Jean Colison—a member of the Nonhuman Rights Project’s newly created Tommy’s Legacy Society, which recognizes supporters who’ve included the NhRP in their estate plans—recently shared her path to nonhuman rights advocacy with us.
Jean grew up with companion animals—a cat, parakeets, and, for a short time before he died, a dog—and remembers her mother trying to save wild baby bunnies from a neighbor’s cat who had seemingly tried to adopt them and her father trying to save a baby squirrel who had fallen from a tree. In college and as she was starting her career in the 1960s, she worked in animal research labs where she witnessed firsthand the horrors visited on nonhuman animals.
She was not aware of any animal rights efforts then and thought that was “just the way it was.” When she was told that she was going to have to kill some rabbits by injecting them with formaldehyde, she knew it was past time to leave and transferred to non-animal research.
One day, a PETA protester gave her some literature; thinking that PETA was about pets, she kept the information. A few years later, in the late 1980s, she sent them a donation and they sent her Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (a book that also helped galvanize NhRP President Steven M. Wise’s animal advocacy).
Inspired by what she read, Jean got involved in their PETA activities from “work parties” to leafleting and demonstrations. She also connected with other local groups and started attending FARM’s annual Animal Rights National Conference, where she was first introduced to Steve’s work. She recalls attending a talk in 2001 where he spoke about his new book Rattling the Cage—it was the first time she felt hopeful that things for animals could really change.
She waited and waited and was thrilled when the NhRP filed its first lawsuit and, in her words, “progress began.” She says she has three lifetime heroes: Martin Luther King, Jr., Jane Goodall, and Steve Wise.
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