French-Born Activist Does Everything From Tabling in Her Community to Traveling to Cameroon to Save Orphaned Chimpanzees
Ever since she came home from school one day and learned that her father had killed and was planning to eat the little rabbit she’d named Jeannot-Lapin, Claudine Erlandson hasn’t been a bit shy about her commitment to animal rights. Since moving to the Seattle area from her native France, Erlandson has been on a lifelong mission to help stop the suffering of animals raised for food, tortured inside laboratories, used for their skins, and beaten into performing in circuses. And despite her many accomplishments over the years, she always tells herself, “jamais assez”—it’s never enough. For devoting nearly her entire adult life for making a positive difference to animals, Erlandson will receive an Outstanding Activist Award from PETA.
“When I first became involved with animal rights, my husband said I was becoming obsessed. I took that as a compliment,” says Erlandson, who has the following advice for budding young activists: “Follow your heart, let your love for animals shine through, and fight for them every chance you get!”
One of Erlandson’s early successes was when she teamed up with local activists and stopped the notoriously cruel maternal-deprivation experiments on baby macaque monkeys at the University of Washington. Not long afterward, she served as state organizer for the groundbreaking 1990 March for the Animals in Washington, D.C. She also helped collect signatures for initiatives to ban bear-baiting, hound hunting, and trapping—all of which passed.
Next, Erlandson traveled to Cameroon in Africa to aid baby chimpanzees whose mothers had been killed by bush-meat hunters. Now, Erlandson never misses a chance to protest against circuses that use animals, restaurants that serve foie gras, or KFC and McDonald’s for refusing to adopt effective animal-welfare standards. If there’s a fair or festival in town, you’ll find Erlandson at a booth talking to folks about the many benefits of going vegan.