Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Peter Young Interview
Peter Young is an animal activist who liberated at least 8,000 minks and fox from 6 fur farms in South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. As you all know, there isn't always happy endings with animal liberation. After nearly a decade of being wanted by the FBI he was arrested in March of 2005. He was charged with "Extortion by Interfering with Interstate Commerce", and "Animal Enterprise Terrorism". About 2 years later he was released from prison and to this day is watched by the FBI under a microscope. Being an animal activist (not liberator, I'm only 13), this story triggered my interest and I couldn't wait to meet him at the Skin Trade premiere. But it got even better for me, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview him at the Bold Native premiere. This is my first interview on my blog, I couldn't have asked for a more interesting and gracious person to start with!
What was your home life like growing up?
My home life I would describe as middle class. My parents were together until I was 9 or 10 years old. So there was a divorce. I was raised In Silicon Valley in Los Gatos just outside of San Jose, so it was fairly normal. My parents got divorced and I think divorces are always hard on kids. But in retrospect, I don't think my childhood was nearly as bad as I thought it was at the time.
I know that you were inspired by vegan straight edge bands in the 90's what kind of bands do you listen to now?
I heard someone recently say that you spend the rest of your life listening to bands that you listened to during the ages of 15 and 22 and I'd say that's pretty true. The music that moves me the most is the music during my formative years especially as an activist. So the music I listen to now is largely the music from the 90's. But there's some bands coming out today that are still recording that are very inspirational. Earth Crisis has put out a new album; I've always respected them, bands like Heaven Shall Burn, and Parasitic Skies. So by in large I would say not much has changed. I'm also real fond of early 80's hip hop. (Around 1979-1983)
Do you have any brothers or sisters, if so are they vegan?
My sister, I have not seen my sister in 12 years, she's two years younger than me. Between my fugitive status, and her living with my mom when I lived with my dad, our different living situations, my prison sentence, and her having moved to Europe when I got out of prison - it all resulted in me not seeing her in a long time. She is a very ,very conservative person, but strangely enough, so I'm told by my mom, that she's mostly vegan and has been since I think, she might dispute this, but since I've influenced her to be vegan way ,way back when she was 15. I don't think she's as strict as maybe we are, but by in large she's vegetarian and mostly vegan I'm told.
After being on the run for 7 years you stole CD's (or so I'm told) right in front of a cop. Why'd you do this, were you just done, or were they really awesome cd's?
That's the toughest question I've ever gotten from anybody, even an ambush journalist. I, well.... I would challenge the presupposition that I actually was stealing cd's. The whole situation surrounding my arrest, the circumstances were very, very strange. I was guilty of nothing more than moving a couple cd's across the room. I never left the Starbucks, had no intention to steal them, and didn't conceal them, so what you really had was a police officer thinking that I looked suspicious. To this day I'm not really sure what sparked his interest, but my approach to dealing with police is to not speak with them. So I provided him with a name, an identification card, but at that point I refused to talk to him. And I think that really I was arrested for belligerence against a police officer because I stone- walled him and said I'm not going to talk to you. I don't talk to police and I think they wanted to get me into custody to sort of figure out what was going on because when people don't talk to police they assume that you have something to hide. Which I did, so it was accurate in this situation. So they booked me into jail under shoplifting charges but I really think it was just a pretext to get me into custody. They ran my prints and that's what led to them discovering who I am. And the cd's were Ray Charles and no, I don't like Ray Charles.
Do you think in future generations' fur farms will get closed down, and what about factory farms?
Well at this point the fur industry is very, very small. You have about 270 mink farms left and only a few dozen fur farms breeding species like foxes and lynx so it's very ,very small. The end is definitely foreseeable. This is an industry that we can definitely shut down in our lifetime, absolutely. Its very, very winnable and I think that's why the I chose the fur industry ( to liberate the animals) and why I continued to focus in large part, not in whole , but much more far on the fur industry because I think it's very winnable. So the fur farms will continue to fall. The trend now is consolidation, where you have the smaller farms going out of business and the big farms getting bigger. So you know, yes fur farms will get closed down. Unfortunately the number of animals killed every year has remained very stable but it's good in the sense that you have less numbers of farms to take out. (Food animal) factory farms I think at this stage, no, the industry is so huge we need to get people to become vegan.
What do you think of Bold Native? (Casey Suchan, one of the filmmakers, was recording this when I asked this. But I completely agree with everything he had to say about this film.)
I'm somebody who does not watch films. I'm very rarely moved by films. I'm one of those strange people who are very rarely stirred by films but I think Bold Native is incredible; it's the kind of movie that makes me want to reconsider my opinion about movies. Honestly I can't tell you how many times I've had somebody say," Hey, you have to watch this movie." And they sit me down and I watch it and I'm just not stirred at all. But Bold Native, it really reminds me of a lot of personal experience and conversations I've had. I had a friend pull me aside earlier this week and say," I have totally forgotten that passion that I used to feel." Bold Native seems to stir that in people, so you can't ask anything more in a film.
What was the deciding factor for you in becoming vegan?
There are a couple of milemarkers that I can say, but I remember catching a glimpse of slaughterhouse footage as I was flipping through stations on public access. Someone had reserved a block of time and threw a tape in the VCR of slaughterhouse footage and I caught a glimpse of it, not even 5 seconds and I have never forgotten it. So combine that, that visual image, and a lot of the messages I was getting from hardcore punk bands at the time and supplemental reading from books like Diet For A New America. I think that the moment I became vegan was when I heard a story on the news about a study that just came out, this is a mainstream news source, that concluded that you reduce your cancer risk across the board by 50% by being vegetarian and my dad was in the car and that was sort of the "in" I was waiting for since he provided all my food since I was in high school. I didn't know how to bring it up with him so I was like," You know what, do you hear that? I don't want to eat this anymore." And he was like," Alright, tell me what to buy." So that was it, the news story was what pushed me over the edge.
What did your parents think of you liberating animals?
My parents neither overtly support nor condemn my actions. I would best characterize my animal liberation activities in my family as "unmentionable". I am perhaps fortunate my parents are gernally not very opinionated. If they were, we might find serious conflict when I visit because I will never express remorse for those actions.
I want to thank Peter for taking the time to answer a 13 year old's questions for her blog. It means alot.