New blog segment alert!
Five Questions for an Animal Rights Activist.
Once a month I will ask someone working in the Animal Rights movement five questions.
I decided to start with a man I've had the pleasure and honor of standing next to at more than one protest, Jack Carone.
Jack is the Director of Communications for
, one of the largest and most respected international animal rights organization.
When I went to my first protest 25 years ago, I noticed a distinguished New York-type, well-dressed, composed, handsome, tall man being interviewed by various news stations. From what I overheard, he was very versed on the issue, with a calm, confident, highly intelligent demeanor. I remembering immediately feeling safe, thinking that if he's part of the animal rights world, then I'm in the right place.
I got to know Jack over those years and found him to be all of those first impression things, and more--he also possessed a very sharp wit. We didn't see each other for about twenty years (I moved out of LA and stopped going to protests) until last year when we ran into each other at the protest for Barnum and Bailey Bros Circus at the Staples Center. He slowly walked up to me and said, "Aren't you my friend?" It was a day I will never forget. I am proud to call Jack my friend. And I know the animals feel the same. He emulates all that is good and right in the animal rights movement.
Five Question for Jack Carone, an Animal Rights Activist.
How did you get involved in the animal rights movement?
I didn’t have “pets” as a kid, with the brief exception of a nice rabbit who kept running away. After I found myself living in CA, quite unintentionally, a new friend gave me one of his dog’s puppies.
I didn’t know anything at the time about the crisis in homeless dogs and cats, or that breeding your own dog added to this problem. I was just honored to be getting one of the coveted babies. I knew both the dog parents, and got to choose who would be coming home with me before he was even weaned from his mother. In a way I am glad I got to live my first puppy experience unburdened by the knowledge I have now. In a perfect world, dog and cat births would be joyful occasions, but the tragedies we see daily now make them seem to be a sin.
I fell in love with this big dog, and my eyes were opened—I had never lived with an animal, and everything that is obvious to me now was a revelation then.
I must have signed up for something somewhere, because I began to receive mail from an animal organization about vivisection, experimentation on animals. I was outraged, and I’m sure my protectiveness toward my dog companion entered greatly into my strong feelings. I started writing letters to elected officials, as suggested by the direct mail pieces, as this was before email. (*coughs*) It didn’t take long to feel ineffective writing letters with only form replies piling up in return.
Then I got another letter, in fact from
, saying that there was a place where I could go to stand up for animals in laboratories. At the time, it was called “World Day for Animals”. I was relieved to have somewhere to go with my frustration.
The letter gave a local number for the L.A. event. I called the number and a deep voice gave a location for a meeting the next Sunday, a small theater in the San Fernando Valley. I later learned that IDA had sent organizer
’s home number to its entire mailing list.
I went to the Sunday meeting, a class in civil disobedience. That Thursday, just days later, I was arrested for the first time for blocking a driveway at UCLA where animals were delivered to be experimented on. Things moved very fast from that point on. That was almost 30 years ago.
How do you stay motivated?
Because I love to research animal topics on the internet, and particularly since my job requires that I do, I see enough injustices against animals in an hour to keep an activist busy for a lifetime.
What is the most important thing you have learned as an animal rights activist?
That whether or not you win, it is imperative that you play your best for the right team, the one playing for justice.
What would you like the general public to know with regard to animals and/or animal rights?
Humans are just one type of animal. They are “superior” in some ways to some other animals and “inferior” in other ways. We all somehow appeared here, and have to make the best of it for the time allotted us. Other types of animals have as much right to live on the planet of their birth as humans do. Why would they not?
Animal rights are simply birthrights, just like the ones we claim for ourselves
—we all want to have an enjoyable or at least peaceful life, and believe that we deserve that.
You can’t enjoy your life if someone is enslaving, imprisoning, abusing, experimenting on, killing, wearing or eating you
. When members of our species violate the others in those ways, fairness, simple decency and the Golden Rule demand that we act on their behalf.
The term “animal rights” does not belong to any one organization or person, although it has become identified in the minds of many with specific entities. Many people will throw out the message with the envelope if it happens to be delivered by some person or group they don’t like.
As a result, in an effort to distance themselves from the controversial, some organizations and people have diluted their identity from animal rights activist and organizations to that of animal advocate or animal protector. These are all good things and valid terms, but if they are used due to fear of seeming extreme because you believe strongly that we have an inherent obligation to be fair and just to other Earthlings, then they are a compromise. Don’t be afraid to say what you believe. Take back the words—
—and be proud to fight for them.
5. Do you have any companion animals? If so, how do they affect your activism?
I have had many, and as much as I loved them, sometimes I have thought it might be easier, even safer, to be an activist without those solemn responsibilities. But I'm very glad to have known and to have learned so much from each and every one of them. I'd be far poorer in mind and spirit had I not had them as friends and teachers.
Jack speaks to a reporter about the need for banning puppy mills and for pet store reform.