Compassion is the Courageous Root of an Activist

>>  Sunday, August 5, 2012

When I became vegan the second book I read was Striking at the Roots by Mark Hawthorne. Being new to the cause I wanted to dedicate myself to... I had no idea where to start. But this book delivers just what the title promises... I certainly wasn't disappointed in learning the endless ways to get the message heard. Every chapter has useful information and real world solutions to get motivated and to stay involved.  This book and Mark's suggestions are at once insightful and inspiring.

So I'm happy now to share excerpts from his amazing journey into advocacy that started out by participating in the very unkind event of "running bulls" in Pamplona, Spain. This event is part of the Saint Fermin festival and was historically the prelude to bullfighting. 

Mark recalls that in 1992 he knew nothing about the world of animal cruelty and he was neither a vegan nor an animal advocate at the time. "I ate from the table of ignorance and wore the skin of animals without a single thought about who they might have come from."

"But that summer, something in me shifted—a flickering of awareness, if you will—and it began in Pamplona."
His accounting of the events on that day are written here on My Road to Activism Began in Pamplona and he concludes:
"Not wanting to witness a bullfight, I left the Plaza del Toro and made my way back to Estafeta Street and found several tourists dressed in white shirts and pants with red sashes. They were pondering the sight of bull’s blood on the cobblestone. “That’s where he got it!” said a drunken man of about 25, pointing at a smear of crimson near the curb. Was I the only person to travel to Spain, run with the bulls and then feel shame?
It didn’t happen overnight, but soon after visiting Pamplona I began regarding all animals with an abiding respect. Gradually, I stopped eating cows, chickens, pigs and sheep, and I visited farms where these animals are cared for and allowed to live their natural lives. Watching them interact with other animals, it occurred to me that compassion is my religion, celebrated in kindness toward all beings. No scripture, no rituals, not even a prayer to a patron saint—just a reverence for all life."
Bull by Franz Marc
No one can say exactly why we advocates suddenly get that jolt that lead us to unfogged vision. I think the first step though, is that we have to be courageous. We have to be confident enough to accept that our current state of apathy or ignorance isn't acceptable and we have to have the strength to change accordingly.

Mark Hawthorne more than accomplished these brave and thoughtful deeds... A true champion who no longer "runs the bulls" but advocates for them!

Here's some wise advice from Mark to avoid burnout:

Accept that you are human
Create something tangible to remind you of success
Talk to someone you trust
Ignore upsetting text and images
Visit and volunteer at sanctuaries

You can learn more of Mark's helpful techniques in these videos recorded at the Let Live Animal Rights Conference and this presentation at the Lewis and Clark Law School

What a fine example Mark Hawthorne is of someone who is the change he wishes to see!


veganelder August 6, 2012 at 4:48 AM  

His book was one of the first I read about veganism too...oddly enough the Norman Public Library has a copy so it was easily accessible to me. I agree, his writing is inspiring and thought-provoking. Thanks for the links to the presentations...I had not seen those.

Bea Elliott August 6, 2012 at 10:43 AM  

Ah! Great minds think alike! I went straight to my library too. It was then that I realized how very repressed the subject was... I walked out with the only book on "animal rights" - Matthew Skully's Dominion. :/

I quickly got on the web afterwards and was thrilled to find Striking at the Roots. It really is a well thought out "how to" manual on activism... If we all only accomplish a small bit of the suggestions - That alone would be a meaningful effort...

Glad to point you to some information you hadn't seen. ;) And again, thanks for all you do. <3

CQ August 6, 2012 at 4:09 PM  

"unfogged vision" -- I like that, Bea.

Though I haven't read any of Mark's books yet, when I got his permission to quote him in CQ, I told myself that one day I would read "Striking at the Roots." Now I'm thinking that Pamplona is the book I'd rather read.

I'm glad Mark uses the "I" in "ACTIVE" to remind activists that they can "ignore upsetting text and images." Each of us has our own level of tolerance for what we can handle emotionally. It doesn't mean I'll never watch something upsetting, especially if I feel that a friend just isn't "getting" that violence lies behind his/her choices . . . to eat a veal calf, to ride an elephant in Thailand, to wear wool, to attend a rodeo concert, and on and on and on.

Anyway, thanks, Bea, for the thumbs up on Mark, and thanks, Mark, for letting a day at Pamplona begin to unfog your vision.

Bea Elliott August 6, 2012 at 6:54 PM  

Hi CQ - I think you misunderstand... Or perhaps I didn't make it clear. Mark only wrote one book so far and that is Striking at the Roots. His story about Pamplona is at his website. Take heart though... I hear he's writing another book and I'm sure that it will have the advantage of an even more seasoned activist. Good news for all! ;)

Bea Elliott August 6, 2012 at 7:49 PM  

Correction on the spelling of "Matthew Scully" - Sorry about that. :/

Have Gone Vegan August 11, 2012 at 12:09 PM  

I've had Mark's book on my shelf for quite a while -- along with a host of others, so it's high time I finally read it! :)

Harry August 16, 2012 at 6:26 AM  

Hi Bea

Thank you for yet another great post.

I too have not read any of Mark's work but "No scripture, no rituals, not even a prayer to a patron saint—just a reverence for all life" strikes quite a chord with me. In a very different way it was Boone's "Kinship with all Life" that got me moving forward from vegetarianism to veganism. A reverence for/ kinship with our fellow beings - it's that simple.

And Dominion ... as you might have picked up Mr Scully's book is one I talk of often. Quite a work that I believe does not get the recognition it deserves.

Thank you again

Bea Elliott August 28, 2012 at 7:38 AM  

Glad to hear that HGV! Striking at the Roots is a very easy read... I know you know and practice 99% of the tactics already!

Still, it's nice to see someone else's take on it... Mark is unpretentious. I <3 him! Hope you enjoy as well! ;)

Bea Elliott August 28, 2012 at 7:41 AM  

Hi Harry! I think we can all agree that the notion of fairness and kindness comes to us from all different directions. Now whether or not we choose to hear and heed is a whole other story...

I sure know you have done both in a huge, meaningful way! Glad you dropped by - Thanks! <3