Yourofsky aims to convert
students to vegan lifestyle
By Raul Alonzo / Reporter
Gary Yourofsky, the firebrand animal rights activist who has been banned from the United Kingdom and Canada for his direct action tactics, was slated to speak to the philosophy classes of Professor Mara Hollendonner on March 3. However, not even veteran world-traveler could overcome the realities of cancelled flights due to winter weather.
Yourofsky has visited to lecture to Hollendonner’s classes several times before.
“His speech offers a series of compelling arguments in defense of the rights of animals,” Hollendonner said. “The logical structure of his presentation presents an opportunity for students to think critically in working to evaluate the reasons Yourofsky offers in support of ethical veganism. Once the students hear his speech, they feel motivated to analyze his claims in more detail, and the perspective that he communicates is one that they are largely unfamiliar with.”
Though he did not get to make it this semester, through the marvel of modern technology, Yourofsky was able to talk with the Del Mar College Foghorn via email to provide some insight on his work and the cause he is fervently passionate about.
Though initially a longtime meat-eater, Yourofsky had a change of heart after his stepfather took him backstage to the Shrine Circus and he witnessed the animals kept in conditions of squalor.
“I saw elephants chained to the cement floor in the warehouse of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Sadness, hopelessness and fear were emanating from their eyes and their bodies. They were swaying neurotically from side to side,” Yourofsky said. “A monkey was screaming in his cage, grabbing the bars of his prison. Two tigers were pacing neurotically in their tiny cages. Cruelty was staring me in the face. I knew something was wrong. If you pay attention to energy, you can tell when a fellow being is in peril.”
Yourofsky described the scene as a “slave-show” and it was this experience that compelled him to pursue a cruelty-free life of veganism and animal liberation. He founded Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPTT) in 1996 and began working with groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In 1997, Yourofsky was sentenced to six months in a maximum-security prison after he, and four other ALF members, raided a fur farm outside of Blenheim, Ontario, Canada and released 1,542 mink – causing an estimated C$500,000 in damages. Along with education, ADAPTT promotes the use of direct-action tactics to achieve their goals, rejecting mainstream avenues, such as lobbying and protesting, as being counterproductive – a conclusion, said Yourofsky, made through experience.
I don’t believe you can legislate UNTIL you educate. Can’t pass a law if no one understands WHY the law was needed to be passed,” Yourofsky said. “Plus, politicians don’t make the world a better place. That is NOT their focus. They are deceivers who only like to TAKE the credit for making change WHEN the activists deserve all the credit.”
For Yourofsky, there are a range of much more effective actions to take to bring immediate liberation to animals.
“Direct action is liberating animals from places of torture, or destroying/damaging places of torture (slaughterhouses, animal research chambers, fur camps, etc.),” Yourofsky said. “Education, though, is the best and most effective form of activism which is why that is the ONLY thing I’ve done in more than 10 years.”
Yourofksy has also faced criticism, particularly from Israeli media agencies, of comparing the meat and animal industry to the Holocaust. Despite the controversy, Yourofsky has made significant headway in Israel where activists have started the Hebrew website GARY-TV and convinced two major vegan companies to put that site’s URL directly on their packages.
While passionate about human rights concerns as well, Yourofsky gives animal rights precedence. When asked of a company advocated on adaptt.org, Trader Joe’s, that has been targeted by the anti-Israeli Apatheid Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, Yourofsky made this clear.
“While I am sympathetic to ALL humans who are oppressed and abused, those abused and oppressed people are abusing and oppressing animals. So they are pure hypocrites, which means I do NOT actively fight for humans at all these days (even though veganism brings about human health and provides MORE food for starving humans.),” Yourofsky said. “When people/groups that fight for human rights start supporting animal rights and become vegan, then maybe I will take their concerns a little more seriously. Humans are NOT more special or more important than animals. Humans ARE THE PROBLEM.”
It has been through his unrelenting work that Yourofsky and ADAPTT has seen some victories. According to Yourofsky, more than 10 percent of the population in Israel is now vegan because of his lectures, more than 400 restaurants have converted 25 percent of their menus to vegan and Domino’s pizza put vegan cheese on it’s menu at all 50 of it’s locations.
Despite these successes, however, Yourofsky maintains that his work is far from over.
“Everyone is completely 100% clueless about ethics, health, environmental issues, human physiology… The hurdle is SELFISHNESS and STUBBORNESS,” Yourofsky said. “People are only concerned about themselves/those in THEIR life, and people HATE to change even when the change is necessary for justice.”