Bobpa!

It's not like you wake up one morning and think: now I'll become an animal rights activist, but more that you wake up one morning, and realize you are one. It's a gradual process that has grown more and more over the years for me.
Like most people here in Holland I was raised with the idea that animals are there to be eaten by people. In the (Christian) household I grew up in it was even given biblical meaning by saying that God had created animals for that purpose. In that sense I grew up like everybody else.

I had a lot of pets in my youth. From rabbits to turtles, dogs, cats, birds, fish, mice and more of that ilk. Why?? Because I loved animals. And I thought that if I were to take as many animals from pet stores as possible, I could give them a better life. In many cases that was actually so, but I didn't realize that by buying these animals I was supporting a trade that caused more animal suffering than I could solve.

The realization that animals have feelings, can experience pain, etc. didn't come until I was about 15 or 16 years old. I was a passionate fisherman and I often spent entire vacations and every free hour fishing. Although I neatly followed the rules myself, I saw many others (mainly youngsters) who took pleasure in torturing fish by keeping them hooked and sweeping them in and out of the water, killing them for fun by throwing them to the ground, and catching ducks with fishing rods and bread crusts. I didn't like that. When I saw those things I wondered if animals really couldn't feel pain, and I also wondered about the use of torturing these animals. It went so far that I started to wonder what was more important to me: the welfare of animals, or that I had the right to catch them and do with them as I pleased. I started to wonder if indeed I had that right at all, and if so, what that right was based on. Somewhere around that time I started to realize that fishing was something I could no longer afford to do, and that I had chosen for the animal's right to live peacefully in its own surroundings. Even though it was hard, I gave up fishing. The idea that fish had to suffer just so I could 'enjoy' myself for a few hours was unbearable. That was my first - basically subconscious - step toward animal rights activism.

But I still ate meat, totally unaware of the animal suffering it entailed. Most meat-eaters know that cows they see in the pasture will eventually end up on their plates. But between the picture of the cow, and the picture of a piece of meat on your plate there's something missing. Most people (consciously or unconsciously) don't think about that. Who wants to know that the animal he's eating has experienced terrible fear and pain just so he can eat it? Who wants to see a picture of cows bleeding to death, or refuse bins filled with blood and guts?
But still I ate meat, although I did start to become more concerned about the dishonest situation in the world. After campaigning for various movements and action platforms: (e.g. anti-racial and fascism) but also against poverty and housing shortage, I more and more arrived at the conclusion that freedom is the keyword in these matters. Freedom to practice religion, to be honest about your sexual preferences, so that you don't have to be afraid of people with a different skin color, etc. This also brought me into contact with people who were vegetarians. This was new to me. Why shouldn't you eat meat? Don't you get sick without meat? Don't you need it to stay healthy? Still I decided to learn more about it. I found some pro and contra books, read them and tried to formulate my own opinion. That was a quick affair. For someone like me, who fought for the freedom of every creature, the decision to become a vegetarian was easy. No animals should have to be locked up in tiny cages for me. I didn't want to eat hormone-injected animals for my enjoyment. I became a vegetarian!

This still didn't lead to the animal rights activism I'm occupied with today, but it was a good start. I evolved into someone who wanted to prevent or ban animal suffering at all cost. People somehow feel this, and dump their unwanted animals on you. This had the consequence that I was caring for animals I hadn't really asked for. But if others don't do it, who will...? I sheltered various animals (e.g. iguana's etc.) and cared for them until they died. It became clear to me that it was easy for people to get their hands on all kinds of animals, but that everything went wrong in caring for them. This got me thinking. How could I prevent this? Was it possible to make these people understand that they shouldn't buy such animals? I didn't know.

And then there was the Internet!!!!
Yes, and then there was the Internet. Like many others I subscribed to a provider and entered the world-wide-web. It took a while, but at a certain point I arrived at an animal rights organization site. I was surprised that there were people who felt like I did, and that they had the ability to explain their views to millions of people. I followed link after link, and learned a lot. Then came the time when I thought I should have my own web site. My first was a site with many links, a chat room, little programs for downloading, but also a number of pages about the horrors of vivisection. Those were my first real steps! In the meantime I tried to find out more about things that occupied me. Hunting in our country, factory farming, vivisection etc. I started entering online petitions, signature actions etc. I did different things for a number of years, on the net as well as in the country. I had become a real animal rights activist!

But that was not something to be proud of. I dreamt of a world in which people would see animals as their equals, and wouldn't kill them for their meat or skins. It's not something I wanted to be, but something that came out of pure necessity. There's so much animal suffering around us, visible and invisible. We often don't even think about it at all. Millions of animals suffer each year from cruel factory farming or die because they have beautiful furs, countless suffer because people like locking them up to "study them, care for them, look at them". I'd met so many people, had gained a lot of knowledge, and wanted to act from my emotions. What to do? The idea of removing my web site and replacing it with a Dutch-language animal rights site seemed the best solution.

Here I could finally tell my story. With pictures and stories I could let people know what really goes on in factory farming stables. I could tell them how many animals die each year so that ladies can wear beautiful fur coats. I could name names and addresses of stores that sold fur and ask the visitors of my site to boycott these stores. More and more I've come to realize the power of the medium Internet and how it could propagate the things that matter to me so much.

On 1st January 2000 I started my new site "Animal Frontline". A site where, besides information on different types of animal suffering, you can also take action. I hope that in the future my Dutch site will become important and that great numbers of people will find their way there. The form Animal Frontline is taking on is that of a real online organization. That means that by sending protest e-mails, and signing online petitions things can really change. This future medium is already an important medium for animal rights. Many companies have already decided not to sell or produce certain products (fur, certain animal skins, lures etc.) anymore after receiving many thousands of e-mails from all over the world. I'm trying to do 'our' Dutch bit by offering many petitions or actions in Dutch, with example letters (often in a foreign language). Fortunately, this initiative is having results. Many people really do send out the example letters, but I'm also noticing that people (fortunately) find their way to Animal Frontline for Dutch actions. Nowadays I'm involved in all kinds of animal welfare. I support and help different organizations and promote them.

I would like to add that fighting for animal rights is normal for me. I can't understand that people hurt animals for their own enjoyment: bullfights, dogfights and cockfights, but fishing as well. Because these animals cannot speak out for themselves, there must be someone to do it for them. Fortunately I'm not alone in this! People sometimes make fun of me by saying that animals have no rights. After all, they can't vote? Or do you think they should be allowed to vote as well? Pure nonsense as far as I am concerned. I think that animals simply have a right to a life without pain. To live in their natural circumstances, without being hunted by man. The right to freedom, happiness and wellbeing. Just like people! Who are we to deny others the circumstances we claim for ourselves?

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