The View from Within: Becoming a Witness

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It is not an easy thing to look the truth in the eye even when already informed. That is what my last weekend of activism was about. I looked into the eyes of individual cows at a feedlot and saw fear and curiosity. I looked into the eye of a dead and abandoned calf and saw terror and pain. I looked into the eyes of the beings we honored for the National Animal Rights Day and saw their distress literally frozen forever.

I will never look at them the same way. I have been vegan for years and never faced their pain so virally until now. It was palpable, it was furious and it was also brutal.

I find myself at this corner in my life where major decisions have to be made. I opened Pandora’s box years ago and realized that there was no turning back. After this weekend, whatever doubts I ever had, went through the window. It is one thing to sign petitions, go to protests, but it is another entirely to be a witness and feel and see someone else’s pain.

I have been taking photos since I got my first camera about 20 years ago. As a teenager, I was inspired by a photo-journalist who visited my school. His love of his profession was at the time what pushed me to learn the craft. But I never excelled or succeeded in that direction. I consider myself a decent photographer but not an artist. But it’s ok. I love doing it anyway and I would rather tell the truth with pictures than trying to imitate some of my great friends or other great photo artists out there. That is not what I’m about.

I can still see myself walking the dirt road in the feedlot with many cows looking at me and my two friends, curious about our presence and maybe hopeful that something is being done to help them? I would like to believe that. I took many pictures that day, I tried to really see each individual and capture her face, her emotions, her life in the disgusting gulag she is interned in. I don’t know if I succeeded but I do hope that the moments captured will serve to liberate her sisters and her children.

Then we happened on the body of this baby. His tortured corpse and face displaying horror will forever stay with me, not just on pictures but in my memory. What happened to him or her? And why? I know the answer of course but it is more of a universal « why » than a purely analytical why. What has she/he done to deserve this? He/she was not even worth a proper burial.

I kept taking pictures, feeling transfixed by the sight, with the need to document, report, bring the truth to others. Wake up! Don’t you see what your actions are doing to them?

I can still remember the smell of the place and all the flies all around us. People can actually « work » in places like these? I wonder what these cows feel daily about being here. I can only know what I would feel.

We can never know how someone else really feels unless we feel it ourselves. No matter what happened last weekend, that will not change. I am not a cow, a sheep, a rat, a cat… But I am human and I have my compassion and heart open to their pain. That will not change because of my so-called human privilege.

The most important thing any of us can do is to set aside our damn egos and truly walk our talk of compassion and inclusiveness. We walk a dangerous path when we ignore our deeply ingrained selfishness and pride. Our animal brothers and sisters don’t pretend to be anything but themselves and we make them pay by torturing them. But we could also reward them by caring for them instead provided we truly change ourselves. I have met vegans/animal rights activists who are building up their egos as a bodybuilder builds his muscles. But I’m also glad that the majority of them do really care and do whatever it takes to wake up minds around them.

Changing hearts and minds is the most difficult task or this generation. Our parents couldn’t do it because it was not the right time. Our children may do it, but it might be too late. If there is to be a consciousness shift, it has to be now, not later. The animals can’t wait any longer and the Earth is running out of time completely.

Whether you carry a sign or sneak into slaughterhouses or feedlots, you must document the truth so that no-one can dispute it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel talented enough or courageous enough. We never know what courage we have until we take risks. That is the lesson I’ve learned last weekend when I brought back pictures of slavery.

Let’s not forget that, for a lot of people, other animals are still very much invisible and their pain even more so. That is why, in all of history, paintings, then photos have been powerful testimonies to reveal what is hidden.

And frankly, let me ask you this: what have you got to lose?

 

« Every successful social-change movement has involved a multiplicity of people using a multiplicity of tactics to approach a problem from a multiplicity of angles. Some people push against the bad things that need to be changed while others pull for the good alternatives. Some people work to undermine destructive systems from within while others are knocking down the walls from without. We all need to recognize that and find our place within a multifaceted struggle, being sure to be generous and appreciative of those who are working toward the same goal using different tactics. »

~ Patrice Jones

 

Pictures of NARD in San Francisco : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152261526378138.1073741854.754328137&type=1&l=42e554a0f7

 

Pictures of feedlots: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152261728828138.1073741856.754328137&type=1&l=cceade59e9

 

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Photos by Véronique Perrot

© Copyright June 2014 – All Rights Reserved. Printing by Permission Only.

A View from Utopia

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Please check out my new essay published on The Flaming Vegan website.

….I look back in time and see a world I seldom imagine. I was raised to believe in goodness and kindness but what my history teacher taught me really distraught me. I opened my electronic history book and contemplated how lucky I was to be born now and not a hundred years ago. I look at how the Earth is now thriving again with awe and love and try to remember that it wasn’t always so….

http://www.theflamingvegan.com/view-post/THE-VIEW-FROM-UTOPIA

Photo courtesy of http://www.Pixabay.com

© The Flaming Vegan and VeganEmpowerment.com – March 2014 – All Rights Reserved. Printing by permission only.

CONDITIONING, HISTORY & SCIENCE: Breaking Free to better Advocate for Non-Humans and Humans

March 2nd, 2014

The Animal Advocacy Museum presents a talk by Veronique N. Perrot, World Peace Diet Facilitator, Holistic Vegan Coach and Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition, on the power of our society to condition us and how we can break free and help others get free by recognizing the signs of our own conditioning.

Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij0IRH0molw

Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM7pB9M6980

Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgOGeyn-3bE

HOW WE EXCUSE OUR HABITS

My Flixster account gave me some free movies, among them The Perfect Storm with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane and other good actors. It is not the kind of movie I had planned on watching but because it was free, I thought, why not. As a Vegan, this movie gave me a good view of our speciesist behavior and how far it can be carried. The movie follows a group of fishermen hell bent on catching as many fishes as they can. They follow George Clooney on his fishing boat to hell in order to make money. 

It is striking that this movie is set in the 1990s during Hurricane Grace (the movie was shot in 2000) and that there was already some environmental awareness. It is supposedly based on a true story. It is obviously another movie with the cliché of man vs. the environment. We get the typical « we will prevail » moto and the hell with the damage we cause. Although, the « heroes » don’t survive it. They spend a good chunk of the movie enjoying their killing spree of big tunas, even showing the animals’ guts being taken out. I don’t think they used props for this as it looked very real to me (someone may correct me if I am wrong). Real animals seem to have died. They show real pleasure in doing so, which demonstrate how indoctrinated they are with their cultural habits. What is even more shocking is how they throw away the « bycatch » to the ocean with obvious disregard. There is not one ounce of regard for the fate of animals in this movie. 

The other really disturbing part of this movie is how they ignore the connection between over-fishing the ocean and the hurricane. The characters spend a great deal of time looking for fish that has obviously already been decimated in various parts of the ocean before they finally find a large group of fish to take. The destruction of the ocean is directly linked to climate change, hence the big hurricane which ironically hits them during the story. 

The final really disturbing part is how they will blindly risk their lives for their greed and obsession with selling the fish corpses they caught. This is the part of the movie where we are supposed to cheer them on as « brave », « courageous », etc… This is the part where I thought, if you get killed, that is your karma for not learning when you should. This movie is interesting in part but also so full of clichés, that it will easily be forgotten by me. Plus, you get an overdose of killing after 5 minutes. I believe the worst line of the movie is Diane Lane screaming to Michael Ironside (as the supposed villain) that « My man is out there risking his life for a bunch of stupid fish ». It is not the fish that is stupid, but humans for allowing themselves to believe that there is no alternative to the old ways. I didn’t find the characters particularly likable during the entire movie even though the actors themselves were very good. They seem to brag a lot (« I will get shit loads of fish ») and care only about the bottom line. I can’t really sympathize with them except on the level that I, as well, used to be part of the system too. I just never directly killed and paid someone else to do it. In a court of law, however, that makes me even more guilty. 


In the world right now, we have millions of people who, each day, excuse their own cultural (and/or religious) habits with « oh, i can’t be Vegan, it is too expensive », or « i tried it but it was too hard », or « there are no Vegan foods where I live », or « I like my meat » or even « God gave us animals to eat them » and other such non sense. As the movie above shows, deeply entrenched habits pervades all aspects of society, wherever you live. It is not simply some groups, it is everyone. But as the movie shows as well, there is a total absence of a higher thinking at work or alternative proposed. The movie is set in America. This is a country which uses up 25% of all resources in the world for just 2% of the world’s population. There ARE alternatives to fishing, like re-learning a trade that doesn’t involve killing and the destruction of the ocean. Yet, society at large (just as implied in this movie too) wants us to believe that some people have no choice. As I pointed out in a previous blog, if you live in a very poor country like the Congo and have nothing else, this is excusable (note that I didn’t say right). But in America, with all the incredible resources that we have, where is the excuse? I see none. We just want to cling to things of the past because it gives us comfort and some security. 

What this country as well as other industrialized countries fail to do (like this movie) is to recognize that we need to have higher thinking. Our egos have to die for the greater good because we simply don’t have time to wait anymore. We are also enslaved to powerful hidden (and not so hidden) interests who want us not to change. These includes banksters (to use a term from Thom Hartmann), corporations and the powerful behind the politicians they buy. There is no such thing as real choice from a societal point of view. The only choice we have is to wake up from the sleeping state we have all been put in and reject as much as we can what is being fed to us physically, mentally and spiritually. 

There is a universal constant to the human condition. We hate to change. If we change, it is because we are left with no choice or because pain forces us too. We also have this bad habit of not evolving faster than our technical abilities. We end up with destructive tendencies. The way to evolution is not to live more and more technologically complex lives, it is to relearn simplicity and wisdom. That wisdom has not left us. We simply buried it under tons of ridiculous daily rituals designed to keep us enslaved. 

In many ways, this is not really the fault of the individual that he has so many reasons to resist. None of these reasons are valid but they are all rooted in the same problem: cultural indoctrination. The way to break this is to show them that they have nothing to fear by changing, and everything to gain instead. We all win by going Vegan on this planet. There are no losers. I try to remember that for each issues we face in the world, there is always a minority which creates real changes. It never comes from the masses or the ones at the top. It always comes from a few at the bottom who want to shake the boat. We have to be the shakers, those who shine a bright light to the darkness out there. Because if we don’t, who will?