Evolution of an Advocate

In 1988, I was flipping through a newspaper (this was in the days before the Internet) and saw a full-page PETA ad with a photo of a monkey in a vivisection restraining chair. At that time, I had never really thought about animal experimentation. Had I been asked about it, I would have considered it immoral—but it just wasn’t a topic in my mind. I had never heard of PETA, but I was so shocked at the sight of the photo that I made a donation and vowed to learn more.

I quickly came to realize that many people simply don’t know how much animals suffer at the hands of humans or, worse, refuse to know. This knowledge, the willingness to open oneself to haunting heartbreak, is what sets animal advocates apart. For me, I have no choice but to fight for animals, despite my inherent shyness. My work for animals doesn’t just benefit animals—it benefits me as well.

It’s so gratifying to be leafleting outside the Ringling Bros. circus, for example, and see the light bulb go on over someone’s head. People see the posters and watch the videos, and suddenly it clicks for them—they “get it” and decide not to buy tickets to the circus.

One of the most memorable protest experiences I’ve had was blocking off the main entrance to Emory University, where the Yerkes National Primate Research Center is located. During the protest, another activist and I chained ourselves and a large banner across Emory’s entrance, preventing traffic from entering. Besides being a sure way to bring media attention to an issue, there is something absolute about civil disobedience that really feels good. It’s not something that I can do every day, but it feels so right to express that sort of direct opposition to the horrendous cruelty committed against our fellow earthlings.

My decision in 2011 to work with Georgia Animal Rights and Protection has been the most significant role I’ve taken on in my activism. I love being part of the growing animal rights movement in Georgia, and I am honored to be working with extremely talented and dedicated people. I’ve had to push myself to learn all sorts of new skills.

It’s so exciting to envision where Atlanta will be a few years from now, and I am looking forward to being a part of the animal rights movement worldwide. The change in the world is speeding up, victories are happening at a faster pace, and I want my life to count for as much as possible in the movement to bring compassion into this world.

This article was written by PETA member Julie Robertson.