Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
Gary Yourofsky ARZone Interview
Gary Yourofsky has spoken to thousands of students about our relations with other animals and veganism. Gary's powerful message has been heard by tens of thousands of students in hundreds of middle schools, high schools and universities nationwide.
Gary is well known for his lecture at Georgia Tech which has widely been acclaimed as “The best speech you’ll ever hear” - also see his informative question and answer session.
In 1997, Gary liberated 1,542 minks from the Eberts Fur Farm in Blenheim, Ontario. That protest and others like it earn him praise and scorn from people on both sides of the animal rights debate. Despite thirteen arrests, one lawsuit and legal debt, Gary continues to advocate for other animals.
Gary traces his animal advocacy to the early 1990s. His stepfather worked as a clown in The Shrine Circus and offered to take him on a tour. Gary said he was shocked to see three elephants chained to the floor in the warehouse of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. "I looked into the elephant’s eyes and all I saw was sadness and despair," Gary said. "There is no way to get wild animals to perform except to beat the pride out of them."
In 1996, Gary founded ADAPTT (Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow), an ethical vegan organization unequivocally opposed to animal use. ADAPTT is also an unwavering supporter of human rights, and are seeking an end to discrimination of all kinds (racism, sexism, speciesism and heterosexism).
ARZone: Do you think this world will ever become fully vegan? If so how? If not how
does that affect you?
Gary Yourofsky: One day every enslaved animal will obtain their freedom and the animal rights movement will succeed because Gandhi once proclaimed, "All throughout history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants and at times they have seemed invincible, but in the end they always fall. Always!" No lie can live forever. Injustice seems endless, but it's not. Even if the world doesn't change, I will go down knowing that I tried EVERYTHING in my power - from direct action to education - to make the world a better place.
In your video speech to the college students, you show them lots of examples of fake meats. Is that because you perceive that people in that particular age group need to transition to veganism using such products as a substantial part of their diet and you would expect them to use less and less of them as they remain vegan?
I mention during my speech that habit, tradition, convenience and taste are the four reasons people eat meat, cheese, milk and eggs. Taste - in this case - equals addiction. Meat, cheese, milk and egg-eaters are addicts.
Vegan meat and vegan milk solves the addiction problem. As people solve their addictions, they would obviously need less and less of the addiction-solver. Keep in mind, veganism is about reducing and eliminating the pain and suffering that animals endure. Frankly, I could care less what vegans eat whether it's fruits and vegetables, Ruffles and Oreos, or Silk and Gardein.
Hi Gary. I've watched your 'Best Speech Ever' video and I actually think it is. My question for you is: Have you ever spoken to a younger population and if so do you have any hints on how not to traumatize them. By younger I mean under 10s or under 5s.
It's a myth that kids get traumatized by the truth (graphic videos). Even if they did, animals are being seriously traumatized with ACTUAL torture, ACTUAL mutilation, ACTUAL rape and ACTUAL murder. Not showing slaughterhouse footage to kids - not telling them that hamburgers used to be happy cows and bacon used to be happy pigs - IS evil, shameful, psychotic and traumatizing. Kids respond wonderfully to the truth. It's the parents who are traumatized by the truth because they can't deal with the fact that they've been misinforming their kids. I have spoken to a few elementary classes over the years, and the kids are more thankful for the information than adults are. Adults have been so brainwashed that part of their conscience and MOST of their reasoning skills have been destroyed. I would never lie to kids especially when those lies cause animals to suffer. Your concern should never be 'how will the audience respond to this'. If you think that way, then you're thinking like a politician. And politicians don't change the world. Think like an activist, an advocate for compassion. Trust me, Gandhi, X, MLK, Mandela, Parks, F. Douglass, S. Truth, WL Garrison NEVER cared about how their audiences would perceive them or if their audiences would be traumatized. They were only concerned with speaking the truth, exposing the lies and making the world a better place. Utilizing the book THAT'S WHY WE DON'T EAT ANIMALS by Ruby Roth is a great tool to introduce veganism to the kids, too.
How do you feel about those who believe that using the word “vegan” in our advocacy may be something to be avoided, as some feel veganism to be“radical”, “over the top” and a “turn-off” to others? Can we advocate for veganism without using the word? Instead, should we be advocating for individual issues and focusing on them more?
I feel those people are disingenuous politicians. Politics has NEVER and will NEVER make the world a better place. If people stopped mimicking the politicians they claim to despise, we'd have made way more progress with animal liberation by now. Animal rights is the only social justice movement that insists on playing imbecilic political games, dressing up in costumes and saying 'advocacy' instead of 'rights'. The enemies of animals don't respond better if you say 'plant-based' instead of vegan. They don't respond better if you say 'animal advocate' instead of 'animal liberationist'. They don't respond better if you are polite instead of militant. Just look at the anti-animal rights websites. They say that HSUS and the ALF are one and the same when everyone in the animal rights movement knows that HSUS has as much in common with the ALF as Al Gore does with environmentalism.
On the ADAPTT site, you take PETA and HSUS to task and call for regime change. Could you identify what brought about the end of your association with PETA and outline what steps other activists might take to hold these organizations accountable?
PETA funded me from 2002-05. I was an independent contractor for them yet retained the title of PETA's National Lecturer. In November of '05 they said that education wasn't effective and stopped funding me. Harsh words were exchanged as I couldn't believe they pulled the plug on the world's ONLY vegan lecture tour that doesn't preach to the choir. Remember, 99 percent of vegan speakers set up talks for animal rights groups, vegfests and conferences where 99 percent of the attendees are veg.
Meanwhile, 99 percent of my lectures take place IN college and high school classrooms as I am a guest speaker for ethics, sociology, philosophy, public speaking, women's studies and composition classes. If I had a dime for every vegan/animal rights group who tried to destroy my tour (PETA, HSUS, IDA, Peter and Mary Max, Fran and Roy Savarick), I wouldn't have to worry about finding a sponsor.
In the COMMENTS/ACCOLADES part of my adaptt.org site, you can read letters from students, teachers and even PETA employees about how absurd it was for PETA to stop funding me. As for activists holding PETA and other 'corporate' groups like HSUS accountable, NO activist should ever send them a penny. Corporations don't need funds anyway. Grassroots activists/organizations like SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary, Animal Defense League-LA and ADAPTT need funds. Donating money to millionaires is as insane as McDonald's asking people to donate a dollar for the Ronald McDonald House. Why would a billion dollar company need people to donate to their charity unless they were evil, conniving and unethical. Oops, they are those things, just like PETA and HSUS.
Also, people can stop associating with PETA and HSUS by no longer sharing their websites, literature, videos, etc. Plenty of other groups like mine (adaptt.org) have GREAT websites, literature, videos, etc. When activists stop kowtowing to and supporting PETA and HSUS, then maybe they will cease the politicking, stop the shenanigans (costumes, galas, award shows), get back to genuine activism, start sharing their wealth with the grassroots folks who are busting their asses on the streets and become PART of the movement again instead of sitting on top of some fallacious throne of impunity.
In your online essay, “Abolition, Liberation, Freedom. Coming to a Fur Farm Near You, you claim that, “The notion that animal rights activists are anti human is an outrageous lie” (in the Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals version, you write, “The notion that animal rights activists are somehow anti-human is untrue.”) However, we regularly see animal advocates declaring, ironically often on social-networking sites, that “humans are scum” and so on. In terms of claims-making (social movements are claims makers in civil society), do you think such utterances are a counterproductive mistake, if only “tactically” - and allowing that they may be a product of frustration and anger and, assuming you agree, do you now regret your infamous 2005 statements that women and men who wear fur should endure rape, and that you hope hunters accidentally shoot their own children made in Abolitionist Online.
NO regrets. Humans are the scum of the earth. Pure parasites. There is only one species on this planet that can be removed from Earth - and with that removal - EVERY living being, sentient and insentient, will benefit. The animals would thrive. The rainforest, the woods, the mountains, the trees, the plants would thrive. The air and the oceans would become clean again. The earth itself would be born again. Therefore, if humans are the only species not fitting into the equation, why do people believe humans are special? My comments about activists not being anti-human is true for nearly all activists. Most animal rights people LOVE their families and worship humankind.
My misanthropic beliefs are my own, shared by maybe one percent of animal rights people. Since I am not a politician and I do NOT give a shit about how others view me, I always speak my mind. Hence, my essays on violence, my wish for EVIL things to happen to EVIL people (rapists getting raped), my outspoken support of the ALF, my condemnation of PETA and HSUS, my love of marijuana, etc. I adore my essays on violence and stand by EVERY word I wrote and that's because animals are raped on a daily basis. Foxes are anally-electrocuted and chinchillas are vaginally-electrocuted by the scum who run the fur industries. So when the rapists stop raping the animals, then I'll stop wishing that the rapists get raped. Anger, by the way, is a good thing. Frustration is wonderful. Those two things fuel my fire to preach, teach and edify.
Although Australia has been exporting live animals to Indonesia for 20 years, there has recently been a lot of attention drawn to the issue after Animals Australia’s expose on the horrific practices in certain Indonesian abattoirs. With no meaningful animal welfare laws, Indonesian slaughter is supposed to be governed in accordance with Islamic belief. Because of Animals Australia’s recent revelations that even these standards are not being met, calls are being made to suspend exportation of live animals to Indonesia.
This raises four questions:
1. What would be an appropriate form of activism in the case of live export? Should we be advocating for the suspension of live export to particular countries, or should we be advocating for the end of exploitation and speciesism altogether, or something in between?
There is no such thing as "humane slaughter" or "humane export/transport" like there is no such thing as humane rape, humane slavery and humane child molestation. If cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys go into slaughterhouses alive and come out chopped up into hundreds of pieces, how could anyone claim that animals aren't being mistreated, abused, tortured, terrorized and savagely murdered in these places? How in the world could SLAUGHTERING BILLIONS of INNOCENTS be done with love, humanity and concern? The happy meat/humane movement is the stupidest and most detrimental thing to ever happen to the animal rights movement. Enough already with trying to REGULATE slavery and murder. Slavery and murder need to be REDUCED while they are being ABOLISHED. This is why I am NOT a fan of legislation. Fighting for bigger cages or "better" treatment of animals is contradictory and ridiculous. It will never lead to empty cages. When examining human liberation movements, you'll notice that Malcolm X and Dr. King didn't fight for "better" treatment of blacks via improved segregation policies. They wanted to abolish segregation. They fought for equality and freedom. And that's what animal rights people to fight for.
2. While Australia export animals to countries with no animal welfare laws, slaughtering in accordance with their own beliefs, do we have a right to complain when these animals are treated in a way we find offensive?
Cruelty IS cruelty whether it happens in Indonesia, America or Australia. A knife in the throat of a cow in Indonesia is the same as a knife in the throat of a cow in America. Cultures might excuse and ignore certain victims of cruelty but that doesn't exonerate the cruel act, especially from the victim's point of view which is the only thing that matters. The evil mind-set of the victimizer doesn't count. The feelings of the victimizer should NEVER matter to anyone. Empathy is for victims and victims only. For the record, Indonesian slaughterhouses are NO worse than Australian or American slaughterhouses. Muslims are NO worse to animals than Christian and Jews or atheists. We need to stop focusing on which person/culture is doing the killing and focus on eradicating ALL of the killing.
3. If advocates for other animals ask for live export to stop, to be replaced with the frozen bodies of animals slaughtered within Australia, would they be doing anything to make a difference, or would they still be disregarding the rights of individuals altogether?
They wouldn't be making a bit of difference. It is asinine to think murdering animals before transporting them is a benefit. It is time to get to the root of the problem. It is time to offend animal-murderers in ALL nations. It is time to stop playing political games and condemn meat-eaters for what they are: MURDERERS.
4. Any plans to visit Australia?
Nope. Too much work to be done here in America. Will NOT be traveling abroad until I clean up my own backyard.
Among the reading I do as a Vegan, I am currently reading "The China Study". I'm learning so much amazing information about nutrition and the dangers of consuming animal protein, and I am truly grateful for that information. Truly! However - I can't reconcile that virtually everything I am reading in this book is the result of animal studies. I'm glad to know that eating animal protein promotes cancer growth -- but knowing that millions upon millions of rats were given cancer in order to come to this conclusion. HOW DO I RECONCILE THIS? Do I shun this information? Do I recommend this book? Do I finish reading it? Thank you for the important work you do!
The China Study examined meat-eating societies and realized what vegans had known for centuries; that meat, cheese, milk and eggs cause nearly every disease. T. Colin Campbell, unfortunately, is a vivisectionist. He did casein studies on mice but casein's effects on humans were already known. We should NOT let him off the hook for his evil experimentations. He needs some serious education on compassion and proper science. Sadly, his vivisectionist mind-set fools him into believing that every epidemiological conclusion needs to be verified torturing and killing an animal. I simply ignore the vivisection info and focus on The China Study's wonderful epidemiological info. For more info on the unscientific nature of vivisection, go to my adaptt.org site, click OTHER ANIMAL RIGHTS ISSUES, click WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIVISECTION. If you don't feel comfortable using Campbell's China Study, use instead the research of Doctors Caldwell Esselstyn, William Roberts or Neal Barnard. PCRM.org has amazing medical info.
I greatly appreciate your efforts to save the other animals of this Earth. I also commend you for your focus on vegan education. You’re very effective at it! However I do have an issue with one particular aspect of your work. My question: You wrote in your article "Empathy, Education, and Violence: A Time for Everything" that: "Given the choice of apathy or someone liberating mink, burning down a research torture-laboratory, or killing a vivisectionist or other DIRECT murderer of animals, I will choose the aforesaid actions over apathy any day of the week." It seems clear to me that it is the consumers, who demand the supply for animal products that keep these exploiters in business. Yes, animal enterprises do participate in a lot of advertising and lobbying that help promote and increase the sales of their respective products, but ultimately it’s our choice (the consumer) to buy their product which causes the suffering and death of billions of animals every year. In light of all of this, how can you justify your statement above? I cannot see the merit in supporting the killing of other humans regardless if they’re animal exploiters. This is because I see the animal rights movement as the ultimate acceptance of peace. We don't have to choose apathy. We can continue with vegan education and other noble efforts. Do you disagree with what I have said here?
I stand by my essays. Your question/concern is answered in the essay itself. But allow me to expound. First, it is psychotic to have empathy for humans and NOT want to harm murderous, two-legged devils. The pacifist position only allows murderers to murder innocent beings. If you ask the animals what they thought about pacifism, they would tell pacifists to fuck off and burn in hell.
Second, I am tired of people condemning my position on violence when they NEVER condemn Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks for their support of violence. Be consistent.
Thirdly, animal rights people who condemn violence are playing politics and engaging in pure speciesism. No one truly condemns violence they simply condemn who I propose to be violent for. No one thinks we should kill humans on behalf of chickens. I disagree and so do the chickens. Nearly all vegans still value human life over animal life. I do not. I am sure that if their mothers or husbands were being stabbed in the chest by a knife-wielding psycho, and a police sniper had his crosshairs squarely locked on the killer's head, that they would BEG the sniper to shoot immediately. Fourthly, I do NOT care what anyone thinks about my beliefs. I operate on my own terms. I say what I want to say, when I want to say it, and where I want to say it. I work for the animals and the animals alone. I am not here to placate activists and win a popularity contest. In fact, my hatred for humans includes vegans. Since everyone wants to be popular and everyone wants to be loved, I know it's hard to believe that someone like me exists. But I do. Furthermore, if the people condemning my position on violence were in the animals' position, I'd bet my life they'd want ME speaking on their behalf and NOT some tree-hugging, hippie, hugs-and-kisses politicking pacifist like Butterfies Katz.
You have said that “laws have always been broken to facilitate substantive change” in the forward to your Georgia Tech lecture (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4), using Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks as just 2 examples. How would you react to those who suggest that breaking the law is an act of violence and animal advocates should work within current laws in order to bring about a change in opinion of the general public in regard to animal exploitation?
First, people change. Then, laws change. It never works the other way around. And just because laws exist, doesn't make them ethical or moral. If liberating animals from a fur camp, where they will have their skin ripped off fully conscious, is considered violent then what is the torture considered? Working within the law to eradicate animal slavery isn't working. Therefore, we have to consider other successful strategies. If you and your mom were about to be burnt alive in a vivisectionist laboratory, you better believe you would want me to come and open your cage instead of picketing outside for your release.
You seem to have access to many college students. How have you gained admittance to the classroom and do you have any advice for us grassroots activists in reaching the public with the vegan message?
Back in ’02, when I wanted to educate full time, I simply picked a city, searched for 4-5 colleges, and then went to each school’s website and grabbed EVERY professor’s email who taught classes on ethics/philosophy, composition (for essay assignments), women’s studies, public speaking, sociology, communication and nutrition. It was tedious, as you can imagine. I sent out a mass email asking to speak in their classes. I figured 1 out of 100 would say yes. It was a little better than that with 2 or 3 out of 100 saying yes. I have one donor who assists me in getting from point A to point B. Costs around 60K to do this. 39 for traveling, the rest so I can live. My compensation is meager. I do NOT know how to get an audience which is why I stopped doing OPEN lectures. All of my lectures are in private classes. Since virtually NO ONE will go out of their way to learn the truth, I decided to bring the truth to them. If you decide to speak, do NOT be a p.r. person, marketing person, salesperson. No prof. wants an infomercial in their class. Do NOT charge a fee either. No prof has money to pay for a guest speaker. Colleges do offer honorariums for OPEN presentations but then you’re faced with the problem of attracting an audience. The only people who will show up for a veg presentation is vegetarians/vegans. And this movement is idiotic with its preaching-to-the-choir mentality. Telling vegetarians/vegans about vegetarianism/veganism is pointless. The reason why profs are so eager to have me in their classroom is because of my colorful background as well. 13 arrests, 5 country banishments, mink liberation in Canada in ’97. Profs tell me that I bring to life the writings of Singer and Regan. Just be real and genuine with each teacher/audience. Again, no gimmicks and no BS, contrary to popular opinion, WILL get you far. And I remain the only activist educating NON vegetarians and NON vegans about vegetarianism and veganism. I wish others would realize that education is the most effective form of activism.
I saw your lecture at Georgia Tech 2010 for the first time yesterday. Brilliant. Do you think that all major animal charities could have a central fund to have a sustained, regular, worldwide advertising campaign which highlights the suffering in factory farms? The same adverts could endorse different vegan products that also could chip into the money pot. It is my belief that millions of caring, kind individuals ignore the suffering of animals because it is too painful and they can. Neat cellophane packages in a supermarket meat aisle encourages kind caring individuals to detach the animal from the product. To reverse this trend there is a need to keep it constantly in the public's gaze, maybe use the advertising skills of McDonalds & KFC but in reverse. Has this ever been tried, or could this become a reality in the future?
I think all major organizations should have a fund. Sadly, this won't happen because NO one in this movement works together. I tried working with others for around 10 years but they - for the most part - refused to work with me once they found out my positions on violence, my support of the ALF and law-breaking, my lack of a desire to be a politician. Advertising can be very effective. In fact, I actually had the first-ever GRAPHIC TV (circus, fur, companion-animal killing) and BILLBOARD (fur and vivisection) ads aired in Michigan in the late 90s. You can go to my adaptt.org site, click YOUROFSKY IN THE NEWS and read up about that. Compassionate advertising is key to offset the evil, brainwashing advertisements of the meat, dairy and egg industries.
Since there is no such thing as an empty building, should we rule out arson as a way of causing economic sabotage?
Don't understand this question. Buildings can be empty. Arson is a good tactic if you can pull it off.
I hear you have a high conversion rate amongst your audience... how do you monitor the longevity of those changes?
Students stay in touch constantly. I see them on campus time and time again as I am usually back on the same campus year after year. I just gave 5 lectures in Miami. Two people ON THE STREET (one at the Yard House restaurant and one at the Doubletree Hotel) approached me and said, "You're the vegan guy, right? I heard you speak in my class last year. I've been vegan ever since." Profs also tell me students are constantly thanking them - years after they graduate - for bringing me in and changing their lives.
According to your website, you were arrested numerous times between March 1997 and April 2001, but not since then. Does this mean that you now view lecturing students about veganism and animal rights to be more effective advocacy than, for instance, chaining yourself to your car? Is so, why is that, and what does it say to others who might be thinking of doing things which might result in their own arrests?
Education is the most effective form of activism. I state that fact constantly. I do not regret any acts of civil disobedience. Sadly, civil disobedience is NO longer effective. It worked up until the turn of the century. Then it lost its luster. You can't win in the courtroom anymore. But you can win in the classroom all the time. The animals win with every lecture I give. I always advise people to follow THEIR hearts. I am horrible at giving advice to others as I work solo nowadays, and have no faith in others, but I suggest that education should be their main focus.
Most of us that are social networkers have connections, perhaps even longstanding friendships/partnerships, with people that are not vegan but with whom we may share other interests. For those of us that "tweet"/blog/share on Facebook, how is the best way to balance our desire to be an advocate for veganism against the perception of others in our social circle that we are being too "aggressive" or being just another rude/pushy/preachy vegan?
No one ever made substantive change without being rude, pushy, preachy and aggressive. People need to stop living in fantasyland with shit like this. Gandhi was an agitator. So was MLK, X, Chavez, F Douglass, WL Garrison, S. Truth, etc. Speak truthfully as the truth will set animals free. And if people don't want to listen, find people who will. Speak out.
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