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inspiration

First-Ever DxE Demo in Mexico City

First-Ever DxE Demo in Mexico City

By Saryta Rodriguez and Juan Carlos Fraga

 

En Julio 2015, la primera demostración de DXE en la Ciudad de México se llevo a cabo. Al enterarse de esta emocionante noticia, me acerqué a la activista con sede en México - Ciudad Juan Carlos Fraga para más detalles. Este fue un evento verdaderamente inspirador, y es un placer para mí compartir puntos de vista de Juan Carlos con ustedes. Disfrute! (Y muchisimas gracias, Juan Carlos!)

In July 2015, the first-ever DxE demo in Mexico City took place. Upon hearing this exciting news, I reached out to Mexico-City-based activist Juan Carlos Fraga for details. This was a truly inspiring event, and it is my pleasure to share Juan Carlos’s insights with you. Enjoy! (And many thanks, Juan Carlos!)

SR: Dondes estaban? (Where were you?)

JC: La acción se llevo a cabo en el centro de la ciudad en una calle en la que hay mucha gente y hay más de 10 restaurantes de comida rápida que venden cuerpos de animales como comida. Logramos hacer la acción en 12 lugares en algunos desde afuera y en otros entrando, estos lugares eran KFC, Mc Donalds, Burger King, Pizzas Hut, Carl's Junior y otros menos conocidos.

The action took place in the city’s center, on a street where there are many people, as well as over ten fast-food restaurants that sell animals’ bodies as food. We ultimately performed the action in 12 locations— some outside and some inside. These places included a KFC, a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, a Carl's Junior and other lesser-known restaurant chains.

Left to right: Sujeto X, Jelly Mizery, Pako, Nut, Laura, Nelly, Perla, Marce, Fany, Kitty, and two more amazing activists!

Left to right: Sujeto X, Jelly Mizery, Pako, Nut, Laura, Nelly, Perla, Marce, Fany, Kitty, and two more amazing activists!

SR: Cuantos gentes llegaron para participar? (How many people showed up to participate?)

JC: Esperabamos ser menos, pero fuimos muchos— un poco más de 30 personas!

We expected to be few, but wound up being many— just over 30 people!

SR: ¿Cómo la gente viendo reaccionan? Aggresivo? Simpático? Confundido? (How did the people watching react? Aggresively? Sympathetically? Confusedly?)

JC: Algunas personas nos ignoraron e hicieron como que no nos escuchaban, pero fue muy buena la experiencia en un restaurant muy pequeño con solo 4 mesas en el que al terminar, las personas se quedaron muy pensativas y nos aplaudían cuando nos fuimos. En un Burger King, cuando el personal de seguridad intentaba sacarnos una señora les dijo que no nos sacaran que nos dejaran terminar. Lo que fue una experiencia muy buena, y además la señora logró que el policía dejará de molestarnos y nos dejara terminar el speech por lo que, en general, la actitud de la gente fue muy buena, ya que nuestra actitud hacia ellos en todo momento también lo fue. Esperamos haber dejado un mensaje que no olvidarán y que ojalá tomen en cuenta la siguiente vez que van a comer.

Some people ignored us and acted as though they were not listening to us, but we had a great experience in a very small restaurant with only 4 tables in which, at the end, people were very thoughtful and applauded us as we left. In a Burger King, when security personnel tried to kick us out, a lady told them not to do so and to let us finish. It was a very good experience, and the lady also convinced the police stop bothering us and let us finish our speech. So, in general, the attitude of the people was very good, and our attitude towards them at all times was also. We hope to have left a message they will not forget and will hopefully take into account the next time they go to eat.

SR: ¿Qué dijeron la gente que hablaron por los animales? (What did the people who gave speak-outs say?)

Read speak outs here.

SR: Comos te sentiste durante el evento? (How did you feel during the event?)

JC: Al principio me daba un poco de miedo sobre lo que podría hacer el personal de seguridad con nosotros, pero después de que lo hicimos por primera vez fue más fácil. Cometimos muchos errores que seguramente en las siguientes acciones iremos corrigiendo, muchos errores en el speak out pero cada vez los estaremos diciendo mejor!

At first I was a little scared about what security might do to us, but after the first disruption it was easier. We made many mistakes that we will surely correct in future demonstrations, many errors in the speak-out but each time we said it, it got better and better! 

Left to right: Laura, Juan Carlos, Nut, Mimi, Nelly, Kitty

Left to right: Laura, Juan Carlos, Nut, Mimi, Nelly, Kitty

SR: ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría compartir con nosotros acerca de su experiencia? (Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your experience?)

JC: Me encanta DxE, y también me encanta el compromiso de cada uno de los activistas que he conocido. Me encanta el compromiso de Kitty. Sin ella, y sin el apoyo de Wotko Tristan, ninguna de las acciones que hemos echo habría sido posible. Otros activistas como Chris Van Breen y Priya Sawhney han sido una gran inspiración para nosotros y para quienes quieren unirse a DxE en México D.F. Me encanta también la comunidad que DxE promueve sin importar que tan lejos estemos o nuestras diferencias, siempre y cuando creamos en la justicia y en los derechos para todos los animales. Quiero conocerlos a todos!

I love DxE, and I love the commitment of every one of the activists that I have met in it. I love Kitty’s [Kitty Jones’s] commitment. Without her, and without the support of Wotko Cristan, none of the actions we did would have been posible. Other activists such as Chris Van Breen and Priya Sawhney have been a huge inspiration to us and and for those who want to join DxE Mexico City. I also love the community that DxE promotes: No matter how far apart we are, or how different we are, as long as we believe in justice and rights for all animals. I would like to get to know all of them!

Why Disrupt? (Video)

DxE's Araceli Rodriguez dragged off of stage after disrupting Chris Christie's talk in Iowa. 

DxE's Araceli Rodriguez dragged off of stage after disrupting Chris Christie's talk in Iowa. 

Why Disrupt? (Video)

In light of the recent Chris Christie disruption, many people are asking, "Why disrupt?" 

DxE Organizer Wayne Hsiung sets out reasons that disruption has been key to every effective movement for social justice. This talk will show how disruption provokes attention, reshapes norms, and ultimately helps us build a stronger movement for animals.

Note: This talk was recorded in 2014. 

A DxE Convert

A DxE Convert

By Leslie Goldberg

 

I really didn’t know what to make of the DxE video I was watching: Animal rights activists marching into restaurants and yelling their heads off about animals who wanted to live and how “meat” isn’t food, it’s violence. The activist/troublemakers usually held AR signs and stony expressions. The restaurant customers looked amused, embarrassed or annoyed. The staff? Angry, then frazzled.

As an animal rights activist myself, generally of the polite variety, I was intrigued, but also intimidated— especially when I’d see a DxE video of someone going into a restaurant alone and starting to shout. I said to myself, I COULD NEVER DO THAT. My husband said, “YOU’D BETTER NOT DO THAT.”

I live close to a Nations Giant Hamburgers, a KFC, a Jack ’n’ the Box and a Burger King – so many opportunities, I thought. But no, I can’t. I just can’t.

Weeks passed and still I kept wondering about DxE. I’d check out the notices on Facebook for Direction Action Everywhere Meetups, held on Saturday mornings at the DxE House in Oakland.

The DxE House. I had a picture in my mind – White frame house, falling apart, in a rough part of Oakland. My imaginary house was kind of modeled after the left-wing nut Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) “safe house” in San Francisco, where fugitive Patty Hearst was hiding, hoping to evade arrest for a bank robbery in which she’d participated. In my fantasy DxE House, unsavory characters hung out on the steps in the front or inside in a sort of trashed-out living room with stained and broken-down couches.

No way, no how would I go there. The ‘60s are over and these days, troublesome animal rights activists end up in federal prison.

Still, something nagged at me. I asked around. Pretty much everyone said, DxE? No, they’re making things worse for our cause. We need to be good vegan examples instead.

Then I emailed one of the most sensible, logical, respectable and respected vegans I know. She’s been around for a long time. She’s an author, a public speaker and volunteers helping homeless people: “What do you think about DxE?” I wrote.

“I love DxE,” she wrote back. “It seems like they’re the only ones talking about the ‘humane meat’ thing.”

 “Oh...really?” 

I told my husband I was going to the DxE Meetup in Oakland and if he wanted to come too, that would be awesome. He gave in.

We went.

Arriving at a sleek, modern high rise in Jack London Square, with some kind of yuppified fitness place on the ground floor next door, I thought, This can’t be right. Where are my scary dudes hanging around outside? The unmarked cop cars? Marijuana smoke wafting through the air?

The DxE house is, I’m kind of sorry to say, an appallingly normal apartment. That morning it was filled with 25 or so UC-Berkeley-student types visiting with each other, having coffee and doughnuts. (Yes, they have chocolate and coconut.) Somebody was grinding away on a Vita-Mix, making smoothies. There was no vague smell of pot or last night’s beer in the air. Instead, there was laughter. Wholesome laughter.

Two dogs— an old, old black one, Natalie, and a light brown pit with a crooked tail, Lisa— were wandering around. Supposedly two cats live there, too, but I didn’t see them.

I found out that each DxE Meetup usually consists of watching an inspirational protest video and doing a “community-building” exercise. The exercise can be as low-key as people pairing up to introduce themselves or as structured as the whole group holding a long pole (horizontally) with two fingers and trying, in unison, to slowly lower it to the floor. (It helps to close your eyes and concentrate, otherwise the thing flies way up in the air.)

After that, three volunteers give five-minute presentations. I liked it. I had fun. I met people. I learned stuff. My husband liked it, too.

At my first DxE meeting back in April, I was told there would be a protest in San Francisco the following week and asked, would I go? Before I gave myself a chance to get scared, I said yes. The “Would (I) go?” question sounded to me like “are you a person who walks the walk or just talks the talk?” (I know, I know, I have an over-developed sense of responsibility, as well as an over-developed sense of pride.)

I showed up, and I survived the protest. Not just survived— I was inspired by the experience, and by the other activists. I felt empowered. I’ve since participated in many more protests. I think I’m up to 18 now.

I was probably born to be an activist. I grew up in the South at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was taking off. My father was an activist Episcopal priest and took significant risks both to himself and to our family by speaking out against segregation in our small town of Stuttgart, Arkansas.

Having lived through the Viet Nam War, I understand in my bones the necessity of protest when there is injustice. I also understand that you don’t necessarily see immediate success or progress by protesting. Drawing attention and kicking up a fuss matters. Unfortunately, I think it’s the only thing that makes people realize you’re serious.

But one cannot be serious all the time. (Yes, even while animals are suffering.)

One DxE member said to me, “We think the Meetups are just as important as the protests, maybe even more important. We’ve got to build our community.”

So today, I skipped the restaurant protest and just went to the Meetup. The community- building exercise was this game involving numbers on a white board. Since numbers, especially mystery sequences of numbers, generally scare me, I pretended to be interested and stayed quiet.

The three presentations were: “How to Be in the World” by Margaret, “DxE Women’s Liberation Group” by Maryam, and “How I Became an Activist”.

Margaret, a relative newcomer to DxE, shared her conundrum with the group. She has four friends who get together for a monthly brunch at a non-vegan restaurant. One of the friends never misses a chance to order bacon. Recently this same friend wrote a FB post about the “joy” of eating animals, including the innards of lambs. Margaret commented online that she felt sad for the lamb. The next thing she knew, felt attacked by the bacon-eater, who demanded to know why she would write such a thing.

The next presentation was a pitch for DxE’s women’s group, where women animal rights activists gather once a month for a potluck and to socialize. The final presentation was a story about a long family tradition of both activism and vegetarianism.

After the presentations, the floor was opened for questions and discussion. Mostly we brainstormed Margaret’s difficulty. I thought she should just make a request of the brunchers to have the meal at a vegan place. Other people thought Margaret should visit with the problem friend one-on-one and explain why it’s painful for her to have to watch people consuming animal products. Others shared their experiences with their animal-eating friends and family.

No solution was reached, but it seemed like everyone felt better just having had a chance to talk about what it’s like being a vegan in a non-vegan world. There was a sense of commonality and an awareness that pretty much all vegans have to deal with the same stuff.  

I liked the idea that just getting together is as important as protesting and that having coffee and a doughnut with a newcomer can be a lot more useful and productive than arguing anonymously on Facebook.

As we left the apartment, my step felt a little lighter. “That was fun, huh?” I said to my husband.

We walked past the gym, where people were swinging kettleballs, their T-shirts soaked in sweat. They were doing something good for themselves, I thought. And going to the DxE meetup? That’s a two-fer: good for me and good for the animals. (Hey, I can go to the gym later in the afternoon.) 

***

Leslie Robinson Goldberg is a former writer for the San Francisco Examiner and is the creator of the blog Vicious Vegan. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her investigative series on San Francisco’s 911 system. She taught journalism at San Francisco State University and at City College of San Francisco. Her book of humorous drawings, The Sex Lives of Cats, is now available. She lives in El Cerrito, CA with her husband, Michael Goldberg.



Why activism, not veganism, is the moral baseline

Activists across the world took action this weekend for animals as part of the international event: #LightThePath (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

Activists across the world took action this weekend for animals as part of the international event: #LightThePath (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

Why activism, not veganism, is the moral baseline

In the aftermath of the Francione debate, DxE’s cofounder explains why veganism is not enough.

by Wayne Hsiung 

In yesterday’s discussion, Gary Francione repeatedly stated that DxE is “anti-vegan” – implying that we condone the use of animals. This is false. At DxE, we believe that it’s important to avoid personal contributions to animal exploitation, and we have strong norms against using animal products within our community. (Indeed, many of our organizers – including me – take this a step further and refuse to eat with others who are eating animals. Here’s Lauren Gazzola explaining why at last year’s AR conference.)

The difference between DxE and Gary is that, at DxE, we also believe that our personal actions are not enough. That if veganism is a political principle and not a personal choice, we must live out that difference in action.

Let’s use a hypothetical to explain the difference.  

Suppose you come across a mob of people beating a child with a stick.

In the face of nightmarish violence, a global movement for animals grows. #LightThePath to liberation.

“Join us,” they say. “It’s fun.”

The first response to the mob is, “Everyone else is doing it, so I might as well, too. And who knows, maybe they’re right that it’s fun.” This is the unthinking reaction that most people give to the brutal violence raging against animals. While we often condemn them for this choice, moreover, it’s important to note that most people don’t make a real choice. They never say to themselves, “Between torturing and slaughtering billions of gentle baby animals, or not torturing and killing… I choose torture.” As with other historical participants in atrocity, they simply accept the way things are; they are products of the system to which they were born.

Our most basic perceptions of the world – even something as simple as the length of a line – can be hugely distorted by cultural or social influence. And it’s difficult for ordinary people to see atrocity as atrocity, when it has been “made normal.” So yes, participating in mass violence is a shameful and unethical choice, but let’s always keep in mind that, ultimately, this participation is a systemic and not individual problem. (See the recent talk we gave at Northwestern for more on this distinction.)

The second response to the mob is, “I’m not comfortable with beating a child. It’s wrong. So I’m not going to join you.” This is veganism – non-participation in a violent practice. And while it’s certainly preferable to beating the child ourselves, it still falls far short of the moral baseline. Because where we have the power to take some action to help someone who is being abused – whether a human or non-human child (and note that virtually all animals killed by humans are, in fact, children) – we have a duty to do so. Indeed, many jurisdictions make it a crime when we fail to act to assist a helpless person in need.

This is especially true when we have benefitted in some way from the victim’s abuse. For example, while ordinary citizens do not have a duty to intervene in or report violence, if someone joins and partakes in the benefits of such a criminal conspiracy, the law requires them to take action to stop that conspiracy.  For example, suppose that you have been paid to be the getaway driver in an armed robbery. It’s not enough to say, “I won’t participate” after you’ve already been paid. After all, if you have benefitted from the crime, you have a responsibility to stop it.

As beneficiaries of 10,000+ years of human supremacy, and of continuing violence against animals both in captivity and the wild, we are all in this position. We are beneficiaries of a violent conspiracy. Our homes, our gadgets, our streets, and, yes, even our vegan food are products of violence against animals.  (For every animal humans kill for food, there are perhaps 1,000 who suffer and die to habitat loss and climate change.) And simply attempting to remove ourselves, when we continue to benefit from this system of violence, falls far short of our moral duty. So yes, participation in violence is shameful and unethical, but so too is inaction in the face of violence. So too is veganism without action.

But then what is the moral baseline? This brings us to our third response to the mob: action.  “Hey, stop what you are doing!” we might say to the men who are beating the child. Those of us who can muster the courage might try to physically shield the child from the blows. We might call 911, or try to rally other neighbors to help us save the child. We might even use physical force to defend the child and take away the stick. But if we truly seek to fulfill our moral duty in the face of the largest atrocity in history, we must do something beyond inaction.

But if activism is the moral baseline, why do so few vegans take action? There are at least three important reasons. The first is that they have not been taught to do so. Partly due to pseudo-scientific research, our movement is so focused on personal consumer behavior that it loses sight of its reason for existence: not vegan food, but the animals. I’m distressed by the number of conversations among AR activists that start with the tone and color of justice, and end with the tone and color of a vegan cupcake. But this is not a personal but a movement flaw. We need to collectively stop talking about where we can get vegan French fries, and start talking about animals and their lives. We need to make action for animals, not vegan consumerism, the unrelenting focus of our movement.  If people are not taught to act, they will not.

The second reason is that people have no idea what action to take. There is extensive research showing that, if people are presented with too many options, and those options have uncertain effects, they will often be paralyzed by indecision. “I want to help animals, but how?” Anyone who says they have a 100% clear answer to this question “What action?” is deceiving us, but there are big picture insights, from both the practice and scholarship of social movements, that should inform our decisions. One of those big picture insights is that movements rise or fall on the basis of their ability to mobilize and sustain nonviolent direct action. It turns out doing so is rather hard because early movement adopters face ridicule, rejection, or even repression. But it’s not nearly as hard as one might think. In fact, all you need is 3.5% (and probably far less). If you can mobilize 3.5% of the population in sustained and nonviolent civil resistance, you win. Every single time.

DxE's model in one simple infographic. 

This is the reason for DxE’s existence. We don’t need to convince 100% of the public to “go vegan.” We need to inspire those who are already vegan to take action. To give people the mentorship and support they need to speak and act strongly and publicly for animals. To build the organizing capacity, the social institutions, and perhaps most importantly, the culture that our movement needs to change the world in one generation. To create activists, connect them in networks, and inspire those networks to take nonviolent direct action.  

But can we actually succeed? This brings us to the third reason for vegan passivity: hopelessness. Recall the hypothetical we started this discussion with, of a mob attacking a child. While morality requires us to intervene, where we can, it does not and cannot require us to intervene if there is no way to actually stop the violence. Morality cannot require the impossible.

If the raging atrocities against animals are unstoppable, then, we have no obligation to take action. Action requires hope. And hope, in our movement, is seemingly in short supply. Many advocates suggest that the end of animal exploitation might occur hundreds, if not thousands of years from now. They say, with confident regret, that people will most likely always exploit animals. We’ll never get to 3.5%.

But this is nonsense. Indeed, it is a cognitive bias that a distinguished psychologist at Harvard calls “The End of History Fallacy.” Because it turns out, change does happen, and it happens far faster than any one of us can predict. Just a few decades ago, marriage equality would have been unthinkable. Only 1 in 4 supported it, and even progressive politicians rallied to “defend marriage” against the insidious influence of “the homosexual agenda.” A professor of mine in law school, one of the most distinguished progressives in the legal academy, said that, when he started as a professor decades ago, the term “gay rights” sounded like a criminal conspiracy. Yet 20 years later, the tides have turned. Over 60% of the population now supports marriage equality (and a much higher percentage of young people), and it has been enshrined as a constitutional right. Gay rights is no longer a criminal conspiracy. It’s what every upstanding American citizen believes.

We will achieve the same progress for animal rights. Indeed, a recent Gallup poll showed that 32% of the populationhigher than the percentage who supported LGBTQ equality in 1996 – currently believe that animals should have the “same rights as people.” Moreover, this percentage is increasing quickly…. while animal exploiting industries get smaller. (Agriculture, for example, is a vanishingly small percentage of the American economy, and our calculations show that it would take a mere 1-2% of US GDP to rescue every single animal currently in captivity and place them in a sanctuary for the rest of their lives.) Further, animal issues are blowing up in our broader culture. The Dodo founders have pointed out that animals are among the most shared subjects on social media, and an astonishing 79% of people in America say they must be protected from “all suffering and harm.” As Frank Bruni of The New York Times points out, windows into the world of animals are growing, both big and little. And the more we see of animals, the more we realize: they are us. They are our family members, our children, our friends. And when we see they are us, we see, too, our duty to defend.

In the face of all these incredible reasons for optimism, it’s time for us to discard our cynicism and doubt. It’s time for us to be inspired, not to lonely inaction, but empowered activism. And it’s time for our movement to take a new and more confident tone: That we are strong. That we are smart. And that we are inspired.

And we will succeed. 

 

 

Stories to Inspire, June: Eartha

Stories to Inspire, June: Eartha

By Jenna Nilbert

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    Jenna holding Eartha’s body at the 2015 National Animal Rights Day. Photograph by Isabella la Rocca.

Jenna holding Eartha’s body at the 2015 National Animal Rights Day. Photograph by Isabella la Rocca.

Chickens bred for meat are arguably the most genetically manipulated of all animals, forced to grow 65 times faster than their bodies normally would, and the industry continually seeks to increase their growth rate. Eartha was rescued in the summer of 2014 from a cramped, dirty cage at a county fair, where he was to be sold for meat. It was a horribly hot day, and though there was a fan in the warehouse-like building in which the birds were being displayed, the breeze from it bypassed the “food” birds, who received no relief from the blistering heat. His water was green and murky and stinking, and he panted heavily as people passed by him.