Ernest Dempsey is a writer/editor who lives in Pakistan. He primarily writes about animal rights issues. Here is a link to his blog:
Q: What made you interested in writing about animal rights?
A: I always was empathetic toward animals. Scenes of animals slaughtered were unbearable to me and the worst place in the market to visit was going to the butcher’ shop with someone from the family to buy meat. Some of my earliest stories that I wrote in my school-going days were about friendship and belongingness to animals—one I can remember was called Horses, in which two young women embark on an adventure to save their horses taken away by some outlaws. TV shows for kids like, The Littlest Hobo and Danger Bay, were also early influences in developing respect for animal life. However, I started regularly writing about animal issues last year after learning about (reading and seeing) the cruelty to which homeless dogs are subjected by people. I started my blog http://catchingstraw.blogspot.com/ and later, I started doing journalistic writing and opinion columns on animal abuse and cruelty cases. Now, I have a voice for my animal friends and am heard and followed increasingly on the web.
Q: How did you become an Editor?
A: It was in 2008 that I first got into editing. I edited a New York magazine Audience Review while also editing a newsletter for the same press—the World Audience Publishers (http://www.worldaudiencepublishers.com/). A year later, Victor Volkman of the Loving Healing Press (http://www.lovinghealing.com/) discovered that I had good proofreading skills and would qualify for professional editing work. By that time, I already had an idea for a magazine about recovering and healing from loss, abuse, and trauma. So I became the editor of Recovering the Self – a journal of hope and healing (http://www.recoveringself.com/). Since then, I have found continuing success with editing work and keep getting exciting projects.
Q: What is the main difference between working for an online publication and a print publication?
A: My regular work has been mostly online and only a few of my projects have been for print magazines. I can say that working online is notably more interactive and dynamic than working for print publications. Very often, you find yourself looking for the latest updates on a topic, comments pointing to conflicting views, and accordingly contacting your own sources for more explanation or details. To me, working online as a writer/editor requires a lot of energy and patience. A print publication, on the other hand, has a more fixed schedule on most of its content, and updpates take longer to hit the public view than online sources. I believe that this difference between the two main kind of publications require more meticulous editing work for print media because there, once out in print, you’ll have little chance of correcting an error which in case of online publications can be done in a minute.
Q: Why do you think the major networks are so hesitant to run animal rights public service announcements?
A: That is because major media outlets are still very much into stuff that can create gossip – things like politics, crime, sports, or celebrities. Animal rescue and protection in not a topic to ensure public entertainment, controversy, or sensationalism. Some media sources do make room for stories of inspiring incidents or cases of animals proving loyal, friendly, or helpful to humans; but majority of the most followed media sources are still into the “buzz” stuff, like animal abuse or cruelty – probably that sells better. Thanks to social media and blogs, rescues and other animals related issues do get noticed by a lot of people online and many lives are saved by online animal-friendly groups daily.
Q: Do you agree with PETA’s tactics?
A: I don’t want to be judgmental toward PETA or any other organization for that since I have not been following the work they do. Apparently, they did do well at least at the start. But then we have all these reports (http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?cat=10) of their shift in policies and position on saving animals and keeping it all clean. So I may say that their record has been stained by reports of killing animals and advocating for kill shelters. I feel that people who are into life-saving work need to do every bit possible to keep up the value of life above other interests. If you take a detour, it may show your deep-seated disbelief in the cause to which you claim commitment
Q: What is the weirdest story you have ever covered?
A: Let’s think. At the moment, I don’t remember doing any weird stories as such. But I can say that several stories of animal abuse or cruelty or victimization of human children have been tragic cases that I wrote about. The judicial killing of pet dog Tony in Arizona (http://greenheritagenews.com/judicial-murder-petition-against-judge-grace-nabor-for-executing-tony/) this year in June is one story that haunts me and my animal rights activist friends. Now there is a book just published about Tony and we hope it will inspire pet owners to come together and do something about cases of pets sentenced to execution without enough reason or evidence by the very judges who get to the seat of authority by their very votes.
Q: What is the best advice you can give someone who is transitioning into vegetarianism?
A: Vegetarianism has two main sides – compassion for animal life and improved health. To me the former takes precedence. It’s more about saving life, having mercy on animals than only caring for eating what is good for you (which I think is a good but still selfish approach). So my advice is, spend as much time in company of animals around you as you can; observe them, feel them as voiceless yet sensitive life forms; and make friends with them. You will see that they are not for slaughter or even for hurting in any way. They love you back; they feel your respect for them; and that is the strongest reason to turn to vegetarianism – accepting that animals are friends, not food. Given that, the health aspect is also important. Since growing in a culture where slaughter is acceptable we have been made habituated to getting our some of our nutritional needs from animals, we need to learn more about the right kind of food for us. I highly recommend that all who are conscious to their health should read Janice Stanger’s book The Perfect Formula Diet, particularly those who are struggling to give up meat for good. This book will help them with issues relating food and attitude toward animal life.
Q: What do you like about living in Pakistan?
A: I have a relationship with the places here where I grew up and live, and my family and memories of growing up. These are peculiar to the places in Pakistan where I have lived. It is always a luxury to go home and stay there when I want to. I personally am an advocate of individual freedom and there come times when I don’t want to work but just fall back on my family. I am glad that they are there for me when I need them and similarly I am there for them when they need me. This is the best thing about being in Pakistan.
Q: What don’t you like about it?
A: Well, this can be a long list. While pollution, a general servility in attitude among people, and failure of education to take hold here are all undesirable, I find myself frustrated due to constant power shortage and poor internet connectivity etc. The services are really bad here. As an online editor and writer, I have over the years become kind of addicted to the Internet. When I don’t get power or internet for hours in a row daily – which is quite often the case here – it drives me crazy. Recently I tossed the term “shiternet” (http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474981707050) to get some load off my chest in reaction to Internet’s ever-increasing hide-and-seek here. So you can imagine what it feels like to cope with these things daily.
Q: What was the most challenging story you ever had to write?
A: For years I had wanted to write my pet story, something as a tribute to my pet dog Kaloo who died in 1999. It was a real challenge. I could not muster the courage for years to relive his departure after more than a decade of loyalty and respect and love that I found in his company with us. Then one evening, last year, I sat and did it. Words were writing themselves out of me and I finally had the cathartic experience of telling Kaloo’s story. It was published in the online magazine Thrive in Life (http://www.thriveinlife.ca/thrive/index.php/kaloo-the-black-one-endless-loyalty-and-love/). After writing that story, I felt that I could pretty much write any story.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)