Photos by www.gennyc.com
In the words of the legendary French author Victor Hugo, "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come." On May 10, 2013, we had the rare privilege of witnessing this phenomenon in action, as the call for justice for animals crossed an important threshold on its journey to the center of our society's consciousness. With little fanfare but plenty of inspiration, a cross-cultural breakthrough unfolded before our eyes.
The evening began with Father Frank Mann introducing Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home to an audience of hundreds from New York City's Catholic community, with many animal advocates also in attendance. Father Frank underscored Pope Francis' urgent appeal for greater respect for the environment and the need to protect the most vulnerable among us. He added that he believed the Pope's words, "Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives," held special meaning for the evening's presentation.
While the social justice tradition of the Catholic faith is well known, there has long been a blind spot. The inherent injustice of our society's exploitation and killing of animals has gone largely unexamined, as has the role it plays in our "culture of violence." That this important moral issue has failed to receive serious consideration by most religious institutions has been disillusioning to many animal advocates. Even when the topic has been touched on by those with religious authority, the focus has mainly been on "what is the right way to use and kill animals," rather than the core ethical question: "Is it right to use and kill animals"?
So when Father Frank decided to bring this film and its call for justice for animals right into the heart of his own community -- when he joined his faith and his commitment to stand up for the vulnerable with the cause of animal rights -- he captured the imagination of animal advocates and members of the Catholic community alike.
He told the audience: "Tonight, my prayer for you is two-fold: that your heart and soul will somehow, in some way, be touched by the holy breath of tonight's award-winning documentary film. I also pray that you might find yourself surprisingly transformed -- transformed in such a way that you will become emboldened champions -- guardians, as it were, who will make a profound difference for the dignity of all created life."
Filmmakers Jenny Stein & James LaVeck
with film subject Harold Brown
As the credits rolled, the audience warmly applauded the film, and remained engaged throughout the Q&A, which expanded on social justice themes. Most appeared to be very interested in the packet of materials we handed out afterwards, which provided helpful follow-up information, including a vegan starter kit, a guide to vegan dining in New York City, information about animal sanctuaries, and an introductory overview of the Peaceable Journey website.
The community conversation continued during the reception, while audience members enthusiastically sampled vegan refreshments. Volunteers who were pouring non-dairy nut milks and handing out faux-sausage treats reported that there was so much interest in these tasty cruelty-free snacks that it was hard to keep up with the demand for samples!
Gen & Debbee
The comments of audience members on "both sides of the aisle" are highlighted below. While people came to this event from many different backgrounds and perspectives, by the end of the evening, audience members had become a unified community. Together, we explored how we could bring our own lives into closer alignment with our values, and how we might play a part in creating a less violent and more just future for all beings.
All of this was made possible due to the passion and hard work of a small team of gifted volunteers, highlighted below. The venue was provided by The Tablet newspaper, which hosted and publicized the event. We were able to offer a wide variety of delicious animal-free foods thanks to a generous grant from VegFund. And Gen Nishino donated his wonderful artistry to photographically documenting the event, offering a dynamic visual portrait of the beauty of two communities joining together.
This inspirational and transformative experience underscored a basic truth. The movement to achieve justice for animals, when presented in a dignified and respectful manner, will not only be accepted as valid and necessary by an incredibly wide range of people, it will even be embraced. These noble ideas are, after all, a natural extension of values we human beings already hold close to our hearts. They are ideas whose time has come.
Comments from viewers who identified themselves as members of the Catholic community:
Beautifully, sensitively done film. There is much to think about how our choices add violence to our world.
I thought the film was very enlightening and inspiring and very well done. It does make you want to give unconditional love to everyone.
It was heartbreaking, and hopeful. There were parts that I could not bear to watch, and parts that made me smile. I thank you for making this film, and making me more aware of these cruel practices.
Please continue your work in raising awareness and bringing it to public forefront. I will never eat meat again.
Unsettling but story needs to be told. Very necessary film and needs to be seen by as many eyes as possible. Thank you for screening the film.
Very thought provoking. I will question what I eat. Cannot say what the answer will be, but now I am thinking…
A powerful film. Heartwarming but also sad... Touches the heart. I will come home and love my Tabby cat so very much.
Very powerful. Begins to restore the connection between animals and our food and where it actually comes from, which has been disconnected and distorted. A real source of thoughtful provocation.
Touched my heart deeply.
Very thought provoking film. I learned so much about animals' treatment. Had worked in a children's farm in Nassau county (loved it) but now I realize what happened after they outlived their usefulness.
My heart was very touched by this film. God bless all living beings!
I was so glad that this film was shown here, and I was able to see it. I was aware of most of what I saw but it's another thing seeing it "live." I do hope the issue of animals will be addressed in our churches and from the pulpit.
Thank you to Tribe of Heart. It made me aware of farm animals and how their lives are dismissed.
It was heart wrenching. I could not help thinking about man's inhumanity to man. The Holocaust comes to mind. Do we stop breeding animals? What do we eat if we don't breed animals for food. God created everything in the world. He must have had a plan for all of His creations.
Very moving film. My wife and I will try to cut down on our meat consumption.
This film has had a tremendous impact on my heart. Much to think about. I grew up on a farm and this film brought back many memories.
Thank you for this incredible documentary about humanity! I have become more and more aware that animals (not just domestic animals) need protection and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I do not eat pork and recently ended my journey with beef. I am now looking forward to my new venture with love and how I can become more involved in becoming a voice for this cause. Thank you for such a beautiful documentary (sometimes horrifying), presenting the farm industry, dairy and slaughterhouses in such a way that made me gasp with anger and feel such compassion for the animals. Please keep pursuing this very important cause. We need less demand for farm animals.
Photos by www.gennyc.com
Comments from other audience members:
Very touching and wonderful. Confirms my feelings about reverence for life.
I came with my daughter (veg for a few years now), so she would not have to do the long drive from Connecticut by herself. I've loved animals all my life, and am now starting to have more and more meatless meals because of her. Your excellent presentation I feel has pushed me more quickly toward my goal of compassion for all God's creatures. Thank you for this excellent program.
Thank you for bringing this film to people. Life changing!
I was very moved by the film and find the suffering of animals overwhelming, to the point I could feel paralyzed. I commend you for speaking on their behalf in such a constructive way and hope that this film will be seen by many. I will show it in my own circle.
I have nine dogs and two horses and a baking business, but still eat some animal products. I need to make a greater effort to prove my dedication to the animals.
Insightful... Thankful for this event and for The Tablet and the "connection" to Catholicism -- how it can be a religious issue, not just secular.
This film is truly life changing and heartfelt. It, for me, as a vegan, is a call for action. A wake up call to speak to others regarding this issue. Coming to this screening was both educating and inspiring. What you are doing here is beautiful and necessary -- this was phenomenal. Honestly, these screenings help both those who didn't know to understand and those who did to have hope and gain strength. It's priceless.
I thought the film was very effective at conveying the inner emotional lives of farm animals.
This film stimulated my heart from beginning to end into a pool of hopelessness, but also of hope; a pool of sadness but also happiness and a pool of fear, but also courage. I did not come prepared to watch this film, and I did not anticipate being taken into a pool of tears and did not bring tissues :) Thank you for making this film.
Thank you for opening my eyes to this cruelty and the unnecessary viciousness toward animals. I respect that you relate this issue to social justice as animal rights is a social justice issue.
Please keep doing this very important work. It starts with one person. Let it begin with me. I really love the way you are showing the animals as sentient beings. Thank you. I am looking forward to your next project.
I found the film to be very moving and engaging. I cried pretty much through the whole thing, but I am appreciative of the emotional response--it reflected my beliefs and my reasons to go vegan. I love the way the film intertwined the stories of their journeys. So many moments were touching--too many to list! Thank you! I hope you change many lives with this film!
This film was powerful, eye-opening and informative. Thank you for all your hard work in helping to share their stories and expose the reality behind the everyday choices of most of society. This film was a great reminder of who I fight for every day. Keep up the great work!
There are few films that I consider "vegan makers" but you have made that list. Thank you for making the connection that people hopefully will see between the slab of meat and living beings.
Thank you for making this film... You have deepened my commitment to non-violence in the world.
What An Amazing Team!
Photos by www.gennyc.com
With only 3 weeks to plan, Lisa Lefebvre whipped together an incredible spread designed for people new to vegan food. It took a tremendous amount of organizing and logistical machinations, but Lisa managed to pull order together from chaos, and the reception ended up being a huge hit!
Tribe of Heart core team members Kevin Smith and Trevor DeSane were involved in all the details of helping the event come together. They, along with Tribe of Heart board member John Lyon Paul, represented the film and TOH, answering questions before and after the screening.
They were joined at the event by volunteers Katy Gottschalk, Suzie Grandt, Louie Gedo, Ramona Smith, Jason Fredrichs, Edita Birnkrant, Amie Hamlin, and Eric Weiss, who helped with food prep, staffing tables at the reception, and offering information to curious attendees about the vegan samples.
Leading up to the event, Trevor and Louie were also very active with grassroots publicity on the ground in Queens, joined by Joyce Friedman and Matt Wildman.
Meanwhile, our local team of volunteers in Ithaca, NY, were busy assembling 1,000 robust information packets that would be handed out after the screening. John and Katy joined us for that all-day task, along with Amber Gilewski, Charlene Temple, Deb Moore, and Stephanie Langer-Liblick.
We were thrilled that Joy Askew, whose beautiful music is featured in the film's soundtrack, could attend. Eddie Lama, the subject of Tribe of Heart's first film, The Witness, also lent his support to the event.
Like many opportunities pursued by Tribe of Heart, the job at hand might at first seem more ambitious than a small team of volunteers could realistically take on. But teamwork and dedication go a long way. The end result was an unforgettable evening that opened many hearts and changed many minds. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all who were involved. Your efforts were a stunning tribute to the beauty of community that is based on a shared value for kindness and service.
Copyright © 2016 Tribe of Heart Ltd.