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Donor Spotlight: Tony Kanal

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You may know Tony Kanal as the bassist from No Doubt and DREAMCAR. Did you know he is an animal activist, Animal Place donor, and has been vegan for 8 years!? Stevie Walsh, Membership Coordinator interviewed Tony about music, travel, and veganism. 

You began playing bass guitar in high school and joined No Doubt at just 16 years old. Who were your inspirations at the time?
There are too many musical inspirations to list, but safe to say Prince was then and still is to this day the greatest of all time for me. Watching and hearing him play live was transcendent. In addition to being an amazing songwriter, guitarist and pianist, he destroyed on the bass guitar. My early playing was inspired by so many great bassists: Horace Panter of The Specials, Mark Bedford of Madness, Norwood Fisher of Fishbone and Flea of the Chili Peppers, just to name a few.

Who are your role models now?
People committed to ending animal exploitation: those who work for sanctuaries, those who use their resources to agitate, people who risk their well-being by going undercover in slaughterhouses and farms, the myriad filmmakers and authors who dedicate their lives to educating the public about the oppression of animals. There are so many activists who inspire me to be a better activist.

Your family moved around quite a bit before settling in California. And you’ve traveled a lot to tour with No Doubt and DREAMCAR. Do you think seeing different cultures and environments shaped your compassion and perspective?
Absolutely. I have been lucky to see a lot of the world from an early age. Growing up in places as far apart as London England, Toronto Canada, Munster Indiana and Anaheim California, you get some pretty diverse experiences. In my younger years, I was fortunate to be able to travel to India with my family a few times to visit relatives. Those trips were enlightening and humbling and probably where the early seeds of my empathy were nurtured. When I toured the planet with No Doubt, we were able to see how powerful music can be as a uniting force.

After 30 years of songwritng, producing and touring, what is the next step in your musical career?
I love playing live. Some of my latest on-stage appearances have been at concerts to raise awareness for important causes. I’ve recently also had the opportunity to play on stage with artists whose music has been influential to me in my life. These are precious moments for which I am thankful and I am really excited to get back on stage again.

You became vegan 8 years ago, what prompted that? Was it a hard transition for you?
My journey to veganism happened in stages but my final step going from vegetarian to vegan was accepting one simple fact about dairy: for a cow to produce milk she has to be pregnant (for a while that had either eluded me or I had just blocked it out of my consciousness). Dairy cows live a tortured existence in cramped and stressful conditions. They are injected with antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick and injected with bovine growth hormone to increase their milk production. As soon as they are old enough to get pregnant they are artificially inseminated against their will, a painful and ugly experience for the cows. After a gestation period similar to a human, they give birth only to have their babies taken from them so that we can then steal the milk that was meant to raise their children. We do this to these mothers over and over again until they are too spent to give birth anymore or their milk production declines, rendering them “unprofitable”. They are then slaughtered. It’s a terrible cycle of exploitation and violence that I didn’t want to contribute to any longer. I became vegan for ethical reasons so it wasn’t a tough transition for me. Just knowing that I was no longer intentionally contributing to the suffering of sentient beings was enough for me to move forward and never look back.

Has becoming a father shaped your perspective on veganism or animal activism at all?
It wasn’t until I became a new father that I became vegan. Watching videos of farm workers dragging away helpless newborn calves and seeing mother cows trapped and crying and unable to save their babies was the final nail in my vegetarian coffin. I can’t fathom my children being taken from me. Separating kids from their parents is brutal and heartless no matter what the species. Becoming a parent myself has only increased my conviction to speak out against all types of animal exploitation.

How did you hear about Animal Place and what enticed you to support us?
My good friend Gary Smith (@thinkingvegan) introduced me to Animal Place. In addition to providing sanctuary and finding permanent homes for so many animals, Animal Place is one of the few organizations that does large scale rescues. They truly put their donations to work by saving so many lives. They also provide educational programs to inspire the public to adopt vegan, cruelty-free lifestyles.

When did you start participating in hen rescues with us?
My first rescue was in 2016 and it was a profound experience to say the least.

You have participated on several Animal Place rescues of hens from egg farms. What one image has stayed with you from the first time you stepped into an egg farm?
The size of the operation. Thousands upon thousands of hens, imprisoned in rows and rows of rusty cages. When you think about the amount of innocent animals around the world languishing in factory and so-called family farms, wet and wildlife markets, zoos, entertainment parks, laboratories awaiting vivisection, the numbers are tough to wrap your head around.

What is your favorite farmed animal species and why?
Cows hold a special place in my heart because their plight helped me make the transition to veganism.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your career, family, or animal advocacy?
If you have the opportunity to do so, volunteer at your local animal sanctuary or shelter. It is immensely rewarding for both the animals and you.