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.
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.
DONALDTRUMP: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down in Palm Beach. I moved on her. And I failed. I’ll admit it.
DONALDTRUMP: I did try and [bleep]. She was married.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s huge news there!
DONALDTRUMP: 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.
BILLYBUSH: Sheesh, you girl’s hot as [bleep]. In the purple.
BILLYBUSH: Yes! The Donald has scored!
BILLYBUSH: 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.
BILLYBUSH: Will you give me the thumbs up?
DONALDTRUMP: That is very funny. Look at you. You are a pussy.
BILLYBUSH: You’ve got to put the thumbs up. You’ve got to give the thumbs up.
UNIDENTIFIED: You can’t be too happy, man.
BILLYBUSH: You’ve got to give the thumbs up.
DONALDTRUMP: All right, you and I will walk in.
BILLYBUSH: Oh, my god!
DONALDTRUMP: Maybe it’s a different one.
BILLYBUSH: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s her.
DONALDTRUMP: 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.
BILLYBUSH: Whatever you want.
DONALDTRUMP: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
BILLYBUSH: Look at those legs. All I can see is the legs.
DONALDTRUMP: Oh, looks good.
BILLYBUSH: Come on, shorty.
DONALDTRUMP: Ooh, nice legs, huh?
BILLYBUSH: Oof, get out of the way, honey. Oh, that’s good legs. Go ahead.
DONALDTRUMP: It’s always good if you don’t fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford. Remember?
BILLYBUSH: Down below. Pull the handle.
DONALDTRUMP: Hello. How are you? Hi.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Hi, Mr. Trump. How are you? Pleasure to meet you.
DONALDTRUMP: Nice seeing you.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Pleasure to meet you.
DONALDTRUMP: Terrific. Terrific. You know Billy Bush?
ARIANNEZUCKER: How are you?
BILLYBUSH: Hello. Nice to see you. How are you doing, Arianne?
ARIANNEZUCKER: I’m doing very well. Thank you. Are you ready to be a soap star?
DONALDTRUMP: We’re ready. Let’s go. Make me a soap star.
BILLYBUSH: How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Would you like a little hug, darling?
DONALDTRUMP: OK, absolutely. Melania said this was OK.
BILLYBUSH: How about a little hug for the Bushy? I just got off the bus.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Oh, Bushy, Bushy.
BILLYBUSH: There we go. Excellent. Well, you’ve got a nice co-star here.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Yes, absolutely.
DONALDTRUMP: Good. After you. Come on, Billy. Don’t be shy.
BILLYBUSH: As soon as a beautiful woman shows up, he just—he takes off on me. This always happens.
DONALDTRUMP: Get over here, Billy.
ARIANNEZUCKER: I’m sorry. Come here.
BILLYBUSH: Let the little guy in here. Come on.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Yeah, let the little guy in. How you feel now? Better?
BILLYBUSH: It’s hard to walk next to a guy like this.
ARIANNEZUCKER: I should actually be in the middle. Here, wait. Hold on.
BILLYBUSH: Yeah, you get in the middle. There we go.
DONALDTRUMP: Good. That’s better.
ARIANNEZUCKER: This is much better. This is—
DONALDTRUMP: That’s better.
BILLYBUSH: Now, if you had to choose, honestly, between one of us—me or the Donald—who would it be?
DONALDTRUMP: I don’t know. That’s tough competition.
ARIANNEZUCKER: That’s some pressure right there.
BILLYBUSH: Seriously, you had to take one of us as a date.
ARIANNEZUCKER: I have to take the Fifth on that one.
ARIANNEZUCKER: Yup. I’ll take both.
DONALDTRUMP: Which way?
ARIANNEZUCKER: Make a right. Here we go. Right on The Days.
BILLYBUSH: Here he goes. I’m going to leave you here.
BILLYBUSH: Give me my microphone.
DONALDTRUMP: 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:
« No silicon in my foie-gras »
« This is the Assembly, we’re not here for clowns and chicks. »
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.
In Shocking Tape Trump Boasts of Sexually Assaulting Women: « When You’re a Star…You Can Do Anything » – Democracy Now!
The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adam on her website
2016 is the year when either big change can happen or a huge opportunity will pass again. For the past few months, people have been discovering who Bernie Sanders is and he has generated a huge movement for change which is frightening the establishment candidates, the corporate media and their lackeys.
Bernie’s ethics and integrity are nothing new to me. I first discovered him when he was a guest each Friday morning on the now defunct Air America radio station on the Thom Hartmann program. Thom had a special segment called « Brunch with Bernie » which I never missed. That was my radio program to listen to during work (back in my corporate days in Los Angeles). Listening to Bernie each Friday was like having fresh clean air blowing in my face from listening to someone with sane politics and a strong integrity of heart.
After all these years, I am still astounded at the degree of political ignorance in the general American public and what is being done in their names. Americans are champions at voting against their best interests. When Americans still believe that Democratic Socialism is similar to the Soviet Union, I am in disbelief. I didn’t realize that all Social Democracies (like France, Germany, Sweden and others) were like the Soviet Union or that our own Communist party had so much power. In the early part of the 20th century, Socialism was not seen as bad thing however; Upton Sinclair, the author of the Jungle, was himself a socialist.
Bernie has not suddenly just dropped from a tree, he has been around and fighting for us for a long time. One of Bernie’s first job in his life was registering people for food stamps. Before he was a politician, he was first a social justice activist. In 1963, as a Chicago University activist, he was arrested for protesting segregated schools. He traveled to Washington for the famous Martin Luther King Jr « March on Washington ». In 1972, he was editing the Liberty Union Party newsletter « Movement » in which he was already talking about economic inequalities. In 1981, he was elected as Mayor of Burlington not long after Reagan became President and he kept getting reelected, proof that his brand of socialism obviously pleased people. In 1987, he was named one of the best mayors in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Then he went on the become the only independent in the Senate. And the rest, we mostly know. I just barely scratched the surface of Bernie’s bio.
Bernie is the one and only American politician who has never wavered from his beliefs in the little man, social equality and justice and his rejection of the greedy system. That is something he has done constantly during his 50 years of career. His current opponents have tried to grill him on issues like healthcare but they have failed because Bernie doesn’t flip flop on issues, he is constant.
Why does Bernie matter to a French Vegan like me?
In the past 30 years I have started noticing a slow but gradual degradation of the French social safety net. Unfortunately, in Europe, we have this tendency to always look towards the United States and import its worse aspects. We went from small farmers to American style industrial farming, from small traditional restaurants to McDonald’s, from mom and pop stores to large retail chains (we have the largest number of big malls in Europe) and our politicians have become corrupt neo-cons imitating their American counterparts (they all have money in Panama, right?).
Bernie reminds me of the old school politicians we used to have. They were strong social democrats, meaning they always stood up for the working class, the poor and against the greedy rich. A president Bernie would send a clear message not just to America but also to the rest of the world that good values are not hypothetical or utopic but should be the norm. A politician who is not corrupt and sold out to corporations, what a novel idea! And because we, in Europe, often look up to the United States (for better or worse, usually for worse), Bernie’s influence on the rest of the world would help remind not just Americans but Europeans too of what is at stake.
The French healthcare system is currently the best in the world (according to the World Health Organization) but it’s starting to be undermined from within by our neo-liberal politicians. The British National Health System is facing similar problems. This is all a result of neoliberalism. I want my healthcare system to not change, particularly after having tasted the American one for 18 years. Americans should revisit Michael Moore’s movie « Sicko » for a taste of European healthcare and they will realize that even Obamacare is terrible. This is a good movie to also revisit to see how Hillary went from supporting Universal Healthcare (like Bernie) to selling out to Big Pharma. Well, Bernie never stopped supporting healthcare for ALL. Of course, as Vegans, we are less likely to see doctors and end up in hospitals, but we are not immune to accidents and I would rather set foot in a hospital at low cost than with a huge bill.
Have you ever seen the classic Frank Capra movie gem « Mr. Smith Goes to Washington »? It’s one of those movies you want to be real. James Stewart is a young politician who is confronted to the corruption of Washington in the 1940’s (the movie is from 1939). If Frank Capra thought it was that bad then, I wonder what he would think now. Bernie Sanders is Mr. Smith, except older. But he shares with the Jimmy Stewart character the same characteristics of integrity and willingness to fight for the common man/woman. Bernie, just like Mr. Smith, also conducted a historic filibuster when he became Senator which lasted over 8 hours. Bernie’s historic speech is reprinted completely in the book « The Speech: on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class ». When Bernie did his 2010 filibuster, it was followed by so many that it crashed the Senate server! What was Bernie filibustering about? The deal between President Obama and the Republicans which would give more tax breaks to the rich. I rest my case.
Bernie is popular with young and old alike because he stands up for us all, not for the 1% as he has consistently done so for 50 years. He never changed his opinions to fit any party lines and that is why he has remained independent and, like a modern Elliott Ness, incorruptible.
Bernie Sanders is also not a war monger (which is not something I can say about Hillary or the Republicans) and has always believed that war should be a last resort. He has voted against the Gulf War war and the war in Iraq and history has shown that he was right. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who is not trying to make the Military Industrial Complex even richer while chasing oil in foreign countries. His Foreign Policy is based on diplomatic solutions, and not war as a first resort.
Is Bernie open to animal rights?
Yes, he is already opposed to factory farming. My friends at Direct Action Everywhere have already understood this by confronting him at one of his rallies just like the #BlackLivesMatter movement did (and to which he responded). I doubt Bernie would ever support ag gag bills and other anti-activist bills. On the contrary, he has always stood against big money which is what this bills defend. Bernie is already pro women, anti racist, pro-gay and pro-environment. He has voted against the Keystone XL-pipeline and fracking while Hillary was supporting both. He has voted against NAFTA and the TPP, and pretty much all the so-called free trade deals which are destroying jobs for the middle class in either the United States or Europe as well as hurting the planet and all life. Hillary, once again, was for them until she changed her mind because it was politically convenient for her to do so.
Bernie may not be Vegan, but he is the best candidate we have in terms of animal welfare. As much as I would like to see a Vegan in the White House (we had our chance with Kucinich in 2008 but people chose Obama), our humane candidates will never get as close to the White House as Bernie is doing right now. Therefore, we have to keep pushing him in the right direction. Bernie has consistently voted in favor of animal welfare: He is against commercial breeding, for applying some humane care to farmed animals (ok not perfect obviously but the others don’t even give a damn at all). He is opposed to cruelty towards animals in captivity or in the wild. He is also a strong defender of wildlife including the Endangered Species Act. And let’s not forget his strong environmental record.
As Bernie Sanders said, this is a revolution he can’t create alone. If he gets elected, we need to keep him accountable and keep pushing him to meet even greater expectations. He has showed that he could not be corrupted (50 years of proof!) and that he was willing to learn (as seen with the #BlackLivesMatter movement) but one thing is clear, he will always fight for the poor and the middle class, never for the rich and powerful. That is a constant record we need to keep in mind if we want to create a society of justice.
As Cesar Chavez connected the dots between social human justice and justice for non-humans, I believe Bernie could also eventually make the same connections but we have to have his back first! When people keep voting for the lesser of two evils, nothing ever changes. As Vegans, if we didn’t believe we could create a Vegan society, we would have given up a long time ago. So let’s not give up on this either.
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.
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).
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. »
I have to ask you: when did we become just pleasure dolls for men and forgot that our history, or should I say our HERstory is rich in great, intelligent and peace loving women who have been put to the side of humanity’s knowledge by the patriarchal rulers?
It first starts in our childhood. We are given Barbie Dolls, we dress them up, they wear makeup, and we make sure they get married to Ken because that is all that a young girl should apparently expect, make sure Barbie gets as much stuff in her home, because we are brainwashed to be consumers of useless crap and if Barbie was « born » today, she would probably get breast implants, facelifts, and surgery to make her buttocks bigger.
As the artist Daena Title said: « In my « DROWN the DOLLS » series, the formal compositions of refraction and reflection mirror the way women see themselves reflected and distorted, for better or worse (I believe for worse) in the image of the Barbie doll. Pervasive societal standard, indoctrinating tool, or « just a doll, » this 51 (and counting) year old icon presents a view of women that is as relentlessly fake as it is unattainable. »
The other way to know why it is so is to look at who controls the medias: 80 to 95% percent of all medias are controlled by mostly white men. » Our columnists are still overwhelmingly old white men. There are four times as many male columnists as female columnists at the three biggest newspapers and four newspaper syndicates. (The Washington Post has 25 men to 7 women, and The New York Times has 10 men to 2 women.) The median columnist age is 60, while the median age for the American population is only 37. » ~ Time
And it’s not just the media; it’s also the movie industry. Even actress Kristen Stewart recently called Hollywood sexist.
And of course men know women better than women themselves: « In media coverage of women’s issues such as abortion, birth control, and Planned Parenthood, men are doing most of the talking, a new study has found. Men are quoted around five times more than women in these stories, according to the research group The 4th Estate […] Among 35 major national publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent and organizations had 7 percent. « ~ The Daily Beast
And some people say that « male (mostly white) privilege » doesn’t exist? As Barry Deutsch points out in his Male Privilege checklist« Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to soldiers selecting male civilians to be executed, to male workers dying of exposure to unsafe chemicals – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also immeasurably harms boys and men. However, although I don’t deny that men suffer, this post is focused on advantages men experience. »
Do you also remember this great Howard Beal moment from the movie Network in 1976?
“We’re in a lot of trouble! Because you people and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than 3% of you people read books. Because less than 15% of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole and entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel. The ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers. This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people!”
“And when the largest company in the world controls the most awesome, goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network! So you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television’s a goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business.”
“But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! We are the illusion!”
What kind of women and messages are allowed on TV? People like Kim Kardashian, represent the worst of womanhood by using their bodies as a sexual tool and sending the message to other women (of course with the happy assent of men) that it is all that women are worth.
Is this what we have become? Sexualized constantly beyond any sense where we don’t even have any role models anymore for young women to emulate who represent the beauty, intelligence and ideals of most women? Is it any wonder that the rap culture calls women « ho« , « sluts », etc…? while young girls put on tiny skirts and dreams of having big breasts, big behinds and looking like Britney Spears, Kim and others like them?
One of my biggest wake up call, besides the World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams, on the state of how women are perceived and manipulated in our culture, is the documentary Miss Representation which interviews leading women (of all stripes and political views) about their struggle to be recognized as intelligent leaders and having to work twice as hard as men to achieve it.
During the last election campaign, any time Hillary Clinton (whatever you think of her) was appearing on television, the media was only interested in her looks, the fact that she liked wearing pants and so on. And they did similar non-sense to then Senator Barrack Obama with blunt racist remarks. When does it stop? How many (white) men you see criticized for their clothes or looks on TV? The media is made of ultra-sexists corporate owned old white males. And they hate change in society. So they control what we hear, see and think.
I found a wonderful blog by an unknown woman (she doesn’t identify herself in it) who said: « Although men who commit sexual assault are in the minority, their actions occur within the larger context of a culture that relentlessly commodifies the female body at every possible turn. From bikini contests to strip clubs to the use of supermodels to “sell” consumer goods, the message is clear: the female body exists for the sexual gratification of men. Thinking, breathing, feeling human beings are reduced, in our consumer culture, to a means to someone else’s ends. This hypersexualization of our bodies creates a tremendous amount of pressure on us to look and act sexy all the time, because we are told (implicitly and explicitly) that our primary measure of worth lies in our ability to please men. »
We can’t turn to the media without seeing this hypersexualisation/commodification of women’s bodies. There is nothing about their feelings, their intelligence, their inner beauty, and their aspirations. They are treated no differently than the cows whose bodies get abused and their babies stolen constantly. The fact that we see women getting implants for bigger breasts (because they now value themselves on the size of either their breasts or butt) mirrors what we do to cows. As Will Tuttle always says, « what we do to animals, we end up doing to humans ». But it could be also said that our treatment of animals mirrors how we value ourselves as human beings.
The women who get naked during PETA‘s actions are doing it « willingly » obviously but as the blogger above said, « And that’s exactly why it’s absurd to claim, as some do, that women can empower themselves by participating in their own commodification. Sure, the woman at the strip club ‘chose’ to work there. But that ‘choice’ was made in the context of a culture in which women do not have the economic resources that men have; in which she was taught, from a young age, that it is her job to please men; and in which the men who pay to watch her degrade herself have been taught, from a young age, that they are entitled to sexual privilege over women. Victim-approved exploitation is still exploitation. » It’s no more a freedom than claiming that we « choose » to eat meat, dairy and eggs. It’s exactly the same: a conditioned false « choice ». It’s a choice made before we were born by this male dominated world of might makes right.
Women like Eleanor Roosevelt who oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been relegated to the pages of history while the only examples of intelligent women (which we agree with or not) in our time are few and between and get ridiculed by the sexists of the world and constantly told to shut up. One example: Hillary Rodham Clinton took her husband’s last name because of social pressure to conform. As Rudy Moore of the New Yorker explains: « She did not do so much on the campaign trail that year. A woman was expected to smile, and not give speeches. And the name issue was in the forefront. »
Other important women include: Senator Elizabeth Warren, a strong advocate of the poor and working people, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a champion of seed rights, anti-GMO and women’s rights activist, Gloria Steinem, who always fought for women’s rights and the most recent Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, who fought for the right of girls to be educated. But what role models young girls and young women see constantly? None of them. Instead they get the « selfies » of Kim Kardashian, the rap videos of male singers with women drooling over them, the latest sex scandals, and why Oprah is suddently so fat. Yes, that’s what we give as role models to young girls in the male dominated media.
My current favorite peace activist woman at the moment is Leymah Gbowee (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) who started a sex strike to force men to act on the violence in her country of Liberia and managed to avoid a war. Nothing works better than threatening men with the one thing most of them care about: their sexual male privilege, or genitals’ use over women (hence the rates of rapes and subjugation against women in the world which are at an all time high).
In the vegan/animal rights movement, vegans are not immune to this male privilege and I found it to be pervasive in our movement. Yet the majority of these men (and women) don’t even see it. Our movement is 80% female. Yet the majority of animal protection organizations are controlled by men. PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk is one of the rare females who leads one but she buys into what I described above. I might as well ignore her on this.
The philosophers of the animal rights movement are plenty. But the ones always in the limelight (although justly) are mostly men: Gary Francione, Peter Singer, Will Tuttle, Tom Regan and a few others. Most of us have read any of their books, maybe all of them and they have accordingly influenced our thinking. Gary Francione and particularly Will Tuttle, talk about sexism or as Will refers to it « the suppression of Sophia » and recognize our feminine values of caring, compassion and inclusion should be at the forefront of this movement. Yet, despite all this, there are a number of men in this movement who still don’t see or recognize their male privilege in this society. That is the taboo they refuse to talk about.
As women (and men), we have to stop always accepting that only men can write about animal rights or vegan philosophy. And as much as I respect their work, some women deserve to be at the forefront as well. Shouldn’t we be represented by women as well since our movement is mostly female? I embrace the works of the men above but I wish more space was given to the recognition of all the women pioneers and those who fight in their corner of the world but get no credit. Men get the credit for the most part.
The vegan/animal rights movement is still based on the inequality of the current world where men still have all the privileges and power while women are relegated to just followers or even told to shut up. I had recent experiences with vegan men who basically told me that they knew better than me on certain issues. The message was clear: you’re a woman, so shut up. Well, no, that’s just it. I WON’T.
Women make the majority of people on this planet and we also live longer. Maybe it’s because we’ve had the endurance to bare all the bulk of violence from the wars and abuses of men over the centuries while they congratulate themselves on their achievements. The Nobel Peace Prize has only 47 women winners in its over a 100 year history. They give peace prizes to men who are war lovers: We know about President Obama but did you know that Hitler and Mussolini, themselves, almost got one? At the same time, women peace activists have been denied that honor for the most part.
In most war torn countries, the tactics of raping women (and children) are used to silence them. Even in the western world, most countries, even when they have equal pay for equal work laws for women, don’t enforce these laws. Yet, despite these statistics, there are still men in the animal rights/vegan movement who still deny that women have it bad in the world, believe there is no problem and turn the other way on the issue, the same way we currently don’t want to reconcile with the predominant racism as we’ve seen in the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Let’s not forget again that everything is connected. When you have millions of cows, hens and other female animals whose reproductive systems are being used and exploited forcefully, is it any wonder that we see it done to women too? It is not. Because we are not separate beings, we are all part of the same whole.
As long as some refuse to acknowledge that sexism (and even racism) exists in our movement and are unwilling to be part of a real, practical and just consciousness shift, nothing will ever really change. Animals will continue to be abused, women, men and children killed. Removing the blinders about the reality of the objectification of women and female animals is the next step to real justice in the world.
Personally, instead of women falling into the trap of being sexualized and used, I would love to see all of them start a sex strike around the world to force men to stop with their insanity. After all, we have control over that.
– The must see documentary Miss Representation: An overlook at the Hegemonic society that utilizes the media as a tool to dictate gender expression. This sets into motion the subordination of women in our society and the value that they hold as individuals politically and socially.
I have always considered the sexual act as something between consenting people (of whatever gender) who are mature enough. Indeed, you would probably find shocking the idea of adults having sexual desires for children and sometimes acting on them. We consider pedophilia an act of absolute sickness. But it may come as a surprise to think that some animal advocate do not apply the same principles when it comes to other animals.
In the past few months, I have been deeply involved with an investigator in looking into the zoophilia/bestiality issue (to expose people who abuse other animals sexually) and I have been horrified at not only what is being done to other animals but to see where some so-called « animal lovers » actually go in the way they think of other animals. I have seen pictures of dogs being raped and people commenting things like « it’s cute! ». I have seen people (in our movement) being asked about just sexual desire for other animals and not having any problem with it.
Zoophilia is all over the web (if you know where to look) and you can find tons of « secret » groups on Facebook devoted to people who get a sexual kick at watching men (and women) having sex with other animals. My research (with the investigator) has allowed me to witness some rather gruesome and disgusting imagery and in some cases videos that these people proudly display while they get cheered on by others.
What I also found out is that some of them masquerade as animal rescuers in order to get an animal as sexual partner. So if you run a shelter, a sanctuary or simply want to find a home for a rescued animal, you may not even know that your animal is going to get sexually exploited.
From a legal perspective, laws vary by countries and states but there are exemptions like this one (quoted from Wikipedia):
Sexual handling of an animal for the purposes of veterinary practice, or animal husbandry (breeding), is normally exempted where such laws exist. In public discussion for the recently passed Oregon law, however, one animal shelter’s spokesperson wanted the husbandry exemption kept out, as he was concerned that someone might use these « accepted farming practices » as a legal loophole to then have (legal) sexual contact with an animal only for personal enjoyment. One of the legislators responded by asking if they were trying to outlaw an act (of sexual contact), or a state of mind. The veterinary and husbandry exemption was left out of Oregon’s law in the final, enacted version.
We know for a fact that some farm workers in factory farms do sexually abuse animals. It has been reported by undercover investigators over the years and by authors.
But maybe it is necessary to explain a little more what science and psychology have to say. The difference between zoophilia (the term comes from the Greek, which means « animal lover ») and bestiality are, according to Wikipedia:
Zoophilia and the law looks at the laws governing humans performing sex acts on animals. Laws against humans performing sex acts on animals, where they exist, are concerned with the actual act, which it commonly refers to as bestiality, rather than the sexual attraction to animals. For this reason, prohibitions of zoophilic pornography is more varied; they may be unlawful if an actual sex act with an animal is involved, but the status is not clear cut if there is a mere representation, such as a painting or cartoon. In that case, normal obscenity laws will normally apply. All zoophilic imagery is widely regarded as pornography.
Some people seem to think that zoophilia is not and shouldn’t be an offence or be considered as a psychological disorder. However, let’s assume Wikipedia above referred to this in the case of children and most people would be horrified. There is, as is often the case, a double standard between how we treat human versus non-human animals. Therefore accepting just zoophilia is to me speciesist because no human (I hope) would agree that a man with sexual desires for children is a healthy mentally balanced human being.
In both the case of children and other animals, one party is non-consenting. What is shocking is to see famous authors (and philosophers) in our movement in fact defending it, like Peter Singer:
But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop. Soyka would presumably have thought this within the range of human sexual variety.
Mr. Singer forgets one thing. He would probably never say that about children. And yes the household dog sometimes grips the legs of visitors but there is a huge difference, the dogs can’t control their sexual urges, we can! And we have a moral obligation to do so because not doing so would violate an animal (as it would violate a child). And also, what does he know about a dog’s thinking anyway? We are supposedly moral animals who can choose what is acceptable or not. As vegans, we have an even better responsibility towards those at our mercy. Because a dog or a orangutan (he does quote the example of an orangutan making sexual advances to a woman) may not understand or see the difference between a human or one of his kind (even if we are closely related to apes). And, as I stated above, animals do not have the ability of controlling their sexual urges and are also probably (because of us) deprived of the necessary relief they would get with their own species in most cases. But then, not wanting to control sexual urges towards anyone is also what brings us damning statistics like the ones from the United Nations where we learn that at least one woman in three will get raped in her life. So maybe, humans (particularly men in this case) are not that good at controlling their libido!
In fact, psychology is clear about zoophilia:
[…] paraphilia wherein animals are recurrently favored or solely utilized to reach carnal arousal and satisfaction. The animal, that is generally a household pet or farm animal, is either utilized as the object of sex or is conditioned to lick or rub the human partner, called a zoophile. The most typically utilized animals are sheep and pigs, in rural settings.
As you can see in the definition above, the animals are « conditioned », therefore manipulated. This is not about the free will of the animal himself, it is about the selfish needs of humans.
Peter Singer also seems to suggest that something done through history is therefore acceptable. Then the same could be said about eating the flesh of animals, wars, slavery, and rape.
To accept the behavior of zoophilia (and therefore potential bestiality) in our movement is equivalent to the Church hiding pedophilia in its ranks for many years because it is politically incorrect. Why do we think it is a horrific act towards children but not animals? I have to ponder at the degree of speciesism still in the thinking of some people.
Michael Kiok, the president of the only (fortunately) official worldwide federation of zoophiles believes he is being persecuted by the German government for finally banning bestiality because he can’t have sex with animals anymore. Should I feel sorry for this pervert who abuses other animals for his own self-gratification?
The French author Franz-Olivier Gisbert, in his book « L’Amour est éternel tant qu’il dure » (Love is Eternal as long as it lasts) makes also the apology of bestiality and zoophilia. As someone noted on the commentary section of his book (on Amazon.fr):
This object in paper that I don’t dare calling a book is a firework of junk of all kinds. The author inflicts the poor reader who didn’t ask for much an exhaustive catalog of his sexual obsessions without notice except in Chapter 41 (if you get there!) where the charitable Mr. FOG (Franz-Oliver Gisbert) advises weak minds to go directly to [chapter] 44 to avoid the scenes of bestiality, which he seems to be a refined connoisseur. We reasonably can advise to read such opus whose title is deliberately misleading. Any honesty would add a cover band indicating that it is a text reserved for « warned » adults.
Some people (as I’ve seen in the case of Germany) go as far as having brothels so they can act on their sexual desires for other animals, which means that animals are brought in and definitely are NOT consenting to this. Where is even consent in having a sexual desire for an animal? Does a child have consent over the sexual desire for him by an adult? I leave that to the reader to decide.
From a health perspective, sexuality with other animals is linked to penile cancer. So in effect, someone having sex with a (non-consenting being) is also putting himself at risk. And let’s note also that exposing a child to acts of bestiality is considered child abuse.
What does the scientific community think of it? In a big clinical psychological study done on zoophiles (translated in English) by Marion Nasswetter, we find this:
The tenth version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, published by the World Health Organization (2008) and in short called ICD-10, categorizes the sexual human-animal contact under F65 –deviating sexual preference. If unusual sexual fantasies or sexual urges are focused on exceptional non-human objects, on children, on suffering or humiliation of the self or other persons, then the condition may present an adverse effect in several areas of the life of the affected. Additionally, it is pointed out that almost exclusively men are found to have these deviations. Besides fetishism, exhibitionism, pedophilia, and others, the sexual human-animal interactions is subcategorized under F65.8 – the other deviations of sexual preference.
There, activities like indecent phone calls, rubbing on people on crowds or public transport (frotteurism), or sexual acts on corpses (necrophilia) are also found. The sexual intercourse with animals is called sodomy in this source.
My personal conclusion:
I consider animals under my care as my children and friends, not potential sexual partners but they are, as psychologists suggested, conditioned, therefore not willing participants. What can two different species, although capable of affection towards another, communicate in terms of what one party wants or not? There is a huge difference between « petting », caring and loving an animal in the case of protecting, sheltering him/her, feeding him/her and making sure he/she is healthy and imposing a sexual « preference » on him/her which he/she can’t agree verbally with. You might as well try to explain to a child why you want to have a sexual relationship with him. In both cases, you have no real consent or dialogue with the other being because that being doesn’t have the capacity (in terms of communication or maturity) to understand it and agree with it. Therefore, you’re dealing with someone who can’t consent at all unless, as mentioned above, manipulated into agreeing.
I find zoophilia and, in its worst form, bestiality, to be a psychological disease which I place on the same level as wanting or having sex with a (obviously non-consenting) child. Zoophilia, just like pedophilia, should be something that vegans should be aware of and outright reject.
And let’s not forget that, as Dr. Will Tuttle said many times, what we do to animals, we end up doing it to humans. It isn’t a coincidence that most cases of bestiality are committed by men just like in the case of rapes towards women.
– If you want to sign a petition against bestiality in the USA: Forcechange.com
I received a post from a fellow activist recently that this was going to be her last action with us and this really bothered me in the sense that she obviously expressed burn out but also despair in her comments.
In essence, she was saying that this was her last action because « I am tired of people who don’t care and don’t listen to us ». We’ve all been through that. And it’s important to recognize how this burn out affects all of us.
We are surrounded by a lot of dark forces in the world right now. Whether we talk about « religious » extremism, state sponsored terror, corporatism, government spying, social inequalities and of course the plight and horror of what our animal friends go through, there is a lot to despair about. Is it any wonder that so many justice activists (in any social movements) just drop out? As vegans, we also face ridicule, incomprehension, social pressure and so on. There is nothing easy about fighting for any just causes and pushing social progress in the mentality of the masses.
In fact, the pressure is even getting worse as we see a rise in extremist terror, corporate and government overreach and manipulation. For instance, we saw the terror attacks in Paris and Boko Haram which were both horrific and linked to fanaticism. We see the spying of our governments on our privacy and their use of police brutality (whether we talk about innocent African Americans in the US, Environmental activists being killed in France or in South America or whether I get tear gassed by the police for standing up against bullfighters). We see also a war on women with damning statistics showing that « globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence » (UN Statistics), forced into marriage as children or go through sexual mutilations.
All of this, as Dr. Will Tuttle would say, has its roots in our routine violence towards other animals and the constant suppression of feminine values of caring, compassion, nurturing of the Earth, the animals and each other. Extremism stems from a challenge to patriarchal rules wrapped in « religious » bigotry. Government spying results from a challenge from justice activists of all sides to question the status quo. And corporate domination result from people wanting governments actually representing them, paying them decent wages and corporations being greedy, pillaging entities who only care about the bottom line and the hell with our future on this planet.
The fact that it is getting worse is to me a good sign that big changes are under way in the background. This may sound like crazy thinking but read on.
Let’s get back to social justice for animals. Why are corporations so determined on buying up politicians to enact laws to prevent filming in factory farms? Because we are a threat to their bottom line. I don’t believe laws can be changed unless they come from grassroots efforts to put pressure on the puppets who want to control us. But when powerful elites feel threatened, just like kings, they will try to turn us more and more into serfs until, like in the French or American Revolution, we have finally enough and more and more of us rise up against them.
For the past few months, I have been doing Vegan education on the streets of Montpellier (France) and before that in Los Angeles, California. What I find fascinating in France is this thirst to learn more and this bigger openness to animal rights and veganism which is completely contrary to what I had expected since I considered Los Angeles as a « headquarter » of Veganism and Animal Rights thanks to the large number of activists and Vegan restaurants (compared to here). But the truth is that French people are generally less brainwashed and better educated (sorry Americans, it’s not to put you down as the good people that you are) and therefore more critical of their government and what they are told in general. The difference is really striking. The reason we have so little Vegan education in France is that Vegans and Vegetarians are extremely marginalized and that no government agencies recognizes plant-based eating as a healthy diet (America has the American Dietetic Association’s position on plant-based diets). And we also have (sic) our sacro-saint French cuisine recognized as « world heritage » which re-affirms the beliefs of people that a plant-based diet is not healthy.
Just this Saturday (Jan 31st), I held my first AVF (French Vegetarian Association) stand, which despite its name, strongly promotes Veganism and Veganic agriculture. I became a delegate for my region a few months ago because it is one of the few non-profits who directly promotes Vegan nutritional information to the public. I met so many people who thanked me for doing this, telling me that they were either vegetarian, already vegan, or trying to get there but didn’t know how (as there is not much education done in this country, except through the AVF and a few debates on TV) that I gave more business cards in one day than in months in the US. Of course, I also met the usual deniers but at least most of them took the time to try to understand and see our side of the story.
Now, let’s come back to the issue of women. Is it any surprising that there is an all time high of violence against women and suppression of their freedom around the world? No, it’s not. And it’s obviously because women are starting to come into their own power. We just have to look at the incredible example set by the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who, even though she was almost silenced by patriarchal religious extremists, never gave up and keeps fighting for the right of girls to have education. What a powerful example! The violence against women and also the rise against their reproductive rights is similar to the way females are being exploited in animal husbandry. We are dealing with a 10,000 year old patriarchal mindset, also set in the religious institutions (if you really look at them, they are patriarchal) in which women, like other animals, are still seen as inferior by a lot of the world’s society.
The same way Vegan/Animal Rights activists are being repressed, women in general still can’t in many way achieve gender equality because of the rampant sexism, violence against them, work inequalities, religious bigotry, and so on… But the fact that both social justice movements scare the hell out of the ones who seek to control us, this violence on both sides is increasing.
I am reminded of these words from Ghandi: « When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. »
Because we are getting stronger and there are more of us each day, these evil forces who seek to silence us and oppress us and other animals will eventually collapse like the castle of cards that they are. They are not build out of bricks, just out of sand because they don’t stem from truth and that is not sustainable. I believe more and more people are becoming aware of the inner truth of our world and are rejecting the status quo. The reaction to the attack on cartoonists in Paris and seeing an historical 4 million people on the streets (including myself) was a powerful statement that you can’t silence an idea when its time has come (whether you agree with Charlie’s work or not).
Let’s not forget what history teaches us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was declared enemy #1 and called the « most dangerous negro in the US » by the FBI. Cesar Chavez (himself a vegan) connected the dots between oppression of humans and other animals and was also threatened multiple times. Environmental activists, like our Rémi Fraisse here in France, are murdered by the police for defending the land and biodiversity while Peruvian environmentalists are being murdered for defending their ancestral lands. Vegans are put in jail as well as other animal liberators and human rights activists. Yes, it is a tough world when you are on the side of justice.
But in the end, justice always prevail. The civil rights act was passed, women got the right to vote (at least in western countries), young women and other women are starting to rise up in Arabic countries where they are horribly oppressed, men are getting more and more in touch with their inner sensibility, and let’s not forget: more and more people are connecting the dots and going vegan.
So this is what I responded to my friend quoted above:
« I understand where you’re coming from. But we can never be sure of the impact we can have on other people. I have been an activist for almost 10 years (in the USA and now in France) and there is progress. The problem is that it is difficult to quantify our impact on others statistically but we do have one! I give you several examples:
– In the USA, almost all the non-vegans who came to me directly (and not solely through the internet) have become vegans and are now activists for other animals themselves. – In France, recently, at an anti foix-gras event, a young woman came to me to ask help for going vegan because she wasn’t sure how to go about it and was disgusted by the violence towards animals.
The problem is not that we don’t make any difference, we do! It is that we are still a minority. If we persevere (and I saw big changes in the USA in only a few years), we bring over more and more people to our cause who themselves influence others around them. It’s that simple.
If the suffragettes had given up because they were being ridiculed and were a minority, women would probably not have had the right to vote until much later. If blacks in the US had not persevered, racism would still be a legal institution. It doesn’t mean obviously that there is no longer any racism or sexism but that there are laws against some forms of discrimination.
The animal struggle (even though Greek philosophers already had positions in favor of animals and vegetarianism) is still in its infancy. The end of racial segregation in the USA took over 200 years (although there is now economic segregation, if not legal). We are not the ones who will see the changes, we are the pioneers. Our job is to plant the seeds which will grow principally in the future. »
The way to combat burn out is simple: stop for a while. It doesn’t mean giving up completely. But we are not machines, we have responsibilities, pressure, we feel down whenever we see cruelty and as vegans, we are especially sensitive to the pain of others. That’s what sets us apart from the blinded masses. We also face family pressure, social pressure. There is a time when it’s best to take a break and renew ourselves. What good is a burn out activist when it comes to educating people? It’s a waste of time. I would rather have people with me who are energized, passionate (passion mellowed with a little bit of wisdom) and committed to the goal of animal liberation than people who are too down and incapable of talking to people. We are still sensitive beings too.
It’s important to balance all the cruelty we see by seeing the other side. Animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur is an example of someone who constantly takes horrific pictures of animal cruelty (and suffers from PTSD because of it) but renews herself by going to Farm Sanctuary on a regular basis to take pictures of happy animals, free of exploitation. We have to strike a balance in order to have the strength to keep going. Animal sanctuaries are a fantastic way of reminding ourselves why we do what we do and seeing happy animals is totally uplifting. But not everyone has a sanctuary close by to go to. I like watching uplifting videos also reminding me why I am into this, like this one from FUDA (A French Animal Rights group – United Forces for Animal Rights) called FUDA Together (subtitled in English) or this wonderful one from Evolve! Campaigns called Why Vegan? Go back in nature for a while, do a retreat. The important thing is to come back stronger than ever, and a better advocate than ever.
But giving up completely is not an option because I know that we are slowly winning. And by the way, my friend is back in action. Sources:
– Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring forgotten speech « Beyond Vietnam » on the military industrial complex, corporate and government power, war and why we need to keep on struggling for justice in a non-violent way on Breaking The Set.
– Jo-Anne McArthur’s extraordinary work can be seen in the movie The Ghosts in Our Machine. The movie can be bought in « instant watch » on Amazon.com and her book We Animals is a must read.
Photo: I am holding Chloe the Hen at the Gentle Barn Sanctuary in California (2013).
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it. »
For the last few days and I believe for the next few weeks also, I am and will continue to grieve the events of Paris and the slaughtered people of Charlie Hebdo as well as the police officers, hostages, and the death of a poor dog caught in all this insanity. This is therefore a very difficult blog for me to write but one that I find necessary to explain certain things to the rest of the world.
Charlie has been a pillar of free speech for years before it was even called Charlie Hebdo (the name derives from the character Charlie Brown in Peanuts and is an inside joke about President Charles De Gaulle; Hebdo means weekly). Most people in France (who are old enough) remember its earlier version called Hara-Kiri. I read many people’s comments on Facebook, Twitter and the numerous articles in the world’s press. For days during the unfolding between the slaughter, the hostage situations and the manhunts, I was glued to my computer screen (and TV set) and witnessed the world’s reaction to all of this (and mourned/cried a lot). It mostly felt like a horror movie in which the ending is really bad for the heroes. I still carry a deep pain in my heart as of this writing. I particularly can’t look at pictures of Cabu without having tears.
Some said that Charlie « had gone too far ». What I find fascinating is that these comments mostly come from people outside the country who don’t understand something: French satire. So let me give you some historical context for this.
French satire is a tool to express anger, rage, revolt, humor and rejection of the status quo which has been around since the days of Queen Marie Antoinette and to ridicule and fight the then Royalist Feudal system which kept millions of French in dire poverty while a tiny elite of aristocrats were living in Versailles and other castles. They were the 1% of their time, while the rest of the country was its 99% (sounds familiar?). Satire is even older than that as you can find it in the most oppressive kingdoms in history where the only people who could ridicule their rulers were the « bouffons » or court jesters. They could be funny and obscene but they were allowed, weirdly enough, to have their say. No one else could.
Satire (particularly French satire) is based on a total rejection of any « ism », whether it is the then « Royalisme » (from royalists) of the kings and queens, or the « ism » of religion, the « ism » of capitalism, the « ism » of all racism, but also ridiculing the ridicule. It can explain also why Charlie Hebdo is also the only newspaper in France (satirical or not) which takes strong positions on animal rights (as the cartoon in this blog shows). Yes they can be vulgar, obscene, provocative, even downright unpalatable at times. But they say their truths with their best weapons: their pencils and words. That is the essence of a free society (at least ours) that what you say can’t and should never be policed by violence, whether it’s the state, corporate manipulation or in this case, fanatics.
They were not the only ones. Before he died (or was murdered, depending on who you believe), the comedian Coluche (a legend here) was also very much like Charlie Hebdo: vulgar, outrageous, provocative. He even did a mock « gay wedding » with a fellow (gay) comedian at a time when you couldn’t even talk about gay rights, let alone gay weddings. He never said he was gay (he was married) but bluntly said on television 30 years ago that « he had tried it but in the end, that didn’t work out » (and got a big laugh). This shocked a lot of people 30 years ago but now he is a reference impossible to ignore in France’s political and social discourse. Coluche’s outrageous exterior was hiding a heart of gold and he founded « Les Restaurants du Coeur » (Restaurants of the Heart), which 30 years after his death, still feed poor people (of all races and creeds), help them with legal issues, provide services to re-insert them into society, etc… The best satirists and sometimes the most outrageous and provocative people (at least in France) have proven to be also the most generous to others. Cabu was vegetarian and was seen many times protesting animal cruelty. Charb, Wolinsky, Cabu, and Tignous and the other victims present at the newspaper meeting (ironically about racism) that day, as well as Luce Lapin (who was wounded but fortunately is alive) have always took positions for denouncing absurdity while making people laugh at it. But their position on animal rights is not even the point here.
France is a secular country. As such, we don’t follow anything but secular laws, not religious laws. In fact, you’re not supposed to even show your religious affiliations in Federal systems like Public Schools (Private & Religious schools are a different matter). Racism is an offense in our laws, mocking religion is not. Charlie is anti-racist and never mocked people based on their race. But they have the right to mock religion. So whether one religious community feels insulted or not, our right to free speech is protected by law. And for the record, nowhere in the Koran does it say that you can’t do a drawing or any representation of the Prophet. This is an idea that has been around since the 15th century only and has become culturally accepted by some Muslims but not all. Religions tend to change in time. There were a time when women had no soul for the Catholic Church. Animals still don’t according to them. I was raised Catholic but would never have criticized the right of Charlie to mock the Catholic religion (and they did).
When I moved to the United States, I was ready to follow its laws. There is a reason I never moved to various countries in the world, it’s because I didn’t agree with their laws because they had religion as their state laws. Separation of « Church and State » is a sacred right we won with the French Revolution. It is not debatable even if it may insult various groups.
A society where anyone can say anything is what allows vegans, environmental and human rights activists in general to be bold and daring at exposing uncomfortable truths to society.
When I was at the Montpellier Republican March (not to confuse the word « republican » as a party as a lot of Americans did, it means March for the Republique), I felt compelled to document visually this day by not just filming the other 100,000 plus people who were there with me but to hear their voices, their feelings. Muslims talked to me. Children talked to me. Even a French-Mexican woman talked to me (I had never met a Mexican living in France, only in Los Angeles). There were people who said that Charlie Hebdo went « too far ». But all of them, Muslims included, said that what these fanatics did had nothing to do with Islam and that, even though they disapproved of caricatures of the Prophet, they also approved of the right of others, in a free society, to ridicule him. It is interesting to know that, besides the threats that fanatics (using religion as an excuse) had made to Charlie, it’s mostly the Catholic Church who sued them most over the years. But that is meaningless, Catholics burned down theaters in France when the movie « The Temptation of Christ » was released. So fanatics can use any religion as an excuse and atheists (like the former Soviet Union’s stalinists, the Nazis, and so on) can use non-religious ideologies with the same zeal to kill as well (and they killed millions of people). And as all the Muslims I met told me, the Prophet would never had agreed with this, no matter how offended he would have been.
Joe Randazzo of the Onion said it well:
« 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. »
As activists, we are in a unique time. We live in an extremely bipolar society. It does a 180 in just a matter of hours on every issues. One day, Foix Gras is banned in California, the next a judge changes it back. One day, some guys write a silly cartoon, the next 12 people die for holding pencils from guys who want to police free speech and freedom of expression with violence. This has never been seen before in the West but is common place in repressive regimes in other countries where journalists and human rights activists are commonly put in jail, even killed, for far less than what Charlie did. Let’s never forget that.
I defend the rights of Charlie to continue to be funny, obscene (at times) as much as I defend the rights of people like Bill Maher to trash Rush Limbaugh (and vice-versa), or the rights of someone to trash Michael Moore. As Moore explained in his movie « Sicko », he helped a guy maintaining his website, the biggest anti Michael Moore website on the web, with a check so that the guy could pursue his constitutional right « to trash him into the ground » so he could pay the medical bills for his sick wife. I also defend South Park to also be obscene, funny and gross. I can’t always stomach South Park, but I do stomach Maher and like him (even when he trashes religion, which is not something I always find smart or agree with). No one, I hope, will walk into his show with guns to silence him. Bill Maher has a very good response, for instance, for those who hate Rush Limbaugh: « Don’t listen to him ». That’s the point. I personally can’t stomach Rush Limbaugh, therefore I don’t listen to him. But I would never tell him he doesn’t have the right to his opinions, however distasteful, racists, sexists, I find them.
I gave my business card to the mother of a child I filmed at the march and she saw on the card that I was a vegan. Her reaction was: « This is not about that right? », she said, offended. I was dealing with lots of emotions and just said « no, it’s not. » She went as far as asking me if I would spread the mini-documentary on « these kinds of Facebook platforms ». So much for free speech and freedom of being a vegan. I wanted to say « well it’s MY freedom of expression and the freedom of animals » but was too emotionally distraught and didn’t want to antagonize on that particular day. Now I regret it.
After a few days, It has never been more important to me to defend free speech because when that right is repressed for anyone in society, it is repressed for all. As activists, we already have a hard time spreading our message but if it weren’t for that free speech we cherish and the chance we have to (so far) live in societies which allow that, how far our message would go?
Joe Randazzo in the Onion, once again, formulated it well:
« Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter. It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coalmine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it’s grown. »
Activists should applaud the ideas of free speech, even the offensive ones because without them, there is no freedom at all. Politically correct thinking is often used by politicians and corporations to repress our rights and manipulate us. Satire (even the less palatable to some), has in the past and will continue to point out the truths that others choose to ignore.
Ross Douthat, of the New York Times (not exactly a satirical newspaper) probably had the best point:
« But we are not in a vacuum. […] because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed. »
If we’re to succeed as activists of all kinds, we need to keep our society as free speech zones for all (even the ones we disagree with). Because when this freedom disappears, it disappears for all, including and particularly us. When I saw the outpouring of worldwide support, it didn’t remove the pain but it cushioned it. After all, Cabu’s cartoons were around when I was a kid. He used to draw cartoons on a children show I watched as a kid (proving that he was not just outrageous). The others were French institutions in their own rights. We lost very important people because these people were some of the few who dared resists the status quo, the ridiculous (by being more ridiculous than the ridiculous, if you know what I mean), questioning everything, mocking everyone, regardless of political, religious inclinations and, like all good satirists in history, pointed out truth where others didn’t dare go because of their bias for being politically correct, stay in power and maintain conformity.
What this teaches us all is that we have to fight for all to express themselves or none is free to speak.
And let’s not forget the others who died or helped in this tragedy. Several policemen/women died in this tragedy, among them a Muslim and a black. Others saved hostages, like a Muslim man working at the kosher grocery store. At the march, I saw Jews and Muslims holding hands in solidarity because they recognized that these killers in no way represented ANY religious beliefs. But they also recognized that this freedom of speech and expression is what gave them their right to practice their faith. It’s what gives us OUR right to be the voice of the voiceless, to be vegans, to be animal, human and environmental rights activists.
This is a wakeup call to the world and the world responded by saying #IAmCharlie. But certain forces (you saw them heading the Paris march) will make sure that we try to forget this moment of truth by pushing us back into the darkness of ignorance and conformity. In fact, I know for sure that, if Cabu had been watching the march, he would have drawn a cartoon to mock these political opportunists the following day. They are already taking advantage just like they took advantage of 9/11. Some people here are even starting to talk about « False Flag » attacks. Look up the term.
It is up to us all whether this tragedy taught the world a real lesson and to see how far we have grown and how far they will keep us ignorant.
Below various links and cartoons as well as two videos: mine from the march in Montpellier (subtitled in English) in which I interviewed as many people as I could to hear the voice of citizens (not the official media) and one on the New York Times website about the Charlie staff in 2006.
Cartoon from Bidu: What are cartoonists still able to laugh at?
« I drew a tomato… » « It’s pretty, it’s cool, no risk with a tomato! »
« Mmm I don’t know… Have you thought about the fundamentalist vegetarians? »
My video (subtitled in English) of the Montpellier (Hérault region of France) march with over 100,000 people and various interviews.
Charlie Hebdo is not dead. Guns can’t kill free speech. 3 million copies (compared to the usual 60,000) out because the world demanded it. Article from The Independent.
As of Jan 14, 2015: 5 million copies out in various languages, including Arabic (online only).
More on what is Charlie Hebdo about and its history on Wikipedia
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).
« 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?
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.
« Je ne plierai pas, je ne m’en irai pas en silence. Je ne me soumettrai pas. Je ne me retournerai pas. Je ne me conformerai pas. Je ne me coucherai pas. Je ne me tairai pas. Le courage, c’est de chercher la vérité et de la dire ; ce n’est pas subir la loi du mensonge triomphant » (Jean Jaurès).