Image by Anna Bianca Roach

If there is one thing that is to be expected from TED events, it’s inspiration. At TEDxUofT, our very own TED talk conference, inspiration was certainly delivered. 

The word of the day–dimensions– was treated in various ways by the diverse group of speakers. With topics that ranged from animal rights, to kissing, to revolutionary treatments for illnesses, to fighting for a more representative democracy, the conference provided insights for students in all fields of study. 

The speakers were phenomenal, however what truly made the conference worth attending, as opposed to catching the talks online, was mingling with the speakers.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Canada’s first animal rights lawyer, Lesli Bisgould. Bisgould spoke about her stance on the shock-factor approach taken by some animal rights activists.  She was understanding of such strategies, but generally tended to be opposed to them.


Bisgould discussed at greater length the difficulty of implementing legislation that would promote animal rights. As long as the consumer supports the industry in this respect, she explained, the legislation cannot be changed. Thus, the collective consumer has the powerful ability to sway both industry and legislation.

Her rational spin on the cause was stimulating and thought-provoking. Bisgould’s approach to her work was especially refreshing, as it was without the emotionally charged rhetoric I find is typical to the animal rights movement.

Another very impressive character was Jessie Macalpine, a first year here at U of T who at only 18, has found in mustard oil a simple a cheap cure to malaria that is as effective as the leading drug and infinitely more accessible.

Macalpine has been working with labs since she was in grade nine, and even taught herself the curriculum for eleventh grade biology. Despite her frankly intimidating intelligence, she remains very approachable. When asked about her drive and self-discipline, she explained with humility that it had come from her years in sportsmanship.

Across the board, speakers were approachable and enthusiastic to talk with the audience. The conference–punctuated by fantastic performances by TBA, U of T’s a capella choir, and classical guitarist Tariq Harb–was stimulating and uplifting. The ambiance was one of dedication, passion and interdisciplinary interest; an innovative atmosphere that U of T needs to see more of.

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