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This won’t be a dissertation on vegan activist Gary Yourofsky, but instead more of an acknowledgement of the man’s good works.
Yourofsky announced in March his retirement from activism. After years of living in the frontlines, Yourofsky is understandably exhausted. He has fought fearlessly for an end to animal suffering. He’s been arrested several times, served months in prison, put himself in harm’s way, lost friends and family connections, been the object of imbecilic ridicule, traveled the world to serve animals, been banned from entire countries, and relinquished what some would consider a ‘normal’ life. The man walked the walk.
Yourofsky is also understandably angry and disgusted. His animals-only veganism has been attacked ruthlessly by intersectional vegan activists and others, who too often reduce themselves to battering those who don’t share their world view. His comments on women and the Holocaust have been scrutinized and distorted. His enthusiasm has been labeled as psychotic. Thanks to social media, cowards behind keyboards have indulged themselves in insulting and damaging him.
That’s one thing about social media that’s inherently bad: confrontations are not face-to-face. It’s so easy to conduct an ill-informed character assassination in the safety of a social media environment (or a mailed letter), where the one we attack is not present in the moment to respond or defend him- or herself. If you’ve ever read some of the cowardly, blistering comments posted by his critics, you’ll know what I mean.
I often wondered if his patience was wearing thin with these idiots, and as it turned out, it was. He’s retreated from the spotlight, and he made no bones about why. I was shocked to hear the news.
Vegans take a big browbeating these days. Pockets of society seem to be moving away from, not closer to, conscious awareness. There’s a backlash against the work that icons like Yourofsky have done. The more that activists like him are active, the more that mega-rich, corporate, animal-products interests like Tyson and the National Meat Association respond with their booming campaigns.
It’s been easy to see that Yourofsky has been getting more exasperated over the years. His frustration with human indifference was becoming palpable. He sometimes lashed out in anger. He occasionally said things that people said were offensive. He admitted any mistakes and apologized. But those missteps were just the fuel that his opponents needed to whitewash him as a lunatic vegan.
I hope his critics have only won the battle, not the war. I hope that Yourofsky spends a good long time recharging his batteries, then returns to frontlines activism. His is a special talent. He’s been a hero and mentor to vegans around the world. Most importantly, the animals need him. They need all of us.
Yourofsky has been animals’ patron saint, the one willing to take bullets when the rest of us got scared. I know that he may no longer want to be a sacrificial lamb in this regard. But his presence is so critical: I wonder if he knows how much.
There’s constantly a newer generation coming up, with their young minds that are still supple. They need to hear his message, in his own voice, which has always been so potently effective.
But maybe his time as an activist is just over, and it’s time for someone new to take up the cause. In which case, I want to sincerely thank Yourofsky for what he’s done and what he’s sacrificed. Many animals’ lives have been spared, and many animals’ suffering has been avoided, thanks to his years of work.
Peace to you, Gary.