This guest post was contributed by Kim Stallwood as part of VINE’s Pride Month Pledge Drive cavalcade of posts examining linkages between LGBTQ and animal liberation. VINE thanks Kim and reminds him of the fun we had together when he lived in the states.
In my book, GROWL. Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate (Lantern Books; October 2013), I explore what it means to care deeply about animals.
I recall how my concern for animals began in my childhood when I watched an eccentric dog rescuer in my home town in England. To the summer of 1973, when I worked in a chicken slaughterhouse as a student learning how to run hotels and restaurants. To three years later, when I had completed the journey from being a meat-eater to becoming a vegan and, unbeknown to me, my professional career had begun in the animal rights movement in the UK and US.
For almost four decades I have been very fortunate to have helped lead some of the best-known animal advocacy organizations in the world. They include Compassion In World Farming, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, PETA, The Animals’ Agenda magazine, the Animals and Society Institute, and Minding Animals International.
Caring deeply about animals inevitably raises important issues about who we are, how we live in the world, and our relations with others. Animal rights goes straight to the heart of what it means to be, for want of better phrase, a good person.
As I relate in GROWL, I explore four key values in animal rights. Compassion, our motivation for helping animals. Truth, our ethical relations with animals. Nonviolence, our value in the relations we have with animals. Justice, our commitment to all animals. They are the foundation to what I have come to understand as my animal rights practice.
Being an animal rights vegan is more than just about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the animals we rescue, and how we campaign against animal cruelty and exploitation. Our lives are an animal rights journey of discovery that never ends.
But this was something that took time for me to learn. I recall in GROWL how I was once a vegelical–an evangelizing vegan! I sat in judgment of everyone else. But I also failed to confront the truth about myself, particularly as a gay man. Animal rights gave me cover to ignore who I truly was. Don’t get me wrong. I cared passionately about animals. I wanted to change the world. Still do. But how could I effectively campaign against animal cruelty and exploitation if I didn’t even feel compassionate about myself? Or be honest about who I was? When I was constantly angry with myself and others? And supported actions for animals in the name of justice which trampled over the rights of others?
Being involved with animal rights inevitably raises important issues about ourselves, our place in society and the world in which we live. I had to learn the lessons that life was teaching me. Hard truths, I discovered, cannot be ignored. I had no alternative other than to make the journey which led me to understand which bold strategies make all the difference for all regardless of species.
My sincere hope is that GROWL will empower anyone who cares deeply about animals to discover their animal rights practice. Everyone can make a difference for animals, regardless of where they are starting from.
Caring deeply about animals leads us to not only discover our humanity for animals but also for ourselves.
Kim Stallwood is an independent scholar and author on animal rights. He has more than 35 years of personal commitment and professional experience in leadership positions with some of the world’s foremost animal advocacy organizations in the U.K. and U.S., including Compassion In World Farming, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and The Animals’ Agenda magazine. He co-founded the Animals and Society Institute in 2005, serves as ASI’s European Director, and is Deputy CEO of Minding Animals International. As a volunteer, he served on the boards of directors of the Vegan Society UK and the RSPCA, and as the founding president of the Canton Community Association in Baltimore, MD, where he lived for 18 years. A vegan since 1976, he holds dual citizenship in the U.K. and U.S. His website is www.kimstallwood.com.