Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Eat, Think, Write: Vegan Authors Discuss Their Inspiration Panel at Baltimore Book Fest

The following is what Davida Gypsy Breier, No Voice Unheard board member, spoke about at the "Eat, Think, Write: Vegan Authors Discuss Their Inspiration Panel" at Baltimore Book Fest.

When I was a child I moved from urban Miami to rural Minnesota. We rented a farmhouse on a working pig farm. At 8, I understood the rudimentary concepts of animal welfare and as piglets were born that summer I helped the farmer give them worm medicine and vaccines. Naively, I wanted to care for and help them. I remembered one weak piglet that came inside the house overnight. I routinely saved and fed them our vegetable scraps. I knew which ones were friendly and which of the males were just too big for someone my size. They were a lot like my dogs and occasionally when they got out, the pigs and dogs would romp around. And then one day in the early fall I came home and many of the pigs were gone. I asked about what happened and was told the truth.

At 8, this translated to never eating anything that I understood came from a pig. These were the nascent stirrings of a belief structure that would take me almost 20 years to fully understand. In high school I declared myself vegetarian without having a firm grasp of the concept. In college I finally understood vegetarianism, but made uninformed excuses for eggs and dairy until my first day working at The Vegetarian Resource Group. The flimsy belief structure I had taken shelter under was gently questioned and I couldn’t defend it. I became vegan that day and never looked back. That was 12 years ago.

At that time, and the years following, I devoted a lot of my efforts to written and verbal outreach. I spent my days answering questions from concerned parents, people perplexed by the mysteries of tofu, and combative reporters. I eventually learned that impassioned beliefs need not be strident and that living by example was often just as powerful.

Years passed and I changed jobs a few times. I was still living as a vegan, but my activist role was limited to smaller circles. In 2006, I was working for book distributor of independent presses and one day a book landed on my desk from a non-profit publisher based in California. The book, One at a Time, was the best and most honest portrait of shelter work that I had ever seen. I contacted the publishers immediately and told them how much I loved the book, that I did rescue work, and that I wanted very much to work with them. Eventually they said yes, and in that instant my future changed.

While I enjoyed working with the publishers I represented, there was something about this book and I did everything I could for it. A year later the publisher released a book by Derrick Jensen, Thought to Exist in the Wild, about zoos. Then in late 2007 they approached me with ideas about their third book, which was to be photos and essays about farmed animals and promoting veganism. They didn’t realize I had worked at a non-profit devoted to vegan education, that I was in fact vegan, and had previously worked as a commercial photographer. I so wanted to be part of the project. That phone call was a pivotal moment in my life and for the book. Suddenly they had someone on the east coast who was willing and able to travel and take photos and I was being offered the opportunity to work on the kind of book that I had always dreamed of.

That spring I found myself rolling around on the ground to reach eye level with the residents at United Poultry Concerns, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, near Washington, DC. I would also make it to Peaceful Prairie in Colorado and The Key West Wildlife Center. I shot thousands of photos. After using words for so long, I found myself drawn to telling stories and revealing personalities with images. The mission of the book was to show people what we see in these animals, how they are unique individuals. To show them for themselves and that was my goal every time I got behind the lens.

Despite working for their protection for 20 years, I really had little experience with farmed animals. I held theories and pre-conceptions, but on my second and third trips to United Poultry Concerns I came to understand the sheer numbers of distinct personalities that greeted me when I walked into the yard. I also found that I LOVED taking photos of chickens. They are also the most abused of all farmed animals, with 9 billion killed a year in the US for food, and of all the animals I photographed for this project, they, in my eyes, are also the most expressive. I met hens who I could see bore the emotional scars of their years in darkened confinement, hens who you could just tell were gossiping, and roosters who knew how beautiful they were and how much my camera did indeed love them. The eyes of these birds could in the briefest flicker show irritation, affection, curiosity, fear, vanity, hostility, shyness, boredom, pain, pleasure, hunger, surprise, and joy.

I had the opportunity to photograph a group of 13 hens as they were transported from Rhode Island to the safety of United Poultry Concerns. They were scared, featherless in spots, and just bedraggled looking. A few months later I went down to UPC and I saw the same hens. The transformation was astonishing. The delight they took in simply being able to dust bathe was evident and being able to partake in small watermelons brought by a visitor just put them into joy overdrive.

Those moments are why I felt Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals was so important. If I could convey that moment of joy, perhaps other people would understand their part in taking the joy away, and perhaps, just perhaps, they too will find that their flimsy belief structures need an overhaul.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vegan Author Panel at Baltimore Book Fest

From Ellen DeGeneres to John Salley, vegans are all over the media. This year has seen a number of new books pertaining to veganism hit bestseller lists. Recent articles cite that veganism is a huge trend in publishing, for restaurants, and with food manufacturers. Furthermore, it is now widely accepted that a plant-based diet can not only reduce, but reverse, health issues. Lastly, poll results and ballot measures show that the majority of Americans oppose animal cruelty. Despite all of this, myths and misperceptions abound about veganism and vegans.

Please join five vegan authors for the CityLit sponsored panel Eat, Think, Write: Vegan Authors Discuss Their Inspiration at the Baltimore Book Fest on Saturday September 25, 2010 at 6:30pm. The CityLit Stage is located on the south side of the Mt. Vernon Place circle at the foot of the Washington Monument. They will be discussing cooking, lifestyle issues, health benefits, philosophies of animal rights, and the personalities of farmed animals. They might even tell you where they get their protein.

Speakers include Jonathan Balcombe, Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals; Tracye McQuirter, By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat; Ben Shaberman, Vegan Monologues; Corinne Bowen, Editor-in-Chief, crazysexylife.com; and Davida Gypsy Breier, Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs.

 A popular speaker, Jonathan Balcombe, PhD, has given invited presentations on six continents. He is the author of Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (Palgrave, 2010), Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Macmillan, 2006), and The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure (University of California Press, forthcoming March 2011).

 A speaker, author, and 20-year vegan, Tracye McQuirter, M.P.H., is passionate about helping people achieve extraordinary health through better food choices. Tracye recently released By Any Greens Necessary, her long-awaited first book. Tracye has been featured in dozens of media, including The Washington Post, Essence, Ebony, Fox 5, NBC 4, The Tavis Smiley Show, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Afro, and Heart and Soul.

Ben Shaberman's essays and commentaries have been carried by a variety of media including: The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, National Public Radio, VegNews, and Vegetarian Times. His collection of humorous and reflective essays, The Vegan Monologues, was published by Apprentice House.

Corinne Bowen is the Editor-in-Chief of Crazysexylife.com's online magazine (founded by author and filmmaker Kris Carr), which receives thousands of visitors each day. Her work has appeared in Baltimore SmartWoman Magazine and VegNews Magazine.

Davida Gypsy Breier is a board member for the non-profit publisher, No Voice Unheard and is a contributing writer and photographer to their book Ninety-Five: Meeting America's Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs. She is also responsible for Wild Leek Photography, a project that helps support animal rescues and sanctuaries via photography.

Contact Davida Gypsy Breier for more details: davida@leekinginc.com.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

DC VegFest - Come see us!

Come on out and see us at DC VegFest! We'll have special event pricing on all three books - it is never to early to think about buying gifts!

The DC VegFest is a FREE outdoor festival celebrating the very best of everything vegetarian in and around the nation's capital. It is conveniently located at George Washington University on the University Yard, just 4 blocks from the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro station on the orange and blue lines.
2000 block of H St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20052