Meet the Folks!
Viva!’s network of animal campaigners includes people of all ages,
backgrounds and genders. Some have been campaigning over long lifetimes,
others are just embarking on their campaigning careers. You can’t
generalise about these fantastic people – and you certainly can’t
stereotype them. But however different in personal style they may be, what
unites them is compassion, dedication and the will to stand up for those
who can’t fight for themselves. Meet some of our Contacts here: find
out why they got involved, what they do and what their plans are.
Jenny Bryce - Scotland
At Viva!, we know that our local campaigners have lives to live and that
many are involved in helping animals in all sorts of ways. We don’t
expect every campaigner to be able to support every campaign – but
some of them always manage to do so anyway. Jenny from Edinburgh is one
of those. Still in her early twenties, not only has she supported all our
recent days of action against Tesco and Marks & Spencer but she even
organised a Vegan Fair in Glasgow this summer, giving Scottish vegans and
vegetarians a chance to find out more about the issues, check out the latest
products and eat some fabulous food – food which she even helped
to cook! She is in regular contact with Scottish politicians and the media
but despite a busy life away from campaigning, never loses her sense of
“From the age of three I irritated my parents with questions
about animals. I couldn’t understand why we would hurt them
and didn’t believe my dinner was once a living creature. I
ate animals’ right up until I left home at seventeen. I began
as a vegetarian and after three years changed to a vegan diet.
“I was unaware of the extent of animal abuse until I read one
of Viva!’s books. It devastated me to think of the pain and
fear that most animals are subjected to for human consumption, entertainment
and ‘sport’. It is a basic fact that all animals have a central
nervous system (humans included!) therefore feel pain and fear pain. I
still can’t understand why some humans in the face of this scientific
fact tend to ignore it.
“In July 2002 I attended the Viva! ‘ban-factory farming’ march
through London. It was amazing to be with others who felt the same
about animals and encouraged me to become more active. I then joined
a local animal rights group - Edinburgh Animal Rights. They were very
welcoming and I helped out with info stalls and demos. Initially
I found it difficult to motivate myself to turn up for demos – I
know how difficult it can be especially if you don’t enjoy excess
attention – but it is easier for us to spare a few hours of our
time, even it we do feel uncomfortable, than it is for the millions of
animals who are suffering silently every day of their lives.
“Edinburgh Animal Rights has now metamorphosed into a new group
called EVA – Edinburgh Voice 4 Animals. I intend to help
with demos, information stalls and press releases in the future and hope
to help others who want to get more involved in campaigning or who want
support in changing to a vegetarian/vegan diet.”
Margaret Gibbins - Devon
Margaret Gibbins is 65, lives in Cornwall and walks with the aid of a
stick. Like so many other people, it was the live export of calves ten
years ago that first spurred her into action.
“I heard about these poor calves and sheep being shipped out
and the demonstrations being held at Plymouth’s Millbay docks to
try and stop them. Although extremely nervous, I went along and stood
way back in the crowd. Gradually I edged forward as I realised what it
was really about - a group of ordinary people coming out of their private,
self-contained little boxes, finding their inner-voice and strength and
getting out there.”
Margaret found a voice louder than many, dumped the flower arranging circle,
equipped herself with a secret camera and helped make two undercover videos
exposing the cruelty at livestock markets. The videos ended up being shown
on national TV. Although always terrified at the thought of going into
a farm, market or dock and often needing physical help from colleagues,
Margaret still does it: “When I get there I try not to show any
emotion or look into an animal’s eyes because it can crack you up
and you want to rescue them all. But no matter how hard you try to avoid
seeing it, you always spot one poor creature who’ll forever haunt
She found plenty to haunt her at Newham farm, Penzance, a sickening pig
slum which featured in our Pig in Hell video.
It contained animals kept in almost total darkness, maggot-riddled, rotting
piglet corpses, mounds of dead adult pigs and the dreadful scene of a mother
pig incarcerated in a farrowing crate and haemorrhaging profusely into
Margaret went back with her camera time after time, at night and in the
day time in all weathers, over a period of 18 months. Although our complaints
were ignored by all the official bodies who are supposed to protect animals,
we were able to make life so difficult for the owner that eventually the
place was closed down. Margaret’s persistence won through.
Why, with a husband, three children and six grandchildren, does she do
“Once animal rights is in you, you can’t stop. There’s
so much to be done. The realisation of what you’re up against has
had me crying in the street but going into markets and farms and getting
video footage brings home to people the reality of animal abuse. It is
a journey of learning and although some people don’t make the journey
at all, once you start on it you can only go forwards”.
Martin Fox - Exeter
What’s wrong with men? There are a lot of potential answers to that
question but the reason we ask it is that far more women are vegetarian
and involved in animal activism than men. We all have our own theories
about this but one possible reason is that it isn’t traditionally “manly” to
be seen to care about animals. Fortunately, however, there are an increasing
number of men who aren’t ashamed to be compassionate and who recognise
that there’s nothing manly about standing by while others suffer.
Martin is one of Viva!’s most effective local contacts, representing
Exeter Friends For Animals who are an active and dedicated group. EFFA
recently organised a very successful Veggie Festival in the centre of Exeter
involving talks, the opportunity for people to buy veggie and vegan products
and – best of all – taking the message to ordinary people out
shopping on a Saturday afternoon.
“Can it really be all those years ago since, as a younger man
I made the decision to go vegetarian? I remember getting quite excited
when a restaurant offered a vegetable lasagne instead of an omelette
or cheese salad. The endless amount of time my then girlfriend and I
spent trying to do something interesting with Sosmix! And wondering how
many times a week you could eat Beanfeast spagbol. I knew though, that
I didn’t want to be a participant in animal suffering and death
just for an unnecessary taste on my plate.
“Information is the key. When, after many years of passive vegetarianism
I decided about six years ago, to find out what more I could do to help
animals ( and meet more like minded people ) I started to write letters
to the local press, attended meetings of local groups and joined Viva!
The wealth of well researched information available immediately led me
to the next step of a totally animal free diet.
“Now, as a Viva! local contact and joint coordinator of Exeter
Friends for Animals (EFFA), I get great satisfaction from sharing knowledge
and communicating with prospective new vegetarians and animal activists
at our monthly information stalls in the centre of Exeter. It’s
so easy to start campaigning, even if you can only spare the occasional
hour or two, and importantly, only involving yourself initially with
activities with which you feel comfortable.
Becoming ‘Animal Active’ is immensely rewarding ( and
addictive ) and it’s so good to be amongst like minded veggie friends.
Come and join us. We really do make a difference.”
Joan Court - Oxford
If there is a typical animal rights background, it’s not Joan Court’s.
Born in Knightsbridge to a very upper-middle-class family, Joan’s
kinship with animals began at an early age when she wanted to live with
the wolves. By the age of 16 she was a solitary vegetarian.
Joan has spent much of her life as a nurse and a child protection officer
and is quietly proud of this and her other achievements. At 59, she won
a place at Cambridge, where she now lives, and gained a degree in social
anthropology. Her autobiography – In the Footsteps of Gandhi – is
fascinating and beautifully crafted.
“This is the way forward. Gandhi was a master at it and when
democracy has been so trampled, civil disobedience is the answer”.
Currently, Joan is determined to stop the building of a primate research
laboratory at Oxford University and recently attracted headlines by holding
a two-day fast at the construction site. “At my age, I just don’t
care and will do what is necessary for the animals.”
“My life is magic and I love the excitement and camaraderie
of demonstrations and protests. I use my age for the cause – I
look respectable, I sound respectable and by any standard I am very elderly
“For me there is nothing as important as acting for animals.
The fact that people can inflict suffering on these defenceless creatures
demeans all humankind”.
Joan says that her life has been like a Chekhov novel. Well, another chapter
is about to unfold as she boards Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd and sails
north this winter to stop Iceland from resuming whaling. “And
I hate the cold!” TW
Holly Maguire - Sussex
Holly is the kind of campaigner who puts the rest of us to shame – and
she’s only 13! Her campaigning CV includes writing letters to the
press and supermarkets, speaking at Viva!’s national march against
factory farming, taking part in demonstrations and distributing leaflets.
She has investigated the sources of the meat served in her school canteen
and raised money in sponsored events. She’s the living proof that
not all “kids today” are only interested in consumer products
and celebrities. We confidently expect her to be running Viva! in twenty
years’ time – you heard it here first!
“I am 13 years old. I became a vegetarian when I was ten, when
I read a Viva! leaflet about factory farming. I was disgusted at the
conditions and the next time I was offered meat I couldn't face eating
it. After that I found it easier to refuse meat and I never really wanted
to eat it. I also became involved in fighting other causes such as vivisection,
and felt compelled to raise money for charities such as Viva! and Animal
Aid to help stop cruelty to animals. Me and my friend Charlotte held
demonstrations and did sponsored events. It is a very rewarding experience,
especially on marches when you are among so many like-minded people.”
Check out Viva!’s Youth Campaigns
Check out the full list of Viva! Contacts here to see who is in
If you’re interested in becoming a campaigner for Viva!,
just get in touch!