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.
© 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
So, once again, I am writing about a new traumatic event. I once before talked about the events with Charlie Hebdo from January 7 in a previous blog and that was tough enough. First I must say that I was very moved by all the friends from abroad who reached out to me privately to make sure I was ok. And I was very touched by comments worlwide. Even Stephen Colbert stopped being funny and showed clear emotions of shock.
In my previous blog about Charlie, I quoted Joe Randazzo of the Onion:
“This will be framed by many as the latest salvo in an ongoing war between the West and Islam, when what this really amounts to is the slaughter of innocent people. These murderers don’t represent anyone but themselves, their own twisted view of reality. They don’t stand for an entire religion anymore than the Westboro Baptist Church stands for an entire religion or the Ku Klux Klan stands for an entire race.”
On Friday November 13 (and they say Friday the 13th is bad luck – sic), the whole world was mourning the attacks in Paris (but also in Turkey and Beirut just the day before!). I saw things happening live on my television set, watching people trying to escape from the Bataclan hostage massacre and imagining the same with animals in slaughterhouses. And just like with Charlie Hebdo, not just humans died, a dog also lost her life.
The irony of it was that the day the attacks happened, part 1 of my interview with Vegan Nation was broadcasted and I was talking about our speciesist society and the importance of the vegan revolution. I had done the interview for both parts of the interview (Nov 13 and Nov 20) on the same day.
On November 15, I wrote this Facebook status: “Is it any wonder that, in a patriarchal world where men only believe in the might makes right mentality and deny Sophia (to use the term from Will Tuttle), that wars and terrorism happen? As long as Sophia is repressed, this will continue…”
A few days after the attack, I received a phone call from Marlene at Vegan Nation asking me to redo some of part II of the interview in the context of the Paris attacks and linking it to the cause of turkeys on Thanksgiving. I was caught by surprise, still in shock and my emotions clearly were transparent in the interview. But my mind was also clear about the meaning of this all.
There is a disease in our imperialist cultures whose name is capitalism (from the latin Capita for “head” of animals), a patriarchal mindset which seeks to impose our views by bombing and invading other countries. This alone radicalizes people (mostly men again who themselves oppress women in their countries) and makes them hate us. Is this surprising? Unlike the animals we slaughter or just exploit, they do retaliate and learn to hate. Animals generally don’t. (If you know of a cow coming at you with a Kalachnikov, please let me know).
I think Thom Hartmann (who is now vegan apparently and one of my all time favorite journalist) said it best on his show: “Western Militarists are Doing Exactly what ISIS Wants” and he continues with “France is Giving the Terrorists Exactly what they Want!” comparing it to W’s response after 9/11.
The award winning independent journalist (and also a vegan favorite of mine) Chris Hedges talks about what would happen of the United States if this was to occur:
“Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States will extinguish what remains of our anemic and largely dysfunctional democracy. Fear will be even more fervently stoked and manipulated by the state. The remnants of our civil liberties will be abolished. Groups that defy the corporate state—Black Lives Matter, climate change activists and anti-capitalists—will be ruthlessly targeted for elimination as the nation is swept into the Manichean world of us-and-them, traitors versus patriots. Culture will be reduced to sentimental doggerel and patriotic kitsch. Violence will be sanctified, in Hollywood and the media, as a purifying agent. Any criticism of the crusade or those leading it will be heresy. The police and the military will be deified. Nationalism, which at its core is about self-exaltation and racism, will distort our perception of reality. We will gather like frightened children around the flag. We will sing the national anthem in unison. We will kneel before the state and the organs of internal security. We will beg our masters to save us. We will be paralyzed by the psychosis of permanent war.”
And what he says is exactly true about France as well as I have already seen and predicted. Teachers are being silenced, environmental and animal rights activists can’t be on the streets to defend their causes. But strangely enough, hunters and animal exploiters, as well as music venues etc… are allowed to continue business as usual. Coincidence? I think not. A state of emergency gives the government what it wants and more…
A journalist from Charlie Hebdo also said: “Radical imams should be kicked off from France, it’s the least we can do. They have nothing to do in France. They treat France as they treat women.”
Although it’s a statement I can agree with, it doesn’t solve the problem of a society that is inherently speciesist and sexist. The root of the problem, our exploitation of (mostly) female animals, which leads to the exploitation of women and this growing monster that is Daesh (or ISIS), with their institutionalized rape of women (they are sex slaves in their views) and our ever increasing military complex is never addressed. They enslave women as we all enslave female animals and rape them. How can we expect to have peace on Earth when billions of sentient beings are raped, tortured, mutilated and slaughtered EVERY SECOND!
I couldn’t help seeing the cruel irony of the situation in Paris. One minute, people were just drinking, eating animal corpses (I doubt many were vegetarian, let alone vegans), having fun with their lives, the next they were slaughtered by insane people.
But we created all this. We always reap what we sow. When you have disenfranchised communities (economically) and countries invaded with displaces millions of people as we see in the migrant crisis in Europe, is it any wonder that we sooner or later, violence to them brings us violence at home?
“We have to ask ourselves questions about the model of integration and education. It would be simpler to accept if the attacks were coming from people outside of the country. Before they were jihadists, they were French kids. The response has to be from the educational and social perspective. And that’s a lot more difficult than security.” ~ Louis Bernard
“Today, many Muslims still live in shoddy public housing on fringe areas of cities and feel disenfranchised. They face higher unemployment rates and uncertainty about their futures. About 19% of immigrants in France, all nationalities included, were unemployed in 2014 compared with 9% of French citizens, according to statistics agency INSEE.” Qz.com
In the same manner, we kill billions of sentient beings just for food alone each year and, as Will Tuttle would say, it retaliates against us with increased social violence, social problems like depression, mental diseases, health issues, etc…
The attacks in Paris, Turkey and Beirut are no different from the violence we commit towards other animals and other humans every second of the day. When you open your television set and see only speciesist commercials, movies and “infotainment”, you can’t expect to have a just society in which people are caring, socially responsible and humane. We are taught the exact opposite from the day we are born.
War is not the answer. It never was. But it’s an excuse for the “disaster capitalism” Naomi Klein often talks about in her book The Shock Doctrine. It allows the powers that be to create chaos (or profit from chaos) to impose an agenda. President Hollande’s speech after the attacks reminded me shockingly of President Bush’s speech before the invasion of Iraq. The similitude was scary. And the propaganda machine is en route, the repression of peaceful social activism is also underway. Many cities have banned gatherings whether for peaceful protests or otherwise. And now, our president even wants to violate human rights. Having lived through 9/11 and after while in the United States and the consequences on civil liberties, I have enough objectivity (unlike most French and Americans then) to see what is happening under our noses.
“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” right?
We need more than ever to have vegan communities which truly value compassion, kindness, sharing, helping others, and of course respecting other animals in order to counter the violence that is created in the world. Without this benevolent vegan revolution, the world of humans will self-destruct. I don’t think this would be a bad thing for the Earth and the other sentient beings.
As Captain Paul Watson once said to a journalist on Fox News (or as I call it “Fix News” to quote Thom Hartmann): “Worms are more important than human beings. They don’t need us, we need them; bees don’t need us, we need them.” Humans are not essential to the planet at all. They behave like viruses. And viruses have to be eventually destroyed.
If we want to survive as a species (do we actually want it?), vegan education is the key to our survival and the survival of all that lives. We can only fight hate with love, not with more hate that fuels insanity. We can only fight poverty, hunger, climate change, animal exploitation with a benevolent, kind vegan revolution in which all of us are united and kick our damn egos to the side.
As the excellent blog ActiveVeganDotorg rightly pointed out recently, we are all “Jehadi Johns” unless we truly act on the real meaning of veganism and spread non-violent education.
“When we start to consider terrorism from a species equality level and point of view, there really is no difference when butchering a human as there is to butchering a nonhuman – apart from law. The unethical act of it is just the same. It is only that the law supports human lives as by far more relevance to nonhuman lives and effectively of higher value in terms of life. Nonhumans are viewed as mere things, chatel property. objects, that influences the shock factor in terms of terrorism. […] All of these people, these so called ‘terrorists’ who take lives for their own apparent reason, simply have no moral concern for life. They do not believe that what they are doing is morally wrong – they simply see things differently to the average person who believes in nonviolence. They justify their violent action in the name of what they believe to be right. They lack nonviolent education, respect for life, for those who matter, for those who want to live.”~ Activevegandotorg
We need to, as Will Tuttle pointed out, to truly embrace “Deep Veganism” and stop fighting among each other for shallow reasons. As long as we continue to fight among activists over silly things even though we agree on the essential, violence wins, non-human and human animals as well as the Earth lose.
As Will beautifully said: “Deep veganism arises in us as a heart-felt aspiration to embody loving kindness in all of our relations with others, both human and nonhuman. It emerges as a sense of vast inclusivity. We realize that people who are not yet vegan have been wounded by pervasive cultural programming that has in many ways shut down their natural wisdom and compassion from birth. We see that we have all be wounded by the meat rituals and our culture’s food program that desensitizes us and breeds exclusivism, elitism, disconnectedness, commodification, competition, and self-centeredness. Deep compassion begins to grow in our hearts for all living beings and our interconnected suffering. We begin to yearn more than anything to embody the liberating truth-essence of veganism in every thought, word, and action.”
If Vegans don’t learn to get passed their imperfect egos and anger and educate others about a non-violent society FOR ALL (including among themselves), no one else ever will.
I will end on this beautiful quote from Chris Hedges’ article on TruthDig:
“Violence generates counterviolence. The cycle does not stop until the killing stops. All that makes us human—love, empathy, tenderness and kindness—is dismissed in wartime as useless and weak. We revel in a demented hypermasculinity. We lose the capacity to feel and understand. We pity only our own. We too celebrate our glorified martyrs. We endow our sanctified dead with the lofty virtues and goodness that define our national myth, ignoring our complicity in perpetuating the ceaseless cycle of death.”
© Copyright November 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
“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 education. 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
© Copyright October 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
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
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