Each week, Canvas asks a public figure to confess to three of the seven deadly sins. This week, writer and environmental activist Rachel Stewart enters the box.


What fills you with wrath?

Stupid people, bureaucracy, animal cruelty. Injustice mainly, that makes me very angry, but I would call it righteous anger and that can be good. Anger for me has been a constant theme in my life because we all know that anger is really just hurt turned outwards. But it gets you motivated, it gets you off your butt and moving.


I feel like anger is not popular in the current climate.
No, it absolutely isn't. It's a funny thing, I have watched a lot of people lately saying that compassion and kindness is fantastic and it's the only way but the very same people using those words often become really mean and nasty, particularly on social media. So what we have is this paradigm between your dark side and your light side and I've never pretended to be compassionate and kind publicly because I think that's a private matter really. I always worry about people who show this kind of kindness and compassion thing constantly, then they turn around and just abuse people.

You mention the social media environment, which can be incredibly unpleasant and where you often get into strife - why stay on Twitter?
I was going to cut and run recently but I've stayed longer at the party because I didn't want people to think I'm a victim. I don't want ever to be seen as a quitter because I get so much abuse from people and I just keep standing. Mostly it just washes off me, I don't even respond all that much to any of it anymore, but I definitely didn't want to be seen as someone who was driven off Twitter. I am not a victim, I've never been a victim and I hate victimhood, so I didn't want to convey that. Maybe that's pride and ego right there.

So tell me about pride. Why did you choose it?
Like anger, it can be really motivating and really good but pride is also ego and I actually work really hard at eliminating ego from my life. One of the reasons I got into falconry is that when we catch our first bird for hunting, we are taught that the first time it catches and kills a rabbit, say, you then have to let that bird go. And your heart breaks because you think, "Oh, I'll never get another bird to work like this for me and I'll never be able to do this again and I'm really in love with this bird." Except the bird's not in love with you, the bird is your hunting partner - no more, no less - and the beauty of falconry is that it can go back to the wild and just carry on without you. It doesn't care. That was one of the reasons I wanted to get into falconry - that disconnection with the bird but that total connection with the wild.

How much ego do you have around the work that you do?
I think winning Opinion Writer of the Year in 2016 set me up to take it seriously. I work really hard at it, to talk about things that other people aren't talking about or at least look at it from a different angle. So yes, there is ego there because it's nice to have people I respect tell me I am a good writer. I didn't get nominated for the media awards this year or last year. Did I feel bad? No, I didn't feel anything, so I guess that's a good thing. I don't think I'll ever have another shot at it. I'm a terribly unpopular person out there. When I won it, it was a great night and it changed my writing career, but it changed the relationship I had with other journalists around the country pretty much overnight. There's a lot of ego in journalism, oh God. I didn't realise how bad it was until I won that award.

Who do you envy?
Envy is just a dead-end street, it gets you absolutely nowhere. I do envy, if you call it that, my partner. I admire her calmness and serenity and her people skills that at times I don't have. No one dislikes her, she's such a wonderful person. It's not that I mind being disliked but I watch her go through life and I see a person who has qualities that I wish I had more of. I'd like to be a bird or a whale or a bear. I'd rather be an animal because they really do live in the moment. Humans struggle with that. I have this theory that I want to die at the hands of an animal. I don't really want to die at the hands of cancer or something. I'd rather be out in the woods in America and come across a bloody bear.