Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cesar Chavez

Today is the birthday of Cesar Chavez (1927 – 1993). The founder and president of the United Farm Workers of America was also a civil rights leader, an environmentalist, and an animal rights advocate.

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Chavez was committed to the principles of non-violence. He believed that positive social change required the enduring sacrifice of many people peacefully and thoughtfully working together for a common cause. In addition to leading countless nonviolent demonstrations, strikes, and boycotts, Chavez fasted to bring attention to the working and living conditions of migrant farm workers, and other vital issues of social and environmental justice. He saw veganism as an essential element of a nonviolent life, and he urged others to respect animals by not eating them.

In 1992 the organization In Defense of Animals awarded Chavez its Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to human and animal rights. Chavez said in his acceptance speech: “We need in a special way to work twice as hard, to make all people understand that animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves. And that the basis for peace is respecting all creatures. That’s the basis for peace.

“And we cannot hope to have peace until we respect everyone—respect ourselves and respect animals and all living things ...

“We cannot defend or be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them, exploiting them in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.”

What is particularly special about Cesar Chavez was his recognition that the exploitation of people, animals, and the environment are all forms of violence, and all interconnected. That is what he was trying to teach us.

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