amazing animal rights community, and started leafleting and helping to organize the Central Florida Veg Fest and Central Florida Earth Day festivals in Orlando.
What made you decide to start leafleting?
Animal Rights Foundation of Florida organizers Bryan and Carla Wilson introduced me to leafleting, and I was blown away by how easy and effective it could be! Some of my favorite events were the huge Independence Day celebrations in Orlando. We went to concerts, art festivals, and busy downtown corners. In a matter of hours, I could hand out hundreds of leaflets, inspiring compassion in others! Every meal is important, but I realized that I could have a far greater impact in a couple of hours than I will with every meal I eat for the rest of my life! The power of influencing others is tremendous! Simply put, leafleting is the most effective way most individuals can reduce animal suffering.
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
Leafleting at Southern California college campuses has been amazing.
Almost every day I hear from someone who went vegan after receiving a Vegan Outreach leaflet last semester or last year. My standout favorite moment was at Riverside Community College, where a student in the afternoon said he had gotten a leaflet in the morning and he couldn’t eat meat any more! He was inspired and ready to make a change, and I was there to hand him a Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating that afternoon! I know I plant seeds of compassion with every hour of leafleting, but it was incredible to see that seed sprout on the spot!
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
It took me a couple of hours to get comfortable approaching strangers, and now it’s second nature. I forced myself to get over my own discomfort, because I knew it was nothing compared to the discomfort of the animals who still need me to plead their case. I was surprised how quickly my worries faded away. I quit worrying about answering difficult questions, because it never hurts to admit I don’t have all the answers. I quit worrying about being rejected, because it’s not a sign of failure – there is always someone else coming down the sidewalk! I quit worrying about security, because it’s easy to find a public sidewalk where we are allowed to leaflet. I quit worrying and started making a difference for the animals. A big difference! I’m proud of my small share of responsibility for Americans’ declining meat consumption. I hope everyone who cares about animals will put aside their worries and help us make that decline even steeper!