Cover photo (shown above) courtesy of Kacie Bernhardt
This is a Personal Note from Inspirational Souls’ Founder Antonio Fernandez. Please note, even though Antonio was the organizer of this year’s event in Portland, the views, and opinions expressed in this piece, are his and not those of the non-profit, “Our Planet. Theirs Too.” or the National Animal Rights Day Event. This is a personal story of an evolution of vegan.
On June 3rd, 2018, Portland Oregon held it’s very first National Animal Rights Day (NARD) event. This was the 8th year of the event. You can click here to learn more about the non-profit Out Planet, Theirs Too that started this event in 2011. You might be as surprised as I was to find out even though the NARD event was celebrating its eighth year, it had never been held in Portland. Especially, since Portland is often listed as the second most vegan city in the United States and has been identified as having the 2nd largest number of Vegan restaurants per capita in the World. But this event goes much deeper than just being a vegan or eating vegan food.
In May of 2015, my wife and I watched the movie Earthlings. It was like a spiritual awakening. Immediately after the movie ended, we looked at one another and vowed to never consume or use any animal products again. Right away we donated or sold almost all of our belongings that contained animal products. Being a self-proclaimed environmentalist I was amazed by the impact one individual could have on the Earth by going vegan; not to mention their health and of course saving so many animals’ lives. I thought going vegan was “enough.” I didn’t know there was more I could do to help the animals and the planet.
Two years ago my evolution took me from being “just a vegan” to becoming a full-fledged “vegan animal rights activist.” I began attending the Los Angeles Animal Save Pig Vigils at the Farmer Johns slaughterhouse in Vernon, CA. A place where they slaughter 6,000 pigs a week. An animal vigil is where activists show up to the entry point of slaughterhouses and packing plants to meet transport trucks full of live animals and try to pay them their last respects before they are unloaded and slaughtered.
The first time I attended one of these events, I was scared and my mind was numb. I didn’t know what I would see. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get close to the animals and “bear witness.” But, I did. I not only leaned in, I also touched the muddy and pissy faces and backs of these beautiful creatures and looked them in the eyes and told them, “I was sorry.”
Before I attended, I had seen the videos and FB LIVE Streams that were posted on the LA Animal Save FB page every week. Being there in person, staring deep into their humanlike eyes, proved to be a surreal experience. I knew that after the volunteers showed those beings a minute of compassion, the pigs would be kicked off the truck into a living hell and killed; all in the name of human consumption. They would be processed into an unhealthy food that provided little nourishment and only a few seconds of taste ecstasy. I understood that. But, I didn’t comprehend it yet. Only a year or so earlier I was addicted to meat and would eat at least one carnitas burrito a week and probably have meat or eggs at least once a day; seven days a week.
It was tough to mentally piece together what I was witnessing until the noise of squealing pigs rang out from the slaughterhouse as trucks were being unloaded and pigs forced to their death behind the high walls of the slaughterhouse gates. A couple of days later it all hit me while I sat in restaurant booth across from my wife. I broke down. My brain cracked open. I finally mentally connected the lives I saw in the human-like eyes of those pigs to the suffering and slaughter they are subjected to. Most pigs are bred to grow extremely big, very fast. Then they are slaughtered at about 6 months-old, just babies.
After that experience, I attended a few more vigils and began to get more vocal for the animals. A few months before I moved my family to Portland I heard about the upcoming National Animal Rights Day (NARD) event in L.A. The NARD event always takes place on the first Sunday in June in different cities all around the world. I believe it is up to 30 cities now. The event is separated into two parts. The Memorial Service and the Festival. NARD is known for its unique memorial ceremony, which in some cities involves using the bodies of preserved animals.
The memorial service is exactly what the name alludes to. Participants create an engaging opening ceremony that pays homage to all non-human Earthlings and brings light to the billions of land animals, and trillions of sea life, which are killed each year for human consumption. It is common that many cities use preserved bodies of animals that they have received from labs, vet offices, farms or other places. Now many cities use signs because it’s often easier to get permits when you don’t have the dead animals involved.
When I got to Portland in May of 2017, I started asking around about where the NARD event was going to be held in Portland. I couldn’t find any information. The closest city to be hosting was Seattle. I then contacted Aylam Orian the NARD founder and he mentioned that Portland was supposed to have an event, but it fell through. I said, put me on the list. I want to organize one in 2018.
Fast forward to late 2017. I joined a phone meeting with volunteers from all around the world and the NARD planning began. Due to the birth of our baby girl in late 2017, most of the pre-work for the event didn’t take place until early 2018.
In late February 2018, when I finally was able to dedicate time to the event I started to fret a little. Then I thought, why don’t I reach to the passionate group of local activists. It was worth a shot. I knew the small but mighty group of Portland activists, were uber-passionate about helping the animals.
That is when it all came together. During the following four months, local activists Jocelyn Cole and Emily Rezentes of Portland Animal Save
Chelsea Davis of Out to Pasture Sanctuary, Marley Delgado of Anonymous for the Voiceless, Amber Canavan from PETA and Sandee Stewart and Kelli Sehl of Salem Area Animal Save started to meet to put the event together. What a great team! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart! Then the stars aligned fully when Jocelyn, who was also planning many events at the Animal Liberation Conference that May, said Earthling Ed was going to be in town and able to speak at our event. “Insert angels singing here.” We began to advertise on social media and raise money by selling NARD shirts so we could secure Director Park in downtown Portland.
All the hardwork and planning culminated with a beautiful opening memorial ceremony with a “die-in,” an original poem by Marley Delgado, and volunteers placing flowers by pictures of animals and saying a few words.
Earthling Ed kicked off the festival with a riveting speech about how this was a day of memorial for the animals. Something that stuck out in his speech was the phrase, ” All we need is Truth, and the voice to speak it.” He also told the crowd to remember, “We have more in common with these animals than we do differently. We are alive, we feel pain, we feel happiness, we have families.. But, most importantly we have the ability to suffer and feel pain and anguish. The world is changing. The world we want to create is right in front of us.” See the rest of the speech here.
Though Earthling Ed is only 24, he carries an immense amount of wisdom. A man of high frequency. His message is of love, peace, and understanding, but with a persistent and unwavering dedication to getting people to see the truth about the suffering of all non-human Earthlings. Getting people activated.
Ed said (paraphrased from a speech on “getting active” he gave later on in the evening about becoming active), “Just being vegan is not enough. It’s like watching a man from across the street beat his dog and doing nothing about it. Being vegan is like disapproving and not participating, but the dog still suffers. To be the real change, we need to be able to walk across the street and take the stick from the man.”
We are at a crossroads of collective consciousness right now. Each individual has to decide for him/herself. Will you help end the suffering, torture, and abuse of billions of sentient beings each year or will you continue to walk on the other side of the street watching? He also talked about channeling your anger for the atrocities being done to animals into peaceful, loving activism. We don’t have to change peoples’ minds right away. We just need to get them into a space of curiosity, so that they go home and start to research what we are talking about.”
To me, this was the point of the event. The memorial service is to get people to connect to the animals by paying respects to the horrors these animals suffer. The Portland event was great. There was about a 5-minute track of “happy” animal sounds, followed by about 2 minutes of sounds from animals being tortured in slaughterhouses. Though this is harsh for most people to listen to, even many activist, it is a necessary reality to get people to make the connection. My goal for the event was to get people motivated to move from veganism into animal rights activism.
Another poignant speech was given by Josh Smith of Odd Man Inn. He started his speech by talking about how he sees vegans writing things on Facebook group walls like, “Humans Suck & Humans should all Die.” What Josh said next was brilliant. Please note this is paraphrased. Josh said “I wish I could tell these people that all humans don’t suck. Look Around. You are all beautiful and compassionate humans. It will be humans like you and me who save the animals. We need humans. We need humans to be awakened.” It was such a riveting speech.
Several others also spoke about how animal rights and veganism. Chelsea Davis a member of the board at Out to Pasture delivered a great speech about all the ways to get involved in activism.
Seth Tibbott delivered a passionate talk about his 37-year journey from the beginning of Tofurky to where he is now. How he almost gave up many times and now he travels the world seeing how his company and veganism are growing exponentially. He is definitely a vegan animal rights activist legend.
Geoff Regier, an ex-undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals delivered a passionate talk about his evolution from farm kid to the nightmares of being an undercover investigator in factory farms. His main message was, “There is nothing I’d rather talk about than animal rights. There is nothing more important.”
Positioned between the speakers we had awesome musical performances by activist songwriter, Daniel Redwood.
Vegan activist and Youtuber Gerard Garanzuay.
Local singer from the band Fat Sasquatch Katherine Welch. All three artists performed passionate songs about animal rights, love and animal liberation.
Throughout the afternoon attendees, volunteers and activists hugged, talked and networked in the festival area. There were representatives from all the local Animal Rights groups, Portland and Salem Save groups, Sea Shepard, PEACE, PETA, Anonymous for the Voiceless.
If you are in the Portland or Salem, get involved. Come out and help us spread the word. If you read this and do not have local groups, we can connect you to someone who can help you get a chapter started in your city. Click here to see all the local Portland Animal Activism.
In addition to the above, several local animal sanctuaries set up booths and shared about their work with passers-by, Wildwood Farm Sanctuary, Green Acres Farm Sanctuary and Out to Pasture. These sanctuaries ALWAYS need volunteers. Please reach out to them and get involved!
Local vegan chocolatier Cocacao also graced the festival with yummy samples and chocolate bars for sale. We estimated about 250 to 300 people and a few dogs visited the event throughout the day. It was definitely a success.
In closing, I just want to reiterate the importance of becoming an animal activist. As Ed mentioned in his speech, “Imagine a blind man walking down the street and there is a hole in the sidewalk in front of him and you are on the other side watching him walk into the hole without trying to stop him. If you don’t let him know and he falls into the hole and dies, you are responsible for his death.” If you get this parable and are not taking part in animal activism, NOW is the time. If you don’t get this, watch www.eno openers.com. This movie changed my family’s lives. We are running out of time. If you don’t believe me, check this out.
Pictured below is our table at the Portland NARD event dedicated to Jenna Chapple.
Jenna was a burgeoning animal rights advocate, vegan chef, animal lover and was just beginning to get active in the animal rights activism events here in Portland. She was supposed to take part in our event this past Sunday, but about a month ago, Jenna lost her battle with depression. We wanted to make sure Jenna was still apart of our event and also share some space to bring light to those who struggle with mental illnesses.
If you are in the Portland area, we will honor Jenna at a fundraiser dinner at Refarm Sanctuary, to help raise money for mental health awareness and also the sanctuary. We invite you all to come to take part in this event. Remember, we are all connected. Sharing this post also helps immensely. We want all Earthlings to know they are not alone.
For more information about this event, please click this link.
Video Created by: Craig Miranda
Additional Soundbites: Timothy Hellman
Very Special thanks to the following sponsors of our event: Tofurky, A Well Fed World and Planet Protein. Additional thanks to Vtopian Artisan Cheeses, COCACAO, DeNoble Farms, Gathering Together Farm, Denison Farms.