It is very unusual to find a dinner or breakfast table in Israel that doesn’t include a smattering of meat and/or dairy products to choose from (depending on whether or not the family keeps kosher), which is why the revelation that tens of thousands of Israelis have embraced veganism in the last year is nothing short of revolutionary. Who or what is behind this phenomenon? In short: Gary Yourofsky and “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear.”
During a charismatic hour-long speech given at Georgia Tech in 2010, the Jewish-American animals rights activist lambasts the murder of billions of animals each year. Thanks to a group of local activists who set up Gary TV and provided Hebrew subtitles, the YouTube video has been viewed 300,000 times in Israel, leaving many who watch it unable to put another animal product in their mouth.
For his civil disobedience, the activist from Michigan and founder of ADAPTT has been arrested more than 10 times and spent 77 days in a maximum security prison. Since May, 2012 he has given no fewer than 2, 378 lectures to 60,000 people across America.
In his speeches, he leans on compassion, emotion and logic to spread the message that there is no such thing as humane slaughter. In America alone, 10 billion land animals and 18 billion marine mammals are killed each year to satisfy what Gary calls one of the world’s biggest addictions – our appetite for meat.
While there are a number of small farmers across the planet who are raising animals in a conscionable manner, population growth coupled with increased wealth and the industrialization of food systems has turned us into the perpetrators of what Gary calls a “holocaust” of innocent beings.
Using graphic images and quite a lot of sarcasm, Yourofsky demonstrates how absurd and merciless the meat, egg and dairy industries are. “We stuff bread in the bacteria-laden ass of a turkey and they call tofu-eating vegans weird?” he asks.
His clear and passionate speaking style has given him near-legendary status in Israel.
In July, 2012 one of the country’s most popular TV channels ran a feature on the spread of veganism. You can watch it here, and it comes with English subtitles.
“Have I offended you?” one butcher asks a family who has converted to a strict vegan diet since watching Gary speak.
“No, why?” is the response from the man of the house, who occasionally still eats meat away from home.
“You don’t come around anymore.”