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October 2002
Ten Symbols of What’s Right in the World
Activists Sound Off on What Inspires Them

By Miyun Park

 

 

Every morning before my alarm clock has a chance to jolt me awake, I’m already up and firmly ensconced in front of my computer. And every morning at 6:30, as I hear the radio blaring in the background and chide myself for forgetting to shut off the alarm, I run to slam my hand on the poor clock radio.

I have no idea why I even set the alarm. I used to hate waking up before I absolutely had to. But it’s different now. I’m actually eager to start my day, and this apparent perversion has nothing to do with being a morning person (which I’m not) or being a bouncy bundle of energy (again, not I). It has everything to do with realizing how incredibly fortunate I am to spend my entire day working on what I see as the most important social justice issue of our age: animal liberation.

I’m one of those people. (Are you sitting down?) I’m happy with my life. I have everything I need and am surrounded—and routinely inspired—by the most hard-working, conscientious individuals I’ve ever known. Why do I believe the work we as animal advocates do is so vital? Because in the time it takes to watch an episode of Friends, more than 500,000 animals in the U.S. have their throats slit, bleed out, and are dismembered to adorn dinnerware. Because waste from factory farms is polluting the soil, the waterways, and the air we all breathe. Because consumption of animal products is linked to heart disease, some cancers, stroke, obesity, hypertension, and other serious health problems affecting millions of people each year. Because the work we do to promote veganism and end animal slavery can make a real difference for the planet and the animals—both human and nonhuman.

It’s never easy to be optimistic when suffering surrounds us and society takes far too long to change. Thinking about what we have not yet done, instead of what we have accomplished, we can become paralyzed by a sense of hopelessness. And that doesn’t help us or the animals. So we need to remember the positives, both serious and…not so serious.

Open Rescues
Two years ago, Australia’s Action Animal Rescue Team’s tactic of open rescues made its way north of the equator. The strategy was simple: conduct investigations of factory farms, rescue as many as can be cared for and placed in safe and loving homes, and show the public documentary footage of the conditions forced upon animals raised for food.

Since January 2001, four open rescues have taken place in the U.S., directly saving the lives of 66 animals and showing millions of people—through positive press coverage and activist outreach—how animal agribusiness treats billions of farmed animals each year. The beauty of open rescues is that the focus of the media coverage isn’t on the activists who publicly admit their participation; rather, the focus is on the animals and the treatment they endure. I hope open rescues continue to become more frequent and effective in showing consumers the cruelty their appetites for animal products force upon more than 99 percent of the animals killed in this country: those we eat. To learn more about open rescues, visit www.cok.net.

Thrift Stores
With each purchase we make, we are effectively making a choice: a new pair of shoes, a cup of coffee, a new CD, or yet another knick-knack, over the lives of many animals. We buy more and buy brand-new instead of consuming less and opting for “new-to-me.” As a result, our dumps and landfills overflow with yesterday’s “must-haves” and expand into precious wilderness leaving many animals homeless; meanwhile, animal advocacy organizations lack the donations they need to mainstream the message of compassion.

Every dollar we spend is worth more than 100 pennies. It’s worth the lives of several animals.

For just 14 cents, Vegan Outreach can produce a copy of Why Vegan. Each time I choose not to buy a new pair of $35 jeans, 250 more booklets can be printed and handed to 250 potential vegans. So, when you find yourself really needing something, whatever it may be, take a quick trip to your community thrift store. Whether you’re looking for furniture, a vacuum cleaner, a bicycle, a set of dishes, a computer monitor, or clothes in every shape and style, chances are high you’ll be able to give a new home to exactly what you need, while treading a bit more lightly on the planet and adding a little more to your much-appreciated gift to a charity.

Worried you’ll only find junk, Lawrence Welk records, or scary leisure suits? Recently, I needed a dress and shoes for a formal event and checked boutiques, department stores—even online—for ideas, only to see price tags from $100 to $1,000. (Imagine how many Why Vegans could be printed for $1,000!) So I popped over to the closest thrift shop and got the perfect evening dress ($4), great vegan shoes ($2), and incredible satisfaction knowing something as simple as buying used clothing was helping animals.

New Vegan Activists Some of us may be familiar with activist burnout, usually manifested in cynicism, depression, and intolerance. The longer we’ve been involved in animal liberation, the harder it may be to remember why we first got active in the struggle, and, thus, the further we are from understanding how the majority of people can be motivated to change. We may find ourselves retreating into a vegan bubble, surrounding ourselves only with those who think and act as we do. We may fall into a rut and trudge along, wearing blinders to new ideas and constructive criticisms of our programs and campaigns. The animals don’t have time for us to fall into these traps. Thankfully, the enthusiasm and passion of new activists push, prompt, and inspire us to constantly be mindful of why we do what we do and consider innovative ways to bring about lasting change. By adding their earnest voices to the collective cry demanding an end to animal suffering, they are the future of the movement.

Free Online Vegan Recipe
s Comfort food. A veggie barbecue. A Sunday picnic. An intimate dinner. A late-night snack. It’s all about food. Who among us doesn’t get excited to hear about a new flavor of Soy Delicious frozen dessert? Whose eyes don’t grow huge at the sight of an overflowing potluck table with dozens of dishes to sample? Who can honestly admit they don’t start thinking about their next meal soon after wiping their lips of that last bite?

Lucky for us, there’s no dearth of delicious vegan recipes just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks away. On Web sites such as www.vegancooking.com, www.veganchef.com, and www.vegan recipes.com, you’ll find free, easy-to-follow instructions for making anything from Artichoke Puffs to Crostini with Basil Olivada to Breaded Tempeh Cutlets to Chocolate Amaretto Almond Cookies. Check them out, let your mouth water, and bon appétit!

Undercover Footage
When talking with family, friends, colleagues, or strangers, we can cite statistics, give horror story after horror story, try to appeal to their sense of morality and social justice, plead, cajole, and debate until we have nothing left to say. And, sometimes we make a dent, but other times we don’t. Generally, those actively supporting animal cruelty with their diet want to find any reason to dismiss what we’re expressing. But, fortunately for the animals, it’s hard to deny reality when faced directly with it.

People say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, then a video must be worth millions. There doesn’t seem to be anything more effective in our activist toolkit than showing others exactly what goes on in animal industries each day.

Documentaries with footage of actual conditions, like Compassion Over Killing’s Hope for the Hopeless and The Auction Block, and PETA’s Meet Your Meat, challenge viewers to witness the suffering caused by eating animals. Since it’ll be a while before we see television news air a full hour of factory farming footage, we can take the videos to the streets with mobile theatres, like a FaunaVision van, and ask viewers to choose compassion by becoming vegan.

Cashews and Fruit Smoothies Two taste sensations…which don’t necessarily taste great together. I really can’t think of a more delicious food than cashews, especially raw, unsalted ones. A wonderful source of protein, cashews have gotten a bad rap as being fatty. While they may have a bit of fat per ounce, it’s overwhelmingly monounsaturated fat (the “good” fat), and clinical nutrition studies—including the ongoing Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which has followed more than 121,000 women for over a decade—report a 30- to 50-percent reduction of heart disease risk for those who enjoy nuts several times weekly. So run out and grab some to nibble on as a light snack. Your taste buds and heart will thank you…

…and, while you’re at the market, snatch up a handful of whatever fruits—frozen and/or fresh—are on sale. Throw them in a blender with some rice milk, and whip up a scrumptious smoothie. I love eating fruit but never seem to have the recommended five or more pieces a day, so a mid-morning smoothie takes care of everything!

Farmed Animal Sanctuaries Living in Washington, D.C., the only time I regularly see farmed animals is when COK is conducting investigations or open rescues. My exposure to the individuals we’re trying to free from suffering is thus usually limited to reading articles about them, working on publications describing their lives, and talking about the cruelties they brave.

When I find myself feeling a bit removed or getting fatigued from day-to-day activism, I go to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary just outside the city. Poplar, like Farm Sanctuary, Ooh-Mah-Nee, and other havens for rescued farmed animals, is an incredible place. I can sit quietly and watch chickens being chickens, not egg-producing widgets or a legs/thighs/wings/breast family bucket special. Cows and pigs can follow me with their beautiful eyes as I cross a field to spend time with the goats and sheep. I can smile to myself when I hear an elementary school class shriek with delight the first time an animal approaches them as sanctuary employees explain why it’s so important we don’t hurt them by eating them. And I can be thankful these animals—unlike their billions of brothers and sisters—were spared. Then I can go back to my apartment and work a little harder.

Waiting for Guffman If you haven’t yet experienced the joy (and pain) of getting stomach cramps from laughing for the entire 90 minutes of this mockumentary about a small town’s 150th anniversary celebration (in the hysterical form of a musical extravaganza), you must. Waiting for Guffman is an absolute masterpiece. This Is Spinal Tap’s Christopher Guest and SCTV’s (Second City Television, the acclaimed Canadian comedy troupe) Eugene Levy developed a detailed plot outline and character sketches, but no script. The movie is improvised by some of the cleverest actors around. I’ve probably seen the film 25 times since its premier in 1997, and I still laugh and giggle as if it were my first time watching it. Check it out!

Public Transportation In D.C., rush-hour traffic mangles the streets from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m., again from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., and in between, the roads are still heavily congested. There’s not much relief from bumper-to-bumper traffic, elevated blood pressure from driving aggression, or the cramps in your fingers from trying to find a radio station that’s not playing commercials all day. That is, you won’t find much comfort unless you conduct business in the middle of the night, ride your bicycle, or take advantage of public transportation.

Riding trains, subways, and buses decreases traffic and pollution, and uses less energy than driving. If you can’t walk or ride a bike, hop onto public transportation. Take those articles that have piled up or start that book you’ve been meaning to read, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Smaller Families There is a growing trend around the world towards smaller families. Fewer children means less natural resource depletion, less pollution, less habitat destruction, and fewer animals killed for food. By choosing to birth one child instead of two, adopt those in need, or electing not to have any children at all and undergoing vasectomies and tubal ligations, we’re minimizing the damage we do to the planet and the animals—human and nonhuman.

Even as vegetarians and vegans, we adversely affect the lives of animals by encroaching on what’s left of their natural habitats by driving pollution machines, clear-cutting their homes, and poisoning their drinking water with our pesticide-laden runoff and toxic waste. As we reduce our population, we are alleviating some of the pressure our species places on others.

Miyun Park is the president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit animal advocacy organization Compassion Over Killing. To learn more, visit www.cok.net or call (301) 891-2458. For a free Vegan Starter Guide, visit www.TryVegan.com.

 


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