Gary Yourofsky: Ist der Backlash gerechtfertigt?

Screencap from video showing Yourofsky explaining himself

Translation by The Vactory. The original English version of the following essay can be found by clicking here.

Trigger-Warnung: Dieser Artikel ist eine Antwort auf ein von Gary Yourofsky hochgeladenes Video. Er enthält Zitate von Yourofsky, die auf Gewalt, sexuellen Missbrauch und Vergewaltigung Bezug nehmen. Das Video enthält ableistische Sprache und behauptet, dass jede Person, die zum Tod verurteilt wurde, auch schuldig ist. (#FreeLeonardPeltier! #FreeMumia!) Des Weiteren enthält es ein unglaubliches Ausmaß an Machogehabe, aggressive, explizite und teilweise verstörende Sprache, welche für einige Leute triggernd sein kann.

„Nach 18 Jahren Prozess ist das Urteil endlich da!“, verkündete Gary Yourofsky kürzlich in den sozialen Medien. „Bezüglich meiner Befürwortung von Vergewaltigung wurde ich in allen Punkten für UNSCHULDIG befunden!“

Diese Aussage nimmt Bezug auf die Gegenstimmen seines berüchtigten Zitats:

Jede Frau, die sich in Pelz hüllt, sollte eine so grausame Vergewaltigung ertragen, dass sie fürs Leben gezeichnet ist.

Die „Bezeugung“ (in Form eines 28-minütigen Videos) geht bis ins kleinste Detail darauf ein, wieso er sich so ungerecht behandelt fühlt.

Es ist aber keine echte Verhandlung. Yourofsky hat sich selbst zum „Richter“ ernannt (daher auch seine Unschuld) und schließt seine Aussage damit ab sich zu bedanken: „Vegane Liebe an alle meine Unterstützer, welche sich geweigert haben diese psychotischen und diffamierenden Lügen über mich zu glauben. Und an all die Organisationen und Leute die mich angegriffen haben und behaupten, ich würde Vergewaltigung befürworten: Ich fordere euch hiermit heraus, den Level meiner Anti-Haltung zu überbieten. Los, traut euch.“ Er wartet einen kurzen Augenblick, um dann auf eine aggressive Art fortzufahren: „Was? Ja, dachte ich es mir doch. Ich gewinne, wie immer! Schachmatt! Ihr verliert!! Fickt euch!“

Yourofsky bemüht sich in dem Video sehr stark darum, darzustellen wie sehr er Vergewaltiger verabscheut: „Dass sollte jedem Vergewaltiger widerfahren, auch wenn er eine Frau im Pelzmantel vergewaltigt (falls das jemals vorkommen sollte).“

Laut „Women Organized Against Rape” wird jede vierte Frau und jeder sechste Mann vor Erfüllung seines achtzehnten Lebensjahres Opfer einer Vergewaltigung. Wenn man bedenkt, wie normalisiert das Tragen von Pelz in unserer Gesellschaft ist, ist die Chance relativ hoch, dass jemand der Pelz trägt vergewaltigt wird.

Er fährt fort:

Sein Penis und seine Hoden sollten mit einem Nagelhautentferner langsam versengt werden, und dann sollten ihm zwei Spieße in die Augenhöhlen gestoßen werden. Danach würde man ihn in einen anderen Raum zerren. Da angekommen sollte man seinen Penis und seine Hoden in Durchfall und Erbrochenes eintauchen. Um sein Leben zu retten würde man ihm dann die Option anbieten dies zu essen. Und wenn er es dann tatsächlich isst, würde ich eine Waffe ziehen, sie ihm zwischen die Augen drücken und sagen „Das war nur ein Scherz“.

Andernorts sagt er: „Tausende von Leuten, hauptsächlich Veganer, haben mich seit 1997 beschuldigt, Vergewaltigung gutzuheißen“ und dass er seit 18 Jahren ununterbrochen mit Falschaussagen schikaniert wird. Aus seinen Aussagen wird klar, dass er Vergewaltiger nicht mag. Doch sagt er auch, dass er das berüchtigte Zitat so niemals geäußert hat?

Yourofsky

„Ich rufe alle meine Anhänger auf, die Lügner und Betrüger zu verurteilen die behaupten, dass ich Vergewaltigung befürworte, weil ich es jemandem gewünscht habe. Ich wiederhole: Weil ich es Männern und Frauen gewünscht habe, die Vergewaltigung und Mord unterstützen indem sie sich in Pelzmäntel hüllen.“ Weiter sagt er, dass es niemanden gibt (einschließlich Vergewaltigungsopfern),  der Vergewaltigung so sehr verurteilt wie er.

Man kann mit Sicherheit behaupten, dass jemand der*die eine Vergewaltigung überlebt hat, dieser Aussage widersprechen würde. Doch schaut man sich an, was er eigentlich sagt, sieht man, dass er nicht den eigentlichen Akt der Vergewaltigung befürwortet. Er wünscht es lediglich den Leuten, die es, wie er findet, verdient haben oder „böse“ sind.

Auch wenn es ein Unterschied ist, ob man sagt„Ich wünschte, diese Person würde vergewaltigt“, oder leibhaftig jemanden vergewaltigt, so ist es doch merkwürdig, dass Yourofsky die Konsequenzen von Sprache nicht versteht, geschweige denn die Konsequenzen, wenn ein Mann darüber redet eine Frau zu vergewaltigen (auch wenn es „nur Worte“ sind). Dass er, wenn er Vergewaltigung als Methode zur Bestrafung benutzt (auch wenn es „nur Worte“ sind) zur kollektiven Rape Culture beiträgt und dies auch Tiere wie z.B. Milchkühe betrifft, welche wiederholt, gewaltsam geschwängert werden (sprich: vergewaltigt), und das nur für ein Produkt. Dass er nicht versteht, dass wenn ein aggressiv klingender Mann von seinen Vergewaltigungsfantasien erzählt, dies für Vergewaltigungsopfer unglaublich triggernd sein kann. Daher ist es befremdlich, dass er nicht versteht wie all dies Gegenwind auslösen oder rechtfertigen könnte.

„WÜNSCHEN“

Er wünscht bösen Menschen böse Dinge. Und auch wenn dies Vergewaltiger, Kinderschänder und Täter*innen häuslicher Gewalt einschließt, so ist in seinen Augen niemand gewalttätiger als diejenigen, welche die Tierindustrie unterstützen.

„VORSCHLAGEN“

„Niemand widerspricht meiner Position bezüglich Gewalt, sie stimmen nur nicht mit mir überein, zu wessen Gunsten Gewalt einzusetzen sei.”

„HOFFEN“

„Aus meinem tiefsten Innersten hoffe ich, dass Unterdrückung, Folter und jeder Mord zu jedem gefühllosen Menschen zehnfach zurückkehrt.“

„SOLLTE“

„Jede Frau, die sich in Pelz hüllt, sollte eine so grausame Vergewaltigung erleben, dass sie fürs Leben gezeichnet ist.“ Was Vergewaltigung angeht, so ist es das, was den Leuten (er bezieht auch Männer mit ein), die die Pelzindustrie unterstützen widerfahren sollte.

Das ist der Grund, weswegen Leute ihn beschuldigen, Vergewaltigung gut zu heißen, doch er sieht das einfach nicht.

So fragt er sich: Wieso konzentrieren sich die Leute auf seine Worte, wenn Tiere als Essen angesehen werden und täglich ermordet, gefoltert und in vielen Fällen gewaltsam geschwängert (sprich: vergewaltigt) werden? Dies würde nicht passieren, wenn niemand diese Industrie finanziell unterstützen würde. Dies sollte seiner Meinung nach der Fokus sein, und nicht etwas, das er gesagt hat.

In diesem Punkt hat er Recht. Unsere Gesellschaft ist sozial so stark konditioniert, dass wir mit dem Glauben aufgezogen wurden, die Gewalt an gewissen Tieren sei in Ordnung. Einer Konditionierung, die sagt, dass bestimmte Tiere nur dafür da sind von uns gegessen zu werden und als Kleidung zu dienen. Die Tierindustrie bemüht sich sehr, diese Dissoziation zu unterstützen, indem sie die Wahrheit über die Zustände in den Tierfabriken verschleiert und Bilder von glücklichen Tieren auf ihre Packungen druckt, um den Eindruck zu erwecken, das Tier sei glücklich unser Essen zu sein.

Wenn wir dann die Fleischpackungen sehen, ist das Aussehen so weit von dem eines lebenden Tieres entfernt, dass wir den Ursprung leicht ignorieren oder sogar vergessen können. Die Tierindustrie hat solche Panik davor, dass ihre Konsumenten die Wahrheit erfahren, dass sie den Staat veranlasst haben, Gesetze zu verhängen die es illegal machen auf ihre Grausamkeit aufmerksam zu machen.  Außerdem, wie soll man denn sonst zu genügend Protein und Kalzium kommen? Wir werden erzogen in dem Glauben, dass wir nicht stark und gesund sein können, wenn wir keine Tiere essen. Doch das ist eine der vielen Mythen, die von der Tierindustrie aufrechterhalten werden.

Es ist auch so, dass es eine enorme Dissoziation gibt bei dem Thema Vergewaltigung und Speziesismus, und dass viele Anti-Vergewaltigungs-Aktivist*innen und Feminist*innen die Verbindung zwischen Milchkühen und der kollektiven Rape Culture nicht machen. Sie wissen nicht, dass eine Kuh wiederholt gewaltsam geschwängert (sprich: vergewaltigt) werden muss, damit sie kontinuierlich Milch gibt, und ihr ihre Babys immer und immer wieder weggenommen werden. Für die Industrie ist ihr Baby nur Fleisch. Dies geschieht so oft, bis sie emotional und physisch so heruntergewirtschaftet ist, dass sie keine Kälber mehr produzieren kann (und entsprechend auch keine Milch) so dass sie geschlachtet wird. Uns wird beigebracht, dass es keinen Grund zur Sorge gibt, da Kühe und andere „Nutztiere“ gefühllose, lieblose Kreaturen sind, die ihre Umgebung nicht bewusst wahrnehmen und mit ihr interagieren können. Auch dies ist eine der Mythen.

In diesen Punkten hat er absolut Recht. Doch Yourofsky gibt sich weiterhin irritiert darüber, warum die Leute solchen Anstoß an seinen Statements nehmen, anstatt die Aufmerksamkeit auf diese sehr viel schlimmere Sachlage zu richten. Doch nur weil etwas noch schlimmer ist, heißt das nicht dass das weniger Schlimme keine Konsequenzen hat. Man könnte sagen „Oh, ich hoffe du wirst erschossen und stirbst einen langsamen, qualvollen Tod.“ Währenddessen kommt es in einem anderen Teil der Welt zu einem Genozid. Ja, Letzteres ist durchaus schlimmer, doch die Aussage hat trotzdem Konsequenzen.

Man muss einräumen, dass Yourofsky seine Aussage teils konkretisiert und klarstellt, dass er nur den Menschen Gewalt wünscht, die direkt oder indirekt in die Nutztierindustrie involviert sind. Er geht davon aus, dass wenn Menschen das Ausmaß von Gewalt erleiden müssten, das den Tieren widerfährt, sie sich vielleicht nicht weiter an der Gewalt beteiligen würden. Allerdings konkretisiert er das nur manchmal. Und wenn er es tut, müssen die Zuhörer*innen erstmal an seinen Eingangs-Statements vorbei, die voll sind mit Wünschen, Hoffen und Befürworten von Gewalt gegen sie, bis sie zum eigentlich Punkt durchkommen. Zu anderen Gelegenheiten ergeht Yourofsky sich einfach nur in anschaulichen Tiraden darüber, was seiner Meinung nach mit Leuten passieren sollte, die bösartig sind

Tatsächlich arbeitet es nur gegen das Anliegen der Tierbefreiung, sich verbal für Gewalt gegen eine Person auszusprechen, die nicht vegan ist. Es ist außerdem äußert heuchlerisch, da man, sofern man nicht vegan geboren wurde, auch einmal zu der Gewalt an den Tieren beigetragen hat. Und selbst als Veganer*in kann man es nicht komplett umgehen, da bei der Ernte von Gemüse, Früchten und Getreide Insekten und Mäuse getötet werden. Wenn unsere Häuser gebaut werden, schaden wir den Tieren die dort lebten. Viele Veganer*innen benötigen Medikamente, die an Tieren getestet wurden.

Lasst uns daran arbeiten dieses System zu ändern, das es beinahe verunmöglicht Tieren nicht zu schaden. Es ist leider nach wie vor so, dass niemand vollständig unschuldig ist.

Als Aktivist*innen müssen wir uns immer vor Augen halten, dass es einen Unterschied gibt welche Aussage sich gut anfühlt und kathartisch ist, und welche eine effektive Taktik oder ein gutes Argument ist. Das wir überlegen, was wir in unserem Tagebuch schreiben oder einer privaten Unterhaltung sagen, und was wir mit dem Rest der Welt teilen, vor allem mit denjenigen, die sich uns anschließen sollen. Die Tiere brauchen so viele Menschen auf ihrer Seite wie möglich, denn nur so kann das Ziel der Tierbefreiung erreicht werden.

Gary Yourofsky hat mittlerweile ein neues Video herausgebracht, mit dem Titel „Palästinenser, Schwarze und andere Heuchler“ in dem er beklagt, dass ihn Leute in der Gemeinschaft „unfairerweise“ bezichtigen, rassistische Äußerungen zu machen.
Hmm, warum wohl?

 


Michele Kaplan ist eine queere (genauer: bisexuelle), geek-proud, intersektionelle Aktivistin auf Rädern (sprich: motorisierter Rollstuhl) und sie strebt danach, eine Balance zwischen Aktivismus, Kreativität und Selbstfürsorge finden, während dem sie die Welt zu verändern versucht.
whyveganism.com

A Hősimádat Veszélyei Egy Aktivista Mozgalmon Belül

Tartalmi figyelmeztetés: nemi erőszak és rasszizmus említése, rendkívül sértő (rasszizmus, akadályozottság) megjegyzések a palesztin emberekre és a muszlim kultúrára nézve

Gary Yourofsky

Translation by Eszter Kalóczkai. See more Hungarian translations of intersectional vegan essays by visiting their blog, Tudatos Vegán. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

írta: Michele Kaplan

Voltál-e már olyan helyzetben, amikor a körülötted lévő emberek azt gondolták: inkább meg se szólaltál volna?

Mindez március 19-én kezdődött, amikor néhány ismerős vegán Gary Yourofsky Palesztina-ellenes kirohanásáról beszélt. Természetesen azok az állatjogi aktivisták, akik a szívükön viselik a palesztin emberek sorsát (beleértve magamat is), teljes megrökönyödéssel olvasták, hogy mit mondott Yourofsky.

gary on palestine

(Az Igazi Gary Yourofsky által írt Facebook-poszt fordítása:) Amíg az izraeli emberek épp most rombolják le a hús-, tej-és tojásipart – ami végül az állatok koncentrációs táborainak a végét fogja jelenteni – a palesztinok és az elmebeteg emberjogi szimpatizánsaik épp, hogy több tábort ÉPÍTENEK. Míg az izraeliek befogadják a homoszexuálisokat, addig a palesztinok kiközösítik, bántják és gyilkolják a meleg embereket, mert úgy gondolják, hogy a homoszexualitás bűn. Míg az izraeliek (kivéve az ultra-ultra ortodoxokat, akik Izrael népességének az 1-2%-a, és ugyanannyira őrültek, mint a palesztinok) egyenlő mozgásteret biztosítanak a nőknek a társadalmon belül, addig a palesztinok továbbra is elnyomják a nőket ugyanúgy, ahogy az arab államok teszik. Míg az izraeliek szeretnek együtt élni a palesztinokkal és MINDEN más néppel, addig a palesztinok legfőbb célja, hogy minden zsidót elpusztítsanak, az iskoláikban a zsidók GYŰLÖLETÉRE tanítják a gyerekeiket, és NEM HAJLANDÓAK békességben élni a zsidó néppel. A palesztinok maguk a PROBLÉMA. Ők a legelmebetegebb nép ezen a bolygón. Még a velük szimpatizáló arab államok (Egyiptom, Jordánia stb.) is VISSZAKÜLDIK azokat az elmebeteg őrülteket, ha azok megbújnak az ő országaikban. Úgyhogy ne legyél már egy másik agyatlan, vérző szívű liberális, aki VAKON támogatja a palesztinokat, mert épp az a “menő”. Továbbra, habár szimpatizálok az emberi jogi kérdésekkel (melegek jogai, nők jogai, stb.), többé NEM fogok az embereknek az egyenlő bánásmódjáért harcolni, amig azok az elnyomott emberek elnyomják az állatokat. Amíg az állatokat belevesszük a vitába, addig azt mondom: A POKOLBA minden elnyomott kétlábú lénnyel, aki nem veszi észre, hogy milyen elnyomást támogat aktívan, amikor leül enni, vagy új cipőt vesz. Az állatoknak a legrosszabb. A világ teheneihez, csirkéihez, pulykáihoz, sertéseihez és birkáihoz képest a palesztinok KIRÁLYOKKÉNT ÉS KIRÁLYNŐKKÉNT élnek. Úgyhogy a LEGSÜRGETŐBB kérdésre koncentrálj inkább: az állatok felszabadítására. És felejtsd el azokat a palesztin őrülteket. És amúgy a palesztinok nem élnek koncentrációs táborokban, akárhogy is definiálod azokat. Menj és nézd meg, milyen egy vágóhíd, ahol ezeket az ártatlan lényeket lefejezik, egyiket a másik után, vagy egy tejipari telepet, ahol a teheneket megerőszakolják, hogy ismételten teherbe essenek, aztán a melleiket naponta többször gépekre kötik, nézd meg, ahogy egy vágóhídi teherautó 1000 csirkével behajt az épületbe, ahol megölik őket… és aztán kérdezd meg magadtól: “Hogy sikerült annyira átverniük, hogy azt higyjem, hogy a palesztin embereket elnyomják és koncentrációs táborokban élnek?” Kérlek ébredj fel és koncentrálj az EGYETLEN kritikus és fontos ügyre. [a jelek szerint ezt a Facebook-posztot eltávolították a Yourofsky oldaláról.]

Ki is ez a Gary Yourofsky? Hallottam már a nevét itt is, ott is, különböző állatjogi csoportokban, de nem tudtam, hogy mit tett hozzá a mozgalomhoz. Elkezdtem rékeresni a nevére, és rájöttem, hogy ez a kirohanása (amiből csak úgy dől a kirekesztés és a privilégium), nem egyszeri alkalom volt (bár még ettől se lett volna kevésbé elfogadhatatlan).

Gary Yourofsky egy vitatott, szevedélyes személyiség, aki egyfelől az erőteljes beszédeiről híres, amelyek hatására rengeteg ember lett vegán, másfelől viszont hírhedtek a lesújtó megjegyzései, amelyek elidegenítettek rengeteg embert az állatjogi mozgalomtól.

Ilyen megjegyzései például a hírhedt interjú (teljes egészében itt olvasható angolul):

Minden, szőrmébe bugyolált nőnek át kellene élnie egy olyan durva nemi erőszakot, ami egész életükre megnyomorítja őket. 

Mint vegén, mint nő, és mint ember, teljesen sokkolt, hogy ezt mondja, és egészen felkavaró érzés volt (és egy kicsit kevésbé érzem magam most biztonságban), amikor egyes emberek az állatjogi mozgalomban kifogásokat találnak neki.

“Jaj, ez annyira régi idézet” mondják, mintha ettől meg nem történtté lehetne tenni. Vagy mintha azóta bocsánatot kért volna, és megváltozott volna, mert nem tette.

Nagyon elszomorított mindez, mert annyi időt és szeretetet áldoztam az ügyre, és most megkérdőjeleztem, hogy van-e a mozgalomban jövőm. Tudtam, hogy van ez a régivonalas, (és nem annyira interszekcionális) ága az állatjogi aktivizmusnak, és van az újabb vonulata (ami jellemzően sokkal inkább figyelembe veszi az interszekcionalitást), úgyhogy nem gondoltam, hogy mindenki támogatja azt a levelet, de amikor sokan az újabb hullámból kifogásokat találnak neki, még akkor is, ha ez csak néhány ember volt, azt rendkívül elkeserítő.

A következő reggel, aktivisták egy kis csoportja (egészen pontosan 3 ember) megjelentetett egy közleményt, hogy tudassa az egész közösséggel (és az internettel), hogy a vegán mozgalomban semmi helye a mások kirekesztésének és elnyomásának.

Egy nemi erőszakot túlélő nő azt mondta, hogy nagyon pozitív élmény volt elolvasni ezt a levelet. Másvalaki azt mondta, hogy “senki nem támogatott, amikor ugyanezt mondtam Yourofsky-ról, annyira örülök, hogy vannak más vegánok, akik így éreznek!” (és többen egyetértettek ezzel). Így egy pillanatra úgy érezhettük, hogy bármi is következik ezután, már megérte.

És akkor… beindult az ellentámadás.

“Miért bántjátok Gary-t?”

“Miért vagytok ennyire gonoszak?”

“Gary olyn sokat tesz az állatokért, miért csak ezt emelitek ki?”

“Szerintem több jót tesz, mint rosszat.”

“Ezt most komolyan gondoljátok? Ez most valami korai április elsejei vicc? Csak fel akarjátok hívni magatokra a figyelmet, vagy szimplán hülyék vagytok?”

“Ne ítélkezzetek.”

“Hibázott, és akkor mi van. Mindannyian hibázunk.”

“Ezt most kiemeltétek a szövegkörnyezetből, pedig kontextussal együtt kéne nézni.”

“Inkább támogatni kellene, mint hátbadöfni!”

“Valójában nem is nézi el a valódi nemi erőszakot, olvassatok csak utána.” (Mintha Yourofsky ezt mondta volna? Nem ezt mondta. És mintha csak beszélni a nemi erőszakról teljesen ártatlan lenne, és nem lennének következményei? Nem így van.)

Rendkívül zavarbaejtő volt az egész, és rendkívül fárasztó. Mi a fene folyik itt?

És akkor rájöttem. Lehet, hogy hősimádattal állunk szemben? Én is álltam már így hozzá emberekhez régebben…

Emlékszem, amikor még nekem is voltak példaképeim, ha valami rosszat hallottam róluk, én is elkezdtem őket védeni, hiszen az én példaképemről  volt szó, aki egy szimbólum, aki reményt ad. A lelkem egy darabja el akarta hinni, hogy létezik egy ilyen hős, egy ilyen példakép.

Mostanság annyira nincsenek már példaképeim, mkert ahhoz, hogy valaki a példaképem legyen, ahhoz magam fölé kell helyeznem az illetőt. Tisztelem sokak munkásságát, elismerem őket, de valójában mind ugyanazon a szinten vagyunk. Ember és ember.

És amúgy értem én: a vegánságért és az állatjogokért küzdeni a mélyen gyökerező társadalmi szokások ellen küzdeni. Hiszen hiába a nagyipari állattartás a leginkább felelős a klímaváltozásért, és hiába annyira szörnyűek az állatok életkörülményei, akkor is a vegánság, az állatjogok puszta ötlete az “extrém”. És amikor megismered az állatipar mögött rejtőző igazságot, akkor nem tudod azt többé elfelejteni. És amikor tudod, hogy mennyit szenvednek az állatok, hogyha nem figyelsz oda eléggé magadra (az önmagunk gyógyítása, a lelki békénk megőrzése nem mindig kap elég teret a mozgalomban: “az állatok gyilkolása nem áll meg, úgyhogy mi sem pihenünk!”), akkor az megterhelő lehet.

De ettől még elfogadható a kirekesztés a mozgalmon belül? Nem. Továbbá ne felejtsük el, hogy hacsak nem egy vegán családba születtél volt eg idő a te életedben is, amikor nem voltál vegán. Úgyhogy rendben van-e, hogy erőszakra uszítunk más emberek ellen (amilyen te is voltál egyszer), csak azért, mert nem tudták kinevelni magukat a beléjük nevelt társadalmi normákból olyan gyorsan, ahogy te? 

A közlemény, amit írtunk, nem arról szólt, hogy csak azért támadjuk Gary-t, hogy valaki támadhassunk. Arról szólt, hogy azt mondtuk: “attól még, hogy valaki vegán, továbbra sincs semmi joga kirekesztő módon viselkedni másokkal szemben, és ha így tesz, annak lesznek következményei – függetlenül attól, hogy mennyire imádott személyiség”.

Rendkívül veszélyes, különösen egy aktivista mozgalmon belül, ha valakit annyira nagyra becsülnek, hogy érinthetetlenné válik, és a tettei, megszólalásai csak hibátlanok lehetnek.

 

Ez az esszé eredetileg megjelent Rebelwheels’ Gondolatok április 21, 2015.

 

Editor’s Note:

Interested in learning more about the problems with hero worship in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement? Check out the work of Marti Kheel, co-founder of Feminist for Animal Rights. Some of her writings on this topic are hosted on the FAR website. Vegan Feminist Network has also written on this topic in regard to the celebration of male violence as vengeance. You can also read more about the problems with anti-Muslim rhetoric on the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. A number of Yourofsky’s essays on violence and rape are also available on Negotiation is Over; please be warned, they are very crude and offensive.

There are NO Cults in the Animal Rights Movement!! So, What about Yourofsky?

By: Dr. C. Michele Martindill

Trigger Warning: Discusses the violent rhetoric of Gary Yourofsky, which many have described as racist, ableist, and sexist. Comments from Yourofsky supporters included in this essay also engage heterosexism. Finally, this essay analyzes the formation of cults and may be upsetting to those who have been personally impacted by cult exploitation.

Yourofsky

 

Someone with years of experience in the animal rights movement raised an intriguing question when she asked a straightforward question: Why can’t we get all of the leaders within the animal rights movement into a room to work out their differences and find a way to do what’s best for the animals? What a question!! YES, great idea! The movement does need to find a common definition for animal rights and a comprehensive path for activism. After all, there is much confusion over what to call the movement: Veganism? Animal rights? Animal Liberation? Vegan Abolitionist? OR How about Movement for Animal Rights, Veganism, Environmentalism, Liberation and Abolition (MARVELA!!)? Once the leaders settle on a name for the movement they can sit down and plot movement strategies: Diets? Boycotts? Direct action? Marches? Information tables? Facebook pages? Passionate speeches? Shopping for vegan products? Good. Now the movement has a name and some immediate goals. Nice day dream so far, eh? All that’s left is deciding on the scope of the movement: Is the movement about social justice for all, the environment or just for the animals? Uh oh. The dream is getting fuzzy. Will the movement encompass ending the oppression and exploitation of humans, too? Zap!  Lightning bolt End of daydream! The realization dawns that the movement leaders gathered in a room to build a more coherent movement are all upper class-abled-cis gendered-white men—men like Gary Yourofsky. Nooooo!

Just when the movement needs to decenter and dismantle the white man dominated leadership in order to center previously marginalized groups, it would be a step in the wrong direction to even invite Gary Yourofsky to a planning session for a movement that could potentially impact so many lives. Recent essays have documented the problematic nature of Yourofsky’s views and the unquestioning loyalty of his followers. Some attribute his rise to prominence in the movement to hero worship on the part of followers. A few portray him as a fascist dictator, and others declare Yourofsky a cult leader. So, which is it? Using social psychology to examine how the cult leaders become established and the attraction of cults for followers will help to reveal a major problem within the animal rights movement—the notion that if we just silence one vocal, hate-filled leader the problem of disunity and oppression of marginalized groups in the movement will be solved.

Hero worship of a cult leader may end, but we will still be living in a social world grounded in patriarchy, a social world in which every interaction is man-centered or becomes man-centered the second a man notices women trying to make their voices heard. In addition, there are women in the movement who wear this institutionalized man-centered ideology either with pride or sometimes unknowingly—a patriarchal ideology that installs men as the leaders and women as the followers. The strategy of pitting women against women, those who support patriarchal leadership against those who challenge it, is not uncommon. A real danger in the movement is feeling that other women are the ones perpetuating oppression and exploitation of the women who dare to speak up, to question authority. It is important to keep in mind that all women are the victims here, victims of manipulation, and historical or institutionalized patterns of social organization.

Furthermore, the self-serving bias, a social psychological process through which people preserve their self-esteem by asserting the belief that only others participate in questionable behaviors or interactions, tells us no one is immune to joining a cult. Anyone—you, me, or the most dedicated social justice activist—can become or may already be a cult member, but continue to deny it because we fear looking bad to others. We’re not the problem; it’s everyone else. It is theorized that women are more likely than men to be cult members, possibly because they are more accustomed to living their lives under the authority of men in leadership roles and showing deference to men. More research needs to be done with regard to how gender, race, social class and ableism relate to cult membership. If the animal rights movement is to become inclusive of members of marginalized groups, then it is imperative to ask how the predominantly upper class white abled leadership and membership of cults in the animal rights movement contributes to classism, racism, ableism and ultimately exclusion.

Would we know a cult if we saw it? What are the distinguishing features of cults? Cults are distinct from organized groups that focus on activities, one-time events or volunteerism. Cults are comprised of a strong, authoritarian leader and a group of dedicated, loyal followers. Certain social psychological processes have been identified to help explain how cults are formed. Cults can be focused on religion, promises of future wealth or enlightenment to the capital-T Truth, and political causes such as animal rights or veganism. There is nothing particularly different about people who join cults. People who join cults may have recently gone through some life challenge such as a divorce or a death in the family. They might also be inexperienced in social interactions or disillusioned with the status quo, e.g. those who are concerned about the oppression and exploitation of other animals. The common denominator is that potential followers are vulnerable in the sense that they want answers, solutions or some way of coping with perceived problems. A cult promises not only answers, but camaraderie (Langone, 2013).

Several young women in blue dresses flank a raised throne with an older man who resembles jesus with a wooden cross behind him

One thing to keep in mind about cult members is that contrary to popular belief, they do not suffer from low self-esteem any more or less than the general population, nor are they recruited based on having low self-esteem. Persons with psychological problems would most likely be considered a liability by cults and not capable of carrying out the work of the cult—defending the leader, bringing in money or recruiting duties (Rhoads, n.d.). The core question centers on how cults keep members in line and actively involved. It is not simply the power of the message delivered by the cult leader that puts a cult in motion.

Researchers have identified countless tactics used to motivate cult members and prevent their questions about the integrity of cult leadership. The “hot-seat technique” is one of the best known strategies. It involves putting the new member center stage in front of the group to confess their misdeeds or impure thoughts, and then having the leader and membership berate them in an effort to shatter their self-confidence and self-esteem. The idea is to keep members doubting their capabilities, and in constant need of the support of the cult leader and other cult members. A big group hug of some kind usually follows the hot-seat or center stage treatment, assuring the cult member all is well IF they follow the party line.

Lego man wearing a shirt with the word "you" crossed out while he flips the middle fingerSeveral examples of the hot-seat strategy from Facebook interactions and YouTube videos have Yourofsky spewing misogynistic, sexist, racist, ableist and other oppressive speeches aimed at supporters as well as those who might be swayed to become supporters. This strategy serves to set the rules of the cult, to impress listeners through dynamic, charismatic speech, and to force followers to consider their own actions and confess how they were once oppressors of other animals. The following comment by Yourofsky illustrates the point:

The latest lie being spread about me is that I’m a racist because I said Palestinians were crazy. But if I distrust or hate all humans and the way we behave, I am a misanthrope NOT a racist! Yet, my misanthropy causes no actual harm contrary to the human rights hypocrites who actively support violent exploitation AND murder every time they sit down to a meal.

In this introduction to Yourofsky’s latest YouTube video, “Palestinians, Blacks and Other Hypocrites,” Yourofsky uses ableist and racist language to defend himself against charges of racism, something that might seem likely to turn away followers, but actually establishes him as someone willing to insult and degrade humans—someone who appears brave and a formidable leader. Note the response of an enamored follower:

I thought the whole idea of being a vegan was for animal liberation. Why are we even talking about human rights, when so many animals continue to die every second of every year.
If you want to be a human rights activists, the door is open, exit veganism now.
I’ll agree with Gary on this. I’m glad he said it. At least he’s no hypocrite.
Can’t you see, we are the problem. Humans create their problems and then expect everyone to sympathize. Take responsibility for your actions.
On the other hand, animals, do not create problems nor do they expect any sympathy.
I defended Gary’s stance and I would do it again. Go join a human rights group and let us true vegans clean up your dirty work. And stay out of the way.

Support is offered for the leader’s ideology and followed with a confession that “…we are the problem. Humans create their problems…”. “True vegans” should either get with the plan or “go join a human rights group,” as if that would be the worst form of rejection by the cult.

The rules are clear: There is no room for human rights activists among Yourofsky’s followers, and his response to the above Facebook comment dishes up approval for those who agree and lets everyone know what constitutes sanity and logical thinking:

THANK YOU FOR THINKING LOGICALLY! YOU ARE SANE & COGNIZANT my friend (Yourofsky, 2015).

Racism comes more into play with the next comment from Yourofsky:

Malcolm X once said: “You cannot be anti slavery and pro slavemaster.” Animals are the victims/slaves. Humans are the victimizers/slavemasters.. I side with the slaves and will no longer defend humans who scream about their mistreatment when they dish it out to the animals.

The tokenism and appropriation of a quote from a leader in the Civil Rights Movement is blatant and allows Yourofsky to portray the simple good vs. evil mythology that grounds so many religions. He does so by ignoring hundreds of years of human slavery and claiming all humans are “slavemasters.” One follower touts the revelations of Yourofsky as the “new paradigm”; however, Yourofsky is well aware of those who would challenge this new paradigm:

… except my enemies come from WITHIN the vegan movement. vegans have been trying to silence me for more than a decade. and they’re gonna win soon because I am worn out and burnt out.

Prophecy!! One of the great trademarks of a cult leader—the ability to predict the future! Most impressive. We also gain a clearer picture of THE enemy: vegans!! A form of call and response, a preaching style in which the minister speaks and the congregation answers with an affirmation, follows throughout this Facebook discussion thread. Comments supportive of Yourofsky net words of praise from the leader, and negative comments are met with admonishments to watch his video again or to go away (polite terminology). The vast majority of responses from followers are reinforcing Yourofsky’s views, including his racism:

I’m rapidly becoming disliked by most people I know….because I 100% share your attitude, morals and beliefs. I’d rather be a fuc***g loner, than a murdering hypocrite! The name calling and personal attacks are becoming the norm, and I couldn’t give a shite! OUR WORDS ARE RIGHTEOUS, THE TRUTH, SPOKEN WITH COMPASSION AND MORAL. For every murderer I see shovelling in a fork full of suffering…they’ll get my harsh words for afters, couldn’t give a flying shit what colour or where they’re from! My life focuses on the devastation humans cause…so FU** HUMAN RIGHTS!!

Another writes:

If they ever win by silencing you, I’ll carry your cross for you. You have plenty of support Gary.
Never forget that!

Homosexuals are another frequent target for cult members:

Yeah or the homosexuals who want “their rights” and respect, but cannot do the same for all of nonhuman animals that end up on their plates every time of every day. They want to get what they themselves don’t want to do. I used to fight so much for the homosexuals rights until I saw that when it came to what I cared about ( nonhuman animals ) they were not willing to support my cause in any way. So sad that they’re so selfish.

And then one person dares to question Yourofsky on his claims of success in making the world go vegan:

I agree about the hypocrisy of fighting for human rights while hurting animals but I don’t think hating people helps them see what they’re doing.

Yourofsky responds:

The Real Gary Yourofsky how can you say that when I have converted between 100,000 to one million with MY ATTITUDE/STYLE and the lovey dovey BS pacifists haven’t done shit? stop believing in fairytales like love conquers hate.

Yes, a part of cult leadership is laying claim to vast numbers of unverifiable conversions or some other accomplishment as proof that their strategies are effective and to motivate followers. Given Yourofsky’s focus on making all of Israel vegan, it is possible Yourofsky is referring to a survey that suggests vegans in Israel number 10% of the population or about 700,000 people, giving the country one of the largest per capita vegan populations in the world, but questions grounded in critical thought about this number are absent from the discussion. A 2001 report from the Israeli Ministry of Health shows “7.2% of the men and 9.8% of the women identified themselves as vegetarians” (Neiman, 2014). These numbers indicate Israel had a strong vegetarian population well before Yourofsky started his campaign for veganism in Israel. Also, while a recent report by Israeli media confirms that Yourofsky’s video from a Georgia Tech appearance in the summer of 2010, “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” (Yourofsky, The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear, 2010), has been seen “by at least 396,000 people…(with Hebrew subtitles) (Darom, 2102), there is no way of knowing if all of the viewers were in Israel or if they immediately made the decision to be vegan.

Just as Yourofsky brags about his successes, he also proclaims extreme humility in an effort to show followers he is just like them, someone they can identify with and emulate:

“I’m not a politician. I’m not a salesperson. I don’t ask for donations. I don’t want donations. I want people’s minds. I want people to be kind for the animals (Yourofsky, Gary Yourofsky speaks to 450 students at Ben Gurion University, n.d.).

Setting aside Yourofsky’s comment that he wants people’s minds, his occupational profile fits that of many cult leaders who were writers, salespersons and carnival workers prior to leading their cults. Most notably, Yourofsky worked as a paid spokesperson or lecturer for PeTA between 2002 and 2005. The common thread is that these jobs all involve persuasion, a key skill requirement for someone trying to sell others on a particular dogma (Sagarin, n.d.). Any denial of political activity—using power to effect change—or working to sell people on his ideas is a direct contradiction of what he does every single time he takes the stage to speak. His denials are, however, a persuasive rhetorical technique, an attempt to show he has nothing to gain on a personal level. Nothing, except the notoriety that guarantees his voice will be heard over the voices from marginalized groups!

Internet culture brings with it new opportunities for cult formation and their sustained activities. Their work is often measured by the number of memes or YouTube videos they produce and disseminate, as well as the number of ‘likes’ these products receive on websites such as Facebook. There is also an unrelenting willingness of supporters to defend leaders, including Facebook page owners and moderators, no matter what they might publish. Public objections are frequently deleted and those who question authority are banned from the site. Still, the following general definition of cults remains the same for all types of cults:

• The leader is best classified as an authoritarian; simply put, it is the leader’s way or the highway
• The beliefs of a cult are different from the mainstream and often narrowly focused; they have the potential to be dangerous or even false; a cult often suggests that nothing matters except focusing on gaining converts
• Demanding changes in lifestyle for followers, e.g. a demand to cut off communication with family members who don’t show proper support
• Cults emphasize recruitment, soliciting money or other needed resources, and finding opportunities to make the cult’s videos or products available to the public
• Cults have distinctive ways of getting all members on the same page, of getting them to think the same way
• Insiders in cults are clearly distinguished from outsiders, sometimes with the use of insider language or symbols; outsiders are often attacked, and they are abused psychologically or physically (Nassim, 2013)

A friend once observed that the best way to handle cult leaders and the claims-making of cult members is to ignore them, to stop feeding their egos. Cults are more than the manifestations of any leader’s ego. Cults have to be seen in relation to the patriarchal institutions and oppressions of our social world. They do not exist in isolation of sexism, racism, ageism, ableism, classism or speciesism. It requires critical thought and questioning of cults in order to dismantle them or at least defuse their incessant attacks on those outside of the cult. Every time someone outside of the cult hedges their criticism of the cult they inadvertently support it. Yourofsky’s misogyny is often criticized, but the criticism is mitigated when it is promptly followed with praise, e.g. “But he does do a lot of good for the animals.”

Gary Yourofsky

Critical thinking involves revealing contradictions in interactions or public discourse, e.g. how can cult leaders claim to not care what people think about them, but then try to defend themselves from criticism? Critical thinking aims to expose relations of power and to challenge oppression. When it comes to an examination of the hate speech and the promotion of violence by Yourofsky here are a few questions grounded in critical thinking that must be asked:

1. Who or what group benefits from using violence—threats, bullying and verbal abuse—against humans as way to end violence against other animals? What is gained from threatening violence or violent acts? Psychological dominance? Financial power? Publicity?
2. Through what social processes have cults become a normalized part of the animal rights movement, normalized to the point that their role in promoting oppressions is rarely challenged?
3. Many movement members who are not involved with any cult insist they could never be cult members, following the pattern of the self-serving bias. To what extent is it an example of the self-serving bias that so many movement members try to excuse the problematic actions of cults by saying, “Well, at least they’re doing it for the animals”?
4. Whose voices are silenced by cults? How are they silenced? How do cults socially reproduce or reify existing structures of racism, sexism, ableism, classism, ageism and speciesism?
5. To what extent do members of animal rights movement cults lose their psychological autonomy? Especially the women who follow a man centered leadership?

An important point to consider in trying to end the influence of cults within the animal rights movement is that they are a reflection of our patriarchal social order. Without patriarchy and the acceptance of sexism and misogyny throughout society, cults would have a difficult time forming, much less gaining momentum. It may be frustrating to think about how cults make the animal rights movement look to the outside world, and to encounter the lies, exaggerations and misrepresentations vocalized by cult members; however, ending the influence of cults depends on identifying and challenging them with critically grounded questions. The demand made by cults to focus only on the animals does indeed sound noble and even desirable, but it is also a way of deflecting criticism by presenting a worthy goal, AND it is a way of isolating the membership from the pervasive oppressions of the social world. Cult followers are repeatedly told that there is no point in addressing racism or sexism, for instance, and that veganism is all that matters. Any plans for an inclusive animal rights movement, one that addresses social justice, will depend on a clear message that focuses on how speciesism cannot be eliminated by turning our backs on human oppressions.

 

References

Darom, N. (2102, September 6). Is vegan superstar Gary Yourofsky an animal savior or a mad militant? Retrieved from HAARETZ: http://tinyurl.com/q2hdmkw

Langone, P. M. (2013). Who Joins Cults and Why? Retrieved from ICSA International Cultic Studies Association: http://csj.org/studyindex/studycult/cultqa4.htm

Nassim, A. (2013, September 2). Online Cults. Retrieved from Internet Ascent: http://internetascent.blogspot.com/2013/09/online-cults.html

Neiman, R. (2014, February 6). What Israeli Vegans Eat – And Why. Retrieved from Israel 21c: http://www.israel21c.org/israel-in-pictures/what-israeli-vegans-eat-and-why/

Rhoads, P. K. (n.d.). Cults: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from Working Psychology: http://www.workingpsychology.com/cult.html

Sagarin, D. (n.d.). Cult Influence Tactics. Retrieved from Working Psychology: http://www.workingpsychology.com/cultdef.html

Yourofsky, G. (2010). The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear. Retrieved from YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/mkpoon4

Yourofsky, G. (2015, May 17). The Real Gary Yourofsky’s Photos. Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/therealgaryyourofsky/photos/pb.772568189464273.-2207520000.1432180346./822615614459530/?type=1&theater

Yourofsky, G. (n.d.). Gary Yourofsky speaks to 450 students at Ben Gurion University. Retrieved from YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/m2qwhrg

 

Michele Spino MartindillDr. Martindill earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Missouri and taught there in the Sociology Department, the Peace Studies Program and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Her areas of emphasis include political sociology, organizations and work, and social inequalities. Dr. Martindill’s dissertation focuses on the no-kill shelter social movement and is based on ethnographic research conducted during several years of working in an animal shelter. She is vegan, a feminist and is currently interested in the stories women tell through their needlework, including crochet, counted cross stitch and quilting. It is important to note that Dr. Martindill consistently uses her academic title in order to inspire women and members of other marginalized groups to pursue their dreams no matter what challenges those dreams may entail, and certainly one of her goals is to see more women in academia.

Gary Yourofsky: Is The Backlash Warranted?

By Michele Kaplan

TRIGGER WARNING: The following article is in response to a video posted by Gary Yourofsky. It contains quotes from Yourofsky that reference violence, sexual abuse and rape. The video also contains ableist language and makes the inaccurate claim that every person on death row is guilty. (#FreeLeonardPeltier! #FreeMumia!) Lastly, it contains a great deal of macho posturing, aggressive, graphic and at times disturbing language which may be triggering for many people.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Contains foul language.

Screencap from video showing Yourofsky explaining himself

“After 18 years on trial, the verdict is finally in!” Gary Yourofsky recently declared on social media. “I’ve been found INNOCENT on all charges of supporting rape!”

This being in reference to the backlash from his infamous quote: “Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.” The “testimony” (which was in the form of a 28 minute video) goes into great detail as to why he feels he has been treated unfairly.

It should be noted this is not an actual trial. Yourofsky has also declared himself “the judge” (thus his innocence) and ends his testimony by saying “Vegan love to all my supporters who refused to believe these psychotic defamatory lies about me. And finally, to all the organizations and people who have attacked me, claiming that I support rape. I hear by challenge you to top my anti rape position. Go ahead. I dare ya.” He pauses for a moment and then continues in an aggressive posturing “What?! Yeah, I thought so. As usual, I win! Checkmate! You lose!! Fuck you!!”

Yourofsky goes to great lengths in the video to show just how much he despises rapists: “This is what I think should happen to rapists.” He says “Even somebody who rapes a woman in a fur coat (if that ever happens).”

According to Women Organized Against Rape, 1 in 4 human women and 1 in 6 human men will be raped by the age of 18. Considering how much of the norm wearing fur is in our culture, the chances that a fur wearing human being raped, is highly likely.

He continues:

I think his penis and balls should be seared off with a cuticle remover slowly, and then I think two skewers should be shoved into their eye sockets, dragged into another room. And then I think their penis and balls should be dipped into diarrhea and puke. They should be given the option of eating that and then they can save their lives. And if they do eat it, I want to take a gun, put it between their eyes and say ‘I was just kidding’.

In another quote he states that, “Since 1997, thousands of people (mostly vegans) have accused me of condoning rape” and that he has been “continuously harassed with false statements for 18 years.” Okay, so it is clear he does not like rapists. Is he also saying that he never said the infamous rape quote?

Yourofsky

“I need all of my supporters to start condemning the liars and deceivers,” he says in the video “who claim that I support rape because I wished it. And I repeat: wished it, upon men and women who actually support rape and murder by draping themselves in fur coats.” He then goes on to say that there isn’t one person on this planet (including a rape victim) who is more against rape than he is.

And while it’s safe to say that someone who has actually survived rape would disagree with that last claim, let’s just move on and focus on what he is actually saying. He does not condone the actual violent act of rape. He merely wishes it upon certain people who he feels are deserving or “evil”

And while I agree that there is a difference between saying “I wish this person gets raped” and actually physically raping someone, I find it odd that he does not understand the consequences of language, let alone the consequence of when a man talks about raping a woman (even if “it’s just talk”). That when he uses rape as a means to punish a person (even if it’s “just talk”), that this still contributes to the collective rape culture, which also impacts the animals such as the dairy cows, who are repeatedly forcibly impregnated (aka raped) in the name of a product. That he doesn’t understand how when an aggressive sounding man starts talking about his rape fantasies, that this can be incredibly triggering to victims of rape. And thus, it is odd that he doesn’t understand how this could possibly create and warrant backlash.

“Wish”

He wishes evil things upon evil and violent people. (And while this includes rapists, domestic abusers and child molesters, none are more violent in his eyes, than the people who partake in the animal agriculture industry.)

“Propose”

“Nobody disagrees with my position on violence, they only disagree who I propose to be violent for.”

“Hope”

“Deep down, I truly hope that oppression, torture and murder return to each uncaring human tenfold!” And lastly he uses the word:

“should”

“Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.” As far as rape is concerned, this is what should happen to people (as he also comments on men) who support the fur industry.

This is why people accuse him of supporting rape, and yet he fails to see that.

In his eyes, why are people focusing on his words, when the animals (deemed as food) are being murdered, tortured and in many cases forcibly impregnated (aka: rape) on a daily basis? This would not occur if there weren’t people who were financially supporting the industry. This should be the focus, not something he says.

And in this regard, he is right. There is a deep social conditioning in our society that has raised us to believe that violence against certain animals are okay. That says certain animals are here to be our food and clothing and have no other purpose. The animal agriculture industry goes to great lengths to encourage this disconnect, by hiding the truth of the factory farms and putting the image of the jolly animal on their package, to give off the impression that the animal is happy to be your food.

Advert for barbecue catering service with a cartoon pig face that is smilingAnd when we see the packages of meat, the appearance is so far removed from what the actual animal looks like, that it becomes very easy to ignore and even forget the origin. The animal agriculture industry is so freaked out about their customers learning the truth of their industry, that they have gone to great lengths to lobby the government so it becomes illegal to expose the cruelty. Furthermore, how else will you ever get your protein and calcium? We are raised to believe that we can not be strong and healthy, if we do not consume animals, which is yet another myth perpetuated by the animal agriculture industry.

And I will also agree that there is a huge disconnect regarding the issue of rape and speciesism and that many anti-rape advocates and feminists do not know (or do not make the connection) between the dairy cow and the collective rape culture. They don’t know (or are taught not to care) that the only way a cow will continuously produce milk, is if she is repeatedly impregnated against her will (aka: rape), only to have her babies stolen from her time and again. Because to the industry, her baby is nothing but veal. This happens over and over until the mother cow is so emotionally and physically run down, that she is unable to produce babies (and thus milk), and then she is slaughtered. But we are taught to not worry about that because we are told that cows (and other farm animals) are unfeeling, unloving, creatures who do not respond to their environment, which is yet another myth perpetuated by the industry.

When he makes those particular points, he is correct. However, he remains confused as to why people are so distracted by his statements and they don’t just focus on what is a far worse situation. The truth is just because something is worse, doesn’t negate the consequences. I could say, “Oh, I hope you get shot and die a miserable slow painful death”. Meanwhile genocide is occurring in another part of the world. Yes, the latter is worse, but that truth does not remove the fact that there are still consequences to what I said.

Granted, Yourofsky will sometimes clarify his message and say that he only wishes violence upon people who indirectly or directly partake in the animal agriculture industry, because he feels that maybe if humans experienced the level of violence that the animals experience, then they would cease to contribute to the violence. However, he only clarifies some of the time. And when he does, people have to first get past his initial statements of wishing, hoping, and proposing violence against them to get to that point. Other times he just goes off on a graphic rant about what he thinks should happen to people who are evil.

The truth is, verbally advocating for the violence against a person who isn’t vegan only works against the cause of liberating the animals. Furthermore, it is hypocritical since unless you were born vegan, you too were once contributing to the violence. I know I was. And even now as vegans, when the grains, fruit and veggies are harvested, insects and field mice are often killed in the process. When the homes that we live in are constructed, harm is also done to the animals who were already living on that land. Many vegans require medications that were tested on animals. And yes, let’s work to change the system that makes it nearly impossible to not harm animals, but the present truth is that not one person is completely innocent of this.

Lastly, as activists we must remember that there is a difference between what feels good and cathartic to express, and what makes for an effective tactic and argument. The difference between what is best to share in a diary or in a private conversation, and what we share to the rest of the world, especially to people who we’d like to join us. Because, yes the animals need as many people on their side as possible, so that the goal of animal liberation can be achieved.

Gary Yourofsky has since put out another video entitled “Palestinians, Blacks and Other Hypocrites” where he addresses the issue of people in the community “unfairly” accusing him of making racist statements. Hmm, I wonder why.

 

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on May 17, 2015.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

The Dangers Of Hero Worship In An Activist Movement

By Michele Kaplan

Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape and racism; contains extremely offensive racist and ableist comments about Palestinians and Muslim culture.

Gary Yourofsky

Have you ever been in a situation where people wish you would just shut up?

It all began back on March 19th , when some vegans in my social media circle were talking about Gary Yourofsky’s anti-Palestine rant. Naturally, those in the animal rights community (myself included) who support the plight of the Palestinian people, were horrified at what he said.

Gary Yourofsky's Facebook statement on Palestine.

This post was apparently deleted from his Facebook. For disabled visitors, you can listen to the post read by Plant Powered Activist on Youtube.

Who was this Gary Yourofsky? I heard his name here and there in various animal rights circles, but was not familiar with his contributions to the movement. I began to google his name and found out that this rant (that was just dripping with discrimination and privilege) was not a one time incident (not that that would’ve  made what he said okay).

Gary Yourofsky, is a controversial and passionate figure in the animal rights community, with a history of on one hand, making powerful speeches that have inspired people to go vegan, and on the other hand making derogatory statements that have alienated people within and from the animal rights movement.

Such statements as his infamous quote (and you can read the full interview here):

Every woman ensconced in fur should endure a rape so vicious that it scars them forever.

As a vegan, as a woman and as a human being, I was shocked that he said this, and felt nothing short of disturbed (and a little less safe) when some people in the AR community made excuses for his behavior.

“Oh, that’s such an old quote.” they said, as if time makes it somehow untrue. Or as if he had since apologized for this statement, or changed his ways. He has not.

I felt heartbroken because I devoted so much time and love to the cause, and now I was questioning my future in it. I knew there was this old school (and not so intersectional) wave of AR activism and the next wave animal rights activism (which typically is very intersectional), so I didn’t think that everyone would support the letter, but when some people in the next wave were making excuses, even though it was “only” a couple of people, it was incredibly disheartening.

The next morning, a small group (3 to be exact) got together and put out a statement to let the community (and internet) know that our veganism has zero room for discrimination and oppression of others.

A woman who was a survivor of rape came forward and said that reading this letter was very healing for her. Another person said “I’ve been stuck without support on making these points about him many times. So glad this exists to show other vegans feel the same way!” (and this sentiment was repeated by a number of people). And so for a moment in time, we felt like whatever happens, this was all worth while.

And then… the backlash kicked in.

“Why are you attacking Gary?”
“Why are you being so mean?”
“Gary does so much for the animals, why are you focusing on this?”
“I think the good outweighs the bad.”
“Are you guys for real? … Premature April 1st joke? Trying to get an attention attacking Gary or just plain stupidity?”
“You’re being really judgmental.”
“So he made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”
“You’re taking things out of context!”
“He needs support, not stabbing in the back.”
“He does not condone actual, literal rape in any circumstance. Do more research.” (As if that was said in the statement? It wasn’t. As if just talking about it was harmless and without consequence? It’s not.)

It was incredibly confusing and draining. I mean what the hell is going on?

And then it dawned on me. Could this be a case of hero worship? Something that I have certainly done in the past.

I remember when I had heroes, and I heard something damaging or negative about them, I would get defensive and protective, because that was my hero. A symbol. Hope. Part of me needed to believe that a hero exists.

These days I do not have heroes, because to have heroes is to place someone on a pedestal. I admire people and their work. I appreciate them, but at the end of the day, we are on the same level. Human and human.

And I get it. Advocating for veganism and animal rights is going against a deep rooted social conditioning, where even though factory farms is one of the largest contributors to climate change, where even though the conditions in which the animals live are so horrific and unethical, it is the vegan diet, it is the idea of animal rights that is “extreme”.  And once you know the truth behind the animal agriculture industry, you can’t un-know that. And knowing how much the animals suffer, if people don’t take proper self care (which is not always promoted in the movement. “The killing doesn’t take a break, so either will we!”), it can all get to you.

But does that justify discrimination in the movement? No. Furthermore, let us not forget that unless you were born vegan, there was a time, when you were not vegan either. So is it okay to advocate for violence against people (who were just like you) simply because they haven’t un-learned the social conditioning at the same rate that you have?

At the end of the day, the statement that we put out there was not about attacking Gary for the mere sake of attacking someone. At the end of the day, it was about saying “No, just because a person is vegan does not give them a free license to discriminate against others (and without consequence), regardless of how revered they might be.” At the end of the day, it is very dangerous, especially within an activist movement, when a person is placed so high on a pedestal, that they become untouchable and can do no wrong.
This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on April 21, 2015.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

Editor’s Note:

Interested in learning more about the problems with hero worship in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement? Check out the work of Marti Kheel, co-founder of Feminist for Animal Rights. Some of her writings on this topic are hosted on the FAR website. Vegan Feminist Network has also written on this topic in regard to the celebration of male violence as vengeance. You can also read more about the problems with anti-Muslim rhetoric on the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. A number of Yourofsky’s essays on violence and rape are also available on Negotiation is Over; please be warned, they are very crude and offensive.