Jon Camp is an animal advocate extraordinaire.
Camp is the Director of Outreach for Vegan Outreach and has handed out hundreds of thousands of educational booklets.
Last week he answered questions on Reddit.
This week he’s answering questions for Vegan Soapbox.
Q: How and why did you go vegan? Were there any special “aha moments” along the way?
Jon Camp: In 1995, I took an intro to ethics course at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL. We discussed various ethical issues, and one day we talked about the mistreatment of animals raised for food. I never really grasped how much farm animals suffered until that day. I decided that I should no longer give my support to the raising and killing of animals for food, and I went vegetarian. I went vegan three years later after learning more about the suffering of egg-laying hens and dairy cows.
Q: Do you have a favorite vegan snack or meal?
Camp: I love Ethiopian food. And when I’m on the road, I blow way too much money on kale chips.
Q: Why did you start leafleting?
Camp: I learned about Vegan Outreach in 1998, but considered myself too shy to leaflet. So I would drop off booklets at coffee shops and the like. But then one day in 2000, while volunteering at a feed-in for Compassion Over Killing inWashington,DC, there was a need for people to leaflet next to those giving out food, so I gave it a try. It was a lot easier than I had expected, and I was blown away by how receptive people were.
Q: Do you have any tips for shy or introverted people who want to leaflet?
Camp: I lean towards being introverted (and at times shy), yet I’ve found that you can be introverted while still being a great leafleter. If you can give a sincere smile and offer someone a booklet, you’re good to go. And Vegan Outreach leafleters run the gamut — from the hermits to the hyper-extroverts. And what connects us is our desire to give what we can towards pushing the ball forward for animals. So I think it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need to be a hyper-extrovert. If you can get out and simply say, “Hello! Help animals?” and offer someone a booklet, your sincere statement will go far. I can’t stress this enough; if you’re an introvert, you’ll do fine, and the animals need you to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do this. The great things in life usually come when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. You have the potential to do so much good for the animals each time you get out to leaflet, and leafleting is a lot easier than you think. The first booklet is the toughest, and then it gets so much easier. So don’t think too much about the first booklet!
Also, it always helps to get your feet wet doing this with an experienced leafleter. VO representatives travel the country throughout the year, and there’s a good chance we’ll be in your neck of the woods sooner than later. So if you’re interested in making your leafleting debut with an experienced leafleter, please get in touch with us!
I’ve found that leafleting has been super-helpful for my social skills. I was starting to retreat a little too into my shell for a while. Leafleting helped me bust out of that.
Q: How did you get a job doing this?
Camp: I started getting more and more involved with leafleting, and that led to me getting involved in Vegan Outreach’s Adopt a College leafleting program. In 2004, Jack Norris, VO’s president, let me know that there was a job opening for VO’s first paid college leafleting position, and he asked if I was interested. I responded with an emphatic “yes!” and it’s been a labor of love since then.
Q: Do you get tired of traveling so much?
Camp: Yes and no. I’ve spent a big chunk of the last nine years being on the road. It’s been great seeing so much ofNorth America, and doing work that I find to be so meaningful. Being so busy has made the concept of boredom a foreign concept to me, and I never feel like life is just slipping away from me; I feel that I get a lot out of each year. That said, sleeping on the beds, couches, and sometimes floors of others can be exhausting after a while, and I’m always happy to return home after a long tour.
Q: What are some tips for vegan traveling? Do you have any favorite locations?
Camp: I’ve found it pretty easy to eat well on the road. Of course, you’re going to have more vegan options when in San Francisco than when in Wichita, but you’ll be surprised by what you can find in Wichita! It’s nice that so many mainstream restaurants and grocery stores now offer so much vegan food. There are infinitely more vegan selections to choose from now than when I first went vegan in 1998.
I always love getting back to my Illinois roots and spending time in Chicago, eating at the Chicago Diner, Native Foods, the Ethiopian Diamond, etc. But it’s hard to beat the Grit in lovely Athens, GA. If you’re ever there, try what is known amongst the cool kids as the Jon Camp Special: The Golden Bowl with extra veggies, a side of collards, and the Chocolate Death Cake.
Q: If you weren’t working or volunteering for VO what do you think you would be doing instead?
Camp: If there weren’t suffering in the world, I’d be spending as much time as possible writing and recording guitar music. I studied music in college, was a guitar teacher prior to getting involved in activism, and about half of my mental energy is spent thinking about music. In the coming years, I hope to find more time for this.
Q: Are you some sort of superhero or something? You overcame Lyme disease, right? How was it being vegan in the hospital?
Camp: I would say that I’m closer to “or something” than “superhero.” But I do give a lot to this work because I believe in the effectiveness of it.
And yeah, I did get Lyme Disease last summer, and was in the Intensive Care Unit for nine days with a temporary pacemaker in me, due to the Lyme giving me total heart block, where the top part and the bottom part of my heart weren’t corresponding with each other as they should have been. But the great care at St. Mary’s Hospital inMadison, WI, coupled with a steady dose of IV antibiotics, not to mention a lot of love from my friends and family, were too much of a match for that pesky bacteria. And so I was released from the hospital, and I was fortunate to be able to run a half marathon just a few months later. My last checkup at the doctor’s office showed no signs of Lyme.
The vegan options at St. Mary’s were ok, but I had some dear Madison friends delivering me delicious homemade vegan food as well as food from places like the Green Owl.
Q: Being a vegan superhero basically means you’re going to live forever, so what is your retirement plan?
Camp: That’s something I need to take a little more seriously than I have so far. But I hope to be useful for as long as possible. Playing golf doesn’t interest me, but I’d like to spend more time writing and recording guitar music.
Q: What’s your workout routine? Are you still playing soccer?
Camp: My workout regimen this winter hasn’t been the stuff of legend. But I try to do multiple sets of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and various routines with free weights as many days as I can. And I try to run as much as time will allow me to. I’m planning to run my first marathon in the fall, so I’ll need to step up my game soon and make my runs longer than my typical 4-7 mile runs. I haven’t played much soccer these days, as soccer organizing extraordinaire John Oberg left the DC area to takeAmerica by storm with his amazing work for Vegan Outreach.
Q: Do you have any favorite movies, music, books you want to share?
Camp: When I was last inNashville, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and spent a night checking out some country bars. That led to an obsession with Willie Nelson’s music. I had tickets to see him a few weeks ago, but he got sick and had to cancel! But he has rescheduled, and I plan to see him in April. I can’t recommend his “Red Headed Stranger” and “Phases & Stages” albums enough for those interested in classic country.
Ethics Into Action by Peter Singer, about the late animal advocate Henry Spira, is an inspiring read on being pragmatic and winning campaigns for the animals. And I found How to Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie to be helpful with what the title suggests. I also think that Matt Ball’s and Bruce Friedrich’s The Animal Activist’s Handbook and Nick Cooney’s Change of Heart contain nuggets and nuggets of practical wisdom. I also find the writings about social change by Howard Zinn to be inspiring Lying by Sam Harris is a great read. It makes the case for lying as little as possible and that even seemingly benign things like white lies and false compliments can be damaging to relationships. And Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking has made me more at peace with my introverted streak.
Q: Anything else you want to share with the Soapbox readers?
If you’d like to take part in Vegan Outreach’s work, we’d love to have you on board! Please contact us for more information. The Vegan Outreach website is: http://www.veganoutreach.org/