|Enewsletter • July 14, 2005|
Special Edition: Hall of Fame
At AR2005 in Los Angeles, Matt Ball and Jack Norris were inducted into the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame, joining previous inductees Cleveland Amory, Gene and Lorri Bauston, Howard Lyman, Ingrid Newkirk, Peter Singer, and Henry Spira. The following is Matt’s acceptance text, which is taken from A Meaningful Life; Jack’s speech will be presented later.
Some of you might be wondering why Jack and I are listed together. Isn't that cheating? I’d have to say our election to the Hall of Fame is recognition of the efforts of Vegan Outreach, and not for one or two people. Obviously, with thousands of activists distributing booklets and thousands donating to print more, there are too many to honor or thank here, but just quickly, I’d like to mention just a few of those who have been indispensable to our efforts: Anne Green, Lauren Panos, Jon Camp, Joe Espinosa, Michael Greger, Michael Tucker, George Eisman, Steve Kaufman, Bruce Friedrich, Gaverick Matheny, and Peter Singer.
All these people believe in the mission of Vegan Outreach, which is this: To make everyone and anyone, in any situation, the most effective advocate for animals possible. I’d like to use this opportunity to list a few facts we have recognized and principles we have espoused since we started working together in 1990:
1. Approximately 99% of the animals killed in the United States each year are slaughtered for food. If you remember just one thing, remember this: ~99% of the animals killed in the U.S. this year -- about ten billion land animals -- will be killed to be eaten.
2. When we choose to do one thing, we are necessarily choosing not to do other things. This is not a judgment on anyone’s approach, but a simple recognition that we have very finite time and resources. Believing we can or must do everything for every animal is unrealistic. We have to make choices about how to use our time and money to prevent the most misery for the most animals.
3. Every person we meet is a potential major victory for the animals! Convincing just one person to stop eating animals -- or even simply convincing one person to cut their meat consumption -- saves many hundreds of animals over the course of a lifetime, while creating pockets of change around that person.
Recognizing these facts has led us to work hard to provide the best, most powerful tools possible, so we can provide the animals a clear voice, and allow us each to have the biggest impact we can possibly have. But there are many factors that go into being the best advocate for the animals we can be. So to conclude, I’d like to share just two lessons about advocacy that took me many years to learn:
1. Veganism is only a tool to reduce suffering and save animals. Period.
Veganism is not a list of ingredients, or a religion. It is not an exclusive club or a label to prove our superiority. Being vegan is part -- and only a part -- of what we can do to reduce suffering and save animals.
2. More important than any individual choice we may make or position we hold is the influence we have on the choices of others. The animals don’t need us to be right, they need us to be effective, to create real and lasting change. To this end, our literature and arguments are not the most important tools we have. Rather, what is most powerful is our example.
To have the greatest impact for the animals, we must be the kind of person others would like to know and emulate. For all those suffering, unseen, on factory farms, we must be polite, humble, and joyous -- in short, we need to be the opposite of the angry vegan stereotype.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., The arc of history is long, but bends towards justice. We recognize that the brutal exploitation and slaughter of billions each year is the greatest injustice today. With that recognition and the right tools and approach, we have the potential -- each and every single one of us -- to bend history further towards justice, and profoundly and fundamentally change the world.
I am truly and deeply honored to work with you for animal liberation, the moral imperative of our time. Thank you.
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