Animal Liberation is Human Liberation

Welcome to Peace to All Beings. Until we liberate animals from human exploitation and violence, we cannot expect to have true freedom and peace for ourselves. We human beings can awaken to our higher consciousness and embrace a new paradigm of living in harmony, rather than in fear and domination. We can become "Homo Ahimsa," my term for a new nonviolent and kind human, but we must make that choice together. There is hope for our species--hope that we will not continue this war against animals and the earth. Together let us co-create a new culture and heal the wounds humanity has caused to the earth, to each other, and to the animals who share this world with us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Activist Solidarity

A Symphony of Activism
Here in Kansas not only do we have the Symphony on the Prairie to brag about, but recently a new kind of symphony appeared in our state. The first annual Great Plains Conference on Animals and the Environment ( took place the last weekend of April in Wichita. Why do I call it a symphony?

In this column we’ve talked a lot about the many activist movements, what they have in common, and the importance of mutual respect and cooperation among the movements as we work together to re-create a world in which all living beings can thrive. The harmony that results from that cooperation can indeed create a kind of symphony.

The conference was a beautiful example of how that can be done. The overarching theme was that so many issues relating to animals and the environment are interconnected and require a holistic approach by us all and a willingness to listen to each other and work together.

The sponsors were: Advancing Compassion Together, an intergenerational Roots & Shoots affiliate group which works to empower people to make a difference in assisting human and non-human animals and the environment; the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Wichita; the Humane Society of the United States—“a national animal protection organization that helps animals by advocating for better laws to protect animals; conducting campaigns to reform industries; providing animal rescue and emergency response; investigating cases of animal cruelty; and caring for animals through sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers, emergency shelters, and clinics.” The fourth sponsor was the Union for Humans, Animals, and the Environment which is a “student organization at Fort Hays State University dedicated to promoting solidarity, equality, consideration, and respect for all life.”

A wide variety of topics were addressed, and yet always on the minds of attendees were the intricate connections between them all. Subjects included: cruelty to animals used in entertainment and in scientific experiments; animal ordinances in Kansas; the dire consequences of a meat based diet on animals, the environment, and our health; preparing for emergency response to local disasters; endangered and threatened species with emphasis on Great Plains species; environmental sustainability and how our lifestyles, including our dietary choices, threaten the earth; compassionate responses to feral and stray cats, while addressing their impact on wildlife; gardens, including restoring native plants; history of animal rights; animal shelter, rescue and foster programs; wildlife rehabilitation; and philosophical perspectives.

Folks behind the scenes and the speakers themselves, including Dianne Waltner, Brendan McCampbell, Sheri Barnes, Midge Grinstead, Parendi and Aryenish Birdie, and many others (see the entire list of speakers on the website) really did create a symphony. Each speaker had his or her own specialized focus, and like so many different instruments, we could all see by the end of the day, the beautiful music we can make when working together toward a common vision, each bringing our own skills, interests, and gifts.

In addition to speaking at this ground breaking conference, a week later I spoke at a conference at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. The Farm is famous for starting out with around 1,000 young folks who followed Stephen Gaskin in a long caravan of old school buses from California to Tennessee in the early ‘70’s. They had been listening to Gaskin talk about living in harmony with the earth, and they were all determined to “walk their talk.” They moved onto the forested land without a lot of survival skills. They had to learn how to garden very quickly as you can imagine.

They were all committed vegans and started one of the first soy/tofu dairies in the U.S. I must say that while I was there I had the best soy yogurt I’ve ever eaten. I was in Kansas City during those years raising my kids, but I remember the same commitment among my environmentalist/anti-nuke friends to be vegetarian.

The modern animal rights movement was just getting under way. A lot of the shocking undercover footage of the cruelty and pollution at factory farms and slaughterhouses had not yet come to light. So the commitment to not eat meat had more to do with our desire to eliminate violence from ourselves and our world—it just seemed to go hand in hand with shutting down nuclear plants and saving baby harp seals.

We were finding together a way to express our inner turmoil about the condition of the world. We questioned authority—not just in one specialized area, but in all areas—because the authority in charge was (and is) profiting from dominating and exploiting people, animals, and the earth.

So it thrilled me to attend the Great Plains Conference on Animals and the Environment and to hear its symphony. I believe this is a sign that we are coming around full circle. Eating as though the Earth matters (the name of this column) expresses it so well. Eating a plant-based, nonviolent diet is the fulcrum point, because the consequences of that one lifestyle commitment touch every single aspect of our work—the seas, the waters, the air, wildlife, the soil, and as I said in the April-May issue—our health. May we all once again embrace each interconnected issue with the clear understanding that we need each other if we are going to restore this sacred earth and raise the consciousness of humanity.

In the words of Wendell Berry, “We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us…We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.” (from The Long Legged House)

This article, written by Judy Carman, is in the latest "Planet Kansas" Sierra Club magazine in the "Eating as though the Earth Matters" column. 

Tools to Cope with Grief

Compassion means to “suffer with” or, at least, to have sympathy for those who suffer. As activists whose hearts have been opened and as people who have borne witness to some of the worst atrocities human beings have ever committed, we are faced with an extraordinary challenge and opportunity.

By opening our hearts to all beings we simultaneously align ourselves with the Love Energy of God or one could call it the Divine Life Force that dwells in all. Yet, in doing so, the suffering of the animals, the earth, and exploited human beings catches up to us and can feel absolutely overwhelming. It can cause us to consider trying to forget about it all even though we know there is no turning back—not really. But it is the heart that is wounded and broken by its “suffering with” that has within it the seed of Awakening and the power to “be the change.”

How do we live with this? Is there a way to stay in balance, to stay aligned with Life and Love, to demonstrate the joy of being connected and truly alive without falling apart daily with each new revelation of cruelty and violence?

We need tools to keep our balance. Some of these include: pacing ourselves; allowing ourselves time to celebrate life and time to mourn; meditation; physical exercise; finding a community online and at home of vegans dedicated to nonviolence; dedicating ourselves to a specific action or actions that give us a sense of “doing something” and yet remaining unattached to the outcome; spiritual reading that is uplifting; spending time each day looking at something beautiful and being in nature feeling the heartbeat of earth through our bare feet (unless, of course, it’s really cold).

We are bombarded with ads and signs and news that promote cruelty and violence, and that can drag us into the abyss of seeing only that. It is essential that we not contract our hearts. For example, every time we see a barbque sign with a smiling pig with a fork in his hand on it, instead of getting angry and disgusted, let us think of the happy pigs living in peaceful sanctuaries and say a loving prayer for all the others. Loving thoughts from our hearts will heal this world.

Let us always remember, we are now in alignment with the Unconditional Love of the Universe. From that sacred place, we can rise above personal pain and do what we came here to do.

May all beings, including all people, be happy and free.

With Love, peace, and gratitude from Judy