At the beginning of December, our co-founder Light received a touching message from an old friend of Gentle World. Although J.P. took a very different direction in his activism than Gentle World’s focus on vegan education, we found his words so moving that we felt his letter was worth sharing with all of you.
I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while now, especially since the loss of Sun. I think of her every day and miss her very much. She was an influential person in my life as you are also. I have regrets that I haven’t spent more time with you all over the decades since I first met you in Florida in the early 80’s.
I have been wanting to express my gratitude to you and Gentle World for your influence on my life. Although I had already made the decision to become vegan before I met you, I did not know that there was a term for my new way of life until I met you in a vegan cooking class when I was 17 years old.
I had become who I was due to my shooting of a small bird whom I had wounded and I had to kill with a rock. At the moment the bird died I had a flash of reality and empathy and became a vegetarian at 15 years old, eventually deciding to take all animal products out of my life by 17. I had no one to influence me. I did it all by myself, there was no internet, and I did not even know the term vegan.
When I came to visit you all, I was elated to find there were people like me and I was not alone. You all made me aware of the term vegan and opened my eyes more widely, to a world of compassion and empathy. I will never forget those days as they molded me into the person I am.
I remember when you showed me videos of animals being liberated from labs in the UK and it was then I found my destiny. I moved to California to be an animal activist and I walked into a newly formed movement in 1986. I went to protests against vivisection, fur, animal agriculture, wildlife extinction, and hunting. I fought against trophy hunting for eight years. I founded and ran Sea Defense Alliance and Ocean Defense International in which we fought for whales and other marine species. We fought against shark hunting in the Santa Cruz area in the 1990s. We successfully halted the Makah whale hunt in the early 2000s although it seems they are gearing up for another hunt, after almost 20 years since we shut them down.
I was also involved with Earth First! starting in the early 1990s, and worked hard to join the animal rights folks with the environmental movement. I remember protesting against a new underground animal lab at UC Berkeley in the 1990s and a group of Earth First! activists were the ones who climbed the crane and halted construction for many days. It was this joining of the movements that I worked hard to create as I felt we had to unite the clans in order to make headway for our cause.
As you may know I was also involved in many liberations of animals. I spent six months in jail defying a grand jury protecting fellow activists and I was sent to federal prison for four years for the destruction of a horse slaughterhouse in 1997. I was betrayed by other activists who decided to drink the Kool Aid yet I never wavered and never snitched on anyone although they had all snitched on me.
I was released in 2011 and though my life was turned upside down and all my money gone, I have been struggling through life. I have not been able to be an active activist since being in prison and that has been a big struggle for me. I am of course a die hard vegan.
I wanted to make clear my appreciation of you and Sun and Gentle World as a whole. Although I never lived in your community, I always felt a part of it and never forgot my early days spending time with everyone. My destiny was to be connected to you, but my fight was in a different arena.
With the passing of Sun it made me aware that we are all getting older and our days on this planet are waning. I am almost 54 now and live in the mountains of Southern Oregon withing the boundaries of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. We are surrounded by nature and wildlife. Deer, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, bears, squirrels, ducks, geese, and many songbirds are regular visitors to our land and we have two ponds next to the house with 32 solar panels and spring fed water. I have always been a country person and only go to Babylon to get supplies but could never live within it.
I hope you are well, my friend. I wanted to make sure you know how I feel about our relationship in this dying world. Although the movement for animals and the planet has gained awareness and a lot has changed since we were all vegans back in the day, I feel things are looking very bad and our species is killing this beautiful planet. These realities weigh heavy on me all the time and I am unable to shake the sadness and anger I have over this. My heart cries for the earth and her inhabitants.
The one thing I have never forgotten was the huge mural you all had in your Florida house. That mural shaped my vision of what the world should be. After all these years that mural is sharp in my mind. Right now I think of Sun being added to that mural and hope when our times come to depart that is where we will go and we can sit together with the smell of life all around in the bright colors of wildflowers and all nature.
Please take care my friend, and all my love to everyone at Gentle World.
For the animals and the planet,