Sheer positivity shone like a beacon straight out of Columbus Circle into Manhattan on Saturday as hundreds of peaceful and kind farm animal activists gathered for Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals 2013- Central Park. Upon arriving we were greeted by a well-placed information table and a knowledgeable volunteer directed us to registration where we proceeded along the line to the raffles. Each and every volunteer from the person dressed as the adorable ambassador-to-real-bovines cow, to the pro-bono professional photographers to the raffle table volunteers were downright beaming with optimism, hope and kindness. In my opinion, this is the most important piece of the puzzle in our fight for animal, especially farm animal, welfare: be kind, let the kindness spread to others, and soon the whole world will stop and say, “What on Earth are we doing to these poor animals? We are nice people, this has to stop.”
At the 10 am yoga stretch led by yogi and photographer Derek Goodwin, we were instructed to direct our energy towards the animals we wished to help. I truly believe that with all of that “om” power sent to our furry friends, some good had to be happening somewhere in the world. Goodwin told us we needed to make sure we loved and embraced others, including non-vegans and even, controversially, those who work in factory farms, butcher shops and other various non-animal friendly positions before we can move towards a truly peaceful and vegan world. This sentiment sat surprisingly well with me after some thought, though admittedly at first, and still a bit now, I was adamantly against letting the thought of factory farm workers cross my mind while in a happy yoga state. How can we purport to love and accept all kind without loving and accepting ALL kind? This includes showing the way of true peace and love to everyone, and accepting them all before shutting them out because of their lack of connection to sentient beings.
Our very first steps out of Columbus Circle were met with a bus load of tourists snapping pictures of our proudly displayed posters showing the adorable, stoic and arresting photos of farm animals who need our help. There could not have been a better counter-balance to the three hot dog vendors in our line of vision than this openly interested–and not in a cruel or poking-fun way–group of people. We had been supplied with a fresh audience on which to spread the idea of peace–how cool is that? As we continued our walk, many New Yorkers on their daily grind asked for flyers and brochures. Their interest in a probably foreign area of thought absolutely floored me. Our happy, chatty, loving energy flowed down the streets of Manhattan and eventually into Central Park where the fall foliage was on full display. If you have never experienced fall in New York, this year would be the year to go. Sometimes I feel like the weather is the universe’s way of showing its happiness with and approval of our kind. If this is at all true then it was thrilled on Saturday. We weaved through trees so bright they seemed lit from the inside, fiery-colored leaves crunching under our feet. On the lakes, we saw the stunning reflection of the autumn colors and the stone architecture backed by the skyscrapers, reminding us that we had not in fact just fallen into a British romance set in the 19th century.
As the 2.5 mile walk wound up back at the Maine Monument in Columbus Circle, we were met with free bananas, snacks, water and other delicious cruelty-free food on which we immediately chowed down.
A band played some Fleetwood Mac covers as we chatted and soaked up the warm sun rays, waiting for the raffles to be called and for Gene Baur, the founder of Farm Sanctuary, to speak.
The raffles were beyond incredible. The generosity of local and some non-local vendors speaks to the kind of people vegans are. The baskets were filled with goodies ranging from $100 gift certificates to Vaute Couture, a high-end fashion line dedicated to the animal welfare and the use of organic, animal-friendly material (which we were very lucky to win!) to signed copies of the super-popular Betty Goes Vegan cookbook by Annie and Dan Shannon (a few copies of which we bought–the Shannons were on-hand to sign!).
Gene Baur, the incredible Iron Man competitor, Farm Sanctuary founder and animal rights activist with a miles-long list of accomplishments in the animal welfare world, spoke to the crowd in such a down-to-Earth manner that I felt as if I were having a one-on-one conversation with a good friend. He spoke about taking action and being the “voice of change” for the voiceless–if only in human language–animals of the world. His was such a powerfully kind and loving speech that there was no room left for bashing of factory farms or of non-vegans. This is the way it should be in my opinion. If we leave no room for the negative and the hate, we can only be filled with and spread love for what we believe in.
The pure, unmarred kindness of the group of people who gathered to support this cause is unlike anything I had ever experienced. We were in a place where veganism is normal. In a world where hatred, anger and negativity sometimes reign supreme, it is so important to be reminded that kind, generous people do exist, and that maybe if we do the best we can at ridding ourselves of any kind of hate for any person or situation on Earth, we can truly begin to make a worldwide change together. I think there is change brewing and it will take a good bunch of us to keep it in motion. The Walk for Farm Animals could not have been a more satisfying and uplifting sight completely attesting to the fact that when like-minded people get together they can make something really important happen.
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Photo: Kate Coffey