Why DxE Wednesday XIII: Ana Chapiro
This is the latest installment in a series of interviews with DxE activists by Rachel Waite, who is part of the blog team and an organizer for DxE Grand Rapids (MI)
(Blog manager's note: a giant thank you to Rachel, who continued to create these incredible interviews even while getting married and going on a honeymoon. Congratulations, Rachel! -AK)
Q: What inspired you to first get involved with activism and to join DxE?
Back in 2014 when I went vegan, I felt helpless despite my transition. Yeah, I didn't eat animal products anymore, but surely there was more I could do to somehow be a voice for the voiceless, stop the violence, and work to transform our hierarchy of suffering into a unity of compassion. With such deep awareness of issues such as our exploitation of our world and its inhabitants, it is hard not to feel absolutely depressed about it. I found myself wanting to alienate myself from such an ugly society that thrives so strongly upon egocentric ideals that its followers easily normalize such qualities. The very fact that we can normalize eating the literal flesh of a once-living creature while petting another that we adore shows how even the most normal and routine act for us is so destructive.
It was last summer when I was on Facebook that I decided to go to every vegan related event in my area, which by the way isn’t very much since I live in the middle of Michigan. I wanted to put my emotions to action, and little did I know I would be doing an action later that very day.
I wasn’t quite sure how I ended up at that one park in Grand Rapids, but the event page said something like “Vegan Meetup,” so I went along with it. At the park, I saw Rachel from a vegan potluck I had gone to; she was talking about an action and signs. I was still unaware that she was talking about an actual disruption.
Later on, three other people showed up, and they seemed a bit nervous. I was wondering when we would maybe eat some vegan food, for I thought it was a potluck... until I saw our soon to be cameraman nervously smoking a cigarette. It was in that moment I realized I would not be eating kale chips; I was going to disrupt a crowded restaurant.
Before I knew it, the five of us were walking towards the restaurant we would disrupt. I didn’t have much time to be nervous or process what was going to happen. After disrupting two restaurants that day and seeing the pure nirvana of activism run through my fellow activist friends, I knew that this was only the start of something much bigger than me. I finally felt like I was a part of this revolution, not just standing idly by. As crazy and corny as it sounds, activism found me, DxE found me when I wasn’t even sure what I needed.
Q: What is your favorite or most accomplished moment in activism or other DxE activity?
Every action has deep meaning to me, even when it is just me and Rachel recording each other doing a solo disruption. I find it empowering to revisit markets were I used to shop, always wishing I could do something about the carcasses hanging from the ceiling and the smell of rotting flesh, and disrupt them. Or sing and chant words of liberation along the Walk of Fame in Los Angeles where I would walk by as a child and wonder how I would make my mark on this earth like the stars of those celebrities. Or chant down 5 levels of stairs at the Water Tower in Chicago with activists speaking up no matter how scared they may be. Everything about any action is an accomplishment.
Q: How does being a teen activist/organizer affect your activism, and how do you speak up to your peers about animal liberation?
I don’t think many of my activist friends realize I’m only 15 at first, but I’m glad that they treat me equally despite my age. I’ve always been outspoken and more mature than most of my peers. With that came alienation, and I would feel ashamed that I saw the world differently. Then I felt proud that I saw the world differently and decided to distance myself from such insipidness. Now that I’m an activist I am as odd as ever, but so is every other activist.
As a younger activist, I know how much my generation affects our future; we are the future. Seeing other millennials mindlessly live a consumerist life full of stress and debt gives me hope. Why? Because we are waking up, we are shedding the misconceptions we were born into, we are realizing that the system which abuses us that we depend on, depends on us. We are realizing that united we can break the hierarchy that says not all are equal. Direct action is here to help.
As for speaking to peers about animal liberation in a town full of hunters and Trump supporters, I simply wear animal liberation shirts everyday and do not die of a protein or vitamin deficiency. That seems to be enough to get them thinking or at least wondering how I’m still alive.
Q: How do you stay motivated as an activist?
Activism has now become my way of staying motivated for this world. Activism gives me hope that one day I could go back to the rainforest in Ecuador, where I was born, and there could still be a tree left despite mass deforestation due to animal agriculture and the agriculture of greed and manipulation. Activism gives a voice to the voiceless, who sadly were born into an industry that sees them as objects and not as actual living beings. Activism unites and empowers the game changers of our time. Activism is the mobilization of our dreams of equality and freedom; without it we are waiting for the world to transform when we haven’t even done so ourselves.
Q: What advice would you give to new activists?
You are more powerful than you think.
Q: Why Animal Liberation?
Why liberation for anyone? This is why I believe in intersectional activism. When you have someone at the top of the hierarchy, there will always be someone at the bottom dealing with the consequences of their lower location. When a group from a lower location on this hierarchy speaks up, it gives opportunities for others to be heard as well. It can easily turn destructive when, for example, we work towards liberation in human rights but only as a singular issue. When we unite our many struggles, we can fight these injustices that are rooted in ideologies which say that some beings aren’t equal, that there are “others,” including animals. When we use these ideologies to fight our singular struggle, we are feeding the very hierarchy we wish to abolish, because we saying that some matter more than others. This is why I think we need to unite all of our struggles for true freedom and equality.