Animal Rights Activist Profile: Connie Pearson
What inspired you to first get involved with activism and to join DxE?
I live in Southern California, and my daughter Ruby lives in Oakland. I just happened to be visiting her in May of 2015, and she told me she had heard about a talk being given by Lauren Gazzola at the UC Berkeley campus, and asked me if I'd like to go. I said sure - I was familiar with Lauren and the SHAC 7, so it sounded interesting. The talk was great, but what turned my life upside-down that day was discovering that the talk was part of The Forum, (never heard of it) which was sponsored by Direct Action Everywhere (never heard of them) and that all of The Forum participants were going to "go inside a Trader Joe's and do a disruption." (What!?) I've been a vegan and animal rights activist for many years, but nothing in my activism history felt as right as marching into that store that sells violence and lies, and letting the world know we will not tolerate this anymore. And these disruptions were happening all over the world, all the time. When I found out there were DxE chapters in SoCal, that was it for me. I had to tell the truth about animal liberation in the same way that I did that day at The Forum.
What is your favorite or most accomplished moment in activism or other DxE activity?
I never dreamed I would become an organizer. That's something other people do! But when a need for an organizer opened up in the Inland Empire chapter, I knew I didn't have a choice. Participating in disruptions for me is exhilarating. Organizing is another matter - it sounded terrifying. But there are times in life when you just have to do what terrifies you. Continuing to spread the message of liberation is far more important than my fears. So that first disruption at Costco as an organizer was huge for me. Mistakes were made, surprises happened, but the bottom line was that we were able to deliver this all important message.
Are you involved in any affiliate, working groups, or unique activism in your chapter, and if so, how does this influence your activism?
I've been an organizer for five months now. The IE chapter is a small but extremely dedicated group of amazing activists. So for now, within DxE, organizing (with the other organizers and key contributors) is full-time! Outside of DxE I participate in local Save vigils and many events put on by other AR groups. I love talking about DxE with activists at various events. I know that we need a variety of voices, approaches, and attitudes within the movement, and it's crucial that every group works together to support our common goals. That said, I feel so strongly that DxE is the present and future of animal rights, I use any opportunity I can to share with people that DxE is the fast lane to liberation.
How do you stay motivated as an activist?
I'm in my thirty-seventh year as an activist. When I first learned of animal rights in 1980, I was so passionately involved, I think this led to ignoring other aspects of my life. Also, young as I was, I became discouraged over time that we weren't getting fast-enough results. This combination led to some serious burn-out. I didn't quite see it at the time, but I think this burn-out led me to want to participate in other forms of activism. I was a home birth activist for many years, and during the Bush years, was involved in the peace movement. Of course, I'm glad I was involved in other forms of activism. They are critically important issues, and I think as a result I am more well-rounded. And while I always did some less-involved form of animal activism in addition to these other issues, I carried some unacknowledged feelings that there was something missing, and I now realize that that is to be involved at the level I am now.
So while this may sound almost contradictory, what keeps me motivated is to look back on the mistakes I made in the past and to not repeat them. Don't sacrifice other parts of my life to the point of wanting to leave the movement. Have patience. Liberation will happen, but we are still in the process of laying a foundation. And feeling so excited with being involved again at a deep level allows me to realize that this is my comfort zone. I believe this is what I was born to do.
How does your longevity in the animal rights movement influence your activism?
When I became an activist, I was seventeen. This may not be true everywhere, but in my region, a couple of friends and I were the only young activists. The participants in all the demonstrations were these great, eccentric, older women. My friends and I really stood out! Now, the movement is so much younger than it was then, and I love it. Now I'm the eccentric older woman. It's like the ages have reversed. Also, in the early eighties, vegetarianism was a low priority, and veganism was hardly on the radar. My introduction to animal rights was through the issue of vivisection. I became a vegetarian within days of learning about AR (veganism came later), but it was actually unusual to be vegetarian as an animal rights activist! Hard to believe. And the focus of most AR groups now is on farmed animals. Of course there is still activism around animals in laboratories, but not nearly as much as there used to be. So like the age reversal, the focus on specific animal issues has reversed. I wouldn't say this has affected my activism, but I do think it's interesting to see the changes and be aware of some of the history.
I am so grateful that farmed animals are in the spotlight now. When talking with non-activists, it is easier for people to make the connection that their behavior -what they eat- has a huge impact on the planet, and is directly contributing to unfathomable suffering. When discussing lab animals, there is an unfortunate "what can I do?" attitude. When discussing a decision of what to eat several times in one day, the "what can I do?" question answers itself. And I think it's easier to create activists from this angle. I like to take full advantage of what I see as a more direct route to inspiring activism. My longevity has allowed me to see where we are now, compared to when I began. Tremendous changes have taken place, but the majority of those changes have happened fairly recently. In the past, changes sort of chugged along, now change is happening exponentially. This is the time to push for animal rights harder then we've ever pushed. Seeing all these changes influences my attitude to keep going, keep going. We're on a roll!
What advice would you give to new activists?
The friends you make through becoming an activist will likely be among the best people you have in your life. Activists are endlessly interesting, inspiring, fascinating people. Who wouldn't want that in their life? Take advantage of every opportunity to socialize and build strong connections with activists. They will be like family. And the satisfaction that comes from knowing you're creating positive change for animals is incomparable. Celebrate even small victories - it all adds up.
Why Animal Liberation?
We are obligated to do everything in our power to end suffering, and there isn't anything close to the suffering and abuse that happens to animals every moment of every day. Creating animal liberation isn't a choice; it's a necessity. On a positive note, I know animal liberation exists. It's our job to find the way to get there.
Want to get involved? DxE is a grassroots network focused on empowering you to be the best activist you can be. Here are some steps you can take.
- Sign up to our mailing list and share our content on social media.
- Join a local DxE community (or, better yet, come visit us in Berkeley).
- Take the Liberation Pledge. And join us in building a true social movement for animals.