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Behind the Scenes
Vegan Cookies from Allison's Gourmet
Personal Development for Smart People
Publisher of Animal Rights Online
Interviewed by Doh Driver
How long have you been vegetarian/vegan, and what brought you to the decision to go vegan?
Since 1990. It was then that I read "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins. Once I realized the misery that farm animals face each day, I knew I could no longer be a part of it. I've been vegetarian ever since. It wasn't long before I began to understand that dairy cows and egg-laying hens must endure worse conditions than other farm animals, so I went vegan.
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I don't have pets. I live with five companion animals.
I share my home with: Samuel Wedgewood Bartholomew, a 16 year old Westie; Molly Girl, a terrier mix somewhere around 11 years old; Juicy Lucy, a 7-year old little white poodle who came from the streets almost 4 years ago; Frankie Panky, a Cairn Terrier just like Toto from the Wizard of Oz who is a shelter rescue about 9 years old; and Benny Boy, an 11-year-old kitty who showed up on my doorstep on a very chilly night two years ago.
How did you come up with the idea to form Animal Rights Online? What is it?
I could see that the Internet as resource for information had exploded. Millions of people every day turn to online services for information, conversation and entertainment.
The Internet is truly a free form of expression. It isn't biased -- or controlled by editors. It's not dependent on ratings to determine what you learn about or see. It's not watered-down, cropped, edited, or made "to fit the available time slot." There are no "sound bites," no photo ops. It is, to date, a pure media form.
It's important to note that the medium is particularly attractive to those groups that can't seem to get fair unbiased coverage from the commercial media. Thus it's only natural that so many Animal Rights activists would become interested in the Internet.
A housewife in a small town in southern Iowa can learn things that she might never hear in the commercial media, may never attain at her local library, or ever know without the contacts the Internet provides. A protester can keep current of demonstrations to be held in his area. People all over the world can be apprised of events and news releases that would never be covered amid the ratings powered by commercial media.
Animal Rights Online, known as ARO, was formed in June of 1997 by a few dedicated and knowledgeable activists including myself. Animal Rights Online is a small group of volunteers located in different parts of the United States who work together via the Net to share information with our subscribers.
What services does ARO provide? What can a subscriber expect to find in a newletter?
ARO sends out a weekly newsletter every Sunday which includes news and commentary on animal issues. As often as we can, we include original articles by our journalists. Other articles are news items we find on the Web and alerts sent to us from several e-mail lists we're on. We also feature animal-oriented poetry, vegan recipes and quotes. ARO sends out book reviews each week of new publications we think might interest our readers. And once a week we send out updated listings of websites related to a specific issue such as zoos, rodeos, circuses, veganism and related topics.
We also have a team of volunteers who answer all mail that comes to us. We respond quickly trying to direct anyone who writes us to those resources that can help with that particular problem or inquiry.
Your circulation is over 5,000. How did you connect with so many people?
Our staff members put a line in their profiles that said "For a free e-mail newsletter about Animal Rights, animal welfare and vegetarianism, e-mail me."
That started the ball rolling. Many of our subscribers passed our newsletter, reviews and websites along to their friends who then subscribed -- and it's just taken off!
Are you a non-profit organization? How do you fund your newsletter?
We do not have non-profit status nor do we accept money or any other compensation. Our staff at Animal Rights Online puts in their free time to do this because we believe in what we do. We are committed to reducing the suffering of the animals of the world.
Do subscribers write in with personal stories or concerns?
Yes, every day. Often they're asking for help and we try to assist them. Sometimes they're submitting a story for the newsletter. We've published many over the years.
What do you think is the most pressing issue regarding animals and their rights in our times?
Because of the sheer number, I'd have to say the conditions of animals on factory farms. Each year in the United States alone, ten billion animals are slaughtered for food. The slaughter itself, while horrible, is only the last chapter in a life of misery. This is why most of our staff are vegans and the rest vegetarians. This is why we work so hard to promote the plant-based diet.
What is the most rewarding part of your work with ARO? What is the biggest challenge?
It's always gratifying when someone writes in and says one of our articles helped them decide to go vegan. The compliments we receive from people very active in the Animal Rights movement are always appreciated. I think the biggest reward is just knowing that the work we're doing is essential in advancing ethics and moral evolution.
Our challenge is to spend as much time as we can informing ourselves about the terrible things that happen to animals every day. Our vision is: someday that suffering will end.