Bring along the coolest date of all for prom this year!
Who says speaking up for animals has to be all work and no play? This month’s Star Activist, Jason Ellsworth, who is also a member of the Leadership Program, has set an amazing example on his campus by showing his fellow students that speaking up for animals is loads of fun and one of the most rewarding things that you can do. This semester, Jason and a few of his friends started a group called Partnership for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) of Saint Mary’s University, which looks to spread a message of compassion for animals through film screenings, information sessions, literature distribution, guest speakers, demonstrations, and regular meetings as well as through social events, such as concerts, potlucks, and more.
Where are you from originally?
Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Do you have companion animals? What are their names?
Since I move a lot, I have made the decision not to have any companion animals, as I don’t believe it would be fair to them. However, I do steal my mother’s dog Kelly away for extended periods of time.
Can you tell me about some challenges and how you’ve dealt with or overcome them?
The biggest challenge is recruiting new people to come out to events. Meetings, film screenings, information sessions, campaigns, and other events are great, but for many students who have to go to class all day, the idea of going back to the classroom doesn’t sound so exciting. So what we’ve done is created events, such as parties with live music, that create a more enticing environment, at which we set up a table full of information and facts for attendees to browse. Education and fun do not have to be mutually exclusive, and it’s important to change it up every now and then.
What are some of the victories that you’ve had, big or small?
The biggest thing for me is that our group has started to create an actual awareness for animal welfare issues on campus. Before the group existed, there was no talk about these issues, but now we find articles in our school paper—such as one recently published addressing the Canadian commercial seal hunt—showing up more and more. In general, I find people talking about issues relevant to animals much more. The first big step for any group is just creating awareness and getting people to start to question the way in which things in our world work.
Why do you think it’s so important to start a campus group?
We have a group in our city called Animal Rights Collective of Halifax (ARCH) that does great work around the city, but the student population, for the most part, is very set on staying close to campus and being involved in activities here. It was important to give those on campus a place where they could go to talk about the issues that mean so much to them—in this case, animal welfare. After starting the group, we had a great response from people telling us how happy they were that there was finally a community on campus that they could feel comfortable in.
What does you family think about your animal rights activism?
My family is fully supportive of what I do. My brother, Kyle Ellsworth, a fellow vegan and musician, is always willing to play at events we set up and is heavily in support of ending the amount of animal suffering that takes place in this world My mother, Karen, loves hearing about what I do and is always interested in learning more for herself. She’s always cutting out articles in the paper and telling me about issues and talks that take place back in my home province.
What advice can you offer to college activists?
Awareness of the issues is the first step, but awareness is a two-way street. If you’re not willing to listen to others, even if their views are in complete opposition to your own, then surely you cannot expect them to listen to your own view.
What are your plans for the future?
I look to live life to the fullest by traveling, working, and simply just enjoying life while continuing to create awareness about the suffering and cruelty to animals that exists in our world, so as to help eliminate the suffering.
Increase the effectiveness of your activism by starting a group on your campus today! Don’t forget to check out peta2’s Mini-Guide to College Animal Rights Activism for tips and tricks on how to be the best activist you can be.
Are you are a college student in the United States or Canada? Check out the Leadership Program to learn vital activist skills and earn college credit for the work you do to save animals.
Want to be our next Star Activist? Sign up for the Street Team now, and tell us what you’ve done to help animals in your community.