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Bold Journey

We recently connected with Judie Mancuso and have shared our conversation below.

Hi Judie, so happy you were able to devote some time to sharing your thoughts and wisdom with our community. So, we’ve always admired how you have seemingly never let nay-sayers or haters keep you down. Can you talk to us about how to persist despite the negative energy that so often is thrown at folks trying to do something special with their lives?

When I founded my nonprofit 17 years ago, being an animal rights advocate and environmentalist in Sacramento was a lonely business. Not as bad as when I first started my advocacy in the 1980s. Back then I often felt like I was one of a small handful of people who could see what was happening to planet earth due to the chemicals, the plastics, the pollution, the factory farming – all the manmade damage that was being done and continues to this day.

I’ve faced my share of haters and naysayers and detractors over the years!
– people who don’t care if what they’re doing has a negative effect on animals and/or the planet
– people who say I should wait, it’s not time, it can’t be done, you’re making too much noise…
– sometimes, it’s those within our own community who try to sabotage my efforts out of jealousy and competitiveness.

My optimism, tenacity and motivation are what allow me to continue. The need, and my compassion, are so great when it comes to saving animal lives and protecting the environment – you have to stay in the fight to get anything done. If you allow what others say about you and the issues to dictate what you do, you’re done before you even get a chance to get started.

Appreciate the insights and wisdom. Before we dig deeper and ask you about the skills that matter and more, maybe you can tell our readers about yourself?

I feel so fortunate to do what I love and love what I do. In 2007, I founded a nonprofit that has allowed me to make a career of pursuing my two lifelong passions: saving animals and protecting the environment. In the 17 years since, that nonprofit, Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), has sponsored 64 bills, 24 of which have been signed into law. Anyone who knows anything about the legislative process in California will tell you that’s a phenomenal success rate. Some of our sponsored bills went on to become landmark laws, meaning they were the first of their kind and were copied in other states, and even other countries, multiplying their impact exponentially. For instance, we sponsored a bill that banned puppy mills from California pet shops, one that ended fur trapping in the state, one that made it illegal to use wild animals in circuses, and one that banned the sale of cosmetics and personal hygiene products that have been tested on animals. Covid slowed our momentum a bit, as it did for everyone, but we’re back in full swing now. In 2024, we are sponsoring seven pieces of legislation that will save animals, from dogs and cats to farm animals, as well as the tropical rainforests, also known as the “lungs of the Earth.” SCIL is the only nonprofit in California whose sole focus is changing or making laws to protect people, animals and the planet.

Looking back, what do you think were the three qualities, skills, or areas of knowledge that were most impactful in your journey? What advice do you have for folks who are early in their journey in terms of how they can best develop or improve on these?

– Integrity: I am a person of my word, and it’s one of the reasons people trust me. People who work with me know I’m an honest player. What they see is what they get. It’s pretty uncommon in politics, so it goes a long way.

– Optimism: Getting laws passed is difficult. Tracking the exploitation and needless deaths of animals can be depressing if you don’t have a vision. There are solutions to these problems. Getting to them can be a daunting climb, Without optimism, you’ll never get there.

– Resourcefulness: My brain is innately hardwired to identify cause and effect and take action on that basis. That analytical mind made me successful in my early career in information technology and gave me the foundation to successfully navigate the world of legislative politics, where things are changing constantly, and you have to be agile, creative and quick-thinking.

– Compassion: It’s my compassionate heart that keeps me going. Looking into the eyes of the animals and knowing that I have to represent them because they can’t speak for themselves.

Looking back over the past 12 months or so, what do you think has been your biggest area of improvement or growth?

There have been times in my life when I’ve been good about exercising, but it has ebbed and flowed, As my nonprofit started to become more successful and our workload increased constantly, I began to spend more time at my computer and on the phone than anywhere else, with the exception of daily dog walks. As my 60th birthday approached, I realized I had to make some changes, that I couldn’t kick the can down the road anymore. So this past year, I have made a conscious effort to carve out time for yoga and pilates, and have rearranged my work schedule and other parts of my life to maintain that commitment. It has helped me become more mindful and stronger. I’ve learned breathing techniques to keep me calm and balanced no matter what’s going on. I have developed muscles in places where I didn’t know I had muscles!
My diet is stellar – I’ve been full vegan for the past 30 years and attribute much of my good health to that – but it was time to apply that same discipline to my whole body. I can’t recommend it enough, no matter your age.