By Sandy Warf
Like many of my Baby Boom generation, I was stunned, saddened and then outraged by the invasion of Vietnam by the U.S. Since I was a college student at USC (1965-1969), I joined the small chapter of Students for a Democratic Society there and started my leafletting career. I was so furious about the war from what I had read, seen on TV and in photographs, it never occurred to me to be shy. We handed out thousands of leaflets, near campus and elsewhere. As students and staff learned the truth about the war, we saw the anti-war demonstrations on our conservative campus grow from our first one (7 of us) to ones of hundreds of people, especially when Dow Chemical Co., the manufacturer of Napalm, came to recruit. As people became increasingly educated, we saw the L.A. and San Francisco demonstrations grow from a few dozen people to tens of thousands. Remember, there was no Internet then. Mainstream media were not so thoroughly corporatized as they are now so the reality of war was not as sanitized as it is today. Non-mainstream news about issues and demonstrations was spread through the alternative press, progressive radio stations (such as Pacifica Radio KPFK) and phone trees. But a huge part of the growth of the antiwar movement was, no doubt, due to leafleting.
During the ’60s and early ’70s I also leafletted supermarkets in support of the California farm workers’ grape boycott, and leafletted (and sold left-wing newspapers supporting workers’ rights) in front of Los Angeles factories. We were sometimes called “commies” (“commie bitch” in my case), had leaflets crumpled up and thrown back at us, and were told the police would be called. (This actually never happened as we careful to leaflet on public property where our First Amendment rights were clear.)
My family became vegetarian in 1978 and vegan in 1990 after I read “The McDougall Plan” by John McDougall, M.D., and “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins. I joined the Orange County chapter of EarthSave to promote veganism, which also involved leafleting. There was still very little Internet use then.
Since 2012, I have leafleted with Vegan Outreach, Farm Animal Rights Movement and the Animal Protection and Rescue League, until I discovered vegan abolitionism and The Abolitionist Vegan Society. When I discovered that the only way to truly liberate nonhuman animals was to challenge their status as property by unequivocally promoting veganism, i.e. the end of all use of animals by humans, I found that I could no longer work with groups that did not have this as their stated goal. And now I leaflet for The Abolitionist Vegan Society, usually weekly, with my TAVS partner, Sonia.
I tell you all this to establish my credentials as a leafleter. I’ve learned a lot along the way. Like using posters, tabling, bumper stickers, speeches, podcasts and online posts, leafleting is truly the people’s educational medium. Only education of the masses can counteract the disinformation of the dominant paradigm. When people are exposed to enough actual educational information about an issue (e.g., ending slavery, the war in Vietnam [or other wars], promoting women’s rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights) and come to understand these are fundamentally ethical issues and that we have a moral obligation to take a stand for the rights of others, that is when, historically, progress has been made. And the same will be true for ending the use of nonhuman animals.
Are you interested in leafleting? Click here for a “Why Veganism?” leaflet.