Gary Yourofsky & Vegan Activism

Image source: veganninja  [CC BY-SA]

Watching Gary Yourofsky’s video (see lower down in this post) changed something in me and made me feel like I need to do more. People are divided in their opinions of Gary, those who love him and those who think he’s too radical/aggressive, too arrogant or similar, but I found his passion for the ethical argument against the mass slaughtering of animals and his way of delivering his speech, refreshing.

In case you don’t know of Gary Yourofsky, he’s been a fundamental change-maker in the world of veganism and an inspiring speaker, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for many people turning vegan. Another huge impact on people are films like Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret.

He’s also a rule-breaker and pretty controversial in his no-mincing of words style. Does he go too far? For some people, yes, because they’re uncomfortable with some of the things he says, yet for others, he’s telling a truth that needs to be told and ought to be heard by everyone.

My Take Before Seeing Gary’s Video

I’ve spent my life living in an area of Spain where there’s not much exposure to vegetarian or vegan beliefs and I am totally accustomed to being the odd one out. It’s completely normal for me to be an ‘island’, on my own with my convictions.

Because of this, I hadn’t had any contact or interaction with other vegans or the vegan movement until a couple of years ago, and Gary Yourofsky was actually one of the first videos on veganism that I watched.

Although I’ve spent my whole life as a vegetarian, a very long time as a food vegan, and a pretty long time as a full blown vegan, I’ve always avoided the hard-core vegan approach. Most of my young years were spent with people attacking me for being vegetarian, not literally of course, but verbally.

Sometimes they would use the argument that a vegetarian/vegan can’t be healthy, but that belief has been totally blown apart by scientific research. As long as you take care of your nutritional needs, like being aware of the astonishing effects of vitamin B12 and supplementing it into your diet for example, a vegan diet, in my opinion, is healthier than eating meat.

As soon as a person found out that I was vegetarian they would start all the arguments in the book and I would look at them and wonder why they felt the need to do this. I wasn’t attacking the food they ate, so why were they attacking mine?

This left quite a deep imprint on me and led me to the belief and practice of accepting and respecting other people’s way of life (so as not to replicate the treatment I so hated, which I had received all my life). I still practise complete acceptance of other peoples choices.

But now, when I listened to Gary speaking, I realised that there’s much more that I must do. I must share my knowledge with people who would also like to lead a non-violent lifestyle and who share my convictions of non cruelty!

There are other vegans in the world and I’m not alone. Yaay!

As you can read in my previous post what being vegan means to me, I’ve spent my entire life avoiding confrontation about my disbelief and horror at what goes on in the world of animal treatment. Reasons for keeping quiet were, and maybe still are, partly valid. But it’s also essential to share the facts with people who want to learn about them or who are partially or completely ignorant of what really goes on.

The time has come for me to speak my truth and stand up for what I believe in.

Two (of the Many) Things I’ve Wondered About

Animals Vs Pets

  • I’ve wondered all my life about how people rationalise the discrepancy they have between how they react to an animal they’ve labelled a pet and an animal in the food chain. Someone will be all gooey about their pet and totally cold to the suffering of the animal on their plate. That never has, and never will, make any sense to me.
  • An acquaintance was sitting next to me at a restaurant when suddenly he jumped up and started shouting furiously at a man in the street because he had hit his horse with a whip. The man then sat back down and carried on eating the plate of pork in front of him, at the same time calling me sentimental and unrealistic for being vegetarian. Hey? Where is the sense in that?
  • We consider it a crime to intentionally abuse, beat or otherwise mistreat a dog, horse or other domesticated animal. In fact neighbours would be calling the police if they saw cruelty going on in the next door paddock, but when they drive along a motorway and see a lorry crammed full of pigs being shipped for slaughter they accept it as completely normal. I just don’t get it.

Intentional Ignorance

  • People get really angry when they’re shown/explained the cruelty that goes on. It’s as though you are personally inventing a nasty tale to tell them; I’ve often wondered why they don’t want to actually know what happens in the production of a product they consume. After all, if it happens, it happens, and everyone should know about it.

Brave Defender Against Animal Suffering or Too Controversial For You?

Gary spent years lecturing at universities and became one of the top influencers for veganism, even though the term influencer didn’t exist when he started out, that is exactly what he did and continues to do, even though he’s retired from public speaking.

He educates people and education brings change. He’s passionate about this in a way that will cause a reaction – love it or hate it, you probably won’t sit on the fence.

Gary Yourofsky makes some very clear comparisons, calling the animal slaughter the animal holocaust. His argument resonates with some, and angers others.

He also admits that he wishes evil to befall those who inflict pain on animals, and has some descriptive ways of describing what he would like to see happen to those who work in slaughterhouses, for example.

While this may make some people angry, his delivery is very honest, straightforward and based on facts. It is, after all, a fact that 9 billion chicken are slaughtered each year in the USA alone, and 50 billion, worldwide. For cows the figure goes up to around 300 billion per year.

200 million animals are slaughtered worldwide every day and 150 billion per year.

I find the figures mind-blowing. To me it seems obvious that we need to find another food source for feeding this world full of humans – so that we can close down the chambers of torture.

Gary Yourofsky’s Most Publicised Video

Here is the first video of Gary Yorofsky that I saw, and I want to share it with you.

Gary Yourofsky – About His Life

Gary Yourofsky was born in Detroit, Michigan USA, on the 19th August, 1970. For the first 25 years of his life he ate meat and like most people was unaware of the atrocities which were occurring behind closed doors.

He first became aware that something was wrong when he was invited backstage by his step father to see the elephants at the circus. According to his story, he was excited to take his girlfriend to see them but when he got there he was confronted with chained elephants who were (neurotically) swaying back and forth, something he later learned was stress related from being kept chained all the time.

Alongside the elephants there were caged lions (in prisons says Gary) and he looked at his girlfriend and said something along the lines of: ‘This isn’t right.’

After that, Gary became an avid and controversial activist, regularly being in the headlines and getting arrested 13 times between 1997 and 2001, including spending 77 days in high security Canadian prison after illegally entering, causing damage to, and releasing more than 1.500 mink from a mink fur farm in 1999.

Gary Yourofsky became an avid defender of animal rights and from the year 2002 to 2005 Peta sponsored his university lectures. However, in 2005 PETA withdrew the funding and Gary and PETA parted ways.

An Interesting Interview with Gary Yourofsky on Isreali TV:

Gary Yourofsky’s Controversial Approach

He is clear about his approach – it’s a moral, ethical one, and when asked on Israli TV why he doesn’t use health or the planet as arguments as they may be more persuasive, he answers that for him, this is an ethical and moral obligation which we have.

He says there is no such thing as ‘humane killing’. ‘Is there such a thing as humane rape, or humane murder then?’ he asks.

He also points out that people need to focus on the main problem: the food industry, including marine life as well as animals and birds. Too often, the argument becomes pedantic about smaller issues. First let’s concentrate on the problem which is 98% of the problem and leave the smaller issues for later.

Why argue over whether you are making mistakes? If we all try to reduce/eliminate meat from our diets, we’ll be taking a step towards a more peaceful world, not to mention a healthier diet which could feed the masses of starving people more easily than a meat based diet every could (because of cost and ground requirement).

Animals are sentient beings and they hurt and cry just as we do when we are tortured or mistreated. Let’s recognise that and take it step by step toward a world where we respect other species. Let’s start putting an end to speciesism.

Resources for a Vegan Journey

There are some great documentaries out there which can have a huge effect and are well worth seeing. One of the most well known movie is Cowspiracy, the sustainability secret, all about the impact of the meat and dairy industry.

Don’t miss out on my guide to starting a vegan lifestyle or these top 10 tips for the vegan kitchen.

If you’re looking to cut dairy from your life (or reduce it) you may like to read about vegan cheeses or this vegan cashew cheese with jalapeño and this homemade vegan mayonnaise recipe.

And for grated cheese, there’s nothing simpler than this vegan parmesan.

Final food for thought

What do you think is the most effective way to show someone the atrocities that are going on behind closed doors, without alienating the very people we want to help? Do you think vegans need to be activists? Or can we spread the word gently and still raise awareness?

I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

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