Direct Action Everywhere

take actionI just returned to my hometown of Los Angeles, California from a two-week trip up the coast.  I spent the majority of my time with some new friends from Direct Action Everywhere in Oakland, California.  If you haven’t already heard of them, they’re an amazing group of committed animal rights activists whose goal is to inspire the world to pay attention, pick a side and take an active role in the animal rights movement.  They believe in total animal liberation, creating  and nurturing an inclusive community, telling stories from the animal’s perspective, non-violent direct action and confrontation.  They believe that veganism is not enough and that activism is imperative.  I completely agree.

Right now, the animal rights movement is incredibly pessimistic.  Talk to different activists and you’re likely to hear things like “the planet is doomed”, “abolition is not possible right now, so we should fight for ‘humane’ treatment as a means to that end” and “we’ll never change people’s views on animals, but at least we’ll go down fighting”.  This is the absolute wrong mindset to have.  This is not a winning mindset.  We need positivity in this movement not because we want to fool ourselves into thinking something impossible is possible (because it might be possible with far fewer numbers than you think), but because if we aren’t positive, the planet will be doomed, abolition won’t be possible and going down fighting is all we’ll achieve.  The truth is, changing people’s views on animals is possible with the right mindset and determination, but it will take all of us inspiring others to take action if we ever hope to achieve it.  We have to dream BIG.  In a world telling us “no you can’t”, it is up to us to confidently and unapologetically counter “yes we can.

Activists take to the streets of San Francisco, California to demand people open their eyes to the injustices animals endure at human hands.
Activists take to the streets of San Francisco, California to demand people open their eyes to the injustices animals endure at human hands.

Dreaming big is important, but meaningless if we lack the people-power to make the idea of total animal liberation a reality.  As activists, we have to follow through on our words with actions beyond vegan consumerism.  Making different shopping and entertainment choices is great, but we are fighting an uphill battle that can only be won if activists will actually get active.

Imagine if every time someone took a bite of a hamburger or picked a gallon of milk off the grocery store shelf they received looks of disapproval and words of truth earnestly telling them “this is wrong”.  We need to hold people accountable for their actions.  We need to wake people up.  We need to bring the entire world into the animal rights conversation.  The biggest social justice movement of our time is happening right now, but we’re too afraid and timid to talk about it.  We are their voice and yet we are silent when it counts most.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

blind to injustice, tel aviv, israel, earthlings, march, animal rights
Activists in Tel Aviv, Israel symbolically taking off their blindfolds showing that they acknowledge the suffering of animals and are taking a stand against it.

Direct action is imperative.  No longer can we allow other members of our species to live in the self-imposed darkness of willful ignorance.  No longer can we be appeased by the “victories” of meatless mondays, “humane” murder, and bigger cages.  No longer can we be contented by the illusion that change will happen because of how peacefully, respectfully and meekly we waited.

If this were any other social justice movement, would we be worried about appearing “pushy”, “rude” or “judgmental” by bringing people’s attention to the violence they are actively participating in by maintaining the mindset that a beings worth is based solely on their utility to humans?  If humans were in the animal’s place wouldn’t our actions be different?  Would we still be saying “wait”, “be patient” and “not yet”?  How is this disparity not speciesist?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

Confrontation is the seed of change.  Without it, the status quo will remain forever.  We need to attack this issue with the same urgency we would have if these injustices were instead being dealt to humans.

Every time a person purchases or consumes a product of violence, we need to remind them that they are making a choice in support of the oppressors.  Willful ignorance is not innocence — there is complicity in every action and inaction which supports oppressive acts.  If you wouldn’t sit quietly beside a person slicing someone’s throat at the dinner table, then you should not sit quietly beside a person eating someone’s mutilated body — and if you would sit quietly beside a person eating someone’s mutilated body then you are complicit as well.  As Erasmus Darwin famously said: “He who allows oppression shares the crime”. Continue reading “Direct Action Everywhere”

I Lost My Friend Today

falcor, chow-lab mix
Falcor

It was one and a half years ago that I met my dear friend who I would come to know as Falcor.  The name was picked out by my partner who said she reminded him of the dog-dragon from the Neverending Story.  She was a chow-lab mix with a fluffy beige coat, a pink and purple tongue and nose, and big brown hound-dog eyes.

The shelter said she was six years old when we got her, but I had a feeling she was probably a little older.  (Shelters do that sometimes to boost a dog’s chances for adoption, but I wouldn’t have cared either way.)  She was always a timid, gentle dog, especially on her first day at our house.  We did our best to make her feel comfortable while still giving her enough space so she would be able to get used to us on her own terms.

When we first got her, she was the fattest dog I had ever seen with my own eyes.  She had difficulty walking and her breathing was labored.  For the most part, she tried to stay sitting or laying.  She wouldn’t even get up to eat.

We had already been feeding our younger dog, Layla (a 2-3 year old german shepherd-husky mix), a vegan diet and had seen good results, so there was no question that we would feed Falcor vegan food as well.  After a few weeks of feeding her vegan food we noticed that she was able to move around a little easier and could come get her food rather than having it brought to her where she was sitting.  We started giving her some exercise.  Nothing too tough at first, but soon enough she was keeping up with Layla running laps around the pool, chasing squirrels and rough-housing with us.  Within a few months time she slimmed down to a normal, healthy weight and even our veterinarian was impressed by the unlikely turn-around.

Layla had been an “only-dog” in our house for a year before Falcor joined our family and she would sometimes assert her dominance over Falcor in very nasty, scary fights.  One particular fight landed me in the emergency room with blood running down my left arm and leg and chunks of adipose sticking out from the wounds.  Someone didn’t close the door to the room where our three rabbits live and the dogs must have seen them and gotten excited.  I’ve heard you’re not normally supposed to get in between two dogs in the middle of a fight, but I had to push them out of the room where rabbits were hopping around without any barrier between them and the dogs.  I don’t blame either of them for what happened.

Falcor would always lose their fights and after the first one she realized that I was protecting her from getting beat up.  She started following me around everywhere.  When new people would come to the house she would stay close to me and when people would pet her she would look to me to see if it was safe to trust them.  She considered me her guardian and I was honored to have that duty.

She loved getting pets and rubs and would do this funny thing with her head if you stopped rubbing her, even for a few seconds.  She would snap her head back and give this disapproving stare back as if to say “I didn’t tell you to stop”.  Wherever I went, she wanted to go too.  When I would be finished showering I would open the bathroom door and see her laying on the floor looking up at me with her head resting over her paws, waiting for me to come out.  When I would come home from work she would do this “happy dance” with her front feet as if the ground was really hot.  Any time I would say her name (I called her Falcorsies), she would wag her tail.

My fondest memory of Falcor would have to be right after the first time we had her groomed. My partner brought her home smelling like flowers with a big pink bow on her collar.  She was glowing with happiness.  She must have felt like a princess.  Moments like that is what rescuing a dog is all about.  She would have languished and died in a shelter, wondering where her family went, feeling afraid, alone and confused, but in that moment she was the happiest, most loved dog in the world.

One night she couldn’t stop panting.  She panted so loudly I wasn’t able to sleep.  I took her to an after-hours emergency clinic.  She didn’t want to go into the back with the veterinary technician without me.  She took a few steps, looked back, noticed I wasn’t following her and promptly planted her butt on the ground and pulled against the leash.  She wasn’t going anywhere without her protector.  They let me come in with her.

They took x-rays of her abdomen and discovered that she was full of fluid that had collected around her lungs, making it difficult for her to breathe.  They would have to do a tap to remove the fluid.  After about an hour and just over two liters of fluid removed from her chest, the vet recommended that we send the fluid to a lab to see if her condition was caused by an infection or cancer.  About a week later we had the results.  It was cancer. Continue reading “I Lost My Friend Today”

What is Love?: How Going Vegan Showed Me What Love Really Is

vegan, valentine, valentine's day, heartI am an animal lover; always have been, always will be.  The thing is, I didn’t actually start loving animals until just a few years ago.  Allow me to explain…

I’ve had pets all my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I began having companions.  To put this simply, anyone can love a pet.  We love them for all they do for us: they make us feel comforted, understood and supported when times get tough; they make us laugh and smile with their silly antics; and they can even make us cry when they fall ill and pass away.  But when does an animal stop being a pet and start being a companion?  The answer: when we stop focusing on how they make us feel and start focusing on how we make them feel.

Anyone who has ever truly loved someone will tell you that love is selfless.  With love, there is no room for ego or pride.  Love is something we give to someone without expecting anything in return.  Of course, we love to feel loved as well, but (real) love is not a form of bribery.  If we truly love someone, we love them for who they are, not what they can do for us.  Furthermore, real love is not contingent on whether someone can or will love us in return.

So at what point do you go from simply thinking you love animals, to actually loving them?   Continue reading “What is Love?: How Going Vegan Showed Me What Love Really Is”