I was a meat-munching toddler when Animal Aid was created. Thirty years on, I’m a vegan animal rights activist, thanks to an unknown Greenpeace campaigner (Falkirk, circa 1998) who helped open my eyes, heart and mind with a simple petition and leaflet stall. I instantly became a vegetarian and a vegan soon after. I gradually replaced my motorcycle leathers and animal-tested toiletries and soaked up as much animal rights literature as I could find.
My first demo followed and I was soon disturbingly aware of the sheer volume of animal abuse and human ignorance. At the parliamentary debate on the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, my fellow campaigner Derek and I agreed to form West Lothian Animal Rights. Our first demo – in 2002 – was outside Ladbrokes for Animal Aid Horse Racing Awareness Week. A year later, we added a sub-group, West Lothian Veggies, launched during Animal Aid’s Veggie Month.
Whilst also working as Campaigns Manager with a Scottish animal protection group, I founded the Scottish Animal Rights Alliance, a growing coalition that recognises the huge value of grassroots campaigning. This is where Animal Aid remains special – it’s not afraid of the term ‘animal rights’, its very foundation is grassroots activism and it attracts knowledgeable, experienced, supportive and ego-free staff who want what we all want – a climate of compassion. ‘Lang may yer lum reek’!