Activist Profile: Stewart Solomon
August 1, 2007
Where are you from and where do you live now?
As a young child we moved around quite a bit. When I was 9, we moved to San Jose, California where I completed grades 4 through 12. I attended college at UC Santa Barbara. I got married in Santa Barbara and moved to the Los Angeles area.
What was the last good book you read?
I recently read The End of Time by Julian Barbour. He is a physicist who theorizes that time does not actually exist but, in fact, is an illusion of our consciousness. I love reading books like this that deal with the realm of our existence based on what science can tell us so far.
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
The person who has influenced me in ways she probably cannot even imagine is Margie Solomon, my wife of 21 years. She taught me compassion. She taught me over and over again that when someone is in need, we have to help them. And she taught me that animals are loving, feeling, emotional, and intelligent creatures.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
I have been active in animal rights for about 3 years. I had already been vegan for 4 years and vegetarian for 17 years when I read a book called Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm, comparing how most of us perceive the life of farm animals to how their lives actually are. I became an activist after reading an article in the newspaper that described how a nearby factory farm destroyed 30,000 chickens by throwing the beautiful live birds into a running wood chipper. The district attorney dropped all charges against the men responsible, since no laws were broken and the farmers were following the direction of the USDA.
What made you decide to start leafleting? If you were nervous the first time, how did you get over it?
After doing some protests and being somewhat dissatisfied with the perceptions and outcomes, I attended AR2005, a very large conference in Los Angeles. I heard many speakers but was most impressed by the workshops given by Matt Ball and Jack Norris. They spoke about ways of actually saving animals’ lives by taking one or two hours to leaflet on college campuses and at concerts and claimed that one could save many thousands of lives simply by leafleting at these venues. By then I had seen films that showed blood spurting from the head of a dehorned cow, and screaming pigs having their tails sliced away and their ears cut off with scissors without any anesthesia. I had seen and heard pigs and cows being castrated and birds debeaked, and I could not turn my back or cover my eyes.
I ordered some VO leaflets and brought them to Cal State Los Angeles. I found a spot between the library and bookstore, took out my leaflets, and just stood there for a while, very unsure, very nervous. But I just had to do something, and completely unsure as to how students would react, I handed out my first leaflet. A student took the leaflet and thanked me. I handed out a few others and finally someone opened it as they walked and exclaimed, “This is horrible!” So I lost my nervousness and simply handed a leaflet to everyone walking by. Even professors were taking them. I vividly remember one girl taking the leaflet opening it and screaming in horror, then violently throwing it into the trash. But as I glanced into the trash can, it was actually not the leaflet which she disposed of, but rather the untouched chicken sandwich she had just purchased. Later that hour a man approached me asking me questions and I was very comfortable explaining all the facets of factory farming to him. He asked me for seven more leaflets to give to his colleagues at work.
What was your most positive leafleting experience this year and why?
Leafleting UC Santa Barbara, my alma mater, for the first time was extremely enjoyable. Going back to my own beautiful campus during a regular school day, interacting with the students and watching them react to the leaflet was quite spectacular. They open the leaflet and core beliefs they have held since childhood are instantly challenged. And then their feelings of compassion and empathy are suddenly at odds with their habits and tastes and what they perceive as necessary to survive. As a teacher, I take great pleasure in making my students think, and this is no different. From a statistical point of view, my most successful event of the year was leafleting the Morrisey Concert at the Hollywood Bowl. In a few days afterwards, 7 people wrote that they had received a leaflet at that very concert and ordered a vegetarian starter pack! Only counting these particular concert patrons who emailed Vegan Outreach, that’s over 10,000 precious lives saved in just 30 minutes of leafleting!
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
Leafleting might not be the most glamorous form of animal activism out there. In fact, it is downright simple. But it is, by far, the most effective method of raising awareness, making new veggies and vegans, saving lives, and changing the world!