Local Vancouver starlet and Maxim, FHM, Spike TV model and tiger-taming femme fatale Raquel Riskin joins us for a wee tête-à-tête about her career, animal rights and conservation issues.

Was there ever one experience that changed your awareness or views towards animals?

No, I can’t say there was. I have always lived with animals growing up, from the usual fish, hamsters, puppies and cats on to bunnies and even horses. I loved watching animal shows on TV and developed a fascination with Tigers when I was very young. I’ve always loved all animals though; I was privileged to grow up in the country so I was constantly surrounded by nature and consistently felt a special connection to both domestic animals and wildlife.

Did you spend a lot of time in the outdoors as a kid?

Almost all of my time was outdoors; growing up outside in the elements, exploring and encountering wild animals. I also took care of my zoo at home!

Is that when your fascination with Tigers began?

Yes, it’s always been there. I have a large tiger tattoo from my hip all the way up my rib cage. I have loved them as long as I can remember, and it started simply from watching them on television. There’s just something so majestic and powerful about an animal that is so loving and nurturing with its young but then could also kill you easily if it wanted to. That combined with being so incredibly beautiful is something I can’t help but admire.

The beautiful, nurturing part – not the killing part right? OK, I’m going to challenge you. What would you give up to save one endangered species from extinction?

Oh wow, what a question! Almost anything! I mean if you told me I could never have a coffee ever again until I die that would seem like such a tiny price to pay. It all sounds so simple when you think about it but the reality is that we could be SAVING THESE ANIMALS with small changes in our lives but for some reason it just isn’t being done. Not enough, anyway. Tell me what to give up and consider it done – I think people need more visuals and more in your face style information. Human nature is kind and sympathetic but sometimes people in the midst of their busy lives need to be lead straight to water if they’re going to drink.

Absolutely; it’s “out of sight out of mind syndrome”. If mainstream media didn’t kowtow to corporate interests we’d probably all be totally healthy vegans, biking to work and only using solar energy, but I digress. Tell us about your pets.

LOL now I am pet-less unfortunately. However I wish I did have a pet to love on a daily basis – it’s just my hectic schedule and lifestyle – I wouldn’t be able to give the love and attention that a pet needs and deserves. The instant that changes, when that day comes, I’ll be on the lookout for a rescue!

Good answer! There’s certainly no lack of sweet animals needing furever homes. You’re always on the go these days; what projects are you working on now?

Right now I am co-hosting an online web series called “Jiggy Cafe“. I have also been cast in a principal role for an upcoming film entitled “Hell Mary” which is scheduled to film near the end of 2012. I was just featured in UMM Magazine and am waiting for an online mag, FGM Lifestyle, to put out a feature on me… also I’ve got a principal role in a show yet to start filming which is called “The Lot”. In my industry there are often many things on the go, but nothing is in stone until it’s actually been shot. So who knows what is to come, all I know is that I’m pressing forward with all I’ve got ;)

Busy is good – it keeps you out of trouble. Are you involved with or support any specific animal or conservation organizations?

Not at the moment. I used to give to WWF (World Wildlife Fund) often but when things got a little tight for me I had to stop doing that for the time being. I do what I can, when I can… such as I recently purchased a Snow Leopard Spirit Hood from which part of the proceeds was given to a fund dedicated to saving Snow Leopards. I appreciated it when companies that sell day-to-day items affiliate themselves with charitable funds so that opportunity presents itself to help out more often. Also I sign online petitions for animal welfare when I can, even though it isn’t monetary it is still an awareness effort that I can easily check off and I try to do so often.

That’s a good point. I think the bottleneck for activism is that it’s hard to get the message in front of people with so many competing distractions. Is there one cause that stands out to you as being more important or that needs a quick solution?

Immediately I think of Tigers and Dolphins because there is so much attention about their well-being and dwindling numbers…however that is exactly why they come to mind – because I have seen recent information on how bad things are looking for them with tiger parts trading, tiger farms, tiger pelts, etc. I know there are likely many animals in just as dire circumstances that just don’t get the same publicity. The public need more interaction with the groups that handle these things. But yes, emphasis should be put immediately on those that are nearly extinct; like Tigers.

Tigers are in dire straights thanks to insatiable demand for their parts in Asia. It will be a tough battle to save them. Would you have any difficulty going vegan if it meant improving their chances? Or the survival chances for other species?

Well, you may not like my answer to this. I understand that advocating for animal causes and being a carnivore may be controversial. But let me say this: while I do respect those who choose to be vegetarian, or even vegan, that’s not how I choose to live. I do believe in the circle of life, and that it’s okay to eat meat. HOWEVER, that being said, I care strongly about the treatment of animals and how they are raised and killed before being put on our grocery store shelves. There needs to be major changes and crackdowns on the process of inhumane factory farming from start to finish. Animals are obviously aware, have feelings and it matters how they are treated until the moment their lives end. I believe that things can be done in a humane way and must be, in every circumstance. These principles needs to be strongly promoted and enforced.

How do you estimate your knowledge of vegan health benefits?

I don’t know a lot about it, other than it involves a diet that does not include any meat or dairy, or any animal by-products.

As a professional model/actor, how difficult do you think it would be for pros to stand up for animals and refuse to support the use of cruelty products such as fur and cosmetics tested on tortured animals?

To be honest I don’t see why it should be a challenge at all! To test products on animals is undeniably cruel and needs to be stopped permanently. Also, I don’t know why producers insist on using real fur when there are such beautiful FAKE furs available. All I see is that some people in the industry are stubborn and ignorant and refuse to process the information that would likely end the use of these products. It’s just an attitude problem that needs to change.

How resistant do you estimate those industries are to a full-scale ban of these products?

Well, I believe the fashion industry will be a stubborn nut to crack, based simply on the upturned noses of those who support what is “luxurious and fashionable” and what isn’t. That class of fashion influence needs to be penetrated with serious information in a way they will be more receptive to. As for makeup being tested on animals, I don’t know enough about it to fully understand just how resistant they may be; but all I can say about that is with the technology we’ve got today, there MUST be another way!! If it costs more, SO BE IT!

Damn straight. Let’s switch it up a little. Tell us about your personal goals for the near future.

Simply to continue to pursue my acting and modelling career and consistently move forward there. As long as I am feeling productive and working hard to improve professionally, I’m confident that I’m doing as much as I can for myself working, learning, growing.

Now that you’re collaborating with us on public campaigns; what more can your fans expect to see from you?

Well at this point in my life I am unable to give millions of dollars to our shared causes in helping animals, but people can expect to see me lend my image, time and sincere efforts in spreading information, getting the public’s attention, and increasing awareness for GAWDS new programs and campaigns! Let’s do it!

Done and done – thanks for sharing your time and talents Raquel.

Keep up with Raquel at her links below.

Twitter

Facebook

Official Website

About The Author

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Brad Anthony is a Canadian ecologist and author who left his life behind to travel the world helping animals. He lives a simple, eco-savvy, mobile lifestyle, commonly found in a small village in Bali with a few of his closest monkey friends. Brad is the Founder of the Global Animal Welfare Development Society.

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