KELOWNA - Small business owners aren’t generally known for being overtly political people.
Most small business owners keep a relatively low political profile and avoid conflict, dependent as they are on the goodwill of the community. If they do hold strong views, they tend to keep them to themselves but someone forgot to tell Kelowna restaurateur Olivia Ashley that.
The co-owner of the Naked Cafe was up at 4 a.m. today, Sept. 11, trying to stop a semi-trailer truck full of chickens destined for slaughter, at one point brandishing a sign and pushing back against the steadily advancing semi.
“It was a bit scary, like if I had tripped or anything. We just wanted him to stop for five minutes so we could say goodbye to the chickens,” Ashley says, on the phone from Armstrong. “We don’t blame the drivers. We even had muffins for them but they wouldn’t stop."
The chicken truck protest was over but Ashley and nine other Okanagan Animal Save activists from Kelowna had set up in front of Rocana Meats, the target of previous protests. Rocana bills itself as a premium pork producer of ethically raised animals using humane handling and slaughtering methods but that doesn’t matter to Ashley.
“They're obviously not a supplier of ours. Last time we came, we could hear the pigs screaming,” Ashley says. “It was awful.”
In an era when business owners (and everyone else) lives in fear of finding themselves on the wrong side of social media, Ashley has no problem posting the video of herself facing down a semi or protesting in front of the recent Ribfest in Kelowna.
“This is what we believe in,” Ashley says of her partners in the Naked Cafe and its recently opened subsidiary Naked Cafe Express.
“In the first few years we worked 24/7 to get established and now we have a good base of customers that know we advocate for animals,” she says. "Most of them back us and if we lose a few because of it, so be it.”
That customer-as-political base has given newfound confidence to their activism.
“We feel empowered that we can do this," Ashley says.
It doesn’t hurt she can reach over 2,000 people through Instagram stories and pictures, she adds.
Still, she’s not entirely unaware of her brand and keeps it cool, avoiding the sometimes-extreme approach employed by some animal activists and eschewing violence of any kind.
“That’s why I like Anonymous for the Voiceless. They’re great about not getting in people’s faces,” Ashley adds. “It’s a peaceful protest. People can walk away if they don’t want to hear about it.”
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