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Open Door for Vegans

April 13th, 2012 1 comment

Toward the end of 1975 the BBC began an innovative series of community-based television programs called ‘Open Door.’⁠ They selected a handful of organisations to help them make programs about themselves. Among the first was one by and about The Vegan Society.

I recall watching the program as a vegetarian. My Mum also watched it as she had become a vegetarian too. We agreed that the vegans featured on the program had a point or two. But, we thought, they were all rather, well, odd. Looking back, it was clearly original programming and an ambitious step for the Vegan Society to take. The BBC programme generated some 9,000 enquiries and added about 1,000 new members to its books.⁠

Two of them were Mum and I, as we went vegan on January 1, 1976. I subsequently got to know some of the vegans who appeared. They were not odd at all, but dedicated pioneers. (Perhaps by then I had become odd, too.) For example, I am eternally grateful to Kathleen Jannaway who was the society’s secretary and played a prominent role in the program. She had a profound impact on many people through her indefatigable work for the society for many, many years. She was a quintessentially English vegan who personified stoic determination.

I have not watched the Vegan Open Door since 1975 until today, as it is now available on Youtube. I encourage everyone to watch. It is truly amazing to see how these vegan pioneers presented themselves so well. They are articulate, thoughtful and confident. Nevertheless, they are all a bit odd. And I love them all the more for it. Everyone who is vegan today and hereafter has much to thank them for. They were originals who developed the case for veganism which resembles in many way the one that we make today.

 

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Mary Ellen Wilson

June 22nd, 2010 No comments
Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Singer by Eric A. Shelman and Stephen Lazoritz, M.D.

Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Singer by Eric A. Shelman and Stephen Lazoritz, M.D.

As part of the preparation to writing my book, Animal Dharma, I have been researching Mary Ellen Wilson. She was the young girl in Manhattan in the late 1870s who was badly beaten and abused by a married couple who, under extraordinary circumstances, ended up ‘caring’ for her. The reason why Mary Ellen is so important is because she was rescued by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as there was not equivalent organization to protect children. Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA in 1866 and went on to help establish the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874.

Presently, I’m reading a book, Out of the Darkness by Eric A. Shelman and Stephen Lazoirtz, M.D., which is a fact-based fictionalized account of what happened to Mary Ellen Wilson. It’s a fascinating chapter in the history of the animal rights movement, which I’m using as a signature topic to introduce the close relationship between human abuse and animal cruelty. Out of the Darkness may not be great literature but it is a great read as it brings vividly to life in my imagination an important moment when it was clearly demonstrated that those who rescued animals also cared for people. If only more people who cared about their own kind would think more about those who are other species.

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