Vegans practice animal activism every day. Without having to go out of their way, people who eat a plant-based diet promote animal welfare just by what they choose to put on their plate. Of course, many people go above and beyond this simple act, from wearing pro-vegan t-shirts to dedicating their lives to the movement. Alison Cole is among the latter. As a host of the “Animal Voices” radio show and podcast, she has transformed her career into a platform meant to educate, inspire, and engage her community about animal rights issues. She sat down with LIVEKINDLY for an in-depth interview on vegan trends, current animal rights issues, and how anyone can be an advocate for the animals.
The “Animal Voices” podcast is Western Canada’s only radio program devoted to animal advocacy and compassionate living. Cole joined the team in 2009, reporting on everything from vegan trends to animal agriculture and the “pet” industry. She noted that she has seen a huge growth in the popularity of veganism in her nine years with the show. “It’s hard to ignore the stats I am seeing on a weekly, or even daily, basis on how popular veganism is becoming not even just in North America, but especially worldwide, like in the UK, Australia, Germany, and Israel, to name a few countries. This did not exist 9 years ago,” she explained. Cole also mentioned the significance of vegan athletes. “I am seeing more and more rapidly these days the rise of top-performing vegan athletes, which I love to showcase on the show. The more we get the word out there about how amazing the body can perform on a vegan diet, the more people will realize that this could be a beneficial shift in a way of eating (and living), and then that also applies to the animals and the earth,” she noted.
Cole lives and records the show in Vancouver, which she describes as “a vegan bubble;” however, she is not blind to the animal rights issues rampant around the world. She asserted that the animal agriculture industry is the largest injustice committed against animals. Cole noted that 150 billion animals, including marine animals, are slaughtered for food each year. She also mentioned that bycatch was a major issue in fishing – four-fifths of sea life caught is not even meant for consumption, though it gets ensnared in the same nets used for fish.
Cole suggested that the root of the issue is perspective. “It’s often difficult for humans to extend compassion when they hear about these mass killings in the billions of numbers, but when you take one individual animal – say a pig – and place her next to a dog (who we call our companion), and ask ‘Why eat one but not the other?’, it can shift perspective,” she explained. She continued that a shift in perspective is necessary to stop the commoditization of animals. “The worst travesty,” Cole began, “is that animals are still seen as things to use rather than fellow living creatures with whom we share our planet. The shift towards extending compassion outwardly to all living beings needs to happen before the ‘welfare’ of animals used for food can truly be addressed, which would entail not simply looking out for their ‘welfare,’ but for their liberation.”
Despite the atrocities going on in the world, Cole did mention a few victories, particularly in the fields where animals are used for clothing. She praised India for its recent decision to ban the importation of seal furs and skins and acknowledged the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who passed a city-wide ban on fur sales. She also applauded the high-fashion designers who omitted fur from their latest collections and concluded with a nod to her hometown of Vancouver, which voted to no longer keep cetaceans (dolphins and whales) in captivity for entertainment purposes.
According to Cole, gone are the days of timid activism. She said, “Simply asking for larger or more comfortable cages is coming to an end. What I am observing is an upsurge of the boldest animal advocates we have ever seen now advocating on behalf of the animals for liberation, rather than simply more ‘comfort’ in their captive situations.” She noted innovative organizations such as the Save Movement and Direct Action who are working to spread awareness of animal injustices through video and social media. “No longer can it be kept behind closed doors, because we have the ability to spread information now via the web, now more than ever. And now people can see the truth and learn, and become educated, and start to decide if they want to live lives that support cruelty, or that do not support it and instead support compassion.”
When asked what one person could do to help the plant-based movement, Cole suggested to spread the word through food. “Offer the most outstanding vegan food for people when you have an event to attend or host. Or when you are eating it yourself, post photos of it and post it online! This is a positive and friendly way to kindly show those in your social sphere that being vegan can be a joyous thing – because you can eat so much wonderful and tasty food!” She also suggested using social platforms to share content from animal activists, such as Earthling Ed, without making it “all serious and graphic.” Diversity is of content is key.
To conclude, Cole shared her thoughts on why a person should choose to go vegan.
“Going vegan, overall, just makes the world a better place. It’s the one most impactful action that a person can take to not only live in alignment with ethics and values of compassion, respect, and equality, but also to leave the lightest footprint on the Earth and to eat foods that promote health instead of sickness. Every action we make affects others in our society and on our planet, and that includes voting with your dollar. Every purchase you make of a veggie burger instead of a beef burger means that there is less suffering for animals, less environmental disaster for the planet, less mistreatment of slaughterhouse workers, and more resources such as land, grain, and water to be used to feed people in a more sustainable manner. So if you can do all that simply by making different food choices in a world of abundance of delicious plant-based foods, why wouldn’t you? Be the change that you wish to see in the world (like Gandhi said), and be part of the solution to live in a kinder place.”
Image Credit: Alison Cole