Today, writer Jamie J. Hagen is talking to long-time activist Andrew Kirshner about his new Animal Advocacy Flashcards, which it seems anyone who wants to see a new world for animals should most certainly order.
They Have Questions, You Have Answers: Animal Advocacy Flashcards
by Jamie J. Hagen
One of my favorite forms of animal rights advocacy when I made the transition from vegetarian to vegan was leafleting on campus in the halls of Hunter College in New York City. I handed out Why Vegan? leaflets and screened the film Earthlings along with a few other animal rights activists several days a week. As approachable faces of veganism, those of us who regularly leafleted on campus became a resource for those who were just trying out veganism or curious to give it a try in the future – and those people had A LOT of questions!
Let’s face it: learning about the many ethical reasons to go vegan, including everything from the violence of factory farms, the cruelty of animal testing, and the waste of the egg and dairy industry, is a revolutionary project. Those of us who live as ethical vegans generally become quite used to the questions that come up over dinner, when shopping for make-up, or when deciding where to donate for charity. The conversations that follow these questions often prove to be powerful and compassionate opportunities for advocacy.
Thus, it’s important for all of us to stay on top of as much accurate information about what’s going on with animals as we possibly can. Fortunately, a new tool to help us do that has recently arrived.
Animal advocate Andrew Kirshner recognizes the power of being a source of knowledge about animal advocacy issues. In order to help you be a better resource the next time someone asks, “Why don’t you go to the circus?” or the ever popular “Where do you get your protein?” Andrew sells a deck of Animal Advocacy Flashcards on his website, Kirschner’s Corner Store, along with other products geared towards animal advocacy. His tagline is: “Trying to make the world a more humane place.” In partnership with animal advocacy organizations like Mercy For Animals, the store is an ambitious and exciting project.
I spoke with Andrew about his new Animal Advocacy Flashcards project to learn more about what motivated him to create the deck of 50 flashcards and what he hopes people will accomplish with them.
Jamie Hagen for Our Hen House (OHH): You tackle a broad spectrum of issues in your Animal Advocacy Flash Cards, from questions like the classic, “Where do you get your protein?” to “Why do you eat at restaurants that sell animals?” In the description of the deck you write, “Read these flash cards and you will quickly become a seasoned advocate ready to inspire everyone you encounter and make a difference in the lives of animals.” How did you develop these questions for activists?
Andrew Kirschner (AK): These are questions that curious people have asked me throughout the years and questions that animal advocates often ask me to answer. I finally decided to start keeping track of the questions and to make them into a deck of flash cards to help people advocate more effectively. If we’re prepared, we can better inform and inspire people to show compassion for animals.
OHH: Who do you hope will use these cards and what sort of response have you received so far?
AK: The cards sold out quickly and I had to print more to keep up with demand. There is a hunger out there for answers. People don’t like being on defense when they receive hard-hitting questions. Often these questions simply aim to deflect attention from the real issue, so hopefully the answers I’ve provided will put the focus back on cruelty rather than far-fetched deserted island scenarios. Advocates want to know how to answer these questions and I’m grateful to provide them some suggestions. The flash cards have been very well received. Several people have told me they’re studying the answers and committing them to memory.
OHH: Do you anticipate updating the deck with new questions or revised answers?
AK: Yes. In fact I recently made several revisions. I added five new cards including “What’s wrong with horse-drawn carriages?” and “Isn’t it expensive to buy cruelty-free products?” I also added some more content to a few of the answers.
OHH: In my experience, once you are informed and confident in answering some of the questions in your deck, it’s possible to have engaging and inviting conversations about animal advocacy issues. Can you share some advice on how to approach such conversations, and tell us about an experience where this was the case for you?
AK: Yes, it happens often. The advice I would offer people is to control your emotions. People change when they feel like they have the option not to change. You can be calm, polite, informative, and passionate at the same time. Don’t dominate the conversation or belittle your audience. Listen and take note of body language. Be willing to answer difficult questions. I get asked so many questions, but probably none more than where I get my protein. I recently invited some friends from work to lunch at a local restaurant that serves plant-based food. They thoroughly enjoyed it and learned through a first-hand experience how plant-based food can provide plenty of protein for a balanced diet.
OHH: What/who inspires you to engage with those who ask the questions addressed in your animal advocacy flash cards? These kinds of encounters can sometimes seem daunting for new activists, and both burnout and cynicism can result from hearing the same questions over and over again.
AK: I’m inspired by the animals. I think often of what they endure. Listening to people try to maintain long-held beliefs and challenge more humane options isn’t hard in comparison to what animals endure in labs, factory farms, trucks, and cages. I’m motivated every day by their pain, confinement, and suffering.
OHH: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! What is the best way for people to contact you, and is there anything else you’d like to add in terms of what exciting things are on the horizon for Kirschner’s Korner?
AK: Yes, thank you for the opportunity. I have an array of animal advocacy products at Kirschner’s Korner. On April 29, I launched Animal Rescue Bar, a plant-based nutrition bar aimed at raising money to support non-profit animal rescue organizations. People can contact me at andrew [at] animalrescuebar [dot] com and visit my new website, AnimalRescueBar.com.
Jamie J. Hagen is a Boston-based writer who writes about feminism, feminist security studies, and LGBTQ politics for such publications as Rolling Stone, Autostraddle, and Bitch Magazine. Jamie is a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Global Governance and Human Security PhD program where her research focus is in gender in post-conflict and transnational LGBTQ advocacy networks. She tweets @jamiejhagen and you can visit jamiejhagen.com for more of her work. She lives in Jamaica Plain with her companion feline, The Banshee.