“Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths”: How One Fan Is Bringing Animal Rights Activism to the Grounds of Hogwarts

We’ve all wondered about the curious and wonderful creatures seen throughout the Wizarding World. How much fun would it be to have an owl deliver all your mail? Wouldn’t it be awesome to transfigure a mouse into a teacup? Mandrakes sure are noisy little flora, but the implications they have for Petrified basilisk victims are splendid! Right? But have you ever stopped to wonder what all this means in the context of animal rights? Can there be such a thing in the wizarding community? Courtney Crisfield of Melbourne, Australia, takes a hard look at some of the roles magical critters play in the day-to-day lives of Hogwarts students in her new YouTube series Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths.

 

"Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths" takes a long, hard look at the rights of animals in the wizarding world.

 

For the past several years, Crisfield has been a devoted vegan and animal rights activist, but she’s been an avid Harry Potter fan (and proud Ravenclaw) for most of her life. She draws the connections between real-life activism and storytelling to help unlock the realizations of those who do not follow a plant-based diet. We asked Crisfield about how some of those connections help her cause.

I’ve drawn the connection ’cause it’s fusing my three greatest passions: storytelling, [H]arry [P]otter and veganism. So I’ve started making [Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths] because it’s what I would love to watch! I believe activism through fiction […] is JUST as important as activism through non-fiction […]. This is because every person’s key to unlocking the ‘oh, I don’t need to hurt/involve animals’ part of their mind is different. There is already so much fantastic non-fiction content on the topic of animal rights and plant-based eating, but for those out there who would never sit down to watch a documentary, there’s got to be a fun alternative! And how is an entertaining deep-dive [sic] into such a well-loved (and my personal favourite) magical world NOT a fun alternative?

The web series explores what it would be like for an animal rights activist to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The story follows first-year student Emilia Foster as she engages with other students, teachers, and her classes and invokes inspiration for change. Crisfield says the series is a comedy but comes off as “VERY Ravenclaw,” if you catch her drift.

She says there is a lot to reflect on throughout the Harry Potter series. Her goal “is to connect with fellow Harry Potter nerds, fellow vegans and fellow vegan Harry Potter nerds whilst I curate this authentic, entertaining, original and hopefully inspirational adventure of a series.” 

When you re-read [sic] the books or re-watch [sic] the films through an animal rights lens, almost everything gets impacted. […] The entire [w]izarding [w]orld really could do with some more cruelty-free options and alternatives. Not because animal rights advocates are the fun police, but because we’re saying ‘hey, is this “traditional” thing just as fun for the animals?’

Perhaps some of those ideals and alternatives could run off on us Muggles as well.

 

 

The trailer for Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths is now online. We asked Crisfield if she could let us in on some spoilers about the upcoming episodes.

Well, the possibilities are absolutely endless… which is super cool. [In e]pisode one, we’ll see Emilia, receiving her Hogwarts acceptance letter and formulating a response – sort of an intro to who she is and how she thinks. Then [in e]pisode two, Emilia will head to Ollivander’s wand shop. Expect to see some very familiar faces along the way too. And that’s all I’ll say for now…

You can catch the rest of the series as it airs on the Northern Star Productions YouTube channel. If you have a creation you’d like to be featured, email all relevant information to submissions@staff.mugglenet.com.

Full Transcript with Courtney Crisfield, Wednesday, September 29, 2021

For clarification, what is your name and where are you from?

Courtney Crisfield. I'm from Melbourne, Australia.

When did you first become a fan of Harry Potter?

For almost as long as I can remember! Around the same time as starting school, so 4 or 5 years old, I was read the books by my mum and stepdad before bed each night and was absolutely captivated. My love was maxima-ed when I saw Philosopher's Stone for the first time in the cinema. It was everything I had imagined and more, brought to life! Ever since, 'Courtney' and 'Harry Potter' have been synonymous for anyone who knows me.

Can you talk a little bit about your animal rights activism to date?

After changing to a plant-based diet in 2017 for health reasons, I took it upon myself to learn more about modern animal agriculture- to understand where my food used to come from and why. Then all of the logic started to come together and click for me. From both an ethical perspective and environmental impact standpoint, I now actively avoid contributing to all forms of animal exploitation, cruelty and suffering, for food, clothing, entertainment, you name it. I have considered myself 'properly' vegan in that regard (i.e. aligning my actions with my morals) since 2018. I began participating in animal rights activism during 2019. I've done outreach on the streets of Kyoto and Osaka in Japan a few times and am keen to do more in Australia as soon as we're safely able to again. And I do love me some: 'let me invite you over for a delicious dinner' or 'let me take you out for a delicious meal' activism whenever I hear someone express even the slightest interest in veganism.

Since you are an avid Harry Potter fan, how do you see animal rights reflected in the Harry Potter series (books or movies)?

When you re-read [sic] the books or re-watch [sic] the films through an animal rights lens, almost everything gets impacted. Owls used for post, [t]he Great Hall feasts, [t]he creatures used for [t]he Triwizard Tournament, Thestrals used to pull carriages, [p]otion ingredients, [w]and cores, Transfiguration, Care of Magical Creatures, Fluffy, Buckbeak, [b]asilisks, [s]piders, Fawkes, and the list goes on! The entire [w]izarding [w]orld really could do with some more cruelty-free options and alternatives. Not because animal rights advocates are the fun police, but because we're saying "hey, is this 'traditional' thing just as fun for the animals?"

Your new YouTube series Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths goes into what it might be like for a vegan student to attend Hogwarts, is that correct? In fresh words, can you describe what the series is all about and what your goals are?

Absolutely, it's an exploration of: 'what would happen if a vegan attended [H]ogwarts?' We'll follow Emilia Foster, our protagonist, as she's immersed into [sic] the [w]izarding [w]orld. Emilia's a muggle-born witch who very actively participates in animal rights activism every opportunity she can, even though she's just turned 11! We'll get to see what happens as Emilia needs to navigate the different subjects at Hogwarts school; as well as how she interacts with other students and teachers alike. It's a comedy and VERY Ravenclaw, if you know what I mean. My goal is to connect with fellow Harry Potter nerds, fellow vegans and fellow vegan Harry Potter nerds whilst I curate this authentic, entertaining, original and hopefully inspirational adventure of a series.

Why do you want to draw connections between the wizarding world and the real world when it comes to animal rights and veganism? Do you find you can reach more people through fandom-based connections?

I've drawn the connection 'cause it's fusing my three greatest passions: storytelling, [H]arry [P]otter and veganism. So I've started making it because it's what I would love to watch! I believe activism through fiction ([s]tories in [f]ilms, [b]ooks, on [TV], on the [s]tage) is JUST as important as activism through non-fiction [sic] ([d]ocumentary film, [d]ocu-series [sic] and [i]nvestigative [j]ournalism). This is because every person's key to unlocking the 'oh, I don't need to hurt/involve animals' part of their mind is different. There is already so much fantastic non-fiction [sic] content on the topic of animal rights and plant-based eating, but for those out there who would never sit down to watch a documentary, there's got to be a fun alternative! And how is an entertaining deep-dive [sic] into such a well-loved (and my personal favourite) magical world NOT a fun alternative?

Can you give us any spoilers or teasers about the upcoming series?

Well, the possibilities are absolutely endless... which is super cool. [In e]pisode one, we'll see Emilia, receiving her Hogwarts acceptance letter and formulating a response - sort of an intro to who she is and how she thinks. Then [in e]pisode two, Emilia will head to Ollivander's wand shop. Expect to see some very familiar faces along the way too. And that's all I'll say for now...

Do you have a favorite book or movie from the Harry Potter series?

My favourite book is Half-Blood Prince because I loved getting to see the interaction between the Minister for Magic and '[t]he [o]ther Minister'. Similarly, I loved exploring 'The House of Gaunt' and all of Tom Riddle's past. And who could forget Luna commentating the Hufflepuff v Gryffindor quidditch game - GOLD. My favourite film is Prisoner of Azkaban. I'm a sucker for the motif of time, changing of seasons, and for me, that's the film that most closely nailed the vision I imagined from the book in film form. Close second favourite film is Philosopher's Stone just for the nostalgia factor.

What is your Hogwarts House?

I'm a Proud Ravenclaw (with some Slytherin tendencies haha)

Is there anything else you would like to add?

A massive thanks to the team at MuggleNet for your platform to share my thoughts and ideas about my series, and thank you to anyone who uses their valuable time to watch and support my fun passion-project [sic]. Please come and say hi, I want more potter-crazy friends!

 

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