When did you begin to get involved with social media as an advocate for veganism & animal welfare issues?
I was late to the whole internet world. I played around on computers at the library a little in the early 2000s but it wasn’t until 2005 when I got a job with The Star of Honolulu dinner cruise company that I set up an e-mail account and became computer literate. I was 40 years old!
Because of digital media, many more people are readily exposed to realities via articles & posts that they would not otherwise likely see in their environment. Do you observe a transformative effect occurring with people’s willingness to engage with online media content to self educate, cultivate solidarity, share information & even change minds?
I definitely feel the internet provides a window to the world for people. We have the opportunity to choose what we want to see but with the advent of social media like Facebook and Twitter we’re also put in a position where we can find ourselves looking at photos and videos we did NOT necessarily choose to see; posts that appear before us because a friend has shared them and they end up in our Facebook and Twitter feed. Those of us in the vegan and animal advocacy community have benefited from that aspect of social media because we’re often sharing photos and videos that expose the truth about animal exploitation. The general public might not seek out those kinds of stories on their own but because they’re connected to us, they see the important stories we’re sharing and sometimes they’re ready to listen. For instance, viewing real life footage of the way animals are treated on factory farms where the majority of meat is produced can be a transformative experience for people. Those videos provoke empathy for animals and change hearts sometimes.
You are the social media administrator for the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii & Animal Rights Hawaii & other organizations. What are the social media platforms you manage for these organizations & do you see a different level or sort of engagement with each (i.e. more dialogue on Twitter vs. FB or more activity on FB vs. IG etc).
I handle The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii’s Facebook page and help with their Twitter account. I help with the Facebook page and Twitter accounts of Animal Rights Hawaii. I help with the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Greens & Vines Raw Vegan Restaurant in Honolulu. I also have a Facebook page called “Fans of Veganist Kathy Freston”. I’m very pleased to have access to all these platforms and use then in different ways. The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii provides me with a platform to talk about the health and environmental benefits of eating a vegan diet. Greens & Vines is a food business, so their main focus is showing how delicious vegan food can look and taste. With the Animal Rights Hawaii accounts I promote a vegan diet but also share the heartbreaking truth about animal exploitation in the fur, leather, rodeo, and animal circus industries. Each of these platforms provide me with a way to be helpful to animals but in different ways.
How long have you been vegan & what motivated your choice?
I decided to commit to a vegan diet as a New Year’s Resolution on January 1, 2003. I’ve been vegan 12 years. I became vegan because I want to reduce animal suffering. In 1994 a female circus elephant named “Tyke” escaped from a circus here in Honolulu and ended up at my apartment building. I watched helplessly from my 15th floor apartment window as police shot and killed Tyke. In 1994 we didn’t have the internet, so I had to wait until the TV news came on that night to find out what had actually happened. It wasn’t until years later, with the advent of the internet, that I was able to search for stories about Tyke and put the pieces together about what happened that tragic day. I watched YouTube videos about the way circus animals are mistreated. When searching for circus videos, factory farm videos showed up too. Tyke’s tragic death led me to learn the truth about many forms of animal exploitation and I decided I needed to stop being a part of animal exploitation if I could. I stopped eating meat and dairy products. I stopped wearing leather and wool. I started speaking out about animal exploitation wherever I could. I started volunteering to handle the social media accounts for the local vegan and animal rights organizations. The story of Tyke the female circus elephant put me on the path to animal advocacy.