Jodie Wiederkehr is a friend of mine and I am grateful for that for a few reasons: she is a terrific person, I learn a lot from her, she manages to be both fun and dedicated, and her example inspires me. On the other side of that, I am grateful that Jodie’s my friend because I would not want to be on the wrong side of this peaceful fighter against injustice. I don’t know anyone who is as fiercely committed and tenacious as my friend Jodie, and I would really hate to piss her off. As executive director of Chicago Alliance for Animals (CAA), Jodie did what so many other communities have tried to do: defeat the cruel but somehow nostalgic horse-carriage industry and get them banned from Chicago. She did this with the help of CAA activists but it was her unswerving leadership and indefatigable commitment that really made this possible. Please join our Facebook group to learn what CAA and Jodie are up to next.
First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?
From a very young age, I remember caring deeply about animals. I grew up in a small farm town about three hours west of Chicago. Many neighbors kept dogs on chains or in small kennels, which upset me greatly as our dogs and cats were a big part of our family and slept in our beds with us. I spent many days and nights sitting in the dirt and giving affection and treats to dogs on chains. In addition to our pet dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc., our family also rescued and cared for a baby lamb whose mother refused to nurse him (in a playpen in our living room), baby skunks whose mother had been hit by a car, raccoons and many other injured critters.
My older sister, Jamie, was also a big influence on my start in animal rights. I remember how I helped her get signatures on Western Illinois University’s campus to ban steel jaw leg-hold traps in Illinois when we both were students there.
In my twenties, I remember my mother giving me a newsletter one day and said, “Read it, but don’t read the last page.” Well, what did I do? I read the last page first. It detailed all the gory that happens on factory farms and slaughterhouses and from then on, I started to change my…