Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting back to basics

Thanksgiving…always a tough time for many of us, not only as vegan activists who have to endure an entire day that focuses on the death of an innocent bird, but also for those fighting for indigenous rights. This is also a holiday when many spend time with their families and are reminded of the fact that maybe, ‘they don’t get it.’

A couple of weeks ago I spoke in El Paso at the Vegetarian Society of El Paso’s (VSoEP) Thanksgiving event. It had been a while since I had been in Texas (my home state) and it was incredible and refreshing to be around such wonderful activists.

While I lived in Texas I remember running various animal rights groups and, really, just doing what we did for the animalsnot being so impacted by conflicts in the animal rights movement but just hunkering down and doing what needed to be done. I sometimes wonder if that is because we were so far removed from it all, or perhaps it was simply because it was during the time before the Internet. Whatever it was, when I was there, it made me miss the days when I felt that we, as a movement, were truly united…maybe because we were even fewer back then. Or was it perhaps that the issues we worked on then were even less known at that time?

I think that sometimes living in California (the Bay Area, no less!) makes it hard to remember what it is like to live in places such as Texas, New Mexico and Georgia (places I have lived) and that vegetarianism, much less veganism, can be difficult. And I don’t mean just what we eat, I mean the mindset.

But I know these are the places where I learned a lot – where the concept of animal liberation is truly a foreign concept. It reminds me how life is for me now working outside of the paid animal rights movement.

You learn so much more living outside of the ‘vegan bubble.’ You learn what non-vegan people think and how they perceive us as well as the food we choose to eat. This type of interaction gives us the ability to learn what impacts people – not activists. We learn the various types of reactions we get on the issues we feel passionately about.

Now, I would love to do Food Empowerment Project as a full-time paid job, just as I know many activists want to work in the animal rights movement, so I say all of this to remind everyone how we can learn from the outside world. As good as it might feel to be around like-minded individuals all of the time, we learn how to be better advocates for animals when we remove ourselves from our comfort zone. I’m not saying it is easy, but just reminding everyone, including myself -- and even older activists like me -- that we can always learn more.

A quick thanks to the crew in El Paso! If you have been around for a while you know Sukie the rock star activist and founder of the VSoEP. I have worked with her for decades—from the anti-Procter & Gamble campaign to Fur-Free Friday, as well as many of my campaigns for Viva!USA on behalf of farmed animals. It was great to spend time with her, her husband, the critters and Greg, who is the president of VSoEP. I was also very excited to meet Charlotte and Lisa, a wonderful mother-and-daughter team. I apologize for not mentioning all of the dedicated activists I met. Thank you for all of the Texas friendly you offered.

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