In every part of the world, there are people who know that the way we humans are relating to our fellow animals needs to drastically change. They know that the moral, ethical, and environmental arguments in favor of change are overwhelming. Yet in so many cultures, these forward-thinking people lack effective educational tools capable of opening the hearts and minds of the general public -- and most importantly, of fostering a paradigm shift. As a result, Tribe of Heart regularly receives requests from activists and educators in other countries who are seeking access to versions of our films translated into their languages, or who want to help do the translation work themselves.
In response to this need, and to what is clearly a critical opportunity for empowering transformation, Tribe of Heart began an experiment in 2008 we called our Global Tribal initiative. The idea was to create a complete language-specific online environment in which people from many different cultures can watch our films, explore related educational resources, and take immediate action to awaken and empower others in their community. We would accomplish this by creating a set of tools that allowed us to collaborate at a distance with dozens of activists and volunteer translators in service of our shared goal. The first result of this initiative is Tribe of Heart's Online Screening Room project. It currently offers our first film, The Witness, for free viewing in numerous languages, with many more to come. Our long-term goal is to make the message of all Tribe of Heart's films, including Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, understandable and available to the majority of people in the world.
One of the advantages of the translation and publishing system we created is that it was designed from the ground up to be extremely cost-effective. We wanted to ensure that we could empower educators working to reach audiences not just in the largest countries, but in smaller ones as well. We are extremely proud of this egalitarian dimension of our vision, which has already proven to produce real impact in ways we never could have imagined. As just one example, let's consider what happened in Slovenia, which ranks something like 141st in population worldwide, with just over 2 million residents.
Vegan Initiative sets the stage
for screening The Witness in Slovenia
In early 2012, we were contacted by members of "Veganska Iniciativa" (Vegan Initiative), an all-volunteer group in Slovenia committed to educating the public about the tragedy of animal exploitation, as well as its antidote: a plant-based diet and a vegan way of life. They told us they were planning an ambitious anti-fur campaign in Slovenia and wanted to include The Witness in their efforts.
Tribe of Heart core team member Trevor DeSane immediately found kindred spirits in the Vegan Initiative team members, who had many questions and much information to share. Their first videoconference call lasted several hours, and afterwards, the Slovenian translation team began work on all the segments of the multi-faceted Screening Room project.
2012/2013 was an important time for animal advocates in Slovenia. The government was required to bring its laws into compliance with the European Union’s Directive on protecting animals used in science. Our friends at Vegan Initiative, together with other Slovenian activists and groups, took this opportunity to advocate for additional legal protections for animals, including those exploited and killed by the fur trade. A project they launched, titled “100 Celebrities for Slovenia Without Fur,” featured the participation of notable Slovenian actors, musicians, athletes, authors, academics, and journalists. In December of 2012, as a focal point for this campaign, they hosted Slovenia’s premiere screening of The Witness. Vegan Initiative's Blaž (pictured at the bottom of this story) joined the translation team in organizing the event, which opened with a special videotaped introduction by the film’s producer James LaVeck. Simultaneous with the premiere, the Slovenian version of the online Screening Room project was launched, enabling activists to widely propagate the newly subtitled film and its message of compassion and justice for animals.
The first Slovenian audience for The Witness responded with the same kind of
heartfelt concern that we've seen from audiences all over the world.
As Slovenia’s social debate on the new animal protection law moved forward, the Vegan Initiative team campaigned tirelessly, educating the public, holding demonstrations in cities, and collecting thousands of petitions against these forms of exploitation. In March, 2013, the Slovenian parliament passed one of the most progressive animal protection laws in the world. This new law, which received an incredible 95% majority vote, will place a ban on the farming and hunting of animals for their skin, fur, down, or feathers as of Jan 1, 2015. It also immediately banned the use of wild animals in circuses, and some types of ritual slaughter. And for companion animals, it banned the docking of dogs’ tails, the cropping of their ears, as well as declawing and debarking.
Vegan Initiative and others protest against the fur trade in Slovenia
Following their success with the anti-fur campaign, the Vegan Initiative team joined a European-wide anti-vivisection campaign, helping gather thousands of signatures in support of a “citizens’ initiative” to ban animal experimentation in the European Union. The Stop Vivisection Citizens’ Committee and its partners were able to collect more than 1,125,000 online petitions in support of this historic animal protection legislation. Activists in Slovenia, who campaigned with an ambitious goal of collecting 6,000 signed petitions, surpassed even their own expectations by collecting nearly four times that many! Since Stop Vivisection met the minimum 1 million signatures required for an EU Citizens Petition to advance, in 2014 the European Commission will hold a public hearing to draft the legislation being proposed.
Blaž of Vegan Initiative delivers 6,000+ signed petitions to the Slovenian parliament in support of a fur ban
Social change does not happen according to a predictable formula. Who can possibly know when and where a tipping point will be reached, or who will make a critical difference in getting us there? While the population of Slovenia may be relatively small, the activists behind Vegan Initiative think big, and that is all that matters. They have made wise and creative choices in how to apply their energy and skills in service of meaningful change, and have had a significant impact both at home and also far beyond the borders of Slovenia. We can all learn from them, and aspire to be as passionate and creative as they are. The entire Tribe of Heart team is honored that our Global Tribal initiative played a role in the efforts of these inspiring people, whose work is a reminder of the transformative power of vision, sincerity, and dedication. Working together, we can and will change the world.
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