Inspirational Animal Rights Activists: Lori Croonen – We Can Do a lot on Our Own, but So Much More Together

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am 50 years old, I have lived in Ontario, Canada all my life. My father is from The Netherlands and my mother is from Malta, they both immigrated to Canada, met, fell in love and had 3 children, I am the youngest of the 3, one of my brothers and lifelong best friend died in 2013 and I miss him every day, I carry him always in my heart and one of the main reasons I am now an activist.

I am a Lead Software Engineer and I have worked at the same company for over 25 years since I graduated from college. I am a proud mother. I have been an animal rights activist and I am always looking for more ways I can help end the animals.

You can find me on Instagram and Facebook.

Please share any links to your social sites here.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I was vegetarian since I was 7 years old after visiting an animal agriculture farm. I didn’t go vegan until 7.5 years ago after joining social media and learning the truth about the egg, dairy and honey industries.

Tell us about our journey to activism?                       

Two things sparked my activism, 1) my brother’s death made me want to do more with my life that I was currently doing and 2) seeing Anita Krajnc (co-founder of Toronto Pig Save) on the news for being charged with giving water to thirsty pigs en-route to slaughter. I could tell she was nervous and I thought to myself, how brave is this woman, and admired her instantly.

What type of activism are you involved in?

I am an organizer with Toronto Pig Save (torontopigsave.org) mostly organizing weekly and monthly vigils at a pig slaughterhouse in Burlington, vegan activist at non-vegan festivals and helping table at Vegfests. I am also the organizer of the Anonymous for the Voiceless Burlington chapter. I do vegan outreach any chance I get, I participate in animal rights marches ( I organize the Toronto Pig Save one on Mother’s Day every year in honour of the mothers trapped in the animal agriculture industries), protests and disruptions. I mentor at vegan22.com and starting in 2020, founder and main organizer of Burlington Ontario’s first ever Vegfest. I love volunteering at local animal sanctuaries as well.

What were your thoughts and feelings before your first activism event?

Heart in throat. My very first event was a Toronto Pig Save vigil at Fearman’s slaughterhouse in my home city the day after seeing the co-founder Anita Krajnc on the news. I was terrified to meet the victims, to look them in the eye and know I could not help them.

How did you feel once the event was over?  

Heartbroken. I realized that being vegan was not enough, I had to do more to try and stop this atrocity from happening. I reached out to Anita Krajnc, who I met for the first time that day, and asked her how I could help the movement, she got back to me immediately with great advice.

How do you feel you are most effective as an activist?       

Having conversations with people about veganism, organizing vegan events, giving love to animals, helping vegans become active for the animals by encouraging them, letting them know it is OK not to be perfect at it, just try your best and every effort will help the animal rights movement move forward towards animal liberation.

What’s been your most memorable moment as an activist? Toughest moment?

The most memorable moment was the day I sang to a pig on a transport truck. She connected with me instantly and came as close as she could to me and put her ear right to my mouth so she could hear me over the noise of the traffic. Her image is now tattooed on my arm with the words “Friends Not Food” above her and “Be Kind to Every Kind” underneath. I look at her every day and am encouraged on the really tough days to never stop fighting for animal liberation. I also use the tattoo to tell her story to everyone that will listen.

Toughest day was the day a slaughterhouse truck filled with approximately 180 pigs overturned right outside Fearman’s slaughterhouse. I lived streamed the horrendous incident for Toronto Pig Save. I can still hear their screams while trapped in the truck and often think about the one pig (we called her Thelma) shot in the head by a slaughterhouse worker because she was too injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. There were people there from local sanctuaries willing to take her home and pay her vet expenses but the slaughterhouse just ignored our pleas for sanctuary and killed her anyway.  Please share this link, it gives an accurate account of the horrendous injustice of that day by Bite Size Vegan

What is your favorite type of activist event?

My favorite is volunteering at animal sanctuaries where I get to be with the animals and see and experience their happiness. I don’t do it enough, and I should.  I also went to the National Animal Rights Conference last year and loved it, it was so inspirational, hopefully I can go every year from now on! I also love doing outreach, either with Anonymous for the Voiceless or just everyday activism, just looking for opportunities to help people make the connection between their non-vegan choices and the harm it causes the animals, the planet and themselves.

Please recommend your favorite activism video/s, book/s or website/s to share?          

My favorite books are “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows’ by Melanie Joy and Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. I know there are so many other great books but I don’t make enough time for reading. Earthlings is the best documentary because it makes so many people go vegan! I also love ‘The Bet Speech You Will Ever Hear” on youtube.

I don’t think I have a particular activism role model, but if I was to name a few first would be Ingrid Newkirk that was really my first inspiration. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years ago to tell her that, she was wonderfully kind and came to a Toronto Pig Save vigil. I found out about PETA by a leaflet I found at college. See activism works! 😉 My other activism role model is Anita Krajnc as she started me on my activism journey. Overall, I am just so grateful for the entire activism community, past, present and future, and proud to be a part of it and have met so many wonderful activists doing so many different things and applaud them all!

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

I didn’t go vegan on a particular day, it was a lifelong journey for me, as I learned more I became closer and closer to vegan. I wish I knew so much more so much earlier but most of my life I didn’t know any vegans and the internet was not something available to most people in those days like it is today.

I stopped eating animals as a child after visiting a friend’s family farm and making the connection between what my parents called ‘meat’ and the animals. As a young adult I realized that leather wasn’t a bi product of the ‘meat’ industry, so I stopped wearing leather. I never wore fur, but I remember having a lucky rabbit foot keychain as a child which freaks me now that that was a ‘thing’ back then.

As a mother I took my child to the zoo and aquariums and then realized it was really a prison for them. Then one day I found out that some products that I bought such as cosmetics, skin and hair products and cleaning supplies were tested on animals in laboratories so I stopped using them and researched comparable products that were cruelty-free and switched to them, thank you PETA! Then around 8 years ago I joined social media and found out the truth about the egg, dairy and honey industries so I stopped consuming those products. Even then I wasn’t completely vegan because I still didn’t make the connection about the silk and down products, when I did, I stopped buying those products as well.

There is probably traces of animal product hidden in my car, home, computers, etc., it is an unfortunate reality of living in a non-vegan world. As we humans evolve to understand that animals are here with us, not for us, it will be easier and easier to be completely vegan, e.g., car companies are just starting to make vegan cars, there are many shoes now that are certified as 100% vegan including the glue, etc.

Hopefully people reading my story will understand the vital importance of activism in our current non-vegan world. I believe the majority of people are doing things that they don’t realize are hurting anyone, these industries that are responsible such as animal agriculture, deceive us because they know if the public knows the truth, it will not be good for business. The truth is unstoppable and there is nothing they can do about it as long as we advocate for the those silenced.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products?        

100%, I couldn’t agree more!

I am so grateful that I saw the truth when I was a child even though it caused me much sorrow it allowed me to make my own choices going forward and that is when I stopped eating animals. I am very disappointed I had to stumble upon the truth about dairy, eggs, zoos, etc., over the course of several decades but very grateful for the invention of the internet and social media. They provide the public transparency of what these industries are doing to the animals, something we didn’t have before the 1990s.

What does being vegan mean to you?

Doing as much as possible to live a lifestyle that doesn’t support speciesism and animal exploitation, basically live your life by doing the least amount of harm to animals.

I eat vegan and dress vegan and if there is a spider in the house, I use my PETA spider catcher to gently catch and release the little fellow outside; I consider myself an ethical vegan however I do accept that I live in a non-vegan world and at this time in history, there are some non-vegan things I cannot avoid. For example, I know that in Canada all pharmaceuticals are tested on animals so I do everything I can to avoid them but if I feel I must take them to get better I will. I know there are activists and agencies fighting to end mandatory animal testing in Canada and I donate money and sign petitions and anything else I can do to help. Until this cruel mandatory testing is illegal however I am not going to beat myself up over it, one day it will be illegal but we can’t take on every unjust cause at once.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?        

Yes. We can’t just say we are vegan that is enough, their horrendous suffering means we have to act and act now. Activism works, that is why the world is changing, that is why 350,000 people signed up to go vegan for Veganuary this month alone!  Most of us don’t want the headache that comes with being an activist but it really is our duty, not something we should consider optional. I am not being judgmental; you can see from my story I was not always an activist and regret it so please take this as encouragement not criticism.

Activism I do:

Slaughterhouse vigils

Anonymous for the Voiceless cubes

Marches

Conferences

Outreach

Disruptions

Vegan mentoring

Activism mentoring

Everyday activism (stickering, chalking, leafletting)

Founder/organizer of Vegfest Burlington 

Are you the activist you want to see in the world? Why?

Although there is always room for improvement I would say yes. I try my best to advocate for the animals every chance I get. I also try my best to encourage and support other activists, I know it is hard and I want them to know I got their back and respect their efforts. We can do a lot on our own but so much more as a team/community that supports each other.

What is the activism scene like in your city?

In my particular city, not so much, but it is growing! In our nearby city Toronto, they are doing a fantastic job, they are truly inspirational!! A few of us in Burlington have taken on the task of making our city more active with slaughterhouse vigils, Cubes of Truth, marches, disruptions, outreach and now our first Vegfest.

What personal recommendations can you make for people to get involved in activism?

I think start by joining existing group’s events such an Animal Save Movement, Anonymous for the Voiceless, participate in marches, volunteer for Vegfests in your area and animal sanctuaries. These activities will also help you find friends within the activism community and find your voice as you go, you will find your way organically. Don’t feel like you have to do all forms of activist but try several of the ones that interest you at least once to see how it goes.     

What do you feel is your biggest area of opportunity for growth in your activism?

I think organizing Burlington’s first Vegfest, we have nothing like it at this point in our city it is desperately needed. From doing vegan outreach in the city, I see a large thirst to know more about veganism but people really not knowing where to start. This is going to be a yearly event and hope to start the first vegan soup kitchen and food bank in the city as well next year. I am super excited about it! Check out more news to follow at burlingtonvegfest.com.

How do you balance your well-being and activism?

I eat healthy (most of the time), I exercise regularly, I do yoga, I spend quality time with friends and family (both 2 and 4 legged J ), I take walks in nature and enjoy its beauty. I make sure I don’t try and do every activism event, for example, I try to do most in my city and only travel to other cities when it is a special event, I have limited time with a family and full time job so I have to use my remaining time wisely. I love spending time at local animal sanctuaries but I should do that more! I love to laugh so try and find the funny in things (like watching cat videos J ) and I really love my activism friends, they give light in a dark world.

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