"We are the voice of the voiceless and we need to be heard." - Thomas Ponce
I talked to Mac, a 13 year-old animal rights activist from Adelaide, Australia. We spoke about being a vegan kid, staying educated, and animal agriculture.
Isabel: Why is veganism such an important message for you to share and how did you get involved with animal rights in general?
Mac: Being raised as a vegetarian, I have always been aware of animals and our planet. After learning more about the dairy and egg industries, I became vegan and feel it is our responsibility to share the truth with others. My family runs the Vegan Festival Adelaide and we are active in the animal rights movement so I have been lucky enough to meet some of the world’s most influential animal rights activists and have been inspired by them.
Isabel: What is the biggest misconception you have faced being a vegan teen animal rights activist?
Mac: People somehow think that standing up for animals makes us extremists or crazy hippies. We are just compassionate humans who understand and care for our planet. It can be really strange to be hated for trying to do the right thing. As kids we are taught not to hurt animals, yet many of us are also taught that it is okay to eat meat.
Isabel: What do you believe lawmakers could be doing to better prevent animal abuse nationally?
Mac: Lawmakers should make the whole animal agriculture industry more transparent. Like the warnings on cigarette packets, the public should know the health problems and animal brutality of meat products. We need to raise awareness and keep educating.
Isabel: Why do you believe it is important for activists to consider all creatures in their work and think outside of their community?
Mac: Being vegan to me means caring about all of the animals, and the whole of our planet. People seem to focus on saying “this doesn’t happen in my country” to make themselves feel better about the suffering caused and their personal choices. The fact is, animal abuse happens all over the world and none are better or worse than another. They all exploit, torture and brutally murder innocent beings.
Isabel: Yes. Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you wanna shout out or plans for the future?
Mac: We are working on the Vegan Festival Adelaide held on October 26th and 27th, a great 2-day outdoor festival that brings around 18,000 like minded people to one place. Also, I am helping a bit on another event called Vegan Palooza – an event for compassionate foodies, really looking forward to eating all the delicious vegan food on April 14th in Adelaide. I am lucky enough to get to meet some of our speakers and learn what they are up to. I will keep on trying to share the message via my Instagram page, and attend any events where we need to be a voice for the voiceless.
Isabel: What advice do you have for young people who want to speak out and change the world?
Mac: Be brave and speak the truth. Be on the right side of history. Don’t let the haters get to you because the animals and our planet need you. There are plenty of vegans out there to support you and vegan kids really are our future. Don’t stop trying, choose vegan food when you are with your friends and let them see how yummy it is. Wear your vegan shirts with pride. Try to meet up with other kids who care, realize you are not alone, and together we can change this world.
I had a great talk with Thomas Ponce, a 17 year-old animal rights activist from Casselberry, FL. We spoke about lobbying, getting educated, and changing the laws to support animals.
Isabel: Talk a little bit about Lobby for Animals. What does that organization do and what inspired you to create it?
Thomas: Lobby For Animals raises awareness on the issues facing animals and help people effectively address these issues with their legislators. Lobby for Animals offers training videos, a bi-weekly report highlighting current legislation throughout the US, as well as trainings on lobbying, starting your own campaign, the interconnectivity of human/earth/animal rights, being a proactive citizen, and living with compassion. With regards to what inspired me to create it, I would have to say it was when I had the realization of the injustice that exists in our legislative system towards animals and felt strongly in the importance of changing the way animals were viewed within our society. I believe that in order to bring real change for animals we need to strike at the core of the issues by changing the laws. When I learned about lobbying, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I set out to learn as much as I could about effective lobbying and then created Lobby For Animals to teach others in the hopes of creating a community of proactive animal/environmental lobbyists.
Isabel: What are your goals for Lobby for Animals and what do you want other kids to know about advocating for animals?
Thomas: I would like to see stronger laws pertaining to animals and our environment. I’d like to see our government and our communities actively working towards creating practical solutions for undoing some of the damage that has been done in years past to the environment. I’d like to see conversations happening in schools about living with compassion and respect for all. It’s all about involvement, we all need to be active participants in life and in the changes we want to see. When you speak to your representatives, you have the opportunity to strike at the core of the issues that hinder progress. Through LFA I strive to take away some of the misconceptions and fears people have surrounding lobbying. I believe that if people can be shown just how easy different levels of lobbying can be, they would be more eager to try and get involved. What needs to be realized is that the entirety of our legislator’s job is to represent us and unless we tell them what we want, how do we expect them to represent us properly?
Isabel: How do you believe that legislators and society as a whole can better support animal rights?
Thomas: Their influence matters to the support of bills in the advancement of animal rights and environmental protection. We have to take that first step to go and engage with our legislators because they are not our enemy. Beyond that, we need to become smarter consumers. If people learned what impact their buying decisions had and how each purchase drives demand maybe they’d change their preferences. Education is key in my opinion. Education on the issues and on the tools needed to change them.
Isabel: I know that you started activism at a very young age, so what does it mean to you to see so many young people coming to the forefront of conversations regarding change?
Thomas: It’s amazing to see so many young people taking an interest and actively working towards implementing change. The drive and ambition that I see in so many of them is inspiring. In addition to the work I do with Lobby For Animals, I am also involved with an organization called The Pollination Project. They are an organization that supports change makers with grants. I’m on their animal rights and environmental review panel so I research grant applicants and help with the approval for funding decisions. Through my work with them, I am privileged to see so many inspiring projects that give me hope for our future.
Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you wanna shout out?
Thomas: I am currently working on federal legislation to ban the sale distribution and trade of shark fins in the United States. It is an important piece of legislation that needs as much support as possible. If you would like to find out more about it please contact me through my website Lobby For Animals and I can give you some ideas on how you can help.
Isabel: I’m asking everybody this: What advice do you have for young people who want to speak out and change the world?
Thomas: My advice would be to not let your age be a hindrance. Just because you are not old enough to vote yet doesn’t mean that you have no voice. Find an issue you are passionate about, learn as much as you can about it, and then start talking to people who can help you reach your desired goal. Research what bills are being discussed that relate to your topic. Look up who your legislators are and contact them whether it be in person, through email or via phone. Let them know you are involved and either express your support or opposition on a current bill. If it’s an issue that is not being addressed by legislators currently, address it. You are never too young to stand up for what is right. As young adults, we have the opportunity to make this world a better place. By spreading compassion and advocating for what we believe in we can create a better world for ourselves and eventually one day our children. There is no time like the present so why wait?