When it comes to wrangling animal abusers, the rodeo is no match for Melissa de Meulles. PETA’s latest activist spotlight features Melissa and her successful campaign to buck the Luxton Pro Rodeo from Vancouver Island! After the rodeo bit the dust, we wanted to catch up with Melissa to hear what she had to say about it.
How did you first get involved with animal rights and why?
I was raised by a long-time vegetarian and very compassionate mother. I also read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, which enlightened me, and I switched to a plant-based diet before I even finished the book! From there, it was a progressive education on the issues facing the species we share this planet with.
Can you tell us about your campaign against the Luxton Pro Rodeo?
I have spent the last three years campaigning to end the cruel rodeo events that took place each spring in my community. We formed the group Victoria Citizens Against Rodeo Events, (VCARE) to help legitimize our concerns and voice. The campaign involved holding demonstrations outside the rodeo, liaising with other local and international animal groups, and fundraising for newspaper ads, literature, and bumper stickers. My husband, who’s a photographer, documented disturbing Luxton Pro Rodeo abuse on camera, which made extremely effective campaign materials, such as news ads. We lobbied the municipal government and urged it to institute a bylaw against the rodeo, worked with media to educate the public, and launched a successful boycott of rodeo sponsors—which resulted in 11 businesses dropping their relationships with the rodeo!
Did working with an Action Team coordinator help you? If so, how?
PETA’s Action Team coordinators certainly helped me out, as 2012 was my first year attending, let alone organizing, an outreach event. They provided me with guidance and suggestions as well as materials when our movement was in its infancy. It was so nice to have easily available support. They helped notify other like-minded individuals of our work and events, which increased our attendance each year.
What did you learn from your experience?
I’ve learned always to remain respectful, polite, intelligent, and patient. In order to gain support and effect change, it is so important to gain the respect and have the ear of the community—no matter how frustrating the process seems. This is done by being reasonable and attempting to work with all parties involved while asserting the position of the animals.
Can you tell us about a moment that was especially important to you as an activist?
Receiving the news of the rodeo’s cancellation is the most important moment to me! Even though the decision was supposedly for financial reasons, I think it would be naïve to say we didn’t have an impact. I’m continuing to work with my local politicians to pass a bylaw so that no rodeo can return to my community.
Do you have a favorite PETA celebrity supporter? If so, why?
Since Pamela Anderson is from Vancouver Island, which isn’t far from my hometown, and she has supported our work by tweeting about our anti-rodeo campaign, I would have to choose her.
— Pamela Anderson (@pamfoundation) March 21, 2014
What take-away lesson would you like to share with other animal rights activists?
NEVER GIVE UP! I thought it was going to take many more years before Vancouver Island was rodeo-free—but it has happened!
Inspired to help animals?