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One decade ago, shortly after being handed a leaflet exposing the cruelties forced upon animals raised for food, Aashish Bhimani approached Compassion Over Killing about getting involved to help educate others — and he’s never looked back. Since joining our volunteer team, Aashish has coordinated leafleting and tabling events, helped train new volunteers, hosted educational workshops in schools, and spearheaded a successful restaurant outreach campaign in his community. Most recently, he worked with Telegraph Station in Arlington, Virginia to add several new hearty vegan options to its menu.
Aashish is a shining example of how one person, despite leading a busy life and working a full-time job, has the passion to make important and lasting changes for animals.
Name: Aashish Bhimani
Location: Northern Virginia
COK Volunteer Since: 2001
Outreach Activities: leafleting, tabling, restaurant outreach, education workshops in schools
Full-time job: Director of Business Development at CCI, developing strategic partnerships with our Gov’t and Commercial clients.
COK: How did you first get involved in animal advocacy?
Aashish: When I went to Virginia Tech, I received a “Why Vegan?” booklet from a leafleter. Seeing how we treated animals raised for food really shocked me. Once I saw the cruel conditions the animals were kept in (chickens crammed in a cage so small they couldn’t lift a wing, pigs confined in crates so tight they couldn’t turn around), I knew I couldn’t support those standard industrial practices and I wanted to let people know the truth. It was difficult for me to make big waves because I didn’t know how to engage people. I approached it as “me against the world” attitude. Eventually I figured out that activism could be a positive, fun activity when you work within a community.
COK: How has your advocacy changed over time?
Aashish: I’m much more likely now to ask for help. COK has developed an infrastructure that not only is responsive but also gives me the tools I need to succeed on projects. Whether it be presentations, restaurant outreach, leafleting, tabling, or linking me up with other activists, I feel much more comfortable asking COK for advice, resources, etc. That has helped me make the biggest difference for the animals.
COK: How did you decide which restaurants to approach about adding vegan options? What was your first step in reaching out?
Aashish: The most important step is to find the decision maker, whether that be the owner or an influential manager, and ask them if they want to reach an audience concerned about the animals, environment, obesity, and other public health issues. The answer is almost always “yes” because the public is inundated with these issues
each and everyday. By approaching them, I give the restaurant an opportunity to create a solution and reach a whole new demographic at the same time!
COK: What’s the feedback been from these restaurants since adding vegan options?
Aashish: Overwhelmingly positive! The restaurants have all been reading about the recent exponential growth in veg eating; all of the industry trade journals are urging them to take advantage of it! My role is to give them a ready made solution: passing along not only recipes and ingredients, but also a marketing plan. They thank us for helping them out!
COK: Based on your experience, what’s the most important tip you can offer to someone who wants to also start reaching out to restaurants?
Aashish: It’s easy! Everytime you dine out, ask the decision maker (owner or influential manager) if they are interested in reaching a whole new demographic of people who care about animals, the environment, and their health; tell them that they can easily do this by expanding their veg menu. If they say yes, just give a quick call to COK and they’ll give you the supplies to pass on!
COK: How do you spend your time when you’re not working at your full-time job or advocating for animals?
Aashish: I enjoy hanging out and cooking (especially greens – kale, bok choi and chards) with my friends. Also, I try to incorporate exercising and meditation into my routine everyday. The more content we are with ourselves, the more effective advocates we can be!
Interested in joining Aashish’s efforts? Well, then check out COK’s Restaurant cards– they’re free! Included with your set of cards is a “how to” restaurant outreach guide, so you can start spreading compassion in your own neighborhood today!
PHOTO: Aashish at Astor Mediterranean, showing off one of many new vegan options the restaurant added after he worked with them.