Thursday, July 18, 2013

Abolitionist Animal Rights in Belgium: Interview with Christophe Hendrickx

Christophe Hendrickx, a Belgian abolitionist vegan, operates La Pilule Rouge, a French language blog containing both original entries and important translations of abolitionist articles. As a new vegan and a multilingual, committed abolitionist, Chris has some fresh perspectives invaluable to our movement.

Can you explain the types of activism you do?

“Most of my advocacy time is spent online. I went vegan in August 2011 and quickly decided to make a blog about veganism to share my thoughts. In November, I found out about Gary Francione’s blog, which is translated in French (…awesome). This made a big impact on me, and I went abolitionist right away. Shortly after, I stumbled on Dan Cudahy’s blog, Unpopular Vegan Essays, and I found that his articles were very clear and well written but not translated in French, which was a shame.

What types of reactions are you receiving from your activism?

“Overall, the reactions are pretty good. The abolitionist approach is very clear and people enjoy reading the translated articles. I’ve seen people realising that vegan education has to be the baseline and switch from single-issue or welfare campaigns to vegan education. The main type of resistance I meet is about single-issue abolition campaigns (bullfighting, fur, and so on). Activists seem to love them, even if they are problematic on a practical and theoretical level.”

Does abolitionism have a presence in Belgium?  If not, what future do you see for abolitionism there?

“As far as I know, there is no abolitionist movement in Belgium. In France, there is, a small abolitionist organization that does vegan outreach and speeches about the abolitionist approach of Gary Francione, which is great because there is lots to be done for abolitionism there – it’s almost non-existent. The main organizations are new welfarist like L214, for example, or PETA France. I rarely see vegan education in the French-speaking movement, and veganism is often painted as an extreme step, instead of a moral baseline, by the activists themselves. That’s why I think that translating abolitionist articles helps spread abolitionism in France and Belgium because, besides Gary Francione’s blog, there is no abolitionist literature available. I believe that it will eventually result in a meaningful change in the movement here.”

What are some of your experiences as a new vegan?  What has been easiest about transitioning?  What has been the most difficult?

“The first question I asked myself before really going vegan was, ‘Ok great, but is it really safe for my health?’ Indoctrination in our society is very strong and almost everyone believes that we NEED meat and dairy products to be healthy, which was my belief too. I started reading all kinds of articles regarding vegan diets and ended up reading The China Study in two days, which settled the question for me. From that point, it was pretty easy on a personal level. People believe that being vegan is an everyday nightmare, but honestly, after a month you’re on autopilot. You know what to buy and what not to buy, and it is just a new habit. I’ve been vegan for 6 months now and I think it was a breeze.

Based on your experiences, what should activists consider when promoting veganism and abolitionism in order to be successful?

“I think that what keeps people from embracing veganism, besides breaking the speciesism barrier, is the popular belief that vegan food is totally boring and sad and even dangerous for one’s health. Vegan food stalls are a great addition to vegan outreach and help educate people in a creative way. I believe that the most important thing to do before educating others about abolitionism and veganism is to educate yourself. But, once you get the basis, the abolitionist approach is solid and very clear; if people truly are for animal rights, they will embrace veganism as a moral baseline.”

Many studies have pointed to the importance of social networking in the vegan movement. Have you found this to be true?  How has the internet impacted your veganism?

“I totally agree. I think that social networking is a very powerful tool, even more powerful than street advocacy in my opinion. I got the abolitionist message, went vegan and did all of my vegan education on the internet alone, and I strongly believe that it is the best way to spread abolitionism to people.”

This interview is currently published on The Abolitionist without my permission.  This interview was conducted by myself in 2011.