"What ... you're interviewing another cop???!!!"
Derr ... no ..... Lynda Stoner wasn't a REAL cop you know! She just portrayed one on a much loved Australian drama called COP SHOP which was aired from 1979-1982. Lynda really made her mark on Oz TV playing policewoman Amanda King – it would be true to say that she was all of 'Charlie's Angels' rolled into one. (Every girl/woman in the 80s wanted to BE Lynda she was our answer to Marilyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Tiegs and Catherine Deneuve).
Throughout Lynda's long and varied acting career she has been dubbed 'hot', 'sexy', 'eye candy' and a veritable goddess to boot! All of these descriptions are true but I also know Lynda as a compassionate woman, a highly intelligent spokesperson on behalf of animal and environmental groups and a devoted wife and mother.
I've known Lynda for quite a long time now – and about 7 years ago I picked her up from her home and drove her to a school that wanted to hear her dulcet tones as she talked about animal issues, plus she was handing out awards to students. Well, poor, poor Lynda, she was relying on the world's WORST map reader to get her there ..... so .... we arrived at the school about an hour late! It was a stinking hot day and if I had been Lynda I would have bashed me over the head with a carjack – but no, she just kept on smiling pleasantly!
You may possibly think that the theatrical world is filled with power-hungry bitches (both male and female) but all of that doesn't wash with our Lynda! So, I wanted to know how Ms Stoner kept herself looking youthful and carefree when it must be so hard to be faced day in and day out with bozos who abuse animals and the environment – and I also NEEDED to know how she keeps looking so incredible; what secret ingredient was she adding to her moisturiser?
So, we met to chew the non-animal fat. (But unfortunately she never did disclose her beauty secrets to me ...... waaahhh!!!) Please read on.......
Interview by June Bird, June 2000.
|June:||Hi there Lynda, it's fantastic to have you on board! Okay – let's get straight to it ... my first question is – when and why did you decide to go vegetarian?!!|
|Lynda:||I saw footage of Harp seal pups being slaughtered and skinned alive and while many news stories have affected me I've been able to dissociate. This one continued to haunt me though and I spent hours researching alternatives to the uses of seals, whales and dolphins. I worked as a volunteer for Friends of the Earth during the early weeks of "Cop Shop" but was still seeking more information about exploitation of non-human animals. Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation" had just been released and the reading of it was an epiphany. I felt as though I'd "come home." That this philosophy was so obvious, so right on so many levels, not just for non-humans but for humans. The subjugation of races, women, children damaged not only the sufferer but the oppressors. Greed and power were elemental but not more so than societal acceptance of what was considered at a time in history to be "normal" and anyone arguing against those guidelines was speaking heresy. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil, is that good people do nothing." It is as relevant today as it was 250 years ago. As an immediate consequence of reading "Animal Liberation" I threw out all my leather products, makeup that had been tested on animals and never ate animal or fish flesh again. Unfortunately I was much slower about adopting a vegan diet. I believe that the dairy industry is perhaps the cruelest form of animal exploitation and wish I'd done it much sooner.|
|June:||It's definitely true to say that you've worked long and hard for Animal Liberation in Australia, but how long exactly have you been associated with the organisation?|
|Lynda:||I sought out Animal Liberation and other animal rights groups soon after reading Peter Singer's book about 23 years ago. I felt a sense of isolation in my beliefs, they were perceived back then as being a slice short of the loaf! My beliefs were and still are the cornerstone from which I make all life choices and as a reformed user-of-animals I spent a considerable amount of time alienating colleagues and friends by table-banging and arguing against their anger and guilt and bewilderment. I assumed wrongly that everyone would "see the light" once given the facts. I realise in hindsight that was incredibly naive. Pack rule substantiates comfortable complicity in the status quo. Easier all round not the rock the boat, ruin a fancy dinner party, be a wowser, general consensus that I'd become eccentric and uncomfortable to be around. I learned much later that a friend would fling her fur into the bushes and retrieve it after dinner at my house, others continue to have "Your Special Food" announcements to publicly distance themselves from My Friend Who Is Different To Us. In the company of other animal rights activists communication is immediate, there are no "awkward" areas, you can come from the essence of life and move outwards, not the other way around where your lifestyle mirrors directly the consequences of what people eat, wear, do. Guilt, acknowledged or not, is expressed through hostility, defensiveness and ridicule.|
|June:||Can you remember any significant events while growing up that shaped your compassionate thinking towards animals?|
|Lynda:||When I was growing up we shared the same hypocritical and selective affection for some species while slaughtering and consuming others. The Chosen Ones were predictably dogs and cats and the exploited ones were all the others. My sister and I used to help gut and defeather chickens and it was my mother's awful job to kill them. It was a time of deprivation and lack of education about nutrition and empathy and both my Mother and my Sister haven't consumed animal or fish for years. Information wasn't available about alternatives as it is today. I believe though that my Mother killing the chickens was less of a cop-out than consumers today who purchase sterile packages that are a sop to their direct responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of animals. Needless to say I believe we can all live brilliantly without exploiting any species in this abundant country.|
|June:||Initially, did some people think that your new views were just some sort of a wacky 'TV STAR FAD'?|
|Lynda:||Yes, the TV Star Fad exclamation accompanied most interviews initially but after a time that wore off as I became more informed and more recalcitrant. The issues then such as intensive egg layers, or "battery hens" was becoming public, testing on animals for cosmetics was just beginning to be spoken about to the horror of many consumers, the cruelty of circuses with animals and rodeos was starting to impact and audience numbers dropped considerably. Issues that don't affect what people eat or wear gain support quite quickly. If people don't have to process their own lifestyle as being a direct cause of suffering they are more ready to denounce cruelty. You'll find that in general people will be damning of other countries who harm non-human animals but be blinkered about what's in our own back yard and the daily mutilation and gross cruelty that they are directly giving money to and supporting. It's a Them-and-Us thing, a deflecting away from liability.|
|June:||I believe you have a gorgeous 16 year old son, Luke, and I'd like to know whether he's an animal rights activist also?|
|Lynda:||My beloved son Luke has been involved with protests on behalf of non-human animals from the womb to walking and has continued in his lifestyle to fight against injustice of any kind. He has a very evolved social conscience and no comprehension of sexism, homophobia, racism or exploitation of humans and non-humans. As a golden-curled toddler of three he raced down to the foreshore of a beach we were on and rounded on three big boys who were stabbing at jelly fish, I hadn't even seen what was happening. He has spoken at his schools on animal rights issues. I know it hasn't been easy for him on many occasions, his own life style is at variance with most of his peers, even today at a progressive High School his is one of only a few voices arguing for the rights of all species. He consumes litres of soy milk and tofu products and is a muscled, healthy and sport-loving testimony to the health benefits of not consuming animals.|
|June:||What's next for you Lynda with regards to promoting cruelty-free living?|
|Lynda:||What's next? Specifically I don't know, generally to continue to help to bring awareness which will inevitably bring change, everything evolves, some things just take aeons longer than they should. The human species cannot survive exploiting each other; non-human animals and the planet in the way we are doing. Meat eaters probably contribute more damage to the environment than any other single cause, and of course by meat I include fish – pollution, soil erosion and salinity, damage to the ozone layer, removal of trees and damage to waterways. The inequity of so-called Third World countries growing plant food to feed animals to be consumed by First World countries and pay off debts while the people of that country starve is horrifying. The Earth has enough food to sustain everyone but consumption of meat is unavoidably cruel and incredibly wasteful of resources. The lies and propaganda put out by the meat and dairy industries of "eat this or die or get very sick" are convincing and slick and very expensive. The true message though of "eat this and you will die or get very sick" is becoming louder.|
|June:||What sort of things do you like to devour?|
|Lynda:||I enjoy food, Thai, Indian, Italian, African ..... during winter I devour soups and breads and in summer salads and fruit.|
|June:||Are you a good cook?|
|Lynda:||After "How are you?" the most asked question in our house is, "What's for dinner Mum?" followed quickly by, "how soon will it be ready?" I don't take it as acceptance of a stereotyped role that the question is posed to me, fact is I enjoy cooking. There are workaday things I cook when pressed for time and then the fun stuff when there's more freedom. My Son is a capable cook who just loses his cooking ability if I'm in the house, even 2-minute noodles become curiously difficult.|
|June:||In your opinion what's the best and worst country for finding good vegetarian cuisine?|
|Lynda:||Well, I can tell you that Mali in Western Africa out in the desert is a challenge to vegetarians and touring country towns in Australia used to be but it's changing.|
|June:||I KNOW you've always taken a lot of flak for your beliefs, and probably lost a fair amount of acting work because of them, so over the years have you come to terms with people's ignorance or are you bitter and twisted and out for blood?!!|
|Lynda:||I am as passionate about the rights of non-human animals as I ever was but I think my way of doing things is different. Sure sometimes I still "lose it" but most times I tend, hopefully, to be more constructive about getting the message out. And please, any sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, I'm-better-than-you-Vegans – stay away!!!!! That kind of fundamentalist holy-roller exclusiveness just alienates people from our cause. People's awareness comes from informed discussion not from being heckled or told they're not good enough to play in your sandpit. We need for the sake of non-human animals to encourage people not send them running.|
|June:||What are your feelings about zoos, circuses with animals, and rodeos?|
|Lynda:||Zoos, circuses with animals, rodeos, bear baiting, fox hunting, bull fighting, cock fighting, horse racing, greyhound racing ..... has there ever been any justification for cruelty and loss of behavioural needs so the human animal can exploit, profit from and gawk at another species? I don't believe so.|
|June:||Hens in battery cages, pigs in cramped stalls, cattle feedlots ... I can feel your ire rising from here Lynda .... can I have your thoughts here please?|
|Lynda:||"Intensive "farming" of animals is an abomination. To mutilate another species, to prevent it from its most basic comforts, to alter and cause it minute-by-minute physical and mental trauma and suffering so that it fits the system not the other way round is unmitigated human savagery. It beggars the thinking that humans are an evolving species that profit is put before compassion and consideration. And I am so tired of the "empirical evidence" that one learned person after another gets letters after their names from proving: that the system is cruel. To what degree or more is not relevant. It is cruel. End of story. And if consumers stopped propping up these industries it would be the end of the most tyrannical abuse of animals in the history of humankind. And ingesting second-hand antibiotics is backfiring? And "Mad Cow" disease came about from shovelling chicken shit and offal into a vegetarian species? And humans whose teeth and intestinal tracts and stomach acids and skin pores and hands and salivary glands are so different from carnivores are dying as never before from meat-related cancers and disease? How unsurprising.|
|June:||Is there one area of animal exploitation that you find particularly disturbing?|
|Lynda:||I am disturbed that most people still view fish as not being sentient and therefore needing no consideration. For a fish to die out of water is no less agonising than for us to drown, it is the same process. The nerve endings in the mouth of a fish are similar to ours so fisherpeople might like to imagine a hook being shoved through their own mouths to try to empathise with their "sport." I am disturbed that wild catches of fish have increased to nearly 100 million tons per year decimating fish populations and that approximately 1 in 5 fish consumed today have come from intensive fish "farms" which are terribly cruel and polluting. The horror of vivisection is beyond my ability to describe. At least progress is being made there though in vet schools thanks to the courage of people like Andrew Knight and Lucy Fish. People are questioning the "necessity" of medical experiments on animals and indeed are learning that medical progress has been retarded by this cruel and historically shameful practice.|
|June:||Do you know of many other vegetarian/vegan actors?|
|Lynda:||The first vegetarian actor I met was Gerard Kennedy, he didn't even wear leather "back then." I thought he was one of the coolest people in the world. A great actor, a gently spoken man, nobody messed with Gerard and I never heard him raise his voice, he didn't have to. He just invoked respect. He'd hear me ranting and raving in Crawford's canteen about animal rights and smile, he just was. Judy McBurney, my very dear friend from "Young Doctors" has been vegetarian for longer than anyone I know.|
|June:||Wow – I have always loved Gerard Kennedy and Judy McBurney. I'm impressed!|
|June:||You look pretty damn good to me but how have you felt since you became a vego?|
|Lynda:||I feel even better since I've been vegan! Cholesterol plummeted to healthy. I've never been plagued by colds and flu no matter how many bugs are sneezed on me.|
|June:||Did you have to encourage your partner (top Aussie actor Peter Sumner – he was in Star Wars you know!) or your son Luke to eat a vegetarian diet?|
|Lynda:||When I met Peter he was "almost vegetarian." I took him to see Victor Schonfeld's "The Animals Film" a couple of weeks before we got married and he staggered out and never ate meat again. He bought Chinese cloth slippers to get married in. He's always been incredibly supportive of fighting for non-human animals and is currently Vice President of Animal Liberation NSW. Luke was conceived as vegetarian and breast fed and nurtured on vegetarian food despite all the alarmist warnings from well-intentioned people, "it's alright for you but your child needs proper nutrition." And he got it – from not eating other species. He makes his own food choices now and checks the labels of everything to ensure there is no animal content.|
|June:||Do you take vitamin supplements?|
|Lynda:||Whether it's placebo or not I take a handful of garlic every single night! My personal belief is that garlic is a cure-all and preventative for most things. Works for me.|
|June:||Could you tell me about your pets please Lynda?|
|Lynda:||OK here we come to a delicate place. Lobo my
beautiful dog has his head literally in my lap at this moment
and is encouraging me to take him for a walk. I don't need to
look into Lobo's eyes to understand that non-human animals
have memory and comprehension but his eyes kick my soul. There
is no difference looking into his eyes or those of a
restrained pig in a factory or a chicken in a cage. He
remembers and comprehends and has likes and dislikes as do all
species. But I will not have another companion animal when I
no longer have the joy of Lobo. Needless to say we revolve
around him. He sleeps on Luke's bed leaving little room for
Luke but he'd rather that than not have Lobo with him. But
when the awful day comes that Lobo is no longer with us, I
won't have another animal. I know I am at odds with many
people but it's my own evolution. I don't believe that a truly
carnivorous animal such as Lobo should be made to be
vegetarian to accommodate my ethics and make me feel warm
inside. He eats vegetables and grains but his diet is meat. I
don't have the courage to go into a butchers, haven't for 23
years, Peter does the dirty deed. And therein lies the
conundrum. How can I justify the death of other animals to
feed my own pampered Chosen One? I can't any longer. And not
having a dog in the family will be harder than any other
changes I've made since I've been in the movement but it is
one I will do. People argue that as long as animals are killed
for humans then companion animals may as well be fed from the
same source. To me it's a bit like saying, "I'll wear leather
because it's a by-product of the meat industry," it's still
providing a market for death. But that's just my personal
opinion, it is not the view of Animal Liberation.
I am not prepared to go out and feed up another animal or bird with the intent of using that animal's life to feed Lobo. Nor am I prepared to kill that animal or fowl when it's big enough to be eaten. So then, how can I expect another person to take that responsibility and commit an act of slaughter when I find it repugnant? And continue to fight against exploitation of farm animals and slaughter houses. I can't. While Lobo is with me I acknowledge that I have a responsibility for the deaths of animals that he is consuming because he is a carnivore but in the future I don't want to participate in any way in the suffering and death of any animal.
|June:||How many animal rights protests do you think you've attended/organised over the years??|
June I don't know any longer, literally hundreds. There have been three arrests, the first at the ghastly Keating piggery*, two others at "battery hen" factories. The rest is a blur of wonderful, committed people all fighting for a single cause, to stop the exploitation of non-human animals.
* Editorial Note: the "Keating piggery" was an intensive piggery that was partly owned by the then Prime Minister Paul Keating. Pressure and actions by Animal Liberation significantly improved the conditions of the pigs including the removal of hard-metal collars that kept the sows chained by the neck in the metal stalls.
|June:||You must have influenced so many people over the years towards a cruelty-free lifestyle ..... but for the still-uninitiated (!) what finally would you like people to know about vegetarianism and animal rights?|
|Lynda:||If Einstein can be quoted by all manner of people in areas to suit them, why do they not take up the great man's edict, "It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind." In this as in so many things he still has much to teach. Non-human animals do not belong to us, we should not have ownership over any other life. It is grotesque to consider "owning" another human life or forcing that life into subservience for our own ends. Why then with the abundance and choices available to most of us do we still collude with exploiters? Until we nurture our young and provide them with love, confidence and empathy the damage we do to our own and to other species will continue. The optimism I feel though comes from younger people, the amount of young people coming into the movement as vegans and people from all walks of life who despise exploitation of non-human animals and are extending that consideration to other humans. Now that's evolution!|
|June:||Thank you, thank you, thank you Lynda! You truly are an incredible person. Oh, and I forgot to tell you that at I've always been in awe of you – so now's a good a time as any!|