Being a Vegan and an Animal Rights Activist in France: Difficult but Exciting

I promised my friend Carol Glasser that I would start my first blog from France with this line and I stand by it: « If you think being vegan in Los Angeles (or any other big American city) is difficult, you don’t know what you’re talking about! »

I moved back to France in July after over 18 years in the United States, mostly Los Angeles and ended up in the south of France, land of Bullfighting and Bull meat. You may wonder why I would pick such a location where you find no Vegan or even Vegetarian restaurants to eat out (although I heard of one in Montpellier) and the vegan food in supermarkets (or should I call them mini-market compared to what we have in the US) is almost non-existent, unless you count REAL food like fruits, vegetables, beans, etc… and not convenience junk vegan food. My friend Arlo Toews (of Viva La Vegan Grocery in Los Angeles) told me that it would give me an excuse to eat better since junk food would be rarer. I have to say he was right! I lost 10 kilos at least (not sure what it is in pounds).

My reasons for leaving the US are multiple and not the subject of this particular blog. But my first few weeks were, to say the least, rough. I had to re-adapt to the culture (which is quite different from Los Angeles), get back in the system, etc… I didn’t have a place, so no way of cooking, and had to rely on eating fruits, raw vegetable sandwiches and prepared foods like carrots, beets or tamale salads and baguettes (aka bread), which are about the only vegan prepared foods I found so far in stores besides soy yogurt and plant-based milks.

But what I found is that it is possible to be vegan anywhere, no excuse. In Los Angeles, we count at least 80 fully vegan restaurants in the entire county! Vegans in Los Angeles are so spoiled that when I now think of the excuses some people make for not being vegan there, I just want to give them a piece of my mind or just laugh at their ridiculous excuses.

As an activist and vegan, I felt totally isolated my first month in France. Where do I find other like-minded people who share my values. Fortunately, back in 2011 at the Los Angeles Animal Rights Conference, I met a French activist, my good friend Joelle Verdier and she happened to live in Montpellier which is about 25 minutes from Nimes (where I now live). As soon as she found out I was back in France, she was excited to have me join the activist groups she runs here in the south.

What a thrill it was then to be invited to join a peaceful and silent demo in Montpellier as part of the International Campaigns against vivisection with about 130 French activists dedicated to the cause of abolishing any form of animal experimentation.

France has a long way to go when it comes to Veganism but it does have strong, dedicated and passionate activists ready to take strong stands and even dangerous ones (check out anti-bullfighting videos like this one http://youtu.be/JvEp4EOIrxY). I have met some incredible activists in the US but I can definitely say that their French counterparts are incredible as well.

I look forward to the future and to more activism and helping to create a more humane France and I will forever be grateful to all the activists in the US who brought me to Veganism and Animal Rights. Without them, I might never have taken this road.

See this link for pictures of my album of the Montpellier anti-vivisection action here:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152475836003138.1073741872.754328137&type=1&l=2adfe41043

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Animal Testing – The Hidden torture chamber

One of the most controversial areas of animal abuse is Animal Research or Vivisection. If you ask the majority of people, they will tell you that they support Vivisection because it saves human lives. Is that so? It is a fact that the public is usually misinformed on most issues as we have a small elite who loves to keep people ignorant. That is nothing new. The elites want to stay in power, therefore they have to keep people apathetic and non-rebellious. As far as the animal rights movement, there was always a movement to abolish vivisection as the barbaric practice that it is for over a century. But like a lot of work that is being done in the area of animal abuse, the problem is not the animal abusers per say but the public who supports them with their tax dollars. Let’s face it, as Professor Gary Francione would say, if there is no demand, there is no supply. Education is the key once again. As far as vivisection is concerned, as long as people are convinced that their interests trumps the interests of non-human animals, it will continue. As long as they (erroneously) believe that it is a useful practice which saves human lives, it will continue.

It is a fact that most diseases have not been conquered with vaccines but better sanitation and personal care habits. Most drugs on the market today, tested on non-human animals, are in the end dangerous to humans and a lot of them get recalled (Vioxx anyone?). But the medical industry would have us believe that it is necessary to experiment on animals. The truth is that most « research » is just a way to get grant money. A lot of the testing is done for household products which could be very well tested with alternatives. In fact, more and more animal testings can now be replaced with alternatives.

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There is some encouragement on the horizon. According to the American Anti-vivisection Society: « In the European Union (EU) two major initiatives on toxicity and safety testing specifically acknowledge that the development and use of alternatives is critical. In the EU’s REACH legislation, one of the law’s guiding principles calls for the use of non-animal tests. And the 7th amendment to the EU’s Cosmetic Directive contains a provision that will prohibit any cosmetic from being marketed in the EU if it, or any of its ingredients, have been tested on animals. The EU has taken a leading role in the development of alternatives and has also invested its resources in validating alternatives for use in regulatory decision-making. The European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), established in 1992, is based on EU Directives that state: « An Experiment shall not be performed if another scientifically satisfactory method of obtaining the result sought, not entailing the use of an animal, is reasonably and practicably available. »[….] »The EU has also implemented legislation that requires nearly 30,000 chemicals to be tested in an effort to protect human health and the environment. This legislation, called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals), caused major concern for animal advocates. Fortunately, it was amended to stipulate that the testing of cosmetic ingredients must also follow the EU Cosmetics Directive and that non-animal test methods must be used to prove that these chemicals are safe. In fact, REACH has spurred the creation of many new alternative methods. »

As usual the American leadership is non-existent. I just hope that the example of the EU will force changes over here. But we have to remember that the European directives came about because PEOPLE demanded them. The bottom line is that, just like a bigger cage is still a cage, animals won’t be free of torture chambers (aka medical labs) unless it is made clear that animal experimentation is unnecessary and outdated. 

We need to educate people towards eating a healthy plant based diet. A plant based diet will alleviate most of the chronic diseases which are now behind all the dangerous toxic drug tested on animals. We also need to educate people on shopping intelligently. There is a cruelty free alternative to most products out there. It is just a matter of being informed. Ultimately, educating people to go Vegan is the best service we can do the animals in labs and elsewhere as a TRUE Vegan will avoid all (or to the best of his or her ability) products and situations which create harm to animals.

© Copyright May 2012. All Rights Reserved. Printing by permission only.

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CHARIOTS OF THE GODS by Erich Von Daniken – Memories of the Future – Unsolved Mysteries of the Past

This is the book that started the Ancient Astronauts theory in the 1970’s. If you have never read any book on the subject, I highly recommend that you start with the father of all, this one. It is also illustrated with tons of pictures that show real strange stuff!

Have you ever wondered if an alien species could have intervened in mankind’s past? If you think it is a ridiculous idea, think again. Erich Von Daniken dissects Earth’s mysterious past by trying to understand many unexplained monuments and facts and their incomprehensible meaning in the light of our time. How were the Pyramids built or the statues of Easter Island? How were the maps of Piri Reis ever thought off to show the Earth just like modern astronauts see it from space, centuries before Galileo. The Pyramids, claims the author, could never have been built the way conventional archeologists would like us to believe. It would have taken workers several generations. A lot of ancient texts from varied cultures tell us about ancient Gods (or « Giants ») in flying machines. And there is plenty more.

Erich Von Daniken has wrote a classic that is still absolutely relevant today as formal archeology has not shed more light on the various mysteries of our shared history. Tremendously good and engaging.

 

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© Copyright January 2006. All Rights Reserved.