Anybody who reads the newspaper comics pages is familiar with Bizarro -- the surrealistic panel 'toon with a die-hard following of fans of all that is warped.

Dan Piraro, the 48-year-old cartoonist behind Bizarro, was in town last month to speak at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival and says he's thrilled to have such a loyal fan base.


Environmentalism and animal rights play a central role in his life, and the two issues are often reflected in his work. He became more ardent after meeting his second wife, Ashley Smith, a long-time animal-rights activist. Like Smith, Piraro turned to veganism when he learned more about how farm and agricultural animals are treated.

"There are so many people out there that just have no idea of the impact that their day-to-day lifestyle choices have, and that was me six years ago, so you know, I'm not being judgmental."

Piraro often beats the animal rights drum in his cartoons, sometimes so subtly that some people might not notice -- but it's there.

"A lot of my cartoons are born out of anger. And a lot of it is just the anger of ignorance," says Piraro.

"Environmental and animal rights issues are so interwoven, there's no way to separate those two issues. Vegetarianism is environmentalism. It's all the same issue."

His anger is aimed at a media that he says doesn't give the issue enough coverage, at politicians who turn a blind eye, and at the average citizen who doesn't bother to get informed.

"There's is an inordinate amount of suffering caused by a person's 99-cent hamburger... [Most people have] no idea what tremendous amount of suffering and environmental damage is being done -- and political damage with all the subsidies. It just drives you crazy once you know."

Piraro hits the issue so persistently that he was honoured for his efforts in 2002 by the Humane Society.

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