I’ve been an ardent vegan advocate since 2000. I became vegan because I am an animal lover. I was born and raised to respect animals and had believed I was an animal lover my entire life; although regrettably, I did not become vegan until I was in my late 20’s. A series of events awakened my consciousness; Moby’s “Everything Is Wrong” CD included the first and profoundly compelling essay I had ever read on the concept of Animal Rights. I was also taking college courses; “Humans and the Environment” and “Human Nutrition.” However, the most shocking and compelling contribution to my awakening came as a surprise solicitation call from Publisher’s Clearing House when the caller enthused, “You’ve WON!”
Although it wasn’t Ed McMann at my door with that famous “million dollar check,” I had won something that has given me more wealth than those million dollars ever could. That precious gem was among four, free, subscriptions. As the solicitor named off options from some 200 publications, I chose: Architectural Digest, Birds and Blooms, Gourmet Magazine, and most importantly- The Animal’s Agenda. When the solicitor had named off that publication, I pressed “What IS The Animal’s Agenda?”
He explained, “It says here it is THE premier animal rights magazine!” to which I exclaimed, “Send me that!”
I’ll never forget the day I opened The Animals Agenda and read about what the farming industry does to factory farmed pigs. As I read the feature article, I was transported into a system so undeniably cruel, wretchedly violent, and disgustingly fetid; I screamed the most impotent, outraged, agonizing, visceral, soul killing scream. It was a scream like I had never screamed in my life. It was the day I instantly stopped eating pigs. Not even the beloved “bacon” was worth it.
The fallacy that many people would like to believe is that all farmed pigs are not treated poorly. They hold onto the frozen image that “humanely” raised pigs, not conventionally farmed in giant factories, live daily, happy lives, while freely roaming on the bucolic fields of old MacDonald’s farm, and the delusion that pigs, which are more intelligent than dogs, are too stupid to know or care about what we do to them, their family or other members of their community. However, a critical look at any college of agriculture’s standard “humane” farming practices and procedures will eliminate all doubt to this marketing fairy tale image for anyone who really cares about animals.
To expand on the process for just a minute, most of those procedures referred to (perversely) as “humane” procedures are prosecuted as felony abuse charges when done to cats or dogs. No one, if they were on the receiving end of that treatment, would call it “humane” either, especially considering humane means the “best characteristics of humanity”. How can unnecessary killing and exploitation (honestly) be described as humane, and especially when “humane” farming includes branding and testicular removal without anesthetic or killing runts using the pounding against concrete (known as “PACing”) or gassing methods, among other physical assaults, on EVERY farm? “Humane” slaughter is not a mercy killing except possibly for those injured and suffering in untreatable agony in factories or small farms who don’t care to pay for veterinary care. To kill for an unnecessary taste preference cannot possibly be described as mercy or euthanasia. There is nothing about the best in humanity in these actions; they are oxymorons and marketing fallacies.
I feel I should also mention a “Thank you”, to Gary Francione (The Abolitionists Approach) and Joanna Lucas (Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary) for your works on the clear, unequivocal vegan message on that reality that has re-calibrated my compass and inspired my development and foundation of Vegan Shift with the mission of connecting people globally with all the vegan organizations on the planet that are empowering a rapid world vegan shift using unequivocal vegan messaging. I was so inspired by Joanna Lucas’ Letter from a Vegan World from the first moment I read it, I framed it and it has been on my office wall (work and home) ever since. Thanks to Matt Bear of Nonviolence United for creating the best VEGAN T-shirt in the movement and the wonderful A Life Connected brochure and video series. (now back to my story)
The Animal’s Agenda subsequently (and thankfully) shared my address with every animal rights and animal welfare organization in existence, including PeTA; which I promptly joined. From then on, I couldn’t go to my mail box without some new horror entering my consciousness; bear baiting, bear bile production, Premarin made from horse urine and/or horse slaughter, disposal of spent racing greyhounds, dog fighting, kittens used as shark bait, rhino and elephant poaching, the fur trade, dolphins in slaughter and entertainment, lions and tigers exploited for meat, orangutans as sex slaves, vivisection insanity- the list is too long to tell.
I later discovered the underlying, root cause, to all of these atrocities lies within a single, complex, invisible, value system known as speciesism; which is a conceptual thread woven of the same pernicious tapestry of bigotry as: racism, sexism, homophobism and ableism. As racism allowed the objectification and exploitation of blacks for slavery, and sexism allowed the objectification of women as property, speciesism or human supremacy allows the more violent exploitation that comes by thinking animals can be (unjustly) treated as property for any human purpose. This reality began to crack my consciousness more clearly as I was exposed to more facts.
One of the PeTA mailings I received included a catalog of informative products and so I ordered their latest video, “Meet your Meat”. I remember the day my mom and I watched it. Meat your Meat covered the graphic and unrelenting details of the farmed animal production cycle. The images and sounds seared into our psyche resulted in my mom and me committing to going vegetarian, yet we hadn’t made the whole connection and still struggled with the concept of using alternatives to eggs and dairy.
A few months later, a tornado hit Buckeye Egg Farm in Croton, Ohio. In response, my mom and I invested and suited up in some rain slicks and hip waders in answer to a public appeal in the newspaper requesting assistance in the rescue of the 2 million chickens affected. There were over 200,000 chickens crammed in small cages per shed, and 8 of the sheds were damaged by the tornado; twisting their mechanized food and watering systems, rendering them useless, thus leaving the chickens starving and exposed to the elements. Surprisingly, our welcome to assist with the situation was as cold as the torrential downpour we arrived in.
The farmers who greeted us immediately sent us away with the warning that it was “too dangerous to be there with the backhoes”. Undeterred (there were 2 million lives at stake!) mom and I drove to one of the other sites with damaged sheds, without the dangers of backhoes, and delicately extracted as many frightened chickens from the exposed and twisted cages as we could.However, our liberation efforts were short-lived. Within a few minutes, the farmers arrived and this time were threatening to “prosecute” us for trespassing if we didn’t leave immediately thus, making it clear that it wasn’t our personal safety which concerned them. Discouraged and outraged, we left, and I immediately called PeTA who then instructed me to contact a newly formed, local group, Mercy for Animals. Ultimately Mercy for Animals coordinated in assisting the liberation of a couple hundred chickens from that terrible situation, and they also introduced me to a missing component I credit to my developmental vegan living and advocacy success.
When I connected with Mercy for Animals, I discovered a community of vegans and hence, was empowered to commit to being vegan (I was a 98% behavioral vegan for years by then, but still struggled and fell off the wagon occasionally in social or poorly planned dining situations) because now, FINALLY, I had the strength of a community. I was married then, and he had no interest in going vegetarian, let alone, vegan, and my mom wasn’t about to give up the dairy (an addiction- that took nearly 8 years for her to break- I’m so proud of her- she has been vegan since 2008!). Yet, this story would not be complete without other honorable mentions responsible for my awareness which includes some deeply profound books and films.
“Vegan: the New Ethics of Eating” by Eric Marcus, and “Mad Cowboy”, by Howard Lyman woke me up and lit a fire under me in more ways than one. Ironically, the Mad Cowboy further connected me to another local Columbus organization, the Wellness Forum, when they sponsored a seminar with Howard Lyman. The Wellness Forum then invited me to a free dinner which introduced me to thriving on a “whole-foods, plant-based” diet.
This was an extremely important event because my family has a long and seriously life shortening history of cardiovascular disease; all of my grandmother’s brothers died between 48 and 58 years of age due to heart attacks and strokes, and my grandmother suffered many heart attacks, strokes, stints, and even triple bypass surgery enduring a poor quality of life with more strokes for the last 10 years before she died, although, though she did ultimately eke out 83 years of life.
I discovered at about the same time that I had gone to this seminar, that after 27 years of eating animal products, including processed and fried foods, that I had developed a 30-50% blockage in my right carotid artery by the ripe, old age of 30. Ironically, this discovery happened while taking my mom to a free stroke screening in which I was given the opportunity to participate. I had some adjustments to make in my vegan diet that have allowed me to do vegan right, which means I’ve resolved the blockage entirely without drugs or procedure. There were other important health benefits as well. As a vegan; I went from formerly gaining on average one to two pounds a year (as a non-vegan) that I had been gaining from my senior year in high school and into my late 20’s, to loosing 25 unwanted pounds without any real effort. My weight at 5’3” has stabilized at between 100 and 105 pounds since living vegan. Before I was vegan, I had chronic pain from ovarian cysts, and headaches and would frequently rely on taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen to cope with it. I no longer take any over the counter medications for any pain and I no longer suffer ovarian cysts. My skin cleared up and I don’t have chronic bloating or constipation, or bouts of “stomach flu” (aka food poisoning from the toxic load of bacteria frequently infesting all animal products regardless of whether it is cooked properly) anymore, either. I thought these problems were normal. They aren’t, and they don’t have to be.
I’m pretty certain I was not on nearly the same path to “dietary excellence”, even as a vegan, because although I had quit the animal products, I was still eating lots of fried, sugar-laden, and processed vegan junk foods that would have continued to clog my arteries and defile my health and I possibly would have remained oblivious to other important health considerations, had I not been through their Wellness101 training course. How fortuitous it has proven to be that, living in alignment with my values (improving mental health with an internal state of happiness) has also revealed itself as the foundation of thriving, physical health I often refer to as, “The vegan fountain of youth.” It is an awesome and empowering thing to discover that genetics has a lot less to do with thriving health than keeping inherited, unhealthy, familial/cultural dietary and lifestyle patterns, habits and traditions.
I was the one who always loved animals growing up. When I finally investigated the details and found out what was happening to the animals not only on my plate, but in so many other foundational social behaviors; the zoo, rodeos, the fair, the amusement parks, the circus, in experimentation labs, in the death camp gas chambers we call animal shelters, I desperately wished that I had known sooner. I wished that children’s books like “Vegan is Love” or “That’s Why We Don’t Eat the Animals” by Ruby Roth existed back then. That would have helped my mom, and helped me, to make more informed and connected decisions consistent with our values. I wish that profoundly important films like “Earthlings”, “Making the Connection”, “Vegucated”, “Forks Over Knives” (ideally these films would be compulsory viewing for high school graduation) had been in existence when I was younger so I would have been awakened sooner to what I know with every fiber of my being is consistent with conscious and civilized human nature. I am so thankful that the information age is upon us, allowing us to rapidly share ideas and expose the invisible atrocities at the insidious foundation of our unconscious, ego-centric human cultures.
I sincerely hope that humanity can rapidly make the same connection because literally; trillions of lives and the prevention of, what this time will be a human caused, 6th great world extinction, is at stake. You don’t hear the fact in the daily news that 200 to 300 species are going extinct per day, which equates to the extinction of 20,000 to 30,000 species that are forever wiped off the face of the earth, yearly. The Western Black Rhino was declared extinct yesterday, the Cloud Leopard was declared extinct the day before. It is happening, and our misguided, egocentric, entitlement to produce livestock at world population now over 7 billion, is the leading cause of it.
When I was a child, I had no idea I wanted to be an ardent vegan advocate when I grew up, yet that has become the salient path and the most profound, unstoppable, meaning for my life and the millions of vegan influential advocates like Harold Brown of Farm Kind, Angie Palmer of Anjo films, Butterflies Katz of Gentle World, Carloyn Bailey of AR Zone, Damien Mander of IAPF, Kristin Lajeunesse of Will Travel for Vegan Food, James McWilliams of The Pitchfork, and so many others who are striving to empower a socially just society with a vegan shift that is in alignment with our values for love, respect, dignity, kindness, peace, liberty and justice… for all earthlings. Love life, live vegan!
Treatise for a Vegan Shift: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/eriyahs-treatise-to-humankind-draft/51022483289
The Simple Solution is Getting the Elephant on the Table https://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&¬e_id=70604078289
Letter from a Vegan World- Joanna Lucas of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary
Animal Rights The Abolitionist Approach by Gary Francione
Blood and Soil: Lierre Keith, Michael Pollan, and the Trouble with Locavore Politics by John Sanbonmatsu
The Vegan rd Countering Claims Against Vegan Diets
Livestock and Climate Change by The World Watch Institute (states world livestock production contributes over 50% compared to world transport’s mere 13% to climate change)
Livestock’s Long Shadow by The UNFAO (stated livestock production contributes 17.5% compared to world transport’s 13% to climate change)
Putting Meat on the Table by The PEW Commission
Position Paper of the American Dietetic Association on Vegetarian Diets
A Vegan but not an Activist? Sure. An animal lover but not a Vegan? Nope. By Stephanie Earnst
A Life Connected by Non-Violence United (11 min)
Making the Connection by The Vegan Society (8 short vignettes 1 to 6 min each)
Forks Over Knives
Plant Positive on Primitive Nutrition (the ultimate answer to the Paleo crowd):
(Debunking Paleo propaganda) http://www.youtube.com/user/PrimitiveNutrition/videos
The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy
Indigenous veganism: Feminist Natives do eat tofu by Margaret Robinson
The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle
The Politics of Extinction- Remain a parasite OR become an Earth Warrior By Captain Paul Watson
Anjo Films: https://www.facebook.com/anjofilms
Angie Palmer: http://angiepalmer.wordpress.com/
AR Zone: https://www.facebook.com/groups/arzone/10152003839116457/?notif_t=group_comment_reply
Damien Mander TED “Modern Warrior”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FCsyK4aRXQ
Gentle World (vegan intentional community): http://gentleworld.org/
Farm Kind: http://www.farmkind.org/
Humans are Natural Plant Eaters: http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/natural.html
James McWilliams The Pitchfork: http://james-mcwilliams.com/
Lantern Books: http://www.lanternbooks.com/
The Vegan Organic Network: http://veganorganic.net/
The Vegan Truth: http://thevegantruth.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-compilation-of-long-term-vegans-our.html
Veganic Farming: http://www.goveganic.net/
Will Travel for Vegan Food WTFVeganFood: http://wtfveganfood.com/
Other works by Eriyah Flynn aka The Ardent Vegan Advocate, Socially Just Dining (Column of the Columbus Free Press)and founder of Vegan Shift (300 Vegans Campaign, The Vegan Connection):
Socially Just Dining: http://columbusfreepress.com/columbus-freepress-sections/dining
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/veganshift
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VEGANSHIFT/
Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board “A New Baseline”: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=454784311860&set=vb.536286860&type=3&theater
TEDx Columbus tryout: “A Foundational Shift”: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151090569181861&set=vb.536286860&type=3&theater
300 Vegans (4 Independence)Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFi6a3AG3X8
Appeal to Bill McKibben 350.org: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/appeal-to-bill-mckibben-350org-by-eriyah-flynn-founder-coalition-for-planetary-h/10150426079393290
Facebook Notes and/or TAVA BlogPosts:
“Becoming the Ardent Vegan Advocate”:https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/becoming-the-ardent-vegan-advocate/10152134655098290
“My Last Day with My First Dog”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/my-last-day-with-my-first-dog/10151242786353290
“Treatise for a Vegan Shift”:https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/eriyahs-treatise-to-humankind-draft/51022483289
“Take the NASA Million Dollar Family Challenge”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/vegan-advocacy-101-tool-box-evolution-solutions-series-1-take-the-nasa-million-d/10150459461003290
Attention Vegans “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”:
Vegan Shift Empowerment Strategic Implementation:
“You Can Catapult the World Vegan Shift”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/you-can-catapult-the-vegan-shift-lessons-learned-from-a-day-in-an-activists-emai/10150360243368290
Lobbying Packet Insert: “The Simple Solution is Getting the Elephant on the Table” https://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&¬e_id=70604078289
Letter to the Editor Sample: Published in the Columbus Dispatch 9.9.2013:
“Vegans Seek More Options When Dining Out”: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2013/09/09/vegans-seek-more-choices-when-dining-out.html
“No Option” Is not an Option”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/no-option-is-not-an-option/10152017033138290
“Everyone Deserves Dessert”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/everyone-deserves-dessert/10151807961968290
“Breeding Pets”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/breeding-pets/10151613854623290
Vegan Resources Lists
Vegan Parenting Resources:
“The Pink Lagoon”: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/the-pink-lagoon/10152152579153290
Original Facebook photo upload:
Vegan Shift: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/vegan-shift-a-song/10151666423523290