‘Be the Change’: It’s Not Just a Saying!

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

philippine airlines protest

Update: Victory – Philippine Airlines recently issued a statement banning the shipping of primates to laboratories. 

I know I’m not the first person to say this. It’s not a novel idea or a new way of thinking, but I think it deserves to be repeated.

At a protest against Philippine Airlines, I was approached by a man regarding our reason for the protest. I explained to him that the airline had come out with a statement that it did not ship wild-caught, threatened, or endangered primates to labs in which they would be horrifically abused in the name of “science.” I informed him that the statement failed to mention captive-bred primates and also that PETA had obtained documentation to counter the statement, which means that the airline was lying about not shipping threatened species.

After the man grilled me for a few minutes about the evidence and my own personal lifestyle choices regarding food and animal products, he inquired about joining PETA. He added, almost immediately after making that statement, that he was not a vegetarian, so he wasn’t sure if he would be “allowed” to join. I explained to him that any step forward is a step in the right direction. Choose no longer to buy and wear leather, start out with a meat-free meal or day once a week, etc. That he was interested at all in our cause represents an incredible opportunity to make a change.

At another leafleting event targeting the airline, I was approached by two men who worked for the airline. They were not pushy or angry but took my fliers with interest and seemed embarrassed to work for PAL. They even went so far as to turn their badges around and asked, “Are we allowed to talk to you?” I assured them that speaking with me and taking the literature was against no rules and perfectly acceptable.

But these two incidents, only a few days apart, reminded me of the mindset of a lot of people in the general public and even some in the animal-rights community: the ideas that supporting animal rights or belonging to PETA is exclusive instead of inclusive and that people must make an all-or-nothing lifestyle change immediately upon becoming educated or joining PETA. Of course, it would be wonderful if that were always the case, but our world is not a utopia. If it were, PETA would not need to exist.

I lived with a friend and her family for a short time a few years back. They love meat, dairy products, eggs, and everything that comes from animals. However, when my friend saw me cook my “skillet creations,” she became inspired to incorporate a meat-free day into their lives. She is also severely lactose-intolerant, and was encouraged and inspired by the vegan recipes that I would send her on Facebook, even going so far as to seek out and send me some! We have baked together, and I was elated to see her utilize coconut oil and agave nectar over butter and honey.

And that’s the message that we need to focus on, under all the dogma and ideology—that it’s the smallest change that can make a difference. I’m not asking people to quit their jobs if they work for a company that doesn’t have the most ethical business practices. Perhaps you can invoke changes from within. Being an employee means that you are closer to making a change than anyone on the outside. Even if you are not a vegan or vegetarian, you can join PETA, become involved and educated, and start making small changes in your own life, to live more ethically and in accordance with the values of PETA and other organizations like us. You don’t need to bash someone over the head with a DVD or a handful of pamphlets to convince them that a vegan lifestyle is a great choice—just showing them how it works for you, by cooking delicious food or giving them information for alternatives can be enough to cause a shift in their thinking.

Although it risks sounding cheesy (vegan cheese, of course), be the change!! Live a life that inspires or, at the very least, motivates others to seek out knowledge about your passions. You attract more flies with agave than vinegar. Convince a person that vegan food is not just wheat grass and tofu by cooking with them, veganizing their favorite meal, or giving them alternatives. A gentle nudge can be more effective than a forceful shove, and it certainly creates less resistance.

Posted by former intern Sarah Kobel Marquette