Photo credit: Jenny Anderson

For our newest industry profile/5 Questions blog, I caught up with Mightier Than Sword Records owner R.J. Crowder-Schaefer. MTS has put out releases from some of my favorite bands, including The Movielife, Transit, and Such Gold. Check out what R.J. had to say about activism and animal rights, and enter the contest below for your chance to win a MTS prize pack!

1. Introduce yourself! Where are you from? What do you do?

Hey, how’s it going? My name is R.J. and I’m originally from San Antonio, TX, but have been living in New York City for the past 6 years. I am the owner of Mightier Than Sword Records, an independent record label and artist management company based in Brooklyn, NY. The label was started in my college dorm room at New York University in January 2006 as a hobby, and now, 39+ releases and over 5 years later, Mightier Than Sword is a full-time operation.

2. How long have you been vegetarian? What prompted you to make that decision?

I’ve been vegetarian for over 9 years, since I was in high school. Deciding to go vegetarian for me was a combination of my growing awareness of the animal rights and health issues involved with consuming meat. Along with that, I wanted to try something new that was out of the ordinary of how I was raised and different than what I was seeing around me. I think a part of that decision was teenage angst, and I’m thankful that I tested vegetarianism for one week and stuck with it, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

3. Do you feel like there’s a connection between the punk rock/hardcore music scene and activism and being socially aware?

There is definitely a connection between the punk/hardcore scene and being socially active and aware. The scene, no matter where you are, is typically a close-knit group of people who have come together to share in music in its various forms, and I think that fuels the desire to look at the world differently and from non-traditional perspectives. Punk and hardcore are by no means mainstream music genres, and the people involved in these scenes are often interested in non-mainstream issues. I feel that music is a gateway into viewing the world differently and the desire to combat social awareness through activism.

4. Of all of the major animal rights issues (animal testing, factory farming, animals used in entertainment, dog fighting, etc.) are there any issues that are particularly close to your heart?

While most of these issues are close to my heart, I’m most adamant about factory farming and the current fast food culture we’ve been supporting for the past couple decades. We’re all guilty of indulging in fast food from time to time, but just thinking of the treatment animals go through before winding up between two buns really bums me out and makes me feel guilty, even when I have a veggie burger from a fast food restaurant. I think people turn a blind eye to where their food sources come from, and that definitely needs to be changed.

I recently moved into a new apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, and on my new route to the subway I walk directly passed a live chicken/slaughterhouse operation. Seeing thousands of chickens squeezed into a tiny room, and smelling the awful stench of the unsanitary housing conditions of these chickens is something that both saddens me and solidifies my decision for being vegetarian.

5. If a friend were to approach you with questions about how to get involved with animal rights or advice on going vegetarian, what would you tell him or her?

I think the decision to become vegetarian is something that is very personal and can’t be forced, which is something that I’ve always been careful of when talking to friends about why I’m vegetarian and what it means to me and the impact it’s had on my life. For a friend that approaches me about being vegetarian or learning more about animal rights or activism, I recommend the numerous publications out there, including PETA, along with the thousands of videos that reveal the horrible treatment of animals, from factory farming to the production of fur garments, seal hunting, etc. Most importantly, and I tell this to anyone who asks, being vegetarian has had the most positive and meaningful impact on my life to date, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Big thanks to R.J.! If you’re interested in giving vegetarianism a shot, click here to get a free Vegetarian Starter Kit. And to get your hands on a Mightier Than Sword prize pack including a t-shirt and select CDs and vinyl, leave a comment below telling us your favorite new album that’s come out so far in 2011. Entries must be received by May 27, 2011 and one winner will be chosen at random and notified on June 1, 2011.

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