When you first meet Tom, he has a presence that you can’t quite describe…
Tom’s welcoming smile and peaceful energy make you want to listen intently to every word he says. So when we coincidentally ran into Tom during our brief visit to Chiang Mai, we took the opportunity to sit down with him and ask how he began his journey into animal advocacy… and to understand his methods of sharing animal ethics with the public via his vegan outreach booklet.
How long have you been in Thailand?
“I’ve lived in Thailand since 1992. I taught at a university in Bangkok for many years and then decided to move to Chiang Mai so that we could be closer to nature and grow a lot of our own organic fruits and vegetables. The vibrant Vegan scene in Chiang Mai was a major consideration when we moved here in 2014.”
What inspired you to start an ethical outreach programme?
“As a Vegetarian for the first ten years, I never gave any thought to advocating for animal rights and welfare. It was only after becoming Vegan that something deeper began stirring in my heart. I was fortunate to meet a man by the name of Jon Camp, who at the time was the director of outreach at an organisation called “Vegan Outreach.”
Jon inspired me to give it a try. So, I requested 100 of his booklets and started advocating for animals at universities in my mother’s hometown while I was caregiving for her. When I returned to Thailand, I realised that we needed outreach here, both in terms of Vegan literature and the personal touch of meeting people and inspiring them to give up eating animal products.”
How do people in Thailand react when you talk about animal advocacy?
“The key is to read people carefully and evaluate how much information and inspiration they are able to digest:
Conversely, if we listen to their thoughts carefully, and respond creatively and thoughtfully, we touch their hearts more deeply. This approach plants a seed in their minds that will continue to grow as they become more aware of the myriad issues involved in the animal industry.”
What is the Vegan outreach booklet?
“The booklet focuses on all the major issues related to the eating of animals and the essence of going Vegan. The booklet takes a brave look at the reality of the cruelty of raising and abusing factory animals for human consumption, explaining and showing the violence of the system. The last several pages of the booklet bring a lighter and refreshing conclusion that we have a way forward! There is a six-month plan for making the transition to a plant-based diet, including suggested menu items and substitute foods that make the Vegan path so diverse and exciting!”
Where can people read your booklet?
“We distribute booklets in some of the most popular and long-standing Vegan restaurants in Bangkok such as May Veggie Home and Veganerie. Here in Chiang Mai, we distribute through a wide variety of great Vegan restaurants such as Samata, Rad Rabbit and Goodsouls. Local “Jay” restaurants have also been instrumental in reaching a lot more Thai people than Western restaurants. Approximately 30 restaurants we have distributed more than 5500 booklets in English and 12,700 in Thai. We have reached more than 18,000 people since I launched the project on 22 December 2015!”
How can people get involved?
“It would be very helpful if people would volunteer to be “Vegan Ambassadors” for this project. My request is that people make a donation of 500 or 1000 baht to help pay for the printing of the booklets. In turn, I will send them 50 or 100 booklets in the language of their choice. This way, numerous Vegans around the country can actively distribute the booklets to their personal network of friends, students and colleagues. The donations pay for the printing, the Vegans obtain source material in Thai or English, friends and neighbours are informed and inspired to stop eating animals, and most importantly, we are all helping to save the lives of animals.”
Do you have any advice for people who want to become animal advocates?
Quoting from our booklet:
Please make a commitment to peace for all animals. This is the only possible future that we have.