INTELLIGENCE OF THE HEART

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It always strikes me as odd that, otherwise educated people, can be so ignorant (or indifferent) about the plight of animals or human beings in misery. It is as if being educated makes you intolerant and ignorant instead of intelligent. But it is also true of non-educated people. It then brings the question of what is real intelligence.

First of all, intelligence has nothing to do with education or lack thereof. That is intellectual baggage. Real intelligence is from the heart, the kind that opens to others without prejudice, hate and bigotry. You can be the most educated person in the world but be the worst bigot, hateful person there is. You can also be a vegan and call other vegans « names » (as it happened to me recently because of one misunderstanding).

Intelligence is not about having an encyclopedic mind full of data (often useless, like what year such and such war started?) but is about opening up to new ideas, theories, and ask questions and more importantly not accepting blindly what is being taught to us.

Non-intelligent people think they know everything and often disguise it behind either diplomas, ego or false humility. The masses, often ignorant and blissfully (or not) manipulated by the media display non-intelligence and ignorance based on cultural dogma for which education, the medias and corporations have a great deal to do with.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: « He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. » And he also said: « Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. » And he wasn’t referring to education through corporate media obviously. But Jefferson himself, of course, was a product of his time, as would his slaves had testified and he never claimed to be perfect or right in everything.

Life is a constant re-examination of our knowledge. It is not acquired by accumulating information mindlessly (as if watching reality shows and Fox News equaled intelligent information). Our intelligence develops when we open our hearts enough to embrace everyone, even the worst of the worst and do everything we can to help them, not to do evil things of course, but to improve and heal from their sickness.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: « To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. »

As society is trying to constantly mold us into robotic zombies, it is good to remember a few things:

We are not born with hate, bigotry, the desire for animal flesh or their secretions, sexism, racism and speciesism and even violent tendencies. That is injected into us over and over and over again by the propaganda machines that we and our parents and our grand-parents, and so on, have heard for thousands of years. Therefore we are far from wise, not because we don’t have wisdom in ourselves, but because it is deeply suppressed and repressed by ourselves and others.

The depth of humanity’s non-intelligence as well as intelligence is highly visible nowadays. Just spend a day on Facebook and you will see it all: from loving, caring people rescuing animals and helping the poor to deeply sick people who have secret Facebook groups on bestiality and display it in living colors (I am currently involved in trying to shut down one of these). We see people moving you with words of kindness as well as hateful people (vegans included ironically and sadly) bashing others because they don’t fall into their criteria of what THEY consider acceptable (or vegan enough). Who made them intellectually superior? God? The Blair Witch? Who?

Intelligence of the heart is about questioning not just the world but, most importantly, ourselves…. every single day. If someone has a negative reaction towards you, don’t ask what’s wrong with him/her. Ask what’s wrong with yourself. Because when you really are deeply centered and kind and have a strong message, it is hard to argue against it. Of course, they will try but you already planted seeds in them. And, for the record, I’m not saying here that I am always successful. In other words, I constantly work on myself to be better to the best of my abilities (and I consider myself still highly selfish). There are very few people in the world I truly consider intelligent (in their heart). Intelligent people are not those who put themselves on a pedestal as if they were superior to others, they are the opposite. They are usually the most humble (case in point, the most intelligent man I know in our time: Dr. Will Tuttle).

Juddi Krishnamurti once said: « There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. »

Intelligence is also not about punishing but helping. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world (with only about 5% of the world’s population). Does it help stop violence? Of course not. If it did, America would be the safest country in the world. Opposite to this, there is the example of Norway. Norway’s longest penal sentence is 21 years (even for rapists or murderers). They have one of the highest standard of living in the world. Their prisons look like summer camps (obviously isolated so they don’t escape). What do they do? Instead of treating even violent criminals like dirt and humiliate them, they help them getting safely re-inserted into society as productive contributors. Norway has one of the lowest rate of recidivism in the world. By the way, it also has the lowest crime rate in the world. Coincidence? I think not.

But this is not a new idea. Native American nations like the Iroquois Confederacy understood that. In fact, the US Constitution was greatly inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy (little conveniently ignored fact not taught in US schools). Women, in fact, made the most important decisions. In the meantime, white Europeans (while thinking the Iroquois had good ideas) denied white women, African Americans and other people of non-white descent and white men who didn’t own property the right to vote.

Iroquois had their murderers too. How did they deal with them? Did they lock them up? No. They considered someone who committed a crime to be sick and they helped him/her accordingly. If the person could not be healed/cured, that person would be banished from the tribe. In the 21st century, we still lock people up in solitary confinement and we wonder why they commit crimes again? We lock up mentally disabled people, teenagers, non-violent offenders, a majority of them African Americans. And then, when they get out, we tell them, sorry, you’re not a citizen anymore (even though you spent 40 years in prison and paid your sentence) therefore you can’t vote and participate in society anymore (let alone find a job). And then there is capital punishment (banished in France since the 1970’s but still considered « useful » in some parts of the US). That is not intelligence, that is a mentality which has its base in the dark ages.

It is also interesting and not surprising to note that, contrary to common white myth, most native tribes of North America (with a couple of exceptions like the Inuits and the Apaches) were eating a mostly plant-based diet before the Europeans showed up on their shores. In order to demonize others and take what they have, you have to depict them as blood thirsty monsters. In fact, as documented by Choctaw Native American author Rita Law, the bulk of the diet of most Indians were plants. Dr. Law talks about her own native culture in this way:

« More than one tribe has creation legends which describe people as vegetarian, living in a kind of Garden of Eden. A Cherokee legend describes humans, plants, and animals as having lived in the beginning in « equality and mutual helpfulness ». The needs of all were met without killing one another. When man became aggressive and ate some of the animals, the animals invented diseases to keep human population in check. The plants remained friendly, however, and offered themselves not only as food to man, but also as medicine, to combat the new diseases. « 

Ironically, that is exactly what is happening in our time. We fulfilled the creation myth of the Cherokee people (and of course we can find a similar creation myth in all religious and spiritual societies of the world, the Bible most notably).

This is also well documented by Dr. Will Tuttle in his article What Did American Indians Eat, Actually? As Will explains beautifully:

« What I continue to discover is how far from reality are many of the “official stories” that we tell ourselves and teach our children. They are stories that serve a specific purpose, which is to justify the existing order, and they are passed on effortlessly and subconsciously, because they make us all comfortable in believing, in this case, that our current practice of enslaving and slaughtering huge numbers of animals for food (75 million daily in the U.S. alone) is somehow a normal and natural expression of who we are as human beings. It is no accident that we term native cultures “hunter-gatherers.”

But intelligence, in the case of animal abusers, is also understanding why they have become that way. I researched and wrote extensively about this in my article Link Between Violence to Animals and Humans: A Deeper Look. But to summarize what I say in that article for the purpose of this one, we live in a society that teaches us to disconnect from our inner compassion from birth. It starts by convincing us to eat animal foods and their secretions while we « pet » cats and dogs. So we create this schizophrenic mentality of loving some species of animals on one side and hate others at the same time by consuming their bodies. We then start this cycle of mental instability that follows us into adulthood. In other words, we live in a sick society and none of us are immune, whether you call yourself vegan or not. As Khrisnamurti once said: « It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. »

People who abuse children have often been abused themselves as children. People who abuse other animals often have also been abused as children and dealt with their sense of powerlessness by abusing someone even more defenseless than themselves: other animals. If this is not taken at the root, this is carried into adulthood.

So let’s learn to really listen intelligently to others. « So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. » ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

As Vegans we carry huge burdens: we know what is being done to other animals, the environment and the health of human beings. But what we generally ignore is what has been done to ourselves. Until we remove these roots (of intolerance, bigotry, sexism, hate, ego and so on) from our own sub-conscious, it will be very hard to really move the world in the right direction. We have an extraordinary opportunity to save all beings and the eco-system on this planet. So I am asking you? What do you do about saving yourselves from your own shortcomings and become the example you want others to follow?

Photo courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com (Free stock pictures)

Sources:

Thom Hartmann on the Iroquois: « The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child » (extract from his book)

See also this video of Thom Hartmann on the Iroquois: Iroquois Confederacy

Will Tuttle: What did American Indians Really Eat?

Rita Law, Ph.D. : Native Americans and Vegetarianism

Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko (about the Health Care system) is online. Unfortunately, the segment about Norway was deemed too « radical » for American audiences compared even to the segment about France and therefore does not appear in the theatrical release but is included on the DVD of the movie in the special features. The version linked here is subtitled in Spanish.

Obligatory reading: The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle, which beautifully and clearly explains the roots of our culture.

© Vegan Empowerment/Véronique Perrot – December 2014 – All Rights Reserved – No printing without permission but sharing is encouraged.

Farewell To Steak: Film Review

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The fascinating 2013 documentary called « L’adieu à la viande » (Farewell to Meat) about the consumption of meat in Europe (from Franco/German channel Arte) not only approaches the issue of eating flesh from an environmental aspect but also from the idea of the masculine psychology behind it. Just like American men, European men are conditioned to think that meat makes them strong and more masculine. It is the same old patriarchal thinking that is behind capitalism (from the Latin capita = head) and animal agriculture as well documented by Dr. Will Tuttle in The World Peace Diet.

Read more on The Flaming Vegan

VEGANISM IS ABOUT INCLUSION

love-538685_1280I have had this blog on my mind for quite some time. But I finally decided to write it because I see something that really bothers me just continuing.

I always considered (particularly after reading The World Peace Diet) that Veganism was not just about other animals in the literal sense but also about including everyone from the human community. After all, we are animals too.

But what I tend to see when I browse through Facebook or other social networks is a lot of anti-religious hate from vegans not only towards pre-vegans but also, and particularly, towards other vegans because they follow a particular faith.

I am a former atheist. I understand the point of view of an atheist and for clarification, I haven’t embraced any new faith. However, I do see things from a different, more spiritual, so to speak, perspective. I do not like being ridiculed by religious pre-vegans because I am a vegan and it doesn’t agree with their beliefs anymore than anyone else. I get it!

I also get why vegans reject religion. All religions, even the most peaceful ones, have some really nasty sides to them. But that is dogma. In other words, it is interpretation.

What I regret is that people who attack vegans and pre-vegans because of whatever faith they have miss out on the opportunity of educating and showing a different vision of their faith.

For example, a few years ago, I saw a wonderful documentary called A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the Planet which, being non-Jewish myself redefined Judaism to me from a different perspective.

Another example is that beautiful documentary shared by Will Tuttle recently (who is featured in it as well as French Vegan Monk Mathieu Ricard) called Animals and The Buddha which also shows a vegan perspective of Buddhism worth sharing with those in their community who think differently. I even shared it on the Dalai Lama’s pages in the hope that this would open his own perspective.

Now I wish I could find a Christian or Muslim movie from a vegan perspective but that may yet happen. After all, there is a Christian Vegetarian Association (which also supports veganism) and a Muslim Vegetarian Association which I found both exist online. I know vegan Muslims as well as vegan Christians as well as atheist or agnostic vegans and so on. We all share one thing in common, regardless of beliefs, we love other animals and we want to spare their suffering. That is ALL that should matter.

I also want to point out that I work with activists here who are Muslims AND Vegans. Do you think we care if we are from different cultural/religious background? We don’t. We work for a common goal.

We are all on the same boat. We try to enlighten our own communities within our cultural/religious frameworks. And let’s face it, if you’re atheist and believe that religion is going to disappear overnight, you’re delusional.

All I am asking is that, instead of criticizing someone’s faith or lack thereof, we give people a vegan alternative within their own conceptual view of life. Who can pretend to know more than anyone else about life and death? To think that we or anyone else have the answers is just ego at work. The only things we know are that we have one planet, we are one species and we have to protect other species from the insane side of humanity. And this is not going to work as long as people see only the outer limits of others instead of encouraging common grounds and offering a different perspective (of faith for example) as the two movies above do.

Veganism is about inclusion and compassion. It is not about division and hate. When vegans despises pre-vegans and vegans alike because they don’t agree on the same things, they just bring even more hate in this world.

Instead of wasting their time doing this, they should realize that we all belong to the same human family and that we are all born with compassion in our hearts. Hate, sexism, religion, racism and speciesism is not something we are born with, it is something that is taught to us… just like eating other animals. Let’s extend this vegan principle of love and compassion to those who need to be enlightened, not cast them out because of our own prejudices against them.

So next time, you hear someone of faith ridiculing you about being vegan, why not ask them to watch a documentary or give them information about people who do vegan education in their own community. Not doing it is missing the point of our message and missing the chance of maybe having another new vegan join our family.

Committing Genocide to Celebrate Another Genocide

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I don’t think I’ve ever know a more ridiculous holiday than Thanksgiving in my life either in my country of origin or in the US and Canada (or any countries that I know off).

The American (and Canadian) people sit down at a table with their families to gives thanks for something which is more like a fantasy while stuffing the corpse of a turkey’s behind (and I am being polite). Millions of these poor animals are killed all year long but particularly on this holiday and for most clueless Americans, this symbolizes some form of sick psychosis un-related with the original Thanksgiving.

The most ridiculous part of this sick holiday is probably the « pardon of the turkey » by the president. And what exactly are turkeys guilty of? Wanting to live? I wander if Dennis Kucinich (who was the only vegan in Congress), had he become president, would have refused to participate in this grotesque insult or took it as an opportunity to deliver a message of compassion for the fate of these animals. We will never know because, unfortunately, he was not chosen to run against the Republicans.

But let’s not also forget that it is a total insult to the first people of the Americas: Native Americans & First Nations (as they are called in Canada) who were brutally slaughtered, pillaged, raped as soon as the first white people showed up on the continent they lived on. If the pilgrims were around today, they would be called Jihadists!

So, I want to be thankful for only one thing: the fact that more and more people are aware of the cruel irony of this holiday for both the animals and the people who were massacred.

But I wish one thing: either someone renames this holiday « Honor Native Americans Day (and the turkeys) » or that this ridiculous gluttony be finally abolished as something that should never have been celebrated in the first place.

If you still decide to « celebrate » this lie, please do it the Vegan way and join many vegans in North America who chose to eat WITH the turkeys and not the turkeys themselves and give thanks for being Vegans.

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Photos: Courtesy of http://www.Pixabay.com

© Copyright VeganEmpowerment/Véronique Perrot – Nov 2014 – All Rights Reserved. No republishing allowed without permission – Sharing is encouraged!

VOTE VEGAN!

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There is a huge debate within the Vegan community as to whether it is a good thing to support non-vegan businesses that offer vegan options or not. There are, I believe, two possible situations with this issue, which may appear contradictory. But read on.

As some of you know, I was born in France, then lived in Los Angeles, California for over 17 years and became vegan there. Being vegan in a big city is so easy. You have tons of vegan restaurants, you can easily find whole foods that you can prepare at home etc… What I noticed, however, is this tendency from some vegans to believe that by supporting non-vegan businesses that have one vegan option, they are encouraging them to promote veganism more. I would like to point out a few facts:

  1. If you purchase from a non-vegan company, you will likely buy from a giant corporation who makes millions or billions of dollars which they use to continue to kill more animals. Do they also need money from vegans?
  1. Several people have reported that companies, like Chipotle for instance, have given them « vegan options » which in fact had animal flesh in them. It happened to me as well a few years ago at another non-veg restaurant when I ordered a vegan burrito and got one with chicken in it. So much for your vegan option.
  1. Why is it that the Animal Advocacy Museum in Los Angeles can obtain free food from Veggie Grill or good discounts for large happenings while a big (supposedly vegan) festival like WorldFest hires El Polo Loco, a large animal killing corporation, to feed its volunteers? Why not make a deal with vegan chains like Veggie Grill or Native Foods which truly support veganism and instead settle for an animal killing industry? This still baffles me and I find it very disappointing and a betrayal for the animals we pretend to defend.
  1. If you think your vegan option at Chipotle (or other non-veg place with one « vegan dish ») is vegan, think again. Do you really believe that they cook your food on a separate grill than the one used to grill animal body parts? Your food is certainly contaminated and as I pointed above, the chances that it contains what you don’t want to eat are high.
  1. Vegan businesses are usually owned by small entrepreneurs who want to do the right thing. When I was in Los Angeles, I tried to support the L.A. Vegan Crepe, whose owners are not only ethical vegans but do bunny rescues. In other words, they had no life. I created movie/dinner events there to encourage our community to support them instead of supporting their local Burger King (because it has a vegetarian burger). As vegans, isn’t it the right thing to support our own first when they are the ones struggling the most to do the right thing? Or is it just because some vegans, still conditioned by mainstream non-vegan thinking, choose convenience over doing the right thing?

Now, my opinion on this is finite when it comes to big cities like Los Angeles which have all the vegan convenience we can get. There is no excuse to do otherwise.

The problem is that not everyone lives in Los Angeles. Some of you live in small towns or villages where there is absolutely nothing. But should you support non-vegan businesses?

One approach in this case, is to encourage them to offer what big cities have: more vegan choice. I also wish there were more courageous entrepreneurs in these places who tried to bring the vegan message to their local places by creating 100% vegan businesses. But we have an economic crises all over the world and I understand that starting a vegan business is extremely hard. That is why the L.A. Vegan Crepe (and a few others) eventually closed down, not just for lack of support from vegans themselves but because it was a very hard and brave thing to do in the first place.

The second approach is to start your own whole foods vegan delivery system and stop relying on your local businesses to provide for you. You can also find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the US which supports local small farmers (which is better than a giant corporation). In Europe, we have tons of farmers’ markets with local produce.

Get your butt in the kitchen! Cooking is an art that is getting lost and a lot of vegans choose the junk food route (which is not healthy in the long term) instead of reconnecting with their food. You can find vegan cookbooks everywhere to help you. Even in small towns, there is always a veg section in bookstores and at least one vegan cookbook. If I can find them in a small pro-bullfighting French city like Nimes (France), you definitely can!

When I moved to France in August, I discovered there were nearly no vegan products on the market unless I lived in Paris (or another big city), which has several vegan restaurants. (I am not counting the abundance of fruits, vegetables, and so on) but I also realized that I needed to encourage local businesses (not big corporations) to see the bigger picture and see what their advantages were at increasing or changing their businesses to more veg-friendly outlooks.

They are very aware of the millions of tourists visiting France each year. Paris is the most visited city in the world for instance. Nimes is famous for its Roman buildings and therefore attracts a lot of tourists from England and Germany (which we know have more vegetarians and vegans).

In France, a lot of local small businesses still flourish and I am not talking about giving money to giant corporations (aka giant killing machines). I therefore connected with Happy Cow and started visiting my local businesses to show them that there is worldwide demand for veganism/vegetarianism and I found out that they were in fact excited to be included and offer a choice to vegan customers. The more we encourage them, the more some of them and new ones may in fact turn to a 100% vegan way of living.

That is the situation for small places where there are no vegan restaurants or businesses easy to find.

How about voting at the booth for the people who really matter. Dennis Kucinich (who is known as the only – now former – vegan congressman) had a bid for being chosen as the candidate for the democratic party in the 2004 election. But what did vegans (and others) do? Instead of voting with their conscience (and it doesn’t have to be Kucinich, it can be anyone you really feel strongly about), they voted for the lesser of two evils as usual (or as Michael Moore, who is becoming more vegan each day according to Victoria Moran, once said « the evil of two lessers »).

According to this article on the Raw Food World website (16 Millions Vegans and Vegetarians in the USA), we have 16 millions vegans and vegetarians in the USA. If these 16 millions voted with their conscience now instead for settling down for the status quo, we could have sent a strong message to the fascists who control us all.

Think about it and stop settling down for that lesser of two evils and actually join together to make your statement. The worse scenario that can happen is that the majority will still vote for the idiots but that more people who vote for the alternative will be heard.

In France, when we are not happy with something, we strike. Our government is scared of us. In America, people are scared of the government (to quote what an American woman living in Paris said in the movie Sicko by Michael Moore).

Isn’t it time that we really vote the right way? Let’s vote with our wallets first. That is our biggest power. There are places where I can find vegan products and I found them and that is my vote. When I was in Los Angeles, I voted by supporting vegan only businesses because they need our help to stay, non only in business, but to inspire others to do the same. In small places, it is about creating more awareness so the options increase and it eventually inspires some people to go all the way.

The choice is yours today. Make it the right one.

Picture: courtesy www.Pixabay.com

© Copyright VeganEmpowerment/Veronique Perrot – November 2014 – No republishing allowed unless permitted. Sharing is encouraged.

FIGHTING FOR OTHERS KNOWS NO COUNTRIES

Yesterday, I joined my first ever anti-bullfighting protest in the South of France (Rodhilan, near Nimes and Montpellier) and I had my first taste of what it is to get « lacrymogene » gas (aka tear gas) in the face (several times). I haven’t met such a group of dedicated people so determined to break the barriers held by the police and take the risk of arrests, gassing, being searched, etc… ever. I was searched myself twice and tear gassed at least 4 times. It was truly inspiring. Getting tear gassed is a very unpleasant experience and anyone who has had that kind of experience knows that this is something you would rather avoid. However, anyone who is truly dedicated at making clear the barbarism and perversity of some people can’t avoid taking risks sooner or later.

Some of my (new) friends in fact, had got into an arena the day before in another city and got bit up and yelled obscenities at by « aficionados » (bullfighting fans) because they dared trying to interrupt their sadistic torture of sentient beings to death. My heart goes out not only to the poor animals who were tortured to death (and absolutely for nothing at all as the law in France forbids the consumption of bull meat if killed for bullfighting) but also to the activists who risked literally their lives. Some ended up at the Emergency Room.

I have not been in that situation myself but I am not afraid of taking risks for the right reasons. It is a small price to pay to try to open up the eyes of the blinds, brainwashed crowds. I am principally a vegan educator and found out that for a lot of activists in France, it is rather difficult to maintain a Vegan lifestyle. I don’t judge them. I understand their position. I have managed personally because of my long term experience in the United States where everything is easier. Had I never left France, I might not even be Vegan at all now, I’m almost certain of it. There is still a deep programming related to food in France because of our deep culture in and around the world for our « cuisine ». In America, people tend to eat whatever they feel like. In France, they eat around very specific, deeply engrained and old traditions around food and that are a lot harder to change. But I also met people who are dedicated vegans and are doing the best they can (as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau would say).

I can’t wait for The World Peace Diet to come out in the libraries in French soon (and it’s coming!) because my aim is going to be promoting Veganism to the best of my abilities. This is a country that is what America was in the 90’s when it comes to Veganism but I see no reason why this can’t change and I see real hope for change from having talked with various activists.

After the demo was over, I spend the evening with a few people in a place which is very much like a sanctuary with horses, goats, etc and it was wonderful to see and share my experience in the United States with them. They have a huge thirst for more education and activism here and they even grow their own organic fruits. One was cooking vegan sausages! which, yes, you can definitely find here if you know where.

There are dedicated activists here but not all of them have yet connected all the dots or are still deeply indoctrinated into nutritional myths around food (even more so than Americans). Vegan education is therefore deeply important here.

To all my new friends and old friends alike (in the US), have faith in the ability of people everywhere to change and grow. I do.

Here is the link to the album of pictures of yesterday’s Anti-Bullfighting fight. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152520843218138&type=1&l=e59458e664

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Being a Vegan and an Animal Rights Activist in France: Difficult but Exciting

I promised my friend Carol Glasser that I would start my first blog from France with this line and I stand by it: « If you think being vegan in Los Angeles (or any other big American city) is difficult, you don’t know what you’re talking about! »

I moved back to France in July after over 18 years in the United States, mostly Los Angeles and ended up in the south of France, land of Bullfighting and Bull meat. You may wonder why I would pick such a location where you find no Vegan or even Vegetarian restaurants to eat out (although I heard of one in Montpellier) and the vegan food in supermarkets (or should I call them mini-market compared to what we have in the US) is almost non-existent, unless you count REAL food like fruits, vegetables, beans, etc… and not convenience junk vegan food. My friend Arlo Toews (of Viva La Vegan Grocery in Los Angeles) told me that it would give me an excuse to eat better since junk food would be rarer. I have to say he was right! I lost 10 kilos at least (not sure what it is in pounds).

My reasons for leaving the US are multiple and not the subject of this particular blog. But my first few weeks were, to say the least, rough. I had to re-adapt to the culture (which is quite different from Los Angeles), get back in the system, etc… I didn’t have a place, so no way of cooking, and had to rely on eating fruits, raw vegetable sandwiches and prepared foods like carrots, beets or tamale salads and baguettes (aka bread), which are about the only vegan prepared foods I found so far in stores besides soy yogurt and plant-based milks.

But what I found is that it is possible to be vegan anywhere, no excuse. In Los Angeles, we count at least 80 fully vegan restaurants in the entire county! Vegans in Los Angeles are so spoiled that when I now think of the excuses some people make for not being vegan there, I just want to give them a piece of my mind or just laugh at their ridiculous excuses.

As an activist and vegan, I felt totally isolated my first month in France. Where do I find other like-minded people who share my values. Fortunately, back in 2011 at the Los Angeles Animal Rights Conference, I met a French activist, my good friend Joelle Verdier and she happened to live in Montpellier which is about 25 minutes from Nimes (where I now live). As soon as she found out I was back in France, she was excited to have me join the activist groups she runs here in the south.

What a thrill it was then to be invited to join a peaceful and silent demo in Montpellier as part of the International Campaigns against vivisection with about 130 French activists dedicated to the cause of abolishing any form of animal experimentation.

France has a long way to go when it comes to Veganism but it does have strong, dedicated and passionate activists ready to take strong stands and even dangerous ones (check out anti-bullfighting videos like this one http://youtu.be/JvEp4EOIrxY). I have met some incredible activists in the US but I can definitely say that their French counterparts are incredible as well.

I look forward to the future and to more activism and helping to create a more humane France and I will forever be grateful to all the activists in the US who brought me to Veganism and Animal Rights. Without them, I might never have taken this road.

See this link for pictures of my album of the Montpellier anti-vivisection action here:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152475836003138.1073741872.754328137&type=1&l=2adfe41043

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The View from Within: Becoming a Witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

~ Patrice Jones

 

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

 

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

 

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Photos by Véronique Perrot

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

Why Being a Judgmental Vegan Doesn't Win Hearts

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One of the most disturbing or annoying trend I see in the Vegan community is people who judge non-Vegans for not being Vegans (or Vegan enough) or falling off the wagon. I have struggled with this issue then came around that situation just tonight while surfing Facebook groups.

In substance, someone in a group said he tried to be Vegan for 30 days but was confronted by Vegans whom he felt very turned off by and he decided to go back to his pre-Vegan days. As soon as he announced it, he was then called words like « douche » and so on. As soon as I noticed what was happening, I jumped on the bandwagon and asked him to contact me so I could talk him into changing his mind. And he did!

We have to understand that not everyone is where we are. As Vegans, our mindset has been changed either recently or long ago by what we have learned about other animals, their suffering, diet, the environment. And obviously our perspective is one of bigger awareness. But not everyone is there yet.

After talking to this man, he recommitted to try Veganism for another 30 days. He comes to it from a health perspective and, obviously, Veganism not being about diet, it ruffles some feathers for some of us. But this man is obviously willing to learn and expand his awareness and he should be encouraged and not trashed because he has not reached our level of « Vegan awareness ». What good is it to turn him off? Every small step is a good step. Let’s cultivate this newly found awareness and help him expand his.

In 2011, I became a Holistic Vegan Health Coach because I realized that a lot of people looked at Veganism as a diet primarily and were scared (by all the disinformation in the media) about their health if they went Vegan. I started getting the usual questions when doing Vegan outreach like « where do you get your proteins? » and so on. In my early days of being vegan, my diet was a junk Vegan food one and I had no answers for them. I decided that it was important to reach people where they are and slowly expand on their current mindset by slowly introducing new ideas and new concepts as well as reassuring them about their health.

Some people will never get to Veganism through animal rights first. So what? It doesn’t mean they can’t get there eventually. I found this to be true for everyone I coached first from a health perspective.

When we open to people, but don’t judge them, we quickly make them feel encouraged to learn more.

Being Vegan is not about being judgmental of others. It is about expanding awareness in any way that works for the people we are trying to reach in order to get them to grow. After this man talked to me, he regained his enthusiasm for the lifestyle and started posting information about Vegan programs in his area! So anything is possible if we put our egos to the side.

We can do so much better and really walk the talk if we are who we say we are: kind, compassionate, aware and willing to grow ourselves. Veganism is indeed about other animals, but we are animals too and when we have to change too. When we do, we become better equipped to change others.

 

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

© Copyright May 2014 – All Rights Reserved. Printing by authorization only.

Illusion of Greatness

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I am often struck by the degree of arrogance I see in people around me. Of course, I am not immune to these moments of ego trips about myself but I recognize that this should not rule my life. Arrogance is a form of selfishness, it boasts itself as the answer to the emptiness found in some people. It disguises itself as charitable and compassionate as well.

The cause of helping either other animals or human animals is a noble cause but it is not meant to be taken on by boosting one’s ego. Nobility of heart is by essence humility and kindness, not arrogance and ego. I see too much of the latter unfortunately in both human and non-human rights movement.

I am reminded of this great lines by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

« If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. 

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song. If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, Then my living will not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, If I can spread the message as the master taught, Then my living will not be in vain. »

These words, although spoken in regards to his work on behalf of humans and with a deep religious faith, are applicable in the context of our work on behalf of other animals, whether we are religious, spiritual, agnostic or atheist. They speak of humility and courage. They speak of our own calling to make the world a better place.

There is too much ego in the Vegan/Animal Rights movement. In fact, there is nothing about wanting to save other animals which warrants an ego trip. It is a normal and necessary work we have to do, not a reason to feel like we are special or superior to others. When egos stand in the way, no real progress ever happens. But when it is replaced by a deep desire to put egos aside and do the work we are called for, real progress happens which awakens many sleeping minds around us.

Already, we can see it with a few visionaries like Will Tuttle, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and others, who have the courage of taking a non-judgmental position of compassion and loving kindness towards everyone, including the ones most against us. Their message reaches and transforms a lot of people.

We don’t change minds by brutalizing the minds of others and by being arrogant and self-righteous. We change minds when we own our truth with peace and compassion to all. Then more people want to embrace what we have.

If more of us understood that message, we would deeply transform our planet.

May all hear their calling with humility and truth.

 

Photography by Veronique Perrot

© Copyright May 2014. All Rights Reserved. Printing by authorization only.