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Kim and Shelly

Author and animal advocate, Kim Stallwood and his dog, Shelly

‘Growl’: four decades as an animal advocate

Hastings based author and animal advocate, Kim Stallwood, is celebrating the publication of his excellent new book: Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate at the vegan restaurant, Moose’s Kitchen in St Leonards – and you are invited to attend, writes HOT’s Zelly Restorick. In the Forward to ‘Growl’, Brian May, animal advocate, legendary guitarist and founding member of the rock group, Queen, writes: “I believe this book is important enough to be essential reading for anyone who has begun to listen to what their conscience says, as regards how we, as humans, behave towards the other beings on Earth, whether human or nonhuman”.

Kim with a small section of the Stallwood Archive

Kim with a small section of the Stallwood Archive

The book’s title, ‘Growl’ evokes Kim’s experience of spending most of his life growling about – and against – animal exploitation. His intention is for the reader to discover what it means to be a humane human being.

“By which I mean not merely kind to members of our own species,” he writes, “but caring towards other animals as well, in a compassionate, honest, peaceful, and just world.”

The seed of compassion towards animals, Kim explains, was first planted in his heart by an eccentric woman known as ‘Camberley Kate’, who walked round his hometown with a homemade wooden cart filled with small, sick or elderly dogs, with many others attached to the cart by leashes, string or rope. Watching a captive adult and baby dolphin swim in circles in a small pool on Brighton’s seafront aquarium was also deeply disturbing to him as a school boy, as was dissecting a frog for his biology class.

Kim wasn’t always however a committed vegan and animal activist living in a meat-eating universe. As a teenager, his ambition was to become a chef and in the book, he describes his transformation from ‘Kim the Chef’ to ‘Kim the Vegelical’ – an evangelising vegan, including his time spent working in a chicken slaughterhouse in Aldershot, where, in the summer of 1973, he worked on the post-slaughter part of the production line as a packer, witnessing ‘instutionalised animal exploitation for the first time’. Each week, eighty people were employed to transform 150,000 live chickens into pre-packed and frozen oven ready birds.

Kim Stallwood with poster for the film, Animals

Kim Stallwood with poster for ‘The Animals’ Film’ Photo by Paul Knight

By 1 January 1974, Kim had become a vegetarian and two years later, both he and his mother became vegans. As Kim discovered more and more ways in which animals were exploited, he writes: “I had to reconcile myself with the truth that animals are being tortured and killed every second of every minute of every hour of every day, year in and year out, frequently for no other reason than momentary, gustatory pleasure.’ And he had to learn to cope with this knowledge and not retreat to what he calls ‘the Misanthropic Bunker’ – a place of self-righteous indignation, rage and frustration, where the species no longer existed, barring the caring ones.

Kim states that the first truths about animal advocacy are that “what society considers usual is obscene”. “It’s hard to reconcile the scale of this slaughter,” he writes, “when it is actually born out of, and justified by the notion that our species is superior to all others.”

Kim Stallwood at a demonstration Photo by Duncan Weir

Kim Stallwood at a demonstration Photo by Duncan Weir

The number of animals bred and killed worldwide for our consumption alone—estimated to be more than 50 billion annually—is over seven times the world’s human population, which presently is slightly more than 7 billion (Williams and DeMello, 2007, 14).

Despite the relentless suffering and cruelty imposed by farmers, scientists, entertainers, breeders and others – including the rape, torture, imprisonment, capture, killing and violation of animals – on a daily basis throughout the world, Kim does not advocate the use of violence in campaigns, neither against people nor property.

“In order to succeed as animal advocates, we can never allow ourselves to become and act like animal abusers and the animal industrial complex. Their reliance on violence as the norm is no excuse for advocates to behave violently. We cannot condone abuse of animal abusers if we condemn that abuse when it’s directed towards another group.”

Animals' Agenda

The Animals’ Agenda: ‘Direct Action’ cover feature by Freeman Wicklund

During the four decades of his campaigning life, Kim Stallwood, aka The Grumpy Vegan, has worked for major organizations involved in the welfare and protection of animals, including Compassion in World Farming [CIWF], British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection [BUAV], People’s Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA], the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [RSPCA], the publication ‘The Animal’s Agenda’, The Vegan Society and many others, often playing the role of a determined, progressive campaigner and consultant, ousting the Old Guard and welcoming in the new vanguard of campaigners and fresh ideas. He realizes how important it is to involve politicians at a local, national and international level, as well as members of the public, as public policy and legislation are essential steps towards a society that cares for and respects other species.

He transformed grass roots organisations into structured, powerful well-known bodies, believing that strong marketing strategies, financial stability, protest [via demonstrations, boycotts, civil disobedience and publicity stunts] and solid infrastructure were vital to the success of their campaigns. He makes it clear that life behind the scenes of these organisations was not always harmonious; people were often firmly connected by their vision of a world free of animal suffering, but sometimes disconnected in their ways of achieving this goal. However, these experiences also taught him a lot and he has never stopped learning and developing his abilities to better advocate for the non-human species to which he has dedicated most of his life.

Bubele, aka Zen Master Boobaa

Bubele, aka Zen Master Boobaa Photo Stallwood archive

In the book, Kim also talks about his journey to being ‘an animal lover’ – a phrase which in his younger days he had considered to be a slur – catalysed by various companion animals, beginning with his grumpy canine counterpart, the Chihuahua, Bubele.

“I would have argued vehemently that you didn’t have to love animals in order to be their advocate”, writes Kim. “Animal rights were moral and political issues, and affection or feelings or an ethic of care had nothing to do with either of these.”

Kim and Shelly Photo by Paul Knight

Kim and Shelly Photo by Paul Knight

However, Bubele – and subsequently, Piggy, Beano, Honey and currently Shelley, all connected with Kim’s heart and deepened his compassion for members of the animal kingdom for whom he was advocate. The more he understood about animal rights, he writes, the more he increased his sense of compassion towards himself – and this helped him connect with others. And compassion is, according to Kim, one of the four key values of any animal advocate, along with truth, non-violence and justice.

Does Kim feel there is hope and optimism in the world of animal advocacy? “We should never lose heart,” Kim writes, “as animal exploitation is inextricably interwoven into human exploitation – and their liberation is our liberation.”

‘Growl’ is a fascinating insight into the experiences of a man who has dedicated most of his life to animal advocacy and protection. Copies of ‘Growl’ will be available to purchase for £15. The author will be happy to dedicate and sign them!

Kim Stallwood’s website here.

Celebration of Kim Stallwood’s book, ‘Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate’.[Published by Lantern Books] 4 July 2014, 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Moose’s Kitchen, 52 Kings Rd, Hastings, St Leonards-on-sea TN37 6DY – All welcome!

The celebration is made possible with the support of local vegan businesses: Moose’s Cafe, 1066 Cake Stand and Hastings Brewery. They will generously offer samples of their products, which will be also available to buy. Hastings and St Leonards boasts a thriving vegan community.

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Posted 15:02 Tuesday, Jun 24, 2014 In: Literature

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