It’s been almost two weeks since National Animal Rights Day 2013 but many are still trying to process their emotions. Last week, I posted my experience of organizing the event and obtaining animals from slaughterhouses. Since then I have seen many activists who attended or participated in the event posting their experience of the event on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. This is a compilation of their stories:
Aylam Orian (Organizer)
Welcome to the 3rd National Animal Rights Day. On this day, once a year, we stop everything else, and give our full attention to the most marginalized, abused and oppressed group on this planet: Animals. On this day we remember them, lament their pain, and mourn their loss. We give them a voice through ours, and reach out on their behalf to anyone who has a heart to listen.
If animals could talk, their chorus of cries would drown out every other noise in the world. If you only listen, you could hear it right now. Coming from every farm, slaughterhouse, meat market, testing lab, breeding factory, fishing pond, hunting ground, circus, zoo, religious temple, pet store, city shelter, restaurant, and dinner table, in every home on every street. Some of them are the brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, of the motionless bodies cradled in our hands before you. These individual beings, who had a soul, a unique character, and a will to live, are just like us: they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Some of them have feathers, some of them have fur, some of them have paws and some have tiny little legs. But they all shared the very same thing we have in common too: they wanted to live. With their loved ones. Happy and free.
We are all animals. We are all living, breathing beings, who share the same Earth. We all feel pain and suffer when we are hurt or deprived of our lives, our families, our freedom. We all want to experience kindness, compassion and dignity. Just like us, animals are not property. They are not ours to use. They are an end unto themselves. Their freedom is beautiful and their slavery is a horror. The bedrock principle of ‘animal rights’ is that ALL living beings have a “right” to live their lives, free from exploitation, victimization and cruelty. This is a right that EVERY being has.
But how do we acknowledge this right when it comes to non-human animals? Let us see… every 30 minutes, 6 Million animals are killed in slaughterhouses around the world. In the United States alone, 10 Billion land animals and 20 Billion sea animals are killed for food every year. An additional 10 Million die in laboratories, and 3 Million are killed for their skin and fur. It is estimated that another 200 Million are killed by hunters. That’s 80 Million a day!
Yes, many people suffer too. Some of us have been through wars, some of us have survived natural disasters, and some of us have lost family members in some atrocity or other. I am one of those. Almost my entire family was murdered in one such atrocity – the one we call “The Holocaust”. But I can tell you, with all the pain in my heart, and in the hearts of my grandparents who never saw their mother, father, brothers and sisters again; that none of it, none of these, can compare to what we, the human race, subject all other species on this planet, to. Not the gas Chambers in Auschwitz, not all the world wars combined, not the genocides in Africa and other places. The sheer magnitude, the well-oiled systems we have developed, the unimaginable cruelty with which we raise, kill, and use every part of these billions of living beings, just so that you and me could please our taste buds with a fleeting pleasure. Or look fashionable in some jacket or shoes. Or wash our hair with some brand name shampoo. It’s unfathomable. And it’s going on every day, every hour, every moment.
This is why we are here today. This has to stop, and it will only stop with you. Please look at these beautiful creatures in front of you, many of them still babies. Can you imagine a day when they could live on their own terms, with their families and offspring, happy and free? We can. Can you imagine a day when these beings will have equal rights to all other beings on this planet? We can. Can you imagine a day when humanity takes responsibility and protects all animals and the Earth, instead of harming them? We sure can. Join us. This is our planet. And theirs too.
Dr. Holly Wilson (Participant)
One hundred people assembled in an Animal Equality-style demo on the third National Animal Rights Day. We were told to be there by 10 am the latest and I arrived around 09:45. I ran into familiar faces from previous circus demos and from facebook. Brenda, a very active activist was one of the organizers. I signed the release, then waited in line to obtain my sheer white coveralls, medical gloves and t-shirt. Then at 11 we began to get into formation. It was going to be the rehearsal, but ended up being the final take. It was a lot of effort to align 100 demonstrators!
The front 30 (and first 3 rows) were volunteers holding animals. I wasn’t nervous about holding one. I deal with death on a regular basis. Sometimes the circumstances are tragic. I have also held dead animals. There were tiny chicks, baby rabbits, and some full grown roosters, hens, an adult rabbit, three fish, a pit bull, a cat, and a baby goat. I watched Kara bringing animals to people. She wore yellow dishwashing gloves and cradled their lifeless bodies with tenderness. Her bond with each animal she held showed. Vida also displayed this genuine love, and it was beautiful to watch them. They were among those that made it happen. And it was a real honor to be a part of it.
After the animals were distributed, the ceremony began. It was overcast, and the pier was beginning to fill with curious onlookers. Robb and Aylam gave brief yet poignant speeches, there was music, people were photographing and videoing us — it was surreal.
Although aware that we were making history, nothing existed except myself and the Guinea fowl I held in my hands. I looked down at my animal. He was still frozen. I looked at his lifeless, sunken eyes. I marveled at the beauty of his speckled feathers. I wondered about the life he led before ending up in my arms. I could hear people sniffling and sobbing all around me. It was intense.
There was a boy — eight year old Joseph Moreno. With compassion, pain, and tears in his eyes, he told each of us how brave we were. He connected with every single one of us and the animals we held. I saw myself in him. I was that sensitive kid that others laughed at, because of how much I loved my rabbits and guinea pigs. And then something went tragically awry. I always ‘loved’ animals, but somehow became unconscious to the suffering of those sheltered from my sight. I will never again place convenience, taste, or any other luxury before the life of an animal. This was not an active process but one merely of indoctrination. I never saw fit to question what I ate, the cosmetics I purchased, or whose skin I was wearing. Brutality and exploitation has become the cultural norm.
I stood proud and strong, for the Guinea fowl in my arms and for every other animal trapped in agribusiness, entertainment, laboratories, and the fashion industry. We represented the countless exploited, abused, and defenseless. We told their story and cradled their bodies with love and dignity. When the ceremony was over, our animals were placed in front of us and wrapped in a white cloth. Long stemmed roses were distributed and placed over their bodies.
Rest in peace. Your suffering is over and I will never stop speaking for you.
Patty Shenker (Participant)
This past Sunday, I was honored to be a part of the Third Animal Rights Day that took place on the beach in Santa Monica, Ca. Many animal activists gathered to be part of this event and to give part of our day to remember the billions of animals who are confined, tortured and murdered for food, for fashion, for entertainment, for science, for money, for hunting and for fun. To those of us there, none of these reasons are acceptable and our demonstration was to remember these innocent beings who lose their lives as we lose our humanity. I am not going to write about all the various animal abuses as that is readily available, to see and hear and read by others who know more & write better. I want to write about my experience as part of it and how it affected me.
Let me begin by saying that I am a very emotional person who can cry very easily but never pettily. My tears are precious and honest and I would probably be insane by now if I didn’t cry — and if I didn’t laugh as well, which I also often do. I knew this event was going to be very emotional as we were going to be holding deceased animals, animals who lost their lives because of our utter disregard for them, because of our convenient beliefs that what we do to them is as it should be or because we humans benefit from them and have every right to do so. These animals who we held were mostly farm animals, but there were also fish, a young male pitbull and a pretty white cat. All of these sentient beings died prematurely; most never had a name or anyone who cared for them. They were seen and treated like property — nothing more. But to each of us, they were much more than that — they were innocent beings who suffered and lost their lives.
There we were, embracing these lifeless bodies and loving them even in death and asking for their forgiveness for our species’ abject cruelty and thoughtlessness towards them. The activists ranged in age from early twenties to seventy, men & women of different ethnicities, backgrounds, jobs and incomes who came together to mourn the animals. I truly believe we are now forever united due to this experience.
It was obvious that all of us who care about and fight for animals were deeply touched by this memorial. I wonder how those who were just going to the beach for fun thought and felt about this respectful but upsetting demonstration. Obviously, our hope is that we made people think about this issue & how they personally take part in animal cruelty and I am quite sure that many children were shocked, educated and changed by our presence. What I think is most important for the viewers about this wake of sorts is that we activists modeled caring and grief for the animals of the world, and not just our pets but animals we never knew and rarely, if ever, come in contact with. As we all cried or mourned quietly and shared our grief, we showed the strength of our compassion and hopefully, made it more acceptable to others to show their care & concern and yes, even grief, for animals. We brought gravity and acceptance to having deep feelings for animals, which I believe we all have as children. Sadly, we are taught to abandon these feelings so we can be accepted and fit into our society that wants to continue to exploit them. To many, I think they may have seen for the first time the immense pain and grief that we live with daily because we are animal advocates.
People generally see us protesting, shouting, angry and rebellious but they never see the pain we feel for all the animals and therefore, never think about that. Grief is non-threatening and something we all experience as we all have losses that devastate us so perhaps we reached them on this deeper level; I can certainly hope that is the case here.
As important as it is to reach others, I think this memorial was most important to us activists. We joined together not to protest or demonstrate but to MOURN all of the billion animals murdered and we did it as a community, which always becomes intensified because of that shared experience. We grieved publicly together & I believe that each of us left feeling deeply touched and further bonded with the other activists. We joined together, left our egos and groups behind and came together to share the pain we usually keep inside or share with only a few friends or family.
My dear friend, Sue Coe, the political artist and animal advocate, wrote this about it: “As animals lives are trivialized, our emotions for them, are equally trivialized. This is why animal rights has not been embraced by other social justice groups, who are fighting for the dignity of humans, because they do not want their issue to be deemed trivial. Yet how can any social justice movement be radical, if it does not include other animals??? Its merely a continuation of the same hierarchy.”
We must stay in touch with that sadness, that grief that was as deep and immense as the sand we stood on. I have said before that we activists are in a war that never leaves us, that disturbs us everyday and it never goes away. That is why grieving is so important and why communal grief is so powerful and healthy. We must grieve- to go on with this war- with new energy, more strength and less anger. “Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” ~ Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
We do carry a very heavy burden by our knowledge of human brutality towards all species of animals and our daily commitment to fight these prejudices but I know that each of us who participated knows our place, our purpose in this life. We will continue to fight for the animals with renewed commitment and inspiration and with these animals who we held, and all the other innocent animals, alive or deceased, as our anchor. Dog Bless You All!
Alec Pedersen (Participant)I had a choice to be there today holding this beautiful being who did not have a choice to be there. This pit pup was killed by human choice because there were too many animals at the shelter and not enough humans to adopt him. He was a healthy, 30-40 pound pit who had his whole life ahead of him. Breeders continue creating puppies to sell for profit and people keep buying them when there are so many amazing beings alive already waiting for a loving home. I did this because I see no difference between beings – I, and that other, are one. And as long as I have a voice, I will use it to raise awareness and reduce suffering for all expressions of life. This dog had no name so I named him after my son. Jake, thank you for allowing me to hold you today. My hope is that at least one person makes a choice after seeing you and possibly reading this, to begin practicing compassion every day. That person will hopefully teach another and so on. You did not die in vain. You are beautiful. And you are loved. Thank You.
David Rutan (Participant)
As someone who did not hold an animal, the experience was just as impactful if not more. Here is what I experienced.
It took some 20-25 minutes to place everyone on their spot on the beach and make adjustments. We were mostly quiet, standing in our spots, with time to think about the sand under our feet, the pier next to us, the ocean crashing nearby, the sounds of humanity going about their day. I knew what to expect, non-emotionally anyway. I hoped that our being there would make an impact. That the simple act of standing together, holding these animals, would matter to the world. We became totally quiet and still when the deceased animals started to be distributed.
There was an eerie strength to being so close to one another in silence, witnessing something so foreign. Dead animals were brought, one by one, to activists to hold, while standing on what people think of as the ultimate paradise, the beach. My mind tried to make sense of this even though expected. I focused in on the people bringing the animals and the animals’ holders, although their backs were to me. How were they reacting? Did this seem as incongruous to them as it did me? Standing on the beach with thirty expired animals in our hands? From my position in the third to last row, I could see feet, heads, and looking to the side sometimes the whole animal, a bunny for instance, being held. We animal rights activists have many differences, but we have a common bond in our beliefs and commitment to helping those animals brutalized by our food, clothing, animal testing, and other industries that profit from animal use and/or death. This common bond means that I can feel what they feel when they are holding these animals. This lattice of activists, a bond that felt as strong as a diamond, became a conduit of emotion.
When the first bunny was brought out, the volunteer bringing the animal was clearly distraught, weeping uncontrollably as she gently placed the bunny in the holder’s hands. Her pain swept through me and left me overwhelmed. Tears streamed down my cheek, I closed my eyes and just felt. I felt the aloneness, the fear, the injustice done to these animals. I felt their incomprehension at the atrocities committed on them. I felt their hopelessness at the impersonal cages and machines and uncaring humans responsible for their treatment.
I would escape. I chose sometimes to look back at the ocean, at the random people on the beach, forgetting momentarily this scene in front of me, trying to rid my mind of the nightmare that is played out on a daily basis. I couldn’t move, could not break our lattice of strength. We silently suffered together, minutes ticking by, more and more in solidarity with those tortured souls. The silence was deafening. There was us, and there was the rest of the world. Time came to a halt. Through the despair there was beauty, our shared beauty radiant upon the world.
Sara Rose (Participant)She was not just a chicken. She was an individual. She felt pain and fear every day of her life. She felt love and a connection to those she was enslaved with. She mourned the loss of the lives that were taken in front of her eyes. She screeched out as she watched her companions being brutalized for no reason. She would never experience the freedom she instinctively longed for. She was a baby; only months old. She knew she was dying. She cried out, but no one came to rescue her. She swayed on her feet, barely able to support her hormone pumped body. The tip of her beak, full of nerve endings, had been cut off, without pain killers, not long after she was born. She took a struggled last breath from it; through her nostrils, into her lungs, and into her aching heart. She closed her eyes.
I held her lifeless body. I let her head rest onto my chest. I wrapped my fingers around her cold, mangled feet. Feet that never got to dig in the ground and experience the joy of a dust bath. My arms grazed against her tattered wings. Wings that would never be able to flap out of playfulness, and carry her up high onto vertical ladders where she could peacefully perch in the sunlight. I kept looking at her soft pink eyelids. I kept thinking of the life that she could have, and should have, had. Her sentience was no different than mine. Her will to live was no different than mine. She was an individual, just like me. She cried out, but no one came to rescue her.
Rima Danielle Jomaa (Attendee)Today was a day filled with a wide array of intense emotions for numerous people, myself included. The ceremony that I witnessed changed me in ways I can not explain. Although we have fought day in and day out for the rights of animals in many different ways, this was a first for everyone in attendance. A FIRST OF ITS KIND IN AMERICA! Typically we are demonstrating for animals for don’t come in contact with (whether alive or dead). Today we saw firsthand the remains of the animals that fall victim to exploitation by this society. Beautiful rabbits, chickens, ducks, cats, pit bulls, fish… lay battered and abused, lifeless, in the hands of my friends. They received a proper ceremony filled with love and appreciation for the life that was taken. They were physically seen, touched, smelled… their death not in vain for once for countless people, families, walking in Santa Monica and on the pier stopped for extending periods of time and sought information. Many took pictures and cried… considering the messages they send to their children by the lifestyles they lead. Although a few people may have laughed today at the rights of animals, they did not leave unchanged. The idea of equal rights for all races was mocked by many… the idea of equal rights for women was scoffed at by many… the idea of equal rights all regardless of sexual orientation continues to be discounted by many… but society changes through acts and demonstrations like today. It’s funny because when I showed my brother the flyer, he asked, “Are you going to be holding dead animals?” And I said I wouldn’t personally be. He replied, “I was gonna say!” My question is, if the idea of holding dead animals is odd and repulsive to you, why do you do it every day, and then ingest them?
Everyday, I am energized and inspired by the countless hours and efforts put forth by the activists in the animal rights community. I could never name all of you and the things you do to speak up for the voiceless on a daily basis… however, I do just want to extend my personal gratitude to my friends that I saw standing in the hot sun, pouring sweat and tears, for this cause and to make this happen… I didn’t get to personally hug and kiss you all but I saw you and sent you love vibes and good energy! And many of you I know via Facebook but not in person! I you all!! Kara, Vida, Prabhat, Carol, Ty, Melissa, Robyn, Jessica (and Chris!), Ellen, Merricat, Pete, Jan… EVERYONE!!! I am forever changed!
Until I breathe my final breath, I shall speak for the voiceless.
Carol Glasser (Participant)
This past Sunday we “celebrated” National Animal Rights Day with a large display on the beach. I held this dead chicken and carried another to be buried. I thought I wouldn’t cry because I am already aware of how brutal humans are to other animals. But in all my activism I rarely connect to individual animals. But here I was with someone I did not know much about in my hands. All I knew was that s/he was innocent and treated brutally by humans. It was only now in death that any human had shown him/her any respect. And so I cried. I cried for everyone there. Then i cried some more for all of the animals abused, killed, eaten, worn, experimented on, watched for entertainment, abandoned, and displaced daily at the hands of humans. Then I cried some more for myself. But the first tears I cried, I cried just for this chicken.
Eva Gutierrez (Participant)I will never forget this day and neither will my fellow vegan friends. This day was like no other. It wrecked me emotionally but that didn’t matter, it had to be done. Like one of my favorite quotes says: “If not you, who? If not now, when?” Never in my life did I think a day like this would come, where we would show people the result of their “blissful” ignorance. As I held this beautiful bunny, whose life have been cut so short, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was feeling with and not feeling for. So many thoughts raced through my mind as I saw all the beautiful deceased animals being handed to my friends but at least they were in good hands at that moment.
As sad as this moment was for all of us, I believe it was a beautiful moment because of the immense love and respect we all showed to the animals. It pains me to think of the lives they lived and of the pain and torment they had to go through along with their family and friends. How could one tolerate this? How could one support this? How could one ignore the fact that animals have the ability to feel pain, fear, and are capable of loving and caring for their families and friends? All I know is that I will NEVER stop fighting for them or stop translating for them. I will fight for them until the day I die. I will never stop loving them.
Ellen R. Ericksen (Participant)How does one even begin to describe the feelings of extreme sorrow and pain that sears through your entire body, mind and soul? This week that has followed the NARD3 event has left me a totally different person. My recovery is still going on. I think I am healing from the day, but I am different. Even though I know the horrors of what happens to our beloved non-human animals every moment of my days, this event has left me forever changed. My heart was ripped out that day and the pieces are slowing going back into place. I have been numb all week, just going through the motions of my daily tasks at work, but people that know me sense I am different. I know I am different and will never be the same person that I was before last Sunday. Will this feeling last the rest of my life?
To be able to participate with my fellow friends/family was something that has tied us together for the rest of our lives. The emotion that ripped my heart out has left me hypersensitive to every living creature now. I was stripped of my outer shell during the entire event, standing there with a lifeless creature that was no different than me. I felt naked and that my soul was on display exposed to all. While standing there surrounded by 29 other people and dead animals felt like a test, like we were some type of test subjects to show the universe that we are here, but we don’t understand why. Why is this happening that we must go to the extremes to wake up the other humans? Why can’t they feel our pain, see what we see, feel our intense sorrow? I felt like 30 of us where chosen for a reason. Our entire lives lead up to the moment, to be with the animals, to show each and every one of them had a purpose and reason to be here, just like us. So many life questions of our purpose lead us to be on that beach together. The answer of our being is clear now.
My dedication for the rest of my life is to continue on this path of truth and show the injustice. This is why I am here. This is why we are all here. We are love we are the truth we are the voices.
Robb Curtis (Participant)
I had been deeply moved by the images I’d seen from Spain when they used the bodies of animals in their protest and thought that, done with great care and coordination, this could be a very effective tool for confronting the public with the animals they consume; and so I was excited when I was asked to participate in the National Animal Rights day by being one of those activists who would actually hold a body.
As it turns out, I ended up doing something different. I did get to hold the frozen body of a poor little goat, but after it had been wrapped up in it’s burial cloth. Walking in procession with others as we made our way across the beach to the parking lot, the beach-going public watching, I could only wonder what they were thinking; did they understand the importance of what we were doing? Did they get why goats, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, hamsters, rats, even fish mattered so much to us that we would be compelled to perform such a ceremony for them, that we felt it apt to give their poor lives such closure? And that we felt oh so deeply that the non-vegan general population needed to bear witness to this?
My most profound experience at the NARD event, however, was having the opportunity to read a poem I had written several years ago for a World Farm Animal Day event, but which seemed so fitting to this ceremony. It addressed the fact that the fate of farmed animals is literally in the hands of those who consume their bodies. At one point while reading the poem at the mic, I paused briefly to look over at the spectators standing at the railing of the nearby pier; I wanted them to realize that this was directed at them. I was glad to share my words with my animal activist brothers and sisters, but more importantly I wanted those words to resonate with the non-vegan general population.
Before presenting my poem, listening to Aylam Orian’s inspiring words as I stood in formation with all the other beautiful animal advocates, some holding bodies, some not, all of us demonstrating a deep sense of purpose, a total dedication to what we were doing, I felt such a mix of emotions; immense love for my fellow participants, immense sadness over the need for such a ceremony, anger at those who continue to use, abuse and consume sentient beings. And then, when the Samuel Barber Adagio for Strings began playing, which alone gets me choked up, the tears began streaming.
Actually, the tears started before the music, as I recall, when the animals were still being handed to the assembled and I watched my dear friend, Kara, sob uncontrollably. Knowing how much of herself she had put into this event, though not knowing the full extent of her participation, I felt such empathy — for her, for the animals, for all of us who struggle to make the public aware that non-human animals are not our property, that they should be seen as having their own interests, that they are subjects of their own lives. I only hope that this and future NARD events convey that message effectively — and that one day such events will draw hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators.
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National Animal Rights Day 2013 made a huge impact on many lives, the largest being on two little hens Vida and I rescued from one of the slaughterhouses on our last trip out. Yesterday, fellow activist Nicolas Tomas took them to their new home where they will be able to live out the rest of their lives in peace and without the fear that had been constant in their lives since they were born. They’ll get to feel the sun on their feathers, indulge in dust baths, and stretch their wings.
This is what it’s all about. :D
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Please also see activist Simone Reyes’ moving article about her experience.
If you attended the event and would like your experience added to this post or have already written about your experience of the event on your own blog and would like me to include a link, please contact me.