What is the Veggie Pride?
All animals want to avoid suffering and live a happy life. Moreover, everyone knows that it is wrong to unnecessarily kill a sentient being. However, billions of animals are killed globally each year for a wholly unnecessary practice: the consumption of animal products.
Veggie Pride seeks to highlight this contradiction. It is a political demonstration of individuals who refuse to eat animals for ethical reasons […]
Read the full manifesto by clicking on the following link: http://veggiepride.ch/wordpressdataEng/86-2/
I had found out about the first ever international edition of the Veggie Pride totally by chance on Tuesday early in the morning whilst running down to the lake and back home in Lausanne-Vennes (I was born in Geneva but moved to Lausanne in October 2001) when I saw the poster displayed on the photo above. Although I have been a vegetarian for approximately 15 years now (mainly because I believe it is wrong to kill animals), I had never taken part in any activities to promote the cause. I had signed a petition once in Lausanne at a stand promoting animals rights on a Saturday morning in town and I had also subscribed to a local animals right newsletter (Accusa). Probably, because of my upbringing (both my parents have an almost pathological fear of being noticed, of stepping out of the norms and of what other people might say or think), I have never become involved in any political activism (except for taking part in a few marches and signing some petitions). However, as this first ever international edition of the Veggie Pride was to take place in Geneva and on my birthday, I really felt that I had to go against my upbringing and take part in the demo and in the march. Unfortunately, I did not get a good friend of mine who was responsible for my own ‘daring to become a vegetarian’ to participate in the Veggie Pride.
As with most political demonstrations that are staged in Geneva, participants in the Veggie Pride gathered in front of the UN’s European headquarters at Place des Nations. Some speeches were made about the goal of the demonstration, which is that vegetarians/vegans’ right not to eat animals based on ethical grounds be acknowledged by society with a petition that would be delivered to Mr Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief:
Considering that discrimination on the ground of belief is outlawed, the signatories ask the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the United Nations to present a recommendation concerning the rights of people refusing to eat animals or animal products, and promote the adoption of measures at the national, regional and international levels to ensure the promotion and protection of the following rights of vegans and vegetarians: the right to obtain balanced vegan meals in any public or private institutions, the right to impartial and appropriate medical information, the right to be provided with necessary resources to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs, the right to refuse any work contrary to their ethical beliefs.
The organisers then invited everybody to take one of the many coloured cardboard statements/slogans denouncing the plight of animals/fish when raised/farmed/killed for human consumption. As I have been wanting to become a vegan for some time (but I have not dared to), I felt that holding the following statement about the plight of tuna and dolphins would force me to reconsider my own stance. I clung to it even when we were invited to lay down on the ground at Place de la Navigation to pay our respect for the animals murdered for our consumption (and more specifically male chicks, which are either gassed or ground alive because they are of no commercial use) — see right photo just below.
[Click on the photo to enlarge]
Comme beaucoup d’autres thons, j’aime naviguer en compagnie des dauphins. C’est dans les filets que l’on utilise pour ma capture que nous mourons ensemble. Just like many other tuna I like to swim with the dolphins; it is in the nets they use to catch me that we both die.
The participants carried various posters denouncing the numerous forms of savagery animals are being subjected to by humans. The photo of the grinding of a male chick (which I saw for the first time only a few months ago) has put me off from eating eggs (even though the eggs we still buy are organic ones).
For about three hours, the 700 strong procession walked peacefully through the roads/streets of Geneva chanting activist slogans in French and booing the occasional meat-focused restaurant or the occasional fur boutique it would come across. Even though I felt quite uneasy at first about chanting such slogans (I am a shy person), I quickly took to it and did more than my bit in this respect. Unfortunately, I was not bold enough to hold one of the banners or distribute leaflets to the onlookers (in the streets or in the cars).
This is why I would like to thank the many French nationals who had come in large numbers (from Paris and elsewhere) and played a decisive part in making this march the success that it was, as without them I fear it would have been a flop because the Swiss (especially the French-speaking) are generally a little demonstration-shy (maybe it has to do with the fact that in the 1930s the army opened fire on some demonstrators in Geneva). Thank you also to all the other nationals (I heard people speak Italian, German, etc) for having taken part in the march and also to all those who participated in the numerous workshops from Thursday 16 to Monday 20 May.
[Click on the photo to enlarge]
The culmination of the march was when the petition was delivered to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief at Palais Wilson, just opposite Lake Léman.
While waiting for this to be carried out, the organisers read aloud the petition (in French and in English). It was nice to see such a crowd of people sharing mostly the same beliefs as I do gathered in such a nice and familiar setting (I used to live nearby when I was a student and I would enjoy running along this area).
One of the aspects I liked most about the march was that, as with other ‘activist’ marches (Women’s Day, 1st of May as well as any other political or activist demonstration which has been allowed by the authorities) or events like the immediate aftermath of fireworks display during Fêtes de Genève, the Escalade Procession, the Escalade race, the marathon of Geneva, etc, it is also the opportunity for pedestrians to reclaim temporarily an area from which they are normally excluded (except for the few seconds they are allowed on the zebra crossings). And this is something I enjoy very much. By the way, thank you also to the police and TPG officers who were on duty for us that day and who graciously cleared the roads (or parts of them) of the traffic for the procession to be able to move along.
Once in Plainpalais, I used the occasion to meet up with a former colleague while waiting for my wife to come from Lausanne before we would go to see my parents in France. I therefore left the Veggie Pride demonstration while the closing speeches were being made (so no photos). The irony was that once at my parents, I found out that it was not a vegan meal, but a vegetarian meal my mother had prepared as there were some slices of fish in one dish. My ‘philosophy’ has always been that if by mistake I have ordered some meat, I then have to eat it (which is why I have eaten some meat twice over the past 13 years). In this case, I had not put the message across to my mother sufficiently strongly that I would not be eating any seafood. However, my resolution is from now on to eat far less fish (I am a vegetarian, not a vegan) given that, as a result of this march (and more specifically of the leaflet that was distributed on this occasion), I have come to acknowledge that fish “very much like us or other land animals, […] perceive, feel, suffer and communicate“.
What I enjoyed most was that I received expressions of approval on at least three occasions from people who had read the statement written on the cardboard fish I was holding. I therefore felt that my participation was vindicated …
If this event is to be held again next year, I shall make it a point of honour to be more active and attend at least some of the seminars.
- Website of the first international veggie pride held in Geneva 16 to 20 May 2013
- Veggie Pride International website
- Online petition for the respect of the rights of vegans and vegetarians
Media coverage [mainly to provide examples of the general bias against vegetarians/vegans, the first of which is the smaller number of participants reported by the media]
- Les végétaliens défilent à Genève, Le Matin, 18 mai 2013 [to me, the nature of some of the comments posted in reaction to this news agency summary just demonstrates again how society at large is not prepared to accept people with a different opinion]
- Quatre cents végétariens dans la rue pour défendre leur droit à la différence, Sophie Roselli, Tribune de Genève, 18 mai 2013
- La première “Veggie Pride” a réuni entre 300 et 400 personnes à Genève, RTS, 18 mai 2013
- La «Veggie Pride» débarque à Genève, Mario Togni, Le Courrier, 16 mai 2013
- Viande: et si on sautait un repas?, Le Courrier, Christiane Pasteur, 16 mai 2013
- Opprimés, les végétariens? Nicolas Dufour, Le Temps, 18 mai 2013
- Première Veggie Pride Internationale, indymedia.ch/fr, 14 mai 2013