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The Freelee & Gary Yourofsky Controversy: Death to Non-Vegans & Human Hating?

I don’t generally comment on controversies within the vegan YouTube community (though it would probably really help my view count)…and when I do (which is now, apparently)…it’s incredibly late (which is why I probably suck at twitter). But I suppose it’s time I tried my hand at what YouTube seems to be built for: commentary on other peoples’ videos. ( feel so dirty.)  [tweet this]

so somewhat recently, though in internet terms forever ago, both Freelee the Banana Girl and Gary Yourofsky posted controversial videos that seemed to rather fluster people, to put it nicely.

There have been response videos and response response videos, accusations, name-calling, unsubbing, and more. If you’re reading this video post and have a more timely grasp of current events in the vegan YouTube community–which doesn’t take much–then you’re familiar with these videos. So I won’t rehash much.

Basically, Freelee’s video says that perhaps non-vegans who know the exact impact of their actions don't deserve to live, and Gary’s says that he hates all humans.

Of course that’s an extreme distillation and paraphrasing which is never fair so if you haven’t seen their videos in their entirety, please do so to understand the context. (Linked above in their names and at the end of the post.)

What I want to talk about is what teachable moments we can pull from these video and the controversy surrounding them. Cause you know me…always the educational buzzkill.

Some of what I’ll say will be more for non-vegans and some more for vegans.

First off, I want to speak to something i find can be troublesome and dangerous, and that’s hero worship. Now this is different from looking up to someone of seeing them as your role model, mentor or inspiration.

What I mean by hero worship is when we take community leaders, celebrities, or really anyone and put them up on an inhuman pedestal. We believe everything they say without question and see them as our leader and even more, our savior. Until the time they invariably act human, as humans are wont to do, and then we get pissed and are horrified, we feel betrayed and become disillusioned. [tweet this]

And honestly, that’s on us. It’s not fair to expect someone–anyone–to be everything you need and want them to be all the time. And yes, public figures should be aware of and cautious with the power they yield, but humans are humans.

So I won’t be blindly defending them or saying they can do no wrong because they can. We all can. We’re human.

Second, as Gary himself has said, you don’t have to agree with him–or anyone–100 percent of the time to still agree with the message. If they say something that rubs you the wrong way, it doesn’t automatically invalidate the message they stand for. And it certainly doesn’t mean animals are any less oppressed or dying any less by our hand.

Now, if someone goes from hardcore animal advocacy to saying it’s okay to eat animals in select circumstances, then that’s another matter.

Now, what about what was said itself. Do non-vegans deserve to die? Should we hate all humans?  Well first off, if you listen, Freelee for one isn’t saying all non-vegans, but rather those who know exactly and intimately what is happening to the animals of this world and yet choose, even with this knowledge, to continue to pay others to enslave, rape, torture and murder them on their behalf, and Gary is expressing is utter disdain for humanity due to these actions.

Stay with me, if you will, for an analogy that may seem absurd. I want to try and put you in their shoes, if I can be so presumptuous, not in hopes you’ll agree with them, but rather in hopes you may understand where they were coming from: if someone knew that pushing a button would cause a person in another room to suffer repeated rapings, or be skinned alive, or have their throat slit, and decided to push that button anyway, we would be horrified outraged.

These horrors are what’s happening to animals in numbers beyond we can even comprehend, every second of every day all over the world. And it’s not the big evil corporations’ fault, so don’t demonize them, though they aren’t totally blameless. But really, they are only providing the products we demand. We are the killers by proxy. If we eat meat, dairy, eggs and honey, or wear leather, wool or silk, we are paying people to rape, to kill, skin, maim, enslave, torture, and boil alive living being on our behalf.

And you may think “they’re only animals” and it’s extreme to use such human terminology. But rape is forceful penetration without consent. Murder is the forceful and violent taking of life. These atrocities aren’t exclusive to humans and we only want to make them so in order to further distance ourselves from what we are doing. [tweet this]  Call it pork, not pig flesh, call it leather, not cow skin.

I’m reminded of a chilling quote by Jewish philosopher Theodor W. Adorno who himself fled from Nazi Germany:  “Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”

So whether you think that’s an extreme view or not, or agree with their ultimate conclusions or their deliveries or not, that is–at least where I believe–Freelee and Gary are coming from. And imagine, if you will, that you were witness to trillions of human murders, injustices and horrors beyond description. In all honesty, what would you say?

Gary’s been in the trenches fighting for the animals for years. He’s lived in the thick of it, aware every moment of every day the lives that are being lost. Felt the pain and terror of those he was attempting to defend and faced apathy, aggression, and outright mockery from their tormentors.

Now I’ll say that from personal experience, if you stay acutely aware of what the animals are going through and the mind-boggling enormity of our destruction not only in their lives but to the planet, and the utter disregard of the vast majority of this world’s population–if you're aware of that intensely enough and for long enough, it will drive you into rage, fury, desperation, sadness and utter heartbreak. And you will either do something about it or choose to go numb again.

And Gary and Freelee have chosen. You may not like it. You may not agree with it. Hell, I don’t agree with Freelee or even Gary all of the time.

Now I purposefully take a different approach in my activism. Using primarily educational, fact-based information presented in an approachable way is how I feel I can best convey the vegan message to the largest amount of people. I may have learned to hold back my swears and couch things differently, but I do not pull my punches and I will never compromise when it comes to the animals. I will speak out against any exploitation or abuse without question and without hesitation.

What I won’t do is spend time criticizing and tearing down other activists. If I don’t agree with them or like the way they said something, guess what? I can approach that topic myself in a different way. We waste so much time and energy nitpicking each other and tearing each other down. And where, exactly, does that get the animals?

Now vegans, we can sit here and debate all day as to what is the most effective form of activism- what is helping the movement and what is hurting it. Well, I’ll tell you one sure thing. Action helps.  Inaction does not. [tweet this]

And nitpicking, name-calling, and tearing each other down is a form of inaction. It’s not productive and is sure as hell doesn’t help the dairy cow whose child was just taken from her. It doesn’t help the male chick on the conveyer belt about to be tossed alive into a grinder. It doesn’t help the sheep slowly dying from an infected wound from careless shearing. And it doesn’t help the pig strung up over an electrified bath.

They don’t care who you’re subscribed to or when you hit the thumbs-down button. Let’s please focus on what–no, on who matters. [tweet this]

Don’t take your offenses out on the animals. If your’e non-vegan, please take a moment to look into what these supposed lunatics are talking about, even if their delivery was disagreeable.  99 percent of the time, when we humans get upset or offended it’s because what was said hits something we ourselves are insecure, uncertain, or ignorant about.

Most people know something is wrong with how we get our food. It’s no secret why we don’t visit slaughterhouses. So even if the way the message was said to you was upsetting, search around and you’re bound to find some vegan out there who speaks in a way that works for you. Vegans are just as diverse as non-vegans. Please don’t give up the message for the messenger. They’ve awoken you to something incredibly important (see resources below).

For my vegans, take the energy you’d spend writing a hateful comment or gossiping online and make a video calling out the horrors of dairy or exposing the horrific life of laying hens. Or going into the schools to speak the truth about what animals are going through. Or go volunteer at a farm sanctuary. If you think Freelee’s or Gary’s or my or anyone’s activism is ineffective or damaging, then go do your own form of activism with everything you’ve got. That is how we make change. Not by petty infighting, gossiping and hate. That’s an insult to the animals in the highest degree. And they deserve more from us. From all of us.

So do I personally always think what Freelee or Gary or any activist out there says and how they say it is ideal or exactly what I would say? Of course not. Because I know they are human and I'm human and we’re not carbon-copies of one another who always agree on everything just because we’re vegan. Far from it. But what we do and, I hope will always agree on is that the animals are the top priority. And I will fight to the death for them and for the rights of their defenders to defend them. Because I think the animals would prefer freedom by any means.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments. If you liked hearing me weigh in on some controversy, though late it may be, and most likely, will remain a rare occurrence, share this post around to spark understanding and action.

See ya next nugget!

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Videos Reference/RESOURCES:
What Vegans See [Why We’re So Sensitive]
Do Vegans Hate Non-Vegans
Our True Impact on Animals
The Impact of Our Choices
I’m NOT Freelee [And That’s Okay]

Get Started With
Vegan for Health
Vegan for the Environment & Humanity
Vegan for Ethics
Vegan Lifestyle

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29 Comments

  1. sally anne hubbard on 06/3/15 at 3:17 pm

    Education is the right way to go. When people are educated to the horrors of slaughter houses they will raise their children to be compassionate.
    It is already working. Last night I read an article about a man that was spear hunting a swordfish and the swordfish killed him. Most of all the comments were on the fishes side. They thought the man had no right to kill the fish for fun. What a change in attitude. People are beginning to see other beings as equals and deserve to live.

  2. Marah on 06/3/15 at 4:40 pm

    I think freelee is plain rude, it’s not about the people should die thing, but she and harely always make fun of everyone and fat shaming and saying vegan is easy and fun, and smash it in while they ride the bike everyday… not everyone lives like they do… in my country, fruits are much more expensive than meat, i live in a desert environment, everything is imported! we only have dates and some citrus fruits. Some people have family, other stuff… Gary however is overly passionate, his main issue is the animals and i am with him about the animals. I think because people are so numb that make him say such stuff…yeah disconnected thoughts again, sorry

  3. Sofia on 06/3/15 at 6:13 pm

    agree with Marah. I didn’t hear about Freelee until I clicked on a link on Gary’s adaptt website and that video was quite good, informative and without accusing anyone. But then I started hearing about freelee more frequently and became to sense she was not going in a good direction. Veganism is not about fighting with other vegans or accusing people for eating meat and this definitely doesn’t help animals. I like your educational vidoes and will always stand by this form of veganism – to know the truth and leave by the basic morals. Animals don’t care about how is fat or if animals should die.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 06/3/15 at 10:09 pm

      She has really changed her approach over the years. It’s true that her videos were more on the informational side initially. What she does now, does get a whole lot of traffic, which arguably gets the vegan idea at least in front of people… Whether that’s in A positive light, as I think what people are debating. I won’t lie that I am tempted at times to potentially try a tactics to get more traffic in order to get people to the message, but I feel like it may, in the end detract from the message itself once they’ve gotten there. My channel’s going to grow much more slowly, But for now I am okay with that. Thank you for your thoughts and support.

  4. Friderike on 06/3/15 at 6:17 pm

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you so much. Yes to all you said.

    Love from Frid

  5. Richie on 06/3/15 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Emily, I recently found your page and you are very charming, educated, beautiful inside and out. I don’t really know if to ask or tell you of why people act the way they act. But in my experience asking questions makes one think and therefore they will most likely figure it out, so, do you think this society is the way it is because that’s life? Or has it been led to this point by the powers that be? I would love your feed back because I’ve been learning new reasons why this is, it’s somewhat a hard pill to swallow but makes a lot of sense when looked at with an open mind (right brain hemisphere). Be well and take care Emily ❤️

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 06/3/15 at 9:37 pm

      well that’s quite the question Richie and i think in *very* brief and oversimplifies that it’s a mixture of the two that circles back on itself and feeds back and forth…

  6. ivonne on 06/3/15 at 8:07 pm

    I think all forms of advocacy are necessary. I do not think any one way is the only or the best way to go. Different types of advocacy will all work on different types of people. Both Gary and Freelee have converted thousands of people to veganism, so to say that her advocacy is not the way to go is really ignorant. To say that any vegan or their type of advocacy is not correct is again, ignorant. Many humans and all will be affected in different ways and different approaches. Like Emily said if you don’t like someone’s style go ahead and start doing your own form of advocay. Don’t just complain do something pro-active. I am a writer do I write a blog, http://www.myveganheartblog.wordpress.com.

    And Emily I love the humor in this video.

    ivonne

  7. Marcy on 06/3/15 at 8:08 pm

    Freelee spreads a lot of hate, and not just in that one video. She consistently degrades and demoralizes women who aren’t thin and encourages them to lose enough weight to obtain a thigh gap, which she claims is a side effect of a healthy lifestyle although it’s physically impossible for most women. She tells women that the loss of a menstrual cycle is a normal part of a vegan diet. She doles out dangerous and unhealthy advice and makes a profit off others’ insecurities. She doesn’t speak for veganism or for me. Women’s health and self esteem are just as important a cause as animal rights. Women die every year due to eating disorders or suicide due to fat-shaming, and I won’t defend anyone who promotes that.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 06/3/15 at 9:35 pm

      thanks for your thoughts on this Marcy. i do believe the period thing is taken out of context in that she lost it but it came back- i think she said that something like that may happen but then your body re-regulates. i’m not clear on that whole controversy so i won’t pretend to know, but i’m somewhat sure that’s the gist of it…

  8. The Vegan Junction on 06/3/15 at 9:17 pm

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I really like your consistently level-headed approach and ability to keep things in perspective… and the entertaining aspect as well, of course. ;)

  9. Richie on 06/3/15 at 10:17 pm

    I have came to be first a vegetarian and then a vegan, it was actual pretty easy to become a vegan. The reason I became one was when I first started to fill myself with knowledge on how law and money worked. That lead me to understand that we are first taught (indoctrinated) from a very small age to follow a certain type of lifestyle and beliefs on health and nutrition. This is done not only to get us sick for the pharmaceutical companies to profit, but to not be able to act upon injustice. We are not taught moral/natural law but mans law, keeping us sick will keep us dumb down and not able to be responsible (ability to respond) to immoral actions not only against animals but against us as well. We are imbalanced mentally and physically, this makes us more susceptible to not pay attention to what really matters and be easy controlled. Like I said, this is a very hard pill to swallow at first, but when studied , we find how corrupt the system is made to be without us really noticing or able to do something about it.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 06/3/15 at 10:52 pm

      wow what a unique way to come to being vegan! thank you so much for sharing this ;) and what often sounds like conspiracy theories is horrifying truth.

      • Richie on 06/3/15 at 11:16 pm

        My pleasure Emily. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the rabbit hole is much much deeper as I learn more, to the point that I had to stop for a bit to make my head stop spinning. It gets into words we use, colors, symbols and actions that we have no idea what it means but attribute to in sutle ways that make the the type of world we live in. It stopped being scary, fear is the first to be conquered to continue in a path that will make true change in this horrific world we made. Fear is one of the many ways to make us not act against this injustice, then comes obfuscation (being taught something that is not), then nescience (information not taught, missing knowledge) and so on and so on. Ok, I thank you again for your videos and knowledge I’ve acquired through them. Much love and care Emily, be well.

  10. Meea on 06/4/15 at 12:33 am

    Hello Emily, I am a vegan and I took a lot of offense of what Freelee said. We all have loved ones who are not vegan even if we tell them them the reality of slaughterhouses and the dairy industry. My parents are not vegan, my boyfriend is not vegan and some of my friends who I love a lot are not vegan. I don’t want them or anyone else dead. I think as vegans we should promote non-violence to humans as well. Unfortunately we do not live in a vegan world. Freelee also fat shames and makes fun of people who are heavier than her. She even said that thigh gap is natural which is not the case at all! Most women can not attain thigh gap, we are all different sizes and should be accepting of each other. The best way to promote veganism is to be a happy and healthy vegan, condemning and acting superior to people does not work.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 06/4/15 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Meea. And fortunately there are so many approaches to sharing the message- and I believe at least one that will work for each person :)

  11. ian watson on 06/4/15 at 3:04 pm

    Love and education change the world harsh words get harsh responses. With that said it is truly Hart breaking what is going on in “farming” these days and that leads to anger and anger leads to the dark side (according to today) :)

  12. ian watson on 06/4/15 at 3:07 pm

    Yoda according to yoda curse u spell check!

  13. Kimeros on 06/6/15 at 4:53 am

    As some who has only gone vegan in the last year I’d like to thank you for your approach. Parts of the vegan community have been terrifying for me and it’s been nice to feel I’m in safe hands with you.

    Right level of fact, inspiration plus help. Thanks again.

    Kimeros

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 06/6/15 at 2:07 pm

      wow thank you so much Kimeros! that is exactly what i strive to offer. thank you for letting me know it’s coming accross. much love and feel free to ask questions anytime!

  14. Saij on 06/9/15 at 4:20 pm

    I really like/agree with what you said about them keeping us dumbed down. This is said but true, and we have to be educated about it just Emily is doing….

  15. VLHW on 10/9/15 at 5:44 am

    I am a “vegetarian” who sometimes eats fish.
    I am not perfect–no one is.
    We ALL are responsible for animal death and
    suffering just by being alive (small animals are
    killed routinely when vegetable crops are grown
    and “wildlife” is also destroyed when our homes
    are built), but we should all try to lesson it as much
    as we can.
    I think ALL steps away from amorally eating meat
    (including those who HONESTLY try to seek out
    “more humane meat”) should be encouraged–NOT
    RIDICULED!
    I think the two animal activists you mentioned are
    way to extreme–and turn many more people AWAY
    from animal welfare than they recruit.
    I agree that many animal protection groups “nit-pik”
    too much against other groups whom they should be
    working with.
    I do, however, make 2 exceptions–
    Groups that advocate violent actions (like arson) AND
    groups that hypocritically PRACTICE violence against
    healthy homeless pets (yes, I’m talking about PETA),
    instead of honestly trying to find homes for them.
    I WISH more humane groups would try HARDER to
    get either reasonably priced invitro meat or veggie
    “meat” that actually tastes like the real thing!
    The sooner we get one or both of these, the sooner
    literally billions of animals will be spared horrific lives
    and deaths.

  16. lois on 02/21/16 at 5:26 am

    I would just like to give mention to a “quieter animal savior”,
    who just MAY end up ultimately saving (T)rillions of animal lives in the long run.
    His name is Uma Valeti, a Cardiologist, who has been working to make in vitro meat a real and affordable reality for decades, and says the first commercial products could start coming out within the next few years.
    He is a vegetarian, and he is realizes that human meat cravings are not going to change on a large scale simply because we want them to (and he is right).
    IF he and his company can pull this off, I hope history will record him as the person who ultimately ended the worst human-caused atrocities to ever exist over the longest periods of time!

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