I’m In Berkeley for a Year!

Hey friends! I figured out that I needed to put my dreams of building community in Arkansas on hold for a while because I felt compelled to help the Bay Area chapter of Direct Action Everywhere in Berkeley. They need help with creating a healthier community, so I am in the perfect place.

If you want to keep up on my adventures, check out my personal page at Facebook here. 

I haven’t given up on my dream, and it is possible that I could find people here who would like to live in the country and get the ecovillage started.

Welcome to the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage Blog

Thanks for stopping by. If you navigated here from our website you know the wealth of good information you will find there. If you came from somewhere else, we encourage you to check out http://www.veganutopiaecovillage.com

On this blog you will find:

  • Updates on how the ecovillage is progressing
  • Resources for veganism
  • Resources for learning how to have Jesus as your friend and guide
  • Ideas on what we want to do at our Vegan Utopia Ecovillage
  • Ways to get to know us better.

I would love to hear from your through the comments section.

Also, keep in mind-we are selling our potential site for a farm animal sanctuary in order to raise funds for our ecovillage and to have more like-minded friends in the neighborhood!

http://www.farmanimalsanctuarysite.wordpress.com

Consulting With A Conflict Resolution Coach Was Invaluable!

Wow! I feel so happy that I made the choice to go to a conflict resolution coach instead of a therapist.  Barbara Lipsom, Director of Seeds, gave me many insights on how to be a healthy community member who can help model and facilitate healthy community. I deeply appreciate her insights.

I had already come to the conclusion that the way I was dealing with conflicts in the Direct Action Everywhere community was based on my distress rather than what I knew in my heart to be the right thing to do.

It was as if the universe conspired to have things happen that would push every single one of my buttons at once so that I would be forced, once and for all, to look at myself and take full responsibility for my part in conflicts that I have been involved with much of my adult life.

In the last 5 minutes of our meeting, everything came into focus. Barbara eloquently explained that all of us are looking for the perfect match–someone lines up with everything in our being and we can feel perfectly in harmony and at home with.  She says that this ideal that most people are looking for is never going to happen because we are all so unique.

I have so many really good friends who I treasure, and none of them feel like they line up with fitting all my needs. And Direct Action Everywhere does not fulfill all my needs either. Barbara helped me realize that if I can appreciate the common ground that I do have with others and get different needs met from different people, then I will be much more content. As long as I am making demands on people to change, the relationship will be under a lot of tension and then more likely will fall apart. The same thing holds true for any organization I am part of.

I do believe that Direct Action Everywhere is the animal rights organization most suited to my needs and values.

We also talked about the need for me to be discerning. I need to make sure that my basic values are not being violated, and that I am not enabling people to stay stuck.

I  can embrace my longing for a person or people–to be as close to my values as is possible. I believe that as I identify and live those values inside and out–I will vibrate at a frequency which will draw the right people to me.

We also talked about how it is important for me to consistently use empathic listening in my interactions. I have been practicing Nonviolent Communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg for 30 years, yet still, the essential skill of reflecting back to people what they are saying is something I have not been practicing consistently. I yearn for this skill to simply be a knee jerk reaction!

In conversations I have had with DxE members and organizers, I have often been defensive and critical. St Francis was so smart when he said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  When conflicts came up while I was passionately and happily serving in the SF Bay Chapter of Direct Action Community in Berkeley, I was caught off guard.

A big reason was that I was having expectations that everyone resolved conflicts the way I did. I had at least four things going on:

  1. I had my own past experiences with disappointing experiences in organizations come up, so I had past distress clouding my judgment.

2. I was struggling with conflicts with some friends I love very much who don’t belong to the DxE chapter in Berkeley.

3. I was stressed out because I had been working so hard trying to help DxE get the circles program up and running along with other projects. I was not doing enough self-care including getting enough sleep.

4. My expectations of Wayne and the whole organization were unrealistic.

I had been hoping that DxE had it’s conflict resolution policies already figured out. I thought Wayne had learned every lesson he possibly could have learned about communication. I thought everyone loved each other equally and noone would tolerate unresolved conflict!

Every organization has its weaknesses. Most of them have those weaknesses in the areas of communication and conflict resolution. I know DxE including Wayne is working on these issues. That is very encouraging to me, and my input is wanted.

Barbara helped me realize that all organizations have their challenges and that my expectations were unrealistic. She reminded me that if I go into a group and start complaining and demanding changes, people are going to resist. Now, I really want to do what I intended to do in the first place when I came to Berkeley. Listen more, understand even more, and talk less!

Seeds has mediation services that we can call upon if necessary. The organization, which has the tagline, Cultivating Community, Transforming Conflict, also offers facilitation services. I can see that these services are useful to know about. If a conflict gets really intense, it might need mediation services. If our chapter needs to make a very big decision, like changing bylaws or major structures, the services of an objective and experienced facilitator might be needed.

Spending 75 minutes with Barbara was extremely helpful. As a professional mediator as well as a person who helps organizations become healthier in their community life, her validation that I was on the right track gave me a sense of confidence and relief. I admitted all my mistakes to her, and she even said that me being willing to take responsibility for my part in conflicts showed that I am a valuable person in the life of the DxE community.

Even though at one point, especially when I was angry with Wayne Hsiung, co-founder and lead organizer of DxE, I thought things were so bad that I might need to become a whistle blower, fortunately, the voice of reason from friends and my own soul won out.

I realized how many stories I was making up in my head. The irrational thinking was controlling the neuropathways in my brain! I am so glad that one friend, in particular, was able to be there for me holding space where I could vent when I needed to. I’m glad I didn’t persuade him that DxE was not a safe place for anyone to be.

I wasn’t feeling safe because I was getting triggered and I was pushing everyone else’s buttons and together we all created a seething mass of emotions that inspired us to do things that were a tragic expression of our needs.

Nothing happened that would endanger anyone’s life. No one abused me–physically or emotionally. No sexual harrassment happened. My freedom of speech was not curtailed. When I withdrew for a few weeks, no one rejected me. The disruptions that occurred because of my high standards and me making demands for people to communicate,  helped us all see that it is important to communicate in more conscious ways.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. I have felt compelled and inspired to learn and practice communication and conflict resolution practices every since I learned about Nonviolent Communication 30 years ago, when  I was pregnant with my son, Chris. Other people have been inspired to study and practice other skills that are much needed in our animal liberation movement. I want to acknowledge that I do have this strength, and model it–not get frustrated because other people don’t have this ability!

I’m glad I met with Barbara. She was straight forward with me, yet gentle, kind and validating. I sense that she has tremendous confidence in the ability of humans to become their best self, having seen time and time again the positive results of mediation. She also is realistic, as she reminded me that as I connect with people, there might be people with whom I might never build a trusting relationship with. I need to accept that and not take it personally.

Barbara basically covered all the four agreements as we discussed my challenges, because she talked about building a culture of trust. The book, the Four Agreements, contains the following:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

More than at any other time in my life, I really want to memorize and follow these agreements. If I had these uppermost in my consciousness when conflicts arose, I could have been instrumental in helping these conflicts be something that contributed creativity and closeness instead of division and fear.

Barbara reinforced my belief that anything anyone does comes from some unmet needs. If I can help myself and others discover that need and develop a healthy, win-win strategy to meet that need, then everyone can thrive.

Why is it that I needed to pay someone to tell me things I already know? Why do I so easily forget profound truths that I strongly resonate with? Why is it that I can get so caught up in irrational thinking that I do things that are hurtful?

I think it is because we all are immersed in a society that does not use the principles that Barbara reminded me of.  And because we all come from this larger society, we have habits that we bring that we have been taught. We also have wounds that have been inflicted on us stemming from generations of hurtfulness.

I know that DxE has a vision, which I believe in, that animal liberation will happen in one lifetime. This means human animals as well. I know that most people in DxE want to help create a culture of healthy communication where everyone can get their needs met, and this is part of our human liberation. I hope with all my heart that I can contribute to this happening in the SF Bay DxE which serves as an example for all the other chapters in this growing movement.

Thanks to Barbara, I believe I have a clear path to walk. I deeply appreciate her work in the world and I’m glad that Seeds and Barbara are in Berkeley. I’m glad to experience her work so that if in the future DxE needs their services, I can recommend them. I’m glad to have the DxE community to be a place where I can learn how to be a healthy community member while simultaneously helping our community to be healthy.

And from the healthy soil of thriving community, our movement can grow and support all the other animal rights communities to work together to manifest animal liberation in one generation!

 

 

A Recommendation For Patricia As Animal Rights Activist

My name is Jake Wood and I’m an organizer for the Anonymous for the Voiceless chapter in Fayetteville, AR. I met Patricia at our first Cube of Truth at the town square in January of 2018. Right away, I noticed how much Patricia cared about the integrity and success of the group.

I’m sure it was clear that I had no experience in leadership and was just ‘winging it’ on my first day as an organizer. Someone else with Patricia’s years of experience in activism and leadership could have easily asserted themselves as the leader that day, but instead she operated as just another member thrilled that animal rights activism had finally reached NW Arkansas. She patiently let us make our own mistakes, but always offered her assistance wherever it might be needed.

Once we discovered what an incredible asset she was, we began to learn from her. We already knew that she was an amazing encourager, but also found out what an incredible coordinator, mediator, and teacher she was! She led an activism retreat this summer and imparted to us all so much wonderful wisdom, knowledge and instruction of conflict resolution, and reignited our passion for animal rights activism!

Patricia is someone I would consider to be very emotionally intelligent and healthy. She also has a desire to impart the gift of emotional intelligence to those around her. Emotional intelligence is something that I now understand to be a vital component of a healthy group of activists.

Because of all of Patricia’s experience and radical kindness, she may come across as intimidating to some. She knows that I had my guard up a little when we first met! I now understand Patricia more deeply and I see the desires of her heart. She has a gift to encourage people, strengthen relationships, and foster the healthy growth of communities.

In my opinion, and on behalf of everyone in our AV chapter, anyone that has the opportunity for Patricia to be apart of their group should consider themselves very fortunate.

 

Animal Liberation Movement: A Term Paper written by Naomi Rose

Naomi is a good friend of mine who I met in Berkeley and who helps with the Animal Care Working group of Direct Action Everywhere.  She wrote this paper for a class she was taking at UC Berkeley. I thought it was excellent. Here it is:

The animal liberation movement is the revolutionary approach to animal rights which aims to abolish the exploitation and property status of non-human animals. This includes killing and exploiting animals in the food industry, which constitutes the vast majority of animals killed by humans, as well as vivisection, animal skin and fur in clothing, and confining animals in unnatural environments for human entertainment. 56 billion animals are killed for food every single year (according to animalequality.net); several thousand animals are killed every single second of every single day, making this by the far the largest genocide of innocent beings in human history. The scientific community has reached consensus that animals feel pain and have the ability to suffer, yet animals are not entitled to their own bodily autonomy. 

Speciesism is discrimination and “othering” based on species, where humans or even dogs are treated as more deserving of basic rights than pigs, cows, or other animals. Animal rights is a social justice issue for victims of the food industry (and other exploitative industries), not a “food” issue. There must be a transformation of consciousness in which animals are viewed as people, which simply means individuals with personalities (people is not the same as human), and not as food. Animals are not food- they are victims of the food industry. They are uncompensated “workers”, slaves, who have their body parts taken from them for someone else’s profit. In Strategic Action for Animals, Joy explains “Profits are lost when corporations have to respect animal welfare, human rights, and environmental protection. In other words, it has become that much more difficult, and imperative, to protect all forms of life. Economic globalization has had a devastating effect on animals, laborers, citizens, and the ecosystem and it has become the natural point of intersection for different movements” (Joy 27). 

Capitalism will never bring about rights for people, since it is a system based on exploiting the physical bodies of humans and animals in any way that is profitable. Veganism is often exercised as a boycott, in which the demand for vegan products increases and thus the availability of vegan foods on the market increases, but this does not prevent animal agriculture from continuing. Vegan options mean nothing to the murdered animals whose bodies are sold next to them. Contrary to public belief, we don’t have  to make everyone vegan, we have to actually ban the sale of animal body parts and secretions. Slavery didn’t end by asking people to please give up their slaves; slavery was abolished by making it illegal for humans to own other humans. The belief that eating meat is a personal choice is not true- personal choices do not have victims. The animal that is being killed did not consent to have their life taken. Due to speciesism being ingrained in our society, many people would support a ban of the dog meat trade in China, and understand that taking the lives of dogs is not a personal choice. Ironically, and hypocritically, the vast majority of people find it absurd to even consider banning the sale of other animals. 

Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE for short, is a grassroots network of animal rights activists, and the ultimate goal of the organization is to establish a 28th amendment to the United States Constitution declaring legal personhood for animals; this would grant them the right to be free from torture and harm. What makes DxE unique is the restructuring of approach away from the idea of veganism as a food issue, and instead treating animal liberation as a social justice issue by targeting speciesism at its core. DxE was founded by drawing inspiration from historical social movements, such as the Civil Rights movement and the use of nonviolent direct action. This is not the only group to use these tactics in the animal rights movement, but it is the organization that I am most familiar with and I believe in most passionately. Thus I will draw examples from their work for this essay, but the strategies used and challenges faced apply to various groups and affect the animal rights movement as a whole. 

DxE works to transform vegans and/or animal-lovers into social justice activists. I resonate with this quote from a description of Occupy Oakland: “It politicized us in the deepest way- not by making us aware of what was wrong in the world (which most of us already had an acute sense of), but by suddenly making it seem that another world was actually possible” (Behbehanian Preface X). It is depressing for many vegans to face the fact that the vast majority of people are not vegan and are not considering changing their habits. Working to create legislation and transform social norms makes animal liberation feel like an actual reality that could be achieved within our lifetimes. 

Direct Action Everywhere builds upon the idea that we can create institutionalized change through the use of non-institutionalized and often illegal tactics of direct action. “[B]ecause animal exploitation is institutionalized, in that it is accepted and promoted by all major social institutions, activists often can’t turn to existing power structures for support. Therefore, many animal liberation campaigns will use direct action. Direct action focuses on achieving a specific goal by challenging existing power relationships,” (Joy 59). DxE utilizes nonviolent direct action to bring the severity of the problem to the public’s attention. The animal rights movement is unique because the victims are essentially “voiceless”, as their voices are suppressed and hidden away; their screams are not audible and the blood they shed is not visible in the stores where their bodies are being sold. However, when we speak loudly with megaphones or block traffic, we are seen as “extreme”. “Activists for animal liberation have to speak for victims who literally cannot speak for themselves. This poses a serious challenge. Direct victims have much more moral authority to call attention to their own suffering; they are often allowed and even expected to be outraged and outspoken” (Joy 18).

Nonviolence is a core principle, arguably the most important principle for DxE organizing; however, we are often perceived as violent because we intentionally cause disruption. As Martin Luther King Jr. described, disruption targets “negative peace”. While a restaurant or grocery store may be calm, or quiet, there is extreme violence present; we want to transform negative peace which is “the absence of tension” to a positive peace “which is the presence of justice”. Ethically, the majority of vegans believe in nonviolence for its moral importance, since we want to end violence against all animals including human animals. It is paradoxical and hypocritical to ask society to stop inflicting harm on animals through harming others. Strategically, we must remain nonviolent for a variety of reasons as well: violent behavior will scare people away from coming to our actions, reduce public sympathy, and give the state reason to use violence against us. 

The willingness of activists to make personal sacrifices shows their dedication and forces society to take the issue more seriously. Many activists believe that even prison could never compare to the torture of animals on factory farms, trapped in cages so small they cannot move, having their bodies painfully mutilated without anesthetic. Recently, over 200 activists, including myself, took nonviolent direct action at a slaughterhouse in Oakland; this action utilized a variety of tactics, including a sit-in occupation, civil disobedience, and open rescue. Three lives were saved, 23 of my closest friends were arrested, and we garnered significant news coverage. This act of occupation and open rescue was a prefiguration of space; inside a slaughterhouse full of knives where animals were being killed, we walked in holding red roses in our hands as a symbol of love and nonviolence and tied them to the cages where the victims were being held. Nearly two dozen activists committed themselves to continue occupying the building and refusing to leave until every animal was released, despite understanding their demands would likely not be met, and thus they were arrested. We sang songs of liberation, roses in our hands, as nonviolent protesters were led out in handcuffs. This repression of nonviolent protesters garners public sympathy and attracts media attention, similar to how the Civil Rights movement benefited from publicized backlash on television. The story was covered in The Intercept, an “adversarial journalism” online news publication, in an article written by Glenn Greenwald. 

Open rescue is a form of civil disobedience since it is an illegal action that challenges the sanctity of a law that is unjust. “In an open rescue, activists take the animals from a facility and bring them to an undisclosed sanctuary. They videotape the facility and the rescue, to publicize the conditions in which the animals have have been kept and their commitment to the cause. They show themselves as willing to risk arrest because they fully believe in the rightness of their actions” (Joy 69). Open rescue is a direct challenge to the property status of animals; since we believe animals are not property, we do not believe that they cannot be “stolen”, only liberated. In fact, even the police officers who were called in as authority figures to stop our “illegal activity” were moved by our message. An activist carried a rabbit out of the slaughterhouse in his arms past a line of police officers who did little to stop him besides verbally threatening to arrest him. One of the police officers was so moved that he paid the slaughterhouse to release a sick, dying quail to us. 

The criminalization of open rescue highlights the extent to which speciesism is so fiercely institutionalized and protected by law. If a dog is locked in a hot car, citizens have the legal right to break the car window and destroy someone else’s property in order to save the dog. But when activists take an animal on the verge of death from a factory farm and give them medical care, the government considers this an act of domestic terrorism. This is because the animal exploitation industries are essentially in bed with the government. After activists rescued a baby from the largest pig farm in the country and took her to sanctuary, FBI agents were sent across state borders searching for her. Taxpayer money is being used to pay agents to infiltrate our movement and protect the profits of these corporations. This is a concern that the general public should be concerned about, and the article written by Glenn Greenwald, titled “The FBI’s Hunt for Two Missing Piglets Reveals the Federal Cover-Up of Barbaric Factory Farms” is the most viewed article of the entire The Intercept website. 

Several states have in place “Ag-Gag” laws which criminalize taking photo or video of animals in factory farms, a clear violation of free speech and the public’s right to know what they are buying. DxE has exposed the truth of “humane”-labeled meat and animal products, showing that animal welfare laws are not enforced and that consumers are being misled and outright lied to. Companies like Whole Foods charge people significantly higher prices by promising that their animals are treated better than those on other farms; however, video footage from DxE shows that this is not true in the slightest. DxE aims to target this idea, the “humane lie”, because we believe it is what is holding up the animal agriculture industry; most people do not want animals suffer. Polls from the Sentience Institute show that 75% of people believe that the animals they are buying were treated well; however, 99% of animals in the industry live on factory farms.

The animal liberation movement is growing rapidly. Recently, the largest march for animal rights took place in Israel, where 30,000 people took action for animals. The Official Animal Rights March in Berkeley had 500 people, and the Berkeley Animal Rights Center is the first community center for animal rights in the US. Animal rights activists around the world have saved many lives through both open and undercover rescues; the stories of rescued animals are reaching thousands of people through social media, and changing the way people view animals.

Works Cited

Behbehanian, Laleh. 2016. The Pre-emption of Resistance: Occupy Oakland and the Evolution
of State Power. PhD Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. Preface & Introduction (Pp. xii-xiv; 1-19)

Institute, Sentience. “Animal Farming Attitudes Survey 2017.” Sentience Institute, 20 Nov. 2017, www.sentienceinstitute.org/animal-farming-attitudes-survey-2017.

Joy, Melanie. Strategic Action for Animals. Lantern Books, 2008.
The Intercept. “The FBI’s Hunt for Two Missing Piglets Reveals the Federal Cover-Up of Barbaric Factory Farms.” The Intercept, 5 Oct. 2017
The Intercept. “Rescue at Oakland Slaughterhouse Shows New, Potent Tactics of Growing Animal Rights Movement.” The Intercept, 1 Nov. 2017

……………

Written on 10 December 2017

Help Wanted At The Health-Healing-Happiness-Expo In Las Vegas

Wanted: Help at the Health, Healing, Happiness Expo in Las Vegas in exchange for a free ticket to workshops. Here are details to the event: https://www.health-healing-happiness.com/lasvegas
Hello! I’m Trish Mikkelson, founder of the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage, a vision in progress, and the person in charge of selling the Farm Animal Sanctuary Site–both in NW Arkansas in the Ozarks. I am going to have a table at the upcoming expo this weekend, June 8-10. I just need someone who is good with people and who can support me in my efforts to find people to join the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage as well as find a buyer for the Farm Animal Sanctuary Site.
I need help with the table throughout the expo, on Sat and Sunday between 9-6. I have to give a 25-minute talk at 12:30 on Sat and 3:30 on Sunday. Those are the most crucial times I need help.
We can negotiate when we take care of the table so we can both go to talks and workshops we want to go to.
I will need to meet with you on Friday evening before evening activities (5-9)  at around 4pm or 8am Saturday morning so I can give you an orientation. Or we can connect by phone on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Please contact me at 479-313-0414 or email livablefutureproject@gmail.com

I’m Really Looking Forward to Living in Community With Others So We Can Practice Gratitude Exercises!

Delighting in people, showing appreciation, and expressing gratitude for each other, ourselves and all that we have is a way of boosting the immune system and increasing connection with each other.

Here is a link to a bunch of exercises that we can start practicing now: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/

I am in the process of planning how people can be part of the community even if they live far away. We can use some of these exercises.

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/

I feel grateful for all these great ideas!