For Spring 2012, the online magazine V-Stream from the team of Vegan Mainstream published an interview with me along other vegan professionals for their first issue.
For Spring 2012, the online magazine V-Stream from the team of Vegan Mainstream published an interview with me along other vegan professionals for their first issue.
When I moved back to France two years ago this month, I did feel depressed for a while. I came from Los Angeles where you can find over 80 vegan/vegetarian restaurants and a vegan store, and moved to Nimes, bullfighting city on top of it with… well… nothing!
But about a year ago, something started happening in France. My first taste of French veganism was going to Paris and see several vegan restaurants as well as a vegan store, « Un Monde Vegan », which then had that one location in Paris. But Veganism has been growing exponentially in France. They have opened a second physical location in the other major city of Lyon in the center of the country and another is planned in the south; they also have had an online store for a long time.
In fact, activism in France is actually old. Americans and others are just not that aware of it. Since the 1990s, an antispiecist group has been publishing the « Cahiers Antispécistes » (Anti speciesist files) which has numerous articles on animal rights, veganism and of course antispeciesim but also translate articles from famed foreign figures. Activist associations like the Fondation Bardot (Brigitte Bardot is of course famous as an actress and for campaigning with Captain Paul Watson), L214, 269Life France, FUDA, and many others have been working on behalf of animals for either a long time or since more recently. One of my best friend is a French vegan of almost 40 years and I actually met her at the 2011 Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles, of all places.
About a year ago, we all noticed something changing. Television programs started looking into vegetarianism and veganism from a nutritional point of view. These early programs repeated the old myths: veganism good for everyone, but not good for kids, combine foods, and other non-sense. Then it started progressing with more programs addressing vegans directly and their lifestyle, at first as weird. Then, thanks to the French association L214 and their under cover footage of several slaughterhouses (the last one just a few days ago!), newspapers and televisions started talking about it and millions of people were exposed to the cruelty of French slaughterhouses. A lot had thought until then that it was done « humanely » for the animals (of course we know there is no such thing).
The first catalyst was the declaration by the World Health Organization about the link between processed meat and cancers which really got the media going.
I organized a vegan dinner in a French Lebanese restaurant (which had only a few vegetarian options) in Nimes. The owner was very opened to the idea and we had our first all vegan dinner in a restaurant with 22 people (counting the dog). She borrowed my cookbook from French vegan chef Marie Laforet and devoured it. She has since modified her menu to include more vegan, vegetarian and even gluten-free options, clearly marked. L214 and the French Vegetarian Association (I’m a delegate and member of the dietary committee) has been doing it for a long time with the « Vegorestos » and their « Vegan places » notably and delegates of the Association Végétarienne de France organizing things in their area. But the revelations in the slaughterhouses have been a catalyst for change in a major way. Only last Thursday, I joined a national campaign of awareness in front of the notorious Alès slaughterhouse to hold vigil for the animals (who we could hear) and facing angry animal farmers. This was done in front of 33 slaugherhouses accross the country and organized by the abolitionist association 269Life France.
I have in fact never been more busy since I moved back to France with almost an event every week, sometimes several on the same days, from anti bullfighting, anti vivisection, days for the abolition of meat, vegan days, marches to close slaughterhouses, marches against speciesism like the one in Geneva with people from France, Switzerland and Belgium (and beyond), a table at Organic chain « BioCoop » (which unlike Whole Foods is really 100% organic and with tons of vegan products) to Anti Speciesist days (as I did yesterday), there is never any time to be bored.
At the same time, more and more restaurants and places offer vegan options. Just in my little (pro-bullfighting) city of Nimes, besides the restaurant « L’harbousier » where I did the vegan evening, I recently discovered a little restaurant in the heart of the city which has started including a « vegan burger menu with fries and a drink » on their regular menu. I almost fell on my butt! I discussed with the owner who was present when I saw it and expressed how happy I was to see this for all vegans in the city. Her answer was « we have to serve everyone ». And lastly, vegan restaurants are opening all over the country. We have one coming in September here in Nimes!
Big chains are now offering vegan prepared food (vegan nuggets, vegan falafel, etc.), they know where this is evolving and they are usually a good thermometer of changes in people’s purchases. I just learned that another big chain should be offering vegan cheese but haven’t seen it yet. But I’m sure it will be soon. It is to be noted that they often use the term « vegetarian » as it is more understood in France. But it’s technically vegan. The terms vegetarian and vegan tend to be still interchangeable as the word vegan is an Anglo term.
Finally, on top of all the good things above, a very popular journalist, Aymeric Caron, went from vegetarian to vegan and published a book called « Antispéciste » (antispeciesist) which sold 40,000 copies according to BFM TV which is a news station similar to MSNBC. His book was part of a debate in which he defended his position extremely well in a very watched TV show for over an hour. His book is a serious game changer and gives credibility to veganism and antispecism even more. And L214 keeps on uncovering what’s going in slaughterhouses and finally a vegetarian-vegan/culinary magazine is at last available in all bookstores! it’s called « slowly veggie » and tries to push people towards vegan food in a convivial and delicious way, which is smart as we are a big food nation. The pictures of recipes are absolutely beautiful and mouth-watering and even the few vegetarian recipes are mostly easy to veganize. They clearly try to move people from vegetarian to 100% plant-based and they prove to the general population, which tends to still think « but what do you eat? » that we don’t just eat salads.
I have been roaming bookstores every day in the past few months because I constantly find articles which address either veganism, ethical issues about animals, vegan trends, nutritional aspects of plant-based eating (in a more and more positive and supporting way) and I just found a psychology magazine talking about the work of slaughterhouse workers and how it affects them. The national daily and weekly newspapers and magazines « Libération« , « Marianne » and « Paris Match » as well as « Charlie Hebdo » (which has been doing it forever) have now pro-animals journalists on their staff and write things nearly every week, whether it is about the latest scandals in slaughterhouses or animal agriculture to the benefits of plant based eating. Even the southern newspaper « Midi Libre » which is pro-bullfighting had 2 full pages about the latest slaughterhouse scandal with an interview of the co-founder of L214!!! Once again, this would have been unthinkable only 2 years ago! It is simply astonishing.
I myself have been on radio 3 times to talk about veganism, anti speciesism and the scandals of slaughterhouses notably on France Bleu Gard Lozère and the journalist even called me Thursday night to warn me about the « angry » farmers coming to the Alès slaughterhouse to confront us.
Lastly, the general population’s reaction to just what we do as activists has also evolved. I see more and more people coming to say that they agree more and more with us, have changed their lifestyle, or are transitioning to a more ethical lifestyle. I don’t have yet statistics in the number of vegans and vegetarians in France, but L214 has seen its membership explode in the last few months and they get messages all the time from people who have changed, from former hunters to just non vegans making changes. The successes of the Veggie Pride (which was created in Paris and later picked up by the New Yorkers) and Veggie World this year, with tons of participants and thousands of people are clear signs of the changes happening.
At the French Vegetarian Association (which is in fact vegan), we get asked for help constantly in finding vegan doctors and dietitians for adults and kids alike! The AVF lists vegan and vegetarian as well as veg friendly restaurants all over the country. L214 even has a list of politicians who either support or are against animals so people can vote with their conscience.
I could go on and on but this is truly an exciting time to be in France. And if you want to visit, I think you will find the country a lot more open to veg opinions and offers of plant-based options in restaurants.
© Copyright July 2016 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content
2016 is the year when either big change can happen or a huge opportunity will pass again. For the past few months, people have been discovering who Bernie Sanders is and he has generated a huge movement for change which is frightening the establishment candidates, the corporate media and their lackeys.
Bernie’s ethics and integrity are nothing new to me. I first discovered him when he was a guest each Friday morning on the now defunct Air America radio station on the Thom Hartmann program. Thom had a special segment called « Brunch with Bernie » which I never missed. That was my radio program to listen to during work (back in my corporate days in Los Angeles). Listening to Bernie each Friday was like having fresh clean air blowing in my face from listening to someone with sane politics and a strong integrity of heart.
After all these years, I am still astounded at the degree of political ignorance in the general American public and what is being done in their names. Americans are champions at voting against their best interests. When Americans still believe that Democratic Socialism is similar to the Soviet Union, I am in disbelief. I didn’t realize that all Social Democracies (like France, Germany, Sweden and others) were like the Soviet Union or that our own Communist party had so much power. In the early part of the 20th century, Socialism was not seen as bad thing however; Upton Sinclair, the author of the Jungle, was himself a socialist.
Bernie has not suddenly just dropped from a tree, he has been around and fighting for us for a long time. One of Bernie’s first job in his life was registering people for food stamps. Before he was a politician, he was first a social justice activist. In 1963, as a Chicago University activist, he was arrested for protesting segregated schools. He traveled to Washington for the famous Martin Luther King Jr « March on Washington ». In 1972, he was editing the Liberty Union Party newsletter « Movement » in which he was already talking about economic inequalities. In 1981, he was elected as Mayor of Burlington not long after Reagan became President and he kept getting reelected, proof that his brand of socialism obviously pleased people. In 1987, he was named one of the best mayors in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Then he went on the become the only independent in the Senate. And the rest, we mostly know. I just barely scratched the surface of Bernie’s bio.
Bernie is the one and only American politician who has never wavered from his beliefs in the little man, social equality and justice and his rejection of the greedy system. That is something he has done constantly during his 50 years of career. His current opponents have tried to grill him on issues like healthcare but they have failed because Bernie doesn’t flip flop on issues, he is constant.
Why does Bernie matter to a French Vegan like me?
In the past 30 years I have started noticing a slow but gradual degradation of the French social safety net. Unfortunately, in Europe, we have this tendency to always look towards the United States and import its worse aspects. We went from small farmers to American style industrial farming, from small traditional restaurants to McDonald’s, from mom and pop stores to large retail chains (we have the largest number of big malls in Europe) and our politicians have become corrupt neo-cons imitating their American counterparts (they all have money in Panama, right?).
Bernie reminds me of the old school politicians we used to have. They were strong social democrats, meaning they always stood up for the working class, the poor and against the greedy rich. A president Bernie would send a clear message not just to America but also to the rest of the world that good values are not hypothetical or utopic but should be the norm. A politician who is not corrupt and sold out to corporations, what a novel idea! And because we, in Europe, often look up to the United States (for better or worse, usually for worse), Bernie’s influence on the rest of the world would help remind not just Americans but Europeans too of what is at stake.
The French healthcare system is currently the best in the world (according to the World Health Organization) but it’s starting to be undermined from within by our neo-liberal politicians. The British National Health System is facing similar problems. This is all a result of neoliberalism. I want my healthcare system to not change, particularly after having tasted the American one for 18 years. Americans should revisit Michael Moore’s movie « Sicko » for a taste of European healthcare and they will realize that even Obamacare is terrible. This is a good movie to also revisit to see how Hillary went from supporting Universal Healthcare (like Bernie) to selling out to Big Pharma. Well, Bernie never stopped supporting healthcare for ALL. Of course, as Vegans, we are less likely to see doctors and end up in hospitals, but we are not immune to accidents and I would rather set foot in a hospital at low cost than with a huge bill.
Have you ever seen the classic Frank Capra movie gem « Mr. Smith Goes to Washington »? It’s one of those movies you want to be real. James Stewart is a young politician who is confronted to the corruption of Washington in the 1940’s (the movie is from 1939). If Frank Capra thought it was that bad then, I wonder what he would think now. Bernie Sanders is Mr. Smith, except older. But he shares with the Jimmy Stewart character the same characteristics of integrity and willingness to fight for the common man/woman. Bernie, just like Mr. Smith, also conducted a historic filibuster when he became Senator which lasted over 8 hours. Bernie’s historic speech is reprinted completely in the book « The Speech: on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class ». When Bernie did his 2010 filibuster, it was followed by so many that it crashed the Senate server! What was Bernie filibustering about? The deal between President Obama and the Republicans which would give more tax breaks to the rich. I rest my case.
Bernie is popular with young and old alike because he stands up for us all, not for the 1% as he has consistently done so for 50 years. He never changed his opinions to fit any party lines and that is why he has remained independent and, like a modern Elliott Ness, incorruptible.
Bernie Sanders is also not a war monger (which is not something I can say about Hillary or the Republicans) and has always believed that war should be a last resort. He has voted against the Gulf War war and the war in Iraq and history has shown that he was right. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who is not trying to make the Military Industrial Complex even richer while chasing oil in foreign countries. His Foreign Policy is based on diplomatic solutions, and not war as a first resort.
Is Bernie open to animal rights?
Yes, he is already opposed to factory farming. My friends at Direct Action Everywhere have already understood this by confronting him at one of his rallies just like the #BlackLivesMatter movement did (and to which he responded). I doubt Bernie would ever support ag gag bills and other anti-activist bills. On the contrary, he has always stood against big money which is what this bills defend. Bernie is already pro women, anti racist, pro-gay and pro-environment. He has voted against the Keystone XL-pipeline and fracking while Hillary was supporting both. He has voted against NAFTA and the TPP, and pretty much all the so-called free trade deals which are destroying jobs for the middle class in either the United States or Europe as well as hurting the planet and all life. Hillary, once again, was for them until she changed her mind because it was politically convenient for her to do so.
Bernie may not be Vegan, but he is the best candidate we have in terms of animal welfare. As much as I would like to see a Vegan in the White House (we had our chance with Kucinich in 2008 but people chose Obama), our humane candidates will never get as close to the White House as Bernie is doing right now. Therefore, we have to keep pushing him in the right direction. Bernie has consistently voted in favor of animal welfare: He is against commercial breeding, for applying some humane care to farmed animals (ok not perfect obviously but the others don’t even give a damn at all). He is opposed to cruelty towards animals in captivity or in the wild. He is also a strong defender of wildlife including the Endangered Species Act. And let’s not forget his strong environmental record.
As Bernie Sanders said, this is a revolution he can’t create alone. If he gets elected, we need to keep him accountable and keep pushing him to meet even greater expectations. He has showed that he could not be corrupted (50 years of proof!) and that he was willing to learn (as seen with the #BlackLivesMatter movement) but one thing is clear, he will always fight for the poor and the middle class, never for the rich and powerful. That is a constant record we need to keep in mind if we want to create a society of justice.
As Cesar Chavez connected the dots between social human justice and justice for non-humans, I believe Bernie could also eventually make the same connections but we have to have his back first! When people keep voting for the lesser of two evils, nothing ever changes. As Vegans, if we didn’t believe we could create a Vegan society, we would have given up a long time ago. So let’s not give up on this either.
Photo: Bernie Sanders – Courtesy Pixabay.com (Free photos)
© Copyright April 2016 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content
Note: This interview was translated in French and can be found here.
VP: You are very well known internationally in the vegetarian and vegan communities and you received numerous awards. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself as your work is not well known in France yet.
Will: My spouse Madeleine and I have been traveling now for over 20 years, presenting between 100-150 events annually, promoting vegan living throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Australia. I’ve been a thriving, joyful vegan for 35 years now, and I’m most well-known for the best-selling book I wrote, The World Peace Diet, which has been published now in 15 languages. Earlier in my life, I was a Zen monk in Korea, and then I was an academic, with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on educating intuition (and strongly influenced by Bergson), as well as being a professional pianist and composer.
Many others (like you Veronique!) are also contributing in beautiful ways to the benevolent vegan (r)evolution that is happening. The World Peace Diet is unique in that it gives the truly big picture of the ramifications of our routine mistreatment of animals for food, including the spiritual, emotional, cultural, historical, health, environmental, and other dimensions, so that people can grasp the enormity of both the problem and of the opportunity we have today. As more people go vegan, we will see an absolutely massive positive shift in health, happiness, sustainability, and cultural creativity. There’s nothing more important anyone can do than to make an effort to understand the ramifications of our food choices. That’s why, I believe, sales for The World Peace Diet have been so strong, and why it continues to be published around the world in other languages as well.
VP: Your book “The World Peace Diet” is a major international best-seller and is finally translated in French. What made you want to write it in the first place?
Will: In writing The World Peace Diet, one of my inspirations was to bring our culture’s routine mistreatment of animals for food and other products from the periphery of cultural concerns to the very center—to help people understand that the mentality of violence required by our most basic action—eating—is the spinning fury, hidden at the core of our culture, that generates the crises and problems we face both individually and collectively. Switching to a plant-based diet for ethical reasons is the ultimate spiritual statement in a culture such as ours that routinely and relentlessly kills over hundreds of millions animals daily for food. I feel it’s essential to bring the spiritual dimension to the vegan movement. This is the foundation of ethics, justice, and vegan living—awakening our inherent compassion and wisdom, questioning the indoctrinated disconnectedness that our culturally-imposed meal rituals impose on us, and changing our behavior to reflect our natural, deeply-held human values of respect, cooperation, and caring for others. We all know that we reap what we sow, and we all know that nonhuman animals are capable of suffering.
Going vegan is both a cause of and an effect of spiritual growth. As we nurture our bodies with organic, whole, plant-based foods, we cleanse internally, and our mind and emotions can relax, and we naturally begin to feel and understand directly the interconnectedness of all life. This essential awareness lives in all of us, waiting to be awakened. That is the spiritual journey we are on, whether we know it or not, and it is intimately connected to vegan living. As we travel and talk with folks all over the world, we hear this a lot: many have told us that upon going vegan, unexpected positive internal shifts happened, and they feel more confident, relaxed, at peace, and at the same time, a greater awareness of the underlying violence and deceit in our culture. There is a lot more on this of course in The World Peace Diet.
VP: Being your student, I have read your book several times and the chapter I still prefer is the one on Sophia. Would you explain a little what you’re talking about in this chapter.
Will: Yes, Chapter 7 is entitled “The Domination of the Feminine” and it cites two prime examples: the hen and the cow. “Dominating others requires us to disconnect from them.” Humans dominating animals and also men dominating women: this mentality of domination is probably the biggest mistake we humans make. It plays out in relationships between men and women, and also in many other ways as well. Domination requires disconnection and also reduction. Most women know how it is to be looked at as “meat” and as men, we are taught early on to look at women in that way, as we are taught to look at certain animals as well. I would not say, though, that it is easy for our species to disconnect. We have to be forced into it. I refer to a crucial aspect of our innate wisdom as Sophia, who was the Greek goddess of wisdom. This sacred feminine wisdom is brutally suppressed by forcing us as children to participate in mealtime rituals of eating blood and violence. We’ve got to remember the ferocity of the ritualized programming we have all endured. It’s tremendously powerful. From the time we lose our mother’s breast, we are forced to eat the flesh and secretions of abused animals in the most significant and relentless rituals in our culture: our daily meals. Veganism is essentially the resurrection of the feminine wisdom of Sophia within all of us, the wisdom that protects life and nurtures our children and cares for the health of our communities and our Earth.
VP: Would you tell us about one of the personal stories you mention in your book?
Will: In Chapter 14 of The World Peace Diet I describe how I went fishing, caught a couple of fish, and then had to repeatedly slam them against the floor to kill them. Looking back on it now, 40 years later, I can see that it definitely was a seminal moment in my life. I was quite an avid fisher in my youth, and was always proud when I caught some fish. When I went fishing within the new context of the spiritual pilgrimage that I went on at the age of 22, I suddenly saw fishing in a whole new light, and saw the cold, cruel violence of trickery and deceit as the blinders fell away. I suddenly felt compassion for the fish I was killing! I never fished again and within a couple of months, never ate fish in my life again either.
VP: Do you consider that the foundation for a peaceful world starts with our food?
Will: Our meals of hidden violence are devastating our Earth, torturing millions of beautiful and sensitive animals daily, and laying waste the inner landscape of our thoughts and feelings. The wars, diseases, neuroses, and crimes we see around and within us have their genesis in the wars, diseases, neuroses, and violent crimes we inflict on billions of animals routinely and completely unnecessarily. The basic sense of disempowerment many of us feel to change “the system” derives directly from our daily meals, which are the rituals that keep us as domineering agents of slavery and commodification, enslaved ourselves!
I am seeing increasing numbers of us “get” the message of The World Peace Diet and begin to share it with others, and this is the foundation of the healing of our world and of our culture and ourselves. We will continue to be merely ironic in our quests for peace, justice, and sustainability until we make the connections between animals as beings deserving of respect and these animals as products on our plates. When we authentically come into alignment with our true nature of compassion and wisdom and share this uplifting and liberating understanding with others, we will then be worthy of celebrating our lives on this beautiful and abundant planet. I encourage everyone to make an effort to understand the consequences of our food choices, to teach a community course on The World Peace Diet, and to spread the message of kindness, not just for ourselves, but for all living beings and all future generations. As they say, “We are the ones we are waiting for!”
VP: What is the important core message of your book?
Will: The essential message of The World Peace Diet is that the hidden core of our culture is herding animals for food and other products. This requires that everyone born into our culture be injected with a set of behaviors and attitudes that are not in our best interest, and are devastating to animals and to the ecosystems of our Earth. Some aspects of this set of attitudes are the mentality of disconnectedness that every meal requires, as well as the mentality of domination, elitism, exclusivism, and commodification of other living beings, and of the entire living world. Veganism is the most powerful alternative paradigm to our culture’s internal and external disease, because it’s not just theoretical, it’s solidly practical. It touches every dimension of our life: our meals, our clothing, our entertainment, and ultimately, the way we think about all others in our life. Veganism is the polar and transcending opposite of our Western culture, and it is what will, ultimately, heal that violent, oppressive, and suicidal mentality and its endless woes, and usher in a new world of undreamt possibilities of freedom, equality, and fraternity for all. We don’t have to fight against the old paradigm, though! That gives it more strength! Instead, we are called to focus on the positive changes we yearn to see, and to embody them in our thinking and behavior, and share them creatively with everyone we can.
VP: L’Association Végétarienne de France (note: The French Vegetarian Association in fact promotes veganism) is involved with the Cop 21 climate conference in Paris, what message would you like to give to all the participants of this climate conference.
Will: Victor Hugo is credited with saying that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. There is mounting evidence that global climate change may well bring an inconceivable catastrophe to humanity and to the Earth within the next century. It turns out that the main driving force behind global climate change is also behind human disease, environmental pollution, massive animal cruelty, and the whole range of dilemmas we are attempting to solve. The routine confinement and slaughter of millions of animals every day for food is catastrophic and must be explicitly addressed at COP21.
The most forcibly ignored cause of global warming is eating meat and dairy products; it’s the greatest source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 297 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, as well as methane gas, which is 30 times more powerful. The science on this is unequivocal, and in addition, eating animals requires massive amounts of fossil fuel inputs, directly pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are transporting over seventy percent of our corn, soybeans, oats, and other grains to animals, pumping water to irrigate these fields, manufacturing millions of pounds of fossil fuel- based fertilizer and pesticides, and housing and slaughtering billions of animals yearly. The end result of all this is that while it takes only two calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of protein from soybeans, and three calories for wheat and corn, it takes 54 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of protein from beef.
The primary driving force behind deforestation is cattle grazing and clearing land to grow soybeans and other grains to feed factory-farmed chickens, pigs, and fish. This is a further major contributor to global warming. In addition, sixty percent of our fish are now factory-farmed, causing severe water pollution and genetic damage to wild fish populations. Our limitless demand for fish that are used for feeding factory-farmed fish, birds, and mammals has brought our oceans to the brink of collapse. As the threat of global climate destabilization grows, we will hopefully begin to realize that the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and environmental pollution) is to reduce meat and dairy consumption.
Research has also revealed that buying locally grown meat, eggs, and dairy is not significant in its impact on our carbon footprint. Additionally, as the recent documentary Cowspiracy demonstrates, eating “free-range” and “organic” meat, dairy, and eggs does not substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because free- range cattle, for example, are not fattened as quickly as feedlot cattle, so they cause a greater greenhouse gas footprint in many cases.
To their credit, more journalists are coming forth, encouraging people to reduce meat and dairy consumption to save the Earth from climate break- down. Let’s amplify their call! The situation is critical. As the Worldwatch Institute has bluntly concluded, “It has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future.”
VP: I know you travel a lot around the world giving lectures to packed rooms. What would be a message you would give to a French audience?
Will: The main message of The World Peace Diet is to make essential connections that haven’t been made before. We have all been taught to disconnect and to practice disconnecting by our culturally mandated food practices. My work is to address this nearly invisible mentality of exclusion and its effects from many perspectives—the historic, psychological, sociological, spiritual, and ecological. What I say is not new. Pythagoras, Buddha, Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi, and many others have all said the same things, but more as aphorisms. The World Peace Diet is the first book to go into the connections in depth and show the big picture of our culture.
I feel that French people have, in many ways, a natural affinity to the vegan message. The French people are known for their sense of respect for nature and for their love of fine cuisine and their sensitivity to the romantic and loving aspects of life. Vegan living embraces and nurtures all these dimensions of our life, and also contributes to more healthy familial and social relationships. The French Revolution exemplified the idealism that the French people are capable of, and again, veganism is a deep and heartfelt dedication to the ideals of liberty, equality, solidarity, and caring, all of which are dear to the hearts, historically, of the French people. There is also the spiritual yearning that has characterized many aspects of French culture. To grow spiritually, we are called to question the official narratives of violence, and understand our cultural programming. This has been taught by Voltaire, Rousseau, Pascal, Camus, Sartre, Hugo, de Beauvoir, Bergson, Comte, Teillhard de Chardin, Durkheim, Weil, and many other remarkable French philosophers and writers.
VP: Thank you Will for all your inspiring comments. Is there anything you would like to add?
Will: Until we become aware, it’s difficult to change, but with awareness, we can grow in wisdom and contribute to a healthier and more harmonious world. The World Peace Diet points out the roots of our dilemmas and suffering, hidden in plain sight. Its main message is that we have been deceived by our cultural conditioning into seeing ourselves as essentially predatory, and by relentlessly eating like predators, we have created predatory economic and social institutions that create enormous suffering. When we awaken to our true nature, we see clearly that our greatest joy and satisfaction come in blessing, cooperating, creating, giving, encouraging, loving, protecting, and caring. We see the interconnectedness of all living beings, and can awaken to the deep spiritual truths that bring authentic freedom.
© Copyright January 2016 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content
Dialog from the movie « The Day the Earth Stood Still » (the original):
Secretary Haley: « Now that you understand the situation more clearly, perhaps you’d like to discuss it with the President. »
Klaatu: « I will not speak with any one nation or group of nations. I don’t intend to add my contribution to your childish jealousies and suspicions. »
Secretary Haley: « Our problems are very complex Klaatu. You mustn’t judge us too harshly. »
Klaatu: « I can judge only by what I see. »
Secretary Haley: « Your impatience is quite understandable. »
Klaatu: « I’m impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it. »
Secretary Haley: « I’m afraid my people haven’t. »
This 1951 classic directed by the legendary director Robert Wise is one of my favorite movies of all times (forget the more recent version with Keanu Reeves which was horrible). This movie is not great because of its old special effects or just the wonderful actors, it’s because of its message: Evolve or die! and the numerous sub-messages in the movie which set it largely apart from others of its time.
Why this movie’s message matters to me.
In our world today, we are dominated by forces who dictate to us who we need to be without regards for any consideration of our true natures. These forces are hell bent on expanding their psychotic moral schizophrenia to as many of us as they can by keeping us docile with toxic and dead foods, drugs, brainwashing entertainment which serve to keep us numbed (and dumbed) down and with the help of puppet politicians who are really serving a hidden elite of wealthy individuals who are addicted to power and greed.
We are dominated by a tiny percentage of oligarchs all over the world who pass whatever laws they want about our food, our production systems, GMOs, repressive police, their war addictions, etc.
Each day, we wake up to information overload. We are monitored from the moment we are awake through our televisions, smart phones and now we might even have to worry about Amazon using drones to ship our book purchases (which would destroy competition for even more small businesses – are there any left?).
So what’s next? Pills to make us like whatever corporations want us to buy? They already own us as consumers just through advertising alone (turn off the damn TV!). They also are in fact trying to patent our DNA which I guess would give them total control over our bodies even though some people try to oppose it. They force our kids to get vaccinated and they brainwash them into getting addicted to animal flesh and secretions.
As the website Energy Grid said very well on their home page:
« Despite living in « the free world », there are very few free men and women walking around in our democracies. Very few indeed. This is because some men and women have a human failing that drives them to want to manipulate others for the sake of power. That manipulation has enslaved humanity throughout most of its history, and still presents the most ominous threat to democracy. »
So, what are we left with?
Here comes the Vegan revolution (which I could rename the Klaatu revolution just for the purpose of this article). This is the only revolution which can potentially free us. Do we need some external extra-terrestrial force to make humans evolve to avoid obliteration, as the movie clearly demonstrates? Or can, you ask, Veganism be a solution to all this maze of control over our freedom to think?
Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is – whether its victim is human or animal – we cannot expect things to be much better in this world… We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creatures.
~ Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
As Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! once said: « We need a media that covers grassroots movements, that seeks to understand and explain the complex forces that shape our society, a media that empowers people with information to make sound decisions on the most vital issues of the day: war and peace, life and death. Instead, the media system in the United States, increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer multinational corporations, spews a relentless stream of base « reality » shows (which depict anything but reality), hollow excuses for local news that highlight car accidents and convenience store robberies larded with ads, and the obsessive coverage of traffic, sports, and extreme weather (never linked to another two words: climate change). Perhaps most harmful of all, we get the same small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. »
Amy is right (too bad she doesn’t cover Vegans however) and indeed Veganism, as well as other social movements, has grown because of people-powered media who have been able to get around the mainstream corporate propaganda and its destructive agenda. That growing awareness is fueling a growing activism around food justice, animal rights, environmental issues and other social issues. Let’s not forget that, despite being crushed, the Occupy Movement was able to survive several months through independent grassroots activism and public powered media. Others, like the Black Lives Matter movement, are creating change. And the LGBT movement just won the right to marriage equality. These movements are all fueled by people armed with only cell phones, social media and determination. The vegan/animal rights movement has proven that it can do the same but not until we stop fighting with each other over ridiculous things. Our biggest enemies are not the animal abusers, it is us when we are divided.
Issues around food are being discussed all over the world by more and more people and choosing a plant-based diet or go full-fledged vegan is the biggest tool of power we have against those who seek to control us. And the reason is that we become AWARE and INFORMED about, not just animal rights, but every other social issues and stop relying on what is being taught or told to us. We connect all the dots and get out of the imposed veil of ignorance on our minds, or as Will Tuttle calls it, the « herding mentality ».
We will never have real democracies through just the tool of voting at the booth (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote, I’m not Russell Brand! and I love Bernie Sanders for many reasons, most notably his record of integrity, oh well I had to say it!) but voting for someone, even an honest man or woman, is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t create any real change unless people keep being active after the votes and push for change as a mass movement. It is too easy to think that « well, we voted, that’s all I need to do. » We saw the result of that thinking last time. The roots of change come from people changing themselves, not trying to change a failing system which is self-destructive anyway. The powers that be will then be forced to follow after they try to repress us to stay in power. They won’t let go easily (and without causing pain) unless we are a massive force for peace and real change. It starts with, as always, ourselves. The fact that people seem to be turning to Bernie is a symptom of a real possible inner change for the end of inequalities and new values (at least I hope so). And even if Bernie doesn’t get elected, the desire for social change might be under way with or without him. He is just a symbol of it.
Dr. Vandana Shiva would say that saving seeds insures freedom for small farmers from the monsters of Monsanto and she is right. Since we have no control over the powers who control our food systems and try to control our lives (with mass surveillance, now also passed in France after the drama of Charlie Hebdo, the NSA and so on), we need to connect with each other even more than before and build our own communities, our own food gardens, our own sustainable lives and educate others to do the same by teaching them the WHYs of Veganism in a holistic way. Even in France, we talk a lot about veganic agriculture as the solution and we have regular environmental weeks which include a large emphasis on Veganism.
Until most people learn why Veganism is such a powerful tool of inner and outer change, nothing will really change. They can’t win against the police state with weapons. As many before them demonstrated (King, Gandhi, Chavez and many others), violence has never been the answer. But we can be non-violent and still resist while promoting change and give tools to others to become more independent themselves. Imagine what is possible.
As my friend Butterflies Katz once said about the Gentle World community: « Since then, the experience of living with Gentle World has transformed me into someone who is much different from the person I would have been had we not joined paths. My personal transformation has taken me from being a suburban, consumerist, superficial person – to a country girl, a naturalist who tries to live at one with her environment, and a non-consumer, a recycler and conservationist. »
In today’s economy, this is nothing short than a huge challenge (and dream) for a lot of us. I know that I depend on my own government financially at the moment. I am awfully aware of it. But I’m also aware that I need to seek solutions to this corporate/government slavery which, on the one hand allows me not to be on the street but on the other hand gives me very few ways for being independent.
I had friends recently who suggested that we take over some old abandoned villages in France. I thought this was a brilliant idea. Let’s create vegan communities in these beautiful locations, left behind by people who needed work and abandoned them. I bet there are a lot of such small towns in the USA and other countries too which could serve to create vegan communities, independent (at least for the most part) of corporate control and relying on each other for services by using the creativity and the know-how of each of us. Is this an utopist idea? Maybe it seems like it now. But I do believe this is what we will have to do in order to survive the disastrous policies of our corporate owned governments (in wherever country you are).
It has never been more important than NOW for vegans to educate non-vegans, social activists and anyone not yet part of our movement to all the issues of respect for life, environmental, animal ethics, sustainability and how we can achieve it with communities.
We truly need to be the change we want to see in the world. Because no-one is going to do it for us. We are the Klaatus that we’ve been waiting for; the ones who will make the change inevitable.
– Trailer of the classic (must see) movie « The Day the Earth Stood Still »
– Robert Wise about the movie on the AFI website
– Manipulation of the People — The Rudiments of Propaganda
John Smith—09/2003 (updated 09/05)
– 1,000,000 people against forced vaccination – Page on Facebook
– Mandatory vaccination bill for public schools passes California legislature – The Guardian
– The European Union forces GMOs on France – L’Europe autorise les OGM : la France n’a pas la possibilité de s’y opposer
– Interesting book to check out: Trade Is War – The west’s war against the world
– Amazon ships books with drones – Money magazine
– Law on mass surveillance in France: Mediapart.fr
– The 10 Biggest Revelations from Edward Snowden’s Leaks – Mashable.com
– Our DNA being patented – The Guardian
– Finding Community as a New Vegan – One Green Planet
– Vegan and vegan-friendly communities: Libaware
– Life in a Vegan Community by Butterflies Katz – Gentle World
– Black Lives Matter movement’s website.
– Village des Possibles (or literally village of what is possible) in Montpellier (France). This video is subtitled in English. The village reunited various associations for the environment, economic justice, « Do it Yourself » workshops and vegan food!
– Will Tuttle’s article « Beyond Herderism » on the IDA website.
Photos and poster of the movie found on Photobucket.com
© Copyright July 2015 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content
I have always considered the sexual act as something between consenting people (of whatever gender) who are mature enough. Indeed, you would probably find shocking the idea of adults having sexual desires for children and sometimes acting on them. We consider pedophilia an act of absolute sickness. But it may come as a surprise to think that some animal advocate do not apply the same principles when it comes to other animals.
In the past few months, I have been deeply involved with an investigator in looking into the zoophilia/bestiality issue (to expose people who abuse other animals sexually) and I have been horrified at not only what is being done to other animals but to see where some so-called « animal lovers » actually go in the way they think of other animals. I have seen pictures of dogs being raped and people commenting things like « it’s cute! ». I have seen people (in our movement) being asked about just sexual desire for other animals and not having any problem with it.
Zoophilia is all over the web (if you know where to look) and you can find tons of « secret » groups on Facebook devoted to people who get a sexual kick at watching men (and women) having sex with other animals. My research (with the investigator) has allowed me to witness some rather gruesome and disgusting imagery and in some cases videos that these people proudly display while they get cheered on by others.
What I also found out is that some of them masquerade as animal rescuers in order to get an animal as sexual partner. So if you run a shelter, a sanctuary or simply want to find a home for a rescued animal, you may not even know that your animal is going to get sexually exploited.
From a legal perspective, laws vary by countries and states but there are exemptions like this one (quoted from Wikipedia):
Sexual handling of an animal for the purposes of veterinary practice, or animal husbandry (breeding), is normally exempted where such laws exist. In public discussion for the recently passed Oregon law, however, one animal shelter’s spokesperson wanted the husbandry exemption kept out, as he was concerned that someone might use these « accepted farming practices » as a legal loophole to then have (legal) sexual contact with an animal only for personal enjoyment. One of the legislators responded by asking if they were trying to outlaw an act (of sexual contact), or a state of mind. The veterinary and husbandry exemption was left out of Oregon’s law in the final, enacted version.
We know for a fact that some farm workers in factory farms do sexually abuse animals. It has been reported by undercover investigators over the years and by authors.
But maybe it is necessary to explain a little more what science and psychology have to say. The difference between zoophilia (the term comes from the Greek, which means « animal lover ») and bestiality are, according to Wikipedia:
Zoophilia and the law looks at the laws governing humans performing sex acts on animals. Laws against humans performing sex acts on animals, where they exist, are concerned with the actual act, which it commonly refers to as bestiality, rather than the sexual attraction to animals. For this reason, prohibitions of zoophilic pornography is more varied; they may be unlawful if an actual sex act with an animal is involved, but the status is not clear cut if there is a mere representation, such as a painting or cartoon. In that case, normal obscenity laws will normally apply. All zoophilic imagery is widely regarded as pornography.
Some people seem to think that zoophilia is not and shouldn’t be an offence or be considered as a psychological disorder. However, let’s assume Wikipedia above referred to this in the case of children and most people would be horrified. There is, as is often the case, a double standard between how we treat human versus non-human animals. Therefore accepting just zoophilia is to me speciesist because no human (I hope) would agree that a man with sexual desires for children is a healthy mentally balanced human being.
In both the case of children and other animals, one party is non-consenting. What is shocking is to see famous authors (and philosophers) in our movement in fact defending it, like Peter Singer:
But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop. Soyka would presumably have thought this within the range of human sexual variety.
Mr. Singer forgets one thing. He would probably never say that about children. And yes the household dog sometimes grips the legs of visitors but there is a huge difference, the dogs can’t control their sexual urges, we can! And we have a moral obligation to do so because not doing so would violate an animal (as it would violate a child). And also, what does he know about a dog’s thinking anyway? We are supposedly moral animals who can choose what is acceptable or not. As vegans, we have an even better responsibility towards those at our mercy. Because a dog or a orangutan (he does quote the example of an orangutan making sexual advances to a woman) may not understand or see the difference between a human or one of his kind (even if we are closely related to apes). And, as I stated above, animals do not have the ability of controlling their sexual urges and are also probably (because of us) deprived of the necessary relief they would get with their own species in most cases. But then, not wanting to control sexual urges towards anyone is also what brings us damning statistics like the ones from the United Nations where we learn that at least one woman in three will get raped in her life. So maybe, humans (particularly men in this case) are not that good at controlling their libido!
In fact, psychology is clear about zoophilia:
[…] paraphilia wherein animals are recurrently favored or solely utilized to reach carnal arousal and satisfaction. The animal, that is generally a household pet or farm animal, is either utilized as the object of sex or is conditioned to lick or rub the human partner, called a zoophile. The most typically utilized animals are sheep and pigs, in rural settings.
As you can see in the definition above, the animals are « conditioned », therefore manipulated. This is not about the free will of the animal himself, it is about the selfish needs of humans.
Peter Singer also seems to suggest that something done through history is therefore acceptable. Then the same could be said about eating the flesh of animals, wars, slavery, and rape.
To accept the behavior of zoophilia (and therefore potential bestiality) in our movement is equivalent to the Church hiding pedophilia in its ranks for many years because it is politically incorrect. Why do we think it is a horrific act towards children but not animals? I have to ponder at the degree of speciesism still in the thinking of some people.
Michael Kiok, the president of the only (fortunately) official worldwide federation of zoophiles believes he is being persecuted by the German government for finally banning bestiality because he can’t have sex with animals anymore. Should I feel sorry for this pervert who abuses other animals for his own self-gratification?
The French author Franz-Olivier Gisbert, in his book « L’Amour est éternel tant qu’il dure » (Love is Eternal as long as it lasts) makes also the apology of bestiality and zoophilia. As someone noted on the commentary section of his book (on Amazon.fr):
This object in paper that I don’t dare calling a book is a firework of junk of all kinds. The author inflicts the poor reader who didn’t ask for much an exhaustive catalog of his sexual obsessions without notice except in Chapter 41 (if you get there!) where the charitable Mr. FOG (Franz-Oliver Gisbert) advises weak minds to go directly to [chapter] 44 to avoid the scenes of bestiality, which he seems to be a refined connoisseur. We reasonably can advise to read such opus whose title is deliberately misleading. Any honesty would add a cover band indicating that it is a text reserved for « warned » adults.
Some people (as I’ve seen in the case of Germany) go as far as having brothels so they can act on their sexual desires for other animals, which means that animals are brought in and definitely are NOT consenting to this. Where is even consent in having a sexual desire for an animal? Does a child have consent over the sexual desire for him by an adult? I leave that to the reader to decide.
From a health perspective, sexuality with other animals is linked to penile cancer. So in effect, someone having sex with a (non-consenting being) is also putting himself at risk. And let’s note also that exposing a child to acts of bestiality is considered child abuse.
What does the scientific community think of it? In a big clinical psychological study done on zoophiles (translated in English) by Marion Nasswetter, we find this:
The tenth version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, published by the World Health Organization (2008) and in short called ICD-10, categorizes the sexual human-animal contact under F65 –deviating sexual preference. If unusual sexual fantasies or sexual urges are focused on exceptional non-human objects, on children, on suffering or humiliation of the self or other persons, then the condition may present an adverse effect in several areas of the life of the affected. Additionally, it is pointed out that almost exclusively men are found to have these deviations. Besides fetishism, exhibitionism, pedophilia, and others, the sexual human-animal interactions is subcategorized under F65.8 – the other deviations of sexual preference.
There, activities like indecent phone calls, rubbing on people on crowds or public transport (frotteurism), or sexual acts on corpses (necrophilia) are also found. The sexual intercourse with animals is called sodomy in this source.
My personal conclusion:
I consider animals under my care as my children and friends, not potential sexual partners but they are, as psychologists suggested, conditioned, therefore not willing participants. What can two different species, although capable of affection towards another, communicate in terms of what one party wants or not? There is a huge difference between « petting », caring and loving an animal in the case of protecting, sheltering him/her, feeding him/her and making sure he/she is healthy and imposing a sexual « preference » on him/her which he/she can’t agree verbally with. You might as well try to explain to a child why you want to have a sexual relationship with him. In both cases, you have no real consent or dialogue with the other being because that being doesn’t have the capacity (in terms of communication or maturity) to understand it and agree with it. Therefore, you’re dealing with someone who can’t consent at all unless, as mentioned above, manipulated into agreeing.
I find zoophilia and, in its worst form, bestiality, to be a psychological disease which I place on the same level as wanting or having sex with a (obviously non-consenting) child. Zoophilia, just like pedophilia, should be something that vegans should be aware of and outright reject.
And let’s not forget that, as Dr. Will Tuttle said many times, what we do to animals, we end up doing it to humans. It isn’t a coincidence that most cases of bestiality are committed by men just like in the case of rapes towards women.
– If you want to sign a petition against bestiality in the USA: Forcechange.com
– Peter Singer’s article « Heavy Petting ».
– Article (in French) about Peter Kiok, the head of the World Official Zoophilia Federation.
– List of commentaries (in French) about Franz-Oliver Gisbert’s book
– Cases of zoophilia/bestiality: The Crime of Bestiality/Zoophilia: Sexual Assault of an Animal.
– Article from the Lectric Law Library on the criminality aspect.
– Zoophilia and the law on Wikipedia.
– Article from Live Science: Sex With Animals Linked to Penile Cancer
– Psychology Dictionary: What is ZOOPHILIA? definition of ZOOPHILIA (Psychology Dictionary)
– Marion Nasswetter’s study on people who are zoophiles: A clinical psychology online study into zoophilia
– Think Progress article: What We Can Learn From The Largest International Study On Rape That’s Been Conducted So Far
– UN women article: Fast facts: statistics on violence against women and girls
– Video from PETA on the sexual abuse of farm animals in factory farms.
– Huffington Post video about the Sexual Abuse Of Cows In Factory Farms Is ‘Not Uncommon’
– My essay of the Link Between Violence to Animals and Humans which explores more general violence.
– And of course, the best reference on the link between the abuse of women and animals for … anything is Carol J. Adams.
Photo: Man and dog, http://www.Pixabay.com (Free photo stock site)
© Copyright April 2015 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content
I received a post from a fellow activist recently that this was going to be her last action with us and this really bothered me in the sense that she obviously expressed burn out but also despair in her comments.
In essence, she was saying that this was her last action because « I am tired of people who don’t care and don’t listen to us ». We’ve all been through that. And it’s important to recognize how this burn out affects all of us.
We are surrounded by a lot of dark forces in the world right now. Whether we talk about « religious » extremism, state sponsored terror, corporatism, government spying, social inequalities and of course the plight and horror of what our animal friends go through, there is a lot to despair about. Is it any wonder that so many justice activists (in any social movements) just drop out? As vegans, we also face ridicule, incomprehension, social pressure and so on. There is nothing easy about fighting for any just causes and pushing social progress in the mentality of the masses.
In fact, the pressure is even getting worse as we see a rise in extremist terror, corporate and government overreach and manipulation. For instance, we saw the terror attacks in Paris and Boko Haram which were both horrific and linked to fanaticism. We see the spying of our governments on our privacy and their use of police brutality (whether we talk about innocent African Americans in the US, Environmental activists being killed in France or in South America or whether I get tear gassed by the police for standing up against bullfighters). We see also a war on women with damning statistics showing that « globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence » (UN Statistics), forced into marriage as children or go through sexual mutilations.
All of this, as Dr. Will Tuttle would say, has its roots in our routine violence towards other animals and the constant suppression of feminine values of caring, compassion, nurturing of the Earth, the animals and each other. Extremism stems from a challenge to patriarchal rules wrapped in « religious » bigotry. Government spying results from a challenge from justice activists of all sides to question the status quo. And corporate domination result from people wanting governments actually representing them, paying them decent wages and corporations being greedy, pillaging entities who only care about the bottom line and the hell with our future on this planet.
The fact that it is getting worse is to me a good sign that big changes are under way in the background. This may sound like crazy thinking but read on.
Let’s get back to social justice for animals. Why are corporations so determined on buying up politicians to enact laws to prevent filming in factory farms? Because we are a threat to their bottom line. I don’t believe laws can be changed unless they come from grassroots efforts to put pressure on the puppets who want to control us. But when powerful elites feel threatened, just like kings, they will try to turn us more and more into serfs until, like in the French or American Revolution, we have finally enough and more and more of us rise up against them.
For the past few months, I have been doing Vegan education on the streets of Montpellier (France) and before that in Los Angeles, California. What I find fascinating in France is this thirst to learn more and this bigger openness to animal rights and veganism which is completely contrary to what I had expected since I considered Los Angeles as a « headquarter » of Veganism and Animal Rights thanks to the large number of activists and Vegan restaurants (compared to here). But the truth is that French people are generally less brainwashed and better educated (sorry Americans, it’s not to put you down as the good people that you are) and therefore more critical of their government and what they are told in general. The difference is really striking. The reason we have so little Vegan education in France is that Vegans and Vegetarians are extremely marginalized and that no government agencies recognizes plant-based eating as a healthy diet (America has the American Dietetic Association’s position on plant-based diets). And we also have (sic) our sacro-saint French cuisine recognized as « world heritage » which re-affirms the beliefs of people that a plant-based diet is not healthy.
Just this Saturday (Jan 31st), I held my first AVF (French Vegetarian Association) stand, which despite its name, strongly promotes Veganism and Veganic agriculture. I became a delegate for my region a few months ago because it is one of the few non-profits who directly promotes Vegan nutritional information to the public. I met so many people who thanked me for doing this, telling me that they were either vegetarian, already vegan, or trying to get there but didn’t know how (as there is not much education done in this country, except through the AVF and a few debates on TV) that I gave more business cards in one day than in months in the US. Of course, I also met the usual deniers but at least most of them took the time to try to understand and see our side of the story.
Now, let’s come back to the issue of women. Is it any surprising that there is an all time high of violence against women and suppression of their freedom around the world? No, it’s not. And it’s obviously because women are starting to come into their own power. We just have to look at the incredible example set by the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who, even though she was almost silenced by patriarchal religious extremists, never gave up and keeps fighting for the right of girls to have education. What a powerful example! The violence against women and also the rise against their reproductive rights is similar to the way females are being exploited in animal husbandry. We are dealing with a 10,000 year old patriarchal mindset, also set in the religious institutions (if you really look at them, they are patriarchal) in which women, like other animals, are still seen as inferior by a lot of the world’s society.
The same way Vegan/Animal Rights activists are being repressed, women in general still can’t in many way achieve gender equality because of the rampant sexism, violence against them, work inequalities, religious bigotry, and so on… But the fact that both social justice movements scare the hell out of the ones who seek to control us, this violence on both sides is increasing.
I am reminded of these words from Ghandi: « When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. »
Because we are getting stronger and there are more of us each day, these evil forces who seek to silence us and oppress us and other animals will eventually collapse like the castle of cards that they are. They are not build out of bricks, just out of sand because they don’t stem from truth and that is not sustainable. I believe more and more people are becoming aware of the inner truth of our world and are rejecting the status quo. The reaction to the attack on cartoonists in Paris and seeing an historical 4 million people on the streets (including myself) was a powerful statement that you can’t silence an idea when its time has come (whether you agree with Charlie’s work or not).
Let’s not forget what history teaches us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was declared enemy #1 and called the « most dangerous negro in the US » by the FBI. Cesar Chavez (himself a vegan) connected the dots between oppression of humans and other animals and was also threatened multiple times. Environmental activists, like our Rémi Fraisse here in France, are murdered by the police for defending the land and biodiversity while Peruvian environmentalists are being murdered for defending their ancestral lands. Vegans are put in jail as well as other animal liberators and human rights activists. Yes, it is a tough world when you are on the side of justice.
But in the end, justice always prevail. The civil rights act was passed, women got the right to vote (at least in western countries), young women and other women are starting to rise up in Arabic countries where they are horribly oppressed, men are getting more and more in touch with their inner sensibility, and let’s not forget: more and more people are connecting the dots and going vegan.
So this is what I responded to my friend quoted above:
« I understand where you’re coming from. But we can never be sure of the impact we can have on other people. I have been an activist for almost 10 years (in the USA and now in France) and there is progress. The problem is that it is difficult to quantify our impact on others statistically but we do have one! I give you several examples:
– In the USA, almost all the non-vegans who came to me directly (and not solely through the internet) have become vegans and are now activists for other animals themselves.
– In France, recently, at an anti foix-gras event, a young woman came to me to ask help for going vegan because she wasn’t sure how to go about it and was disgusted by the violence towards animals.
The problem is not that we don’t make any difference, we do! It is that we are still a minority. If we persevere (and I saw big changes in the USA in only a few years), we bring over more and more people to our cause who themselves influence others around them. It’s that simple.
If the suffragettes had given up because they were being ridiculed and were a minority, women would probably not have had the right to vote until much later. If blacks in the US had not persevered, racism would still be a legal institution. It doesn’t mean obviously that there is no longer any racism or sexism but that there are laws against some forms of discrimination.
The animal struggle (even though Greek philosophers already had positions in favor of animals and vegetarianism) is still in its infancy. The end of racial segregation in the USA took over 200 years (although there is now economic segregation, if not legal). We are not the ones who will see the changes, we are the pioneers. Our job is to plant the seeds which will grow principally in the future. »
The way to combat burn out is simple: stop for a while. It doesn’t mean giving up completely. But we are not machines, we have responsibilities, pressure, we feel down whenever we see cruelty and as vegans, we are especially sensitive to the pain of others. That’s what sets us apart from the blinded masses. We also face family pressure, social pressure. There is a time when it’s best to take a break and renew ourselves. What good is a burn out activist when it comes to educating people? It’s a waste of time. I would rather have people with me who are energized, passionate (passion mellowed with a little bit of wisdom) and committed to the goal of animal liberation than people who are too down and incapable of talking to people. We are still sensitive beings too.
It’s important to balance all the cruelty we see by seeing the other side. Animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur is an example of someone who constantly takes horrific pictures of animal cruelty (and suffers from PTSD because of it) but renews herself by going to Farm Sanctuary on a regular basis to take pictures of happy animals, free of exploitation. We have to strike a balance in order to have the strength to keep going. Animal sanctuaries are a fantastic way of reminding ourselves why we do what we do and seeing happy animals is totally uplifting. But not everyone has a sanctuary close by to go to. I like watching uplifting videos also reminding me why I am into this, like this one from FUDA (A French Animal Rights group – United Forces for Animal Rights) called FUDA Together (subtitled in English) or this wonderful one from Evolve! Campaigns called Why Vegan? Go back in nature for a while, do a retreat. The important thing is to come back stronger than ever, and a better advocate than ever.
But giving up completely is not an option because I know that we are slowly winning. And by the way, my friend is back in action.
– The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle
– The story of Malala Yousafzai
– UN Report on Violence against Women
– Article about 7 ridiculous restrictions against women around the world.
– Article from Arab News about the e-book Arab Women Rising.
– Facts and Figures from the UN about violence against women.
– Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring forgotten speech « Beyond Vietnam » on the military industrial complex, corporate and government power, war and why we need to keep on struggling for justice in a non-violent way on Breaking The Set.
Photo: I am holding Chloe the Hen at the Gentle Barn Sanctuary in California (2013).
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n.m., de l'italien a parte (à part), apparu en 1640. A. THÉÂTRE. Convention théâtrale par laquelle un acteur qui feint de se parler à soi-même, éclaire le public sur ses réactions, ses intentions ou ses sentiments, les autres acteurs présents sur scène étant censés ne pas l'entendre. B.− P. ext. Conversation particulière entre quelques personnes, à l'écart des autres, et qui ne doit pas être entendue.
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