While some folks may find this surprising, there are over 600 members in the local DFW Vegan101 Meetup! Living in the land of cattle, hunting ranches, and barbecue on every corner, there are nonetheless many people turning to a vegan lifestyle. Perhaps it is the very nature of living in an area rife with animal agriculture that has given genesis to these numbers; some folks mention those childhood visits to slaughter-houses as part of what changed them from mainstream to veganism. Mercy For Animals opened up an office in Dallas last year, and they are spearheading many leafleting and a few vegan sampling events. This is also a state that is home to many animal sanctuaries, since land is relatively cheap and the weather makes it possible, at least most of the year, to provide adequate protection for outdoor beings. Here in the Mid-Cities area south of the DFW twin cities, we witnessed the largest ever seizure of exotic animals last year when the SPCA in concert with PeTA volunteers helped to close down a frigid warehouse where animals were dying by the dozens each and every day. What was uncovered there is the stuff of nightmares, with animals liquifying in their own waste, and many piles of animals being unrecognizable when first rescued. The SPCA had no problem finding volunteers to assist in saving as many of the remaining animals as they could, with a massive operation which required setting up a multitude of climates and feeding schedules round the clock. There are also many animal-conscious people who do not yet make the connection between what they eat, wear and purchase and their concern for animals. This was highlighted for me last year when an animal advocacy group invited me to a benefit at, incredibly, Ye Old Butcher Shoppe. I contacted them about the irony of their event, and they kindly invited me to a future coffee. There is educational work to be done in Texas, and the sooner we can get started, the better.
Increasing Need, Decreasing Resources
As a member of Vegan101, I attended a couple of work days supporting a farm animal sanctuary, but live too far to attend many of the events, most of which are social in nature. Like many sanctuaries and rescues, this sanctuary was in need of ongoing help to keep the animals well groomed, the areas cleaned, and the vet bills paid. Since the recession, the number of animals being abandoned and discarded has increased, while the donations have dwindled. This has left many in the area in need of help, in order to keep helping the severe need they encounter. None of us like to turn our back on a vulnerable animal who is undergoing a stressful time –which is partly how we ended up taking on a couple of young male felines, both declawed and neutered, both in need of a permanent placement, both homeless as a result of a broken home. We have also been asked to help four other animals find a home. These scenarios are also increasing with the increase in financial stress and unemployment, too. It is also part of the reason that Animal Rights & Rescue of North Texas was started, a vegan abolitionist group that welcomes all to help in the work to make life better for animals here and elsewhere. Not all of our members are vegan, but all meetups are strictly vegan. Most of our members are already involved in rescue work of one type or another and collaborating with other advocacy groups is part of how we are growing our presence. We have already partnered with the Metroplex Animal Coalition and have members in a couple of other local advocacy groups, too, including Animal Connection of Texas and DFW Wildlife. Like all other groups, ours is struggling to pay our bills, so a garage sale benefit was one of our first projects. We are hoping to develop a Speaker’s Bureau to work on humane education and promote veganism within the animal advocacy groups located here, too, as well educate the public about disaster preparation for animals.
Our group decided that vegan sampling events would be a priority, but finding a venue in this area is no simple task. Many events are restricted due to health laws and many tabling events are prohibitively expensive (hundreds of dollars for a table on Earth Day in Dallas – the non-profit discount rate, too.) We are still in our infancy, and are slowly increasing our membership. Will Tuttle, author of the #1 Amazon best seller, The World Peace Diet, recently came to the general North Texas area, and our group was fortunate to be able to eat lunch with the Tuttles and as well as to participate in a wonderful workshop they gave in Grapevine. We met many wonderful people at the event and hope to see a few at our next meetup. We are also looking at the upcoming Veggie Fair, run last year in concert with the Dallas State Fair, as a possible venue to help get the word out about our organization and the reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle. We now have a couple of banners that read, “Animal Rights & Rescue of North Texas – Promoting Peace for All Beings.” We have the tables and banners, we are getting the literature and handouts, we have the volunteers and the enthusiasm, all we need now is permission to participate in a local event.
The Importance of Planting Veganism
One of the reasons for forming the group was to have a presence for abolitionist veganism in the area, to have an activist presence, and to provide venues easier to access for those of us living outside the Dallas or Fort Worth areas. While there have been many obstacles and challenges, the enthusiasm of a core group of members has kept us all motivated to pursue future goals. I underestimated the amount of time I would be dedicating to get this grassroots campaign for animals off the ground and did not realize we would start receiving requests to help individual animals so immediately because we have “rescue” in our name. Some of our members are only interested in rescue, others in promoting veganism. The fact that we are all working well together will hopefully propel us towards the Intersectional Thinking that is so hopeful in this, our twenty-first century. For anyone in an area that seems devoid of an abolitionist vegan presence, register your desire for such a group online, or better yet – start a group. If you build it, they just might come!