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November 03, 2008

Our Compassionate Corps

For the next 30 hours or so—until the polls close at 8 p.m. Pacific Time—we’ll be working throughout California and Massachusetts to get out the vote and to persuade undecided voters to go Yes on Prop 2 in California and Yes on Question 3 (to ban greyhound racing) in Massachusetts. If you know anyone in California or Massachusetts, please take this final opportunity to ask them to vote YES! on Prop 2 and Yes on Question 3.

For us this election is about animals. But it's also about people. Particularly, the people who are making sacrifices and working to make this world a better place for animals.

Our California campaign has been dependent on the good work of good people—more than 4,000 volunteers who, for more than a year, have dedicated themselves to passing Prop 2 and gaining more humane treatment for the state’s nearly 20 million farm animals.

With all of our volunteers in mind, today I wanted to give the floor to just a few of the folks who are working on the ground to make this happen. I hope their stories inspire you.

184x264_kelle_prop2Kelle Bruckman of Redondo Beach has hosted several events (garage sales, bake-offs, a party, and more) to raise funds for YES! on Prop 2 and, according to her mother, has “devoted every minute of her non-working time” for the past several months to the campaign.

As far back as I can remember I knew that I had a special connection with all animals; polar bears and dogs were my first choices. Now that I am a 37-year-old special education teacher and doctoral student, I have placed chickens, pigs, and calves at the forefront of the list (please don’t tell my two dogs at home).

The school where I teach at is in the inner city and stray dogs are a constant issue. I am known on our campus as the “Dog Lady” or “Dog Savior” as I always have provisions for the rescues: leashes, water, etc. Then, Michael Vick appeared on the news and it was again made clear to me that animals needed as many people as possible to speak on their behalf. So there I went with my T-shirt that read “Real Heroes Don’t Fight Dogs,” speaking out wherever to whomever I could.

I have always felt that it is important to be aware of animal issues and unfortunately to me that includes having to watch video that is painful to see. For me though, I do not have the option of turning it off because the animals do not have the choice to turn off the terrible conditions that humans are putting them through. Then last October I received a letter in the mail explaining that Californians were fortunate to have the opportunity to provide 20 million animals relief from constant inhumane treatment on farms; I had no idea what that would mean at the time. I thought, “Sure, send me some petitions and I will sign one and maybe ask a few people.” It may have started out that way but then it turned into more. Each signature meant I was one step closer to giving those chickens the opportunity to spread their wings. It was very odd because during signature gathering people would ask, “Why are you having to do this? Why aren’t we letting them run free?”

It hasn’t all been that easy, even from my own family members there has been opposition. There have also been fantastic moments. Last Thanksgiving my 9-year-old niece, Kelly, told me that I just needed to explain to people that her teacher told her she has to exercise to be healthy and that if the chickens are able to exercise then their eggs will be healthier for people to eat. Honestly, I used that quite often during signature gathering, speaking at a city council meeting, and up until last weekend leafleting at a fair.

Ultimately, it comes down to knowing that being the voice for an animal is part of my purpose.

184x265_rose_prop2 Rose McClain is a personal chef who specializes in vegan and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in San Diego with her two dogs and one cat.

A year ago I was soul-searching. I liked my life, but something was missing. I asked myself, “If I die tomorrow, will I have any regrets?” I knew I would regret not doing more to help animals. Then my daughter and I were invited to the kickoff meeting for the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. Here was an opportunity to make history for animals. When asked to commit to gathering 1,000 signatures to qualify Prop 2 for the ballot, we were surprised to see our hands in the air.  We had no idea how we would do it, but when we saw the pictures of the chickens, pigs and calves, we knew we had to try. Five months later I had collected 3,149 signatures!

Accomplishing this was not always easy. Some days it was fun, and some days it was really hard. But thankfully I have a new support system: my fellow volunteers. The encouragement and appreciation from our team leaders Kath, Christina and Nina really kept my spirits up. Sharing this experience with my daughter Teagen has created an even stronger bond between us. Being able to share daily helped to keep us going.

This campaign has given me so many things. I have never felt so alive and passionate! I’m not an outgoing person, but over the past twelve months I’ve found I can do things I never imagined. I have been challenged so many times. I was the kind of person who was too scared to introduce myself when going around in a circle at a meeting, but I had a purpose and ended up connecting with thousands of people who normally I would just pass on the street.

Often I think, “If I can do this, anyone can!” This campaign has given me a new confidence, and I’ll never be the same. Every day there are opportunities to make a difference for animals. I consider it a gift to be able to help in any way I can, and I have never felt more fulfilled.

184x265_eileen_prop2 Eileen Jefferson is a veterinarian with the San Francisco SPCA, one of nearly 150 animal protection organizations endorsing YES! on Prop 2.

I am one of the 700 California veterinarians who gave my endorsement to Proposition 2.  In addition, I have tried to give as much time as possible in these last crucial months to volunteering for the campaign. Although phenomenal animal advocates across the country are a constant source of inspiration to continue working for farm animals, there has really been no greater motivation for me than my own direct observations of intensive confinement.

I grew up in a rural area and then spent nearly a decade in agricultural university settings. I have not only come face to face with intensive confinement practices, but I have also been educated on the supposed justifications for their use. My conclusion is that there is no justification for the misery these animals are forced to endure.

Two years ago, I was standing in a university swine operation, thinking that measures to protect farm animals were long overdue. My classmates and I had just been given an assignment to measure the dimensions of gestation crates and then compare the numbers with the industry standard. Sure enough, all the numbers matched. The numbers met the standard even though the pigs could not turn around, could not stretch their limbs, and were condemned to stand in one spot for months with no relief. The numbers met the standard even though the sows were so mentally frustrated that they rattled and gnawed at their water dispensers incessantly. Nobody said a word about the industry standard perhaps being too low, and to me that silence was bothersome.

I am happy to report that Prop 2 volunteers have been far from silent in telling the public about cramped spaces and frustrated animals. It takes courageous people to challenge practices that are so widely accepted and profitable. During this campaign, I’ve seen farm animal issues thrown into the national spotlight by the most courageous humane leaders and volunteers out there. It has truly been an honor to work with them, and I commend each one of them for their passion and determination.

184x264_wayne_jim Jim Corriere (pictured here with me) teaches G.E.D. courses to inmates at Centinela State Prison, a maximum security institution in Imperial, Calif.

I began my trek with this Proposition a year ago as a signature gatherer where I collected some 800 of them in and around Imperial Valley, sometimes crossing into Mexicali, Mexico to collect signatures from those who were waiting in long lines to walk into the U.S.

Proposition 2 fits well into my vegan philosophy, where I refuse to use or consume the products of any living organism. Even though some volunteers may not be vegan, it is still easy to see how one is willing to help animals that are confined to a point where they cannot extend their limbs or even stand up. Proposition 2 is a modest one in which it promotes the welfare of farmed animals and makes our food supply a much safer one.

I have offered a great deal of support to those who have also volunteered to help pass Proposition 2 by responding to their emails, donating money to the cause and attending fundraisers around the state. The thought of those animals caged like they are drives me to do the right act and to help them get more living space. What could be more simplistic?

During the last two weeks of the campaign, I placed 20 yard signs around my community by making them out of window signs. I cut out some foam insulation and sized it up to the window sign, glued them to each other, then nailed the sign to some recycled wooden sticks that my friend had lying around his home. I was able to promote Proposition 2 inexpensively and creatively and when the election is over and Proposition 2 passes, I will go back to where I placed those signs, collecting them, then recycling the wood and paper as much as possible.

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