Search
Close this search box.

SPEAKING FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

SPEAKING FOR THOSE WHO
CAN’T SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

The Power of the Press

More than 50 years ago, when the United States Air Force’s cargo plane transported our family to South America, I was privy to an experience I will never forget. With only a flight crew on board, and basically empty, my brothers and I played in the aircraft’s hull until the pilots offered to share their world with us. When I climbed into the cockpit and turned my gaze on the window to the world before me, I was taken aback by the most awe-inspiring and spectacular view I had ever seen—outstretched in every direction as far as the eye could see were the rugged, snowcapped Andes mountains: hostile and absolutely beautiful.

When I was nine years old, I chased after a very large, blue morpho butterfly through a wild grapefruit orchard deep in the South American jungles near La Paz, Bolivia; I sat, alone, and often, on a black-tipped hilltop, right at the very edge of our backyard, and gazed out over the mountain range: the dirty, muddy, clay-colored river at its feet, the great blue sky overhead, the grayish, flat moor at the mountain’s base. In the dark of night, I danced along dirt and cobblestone streets in brightly colored festival clothes with drunken city folk who were escaping their poverty and had asked our family to join them. We were all one people.

And I wondered endlessly about the existence of God.

Strange, new world, La Paz.

From over the giant stone wall that surrounded our two-story house, I climbed onto chairs and boxes to peer into the lives of others: the family across the garbage-lined street that emerged every morning from its one-room mud structure—first the children, then the animals; a grown man fighting in vain with a pig over scraps of food that we Americans had dumped in the “junk yard” just to the side of our house, into the grassy field over the Great Wall, I mean; the elderly woman who raised rabbits—and often lost them to prowling cats—urinating just outside the front door of her adobe shack, unaware that her privacy could be so thoughtlessly invaded by a nine-year-old child.

A small boy—Armando was his name—who lived not too far down the street would call out in a whisper from where he would hide behind a parked car and flash his soiled motor oil can at me. I would climb down from the Great Wall and meet him at the back gate where he would slide the can between the security bars, his expression eager and desperate. I would fill the dirty can for him with clean, crystal well water so he wouldn’t have to fetch it from the river, the river where the carcasses of diseased and dying animals and inedible trash were emptied daily, and never told my parents—because I had been explicitly prohibited from giving the ‘natives’ food and water.

But as oppressed as were the people of this sad and seemingly forgotten country, the plight of animals seemed all the more tragic to me. I couldn’t put it into words; there were no philosophy books or helpful hints to guide the way of my young mind then. I just sensed, and then, I just knew, that the way animals were being treated was simply … wrong. Used, abused, and tossed aside, like so much garbage. Blatant cruelty. Accepted murder. It was as if animals mattered not at all—because they didn’t, not really, at least not as feeling, thinking, reasoning, sentient creatures with whom we shared this earth.

On the high mountain and misty plains surrounding the mud-built city, I met the gazes of starving dogs who stalked oncoming cars in their desperate quest for food—which we threw them as we passed by and over which they mercilessly fought. Mongrel dogs, visibly in death throes of poison or disease, writhed away in agony on the rocky shores of our neighboring creek bed, which emptied itself into the nearby river, their bodies carried away in due course by the strong current. Outside the Wall, I watched in horror as a small llama was viciously beaten into carrying a tremendous load of grass and grain. Passing by an enclosed yard, I heard the shrieking cries of an animal being killed; a dog, it was, strangled to death, for no apparent reason, while a small Bolivian boy looked on in shock and cried his eyes out. My four brothers thought it was fun to dissect frogs while they were still alive, proud that they were able to nail the amphibians through their small feet upside down to pieces of cardboard before opening their bellies with razors. Did I mention the frogs were alive for all of that?

These were not things I understood at the age of nine. Nothing in the United States had prepared me for such abuse and cruelty. Everywhere I turned, there were dying and dead animals: birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, cows. I opened a neighbor’s trash can one morning and found the beheaded body of a kitten in its empty bottom. Why? What had happened to that tiny creature to deserve such a fate?

La Paz, Bolivia, terrified me. There was something really wrong with this place, this place where humans and animals lived in filth and misery, and the rest of us, us “white” folk, guarded our patch with spiked iron gates and ten-foot walls. We had so much. They had so little. It sickened me. All of it truly sickened me—mostly in my heart.

I was alone in the world. Or so it seemed. I felt disconnected from everyone and everything. It was as if I was living a nightmare, one from which there was no escape, no end—a nightmare only I seemed to be dreaming.

What I was to learn when we returned to the United States was that America, the country in which I had been born and raised, and had believed was so uniquely civilized, was no less indifferent to the suffering of animals as was Bolivia. The cruelty there was simply better hidden.

In 1972, I sat down at the dinner table to a family meal just as our 19-inch black-and-white television began to spit images of men, wielding clubs, beating newly born seal pups to death into the already traumatized recesses of my brain. My mother turned off the television. “Eat your dinner.” As if I could after that.

But this story, the story of my life, isn’t about me, not really. I told it to you because I wanted you to understand the story I want to tell you now. It has been no secret to me that my life was destined to this fate: the care of others, especially for animals. It is not by choice that I have undertaken this mindless, insensible horror into my embrace.

Because you’re reading this for a reason, please know that when I write about me, I know I also write about you. My life is your life. My work is your work. My broken heart is no different from the anguish you feel—and by that I know you know what I mean. That’s how alike we are. That’s how together in this we have become.

So, let me tell you another story: the story of The Animals Voice Magazine.

In a Nutshell

I’ve worked for decades on behalf of animals. When I was much younger, I donated my allowance to animal protection organizations and, later, I began to circulate petitions, write letters to my congressmen, to television stations, and to the editors of local newspapers; I attended demonstrations (such as the one pictured here with a friend; I’m on the right). I talked with people in school and in my neighborhood. I talked to my family. I worked undercover for local humane societies, eventually as a Chapter Director of the Fund for Animals and, even later, as an editor and sole production employee of the since-folded Animals’ Agenda.

I also designed and produced a little-known newsletter I called The Animals Voice and, after typing it up on my electric typewriter and photocopying it at the local print shop, distributed it to supermarkets, delis, veterinarians’ offices, and other places in my area. It was a four-page, black-and-white publication with a strong punch. You can see it here.

In late 1985, my father opened a typesetting and graphic design studio for one of my brothers and me (I had been a typographer for many years already); on the side, when Papa wasn’t around, I quietly began producing my newsletter as a 16-page newsmagazine instead, using the state-of-the-art equipment our typesetting business owned and taking advantage of my printing discounts it had generated. I distributed the newsmagazine free to every animal protection organization in California—of which there were about 300. My goal, at the time, was to unite the existing groups so we could make timely and effective statewide advances on behalf of animals.

After the fourth issue, I received a telephone call from independent businessman Gil Michaels, Director and Founder of the Compassion for Animals Foundation in Southern California, after he was prodded by Tom Regan to call me. I was offered the job—with Gil’s financial support—of producing the magazine on an international scale in full, living color. The catch? I’d have to move to Los Angeles, no easy feat for someone who had also overcome 15 years of agoraphobia and panic attacks. But—as the story goes—I made the move: one has to follow one’s heart.

With Gil’s exceedingly generous and mostly blank checks, along with a small and employed staff, we began to produce the magazine for international audiences. What that meant was that, in order to be credible and visible to an otherwise indifferent public, we had to order the finest photographs, the highest quality paper and finish, the most eloquent writers, and the most accurate presses. In three years’ time, the now-named Animals Voice Magazine became a leader in the fight for the rights of animals. Read worldwide by more than a hundred thousand activists, the slick, handsomely produced magazine made headlines, winning mainstream awards for its design, layout—and politics.

Radio, television, and print media used it as reference material; activists used it as an educational vehicle, claiming it put into words all the things they couldn’t; the uninvolved public became involved—letters beginning with “you’ve changed my life” began to arrive at our offices; and the magazine’s adversaries—hunters, vivisectors, the meat industry, and folks like them—began hurling verbal assaults at us in an effort to kill it the way they killed animals. But the voices of animals, the spirit of animals, could not be deterred, not by hostile words or threats of lawsuits.

“My plainness of speech makes them hate me, and what is their hatred, but a proof that I am speaking the truth?” —Socrates

The magazine was, however, injured in the early 1990s—by a lack of money. When the business that funded the Foundation—the one that published the magazine—took an unexpected turn for the worst at one point, the magazine was the first to feel it. If you have been with us since our inception, you may remember that we suspended publication, laid off half the staff, and tried to think of ways to regain our footing. The only recourse open to us at the time, it seemed, was a plea to our readers.

“Dear Subscriber,” our letter began—do you remember? “We need your help.”

Even when there’s no hope, there’s hope…

On a personal level, the magazine had broken my spirit. From all over the country, photographs depicting cruelty and death to animals have arrived in the mail—images even too gruesome for us to publish. I have seen inside slaughterhouses in Australia and Canada and even in parts of Europe—the literal back-and-forth sawing into a cow’s throat while she was still alive; I have seen grown men use so-called fighting bulls for pin cushions, and others torment and terrify bulls and other animals before eventually killing them in fiesta rituals that boggle the intelligent mind; I have seen dismembered animals left on the roadside by hunters, starving animals abandoned in empty buildings or chained by their necks to oil barrels; seals being cut open in the sand while their hearts continued to pump their blood into the air; and the literal torture, unconscionable maiming, and widespread killing of every known species of animal: from whales to wolves, from deer to dogs, bears to birds—and the list goes on. It is unending. It is hideous. It is an apocalypse to behold.

I am not proud to say that I can look at just about anything anymore and not be affected by it. Well … almost anything. There are those rare and unexpected things that get past my force field.

I’ve seen a lot of vivisected monkeys, dead baby seals, cows hanging from hooks in so-called packing plants. I can relate to physical pain; who can’t? But torture isn’t a part of my life. No one is dragging me unwillingly to my death, screwing bolts into my skull while I’m still conscious, or beating my child and skinning it still alive in front of me. But some photographs in the mail catch me off-guard sometimes: a monkey, sitting in the corner of her cage in a laboratory with her face in her hands; a mother seal, mourning over the death of her savagely bludgeoned baby; the fear in a cow’s eyes as he’s transported to the killing floor. Because, you see, I understand despair. I have a broken heart. I know fear. This is what I share with other animals. So, when a hunter puts an arrow through a deer’s heart, he may as well be putting one through mine.

Isn’t that how you feel? And so isn’t it ironic that vivisectors who torment animals in the name of science claim to do so in the quest to better the human condition, to relieve human pain and suffering—and yet, aside from the animals they torture, they are, in fact, inflicting pain on humans—on us, by way of that connected lifeline?

“But it’s only an animal” is a stab in my heart. If humans can’t care about animals, can’t they, at least, care about each other? The answer, I’m afraid, is no. I saw too much of that on those dirty streets in La Paz. And little has changed in the world since then. Racism and sexism are alive and well—let no one kid you. Indifference and apathy go hand-in-hand with consumers’ daily purchases and lifestyles. The ongoing wars around the world, if they prove anything, lay to rest humanity’s modern-day inhumanity to man. And woman. And their babies. Hatred, it seems, is in hot demand. So what’s the point of trying to turn it around?

Well, two days after our plea for funds went out after The Animals Voice Magazine folded all those years ago, I went to the post office to retrieve the mail. In the small postal box, there was simply a pink card which read: “Box overflow. Pick up at window.” I was handed a large plastic tub filled to the brim with letters. With a knot in my stomach, I sat on the floor in our main office and began opening the envelopes. I was about to read the hate mail.

“I am devastated,” the first letter began, and I choked before I could read more. The letter, you see, was just one of those rare and unexpected items that get past my force field. $14,000 was the day’s total. In nearly four months, the money we needed to resume publishing had come into the office. It came in a steady stream; donations of $5, of $5,000, and more. Volunteers joined us to organize fund drives: garage sales, banquets, walkathons. Grassroots organizations spread our plea for help in their fliers and newsletters while others sold their personal belongings to raise cash. Our readers continued to give every extra dollar they could afford. It was absolutely phenomenal. With Gil still pumping in the lion’s share, the magazine went back on press.

Why I Matter

There are days when I find myself in the mood that followed me everywhere: the one I experienced on that black-tipped mountain in the Andes from where I often pondered the existence of God—and eventually abandoned all belief.

I have seen a lot of blood. Hear a lot of crying. Witnessed a lot of dying. I have first-hand watched puppies and kittens die together in gas chambers, heard their panic-stricken cries when the fumes reached them. I’ve heard pigs screaming from inside a slaughterhouse, so horribly I can still hear them. I’ve seen a lot of human suffering, too. I think, overall, there is more hurt in the world than there is joy, more evil than good, more suffering than I know what to do with.

In my youth, I visited a dairy farm. The male calves had already been sent to the veal farm where they would be raised in confinement before being slaughtered at four months of age; the females, I learned that day, were chained to their own box stalls, on tethers about three feet long, in 100-degree heat, without water or bedding, covered with feces and flies so thick the calves could have been dead and not have been more infested. Less than twenty feet away, a fenced-in cow was relentlessly bellowing, staring in my direction as I allowed the chained calf, her umbilical cord still attached, to suckle my hand before I would resume my picture-taking. I believe the calf was that cow’s baby.

And this was her life: taken immediately away from her mother at birth, chained by the neck in a box the size of a doghouse, raised in closed-confinement fattening and finishing pens, artificially impregnated when she’s old enough, only to give birth to a baby who will be taken away from her at its birth. Year after year.

“What are you doing?” I heard a female voice ask.

I turned on my heel. “Just taking pictures of these cute little cows,” I answered, hoping she wouldn’t question me further. “Why are they chained like this?”

The young, denim-clad woman shrugged. Just a student at the university farm. Her answers were reflective of the explanations she’d been given. “We have to take them away from their mothers so they don’t drink the milk.”

“But this is just a baby,” I noted.

“We take them away the day after they’re born,” she said.

“Why?”—because, in reality, I didn’t understand.

“Because we need the milk,” she explained.

Because we need the milk.

Never mind that her baby needed her milk. Never mind that her milk was her baby’s milk to begin with. Never mind that no other species on Earth drinks milk into adulthood, let alone the milk from another species. Never mind the irrationality of it, the stupidity, the cruelty, the waste. Just … never mind.

I turned back to my picture-taking and composed the calf’s face in my viewfinder, her eyes infested with flies. I thought about all the politics involved in the animal rights movement, the who-gets-credit-for-what, the egos and hypocrisies that bounce back-and-forth among its leaders, the ‘either-you’re-with-us-or-you’re-wrong’ and the holier-than-thou mentalities that pervade the fabric of our collective quest to end the suffering and exploitation of animals and to secure their place in the moral community.

After a minute, I lowered my camera so I could see the newly born calf face-to-face and not just as a perfect picture. She strained for something to suck on while I said aloud to her, “These things matter not to you, do they? ‘Animal welfare.’ ‘Animal rights.’ Whose book is purest? Which organization is most effective? Strategies. Politics. Tactics. Philosophies. Layouts. Cover photos. You just want your mother.” In the background, I heard the cow, bellowing, repeatedly, to the point of hoarseness. “And all your mother wants … is you.”

My life is about putting an end to this injustice—no matter how. I am held accountable only to animals.

Why You Matter

There’s an old cliché in the publishing business that goes like this: “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” So does its power.

By the way, we own one. No, not me. Not us, those of us producing the magazine (and this site). We own one—all of us, all of us who care about the welfare and the rights and the liberation of animals. The task before us is heartbreaking and frustrating and debilitating at times. The forces against animals, like the forces against those who try to protect them—from both outside and within our movement—are enormous in size and overwhelming in power.

You go to the movies and somewhere in the footage a dog appears and your mind races ahead. “What about the dog? What’s going to happen to the dog? Why is the dog in this picture? Did they hurt it to get it to perform like that?” You walk into a restaurant and it smells like death to you, particularly the veal that your fiends or your family order without so much as a second thought to that calf raised in nearly total darkness to keep his flesh that pale white color his eaters so love. A woman in the mall passes you in a mink coat and you find yourself thinking about the 65 animals it took to clothe her and that they were brutally killed—gassed on farms or cruelly trapped in the wild. The new car you want to purchase comes in eight different decorator colors, completely free of the blood they had to hose off the peeled cow skin (aka leather) that molded the seats and the steering wheel. And the list goes on and on. You start to feel as if you’re fighting a losing battle.

Maybe. Maybe we lose a battle here and there. It happens daily. But every now and again, we get one in. I can say that without reservation. I have seen the progress (despite the road ahead) that we have made in the past 50 years. The media no longer puts quotes around the words animal rights—or even veganism. Granted, we are still fighting this war, but we are winning battles.

Please make no mistake about this. Together, we have the vehicle from which to be heard. The compelling images of animals in their splendor, and in their suffering, have reached a lot of people around the world over the years. The media has taken notice; doctors, farmers, and legislators are among many of our supporters. Sometimes our magazine reaches someone who goes beyond a quiet activism, someone who starts an organization or uses innate talent—artistically or musically, for example—to reach even more people. It’s a circle of progress and an outreach of love.

And we own it!

The Animals Voice Magazine isn’t published by a corporation or a hospital or a chemical manufacturing company just trying to do its respective part to cleanse its image—nor is it an in-house publication of a pro-hunting wildlife “conservation” group, for another example. Ours is published by just a few dedicated animal rights activists, supported in great faith by its readers, advertisers, promoters. Our soul goes onto its pages, the soul of animals, with the urgency of their plight.

Our adversaries hate us. Socrates wrote: “My plainness of speech makes them hate me, and what is their hatred, but a proof that I am speaking the truth?”

Let’s keep usour magazine—on press. Buy our magazine and have it sent to your friends, your family, your local library, your veterinarian, a legislator, a teacher. By supporting our advertisers, you support us, too. You can buy our issues here and have them mailed to whomever you desire.

But, above all—please—no matter how late the hour or dark the moment: keep fighting the good fight. The animals need all the help they can get.

If you liked this article Please share it!

The Power of the Press

More than 50 years ago, when the United States Air Force’s cargo plane transported our family to South America, I was privy to an experience I will never forget. With only a flight crew on board, and basically empty, my brothers and I played in the aircraft’s hull until the pilots offered to share their world with us. When I climbed into the cockpit and turned my gaze on the window to the world before me, I was taken aback by the most awe-inspiring and spectacular view I had ever seen—outstretched in every direction as far as the eye could see were the rugged, snowcapped Andes mountains: hostile and absolutely beautiful.

When I was nine years old, I chased after a very large, blue morpho butterfly through a wild grapefruit orchard deep in the South American jungles near La Paz, Bolivia; I sat, alone, and often, on a black-tipped hilltop, right at the very edge of our backyard, and gazed out over the mountain range: the dirty, muddy, clay-colored river at its feet, the great blue sky overhead, the grayish, flat moor at the mountain’s base. In the dark of night, I danced along dirt and cobblestone streets in brightly colored festival clothes with drunken city folk who were escaping their poverty and had asked our family to join them. We were all one people.

And I wondered endlessly about the existence of God.

Strange, new world, La Paz.

From over the giant stone wall that surrounded our two-story house, I climbed onto chairs and boxes to peer into the lives of others: the family across the garbage-lined street that emerged every morning from its one-room mud structure—first the children, then the animals; a grown man fighting in vain with a pig over scraps of food that we Americans had dumped in the “junk yard” just to the side of our house, into the grassy field over the Great Wall, I mean; the elderly woman who raised rabbits—and often lost them to prowling cats—urinating just outside the front door of her adobe shack, unaware that her privacy could be so thoughtlessly invaded by a nine-year-old child.

A small boy—Armando was his name—who lived not too far down the street would call out in a whisper from where he would hide behind a parked car and flash his soiled motor oil can at me. I would climb down from the Great Wall and meet him at the back gate where he would slide the can between the security bars, his expression eager and desperate. I would fill the dirty can for him with clean, crystal well water so he wouldn’t have to fetch it from the river, the river where the carcasses of diseased and dying animals and inedible trash were emptied daily, and never told my parents—because I had been explicitly prohibited from giving the ‘natives’ food and water.

But as oppressed as were the people of this sad and seemingly forgotten country, the plight of animals seemed all the more tragic to me. I couldn’t put it into words; there were no philosophy books or helpful hints to guide the way of my young mind then. I just sensed, and then, I just knew, that the way animals were being treated was simply … wrong. Used, abused, and tossed aside, like so much garbage. Blatant cruelty. Accepted murder. It was as if animals mattered not at all—because they didn’t, not really, at least not as feeling, thinking, reasoning, sentient creatures with whom we shared this earth.

On the high mountain and misty plains surrounding the mud-built city, I met the gazes of starving dogs who stalked oncoming cars in their desperate quest for food—which we threw them as we passed by and over which they mercilessly fought. Mongrel dogs, visibly in death throes of poison or disease, writhed away in agony on the rocky shores of our neighboring creek bed, which emptied itself into the nearby river, their bodies carried away in due course by the strong current. Outside the Wall, I watched in horror as a small llama was viciously beaten into carrying a tremendous load of grass and grain. Passing by an enclosed yard, I heard the shrieking cries of an animal being killed; a dog, it was, strangled to death, for no apparent reason, while a small Bolivian boy looked on in shock and cried his eyes out. My four brothers thought it was fun to dissect frogs while they were still alive, proud that they were able to nail the amphibians through their small feet upside down to pieces of cardboard before opening their bellies with razors. Did I mention the frogs were alive for all of that?

These were not things I understood at the age of nine. Nothing in the United States had prepared me for such abuse and cruelty. Everywhere I turned, there were dying and dead animals: birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, cows. I opened a neighbor’s trash can one morning and found the beheaded body of a kitten in its empty bottom. Why? What had happened to that tiny creature to deserve such a fate?

La Paz, Bolivia, terrified me. There was something really wrong with this place, this place where humans and animals lived in filth and misery, and the rest of us, us “white” folk, guarded our patch with spiked iron gates and ten-foot walls. We had so much. They had so little. It sickened me. All of it truly sickened me—mostly in my heart.

I was alone in the world. Or so it seemed. I felt disconnected from everyone and everything. It was as if I was living a nightmare, one from which there was no escape, no end—a nightmare only I seemed to be dreaming.

What I was to learn when we returned to the United States was that America, the country in which I had been born and raised, and had believed was so uniquely civilized, was no less indifferent to the suffering of animals as was Bolivia. The cruelty there was simply better hidden.

In 1972, I sat down at the dinner table to a family meal just as our 19-inch black-and-white television began to spit images of men, wielding clubs, beating newly born seal pups to death into the already traumatized recesses of my brain. My mother turned off the television. “Eat your dinner.” As if I could after that.

But this story, the story of my life, isn’t about me, not really. I told it to you because I wanted you to understand the story I want to tell you now. It has been no secret to me that my life was destined to this fate: the care of others, especially for animals. It is not by choice that I have undertaken this mindless, insensible horror into my embrace.

Because you’re reading this for a reason, please know that when I write about me, I know I also write about you. My life is your life. My work is your work. My broken heart is no different from the anguish you feel—and by that I know you know what I mean. That’s how alike we are. That’s how together in this we have become.

So, let me tell you another story: the story of The Animals Voice Magazine.

In a Nutshell

I’ve worked for decades on behalf of animals. When I was much younger, I donated my allowance to animal protection organizations and, later, I began to circulate petitions, write letters to my congressmen, to television stations, and to the editors of local newspapers; I attended demonstrations (such as the one pictured here with a friend; I’m on the right). I talked with people in school and in my neighborhood. I talked to my family. I worked undercover for local humane societies, eventually as a Chapter Director of the Fund for Animals and, even later, as an editor and sole production employee of the since-folded Animals’ Agenda.

I also designed and produced a little-known newsletter I called The Animals Voice and, after typing it up on my electric typewriter and photocopying it at the local print shop, distributed it to supermarkets, delis, veterinarians’ offices, and other places in my area. It was a four-page, black-and-white publication with a strong punch. You can see it here.

In late 1985, my father opened a typesetting and graphic design studio for one of my brothers and me (I had been a typographer for many years already); on the side, when Papa wasn’t around, I quietly began producing my newsletter as a 16-page newsmagazine instead, using the state-of-the-art equipment our typesetting business owned and taking advantage of my printing discounts it had generated. I distributed the newsmagazine free to every animal protection organization in California—of which there were about 300. My goal, at the time, was to unite the existing groups so we could make timely and effective statewide advances on behalf of animals.

After the fourth issue, I received a telephone call from independent businessman Gil Michaels, Director and Founder of the Compassion for Animals Foundation in Southern California, after he was prodded by Tom Regan to call me. I was offered the job—with Gil’s financial support—of producing the magazine on an international scale in full, living color. The catch? I’d have to move to Los Angeles, no easy feat for someone who had also overcome 15 years of agoraphobia and panic attacks. But—as the story goes—I made the move: one has to follow one’s heart.

With Gil’s exceedingly generous and mostly blank checks, along with a small and employed staff, we began to produce the magazine for international audiences. What that meant was that, in order to be credible and visible to an otherwise indifferent public, we had to order the finest photographs, the highest quality paper and finish, the most eloquent writers, and the most accurate presses. In three years’ time, the now-named Animals Voice Magazine became a leader in the fight for the rights of animals. Read worldwide by more than a hundred thousand activists, the slick, handsomely produced magazine made headlines, winning mainstream awards for its design, layout—and politics.

Radio, television, and print media used it as reference material; activists used it as an educational vehicle, claiming it put into words all the things they couldn’t; the uninvolved public became involved—letters beginning with “you’ve changed my life” began to arrive at our offices; and the magazine’s adversaries—hunters, vivisectors, the meat industry, and folks like them—began hurling verbal assaults at us in an effort to kill it the way they killed animals. But the voices of animals, the spirit of animals, could not be deterred, not by hostile words or threats of lawsuits.

“My plainness of speech makes them hate me, and what is their hatred, but a proof that I am speaking the truth?” —Socrates

The magazine was, however, injured in the early 1990s—by a lack of money. When the business that funded the Foundation—the one that published the magazine—took an unexpected turn for the worst at one point, the magazine was the first to feel it. If you have been with us since our inception, you may remember that we suspended publication, laid off half the staff, and tried to think of ways to regain our footing. The only recourse open to us at the time, it seemed, was a plea to our readers.

“Dear Subscriber,” our letter began—do you remember? “We need your help.”

Even when there’s no hope, there’s hope…

On a personal level, the magazine had broken my spirit. From all over the country, photographs depicting cruelty and death to animals have arrived in the mail—images even too gruesome for us to publish. I have seen inside slaughterhouses in Australia and Canada and even in parts of Europe—the literal back-and-forth sawing into a cow’s throat while she was still alive; I have seen grown men use so-called fighting bulls for pin cushions, and others torment and terrify bulls and other animals before eventually killing them in fiesta rituals that boggle the intelligent mind; I have seen dismembered animals left on the roadside by hunters, starving animals abandoned in empty buildings or chained by their necks to oil barrels; seals being cut open in the sand while their hearts continued to pump their blood into the air; and the literal torture, unconscionable maiming, and widespread killing of every known species of animal: from whales to wolves, from deer to dogs, bears to birds—and the list goes on. It is unending. It is hideous. It is an apocalypse to behold.

I am not proud to say that I can look at just about anything anymore and not be affected by it. Well … almost anything. There are those rare and unexpected things that get past my force field.

I’ve seen a lot of vivisected monkeys, dead baby seals, cows hanging from hooks in so-called packing plants. I can relate to physical pain; who can’t? But torture isn’t a part of my life. No one is dragging me unwillingly to my death, screwing bolts into my skull while I’m still conscious, or beating my child and skinning it still alive in front of me. But some photographs in the mail catch me off-guard sometimes: a monkey, sitting in the corner of her cage in a laboratory with her face in her hands; a mother seal, mourning over the death of her savagely bludgeoned baby; the fear in a cow’s eyes as he’s transported to the killing floor. Because, you see, I understand despair. I have a broken heart. I know fear. This is what I share with other animals. So, when a hunter puts an arrow through a deer’s heart, he may as well be putting one through mine.

Isn’t that how you feel? And so isn’t it ironic that vivisectors who torment animals in the name of science claim to do so in the quest to better the human condition, to relieve human pain and suffering—and yet, aside from the animals they torture, they are, in fact, inflicting pain on humans—on us, by way of that connected lifeline?

“But it’s only an animal” is a stab in my heart. If humans can’t care about animals, can’t they, at least, care about each other? The answer, I’m afraid, is no. I saw too much of that on those dirty streets in La Paz. And little has changed in the world since then. Racism and sexism are alive and well—let no one kid you. Indifference and apathy go hand-in-hand with consumers’ daily purchases and lifestyles. The ongoing wars around the world, if they prove anything, lay to rest humanity’s modern-day inhumanity to man. And woman. And their babies. Hatred, it seems, is in hot demand. So what’s the point of trying to turn it around?

Well, two days after our plea for funds went out after The Animals Voice Magazine folded all those years ago, I went to the post office to retrieve the mail. In the small postal box, there was simply a pink card which read: “Box overflow. Pick up at window.” I was handed a large plastic tub filled to the brim with letters. With a knot in my stomach, I sat on the floor in our main office and began opening the envelopes. I was about to read the hate mail.

“I am devastated,” the first letter began, and I choked before I could read more. The letter, you see, was just one of those rare and unexpected items that get past my force field. $14,000 was the day’s total. In nearly four months, the money we needed to resume publishing had come into the office. It came in a steady stream; donations of $5, of $5,000, and more. Volunteers joined us to organize fund drives: garage sales, banquets, walkathons. Grassroots organizations spread our plea for help in their fliers and newsletters while others sold their personal belongings to raise cash. Our readers continued to give every extra dollar they could afford. It was absolutely phenomenal. With Gil still pumping in the lion’s share, the magazine went back on press.

Why I Matter

There are days when I find myself in the mood that followed me everywhere: the one I experienced on that black-tipped mountain in the Andes from where I often pondered the existence of God—and eventually abandoned all belief.

I have seen a lot of blood. Hear a lot of crying. Witnessed a lot of dying. I have first-hand watched puppies and kittens die together in gas chambers, heard their panic-stricken cries when the fumes reached them. I’ve heard pigs screaming from inside a slaughterhouse, so horribly I can still hear them. I’ve seen a lot of human suffering, too. I think, overall, there is more hurt in the world than there is joy, more evil than good, more suffering than I know what to do with.

In my youth, I visited a dairy farm. The male calves had already been sent to the veal farm where they would be raised in confinement before being slaughtered at four months of age; the females, I learned that day, were chained to their own box stalls, on tethers about three feet long, in 100-degree heat, without water or bedding, covered with feces and flies so thick the calves could have been dead and not have been more infested. Less than twenty feet away, a fenced-in cow was relentlessly bellowing, staring in my direction as I allowed the chained calf, her umbilical cord still attached, to suckle my hand before I would resume my picture-taking. I believe the calf was that cow’s baby.

And this was her life: taken immediately away from her mother at birth, chained by the neck in a box the size of a doghouse, raised in closed-confinement fattening and finishing pens, artificially impregnated when she’s old enough, only to give birth to a baby who will be taken away from her at its birth. Year after year.

“What are you doing?” I heard a female voice ask.

I turned on my heel. “Just taking pictures of these cute little cows,” I answered, hoping she wouldn’t question me further. “Why are they chained like this?”

The young, denim-clad woman shrugged. Just a student at the university farm. Her answers were reflective of the explanations she’d been given. “We have to take them away from their mothers so they don’t drink the milk.”

“But this is just a baby,” I noted.

“We take them away the day after they’re born,” she said.

“Why?”—because, in reality, I didn’t understand.

“Because we need the milk,” she explained.

Because we need the milk.

Never mind that her baby needed her milk. Never mind that her milk was her baby’s milk to begin with. Never mind that no other species on Earth drinks milk into adulthood, let alone the milk from another species. Never mind the irrationality of it, the stupidity, the cruelty, the waste. Just … never mind.

I turned back to my picture-taking and composed the calf’s face in my viewfinder, her eyes infested with flies. I thought about all the politics involved in the animal rights movement, the who-gets-credit-for-what, the egos and hypocrisies that bounce back-and-forth among its leaders, the ‘either-you’re-with-us-or-you’re-wrong’ and the holier-than-thou mentalities that pervade the fabric of our collective quest to end the suffering and exploitation of animals and to secure their place in the moral community.

After a minute, I lowered my camera so I could see the newly born calf face-to-face and not just as a perfect picture. She strained for something to suck on while I said aloud to her, “These things matter not to you, do they? ‘Animal welfare.’ ‘Animal rights.’ Whose book is purest? Which organization is most effective? Strategies. Politics. Tactics. Philosophies. Layouts. Cover photos. You just want your mother.” In the background, I heard the cow, bellowing, repeatedly, to the point of hoarseness. “And all your mother wants … is you.”

My life is about putting an end to this injustice—no matter how. I am held accountable only to animals.

Why You Matter

There’s an old cliché in the publishing business that goes like this: “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” So does its power.

By the way, we own one. No, not me. Not us, those of us producing the magazine (and this site). We own one—all of us, all of us who care about the welfare and the rights and the liberation of animals. The task before us is heartbreaking and frustrating and debilitating at times. The forces against animals, like the forces against those who try to protect them—from both outside and within our movement—are enormous in size and overwhelming in power.

You go to the movies and somewhere in the footage a dog appears and your mind races ahead. “What about the dog? What’s going to happen to the dog? Why is the dog in this picture? Did they hurt it to get it to perform like that?” You walk into a restaurant and it smells like death to you, particularly the veal that your fiends or your family order without so much as a second thought to that calf raised in nearly total darkness to keep his flesh that pale white color his eaters so love. A woman in the mall passes you in a mink coat and you find yourself thinking about the 65 animals it took to clothe her and that they were brutally killed—gassed on farms or cruelly trapped in the wild. The new car you want to purchase comes in eight different decorator colors, completely free of the blood they had to hose off the peeled cow skin (aka leather) that molded the seats and the steering wheel. And the list goes on and on. You start to feel as if you’re fighting a losing battle.

Maybe. Maybe we lose a battle here and there. It happens daily. But every now and again, we get one in. I can say that without reservation. I have seen the progress (despite the road ahead) that we have made in the past 50 years. The media no longer puts quotes around the words animal rights—or even veganism. Granted, we are still fighting this war, but we are winning battles.

Please make no mistake about this. Together, we have the vehicle from which to be heard. The compelling images of animals in their splendor, and in their suffering, have reached a lot of people around the world over the years. The media has taken notice; doctors, farmers, and legislators are among many of our supporters. Sometimes our magazine reaches someone who goes beyond a quiet activism, someone who starts an organization or uses innate talent—artistically or musically, for example—to reach even more people. It’s a circle of progress and an outreach of love.

And we own it!

The Animals Voice Magazine isn’t published by a corporation or a hospital or a chemical manufacturing company just trying to do its respective part to cleanse its image—nor is it an in-house publication of a pro-hunting wildlife “conservation” group, for another example. Ours is published by just a few dedicated animal rights activists, supported in great faith by its readers, advertisers, promoters. Our soul goes onto its pages, the soul of animals, with the urgency of their plight.

Our adversaries hate us. Socrates wrote: “My plainness of speech makes them hate me, and what is their hatred, but a proof that I am speaking the truth?”

Let’s keep usour magazine—on press. Buy our magazine and have it sent to your friends, your family, your local library, your veterinarian, a legislator, a teacher. By supporting our advertisers, you support us, too. You can buy our issues here and have them mailed to whomever you desire.

But, above all—please—no matter how late the hour or dark the moment: keep fighting the good fight. The animals need all the help they can get.

If you liked this article Please share it!