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Activist Profile: Yuri Mitzkewich

March 7, 2012

Continuing our series of activist profiles, we look down south to the master of public transportation, Yuri Mitzkewich.

Yuri Mitzkewich

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m from Philadelphia, PA. Calling Miami, FL home for the last 12 years now.

What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?

I like playing reggae music, as well as outdoorsy stuff like hiking in the Everglades, biking with Critical Mass, and kayaking in the Florida Keys.

Who is a major influence in your life?

My grandmother Enez Mitzkewich was a big influence, showing me from an early age that supporting animal welfare and environmental issues was important. She always had a stack of donation envelopes piled on her kitchen table that reminded me that even though you may not have a lot of money to spare, there were things that were worth supporting with what you could. It was through her support of groups like PETA and Greenpeace for example, that I came to know the other main influence I’ve got to credit, Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. He was the first to show me that animal welfare and animal rights were not only important to help, but were issues that needed people to care enough to dedicate their lives to supporting.

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

I first began supporting animals by simply donating to groups like my grandmother had. Then around 1998, I began volunteering (with more environmental and conservation issues in mind), canvassing for Greenpeace and taking part in civil disobedience actions by groups like Rainforest Action Network. Eventually I felt the need to become more focused to what were my core interests in my volunteering, deciding then to support animal causes primarily. At the FARM AR conference in 2008, I had my eyes opened to the prime necessity of farm animal issues and forever went vegan then and there. It was two years later at the same conference I decided that the most effective means to addressing the issue was direct advocacy.

What made you decide to start leafleting?

Trying many different forms of activism for years with little tangible effect, I began to think that a more direct form of advocacy was what was needed. With corporations and our government less and less responsive to the public, it occurred to me that convincing individuals of their own involvement in animal suffering was the way to go. People can then discover the contribution they’re making to this, and also their own leverage to change their beliefs and the world for the better. Convincing people of the importance of their choices, and getting them to boycott the industries making their profits off animal exploitation will be the dynamic that will create the biggest difference for animals. Leafleting to me is the most effective means to this end.

What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?

Every time I get out and can get any single person to seriously consider going vegan is, for me, as positive as it gets. Every time I see a person stop what they are doing and read a leaflet – that is the reason I keep doing this, and will continue.

What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?

Join the club! Being hesitant is a condition I think I was probably born with. To get over this, every time I arrive on a campus I take a good 15-minute walk around to get a feeling for the students and their activities. After I’m usually feeling calmer, and after reminding myself of the importance of the information we’re there to share, it gets easier to dive in. It only takes the first leaflet being accepted and from there, the rest is all vegan gravy.