Who is that at the door? Why it’s Cassandra Greenwald, Our Hen House’s darling editor! Her letter to you, flock members, and the article following it, corresponds with her incredible feature, “From Hunter to Activist: The Radical Transformation of Steve Hindi of SHARK.” Consider that article dinner, and this article that follows is dessert, just for you…
I’m usually behind the scenes here at Our Hen House, merely swooping in to tidy up our authors’ commas in my role as an editor, but Jasmin recently asked me to interview Steve Hindi, the mastermind behind SHARK. “I think I can squeeze that in,” I said, and added it to my to-do list, next to restocking the kale drawer and feeding the kitties. I thought it would be a standard Q&A interview: I would ask him questions, he would answer, and then we’d go about our merry way. I had no idea that his work with SHARK and his fight for animal rights in the face of cruelty and injustice would be such a source of inspiration to me. You can read my full article on the online magazine, but I wanted to give the Our Hen House flock, our most treasured supporters, a very personal window into the interview, so you could see the true force of nature that is Steve Hindi and be as inspired as I am.
Not an Armchair Activist: How Steve Hindi’s Tenacity Became My Inspiration
by Cassandra Greenwald
My own little crash course in journalism started #PRIVATE#the day I was supposed to interview Steve Hindi to talk about his work with Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK). Hindi and his team are fighting to end violence against animals, and it’s no secret, certainly not breaking news, that this violence is everywhere – I mean, people still do things like release pigeons from boxes and shoot them and call it a sport. When, on the evening of the interview, SHARK’s aerial drone was shot out of the sky – which, as Hindi said was “absolutely intentional” (if you’ve ever lived or traveled in the Midwest, then you know exactly what the a in his absolutely sounded like) – we had to stop and start the interview because he was trying to connect with the local media to upload footage of the drone being shot down. I’ve stumbled upon a juicy little assignment, I thought to myself. And I had originally imagined that we were just going to have a nice chat about animal advocacy, but I guess it turned into the prologue of an action-packed Hollywood blockbuster.
SHARK’s job is not an easy one. I think a lot of people, myself included, tend to consider undercover investigations as the dangerous side of animal advocacy, but Hindi and other members of SHARK have learned that they can be in plain sight and still experience violence. Besides having two of his organization’s drones intentionally shot out of the sky, Hindi himself has been assaulted, beaten with a metal object until he was bruised and bloody. He’s been threatened at gunpoint. He was also the victim of a hit and run. Other members of SHARK have been intimidated, threatened, assaulted. I had the keen sensation of being an extra in the action movie that started with this interview (my role was the focused reporter, naturally). Apparently truth is stranger than fiction. As Hindi told me these stories, one side of me knew that this was all part of the package – of course animal advocates are on the receiving end of so much violence, because we press the hot buttons and shine a light on the darkest corners of humanity. The other part of me, however, was appalled. What kind of sick irony was this? How can members of an organization whose message is about showing animals respect become victims of such violence?
Hindi and SHARK have been victims, all while working so hard to fight for those animals who can’t fight for themselves. And they keep fighting, even though they face some pretty hefty opponents. Hunting clubs with an ax to grind. A clogged legal system that is rife with district attorneys who sit on their hands (or worse) when presented with tangible evidence of horrific animal cruelty. Powerful organizations like the NRA that have plenty of money flowing to and from them (money spent to directly challenge and stifle SHARK’s efforts). Even when everyone, and everything, seems stacked against Hindi, he keeps going. That drive – coming through loud and clear, even though our phones kept dropping us as the SHARK team traveled home to Illinois through the mountains of Pennsylvania – that persistence is what inspires me the most. “Injustice will be everywhere,” Hindi said, “but you can’t use that as an excuse. You have to keep going.”
The one thing Hindi has learned during his years of fighting this fight is that animal abuse and corruption are linked. Wherever you have the few lording over the many, he said, you don’t have to dig very far down to expose the corruption. Our society, he said, likes to think that we don’t tolerate bullying, but our collective existence is based on bullying! You can’t build a decent society and have corrupt and cowardly bullies. And the roadblocks of violence, bullies, and a faulty justice system – all of which SHARK has met in Pennsylvania and elsewhere – just make Hindi and everyone at SHARK try harder. He laughed and said that’s probably the hunter in him. He’s still shooting, but with cameras instead of guns, and now he’s tracking down the bad guys instead of animals.
Be sure to also read Cassandra’s OHH feature, “From Hunter to Activist: The Radical Transformation of Steve Hindi of SHARK.”