How to Be a Lifelong Activist with Unny Nambudiripad




Unny cultivates capacity for social change, in particular for nonhuman animals. He brings together communities to heal emotionally, spiritually, physically, and socially to help us be more loving, compassionate, and sustainable activists. He enjoys swimming in lakes, singing while biking around town, and cooking food for others. In this episode Unny and Carly talk about showing up as our authentic selves, having humility for where everyone is at on their journey and a sheep named Frederick raised by dogs.


Please note, this episode has been transcribed by a computer, expect some typos!


Carly Puch

Welcome back to another episode of Consciously Clueless. I'm your host, Carly, and I'll be your guide on this journey from consciousness to cluelessness and back around again. Today on the podcast, I talked to Unny Nambudiripad. pod. Unny cultivates capacity for social change, in particular for nonhuman animals. He brings together communities to heal emotionally, spiritually, physically and socially, to help us be more loving, compassionate and sustainable activists. In this episode, Unny and I talk about showing up as our authentic selves, having humility for where everyone is at on their journey. And he tells a story about a sheep named Frederick raised by dogs. Here we go.

Carly Puch

So the podcast is called Consciously Clueless, and I chose that because I realized for myself, I was exploring this space where, you know, you wake up some days, and you're like, Oh, I'm feeling really with it. I'm so there. I'm conscious, I'm on top of it. And then there's those days you wake up, and you're like, I'm totally clueless. I have no idea what I'm doing in this life. And everything in between. Right. That's, that's part of it. So I'm wondering, the question I like to ask people to start is, where are you at right now on that spectrum of conscious to clueless? Right, in this moment?

Unny Nambudiripad 00:35

Um, yeah, I think, Carly that I feel, you know, relatively conscious, I have some clarity about things I want to do those things to be seen, be me moving forward, I feel good about that. I feel confident that these are in alignment with my highest values. And so that's good. But I you know, I had a destabilizing week, last week, and was asking some hard questions about, you know, am I you know, is there some behavior that I've been doing that has been harmful? And that, do I need to cultivate some more humility? And, you know, and also really struggling with conflict, and with feeling that, you know, somebody, you know, I was saying last Monday night, I, after this conflict, that was feeling vindictive, self-righteousness, you know, and I was letting my giving myself space for that. Right. But I, you know, and I had kind of an emotional hangover the next day. And does that make sense? Yeah. And so, you know, I feel confident that the behavior of the other person, that's something that, you know, doesn't work well, for me, and this is hard, but I don't, you know, but I, but I also, yeah, it has some hard questions about me too. So, I mean, kind of hold all this stuff, without a lot of shame. That's the, you know, like, all of our actions, person having conflict with my own, like, what's happened in the past?

Carly Puch

And yeah, and I think there's a certain level of consciousness that's there, even just being able to ask those hard questions of ourself, right, because there's a lot of times you can move through life without asking the questions of how I played a part in this situation, or what my role was, or whatever that is.

Unny Nambudiripad

Right. And, you know, there's that meta level where I'm thinking, well, gosh, I'm so smart that I even know to ask these questions. You know, and I think that, you know, the, like, a really humble, spiritual approach to this is to really, just to kind of let go, feeling attached to being right and not knowing that what I'm doing is like, the best thing ever, or anything like that. And,

Carly Puch

Yeah, those are hard life lessons, but they're important. Yeah. So you have a very long history in the animal rights world.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah

Carly Puch

You've done so much work in Minnesota, as far as I know. Mostly

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah. I pretty much always lived here. Yeah.

Carly Puch

Okay. Um, so I'm curious. What is your becoming vegan story?

Unny Nambudiripad

Oh, yeah. You know, it's interesting, you know, even as soon as you said, you have a long history, the first thing that comes to mind, but I have mixed feelings about talking about it. I mean, I, that stuff that I've done, I feel such an honor and privilege to be able to do what I've done. And but I also I look at my past, and I don't want that to define me because I'm trying to do new things now. And the particular question that you asked about my vegan story is interesting. And I'll, I'll first I'll tell the story and I'll tell you why. You know, what's, what's interesting about asking the question from that direction, so I My parents are immigrants from India and they had come from a background for hundreds or maybe 1000s of years of vegetarianism. And the it's sometimes the ethical nature of that is a little unclear, it had evolved into both our religious and cultural practice. But you know, there is a strong tradition into my my family's Hindu, there's a strong tradition of really not having the boundaries of what we think about between humans and animals and really thinking about suffering individuals and, and, and good reason to believe that there was some ethical background to this vegetarianism. So my parents came here before I was born and growing up, I ate all vegetarian food at home and my mom remained and still is a vegetarian. But my dad and my brothers and I ate meat growing up outside of the house, okay. And the the to Kearney factors are a couple of the first turning factors in becoming vegan was first when I was about 10 years old in India, and I never had any companion animals growing up at home. But there was these semi feral cats that my second cousin befriended one of the which he named a Bobby after the American chess player. Bobby Fischer Fisher. Yeah, you know that name? Okay. Yeah. I actually, it's funny, because even then he was a historical figure. But I realized the second cousin of mine would have been old enough to know him when he was alive. And so you name this. Obviously, this is my second cousin Ryan, and he liked to play chess. We've played chess together sometimes, too. Anyway, this, this kitten was really adorable and friendly. And my brother Krishna and I, we would throw Bobby and other cat higher and higher. And yeah, you know, just learning this, how cats can land on the feet. And they did. You know, they started to run away from us when we did this. And, you know, when I ran and said to us, like really calmly with even even voice said, If you keep doing that, they'll die. And I felt so ashamed. And I, you know, I recognize that and it took a while to act on it. But I recognize I wouldn't want to hurt an animal if I could. Yeah, yeah. You know, I did. So this is now more than 30 years ago. And just thinking about these stories. More recently, I hadn't really talked to anybody about it. And my second cousin, Iran, and he died a long time ago. And but I asked my brother about this last year, and he remembers most of this and it's pretty amazing. Yeah, how long ago this was. Anyway, the next story is when I was 19. And I went to India. So I would visit I should say, I should visit India for a few months, every three years or so. Okay, family, but that trip was different because it was the first time I really traveled throughout India with my brother and I, my my brother Krishna and I, without other relatives and a lot and I at the end of the trip, I decided to become a vegetarian. And I think that you know, I wasn't motivated by health or ethics or environment, but it just, like felt like the right things to do. In my you know, it's the the tradition that my family did. That felt right. And when at the end, it was very easy for me to do it having grown up with the food that I ate, I did write questions about whether I would be healthy or not or what I would eat or anything like that.

Carly Puch

Do you feel like when you were growing up and you were eating meat outside of the house, did you feel like you kind of had a foot in both worlds like your mom presenting vegetarian food and Hinduism and then kind of like the Americanized Big Mac?

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, definitely. But you know how it is and when you're a kid everything just seems normal. Right? So I didn't think about it that way. But yeah, I mean, I I felt equally comfortable. You know, I love to eat at Burger King and loved hamburgers. And when I would visit family in India needs all vegetarian food. I love that too. Even that fine and and because my mom was very much she never expressed you know her opinions or her values or said that we should do things one way or the other. Because of that I didn't even understand until I was an adult, that that there was this idea that people had the problem with eating meat or that Yeah, and actually, that's part of how I became vegan is because I, it's still at the age of 19. I was completely unaware of that. And I started talking to people asking the question about the ethical, you know, is it is it okay to hurt animals or not? And? Well, I would, you know, I had a specific conversation, this is only probably like a month or two after coming back from India. And, you know, I asked the question, the person I was asking, knew I was vegetarian. But what they didn't know is that I didn't really I didn't have any ethical inclination there. And so when I was asking it, it was really an open question. And they got really defensive. And I was just like, What's this about? I don't understand why somebody be defensive. You know, this is not how the conversation would have went with my mom or anything and, or that she would have had with somebody else. It's not like that. And so anyway, that got me to ask questions. Interesting. And then involved in other activists things. And I knew people who are vegans and involved in animal advocacy, and I started talking to them. And once I started doing that, then shortly after that, I became vegan and got involved in animal advocacy.

Carly Puch

And you co founded compassionate action for animals.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah. So that that was, you know, like I said, I was involved lots of activist things. And once I started eating animal advocacy, it really called to my heart. And I, you know, I can give reasons why I think it's an important issue, but I've just really felt that deeply that Yeah, of all the things I could work on it, you know, I was, you know, already doing so many so many different things, like trying to do the best for animals just really called me. But you know, I still cared about a lot of other issues and did continue and still continue to work on things. And so just a year later, after just a year after becoming V, and, and being involved in animal advocacy, I understood, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to advocate for animals, I don't know what form is going to take. And, you know, it's a really fortunate it felt like a coincidence, but I, you know, I was just talking to other people who shared a lot of similar values. And these conversations evolved into starting an organization compassionate action for animals. And, you know, I had the time and attention for it, because I knew this was my number one life priority. Yeah, certainly didn't have any sense that, you know, like, this was going to be the avenue in which I was going to be an animal advocate. And then that being the case, I mean, I, so yeah, I co-founded that in 1998, and spent the next 18 years of my life most of those years with compassion and action for animals. And, you know, eventually, a decade after I started as a part-time, and then a full-time job, too. So I got spent spend a lot more time on that.

Carly Puch

It's an amazing organization.

Unny Nambudiripad

Oh, thanks.

Carly Puch

Yeah, like I said, when we originally connected, my coworker, Adrea was like, You should talk to my friend. And I think he I think it would be great if you had him on the podcast. And so then, of course, I was like, oh, who is this guy? You know, like, on the internet looking. I was like, Oh, he cofounded this organization that I get their monthly emails and that I've followed for a long time. Like, that's pretty amazing.

Unny Nambudiripad

I didn't realize you work with Adrea, I was going to I was going to introduce you to injury, I was thinking,

Carly Puch

Oh, no, no, no, we're coworkers.

Unny Nambudiripad

Uh huh.

Carly Puch

Yeah. So we know each other.

Unny Nambudiripad

Great. Great. Yeah. I Well, I want to get back to what I was saying before about, you know, the question that you asked, so that, you know, one of the reasons I love compassion and action animals is that I want to do more work outside of the personal consumption world and trying to change individual behavior and diets. I really wanted to work on policy, and, you know, look at structures and systems. Mm hmm. And my life is kind of meandered a bit. But, you know, because of that, I don't want the kind of work, you know, which I, you know, I still appreciate and I still participate and help out when I can with compassionate acts for animals, but I don't want it to define me because, you know, there's other things that I want to do and other perspectives, and I'm learning and trying different things. And, you know, that's been a big challenge for me to do that, right. Because you do something for so long, and it becomes so much of what you believe and how you see the world, you know, but I, you know, I want to I want to best model behavior I want from other people, which is, you know, to learn and grow.

Carly Puch

So when you say you left to work more on like policy and systems change was, are you saying that you are still in the animal advocacy realm, but working on systems and kind of policy or.

Unny Nambudiripad

Well what's ended up happening actually, is that Yeah, I I've continued to be involved in animal advocacy. And what I've stumbled upon as a little bit different direction is looking at capacity building in the movement, and the the combination of both wellness and equity, and animal advocacy. And so some of the ways that's taken form is, you know, I mentioned, I'm going to be planning a virtual retreat for animal advocates, that'll happen in February. And so I've done a hosted a lot of meditations for animal advocates, okay. And I hosted an in-person retreat a year and a half ago, okay, with a very small informal group called our wellness liberation, which is trying to foster wellness. And the idea is to really help animal advocates center their compassion and love in their work and in their advocacy. So that's one aspect of it. And another aspect that complements and is looking at, you know, justice issues and animal advocacy. So, you know, I've been looking at anti-racism efforts and animal advocacy. And so a couple examples of things I've done there is I joined the board of directors of encompass that works on racial equity in the animal advocacy movement, they're a national slash international organization. Okay. Really great work, they consult with organizations to help with their racial equity work, they host conferences for people to learn about the issues, and they have community for bipoc, and people of the global majority kind of a global term for people of color. Those are some of the activities that they do. I was also working on, I was leading the equity Advisory Committee for the animal rights national conference. Oh, wow. And yeah, and that, you know, unfortunately, because of equity issues, it really the concert, the conference was canceled. That's the simple way to explain what happened. But, you know, just just some examples of things that I've been doing there. So it hasn't I haven't really worked on that policy thing. Yeah. But, I mean, honestly, I'm glad I have space to just take where, what I feel called to go, you know, and these are, I feel so great about what I'm doing right now. And the opportunities, it's been more or less all volunteer, so not okay, at work, but it's, you know, I want to make sure I have time for the most important things in my life.

Carly Puch

So what called you into the space of wellness for animal advocates? Like Was that something you felt like? You are filling a need? Because it's something you needed? And never got? Or like, Where did that come from?

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, there's a few different things that happen. Well, one is that I, it's something that I felt like I had for a long time in my life, like I, I feel really good about having, you know, put a lot of intentional time and effort around having balance in my life and having time for sleep, and cooking and eating well, and exercising regularly. And I and I feel like I've done that for a very long time. But those things were just like what I did, but they were separate from the animal advocacy spaces that that was in. And so I was so part of me, part of the thinking was, like, Oh, these individual practices that I have, what if we have community around those things so that advocates can do this to help them be advocates, you know, also so I said, cultivating compassion and love, but also so that you can sustain it for a long time? Yeah, at the also the other thing is I went to a meditation at the animal rights 2017, the animal rights national conference in 2017. Okay, and the folks who led that they had been both animal advocates and meditation leaders for a very long time. And but those had been separate spaces. And this was the first time bringing those two together. And so they really understood where activists came from. And, you know, in the, in the realm of wellness and meditation, I've always associated a lot of spirituality and meditation as very individualistic. And it's, you know, it's for people who have the privilege to do that, then that's not like a big turnoff. But what I was seeing here is that when we when we combine these things together, it's, you know, giving ourselves space for wellness and healing. And in service of making change in the world and doing the best. Yeah, the folks who lead those meditations, they really understand where advocates came from and like what their experiences are in life because they were also advocates, right? But they also, you know, they were meditation leaders who had a really great understanding of, of spirituality, and you You're just approaching things with a lot of love and compassion and humility. And I found that so inspiring. And that was the best part of any animal rights conference I've ever been to. I've been going to conferences for years, and we compassion and extra animals hosted a few conferences before and well, wow, this is really, this is really meaningful for me. So I really wanted to put more attention and time into that. You know, I've had a long interest also in nonviolence and and, you know, I see this kind of spirituality in personal nonviolence, being effective. And being involved in a movement for a long period of time. We pulling all these things together, is what I'm trying to do here.

Carly Puch

Yeah, yeah, totally, I am, got certified as a health and wellness coach, and I teach yoga, and I'm actually in a meditation course right now. And I always tell people, that part of why I like doing that work and working with people and sharing about those things is because I think it better prepares people to show up for the world and make change in the world. You know, so it's like almost this selfish endeavor, like I love doing this coaching or yoga class, because I think it'll help people be better for the world, and it'll be better community. So it's a both and

Unny Nambudiripad

Totally. Yeah. And, you know, you there was another question that you asked, and I meant to say yes to that, as well, I did, I do feel like I've needed this for myself as well, a lot of the spiritual things, you know, you just go through life, and you face some hard things, and really question yourself that are really, really deep level and, you know, experience some pain. And, you know, when that happens to me, you know, a lot of the meditation and wisdom teachings that I've learned and benefited from have really helped me through that, and then really helped guide me, I should say that the work that I do, I really tried to be both ecumenical. And, you know, I try to appeal to people of all or any or no religion, or spirituality, and I try to be as inclusive in that way as I can. Mm-hmm.


Carly Puch

So that is one avenue that you're working down. And then you also described being in the world of animal advocacy and people of color and bipoc individuals. So what got you down working with that those intersections?

Unny Nambudiripad

So in my, in the, in the rest of my life, sometimes, I've been involved in like I said that many other issues. Yeah. And, and those have called to me, you know, independently of being an animal advocate, I, you know, I or, you know, additionally, it's like, when I, when I think of compassion and justice in the world, and what I wanted, I see that the need for that in, in human work, and doing anti-racism work seems, you know, very important to me, too, you know, I mean, obviously, it's this is, you as a person of color. in this society, it's, you know, it's not hard for me to see the racism in our society, right. But I, you know, I see all kinds of, yeah, just the, the oppression that exists. And, you know, I want to make a change in that regard. And so, I, I saw this as an opportunity to work on those values that matter to me as well, that I don't want to have to put, you know, I want to, you know, maybe a theme for all of this is I want to try to show up in my full self or find spaces in places to show my full self more and being able to do this is more opportunity for the job is my full self and I but I also think that, you know, we can make the animal protection movement more powerful, and more effective and make a bigger difference for animals. Right. So it's both because it's just and because it's more powerful.

Carly Puch

Right. Did you have any, and if you don't feel the need to share, you totally don't have to. But did you have any personal experiences in the animal rights world of the vegan world that you as a person of color, were like, oh, there are issues here and we need to talk about these intersections. I interviewed someone zipporah the vegan and she is a black woman and she if you don't follow her on Instagram, I would totally look her up because she is dropping truth bombs all over the place about privilege and veganism and it's really important as a white woman, for me to like be continuing to confront these faces because it would be really easy for me to just be this like white vegan woman and not think about that?

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, I, what I'll say is, I think one of the reasons that's kept me going in animal advocacy is that having been involved in many issues, I see it less than animal advocacy than I see other places. Okay, I think, you know, I think because people's focus on animals, they're less likely to be caught up in racist thinking. But that said, you know, we without, but what I do see is, you know, without challenging conventional ways of thinking and living we, and, and also, because folks who are involved in the most prominent and best-funded work tend to come from privileged backgrounds. it perpetuates racism and racist structures, and it's right. And that's just like, a default, ignorant kind of thing, just like the rest of our society and the right structures. So, yes, that I see everywhere, and you can see it in, like, when you talk about, like, it being easy to become vegan, or, you know, promoting foods that are, you know, pretty expensive, or, or, you know, like, having voices that are from a very limited philosophical, or narrative backgrounds that's, like, you know, all about like, white people stories. Right. Right. And, you know, the animal advocacy has so much more that has, like, so much more diverse voices, there's so much more opportunity, including the, you know, the story that I was telling you a little bit of, of my own story, right, right, you know, traditions that Hinduism, and India has around vegetarianism, that is really powerful and has a lot of potential. Totally. So, yeah, I'm happy to say that I my personal experiences have generally been pretty good. And but at the same time, our movement, just like really can easily I don't want to I have to be clear, I say I'll say, the movement that's often most visible and best-funded, because there hasn't been and there always is a, like, the movement is really big. Right? There's a lot of things going on. And it's like, yes, paying attention to and, you know, so there are a lot of things that are happening, and I don't want to downplay what a lot of leadership that has come from people of color,

Carly Puch

But the mainstream the stories that make those kind of headlines, or whatever it is, yeah. tends to be more more privileged folks. Right. in those spaces. So I, I'm curious, knowing that you started that organization in What did you say? 1998? Yeah. So how is being vegan changed for you over the years? Because, you know, I've been vegan for a few years. So I've had, like, accessibility to food and information and stuff was just pretty easy for me. But things have changed so drastically.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah. Yeah, of course, things have changed really dramatically. And I you know, I even remember, around the time I became vegan, and I went to uptown in Minneapolis, you know, that, like you would expect of all places like well, people would know what the word vegan is totally. Even then, at that point, I don't don't even expect that anybody understands I like explain the words, you know, like, do you have anything that doesn't have meat, dairy or eggs? And I remember a waiter responding this at some restaurant, and he said, Oh, yeah, we have things that are vegan. And I'm like, that's amazing that you know that word like yeah, and now I would just like use the word, right. It has changed so dramatically. And I mean, it seems like we're right in the middle of it right now, too. You know, it's only only a couple years ago that I like, okay, I can't keep up with all the new vegan ice creams and yeah, plant-based meats and such, you know, a few years before that. I did it was like, oh, there's new one. Let me try that. Yeah. And yeah, that's been really fortunate. I think that you know, I indicated that because of my background becoming vegetarian was easy and my like my like I said, my family the background was lacto vegetarian, so just they just use milk. And because I've pretty much always as an adult had control over my food choices and I'm cooking for myself and maybe other people I you know, not people who aren't vegan and that don't have other people are feeding me that aren't vegan and Because of my economic privilege and access to information about nutrition, and because of the places I've lived, that had food choices, being vegan has always been a very easy thing for me. I've had to recognize that a lot of people's experiences are really different. But yeah, I mean, as far as the movement and the possibility right now, I mean, yeah, I'm really enthusiastic.

Carly Puch

Yeah, there is, I think, a lack of understanding from some privileged vegans. I remember posting something on Instagram, like a year or two ago, about as visiting my dad in Florida. And we went to a restaurant that had a ton of vegan options, and they accidentally put chicken in mine. And I was really nice. And the guy felt so terrible. And I was like, I know you didn't do this on purpose. Like, you know, it's okay. They brought me a new one. And I posted on social media about how like, nice they were and how you can have you can spark conversations in these moments. And this woman responded to me somebody I don't know, but somebody who's vegan, she's like, that's why I don't eat anywhere that isn't fully vegan, and bla bla bla bla bla. And I was like, yeah, that must be nice. Like, wherever you live that you have that option, but like I'm in Grand Marais, Minnesota most of the time, and there's I would need out, there's no place that's fully vegan. I mean, I'm not eating out anyway, right now, because of COVID. But still, like, just those comments were like, wow, you have no idea. Like, that's a real privilege. If you can be like, I don't eat anywhere, but only vegan places. I'm like, Whoa, all right.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, I think that, you know, this is such a good opportunity to have humility about everybody's journeys and choice. I think that, I mean, that's, I think the whole question of people becoming vegan, and, you know, we just have to look at everybody's lives are there so many different, you know, I kind of indicated some of it, like, you know, access to information and food and right, and who is in your household and who you're cooking, with, or for and money and all these things. And so we really have to let go of this idea that whatever we think the choice is best for us that other people, their circumstances are the same instead, you know, look at it as can we empower people to make the best choices that they can,

Carly Puch

That's a really good way to rephrase that. Because I know, in the beginning, I did not see my own privilege in this movement. And I did not understand after I became vegan, why everybody in my life wasn't following suit. You know, I was just like, why are people listening to me, this is, this is easy, you know, I'm sure I use the word easy, takes a step back, and some self-reflection to be a little more thoughtful about how I share information and the way I talk about things.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, and I, you know, to the folks who, you know, I, having spent so much time in animal advocacy and with animal advocates, I can really empathize with the anger and pain and frustration that animal advocates feel about what's happening to animals, and a cruelty right. And so, when people are speaking vociferously and saying, you have to change right now, I mean, I can really empathize with that anger. Because, you know, that's real. And totally, I think that, yeah, I hope that on the other side, I'm not shaming people for saying, for like, being upset about this, especially when I see that, like, that's coming from such a great place of really wanting the best for animals. And, you know, one thing I've been thinking about, is, you know, anger often comes, I don't maybe I don't want to say initially, always, but often comes when you don't feel very powerful. And so what you can, when when you feel anger, you might reflect upon that, okay, like, where, how and where am I not feeling powerful right not,

Carly Puch

That loss of control...

Unny Nambudiripad

Right, right. And so and, and empathize with that, right? And so then, then ask yourself, you can another question you can ask yourself is, how am I powerful? How can I be powerful? How can I, you know, make the most difference and flip that around? Right? And how can I make the biggest difference for animals? And the might, you might find yourself saying some different things, but I think that can be really helpful exercise.

Carly Puch

Wow, that's really powerful. I think. I mean, that's a useful exercise, even out of that animal advocacy world, right, like getting angry and being like, okay, where is this coming from? Where am I not feeling powerful, but how am I empowered?

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, yeah. And again, I want to emphasize, it's not shaming, anybody feeling anger and not trying to push the anger away and saying that's not right. Or you shouldn't do that. Because so often, that's what happens right? What we see right now is so much anger from people of color and you know, not not seeing empathy for that anger, you know, from from white folks...

Carly Puch

Shaming that anger..

Unny Nambudiripad

Right.

Carly Puch

And just ignoring it. Absolutely. Yeah, too, right. Just not wanting to deal with it.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah. Because appeal scary or threatening, or Yeah, Mm hmm.

Carly Puch

Have you had any, like crazy success stories, talking to people, you're like, oh, I never thought this person would be vegan. But we had this amazing conversation, or they ended up as a volunteer. And well, I like that one of my favorite success stories.

Unny Nambudiripad

I don't know what happened to this. I don't I don't know where it went. But this conversation really was really powerful. So I was handing out some leaflets several years ago, about factory farming and veganism. And one of the last leaflets I handed out. This guy said, you know, guy says, Hey, What's this about? And I'm like, you know, we're trying to encourage people to choose plant-based foods and dairy farming. And then he said, and he says to me, God, God wants us to use animals as we please or something like that. And I and I thought, well, you know, I I've heard this kind of thing before. And I, you know, that people respond in this way. So let me try. And they said, Well, I think that God would be, you know, look kindly upon us if we are compassionate to animals. And he responded, did you have you read the Bible? Do you know what it says? And you know, and I recognize that I'm like, I'm not going to win this debate. I know, I'm confident he knows the Bible much better than I do. But I asked something else. I asked him, Do you know an animal? And he said, Yeah, and I'm like, what, what animal is that? It's like, well, I, you know, I have a cat on what's your cat's name? And he said, his cat's name. I'm like, Well, tell me a little bit about your cat. What does your cat like and dislike? And you know, he said a little bit, I'm like, Well, you know, what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to advocate for animals like that. And he's like, Oh, you know, I see it, that you have a point. And, and that, you know, I was amazed, because I cannot think of another time when I had something that seemed to be going in such a bad direction. Like, obviously, I'm not going to convince anybody of anything here. to changing and I think it's so important personal narrative is so important, really engaging with individuals, right? If I say 10 billion animals are suffering on factory farms, like that's so hard for people to grasp or understand or connect with any emotion. On the other hand, if I tell you I met this sheep named Frederick at soul space sanctuary, and let me tell you about the sheep. That's something they engage with. And you can ask them if people have relationships, animals, often companion animals, right. But whatever animal it is that that can be an opportunity. And to really avoid a lot of the philosophical things can be a trap and a way to intellectualize things that often isn't very constructive. I learned some of this from doing a little bit of phone banking on the 2012 marriage campaign.

Carly Puch

I was just going to say that no, yep. That's because I was at Augsburg in undergrad at the time.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah.

Carly Puch

And rallying and doing stuff. And I was like, that sounds really similar to how things happened in...

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, for my friend, my friend, Sarah, she who I know from animal advocacy, she worked a lot in that campaign and encouraged me to do phone banking. And we, you know, we did phone banking and what like, they pretty much tell you, you can't use words like justice or equality or anything like that. These are like banned words. You just have to ask people about their personal experience and about the personal experience that people they know and tell about your personal experience and share that. And these I know, I only had a couple conversations you you make phone calls, and people don't answer the phone often, right? This is a hammer incredible. And I'm like, wow, I'm being both more persuasive and engaging people better and build bridge building. I mean, like, it was just, it was just great. You know, and this is somebody you know, I have so much experience trying to engage and persuade people on things over the years. It wasn't, I wasn't new to that. I was really, you know, the ground shifted. And so since then, I've been trying to do more personal narrative. Yeah. Can it Can I tell you about Frederick the sheep, please. Yeah. So Frederick, the sheep, his sheep that I met at soul space sanctuary, and it's really funny. So the first time I went there four years ago, I see this animal come up to the fence kind of near us from the distance and I'm like, I just in my head, I made a mental note. That's a goat. And then when we get closer, I realized I was a sheep. And I'm like, Oh my god, what kind of animal advocate Am I I came up with a goat. And then a little bit later, we're hanging out and Fredrik, the sheep comes, and like brushes up against me, like just being really friendly. But he's huge. I mean, he's cheap. And he's like, almost knocking you over. But it was just like, kind of funny and kind of strange. And I'm like, this is really, I don't like this. I don't think that's how sheep behaved. Well, it turns out that Frederick was raised with a bunch of dogs. Oh. And just learned all behaviors from dogs and just like was acting like a dog.

Carly Puch

That's what I was thinking. I was like, it sounds like a dog.

Unny Nambudiripad

Yeah, that's the sheep that acts like a dog. And, and then I realize, Oh, that's why I probably thought that was a goat. Because goats, of course, are curious. Right? Yeah. So that's just not it wasn't the appearance as much as like, the motions of that animal was more like, what a goat is like, right? And so then I didn't feel quite as bad. But I it's just like, you know, these, the individual stories of these animals are just incredible, you know?

Carly Puch

Oh, that's so. So fun. I think some of what you're identifying, too, with, like the asking questions of people. And those personal narratives reminds me of Claire Mann, the vegan psychologist. Yeah, Australia, she's really, really great. I interviewed her a while back. But I found her right when I officially became vegan, because I was struggling with how to talk to people in my life. Because I felt like I was going through this angry vegan phase. And everyone thought I was crazy. And I was just googling all this stuff. And her name came up. And one of the things that she talks about that's helped me a lot is just really asking questions of people. And that's kind of like what you were saying, you know, like, when people are getting defensive, or people are unsure, or their hackles are kind of coming up just being like, Oh, well, what does that feel like? For you? Like, what is what is happening for you right now or whatever, and really just like making people name, why this conversation is hard, or name where their information came from? Like, it's really about the personal narrative.

Unny Nambudiripad 42:21

Yeah, and I, I kind of a line of reasoning that I'm curious about as well, that I think coincides with this works well with this is, you know, you can you can ask people about the experience that they have with animals and the animals that they care about, and the stories of those animals, but then also to ask, like, what makes that person feel powerful? Right? And that's, that can be a broad question. Because usually, when you ask these questions, people will express some compassion or care for animals, they have some relationship with animals, right? And so then the follow up question can be, how can they feel like they can make a difference for animals? And, you know, you know, I asked this, you know, part of the reason I go in this direction is because, you know, I've said that I want to look at systems and structures, and not just individual consumer change. So I'm really enthusiastic, when people want to make a difference for animals in really any, any way, whatever works best for them, right? So I want people I want to help people think about, like, what they would do to make a difference for animals, whatever that might look like, and what make them feel like they make a real difference. And I, you know, one of the reasons this came up to me is, you know, having done a lot of, you know, one on one, persuasive, you know, like showing videos of factory farming, and then having conversations with people, I've done this, you know, I've spent so many hours doing this talk to 1000s of people. And sometimes the response I get, what I understood is, what I'm hearing from people is, you know, they see these videos, they're horrified about what's happening to animals on factory farms. And then I say, Oh, you know, like, you can make a difference by becoming vegan, and there's a disconnect there where they don't feel like that's powerful or important or whatever. Right. And I, you know, I, of course, I think, wo