02 Oct Susie Porter
Award winning actress, activist and ambassador for World Animal Protection agency Susie Porter is a multi-faceted talent and a human of vast integrity and ethics.
With a swag of awards under her belt, including three AFI gongs and a Logie, Susie Porter is a much-loved Australian actress whose roles have been many and varied. Her recent portrayal of intimidating, enigmatic Marie Winter on Wentworth, couldn’t be further from who she is in real life – an animal lover prepared to use her voice and platform loudly to support their cause.
Most recently, Susie travelled to Thailand with World Animal Protection to shine a light on elephant tourism. Of the trip she said, “there are many animal welfare issues where the cruelty is obvious – dog culling; bear baiting; whaling – but with elephant rides, shows and washing, the horrors are hidden.
On the back of her latest animal adventures, Gently Vegan publisher, Catherine Carr, chatted to her about her animal activism and her journey to a more compassionate way of life.
Susie Porter: “It’s been almost two months since I spent a sunny afternoon in the hills outside Chiang Mai. But the experience of watching the elephants just being elephants hasn’t left me.
“I visited a new type of elephant venue: ChangChill (meaning “relaxed elephants”). With the help of World Animal Protection and some leading travel companies, it recently changed from a traditional elephant camp that once allowed elephant washing and riding to become truly elephant friendly.
“The change at ChangChill allows their six female elephants the freedom to roam the hills, eat all day and mud bathe while socialising with each other. [It’s a] significant change and improvement from the logging and entertainment jobs they formerly performed.”
Seeing the elephants in the wild this way left an indelible mark on Susie, and she was eager to share this with as many people as possible. Her advice to all travelers? “Do your research and know what your dollars are supporting. What looks like fun, may be animal exploitation. Choose to see elephants in the wild or genuine elephant-friendly venues.”
CC: have you always been such a huge animal lover?
SP: Yes, I have been an animal lover since I was a kid. I have always felt a connection and a need to rescue and care for animals. My whole family always loved animals and Mum was a great influencer in this area. Our home was always an open door for rescue animals. We had a wallaby, kittens, and even possums in the roof!
Animals teach us the most beautiful qualities. There is a saying. “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” Imagine if we all lived to that standard, how incredible would that be? Animals just give so much.
CC: I have seen you at Animal Australia rallies. You seem to be very active in the area of animal rights?
SP: I am an actor and I love my job. People and different characters fascinate me. But I love animals more. Being a voice for animals is what I have chosen for my life.
If I can be vocal and change things, well, I feel like that’s why I have been put here. To that end, I am an ambassador for World Animal Protection, and I do television and radio advertising for them when I can. Any spare time I have that I can use for the protection of animals, I will be available. I am also a supporter of Animals Australia, Sydney Dogs and Cats home and Monika’s Doggie Rescue.
Our beloved dog Gracie came from Monika’s when she was seven. She is now 13 and the love of our lives. In an ideal world I would have dozens more, but Gracie is an only child – she doesn’t want to share her space. We are happy to work with that, but if I had my way, I would have a 100 of them! I
follow an Instagram account, Where Pigs Fly Farm Sanctuary. My greatest dream is to have a place like that. It’s something I would just love.
CC: When did you decide to give up eating meat?
SP: Paul McCartney famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”.
I grew up eating meat and three veg, a very traditional diet. When you are young, you never really think about the process. As I grew older, I became more aware of the farming of animals, but I still liked the taste of meat.
Then, I don’t know exactly when, there came a turning point where I could no longer disassociate from the reality of what factory farming meant. That meat didn’t arrive at a supermarket as a nicely packaged product. An animal had died so I could eat it. That was probably more than 17 years ago.
CC: As an actor, how do you feel about doing advertisements for meat and dairy products?
SP: I don’t judge what other actors do; it’s just something I ethically can’t participate in. I personally would never do them. For me, this is not a path I can go down.
I just find advertising that features people eating meat products particularly distressing. It’s all smoke and mirrors, about barbeques and happy families enjoying themselves. The reality is an animal has suffered immeasurably to create this event.
Image if they actually put a photo of the featherless chicken that laid a caged egg on an egg packet? That would be truth in advertising!
CC: Who organises the cooking in your home?
SP: My husband Chris and I share the cooking me. He has changed his eating habits as his own awareness has grown. I do believe in being conscious about what we cook, so being ethical is my focus. I am consuming dairy less and less.
However, when we do, I am very conscious of the source. I go to a really wonderful store in Kings Cross, Sydney, called Health Nuts. They have the most amazing vegetarian and vegan produce and they also stock an incredible range of packaged products.”
We also eat out a lot. I feel like more plant-based meals are being offered. One of our favourite restaurants is Frattelli Paradiso, where the menu is contained and seasonal. It’s not completely vegetarian, however they always include a vegetarian option.
This is where I believe the public can create change. More restaurants will ensure vegetarian and vegan options if they are asked enough to provide them.
CC: How do you feel about entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Bill Gates backing artificially raised meat?
SP: I truly believe this is the way of the future. I think at first, it seems like a weird thing, but when you can understand that you are being presented with a taste you may like that is cruelty free, it seems like a completely logical option. I truly hope before I die that these kinds of revolutionary products are widely available.
CC: If you had one message for Australians what would that be?
SP: Have knowledge. Know where your food comes from and how it’s been ‘made’. Consider your tourism choices and be educated on what looks like fun but is actually animal exploitation. Choose cruelty free cosmetics. Really, it’s just education and awareness.
*All images were kindly provided by World Animal Protection.
Publisher Catherine Carr