Symbols of Whats 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,
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
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 its different now. Im actually
eager to start my day, and this apparent perversion has nothing to do
with being a morning person (which Im not) or being a bouncy
bundle of energy (again, not I). It has everything to do with realizing
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.
Im one of those people. (Are you sitting down?) Im happy
with my life. I have everything I need and am surroundedand routinely
inspiredby the most hard-working, conscientious individuals Ive
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 animalsboth human and nonhuman.
Its 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 doesnt help us or the animals.
So we need to remember the positives, both serious and
Open Rescues Two years ago, Australias Action Animal Rescue
Teams 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 peoplethrough
positive press coverage and activist outreachhow animal agribusiness
treats billions of farmed animals each year. The beauty of open rescues
is that the focus of the media coverage isnt 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
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 yesterdays 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. Its 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 youre 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 youll
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 youll 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 storeseven onlinefor
ideas, only to see price tags from $100 to $1,000. (Imagine how many
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 weve 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 dont 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
the collective cry demanding an end to animal suffering, they are the
future of the movement.
Free Online Vegan Recipes Comfort food. A veggie barbecue. A Sunday
picnic. An intimate dinner. A late-night snack. Its all about
food. Who among us doesnt get excited to hear about a new flavor
of Soy Delicious frozen dessert? Whose eyes dont grow huge at
the sight of an overflowing potluck table with dozens of dishes to sample?
Who can honestly admit they dont start thinking about their next
meal soon after wiping their lips of that last bite?
Lucky for us, theres no dearth of delicious vegan recipes just
a few keystrokes and mouse clicks away. On Web sites such as www.vegancooking.com,
and www.vegan recipes.com, youll 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 dont. Generally, those actively
supporting animal cruelty with their diet want to find any reason to
dismiss what were expressing. But, fortunately for the animals,
its hard to deny reality when faced directly with it.
People say a picture is worth a thousand words. If thats true,
then a video must be worth millions. There doesnt seem to be
anything more effective in our activist toolkit than showing others
goes on in animal industries each day.
Documentaries with footage of actual conditions, like Compassion Over
Killings Hope for the Hopeless and The Auction Block,
and PETAs Meet Your Meat, challenge viewers to witness
the suffering caused by eating animals. Since itll 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
van, and ask viewers to choose compassion by becoming vegan.
Cashews and Fruit Smoothies Two taste sensations
necessarily taste great together. I really cant 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, its overwhelmingly monounsaturated
fat (the good fat), and clinical nutrition studiesincluding
the ongoing Harvard Nurses Health Study, which has followed more
than 121,000 women for over a decadereport 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 youre at the market, snatch up a handful of whatever
fruitsfrozen and/or freshare 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
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 were 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
the first time an animal approaches them as sanctuary employees explain
why its so important we dont hurt them by eating them. And
I can be thankful these animalsunlike their billions of brothers
and sisterswere spared. Then I can go back to my apartment and
work a little harder.
Waiting for Guffman If you havent yet experienced the joy
(and pain) of getting stomach cramps from laughing for the entire 90
minutes of this mockumentary about a small towns 150th anniversary
celebration (in the hysterical form of a musical extravaganza), you
must. Waiting for Guffman is an absolute masterpiece. This Is Spinal
Taps Christopher Guest and SCTVs (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. Ive 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
between, the roads are still heavily congested. Theres 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 thats not playing commercials all day. That is, you wont
find much comfort unless you conduct business in the middle of the
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 cant walk or ride a bike,
hop onto public transportation. Take those articles that have piled
up or start that book youve 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
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, were minimizing the damage we do to the planet
and the animalshuman and nonhuman.
Even as vegetarians and vegans, we adversely affect the lives of animals
by encroaching on whats left of their natural habitats by driving
pollution machines, clear-cutting their homes, and poisoning their
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.