ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST PROFILE: AJ JIVDAYA
Q: What inspired you to first get involved with activism and to join DxE?
The credit would probably mostly have to go to my friend Rayne Pearson, a DxE activist in Seattle. My entry into activism was in fact with DxE, and it came with much initial hesitation.
I was mostly the passive kind of vegan for about a year after initially going vegan, and I fully deserve all the criticism I may get for that. One day I made my first ever animal rights related post on Facebook, and Rayne noticed it. I was only Facebook friends with Rayne at that point and we'd never talked before, in person or otherwise. The spirit of the post was such that Rayne felt I should be invited to join DxE Seattle's next action. When she reached out, I expressed to her that I have seen videos of DxE actions before, and that I don't think I could or want to participate in something like that. Nevertheless, for subsequent actions, she continued to ask me if I would like to join. After I believe about a month I finally agreed to at least come and observe the next action in person, but not actually participate. So I did just that. And this made all the difference in my perception of these actions. It is a completely different experience watching the action on video, than it is watching it in-person, where you also actually engage with the activists before and after the action, and feel their energy during the action. Today, whenever I have someone express similar hesitation to me, I recommend them to at least just come and observe as I did, even if they don't yet feel comfortable participating. I am extremely glad and grateful that Rayne was persistent with me. Since that day, I've been participating in pretty much every action that's taken place in my area, whether it be Seattle, LA, or Inland Empire.
Simultaneously with beginning to participate in DxE, as a new activist I was also heavily involved in the No New Animal Lab anti-vivisection campaign that was being waged against the University of Washington and Skanska, the construction company building the new torture facility for UW. Having gone vegan, I had been under the impression that I was "awake", and I was making a big difference. But after getting involved in these two groups in my first days of activism, I truly realized what was at stake, and felt truly awoken. I had a new sense of direction about what I must do to be as effective as I can be for nonhuman beings. It was clear to me that while veganism may be nice, it is not nearly enough. The determination, the dedication, the passion of activists in either group was so infectious that I couldn't imagine myself ever NOT doing activism.
Q: What is your favorite or most accomplished moment in activism or other DxE activity?
This is a tough one. Maybe it was when two Seattle activists and friends locked themselves to a crane at the construction sight of the new UW vivisection lab, shutting down their work for a whole day. Maybe it was when we had two different groups of customers clap in support of us during an in-store disruption. Perhaps it was the time I ended up doing a spontaneous, unplanned speakout during a non-typical disruption in Seattle, not realizing I had it in me, and it actually came out surprisingly coherent. Or perhaps it was the generous and copious praise I got for my voice and delivery of a speakout in a disruption video for my first action as a new Inland Empire activist. Or seeing the attendance to the DxE Forum more than double to 320 in just one year – that's monumental! Or seeing a record number of people attend the most recent Day of Action in both the the LA and IE chapter!! I don't know, there are many amazing moments!
Q: Are you a part of any working groups or unique activism in your chapter and how do they influence your activism?
LA and IE chapters are both still relatively small. Both chapters have attempted to reach out to the community to get working groups going, but haven't had much success so far. But both chapters are growing and we'll get there one day!
Q: How do you stay motivated as an activist?
This will probably definitely sound cliché, but honestly, I really just keep our goal of animal liberation in the forefront of my mind. So far I haven't needed anything else. As I said in a previous answer, it is something I cannot imagine ever NOT doing, because the matter is just that urgent. Another way that helps is seeing activism take place in so many different places in the world, in so many different forms, for so many animal rights issues. And COMMUNITY is also an important factor, especially when one is facing any kind of trauma or burnout.
Q: What advice would you give to new activists?
Please try ALL styles of activism, Try each one available in your local area and community at least once before forming opinions, judgements, or criticisms of any one style. General protests, disruptions, street marches, slaughterhouse vigils, video outreach, leafletting, college campus tabling, vegfest tabling, open rescue, sticker activism...the list is endless. When you do need to voice criticism, do so with enough humility to realize that we don't really truly know how negatively or positively something effects the movement in the long-run. But please do something and definitely make activism a priority in some way, shape, or form. Take breaks, but never stop going. It is extremely crucial that you do.
You will no doubt be exposed to all sorts of different conflicts, which I believe can be more intense in the activism community than the non-activism vegan community. Please avoid knee-jerk reactions overreactions. Try to look at the bigger picture. Try not to let any single incident paint a black-and-white picture of any one activist, group, or organization, especially when the details are unclear, ambiguous, or unsubstantiated. Role models are great to have, but avoid idolizing.
Q: Why Animal Liberation?
Nonhuman beings are probably THE most innocent, THE most vulnerable group of individuals on this planet. Yet they are the ones subjected to the most brutal and violent kind of treatment at our hands. We bring them into this world by the dozens of billions each year just to cut off their heads after a short life of torturous confinement. Animal liberation because this is the unimaginable reality we are in and it's frightening and it needs to end. Animal liberation because to set a goal for anything less is undermining their individuality and their personhood. Animal liberation because we must and we will.
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