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.
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.
This is true intersectionality.
*”It” is a pronoun when it is used to design something even a dog as in the article here: “Is the Word “It” a Noun?”
Photo: “Junction”, courtesy http://www.Pixabay.com free photos
© Copyright June 2017 – 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
Amazing what you can still find on social medias these days. You can see wonderful things happening in the vegan world with people who start vegan businesses, rescue animals, create sanctuaries, help others change. And then you see all sorts of ugly comments from “vegans” who find nothing better than to bitch about the world and all humans.
So human bashing is the new vegan? apparently. I found comments like these:
“I must have missed the letter informing me that now veganism is about humans. Also the one saying that all your words will automatically count as actions.”
” Veganism isn’t about the humans. You could be the biggest asshole ever, like a full blown right wing, homophobic, sexist, racist POS and still be vegan.
And no, joking about wanting to smack a screaming kid on a plane or whatever, doesn’t make you a psychopath. You’re clearly not a psychologist or you wouldn’t throw that word around.
So in other words… Get over it.”
Ouch, really lots of anger out there in the “peaceful, compassionate” vegan world. Strange though that vegans forget that humans are animals too and that in fact, the human factor is also indicated in the definition of veganism:
Interesting also that these “vegans” don’t get that everything is interconnected on this planet: sexism, racism and speciesism all derive from what Will Tuttle calls our “herding culture” which is about domination and oppression of not just animals but also human beings. Not getting that is seriously missing the big picture. But of course, that implies READING and learning, which more and more vegans don’t seem to do.
In my early days as a vegan (about 10 years ago), I was that angry vegan lashing out at everyone for anything. In other words, I was angry at everyone for not being vegan LIKE ME. Wow, was I ready to punch someone over their stupidity for not understanding the message.
But then several things happened to me:
Finally someone had the courage to tell me: “well what the fuck were you before being vegan anyway?” That one got me thinking that I had blood on my hands just like 99% of all human beings on this planet before I went vegan. In fact, I was attacking the messengers (people) instead of attacking the message (the cultural programming). What made me realize the later was Will Tuttle’s book “The World Peace Diet”.
We all go through stages as vegans. In fact I discuss this various stages in another blog I wrote a few years ago: THE VARIOUS STAGES OF TRUE VEGANISM: From Anger to Making Peace. So I won’t repeat them here. But in essence, whether we are vegans or not, we are all products of our cultural conditioning. Being angry is just a carry over, although a normal one when faced with animal cruelty, of our previous lives as pre-vegans.
Something remarkable happened when I decided to kick my anger out the door. Suddenly people were open to talk to me. I was finally creating change around me. People were expressing interest in my views because I was smiling and doing my best to be kind to them. It was the difference between “hey jerk, stop eating corpses” with responses like: “vegans are all jerks, I’ll just eat my steak” and “I know how you feel, I used to think like you” followed by “Oh, really? what made you change your mind” and opening a real conversation without judgment.
As another example, recently a nice man in a wheel chair approached me while I was participating in an anti hunting/fur/leather demo in Montpellier (southern France). Whatever you think of single issue campaigns is a debate for another day, but I learned to find them useful (I didn’t think so before) for also injecting a vegan message into conversations with people. That man told me he approached me because he had seen me before (doing other demos in the same location) and because I was always smiling and being polite to people (even when I didn’t necessarily felt like it). So he found his courage and decided to talk to me and ask me about my vision of life. We talked about veganism and animal rights for about half an hour. At the end of the conversation, he was left with a very positive vision of activists and vegans in general and a desire to change his lifestyle. What would have happened if I had talked to him circa 2008 when I just wanted to punch people and treat them like crap for not being vegans?
So dear angry vegan, all I want to say is that, yes I hear you, I understand you but frankly, it’s time to grow up and really be what you want to see in the world instead of lowering yourself to the level of those we fight against for the animals’ sake.
Not only will you feel better about yourself and life in general, but you will learn how to better address people by not shooting the messenger but counteract the message. Because, unless you were born and raised as a compassionate vegan, these people are or rather should be the former you. So you can either carry over the ugly message of the dominant culture and act like it, or show a new way of being which is truly compassionate, kind and life changing.
One final note: I really don’t care what other people think of me. I only care about what I can do to help change things for non-humans and humans alike, as well as the planet. But it seems that some are into it first for their egos (me me me me me me) more than helping others. So be it, but this will not help change the world from selfish to compassionate. So feel free to vent your anger on me if you’re one of the people I described above. I couldn’t care less. That will just prove my point.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com: free photos
© Copyright December 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
Recently, as I was watching Democracy Now!, I listened to the released tape of Donald Trump making typical sexist remarks about women with Billy Bush (W and Jeb’s cousin) back in 2005. The revealed audio tape goes as this:
UNIDENTIFIED: She’s still very beautiful.
DONALD TRUMP: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down in Palm Beach. I moved on her. And I failed. I’ll admit it.
DONALD TRUMP: I did try and [bleep]. She was married.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s huge news there!
DONALD TRUMP: No, no, Nancy. No, this was—and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture—I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her; she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
BILLY BUSH: Sheesh, you girl’s hot as [bleep]. In the purple.
DONALD TRUMP: Whoa!
BILLY BUSH: Yes!
DONALD TRUMP: Whoa!
BILLY BUSH: Yes! The Donald has scored!
DONALD TRUMP: Whoa!
BILLY BUSH: Whoa, my man! Wait, wait, you’ve got to look at me when you get out and be like—
UNIDENTIFIED: Just remember who set this up. Just remember.
BILLY BUSH: Will you give me the thumbs up?
DONALD TRUMP: That is very funny. Look at you. You are a pussy.
BILLY BUSH: You’ve got to put the thumbs up. You’ve got to give the thumbs up.
UNIDENTIFIED: You can’t be too happy, man.
BILLY BUSH: You’ve got to give the thumbs up.
DONALD TRUMP: All right, you and I will walk in.
BILLY BUSH: Oh, my god!
DONALD TRUMP: Maybe it’s a different one.
BILLY BUSH: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s her.
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, that’s her, with the gold. I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
BILLY BUSH: Whatever you want.
DONALD TRUMP: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
BILLY BUSH: Look at those legs. All I can see is the legs.
DONALD TRUMP: Oh, looks good.
BILLY BUSH: Come on, shorty.
DONALD TRUMP: Ooh, nice legs, huh?
BILLY BUSH: Oof, get out of the way, honey. Oh, that’s good legs. Go ahead.
DONALD TRUMP: It’s always good if you don’t fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford. Remember?
BILLY BUSH: Down below. Pull the handle.
DONALD TRUMP: Hello. How are you? Hi.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Hi, Mr. Trump. How are you? Pleasure to meet you.
DONALD TRUMP: Nice seeing you.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Pleasure to meet you.
DONALD TRUMP: Terrific. Terrific. You know Billy Bush?
ARIANNE ZUCKER: How are you?
BILLY BUSH: Hello. Nice to see you. How are you doing, Arianne?
ARIANNE ZUCKER: I’m doing very well. Thank you. Are you ready to be a soap star?
DONALD TRUMP: We’re ready. Let’s go. Make me a soap star.
BILLY BUSH: How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Would you like a little hug, darling?
DONALD TRUMP: OK, absolutely. Melania said this was OK.
BILLY BUSH: How about a little hug for the Bushy? I just got off the bus.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Oh, Bushy, Bushy.
BILLY BUSH: There we go. Excellent. Well, you’ve got a nice co-star here.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Yes, absolutely.
DONALD TRUMP: Good. After you. Come on, Billy. Don’t be shy.
BILLY BUSH: As soon as a beautiful woman shows up, he just—he takes off on me. This always happens.
DONALD TRUMP: Get over here, Billy.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: I’m sorry. Come here.
BILLY BUSH: Let the little guy in here. Come on.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Yeah, let the little guy in. How you feel now? Better?
BILLY BUSH: It’s hard to walk next to a guy like this.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: I should actually be in the middle. Here, wait. Hold on.
BILLY BUSH: Yeah, you get in the middle. There we go.
DONALD TRUMP: Good. That’s better.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: This is much better. This is—
DONALD TRUMP: That’s better.
BILLY BUSH: Now, if you had to choose, honestly, between one of us—me or the Donald—who would it be?
DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know. That’s tough competition.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: That’s some pressure right there.
BILLY BUSH: Seriously, you had to take one of us as a date.
ARIANNE ZUCKER: I have to take the Fifth on that one.
BILLY BUSH: Really?
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Yup. I’ll take both.
DONALD TRUMP: Which way?
ARIANNE ZUCKER: Make a right. Here we go. Right on The Days.
BILLY BUSH: Here he goes. I’m going to leave you here.
DONALD TRUMP: OK.
BILLY BUSH: Give me my microphone.
DONALD TRUMP: OK. You’re going to—oh, you’re finished?
Donald Trump, being his usual “open self”, actually did a favor to women everywhere by revealing what a lot of men say behind closed doors, behind their wife’s or girlfriend’s backs, and by showing how patriarchy is still very much embedded in our culture. It is not surprising really, as Carol Adams pointed out in her preface to the Twentieth Anniversary of The Sexual Politics of Meat, mentioning Susan Faludi’s The Terror Dream about Rudy Giuliani (who strongly supports Trump):
“As Susan Faludi shows in The Terror Dream, after 9/11 the media hyped John Wayne-like masculinity, Superman-like male powers, and the hypervirility of rescuers and politicians. Thus we learned that, after the World Trade Centers fell, the first meal Mayor Giuliani wolfed down was a sandwich made of “meats that sweat”. Where there is (anxious) virility, one will find meat eating.”
But Trump is not alone of course. A few months ago when actress and activist Pamela Anderson showed up with Captain Paul Watson in the French senate to oppose Foie-Gras and the destruction of the ocean, all the sexist politicians rose up to the occasion, first to get their pictures with her and then to make the most sexist and speciesist comments. Because the two don’t function without each other, I noted two of them in particular which I translate here:
These guys, whatever their country of origin have all the same thing in common. It doesn’t matter where they’re from, they are male (usually white) and they flank their patriarchal entitlement which oppresses women and non-human animals.
Trump speaking of “pussy”and “legs” is similar to those calling a cow’s or a hen’s body parts “breasts”, “legs”, it’s about reducing women or non human animals (mostly female animals since the animal industry wouldn’t exist without their reproductive abilities) as consumable. As Carol Adams says it very well in her preface:
“The process of viewing another as consumable, as something, is usually invisible to us. Its invisibility occurs because it corresponds to the view of the dominant culture. The process is also invisible to us because the end product of the process – the object of consumption – is available everywhere.”
What Trump and the French politicians did was shine a light (not willingly obviously) on the rampant unspoken subjects of our cultures, the patriarchal entitlement over women and animals. Animal agriculture, as Will Tuttle perfectly demonstrated in The World Peace Diet, was started by men about 10,000 years ago and the oppression of women with it.
Trump did us a favor by (unwillingly) exposing also the hypocrisy of others. Let’s not forget that he says openly with his sexism what most Republicans (and a lot of Democrats) say behind closed doors and wouldn’t admit publicly. When vice-presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence squared off in their only debates and were asked about their religions, abortion and women’s reproductive rights in general was put to the forefront of the discussion (again by two white males who think they know better than women). Green Party’s vice-presidential nominee, Ajamu Baraka, called them “sexists”. No wonder, both Republican and Democratic parties exclude third party candidates, they might say a few truths.
The oppression of women is more subtle than Trump’s overt sexist speeches, politicians use laws to restrict women’s control over their bodies. For instance, after Texas voted very restrictive abortion laws, over half of the clinics closed down. And for those who think that would support the anti-abortion side, according to the The Atlantic, “Between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women between the ages of 18 and 49 have tried to end a pregnancy by themselves, according to a pair of surveys released Tuesday by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a University of Texas-based effort aimed at determining the impact of the state’s reproductive policies.”
Patriarchy treats women as children incapable of making their own decisions about THEIR bodies. These laws, whether you agree with them or not, are made by mostly white older males who think they know better than women what women should do about their reproductive lives. What we do to non-human females is the same: we control their bodies for reproduction in order to perpetuate the same old system of slavery.
And some women are complicit within the patriarchal system. Hillary Clinton is very much pro-war, another male invented concept which has always been about obtaining resources (including women, land and animals). As part of the Clinton Foundation, Hillary didn’t denounce the fact that women within it are paid less than men. And of course, when women consume the bodies, milks and eggs of female animals, they are also participating in the sexual politics of meat.
Everything is connected and Trump’s disgusting behavior had the merit to open some discussion around at least sexism.
Texas Women Are Inducing Their Own Abortions – The Atlantic
Pamela Anderson & Paul Watson – On n’est pas couché 23 janvier 2016 #ONPC
Donald Trump picture, courtesy Pixabay.com, free photos stocks
© Copyright October 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
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
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.
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