Thursday, October 18, 2012
In Conversation with Gary Yourofsky: “Educate Educate Educate!”
Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya,
Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha,
Tadatmanam Srijami Aham.
(Whenever there is decay of dharma [righteousness] O! Bharatha,
And a rise of adharma [unrighteousness], then I [the good and divine] manifest Myself!)
~From The Bhagawad Gita, Chap. 4, Shloka 7~
The blog is honored to have one extremely important warrior grace this space today, a warrior who is leading with an army of supporters from across the world. He is none other than Gary Yourofsky of Jewish American descent, born August 19, 1970, in Michigan – US. As per the last available data, Gary has given 2,388 lectures on animal liberation to more than 60,000 students at 178 institutions. His lecture has been translated into more than 30 languages and has registered nearly 4 million YouTube hits. That he has disturbed the status quo by speaking the truth and acting on it, is evident from the fact that he has been arrested 13 times and banished by five countries. In 1997, Gary liberated more than 1,500 soon-to-be-murdered minks from the Eberts Fur Farm in Blenheim, Ontario following which he was arrested for the first time and later deported from Canada. You can click this link on his website, ADAPTT (Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow) for details of the arrests and bans.
Gary holds a B.A. in journalism from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and a radio/broadcasting degree from Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Southfield, Michigan. He has been closely followed by the media, covered by every newspaper, radio outlet, and TV station in his native Detroit, and most recently, throughout Israel. Inspired by Gary, supporters in Israel have created the Hebrew website, www.GARY-TV.com, convinced two major vegan companies to put this URL directly on their packages, and also formed the Facebook community, 269Life. Dr. Melanie Joy, professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has analyzed the main reasons for the incredible success of Gary's speech in Israel, which you can read in this link.
Gary has also written, produced, and done several voiceovers for graphic, hard-hitting TV ads that have aired in Los Angeles and Detroit, and radio ads that have aired throughout America. You can watch the commercials and listen to the radio announcements by visiting The ADAPTT Video and Radio ADS Page on the ADAPTT website. For the full bio of Gary Yourofsky, you can click this link on the ADAPTT site.
Gary is strength and inspiration for the animal rights defenders of Planet Earth and a blessing for everybody who is willing to give themselves a chance to be compassionate, truthful, kind, and fair. All questions to Gary in this interview have been formulated to get insights based on his experience and to learn more from him. It is clear that there is only one way to get the truth out and affect change, in Gary’s own words – Educate Educate Educate! And it is clear that Gary believes the impact will be maximum if you 'catch 'em young'. He is creating a force of young minds that will be instrumental in bringing about the change.
Before moving to the interview, below is the link to his famous lecture for anybody who has not listened to it:
Life Changing Speech (original in English)
Life Changing Speech (with Hindi subtitles)
Life Changing Speech (with Tamil subtitles)
(Truth Alone Triumphs! “Satyameva Jayate” is a text from the ancient Indian scripture, Mundaka Upanishad. It has been adopted as the motto of independent India, and inscribed below the national emblem of India and on one side of all Indian currency.)
In Conversation with Gary Yourofsky
|Photo courtesy of: gary-tv.com (http://www.gary-tv.com/garymain/?page_id=6029)|
Vegan India!: Gary, thank you for consenting to this interview with the Vegan India! blog. We are thrilled and feel honored to have this chance to talk to you. Many of us in India have listened to your talks on the Internet and read other materials you have helped generate. Your passion teamed with your candidness creates a compelling attitude that we are enormous fans of! In fact, the way you interact with the audience and the media makes one think for a moment that you were probably born vegan! :-) Please tell us how and when the transformation happened? What was your epiphany moment that told you, that is it, no more being part of the exploitation of animals?
Gary Yourofsky: My stepfather used to be a clown in The Shrine Circus. He took me backstage when I was 23. I saw three elephants chained to the cement floor in the warehouse of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Sadness, hopelessness and fear were emanating from their eyes, their bodies. They were swaying neurotically from side to side. A monkey was screaming in his cage, grabbing the bars of his prison. Two tigers were pacing neurotically in their tiny cages. Cruelty was staring me in the face. I knew something was wrong. If you pay attention to energy, you can tell when a fellow being is in peril. The slave-show I witnessed made me question where my food and my shoes came from, what truly went on in an animal research laboratory, etc. I ended up going to Thorn Apple Valley pig slaughterhouse in Detroit for 6 weeks straight. I couldn't believe my eyes. My heart hurt. Their fear was palpable. The screams, impossible to brush aside. I knew I had to make a choice. Was I going to be their friend, or their enemy? Was I going to be hypocritical, or ethically consistent? How could I condemn the abuse of elephants in the circus but not the murder of animals in a slaughterhouse? Vegetarianism was my first step in '95. Then veganism on July 24, 1996.
Vegan India!: We know for a fact that you like a lot of Indian vegan food, you have made a special mention of aloo-gobhi and chana masala in this video. Please tell us where the Indian influence in your food has come from, have you ever lived in India, do you cook?
Gary Yourofsky: I am fortunate to be living in the great state of Michigan where we have an eclectic amount of ethnic food. We have the largest Arab population in America so falafel, hummus, tabouli and other Middle Eastern delicacies are plentiful. And we have a huge Indian populace, too, so all the wonderfully delicious Indian vegan dishes are everywhere. Michigan also boasts an amazing collection of Thai, Asian and Ethiopian restaurants!
Vegan India!: Gary coming back to your talks, how does the audience react to them? What sense do you get overall – how much of the reaction is about recognizing the injustice against animals and about taking personal responsibility to finish it? What hopes do you have from the future?
Gary Yourofsky: Nowadays, I am averaging around 225 lectures per year! Professors tell me I have around a 15-20 percent conversion rate, which is remarkable since I walk into every classroom with zero support. They also tell me that 50-60 percent of the students drastically reduce their animal-product intake. All of my lectures are in private college classes for ethics, philosophy, composition, women's studies, public speaking and sociology students. It is important to note that I never request money from students nor charge professors for the lecture, as I don't believe people should have to pay to learn the truth. I am definitely not a salesperson, marketer, fundraiser or politician. The reason why profs are so eager to have me in their classroom is because of my genuineness, honesty, no-gimmick style and colorful background (13 arrests, 5 country banishments, mink liberation in Canada in ’97). Profs say I bring to life the writings of Peter Singer and Tom Regan.
Besides my recent trip to Israel, I no longer do open-to-the-public lectures because I am faced with the problem of attracting an audience. The only people who show up for a vegan presentation are animal rights people. And this movement is idiotic with its preaching-to-the-choir mentality. Telling animal rights folks about veganism is pointless. Education IS the most effective form of activism and I will continue educating NON vegans about veganism. If you want to see the 1000s and 1000s of emails that I've received from students and other people who've seen my lecture online, go to my www.adaptt.org website and click the COMMENTS/ACCOLADES section. Besides the tour, my main focus is compiling an uncompromising amount of vegan information on my www.adaptt.org site.
Vegan India!: The incredible response to your recent series of talks in Israel indicated by the impressive turnout, the coverage on prime time Israeli television, and the fact that your speech is the most viewed ever in the history of Israel, is by all means a historic event. Historic, because it comes from a nation of people who suffered terrible humiliation and bereavement during World War II. The events of that time are a blotch on humanity and the scars left behind are undeletable. Parallels have often been drawn between the horrors of the Holocaust to the present day horrors in the lives of animals. In your view, what are the significant points of similarity between the genocide of 6 million human victims of racism and the everyday persecution of millions of animal victims of speciesism?
|From a board in Gary’s classroom lectures|
In Nazi Germany, Jewish women had their babies ripped from their arms. In the dairy industry, calves are stolen from their mothers after birth. Other animal mothers (hens, pigs, sheep, etc.) have their babies stolen away in weeks or months. Separating families was a sick, psychologically-devastating tactic the Nazis used to weaken the pride of Jewish people and inhibit their desire to retaliate and fight back. The Nazis borrowed this tactic from the meat, dairy and egg industries. Jews were tattooed to mark them. All animals in the meat and dairy industries are branded with hot irons, or ear-notched with a numerical tag. Jews were sent to the gas chambers in the same extermination trucks that send animals to slaughterhouses. The Nazis constructed buildings to massacre Jews, Gypsies, blacks, etc.
Slaughterhouses are strategically built all across the planet to murder and dismember animals. Both groups were/are treated like nothing, like they don't matter. You can also compare the two holocausts this way: If you go to the nearest cow or pig slaughterhouse and remove the animals and replace them with Jews, you have now re-created Birkenau and Auschwitz. If you went back 70 years to Birkenau and Auschwitz, and removed the Jews and replaced them with cows or pigs, a holocaust is still taking place. During my recent lectures in Israel, after I showed my new slaughterhouse video, which can be viewed on my adaptt.org site in the VIDEOS section (click OTHER VIDEOS, scroll down to 2012 SLAUGHTERHOUSE VIDEO), I asked 1000s of people the following: “How come if the animals in that video were dogs or cats, you'd be outraged? If they were kids, you'd be screaming bloody murder! Instead the victims are cows and chickens and fish and all of a sudden no one cares. It's okay?” So I'm a little confused here. Is the slaughterhouse a problem? Or is the problem who's getting killed in the slaughterhouse? It's a HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER. Why does it even exist? Especially in a country that loves to say, “NEVER AGAIN. IT'LL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.” I got some news for you. The animal holocaust was happening long before the Jewish holocaust, during the Jewish holocaust and it's still happening today.
It's time for Israel to become the first nation on this planet to abolish concentration camps once and for all.
Vegan India!: In this video that is a summary of your trip to Israel, you have said that you have high hopes from Israel and that “maybe it is a blessing from God” why probably people are so receptive. Please tell us, how do you conceive God?
Gary Yourofsky: I believe in God, but I am not so arrogant and blind to believe that God is human-like, or that God looks, thinks, or acts like us in any way. God did NOT create us in His image. Humans created God in their image. As a whole, humans are psychopathic, apathetic and myopic. God is not! As someone who believes in God, I do not reject the bedrock of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.! I only reject stupid religious customs that attempts to justify malicious acts of cruelty in the name of God. If people looked into the eyes of an animal, they would SEE God in those wondrous creations. Job 7:8 states, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.” God is in NO book. God is in NO building. God is NO priest, rabbi, imam, etc. on a pulpit condemning animals to death. God is in the heart. God is compassion. I don't believe in people, or ink and paper and books about God. I believe in compassion, and I believe in God.
Organized religion focuses too much on barbaric traditions and inane rituals, instead of peaceful living and compassionate duty. It sickens me that the most important aspect of religion is gathering together on the weekend watching someone in a suit—or a black, red, white or green robe with a green, white, red or black hat—performing hand-jive rituals of imaginary cross-signs and prayer-gestures. Imagine if churches, synagogues, temples and mosques only demanded its followers to be good people rather than mean automatons! People need to stop worshiping man-made creations like The Wailing Wall, bibles and other religious books, a slab of granite that Jesus died on (in The Holy Sepulcher), etc. It is time we appreciate and worship God's creations: the animals, the oceans, the stars, the sun, the sky, the mountains, the forests, etc.
Vegan India!: There are a couple of notable trends in your presentations. One is that you share a lot about meat analogues and the other is the inclusion of graphic videos of cruelty against animals. It is obviously a strategy that is working considering the number of fan following you have all over the world. Please tell us what is the thought or belief behind each.
Gary Yourofsky: Again, I am not a politician or a marketer, so I don't have strategies and plans. I speak from the heart. I speak truthfully, uncompromisingly. I speak for the animals like I would want to be spoken for if I were in their situation. Meat, dairy and egg-eating addicts are full of trite, vacuous and irrational excuses. Excuses to kill. Excuses to torture. Excuses to be indifferent towards the suffering of the animals they eat. Excuses to do nothing. I used to be one of those selfish addicts so I know all of the excuses well. Therefore, when I lecture, I am simply eradicating every excuse from 'God says it's okay' and 'where do I get my protein', to 'what should I eat' and the media-created image of a happy slaughterhouse. It is important to cover all angles of the animal holocaust in order to cure the psychotic mind of the animal-oppressing addict. Addicts are ALWAYS irrational when it comes to their habits. Have you ever known an alcoholic, a cigarette smoker or a heroin user to be rational when it came to alcohol, cigarettes or heroin? Of course not. And there is NO such thing as a rational or ethical meat, dairy or egg-eater when it comes to animal issues and whether humans should be enslaving, murdering and eating animals.
|Gary with friends: Photo courtesy of ADAPTT (http://www.adaptt.org/bio.html)|
Vegan India!: How would you sum up the way the global movement against animal exploitation is shaping up? We understand that there are a number of different voices within this movement with an equal number of styles and beliefs to combat the injustice. If you had to define a strategy for intervention for the rest of the world of activists, what would be the highlights and why?
Gary Yourofsky: First, stop acting like a politician. Stop thinking that close-minded addicts will listen to you if you are sweet, nice, inoffensive and gentle. After speaking to 60,000 meat, cheese, milk, egg-eating students in America, I can assure you that people listen—or refuse to listen—regardless of my demeanor. Depending on my mood, there are days when I am as sweet as Gandhi. Then, there are days when I am as militant as early Malcolm X. Around 15-20 of my 225 annual lectures turn into a chaotic Jerry Springer show during the Q&A session. I never want it to go this way. But, sadly, some students start yelling, laughing and loudly mocking animal liberation. On some of those occasions, when I was in my soft, Gandhi-esque mood, I literally got down on my knees and begged them—with tears in my eyes—to stop killing animals. They continued to laugh, yell and mock the animal holocaust, and me.
There have been times when students told me that my speech was abrasive and that I was rude. Each time I polled the class to see if everyone felt that way. Not once did more than 20% of the class feel that way, which led me to say: “Since only a small percentage of you think I am rude, maybe the problem isn't me. Maybe the problem is you and you and you and you (pointing toward each student who thought I was rude).” In other words, students came into that classroom either willing to listen and learn, or refusing to listen and learn. And there's nothing I could've done to change their minds. People are ready for enlightenment, or they are prepared to stay blind and benighted. The only thing that has ever worked in ANY liberation movement is speaking the truth, as harsh as the truth may be, to agitating people out of their comfortable traditions, and forcefully condemning injustice and those who actively take part in it or sit by passively with an indifferent attitude towards it.
Second, EDUCATE EDUCATE EDUCATE! I've run the gamut of activism from civil disobedience, media interviews and direct action to protests, advertising, lobbying and letter-writing. NOTHING is more effective than teaching someone why their lifestyle is harmful, illogical and cruel. We have to focus on edifying those around us. We have to stop gathering together at VegFests and animal rights conferences and pot-lucks, too. Liberating animals is a revolution, not a social gathering. Stop letting family members, friends and co-workers off the hook as well. We need to let animal abusers know there are consequences to harming animals, the least of which is never having a moment of peace while they joyfully live a violent lifestyle.
Vegan India!: How have your own strategies changed over the years and why? How would you sum up your current strategy? Do you see it change in the future, if yes, what change do you predict and what will the change depend on?
Gary Yourofsky: Again, I don't use strategies; politicians and salespeople employ strategies. The truth isn't a strategy. Speaking forcefully, uncompromisingly and genuinely aren't strategies.
About change, NO lie can live forever. Injustice can't be eternal. Sadly, injustice and lies can live for 100s or 1000s of years. When vegans start getting ACTIVE instead of socializing, animals will obtain their freedom. When vegans rise up and DEMAND freedom instead of holding on to some sort of 'I-respect-you-you-respect-me' mentality, animals will obtain their freedom.
|Photo courtesy of: 269Life on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/269calf/photos_stream)|
Vegan India!: Gary, we asked some of your fans here – as to what they would like to know from you as the final question and it is incredible how everybody thought on the same lines! We would really appreciate if you could provide some insights on how one can put the extreme anguish that one as animal rights activists feels and live life with a positive mindset. Please tell us from your own experience, in terms of how you deal with the cruelty and yet manage to achieve such a great lot for the animals.
Gary Yourofsky: First, never let unethical people—whether they are friends, family members, or strangers—advise you on how to live your life. Don't let others bring you down. Misery loves company; those who still eat flesh are drowning in misery, and would love some company. So stay strong. The animals are counting on you to make compassionate decisions. However, I do not have a magical remedy for making friends, strangers or family listen. But if you ALWAYS speak the truth, know your facts, and let your passion come out, most people WILL listen. Please do NOT hide your passion, or your emotions. Passion and emotion get a bad rap because people respond to both, so the unethical people in our society are always trying to mock people for being passionate and emotional.
Remember, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and many, many others, were ALL passionate and emotional about the causes they embraced. Don't drive yourself insane with people who refuse to change their violent lifestyles when the truth is presented to them. Since religion, governments, schools and the media have been brainwashing people to act evilly to the animal kingdom, de-programming people and turning them into compassionate souls is a difficult task. Sympathize with these misinformed folks, try to enlighten them and give them a chance to comprehend. But if you see no progress at all, move on to someone else. The strongest people stand alone. And no matter how many others you convert, you HAVE made a difference by going vegan.
Second, I am not immune to frustration, perpetual sadness and stress. Enlightenment is bittersweet. It is wonderful to see the truth, to know the truth, to live peacefully and display compassion. However, it is horrible to see how evil our species truly is. Besides my recent September lectures in Israel, I haven't lectured since May 3. For the first time in 16 years of activism, I am taking a sabbatical. The lecture tour should begin again in 2013. I haven't been doing nothing, though. I am involved in a radio advertising campaign in order to get people to watch my speech online. You can hear those ads by going to my adaptt.org site, clicking VIDEOS at the top of the page and then click RADIO ADS.
Vegan India!: Thank you so much Gary for sharing your enlightening viewpoints and for elaborating on your very hopeful position about the future. More power to the animal liberation movement and to you! Satyameva jayate, may the truth triumph!
An interesting tidbit about this interview, something that has happened for the first time in this blog :-) : Originally, this email interview with Gary was planned to be published on Nov. 1, World Vegan Day. However, the responses were received within half a day of sharing the questionnaire with Gary. We junked the original plans, threw the strategies out of the window; his words were too enthralling to be shelved until Nov 1 :-)
The blog is immensely grateful to friend and well wisher, Arun Rangasamy for his inputs to the questionnaire for Gary. A vegan himself, Arun among other things is an Indian Institute of Science alumnus, a vegan athlete, moderator of the Vegan Bangalore group on Facebook, and one of the founders of Samabhava, a grassroots organization formed by vegans that strives hard to secure the rights of working animals. Arun, who was till recently a student living in a hostel has put together a document entitled, Vegan Lifestyle: Tips for Hostel Residing Students that has benefited and continues to benefit many hostel students.
For more interviews featured in this blog, you can click this link.