The Activism Award 2016: Dan Mathews
Introducing Dan Mathews, PETA poster boy, life-long animal rights campaigner and recipient of the 2016 Winq Activism Award, presented by iconic fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood at our 2016 awards luncheon, supported by United Airlines.
As the Senior Vice President of Campaigns at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Dan Mathews cites his empathy with animals as an offset to the gay-bashing he suffered at school. But how he has rebalanced the books – from raiding the offices of Calvin Klein and convincing them to stop designing with fur or pressuring General Motors to stop using animals in crash tests, to wheeling a TV into the offices of Gillette, to show them just what their animal testing was really doing. His most recent work includes a cat adoption push inspired by the USA’s President-elect: the ‘Grab a Pussy’ campaign. Genius.
Dan on the early days of PETA:
He tells me about a job that involved dressing as a vegetarian mascot called Chris P Carrot, whose mission was to educate school kids about vegetarianism by handing out T-shirts and stickers and holding a sign saying ‘EAT YOUR VEGGIES – NOT YOUR FRIENDS’. “We were going to go with ‘EAT ME’ but thought better of it,” chuckles Mathews. Even though free T-shirts might have been in the offing, his efforts were rewarded by being pelted with meat from a local barbecue and getting chased out of town.
Dan on celebrities’ relationships with fur:
“Drew Barrymore was really into it and then she met a guy who just wasn’t and she changed. That’s a bummer; it’s disappointing, but that’s just human nature.” Naomi Campbell is another famous name who immediately springs to mind when you think about flip-flopping on fur. “Yeah, she was one of the early promoters, and then when her bookings slipped a few years later, she agreed to take a lot of money to walk in fur on the catwalk and do ads,” Mathews says. “That’s just greed. Not everybody’s perfect – I wish they were, but very few of us were born Gandhi!”
Dan on one of PETA’s most-recent campaigns:
“When Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing rant was all the rage, we instantly did cat-adoption ads urging people to ‘Grab a Pussy’ from animal shelters. I grew up with the punk sensibility of outrage and I never lost it. It helps that I hang out with characters like Alan Cumming and Lady Bunny, who keep my sensibilities on the edge. It’s not always easy to get into the ridiculous news cycles but with some creativity we manage to integrate animal issues.”
Congratulations to Dan Mathews, the winner of the 2016 Winq Activism Award! Pick up your copy of Winq Winter 2016, out now, to read the full five-page feature, along with all the other interviews with our Men of the Year.