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Intensity 9

 

It is late and I’m finally in the guest room of my sister’s house, sipping hot tea after a warm shower. That the rain is pounding on the roof doesn’t matter. I am safe, healthy, and although alone, is content knowing I am loved by my family and friends.

I consider myself lucky. Not many people are, though. Yet people are still in a much better position than animals who never even experienced a bit of love from birth till the very last day of their life.

As a long time vegetarian before I turned vegan, I thought I was already being a friend to animals. I wish some vegan early on had the audacity to tell it to my face that I so wrong and for me to shift to veganism instead, but nobody did. My favorite quotation then was George Bernard Shaw’s “Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends.” I realized much later (but better late than never), that I was still directly contributing to animal cruelty through the violent dairy industry and in other ways like visiting artificial zafaris (not my kind of fun tbh), not being conscientious enough about the products I use (although for a long time have been trying to go natural and organic), and even wearing pearls, to name a few. Now this replaces the GBS quote for me. 20180610_014520.png

So you wouldn’t be surprised that after wanting to be vegan for so long and finally taking the leap, that I would devote a lot of my time to make it up to the animals I’ve hurt. I became a lonely activist. Yes, lonely and alone. With my family vegetarian and many of my friends too, I felt like a lone voice in wilderness. Even my friends in the environmental movement were not yet shifting to veganism. It took me a while before I joined any vegan online community because of hearing some horror stories which later I found out do not represent the movement at all. So I was in my lonesome feeling like a sore thumb standing out with no choice. And the alienation I felt was, to say the least, profound.

I know people around me were perplexed. I was already a vegetarian. Wasn’t it hard enough? Why would I make it even harder for myself? I don’t know if their resistance to my change was out of their concern for me or concern that they couldn’t do it themselves. Maybe it was both. But I have made up my mind and I was unstoppable, and still am.

I made an online petition on the right to vegan food (https://www.bataris.org.ph/petitions/we-have-a-right-to-compassionate-food-give-us-access-to-it). I set up a facebook  group when I couldn’t find one, and continued being active on social media. When I volunteered in Cambodia, I had to do my activism alone. I tried to bring Cambodia-based vegans together but it was only in the last couple of months before I left when I was able to do so. Before I left I met some wonderful people doing amazing things for the animals. I also set up Vision: Vegan World and did my offline activities alone.

But I was doing those after office and on weekends. Now back in the Philippines, I have reunited with vegans who I met at the very first Vegfest in the country, that I attended as a speaker. The movement has grown leaps and bounds since I left, not only on social media presence but also on offline activities with weekly and monthly actions.

Today I had the privilege of joining two actions. Despite the heavy rains I braved it through the flooded streets of the city to join the Metro Manila Animal Save weekly pig vigil. The idea of the Save Movement is to bear witness to the suffering of animals. An animal’s life full of cruelty and torture culminates with their transport to the slughterhouse. Save activists usually intercept the trucks, and request for some moments to provide water, touch the animals, and look them in the eyes to tell them that some people do care about them. At that brief moment, an animal ceases to be a number in the logbook. Rightfully, they are treated as individuals, persons albeit non-humans, who deserve to be seen as such and not as food or merchandise.

It was my first vigil and we had a problem with the slaughterhouse in charge guy. He said the owner seemed to be angry that the name of the slaughterhouse was posted on the net before so he didn’t want us to have a time with the pigs lest he be fired. We tried to explain to him that our action is not against a specific slaughterhouse but against animal cruelty as a whole. The guy finally allowed to let us in the slaughterhouse vicinity on the condition that we wont take photos or videos to which we immediately obliged. Being close to the pigs in the last moments of their lives is far more important than any video or photo we could take. The guy allowed us to offer water to the pigs and make them feel that they are seen, as they haven’t been seen in their entire life. I had the opportunity to be up close and look at them in the eyes, touch them and offer water to them. The pigs looked tired and resigned. They had scratches and wounds and someone actually had a swollen and bleeding behind which must’ve hurt so much. They had beautiful, greenish grey eyes that looked at me as if wanting to tell me something. I thought for a moment I understood.

Then suddenly the gates of the truck opened, and the pigs were forced out. They were slapped and pushed out, and made to fall several feet to the ground. With their heavy frame, I could just imagine how that hurt. Pigs are found to be the 5th most intelligent animal and I proved that with my own eyes. They knew what was coming. They wailed heart-wrenching wails and tried in vain to avoid falling down. One pig held on to dear life, with his weight pulling him down, he struggled to stay up but he was pushed down. All of them tried to dodge the man for as long as they could. But in the end, the man won, with his power over them, slapping them, shouting at them, and pushing them down. We all left with a heavy heart after the truck was emptied. It was a little past three. They would be slaughtered at ten. As I am writing this, all of them would have already been killed, even the bravest, most defiant ones.

It is evident that the one who calls these vigils as ‘social events’ haven’t been to one. It was a particularly intense experience. One that stays with you long after the pigs have died.

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Despite the heavy rains we decided to proceed with the Cube of Truth at the Bonifacio Global City. We packed our tarps, Peta Vegan Starter Kits, and the leftover of vegan food that we shared with passersby during the vigil outreach.

In BGC we shared some snacks, prepared the laptops and had a brief orientation. First time cubers like me were allowed to do it first. We did our formation in front of Susi, a 100% vegan restaurant that generously allowed us to camp in with our stuff. I held the laptop, and followed the instructions not to do any unnecessary movement and not to interact with people as we had outreachers to do that. Doing outreach and standing in the cube are totally different experiences. Standing there holding the screen or placard, totally focusing on the task and not having to move or chit chat was intensely difficult. It looks easy on the outside but it was definitely just a slight inconvenience compared to what animals go through.

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My mistake was to have the sound on in my laptop. For somebody like me who is terribly squeemish, I immediately imagined the images being screened. I asked for the laptop to be muted but it was already too late. My mind was already filled of the images of Earthlings which after ten years of first watching it, I still havent fully finished. I felt heady and nauseaus in the first 15 minutes but was able to control it. Later, I exchanged the laptop with the black placard that simply said TRUTH. Each person I saw doing a double take on the screens had a moment of shock on the images they saw. I felt I was also seeing what they did and it became a bit too much. I felt faint, and while others thought of me swaying to the music (against the rules!), I fell unconscious and woke up on the restaurant floor with a pillow propped under my head. I didnt know I fainted and when they asked me how I was, all I could say was “the images, I was imagining them” and finally let the tears flow down my face. It was  a different kind of hopelessness I felt. So I stayed lying down a bit more, and later thought that the day wouldn’t end without me converting anyone. I eventually sat down, took a bit more rest, and finally went out to do outreach.

Since it was raining, not too many people were out in the streets. But shortly before the Cube folded up, I was able to engage four young people who had all sorts of interesting questions that I gladly answered. They listened intently  to what I said and since we were on the other of the street across the Cube, I was able to convinve them to look briefly at the videos. Four potential vegans! The team had a total count of 12. I was beside myself with joy.

The night ended with a happy note, with lovely dinner and desserts and the awesome company of badass savers and cubers. I thanked them for the opportunity of not having to do activism alone.

But wait, there’s more! On our way home, Edison, Joyce, and I were able to engage six young men at Jenny’s Pasig. They seemed to be genuinely interested and had all candid questions to us. I know those 15 minutes with them was enough to plant seeds of veganism in their hearts. And I will sleep tonight knowing that they would never look at animals in the same way ever again.

 

PS: The person who demeaned these vegan actions as ‘social events’ have obviously never been to one. Clue, the name starts with G. It could be a good question to ask in the difficult category of a vegan trivia contest.

 

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Vegan world, a vision

FB_IMG_1528038193552(This was the my prepared speech for the National Animal Rights Day celebration today at the Rizal Park, Manila. I delivered it a bit differently but basically the contents are the same)

Good afternoon everyone. I feel extremely honoured to be standing in front of all of you today, knowing that all of us here are people who dared to think, feel, and work beyond our own needs and wants. We are here for the animals.
Although you have seen it in the program, I am not here to talk about Vision Vegan World, my online initiative, but do allow me the opportunity to do a shameless plug. Please do like Vision Vegan World on facebook. So many plans are on the pipeline in creating original content to bring more awareness not just on the current state of animals, but also on the future that we are trying to create. Volunteer and help us grow the community if you are passionate about animals and skilled in social media.
But as I have mentioned I am not here to talk about the facebook page, but about Vision: Vegan World, the compassionate, cruelty-free future we want to create for the animals, for ourselves and other living beings on earth. But in doing so, I have to tell you part of my story. I am a dreamer. Since I was a kid I’ve spent countless hours dreaming on top of the roof of my childhood home. I grew up reading fairy tales, so even if the world turned out to be farthest from one, it never stopped me of wishing for something better.
It is not surprising then that when I grew up, I would focus my energies in trying to make the world a bit better. I became a teacher, then an environmental worker, then humanitarian. I volunteered locally and abroad. I became vegetarian, and 17 years later, on September 2015, I became vegan. I also consider myself a futures student. And as one it’s not surprising that my initiative would be Vision: Vegan World. Our task is mainly clarifying the vision and working to help achieve it.
So what is a vegan world? A vegan world might look different from different perspectives. Let’s try to see if we can envision some aspects of it.
What is a vegan world for the animals? A vegan world is one where animals are given their right to life, freedom, and live their nature, or dharma. Wild animals will no longer be hunted for food, exotic materials, and medicine. Domesticated animals will have homes where they are cared for, as not as pets, but as family. Farm animals will no longer be bred for slavery, for food production, or any other use. They will no longer be abused, tortured, and killed for profit. Animals will be free yet protected, and in most cases, left on their own. They will have rights, and through humans their voice would be understood. They will be treated as individuals, indeed, persons, and as living, feeling beings that they really are. In a vegan world, humans and animals are allies, not adversaries.
What is a vegan world for mother earth? In a vegan world, Mother Earth will finally have a respite from the pollution, degradation, and devastation man causes in line with how we currently treat animals. Because in a vegan world, man’s respect for the rights of animals means Mother Earth is respected and cared for too. Since animals could live their lives free, the ill effects of animal agriculture will be reversed. Forests will regenerate and will no longer be denuded. The carbon footprint of animal agriculture will be down to zero, since animals will no longer be bred for food and profit. Lakes and water bodies will be free the filth of poultry and livestock factories. Soil will be clean and the air healthy. Farmlands will be utilized to raise plant crops for food and not for feeds.
What is a vegan world in terms of language? As our world becomes more compassionate, our language also becomes kinder. Words such as vivisection and animal slaughter will only become memories of a dark past.
There will be no words referring to animals and anything from them as food. Words such as: meat, poultry, livestock, beef, veal, mutton, pork, leg of lamb, chicken wings, seafood, foie gras, caviar, honey, dairy, ghee, Frogs’ legs, essence of chicken, etc. will all be things of the past.
There will be no words that represent violent industries and ways that torture and violate animals like animal husbandry, vivisection, animal testing, cannulization, culling of animal populations, slaughter, and the likes.
There will be no words that refer to animals for entertainment such a rodeo, bullfight, cockfighting, zoos, aquariums, and circuses that use animals.
There will be no vestiges of animal imprisonment and slavery such as cages, pigpens, poultry farms, or ranch. Because no matter how big the cage, a prison is still a prison. Instead, there will be wildlife reserves and sanctuaries.
Animals will be referred to as a he or she, befitting them as non-human persons. They could also be referred to as they, if the sex is not determined. Vegans are already doing this.
These appalling words would no longer be in use in the future but will still be kept in the human lexicon only as reminders of a dark past when the majority of humans were malzoists.
Yes some of these words might even continue to exist but with a vegan meaning. Meat would be animal-free, milk would be plant-based, beef would mean mushrooms, aquariums would be fishless, like the proposal of vegan Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, and have 3D digital marine life instead.
What about entertainment, would a vegan world not be fun at all? In a vegan world, entertainment would be clean and fun. No animal have to go through years of torture during training to perform human skills or skills that go against their very nature just to entertain people.
It won’t be broing right? But what about grooming, beauty, and fashion? In a vegan world beauty would no longer be skin-deep. Real beauty is love and compassion expressed, not based on material things that we wear on our faces and bodies. People can make themselves clean and well groomed with products not tested on animals, and not in any way use animals as ingredient or raw material. This way we can look better without shame, we can wear beauty without guilt. Our fashion would make us feel better. There will be no wool or fur violently stripped off sheep and wild animals. We can feel warm without cashmere, or down from duck. Kuntal Joisher recently summited Mt Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world, 8,516 meters above sea level wearing synthetic gear making himself the first ever vegan to summit the mountain. He made it possible during our time. And time will come when everyone would climb mountains without anybody else’s hide or fur or feather on their back.

What about livelihood in a vegan world?
Living everyday on killing is not the way to earn a livelihood. There will be no butchers. Work would be done for all life to thrive. Farmers will have no need to create a living out of suffering. There will be no rape of cows to produce more female calves and more milk and grinding day old chicks just because they are male and could not produce eggs.
There will be no veterinarians whose main occupation is to find ways for animals to be efficient slaves and bring on more profit for the corporation. There will be no doctors whose task is to find ways on how to make animals “humanely” die. They will be animal doctors who care and work for life. They will find ways on how to cure animal diseases, and make sure animals do not reach the brink of extinction that so many other have sadly crossed.
A vegan world is not about uniformity but equality, not cruelty but compassion; not about dystopia but euphoria about all the beauty, peace, and kindness it brings.
Does it sound like madness, this vision of a vegan world? Does it seem not possible to achieve? We already know people will say that. But didn’t Schopenhauer say “All truth passes through three stages? First it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third it is accepted as self-evident.”
If somebody says – it can’t be done, tell them what Paul Hawken, author and environmental entrepreneur said, “People who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
Peter Drucker (or Abraham Lincoln, depending on which source you’ve read) also said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. How do we create a compassionate world if we don’t know what it is about? It is as important to clarify and hold the vision as to work for it.
Then with all these happening, our thinking and perspective will change; our ways will change, our language will change. And further with these transformations, a new world will emerge. A vegan world, not perfect, not uniform, not equal but equitable for everyone, and is ruled by compassion, kindness, fairness, and justice.
I would like to believe that animal rights is one of the last frontiers of social justice movements before the battle with artificial intelligence sets in. As a futures student, my fearless forecast is that this is the century when that will happen. We are at the cusp of a new era, we don’t even know if it would be called a vegan world. Maybe it will be called a genuinely sustainable world. We could even call it “a whole new world”. But what it is called doesn’t matter as much as what it means. It could simply be called the future. And more importantly, in the future, for it to be called today.
Some people might think our vision of a vegan world is extremely romanticised. In a way it is true. We want to achieve our vision because it is always the ideal. So we try to ground the dream and then we see how it would never be 100% in reality. But even knowing that it would never be perfect, we still try to clarify the vision and work to help achieve it.
In a way a vegan world is a scary world, like all unknown worlds are. But what will get us through is the motive and intention in creating such a world. If we don’t lose sight of that, then we could go on courageously, even romantically dreaming and being scared at the same time, but knowing how many trillions of lives would be better as a result, would make the journey and the destination worthwhile.

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A vegan world is for the animals. But the task is on us to make it happen. While it is for them that we are doing all of this, but having said that, a vegan world is also for us. It is on us but it is also for us. Paul Hawken once said you don’t create change by changing things. You create change by changing. And what do you know, when we give them their freedom, the freedom and life that are theirs in the first place, we are actually receiving more for ourselves, for our planet, for our health and even for the well-being of our very soul.
Thank you and lets dream together for a vegan world.

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The Art of Being Alone

My home in Ratanakiri, where I learned to love my solitude.

I’ve been alone in the past year and just came home from one year of volunteering in Cambodia.

Long ago, I thought it would be dreadful being alone. But when I lived in Cambodia, I had a roller coaster of emotions, until I learned to love it. Now the reality of losing my solitude is starting to sink in. And I hope that I would have the privilege of living alone again. But now let me share with you some things I’ve learned, not necessarily things I did on a daily basis, but the things I find ideal in living alone. The following is not and never was my routine, but was and still is my aspiration. On good days I do most of them. But on ordinary days I simply want to have some sense of things. It’s not a prescription either, but my own way of seeing meaning in a life in  solitude. This is about me. You might have a totally different way of dealing with being on your own. And whatever is your way, if it works, then that is good. I call this the art of being alone.

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The planet is a person, and she is our Mother

 

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Grabbed from pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/339740365627489531/

In a world where even humans have to fight for their basic rights, it is difficult for many to grasp the idea of the personhood of non-humans, such as animals. As a vegan, this for me is one of the most difficult messages to get across. People just don’t get it that animals are individual sentient beings who should be accorded rights to live their life unbridled by human follies. And if people could not understand the personhood of non-human animals, all the more it is harder to comprehend the personhood of non-human non-animals. Why, you might say, are non-human non-animals accorded the very high status of personhood?

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