“Act Up, Fight Back, Fight AIDS!” It was December 1989. There we were, in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the powerful Catholic structure and hierarchy on the left and anti-gay, pro-hate protesters on the right. We stopped and did a “die-in” in the middle of Fifth Avenue. That’s the activism I recall! I was all for the planned “kiss-in” demonstrations with Queer Nation before public displays of affection were acceptable. Outing of public figures and celebrities was controversial, and yet it moved mountains. The March on Washington, Boycott Colorado and GLAAD holding the media accountable—these powerful movements were all part of my early activism, as well as supporting HRC, AVP, LGBT youth, coming out and more.
Now we have the legal right to get married. Monumental! Therefore, I have decided this year to take my activism to another level: to fight for animals, most specifically those subjected to factory farming.
I’m beginning with the right to move. I want animals to have the right to turn around and not live in a box, gestation crate or cage. I also want them to have the right not to get their offspring taken away at birth, have their beaks cut off, be castrated without anesthesia, be ground up alive, or endure routine physical abuse by factory farm workers. Basically, I’m fighting for the right of animals to not be tortured.
Food industry marketing aims for you to believe that most meat comes from local farms where animals have a beautiful life in open green pasture. This is the furthest thing from the truth for factory farm animals, where 95 percent of our society’s meat originates. Modern-day factory farms, big agribusinesses and the politicians whose palms they grease want to hide the truth from you through “ag-gag” laws. These unconstitutional laws, devoid of morality, criminalize animal rights activists instead of factory farm animal abusers.
Birkenstocks, granolas, hippies, Dykes on Bikes, Dykes in Nikes, lipstick lesbians, butches, bois, and now the genderless queer movement—I’ve seen it all. But where have all the vegetarians gone? I remember the early stereotypes at least being inclusive, if not co-existing, with animal lovers.
We are in a crisis! We need everyone to “Speak Up, Fight Back, Fight Factory Farming!”
The activist in me understands why PETA supporters would throw paint on a fur coat. The activist in me wants to boycott everything that harms animals. The activist in me is getting increasingly upset with the mayor who promised to end the horse-carriage industry. And the activist in me wants to start a crowdfunding campaign to build Chris Christie a gestation crate, only big enough for him to lie still and not turn around. I applaud the activists who break into chick-grinding facilities, who protest circuses and jump into bull-fighting rings. I feel the cries to stop the Yulin Festival. I see the overwhelming love for Cecil the Lion. Ignorance is not bliss. I know when one is willing to open their eyes to factory farming, that they will experience nothing short of outrage.
I believe, as Jonathan Safran Foer says: “We are not going to let our fear of hypocrisy stop us from taking first steps towards the people we want to be.”
So I speak up. I sign endless petitions, and I write a vegan blog. Recipe writing, however, doesn’t save lives fast enough. As I sit here, 100 million animals have been consumed in the last hour. Each year, 50-75 billion animals are being raised for slaughter as more countries move to adopt the extremely unhealthy Standard American Diet (SAD).
The livestock industry is the number-one producer of greenhouse gases, and is tremendously responsible for environmental concerns—from water, air and land pollution to global warming. Most of our farmland is now dedicated to livestock and GMO monoculture commodity crops to feed livestock. These businesses, fueled by consumer demand, cause grand-scale deforestation, loss of biodiversity, destruction of topsoil and a grave reduction in ground water. Endangered species are at great risk of extinction and our bees (our pollinators) are suffering from colony collapse disorder.
It’s the activist in me that wants to be at every anti-Monsanto rally there is. Besides pesticides and chemicals, they make their money off monoculture commodity crops like corn and soy, which are used as animal feed in factory farming and for fuel, not to nourish the world like they claim. Speaking of boycotts, this could and should be the largest boycott in the history of activism. The longer we sit quietly and do nothing, the faster they accumulate seed, patent life and gear up to own the world’s food supply.
This is the first year I reconnected with my early activism. Inspired by the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, I felt that it was time to move full steam ahead for animals. I marched this year with Mercy for Animals in the NYC Pride Parade.
The tipping point is upon us, and we need everyone who cares. You can make a difference. You can make an impact with your fork. It’s that simple. Incorporating a plant-based diet profoundly directs the movement and saves lives. You can begin with Meatless Mondays, which could collectively spare seven billion animals a year and make a significant impact on the environment. You can adopt a vegan lifestyle and stand up completely—out, loud and proud—for animals. The time is now to enlarge our circle of compassion, speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, and become leaders in this inevitable movement.
Lisa Graziano is a certified holistic health coach, a vegan blogger at EatingfromScratchNYC.com and the owner of Reinventing Indulgence.