Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is one of the first researcher to have coined the term « Intersectionality » to describe how various discriminations are all connected with each other and not separate. Of course, she was mostly using the term to talk about racism and white privilege.
French feminist author Christine Delphy explains that sexism is first and foremost a women’s struggle as racism is first and foremost the affair of « racialized » people. Men who address sexism must first re-examine their male privilege and white people should reexamine their white privilege. In other words, it’s mostly the victims of either who are best able to obviously talk about their experience and fight for their rights.
The problem with non-human animals is that we have taken the stance of being their voice. In all matters of human privilege over non-human animals, it is us, the privileged, who act on their behalf and we have no other choice but doing so. Our actions are, however, done through the filter of our own chatter of human privilege and constructed speciesism. Believing that going Vegan is instantly going to make us antispeciesist is naïve. Veganism is only the beginning of our understanding and duties on behalf of other animals, not an end in itself. The goal is to improve constantly on ourselves and not just content ourselves with not eating them (even if that is huge!).
Each of our actions has to be self-examined at every point at the risk of finding that they are all accomplished within the unvoluntary filter of human privilege. For example, whenever people talk about other animals, their language is (without them realizing) speciesist. I’ll give you a situation:
You are distributing vegan leaflets on the street to create awareness for the plight of « farmed » animals.
« Hi, would you like to help animals »?
« Oh I don’t know », might respond the person. « I don’t have time to care about animals ».
The term « animals » is misleading. We are all animals. Shouldn’t we say « other animals » to recognize that we shouldn’t be this special species who keeps wanting to distinguish itself of all others on the planet? This is unconscious human privilege. We separate ourselves from other animals. That’s what we’ve been taught.
Someone hearing « Hi, would you like to help other animals? » is more likely to be taken aback by the question and not dismiss the activist. I’ve seen it happen. It is forcing the person to think, not just react because no one ever refers to animals as « other animals » including us in the equation. It also implies that we are not superior to them, since we are animals too, therefore reducing any notion of human privilege.
Second example of our constant bias at work is the fact that we keep using (in the English language that is), the pronoun « it »*, which (being French) I can’t stand. « It » designs things, objects, even babies!
Example of situation:
« This poor pig, it is suffering so much! » yes SHE or HE is. Speciesism equals human privilege. We assign this (pro)noun to a living being who has so far been mostly considered a thing by our culture, conditioning, our human privilege.
Every day, our behavior is conditioned by human privilege and sadly, speciesism is the only discrimination which cannot be fought by the victims themselves. We have no choice than to constantly deconstruct our human privilege in order to give more « voice » to our non-human brothers and sisters. What we eat, like calling vegan meat, « faux meat » or « fake meat », is also speciesist in itself because it tells us that what non vegans eat is the norm when it is the anomaly. I address this a bit longer in a talk I gave in 2014.
The essence of the problem with human supremacy is that we have to destroy it in ourselves because, unlike other supremacies, this one cannot be fought by the victims as discriminated African-Americans or women might. This is the one battle which requires a true questionning of who we are as a species in regards to all others.
The good news is that the more we look at ourselves to destroy our privilege towards other species, the more we can evolve in our (un)conscious discrimination of other humans as well.
“One of the statements that depresses me most is when vegans who were long-time vegetarians say, “I just didn’t know.” As animal liberationists, it is our duty to make sure people know. It is our duty to speak the truth, confront injustice, [and] creatively work together to end the animal holocaust. Let’s bring the focus back to where it needs to be, on the animals.” ~ Gary Smith (June 23, 2012)
I am an abolitionist and yet I do what some would call “welfarist” campaigns or single issue campaigns like the anti-fur, anti-foie gras, anti-hunting, anti-bullfighting demos, etc. and of course vegan education. When I was living in the USA, talking pure Veganism was not that easy but at least people knew what the word “vegan” meant there. It’s not the same in France. We have “vegetarian”, « végétalien » (plant-based) and vegan(e) but the latter is still a word which brings wide clueless eyes from most people.
I started as welfarist many years ago, not knowing anything else, then discovered certain authors and became this absolutist who believed that only talking about veganism would create change and that everything else was useless. I still believe it is true with a few people on the street. But the big majority, even with the best arguments, don’t want to hear about pure veganism in the first place.
Coming back to France, I had to come to the realization that vegan education only wasn’t yet possible but that taking any opportunity to bring it into the conversation within the context of a seemingly “welfarist” campaign worked better. In fact, our campaigns are indeed single-issue but you won’t find an activist here who wants bigger cages, or less fur or just no meat. You will find activists who want a total abolition of any animal exploitation. We just try to tap into people’s psyches any way we can to bring them to at least be open to discuss more and go further.
And it works. The association I volunteer for (among others), l’Association Végétarienne de France (The French Vegetarian Association – I hate the name obviously) doesn’t have any vegetarian recipes on its website. It does promote a 100 % plant based diet from a nutritional perspective. This is not an animal rights association in the usual sense (even though it also addresses ethics and the environment and everyone in it is mostly there for ethical reasons), it is more about nutritional educati
on. As a holistic vegan health coach, I found a way to use my learning in order to also bring ethics and environmental issues into the discussion.
The absolutist approach is something I am tired off. It can work on a few people but to say that some single issue campaigns are a waste of time is denying their usefulness when they are done right. From my experience doing many single issue campaigns in France now (and in the US), I found out that it is easier to approach people with one single issue and then engage an intelligent dialogue which brings to the vegan dialogue because I noticed that they can get overwhelmed rapidly and turn away even faster.
As any vegan activist who’s been “on the field” knows, I have found those who don’t want to hear anything and just mock the very idea of being vegan or just anti-speciesist. We’ve all been there. But I found more people being in fact open to discuss veganism, through way of a seemingly single issue campaign, than when I did pure vegan education on the streets.
And believe me, I never thought I would reach this point of view after many years of being convinced by the absolutist argument. The fact is that now, more and more news programs on television discuss the meat issue or even Veganism and vegetarianism in France. The growing vegan movement in France is palpable and we’re riding on a new wave.
What made this change possible? I believe that it is the number of events organized not only around veganism (as L214 or the Association Végétarienne de France and FUDA do) but also all the other campaigns showing the reality of animal agriculture and the (sadly) growing fast food industry (thanks McDonald, KFC and others!). When we show footage of the cruelty of foie gras to some people, I often hear from them that they are going vegetarian or even vegan already. People get it. And it’s not being absolutist which brought them here; it is one thing after another.
Some are touched by the cruelty of foie gras, others by the cruelty of the fur industry. Others are worried about their health or the environment. Whatever made them “tick” and triggered their empathy in the first place and reach new conclusions is something which matters. I don’t know many vegans who went vegan immediately. Most (including myself) did it gradually as they learned more and felt less and less the challenge of changing difficult (and it’s not the easiest thing still in France or even some parts of the USA – not everyone lives in L.A. or New York).
So I am basically tired of the so-called welfarist versus abolitionist arguments. The only welfarists I can’t approve off are those who want to regulate slavery, care only about dogs and cats, not those who use single issue campaigns with an abolitionist goal.
I showed a French news report on the growing vegan trend in France and the fact that L214 is doing “vegan places” all over the country. One person’s response (in a US group) was “pfff L214, they’re just welfarists”. I was thinking: « Can’t you just be glad that veganism is on NATIONAL news and in PRIME TIME and that it is growing? You have to complain about an organization because it doesn’t meet your perfect criteria? » Yes, it’s true that they are partly welfarists in the sense that they want better regulations on certain issues but no other organization here does more to promote Veganism everywhere yet. I don’t and will never agree with the welfarist part but it has the advantage of showing the reality to a blind population. They also do an enormous amount of undercover investigations which just got a slaughterhouse in the south closed down just recently and was seen as a scandal all over French newspapers and Television. Should I therefore push L214 under the bus because they’re not perfect? I might as well push all the sincere activists under the bus because none of us is the “perfect abolitionist” according to some people’s books, which is probably 99% of us.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the abolitionist theory of anti-speciesism and I agree with most of what abolitionists write. But besides criticizing and trashing others (as some of them who I won’t name do but that all activists I’m sure can name on Facebook), I don’t see much action done based on their approach. However, I see a lot of people who don’t waste their time trashing others and do some great work at educating people any way they are able to because they don’t waste their time arguing with others and actually do something! Usually, they don’t spend much time on Facebook. That is not a coincidence. The loudest critics are the ones doing the least.
None of us are perfect. And frankly, instead of throwing stones at each others, we should start having a good look at ourselves as humans and do some inner work. We are all different; we all came to Veganism in various ways (as I noticed by listening to various interviews on AR Zone over the years as an example). So how can we pretend that one way is better than another? I got people to go vegan by first approaching them about their health, others it was the environment, others yet, it was just an issue like the violence of the fur industry. We don’t know what may make people suddenly re-discover their empathy! All we know is that we want them to get to Veganism and therefore anti-speciesism. And it’s possible any of these factors can do it. I met enough people who proved this rule to me.
However, staying vegan is NOT about diet, is NOT about the environment, it is FIRST about the animals and then everything else.
When we fail is when we don’t teach them the main reason to do it in the end. But let’s open all the doors which can bring them to the vegan conclusion.
As a famous expression says: all paths lead to Rome. So it can be true that all paths can lead to Veganism as well.
Photos: March Against Speciesism – August 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland
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.
– 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!
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. Sources:
– 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.
– Jo-Anne McArthur’s extraordinary work can be seen in the movie The Ghosts in Our Machine. The movie can be bought in « instant watch » on Amazon.com and her book We Animals is a must read.
Photo: I am holding Chloe the Hen at the Gentle Barn Sanctuary in California (2013).
The fascinating 2013 documentary called « L’adieu à la viande » (Farewell to Meat) about the consumption of meat in Europe (from Franco/German channel Arte) not only approaches the issue of eating flesh from an environmental aspect but also from the idea of the masculine psychology behind it. Just like American men, European men are conditioned to think that meat makes them strong and more masculine. It is the same old patriarchal thinking that is behind capitalism (from the Latin capita = head) and animal agriculture as well documented by Dr. Will Tuttle in The World Peace Diet.
I have had this blog on my mind for quite some time. But I finally decided to write it because I see something that really bothers me just continuing.
I always considered (particularly after reading The World Peace Diet) that Veganism was not just about other animals in the literal sense but also about including everyone from the human community. After all, we are animals too.
But what I tend to see when I browse through Facebook or other social networks is a lot of anti-religious hate from vegans not only towards pre-vegans but also, and particularly, towards other vegans because they follow a particular faith.
I am a former atheist. I understand the point of view of an atheist and for clarification, I haven’t embraced any new faith. However, I do see things from a different, more spiritual, so to speak, perspective. I do not like being ridiculed by religious pre-vegans because I am a vegan and it doesn’t agree with their beliefs anymore than anyone else. I get it!
I also get why vegans reject religion. All religions, even the most peaceful ones, have some really nasty sides to them. But that is dogma. In other words, it is interpretation.
What I regret is that people who attack vegans and pre-vegans because of whatever faith they have miss out on the opportunity of educating and showing a different vision of their faith.
Another example is that beautiful documentary shared by Will Tuttle recently (who is featured in it as well as French Vegan Monk Mathieu Ricard) called Animals and The Buddha which also shows a vegan perspective of Buddhism worth sharing with those in their community who think differently. I even shared it on the Dalai Lama’s pages in the hope that this would open his own perspective.
Now I wish I could find a Christian or Muslim movie from a vegan perspective but that may yet happen. After all, there is a Christian Vegetarian Association (which also supports veganism) and a Muslim Vegetarian Association which I found both exist online. I know vegan Muslims as well as vegan Christians as well as atheist or agnostic vegans and so on. We all share one thing in common, regardless of beliefs, we love other animals and we want to spare their suffering. That is ALL that should matter.
I also want to point out that I work with activists here who are Muslims AND Vegans. Do you think we care if we are from different cultural/religious background? We don’t. We work for a common goal.
We are all on the same boat. We try to enlighten our own communities within our cultural/religious frameworks. And let’s face it, if you’re atheist and believe that religion is going to disappear overnight, you’re delusional.
All I am asking is that, instead of criticizing someone’s faith or lack thereof, we give people a vegan alternative within their own conceptual view of life. Who can pretend to know more than anyone else about life and death? To think that we or anyone else have the answers is just ego at work. The only things we know are that we have one planet, we are one species and we have to protect other species from the insane side of humanity. And this is not going to work as long as people see only the outer limits of others instead of encouraging common grounds and offering a different perspective (of faith for example) as the two movies above do.
Veganism is about inclusion and compassion. It is not about division and hate. When vegans despises pre-vegans and vegans alike because they don’t agree on the same things, they just bring even more hate in this world.
Instead of wasting their time doing this, they should realize that we all belong to the same human family and that we are all born with compassion in our hearts. Hate, sexism, religion, racism and speciesism is not something we are born with, it is something that is taught to us… just like eating other animals. Let’s extend this vegan principle of love and compassion to those who need to be enlightened, not cast them out because of our own prejudices against them.
So next time, you hear someone of faith ridiculing you about being vegan, why not ask them to watch a documentary or give them information about people who do vegan education in their own community. Not doing it is missing the point of our message and missing the chance of maybe having another new vegan join our family.
I see the work of saving other animals as I see a relationship with a soul mate. It is at once a bliss and a trauma. Being in Love with THE one is the most extraordinary event in one’s lifetime and very few people in fact can attest to having this ultimate connection with one person. It is beyond the senses and most people never move beyond just the physical and emotional aspect of a relationship and just navigate blindly from relationship after relationship without ever really finding what they’re looking for. They have not made that soul connection which makes everything else redundant and a waste of time.
Helping other animals also feels like the ultimate blessing and connection because it gives a sense of going beyond one’s ego and committing the ultimate act of selflessness for the voiceless. This is a true test of our deep compassion and ego-less love for others.
I am blessed with both in this lifetime. I both consider a particular human my soul mate (although a blind one), the one that totally completes me; and everything I do for other animals is my calling. In both cases, this is the ultimate blessing, happiness and meaning of one’s life.
But it can also be a curse. In case of loving someone, if the person has not reached the same level of awareness and sees in you what you see in him (or her), betrayal and pain also reach the highest dimensions. In the case of other animals, I feel a sense of deep sadness and pain as well knowing that I can’t save them all.
I have PTSD from previous traumas in my life. And just like one of my heros, the extraordinary animal photographer Jo-Anne MacArthur, I share with her the experience of having been traumatized (although not by the same situations) but having come up on top no matter what and still believing I can make a difference for a particular human being and all non-humans as well. I continue to give all that I have because I have faith that things and all beings can evolve.
When you love someone with all your heart, soul and mind, you also open the door in yourself to loving all living beings with the same depth. And the reverse is true. Everything is connected.