Activist Teen Interview: Thomas Ponce

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Country: United States of America

Age: 12

What made you decide to become an activist for vegetarianism and veganism?

Well, I am actually an animal advocate/activist, but to me, it is all connected. To me, being vegan is more than a diet choice; it is a choice to live a compassionate, cruelty-free life. It means making a commitment to try my best to not harm another living being. I believe that becoming vegan is one step towards making a more compassionate world.

Think about it this way: once you recognize that your food didn’t magically appear on your plate by the food fairy and that a life was ended to feed you, you must recognize that you are participating in murder.

There are millions of animals on farms across the world that are killed in the most inhumane ways. Some are cramped in cages too small to allow them to move while others are left to die from sickness and disease, others are brutally assassinated and tortured while they are still alive and aware of what’s happening to them.

These are things that I just cannot support. I knew I had to take a stand in some way and becoming a vegetarian and then a vegan was my first step.

I think everyone should think when they sit down to dinner where their food came from. It doesn’t just come from the grocery store; an animal lost his/her life, she was tortured and butchered and then died to put that piece of steak or chicken breast on a plate.

If others just think about the names of their food it would be quite apparent what exactly they are eating, “chicken breast, leg of lamb, rib eye steak, etc. The food is labeled and quite clear, well how do you think it got from being a part of the animal to your plate? It wasn’t in a kind way I assure you, the animal didn’t want to die to be a meal and they didn’t cut their own leg off.

I cannot justify killing a living being with a family and feelings and a heartbeat when there are alternatives foods that do not harm a living being.

In addition to the harm being done to animals, the amount of greenhouse gases like methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, emitted into the air from slaughterhouses is mind boggling. Between the fuel used to maintain these places and the transportation of food to feed these animals on the farms, combined with the cost of storing the dead animals as well as the excretions/feces, slaughterhouses are a major contributor to global climate change.

It’s hard for me to believe that people in the meat industry can just shake these facts off. They make it seem like it’s such a small thing what they do year after year when it is by no means small! They are contributing to killing the earth in a major way. The Earth is all we have, it’s our home and it’s the only one we have.

I think all people need to wake up and realize the impact of their actions. If they stopped eating meat it would benefit not only the animals, but the world.

In addition to the slaughterhouses and all the damage that can be linked to them, there are animals suffering and being killed in so many other horrific ways just to satisfy the desires, not needs, of man, such as in the fur industry, in vivisection labs, on military bases, in puppy mills, etc., not to mention the hordes of animals that lay in anguish in the entertainment industry.

Think about it; it’s pretty cut and dry we are harming a living being for our own enjoyment–for food that is not necessary for us to live, for clothing that is not necessary for us to wear, for experiments that truly do not have any relevance or benefit to human kind, for entertainment purposes and so on and so on. It’s disgraceful. Being Vegan is saying no to all of these things, it is saying I will not be a part of this any longer and I choose to make compassionate responsible choices in my life.

The reason I am so passionate about being an activist for veganism is because I believe that if we can educate people on the horrors that animals are facing every day to provide us with food, clothing, entertainment, etc., then we increase the chances that along with this education may come change.

I think that the key to real change lies in educating the children of the world. If we can show them and teach them that the choices they make in their own lives have an impact on not only themselves but the animals and on our ecosystem than we can teach responsibility, compassion and awareness.

Now, when those now aware kids grow up they will teach their own kids the same lessons. It’s a ripple effect; when you throw a stone in the water, the ripples radiate out throughout the water. It’s the same with education.

Educate one person and their awakening can ripple over into everyone they come in contact with.

If we are to help the world we call our home we must start to take responsibility for our actions and realize that for every one of our actions there is a consequence, so we can either make good humane, cruelty free choices and reap the benefits of good consequences or we can make poor, uneducated cruel choices and suffer negative consequences in our lives.

Being vegan is the right choice for our own bodies and minds, for our souls and for our environment. Being vegan sends a message that we will not participate in the harming of other living beings which in turn will save humanity, the animals and our world.

These are the reasons I choose to be an activist for veganism, animals and our environment. I am passionate in my efforts and in my heart I believe it is what I am meant to do with my life.

What have accomplished so far? What projects are you working on right now?

So far, I have raised awareness and educated others on the importance of living a cruelty-free life. Through protests, leafleting and speaking I have influenced and inspired many people to rethink some of the choices they make daily in their lives. I have also influenced my Mom and Dad to become vegan (well, my Dad is almost vegan, he just slips up sometimes but he is trying.)

Right now, I am working on my Lobby For Animals organization. Lobby For Animals is your go-to place for all things lobbying.

I want to get people more involved in the legislative process. Through training videos and presentations I want to show people how easy it is to have a voice in the political arena.

As an activist, I was always feeling like there was more that needed to be done. I was out there educating but at the core of things it was the laws that inevitably needed to be changed.

That’s where lobbying comes in. I want lobbying to be added to every activists agenda. After you research and protest, leaflet and educate the masses write a letter to your representative, make a phone call or send an email, schedule an appointment to speak to your representative, and take it that next step further.

We need to tell our representatives what we expect to see in our laws and what we want them to fight for, because if we don’t tell them, they won’t know. It’s their job to listen to their constituents and act upon their requests, so we need to speak up and tell them what we want (stronger laws protecting animals and giving them the rights they deserve as living beings, laws to protect the Earth that will bring us closer to a greener healthier environment, and accountability for those that would look to harm another living being or harm the world we share together)

One of the pieces of legislation that I am working on at the moment is a shark fin ban in my state of Florida. I want to try and make Florida Fin free and join the ranks of California, Hawaii, Guam, The Northern Mariana Islands, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts and Oregon and ban the sale distribution and trade of shark fins and shark fin products.

If every state got on board and implemented a ban, it would cut off the demand for such products which would in turn help to combat the slaughtering of over 100 million sharks a year for their fins. If you want to read more about finning just take a look at my website look at my website and like my Facebook page to stay updated on news pertaining to sharks and other marine life.

I am also in the process of starting my own animal rights club at school called Harley’s Home. In Harley’s Home, we will address all animal rights issues by learning about the different ways animals are used in our society and learning how we can stop contributing to the cruelty.

We will talk about becoming vegetarian/vegan and offer a helping hand to whoever is interested in making that change in their lives. We will talk about how to approach their parents and peers on the matter.

We will also discuss lobbying and the importance of speaking up. I want to show them that even though they are young they have a voice and will be taken seriously and will be heard.

I will be introducing them to the various animal rights organizations out there that fight every day for the animals and teach them how to fundraise, set up demonstrations and speak to people during leafleting projects.

I will also have several speakers come and talk about different issues and I will have a documentary viewing as well as a book sharing library. I think it is going to be great!

What has been your greatest challenge?

I think I would have to say my biggest challenge has been keeping others’ morale up. Animal activism can be draining and can beat down ones morale. Once your eyes are opened and you become aware you are then subjected to witnessing the cruelty in the world every day. The blinders are off and you are left to feel their pain.

To some this can be overwhelming. For me it is a driving factor it makes me want to work harder and try new approaches to reach more people but I have seen it take its toll on others. It can be challenging to try to lift their spirits and remind them that Rome was not built in a day and that they need to keep fighting for what they know is right.

What has been your biggest success?

This is a hard one for me. I think because until something is completed I don’t know if I’d consider it a success.

Can I run a successful campaign? Sure. Can I have a successful speaking arrangement? Sure. But overall success? I don’t know that that has been achieved yet.

I am proud of the work that I do and know that I am helping to make a difference. But success? I’m not sure under what terms you can define success.

I take pride in what I do and I have successful moments. The day I saved the shark from becoming a fisherman’s dinner was a successful day for that shark definitely and for everyone I spoke to about sharks and their importance. I definitely raised awareness, so was I successful in that aspect, yes. But did I save the species? Not yet.

I think I am going to stick with some wise words that a friend of mine once told me about success: “success can be defined by your effort and less about the actual outcome.” As long as you are pushing forward, doing your work, that is a success.

What advice would you give to young people who are interested in vegetarianism?

Go for it! Stick to your convictions and don’t waiver.

I think the biggest hurdle young people face in becoming vegetarian/vegan is their parents. If your parents are resistant to the idea of your life choices, my advice is to do your research prior to approaching your parents.

Most parents just don’t know. They have never been exposed to or maybe don’t want to know the truth about say factory farming. They have been raised with the mentality that as a young person you will eat what is put on your plate, because that is how they were raised. They also worry, they hear stories and believe the myth that you will not be able to get enough protein if you don’t eat meat, or that you will be lacking in some other nutrient.

If you do your research ahead of time you will have the facts to show them exactly how you will be able to stay healthy, even healthier by living a vegan lifestyle. You can also start by showing them some videos like Farm to Fridge or Earthlings to show them the reasons you feel so strongly about your decision. If they know you have put so much effort into your decision they are more apt to listen and help you achieve your goals.

Maybe you’ll even eventually convince them to change their diet, too.

What do you do besides activism? What do you do for fun? What are your favorite subjects in school?

Activism is a big part of my life but I do have some other activities that I do participate in.

I am a member of The Mandalorian Mercs Costuming Club. We are a Star Wars club that does “invasions” at different charity events. In October my family and I will be dressing up and going to our local Barnes and Noble where we will meet and read to a group of kids while in costume. We are also planning an invasion at our local hospital at the children’s ward (just waiting for details). We have also trooped at the science center where we engaged kids during the interactive exhibits; it’s a lot of fun and is a great feeling to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they see their favorite Star Wars heroes.

Another interest also related to Star Wars that I have is I make custom action figures. I have repainted, re-propped and overall created my own unique characters. I then create a diorama type set to place them in. I use items from craft stores to make them look as realistic as possible.

My favorite subject in school is definitely science and social studies. I love learning how things are created and I love learning about history. I think we can learn a lot from both subjects. Sometimes our past can show us ways we can improve our future. I also like my Language Arts classes because I am an avid reader and I also enjoy writing.