Animals in the Spotlight
An Animal Rights Article from


Veda Stram
May 2001

A presentation at Animals In the Spotlight, Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots California State University Fullerton chapter

I want to thank you all very much for the opportunity to be able to speak to so many people at one time who obviously care about animals and want to learn more ways to help them.

I sent the event coordinator a copy of our Orange County People for Animals brochure that covers facts and photographs about institutionalized animal abuse and she sent me an email saying she was concerned that if I presented the horrible photographs and terrible facts from the brochure that it would not be an enlivening and inspirational evening for you. I couldn't agree with he more. So I won't be doing that.

How some human beings treat animals is truly horrible. And it's important for those of us who focus on animal abuse to also remember that how some human beings treat humans beings is also truly horrible.

The depth and breadth of animal abuse is more than most of you here can imagine, and I say that with such audacity because I have been a serious animal rights activist for most of my waking hours for 13 years and I find out about some kind of animal cruelty three or four times a week that's worse than anything I'd known before. Ever week...three or four more ways to hurt animals.

So I won't be talking about those horrible things and I won't be showing you disturbing photographs. I do have copies of our brochure available if you want to see me at the end of the evening. But I will be talking to you about ways that I hope will make you stronger in being able to help animals.

The implications of not being vegetarian or vegan and abusing animals at all is that as human beings we suffer in our inability to live as if life is precious. We damage the planet so we can make money. We pay other people to hurt animals so that we can eat them, wear their skin. We sacrifice our compassion for greed and we sell out on our sense of being connected and belonging by giving in to things we want this minute with no regard for the short-term consequences to living beings, and with no regard to the long-term consequences to this whole amazing blue and green planet.

So, I'd like to share Orange County for People for Animals' mission statement.

The mission of Orange County People for Animals is to have our guiding principles present in the fabric of everyday society:

  • Every being has the right to live free from exploitation.
  • By educating people, we will create a compassionate, healthy and peaceful planet.
  • There are consequences to every individual's actions.
  • All life is interconnected.

What if those were the norm, the way "everybody knew" life should be and everybody lived all the time. Common sense? What kind of world would be have?

So I'm going to talk to you as if you are people who are committed to OCPA's guiding principles.

Some of you express that commitment in providing care and love and devotion and quality time and medical necessities for your dog or cat or dogs or cats or hamsters or cockatiels or parrots or even sheep, whoever you share your home with.

Some of you express that commitment in always writing letters or sending emails or circulating petitions to help save the Arctic Wildlife Refuge from destruction from oil drilling or you write letters or send faxes or emails to ask your Federal or State representatives to support X legislation that helps animals or to oppose Y legislation that hurts animals.

Some of you express that commitment by being vegetarian which means not eating flesh.

some of you express that commitment by not wearing fur or leather. Or wool. Or you don't wear silk.

Some of you express that commitment by raising money to build more nurturing habitats for animals in shelters or wildlife sanctuaries.

Some of you send checks to save parrots in Madagascar or baby harp seals in Greenland.

Some of you are vegan which you think means not eating animals or animal products but really means "living with the most compassion." You won't buy leather or wool or silk. You don't eat anything unless you know there are no eggs or dairy in it.

You know what you have done because of your commitment to animals.

And this gets to the heart of what I want to address.

We know the damage and consequences and harm caused by sexism. By chauvinism. By racism. By religious and ethnic discrimination. What most of us are not aware of is the damage and consequences and harm caused by speciesism.

Speciesism according to Webster's is "prejudice or discrimination based on species; discrimination against animals."

Most Americans will stop their life to rescue a baby sparrow that's fallen out of a nest. Most Americans will stop and see if a stray dog on the freeway can be fed. Most Americans will send money to save chimpanzees' habitat or to rescue an elephant from a circus. Most Americans will spend thousands of dollars to cure their sick cats or dogs or bunnies. Most Americans are horrified at the cat and dog fur trade and cat and dog factory farms in parts of the world.

Most Americans eat a million animals an hour. Cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, ducks, geese....

This is speciesism. This is the dilemma you face when you tell yourself or you tell anyone else that you "love animals" and that you're "concerned about ending animal abuse."

I KNOW you care about animals. You KNOW you care about animals. Or you wouldn't be here.

And when I talk about speciesism or veganism, some of you think "Oh God, here we go" or "She wants me to give up pizza?" or "What do I do at my six-year-old son's friend's birthday party? Not eat cake because it might have eggs?"

Or "Oh no I'll bet she's one of those radical eccentrics who wouldn't accept a free BMW if it had leather seats."

So animal abuse includes but unfortunately is not limited to bullfighting, animal experimentation, pit bull fights, fox hunting, muzzled and declawed bears forced to fight with dogs, elephants tormented with bull hooks to do tricks, dogs beaten slowly to death to provide aphrodisiacs, turtles sawed in half while fully conscious in live animal markets, whales harpooned or captured to do tricks in huge aquariums, guinea pigs force-fed quarts of bleach. Of all the animal abuse in the world, 98% is caused by factory farming.

So I urge you to consider living with the most compassion and go vegan.

And... I'm here to thank you for ANYTHING you do to help animals.

If you're eating fish and ice cream and writing letters to save the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, I'm here to thank you.

If you're cutting back on meat but not throwing out your leather shoes, I'm here to thank you.

If you're going fishing and asking people to sign petitions against genetically engineered food, I'm here to thank you.

And I'm here to let you know that what you're doing is amazing. What you're doing is inspiring and motivating.

By being here, you're demonstrating your concern and your desire to spend energy or money or time to help animals.

The new physics looks at things much tinier than atoms. I wouldn't even try to explain what physicists are seeing and finding... except to say, the smaller they distinguish life, the more they find that everything is connected.

So everything you do helps LIFE!

I drive a car. And wherever I drive, in the city, on the 405, from the animal point of view, every place I drive used to be somebody's home.

We're all guilty of damaging life in one way or another.

And...whatever we've done is insufficient to what we're up to and what can be done.

And I'm here to encourage us to look at the next step each of us can take in our commitment to help animas, to help the planet, to help LIFE.

I invite you to look for yourself at what the next expression will be for you in your commitment to animals.

And to forgive yourself when you don't live up to your expectations. Get over it and move on.

What's next for you?

Orange County People for Animals is committed to a compassionate, healthy and peaceful planet, and we invite you to take the next step for yourself so that you can walk the walk and talk the talk that makes you proud of how you live your life.

We're here to prove support and information and inspiration to you for the next step you want to take to help animals.

Thank you very much for your profound appreciation of LIFE!

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