This weekend has been full of emotions for me, I’ve been on a roller coaster ride, from sad to joyful to angry, to hopeful. It was a weekend full of animal activism as we took part in the different activities planned by Animal Equality in Madrid. First on the agenda was the incredible talk by author and psychologist Melanie Joy titled “Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows”. We got there early on Friday to try to get in because seating was limited and got a seat in the nick of time. The room was full of people and Melanie was truly inspirational. The good news is you can all listen to her speech here, it isn’t the exact talk she gave last night but she has been on this speaking tour for months, and I’m sure this one is as captivating as what we saw last night. We all shed a few tears, a few laughs and no matter how many videos I’ve seen and continue to watch, Melanie had such a unique take on the subject. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Last night was an absolute treat, but today was a day I will never forget. After many years of participating in different rallies, protests and many volunteering efforts, this was my very first protest in defense of animals. The wonderful organization Animal Equality who had also organized Melanie’s talk, organized their yearly protest in defense of animal rights in Puerta del Sol in Madrid, our busiest spot in the entire city. Few things have filled my heart with so many mixed emotions and I’m so happy to get to share the love with you today. Here’s what happened…
We got there early this morning and already there were so many people waiting to participate. Animal Equality had a great table full of t-shirts, buttons, cookbooks, etc., and of course we bought a little something (all proceeds went to help animal protection efforts). Hubby bought an awesome t-shirt, and I got a vegan button for my faux leather jacket I haven’t wanted to wear recently. They also had a table with vegan cookies, coffee with soy milk, tea, vegan cocoa, all completely free and perfect for the cold weather.
Of course there were so many doggie activists around. I managed to snap this ubber-cute moment between two dogs that were meeting for the first time.
And this little doggie got so excited at the prospect of being in the blogosphere that he gave me his money shot… adorable!
This little guy had his activist gear on and was showing off his ‘Animal Equality’ t-shirt proudly.
We waited and watched as the people arrived, we talked to the members of Animal Equality, to vegan shop owners and to sanctuary workers. We didn’t know anyone there and yet it felt like being surrounded by friends.
The protest was so well organized it truly made everything easier. A few hours in we were organized into rows, waiting for our protest props. Here’s were things started getting emotional, joyful, sad… hopeful.
A little girl bravely asked to be in the first row behind the Animal Equality members, and was such a brave and wonderful little activist. She was such a big hit with the media and talked to so many people and photographers. It was such an honor to stand behind her.
We were all given large sized photos of animals, not in slaughterhouses or in pain, but in pastures, fields, sanctuaries. All safe, all peaceful. But I knew what was coming… The first row of protestors, all members of Animal Equality, dressed like meat packer and slaughterhouse workers, held dead animals that had been victims of human exploitation (no photos included here but for those of you who wish to see, they are included in the news coverage at the end of the post). I was standing in the third row, and although I knew this was going to be a part of the protest, nothing prepared me for my first glimpse of the animals. I instantly started crying as well as many others around me. Although I’ve now made the vegan connection many times over, the feeling of anger, sadness, frustration and grief I felt were beyond anything I’ve experienced before. I quickly wiped the tears and looked at my photo, tried to keep it together and stood there with fellow animal activists trying to plant seeds about the truth of what I spent so many years oblivious to. So many things rushed through my mind. I thought about my dog as I saw the other doggies around us, I looked at the bodies of those once lively and always beautiful animals and thought of the life they once had. I looked at my husband who was holding his photo right next to me and fell in love all over again, not that I needed to because that had also happened yesterday, and the day before that… and the day before that! I watched the photographers and felt excruciating pain when I watched the Animal Equality volunteers tear up because of the animals they were holding. I remembered the videos of animals in sanctuaries I’ve seen and felt hope. I felt a wave of guilt because of all the years in which I was unaware of how animals are treated in the meat and dairy industries and continued to support them. I had flashbacks of watching Earthlings and Vegucated, and I thought of my mother, my inspiration, who would have been right next to me in her wheelchair holding her photo high in the air. I could only photograph the people around me, but trust me, rows and rows were right behind us.
About an hour into the protest, Melanie Joy gave a beautiful speech in English (again…more tears), and then we heard the speech in Spanish by one of the Animal Equality members. Soon after that, and right before they took my photo away, hubby managed to take a picture of me. It’s a photo I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, and I love how I can see him in the shadow since we didn’t get the chance to take another with the two of us.
They took our props and I gave Mr. hubby a kiss. Then I saw the most heartbreaking moment of the day. The volunteers that had been holding the animals gave them back to the organizers and started weeping uncontrollably. I felt such pain and I know you’re going to laugh at me, but I went over to one of them, the one that had been in my line of sight the entire morning and I thanked her for everything she did, and of course, who am I if not a hugger… you can guess what I did, and without even knowing me, you can guess what she did.
While hubby went to the organizers to get our belongings back, I got some ‘cojones’ where there normally are none (I’m really quite shy) and I walked up to Melanie Joy and talked with her for a bit. I got this awesome souvenir from my little moment of bravery.
As things started to wind down, smiles started coming back and exhilaration kicked in. We went to have an amazing vegan brunch at our favorite Madrid restaurant Rayen Vegano, where talking to the owners and sharing stories from the protest was as lovely as always (they are just such cool and special people). We devoured our food and warmed up, took a look at the photos and talked about what had just happened. I wish I had taken a photo of the lovely vegan brunch we had (avocado toast, melon juice, soy lattes, tofu scramble and perfect rosemary rustic potatoes) but we were so hungry! I did however take one of the vegan burger we had had the night before after the conference, also at Rayen.
I think it’s the perfect way to end this post, by showing you that all of the sadness and cruelty that goes on every second of every day and that we never see, can be prevented. It can be prevented without sacrificing our traditions, our social habits, without sacrificing flavor or nutrition, our health or our value systems. I’ve said this again and again, this change I have made has changed my life, in deeper ways than anyone can imagine, it has healed wounds that hadn’t healed and has given me one of the most beautiful gifts. My only regret as always is, I only wish I had done it sooner.
I’ll be adding links to news articles about the protest as they become available so stay tuned and check back if you would like to see additional pictures. One photographer had a ladder which I think will result in incredible photos of the event.
Thanks for taking the time to read you guys! I know it’s tough, but it’s so worth it. Please share this post if you feel like it and help us spread this message. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.
– Ingrid Newkirk
NEWS COVERAGE (Contains some images of the animals in the protest)