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Star activist: Interview with Lynda Stoner
Australian actor Lynda Stoner starred in hit TV shows in the 1970s and
1980s including Cop Shop, Chances and Prisoner: Cell Block H. But she gave
up a career in the limelight to campaign for animal rights. She spoke with
You work for Animal Liberation NSW. Tell us about your
My role with Animal Liberation is communications manager.
Under that descriptor I have the privilege of researching animal rights
issues and writing about them for brochures, the website and other
As with other people here much of the work I do is
confined to the office and on other occasions I am involved with direct
action. I lobby politicians, generate free promotional opportunities for
this organisation such as ADSHEL billboards and free to air commercials and
assist in the day to day running of the office.
A large portion of
my time in the office is responding to our free call 1800 Cruelty Hotline.
This service was set up over three years ago in response to an ever
increasing number of calls coming from country and rural areas from people
distressed by animal cruelty.
The RSPCA has a policy in NSW and
Victoria of not taking anonymous calls which means the plight of many
thousands of animals has gone unreported. Animal Liberation takes the
case details and then becomes the informant which means the original caller
no longer has to be involved.
Due to increasing numbers of calls
the 1800 went into Victoria 2 years ago and into Tasmania last year.
The RSPCA in Tasmania takes all calls including anonymous ones and we have a
constructive relationship that works to the benefit of all animals.
We have a good working relationship with the police, many councils, the DPI
and when we can get caller contact details we are able to send through to
the RSPCA in NSW.
We have a wonderful person working for us in
Victoria who was an RSPCA inspector. He is a one person mover and
shaker and did great work to assist animals during the bushfires.
works tremendously well with official organisations and also knows the law
back to front and his experience and can-do attitude ensures he can assist
animals in peril rapidly.
When did you first become involved in
I began in the animal rights movement in 1978 not
long after Peter Singer’s momentous book Animal Liberation was released.
Some months prior I had seen coverage of Harp seal pups being slaughtered
for their fluffy, baby fur.
It stood to reason that if I hadn’t been
aware of this iniquity there must be other areas of animal cruelty
unbeknownst to me. I began researching areas of animal exploitation and took
up volunteer work with the Wilderness Society.
What they do is terrific
but I felt a sense of urgency in wanting to focus on animals that are
subjugated in the name of “food,” “clothing” and “entertainment – rodeos,
Someone recommended Peter’s book which I bought the
same day and consumed four chapters of in a cab on the way to work.
The book, for me, was an epiphany. It shocked and distressed me but it
was as though the book was calling me home. I cannot describe it any other
way. I immediately stopped eating meat and over the next couple of days
threw out all my leather goods and binned any cosmetics that had been tested
on animals. I knew I would spend the rest of my life working for animal
How did your new knowledge impact on your work as a renowned
At the time I read the book I had just started working in a
high-profile television show. The show alone should have absorbed all my
attention but I was consumed by animal rights.
colleagues thought/hoped this was whimsy on my part – mostly because I
became rabid, loud, judgmental and totally intolerant of anyone eating and
wearing animals. I recall more arguments with more people (practically
everyone) than at any other time in my life.
I am now of the
opinion that I alienated more people during my dictatorial days than ever I
persuaded them of the multi benefits of not contributing to the maltreatment
Back then vegetarianism (much less veganism!) was a
relatively unknown phenomenon associated with “hippies” and “communes” –
nonverbal descriptions of which included lots of eye rolling and
It didn’t matter a whit to me if the entire population
of talkback radio railed and belittled, I knew that what I read in Peter
Singer’s book is the unarguable truth, we do not have the right to exploit
any living creature.
I was pole-axed by the plight of animals and
the monumental amount of ways humans use animals. Those concerns and how to
stop them took me over more and more and culminated in the privilege of me
now working fulltime at Animal Liberation, “at home.”
What are your
thoughts on the bond between humans and animals?
animals is a symbiotic relationship. By respecting and nurturing the rights
of nonhumans it seems a natural extension to respect and nurture all life.
I continue to be perplexed by people who believe compassion for one
needs to be at the exclusion of the other. Surely we have sufficient
compassion to encompass caring for all life forms.
I tend still
towards impatience with people who say, “you should be working to help
humans, not animals,” (this usually from people who are doing nothing to
help anyone) and those who say they “only” love animals.
though we have all been born with a limited amount of empathy and if too
much if used up we’ll be emptied out. If you eat meat and dairy
products and wear animal skins you are directly responsible for the ongoing
suffering of animals. The bonus of opting out of this misery is that your
health will improve and so will our environment.
It is widely known
now that the production of meat, dairy and leather are toxic to this planet.
Compassion for all animals will generate a healthier planet and a healthier
you and you will no longer be causing suffering to animals.
animals enrich our lives?
Animals enrich our lives by just being.
Doing whatever they enjoy doing without intervention from humans wherever
Having said that, many people’s lives are deepened by the
company of a dog, cat, horse, rabbit, guinea pig, rat and others. For many
their companion animal is their dearest friend, someone who loves them
unconditionally. Animals don’t give a toss about what you are wearing, your
profession or where you live.
If you are good to them they will
reciprocate with trust and love. Children who have been taught healthy
interaction with animals have a greater sense of empathy and through living
with animals also learn responsibility for the welfare of others. Animals in
a healthy environment are also just lots of fun.
We can learn so many
things from animals. Depending on which species you care to study they
all have unique capabilities and strengths. A good way to learn from
animals is to go to their country of origin or absorb documentaries and read
Never, ever go to a zoo or a circus because all you
will see are animals that have been sublimated into what humans have done to
them. Any time you go to anything other than a free-range zoo (and Animal
Liberation would endorse these places only as a desperate measure) you will
see stereotypic behaviour and animals that are as physiologically damaged as
any human would be who was kept confined and deprived of normal behaviour
How has the animal rights movement impacted on
The animal rights movement changed my life completely. I
was on a life path I thought meant a great deal to me only to have it turn
in a totally different direction. I am grateful to my old life though as it
gave me the opportunity to get animal rights issues into the public forum in
a way I could not otherwise have done.
Do you live with any
My family and I have always had companion animals
and I am happy my son has been around dogs since he was born up until age
eighteen when our last beloved dog died.
Before my son was born I
had three little dogs who were vegetarian (during my dictatorial years) and
I must say they bloomed and flourished. However with our last dog I
revised my views on denying him his natural carnivorous state.
and cats are carnivores. Check their fangs for one thing, their digestive
tracts, a dog’s tendency to gulp and rip just as they’ve done for thousands
of years. For our dog I subjected myself to walking into the butchers
to get our boy his bones (or rather, someone else’s bones) and scalded
myself for hypocrisy.
Vowed I would not get another companion animal
if it meant another animal had to die to feed my chosen one/s.
Besides, the grief we went through when Lobo died was it for me. So my
life has been blessed with the company of animals but I doubt I will go
there again. Perhaps a rabbit…or two…
What changes have you
seen in the animal rights movement over the years?
The animal rights
movement has grown rapidly since I first came into it, and it’s growing
around the world. Minority countries tend still to pamper a chosen few
species and close their eyes to the suffering of animals that make up their
dinner and handbags.
Of-course having abattoirs, battery hen sheds,
sow stalls and broiler (chicken meat) sheds behind closed doors far
removed from the majority of the population means humans can more easily
Tragically majority countries are tending to pick
up minority countries intensive systems - tragically for the animals, human
health and the environment. If everyone went vegan there would be sufficient
food to feed the entire human population. And incidents of heart
disease and cancer would plummet. If this sounds like Shangri-la then
I am all for reaching for the best that we can be.
You’ve written a book
containing vegan recipes – tell us about that.
It’s called Now
Vegan! It was enjoyable to write and I co-opted friends and family
into sharing their favourite dish.
Not surprisingly much of the book
is taken up with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. I wanted the
book to reflect the richness and variety of vegan food, to illustrate that
vegans enjoy an abundance of inexpensive, nutritious, easy to prepare and
holistically good cuisine.
Lynda Stoner is the communications manager at
Animal Liberation NSW. Now Vegan!
is available internationally at
Amazon and in Australia from the
Cruelty Free Shop.