By Michael Stirling
Last year, I set out from Perth, Australia, and headed to Manila, Philippines, to intern for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia-Pacific—a dream come true. I'm vegan, and I've been involved in animal rights for several years.
I must admit that for the first week, I found the workload overwhelming, and being in a country that was totally alien to me didn't help. I had left my family and friends for nearly two months to help animals—and I'd never even left Australia before!
As a PETA intern, I talked with members of the media, did hours of Internet research, wrote letters and literature, and handed out leaflets. Sometimes, I worked up to 10 hours a day with my PETA colleagues while juggling many projects at once. I did some serious multitasking!
The office typically started getting busy about an hour or two before regular office hours began, and we were back in the office on the weekends. No one ever said that achieving animal liberation would be easy! But the PETA staffers and I were in it together, and it was energizing to see everyone working so hard to help animals.
I focused on projects such as pitching World Vegetarian Week to the Australian media, which resulted in seven newspaper features about vegetarianism. It directly helped to educate thousands of people about the importance of going meat-free. Then I did a TV interview for the first time, and I learned about what it takes to be an effective public spokesperson. It was also pretty exciting to be on TV!
I also pitched some stories about vegetarian campaigns, which resulted in about 40 newspaper articles. Getting into the media is a really important part of raising awareness and getting positive changes for farmed animals.
I visited a zoo in Manila to document the conditions of the animals and their living arrangements. I'll never forget that trip: It broke my heart. Another intern and I took photos and notes on the animals' conditions, which, of course, were awful. It was obvious that these animals knew little besides misery. But I found solace in knowing that I was doing something to help bring attention to their suffering.
I also participated in my first demonstration, which was at an aquarium. It was about 40°C outside, and about 15 security guards were there! I don't know what they thought we were going to do—try to liberate the fish? Anyway, I gave news releases to reporters, and dozens of video cameras filmed me with my picket sign.
Our hard work paid off! A TV news station aired footage of the protest, and 15 local newspapers printed stories about it! I was really happy to be the person who helped educate thousands of people about the cruelty of aquariums. It might have been the first time that those people considered these miserable places from a fish's perspective.
My internship helped me develop skills in pitching stories to the media and writing literature, activist alerts, and Web features. All these are practical skills. I also learned a lot about different animal rights issues in other countries, not just Australia. Although the work of an intern is certainly not a vacation, it's very inspiring and educational, and I know that what I've learned will make me a better advocate for animals.
By Kyung-Dam Park
Daejon, South Korea
I've always cared about animals, so last year, I decided that just feeling bad about the way they are abused was not enough. I wanted to take action. Of course, PETA was the first organization I thought of, so I signed up to be an intern at the PETA Asia-Pacific office in Manila, Philippines, during my summer and winter vacation from school. Not only would it give me a chance to help animals, it also offered me an opportunity to travel outside of my home country of South Korea. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
There was never a dull moment during my time as a PETA intern. Whether it was talking to reporters or videotaping animal neglect, there was always an endless amount of work to do that could bring about immediate results for animals who suffer in this world.
One day I'll never forget started when I stepped into a cow costume. It was over 40°C outside, and the thick costume made it feel like I was standing in an oven. Actually, I was standing outside the Korean Embassy in Manila. I was protesting South Korea's controversial decision to import American beef and held a sign that said "Eating Meat Is Mad—Go Veg!" PETA and I wanted to expose the fact that going vegetarian is the best way to avoid mad cow disease and many other health problems that have been linked to eating meat. People loved the fact that there was a "cow" protesting beef, and several people stopped to take photos with me. Even the embassy guard had his picture taken with me! Of course, the media loved that, and a story about the protest ran in the local media. The demonstration, like many others that I participated in, was a success, and we were able to educate thousands of people about the problems with meat.
Another task that I was responsible for was calling media in Korea to collect their contact information. I learned that, unlike in the U.S., Korean media doesn't have a general news desk, so I had to ask for the contact information for the correct department depending on our media release topics. It took a long time, but when I was done, we were able to send out news releases to Korean media—a vital part of educating Koreans about how to stop animal abuse in our society.
The work was always rewarding and always different. One day, I was contacting the media about an Olympic athlete's anti-fur video (which resulted in media coverage by 10 Korean outlets!), and another day, I was taking footage of a neglected and broken orangutan who has been living in a barren box of a cage at the Manila Zoo for more than 20 years. When I met her, she looked so sad, depressed, and bored, and when I looked into her eyes, I knew I had made the right decision to intern at PETA.
Now that I'm back in Seoul, I use what I've learn to keep helping animals. I'm constantly writing letters to the editors of local media about companies that exploit animals in the name of business—I speak up against cruelty to animals whenever I see it!
By Min-Hee Choi
Seoul, South Korea
As a PETA Asia-Pacific intern from South Korea, I can assure you that there is always something interesting going on at the PETA office! During my internship, I dressed up as an angel, wearing nothing but white lingerie, wings, and a halo, to protest against Armani's fur designs; made dozens of calls to Korean reporters so that they would write about animal rights issues; and went to more festivals and events than I've ever been to in my life so that I could host a table full of informative leaflets to hand out to festivalgoers. Every day, there was something new, and all of it was important and rewarding—each night I could go to sleep knowing that I'd done something that day to help animals who are abused and mistreated.
One special event that I will always remember involved dressing up as a Lettuce Lady (wearing not much more than a bikini with lettuce leaves stapled to it) for a Philippine morning show. The show started at 5 am! In the early morning, while it was still dark, I danced in my lettuce bikini holding a sign displaying the Free "Vegetarian Starter Kit" Hotline telephone number. It was something I'd never expect to do, but it was so much fun (and a bit scary too)! Best of all, dozens of people who saw me on TV called in to request information on making the switch to a more compassionate diet.
Another event took place in Hong Kong. Two PETA staff members and I covered ourselves from head to toe in gold, silver, and bronze body paint and held a banner that read, "Be a Champion for Animals: Don't Wear Fur," outside a Burberry store just days before the Olympic Games began in Beijing. On the way to the demo location, it began to rain, and we weren't sure what would happen to our body paint if it got wet. But the demo turned out to be a huge success and received loads of local and international media coverage, which meant that hundreds of thousands of people learned that animals die needlessly for Burberry.
Then came Kukdong Corporation, a Korean retail giant that manufactures and distributes apparel under several big brand names. After I sent it a letter that described how Australian lambs were systematically mutilated by wool farmers, Kukdong announced that it would remove all Australian wool from its supply chain and join PETA's campaign against cruel sheep farming practices. Kukdong was the first Asian corporation to make this change!
Every day of the internship was packed, and every night I slept well, not only because of the full days but also because I knew that I was making a difference for the sheep, foxes, cows, and other animals who suffer in our society. If you care about animals and want to dive into the experience of a lifetime, consider doing an internship with PETA. You'll be talking about your PETA adventures for decades—I know I will.