Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
Interview with the Chilean Veg Leader
Continuing our series of email interviews with leaders of IVU member societies, here is an interview with Alejandro Steve Ayala Polanco, president of the Chilean Vegetarian Vegan Society: www.homovegetus.cl
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What made you decide to become a vegetarian? When did that happen? How old were you at the time?
A: I decided when I was 12. I was reading an encyclopaedia, and found the concept “sentient beings”. Thenceforth, I wanted to develop my life without harming other sentient beings like me. I have been vegetarian for 19 years and vegan for 10 years.
You are a leader of a member society of IVU. How long have you been a leader of this organisation?
A: I have been the president of this society since its foundation in November of 2002.
What made you decide to become active in promoting vegetarianism?
A: It happened when I was teaching meditation at a university. A lot of students started to ask me about vegetarianism. So, I found that there was a great need for vegetarian knowledge, but no organization to provide it.
What is it that sustains your desire to be active?
A: I think that although by being vegan we are not part of the problem of animal exploitation, we need to be an activist to become part of the solution.
What is an obstacle that you face in remaining active in promoting vegetarianism? How do you overcome this obstacle?
A: I don’t see any obstacle, just opportunities.
What is one of your organisation’s accomplishments that make you especially proud?
A: It makes me particularly proud the high level of knowledge in animal rights philosophy and vegan education of my team.
How do you try to maintain good relations and enthusiasm amongst your organisation’s members?
A: We practice acceptance and cooperation as an everyday central philosophy. All the members of our team know that our final objective it is to develop a world guide for the high values of love and cooperation. We got a common vision, and we practice its associative principles in every conscious action.
What is one way that your organisation cooperates with other veg organisations?
A: We share our vegan-abolitionist knowledge with other organizations through a permanent dialogue.
Do you have any fundraising tips for other organisations?
A: I recommend the self-financing principle to guarantee the organization’s autonomy in matters of speech and action. It is the only way to give a free message to the public.
We practice self-financing through actions that promote veganism and provide us money. For example, the “Fonda del Huaso Vegano” is a party that we organize in September every year. The Fonda is a traditional party that Chileans organize to celebrate the independence of the country. This party traditionally includes great eating of meat and other animal products. So we, as vegans, decided to develop our own national party excluding all kinds of animal exploitation, giving a strong vegan message, and at the same time collecting funds for our organization through selling vegan food.
What is one thing that other veg organisations might be able to learn from your organisation?
A: I think we have a very clear vision of the world we want to create. A world guided by love and cooperation, with complete harmony between humans and non humans. We need to practice love like a state of consciousness, and veganism is the way.
How does your organisation reach out to people who are trying to become veg or who are newly veg?
A: We provide them with support that includes not just the information; we also provide them emotional support with our friendship and care.
For example, we organize vegan meetings every month. Everybody - vegan or not - is invited to these meetings to share their doubts, questions, experiences and ideas about veganism and the vegan movement. The gathering provides confidence and emotional support to vegans and those considering it.