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New Year's Eve Message from Priscilla Feral

December 30, 2011 | Veganism

New Year's Eve Letter from Priscilla Feral

I arrived in Dakar, Senegal and then went out on the road for my visit to Friends of Animals' projects protecting antelopes and chimpanzees. These are my thought on the first part of this journey.

On Wednesday I was leaping for joy at the sight of patas monkeys running through a 700-hectare reserve in northern Senegal. I photographed lots of scimitar-horned oryxes, gazelles of three species, and desert tortoises. Also got full of cactus prickers. Ouch! Patas monkeys eat the cactus flowers, so the cactus spreads. Catherine Podojil responded to my Facebook update: "Apparently the patas monkeys know how to avoid the cactus prickers as they eat." They've got us beat in the pricker-avoidance department for sure. The patas are so huge and fast! Somehow, they peel the cactus fruit, eat the flowers, and don't suffer with the prickers. Now that's amazing.

I covered more than 1,500 miles in the first two days. Next stop: the semi-desert Ferlo National Park for more oryx-watching.

Arrived in Saint Louis and headed to Dakar for more meetings with National Parks. Janis Carter is here with me, having arrived from The Gambia. We are spending New Year's eve talking about chimpanzees. I'm eating wonderful melons, salad and bread.

I counted 30 to 40 scimitar-horned oryxes going into Ferlo National Park, and a dozen or more dama gazelles! I'm pleased to see the oryxes so healthy. We set up a fund to help provide more water for antelopes inside Ferlo as the Parks Department's new budget starts in February and water is needed - especially in the month ahead.

Everyone here, as you know, speaks French and a tribal language. So I'm in my own world with English and a bleeding heart that wants to correct every wrong as I pass through this life.

I have e-mailed Max at CBS to report the new oryx count: more than 175. There have been calves born in Ferlo and the vet here gave me a new count. Sixty Minutes is about to cover our efforts to protect these antelope - here, and where they are subjected to confined hunts.

I've had two meetings with government people. The Deputy Minister thinks it ridiculous that the U.S. would ever allow trophy hunting of oryxes at recreational ranches, for these are the very same animals Senegal is trying to save in their homeland. And now the Safari Club is upset that Friends of Animals stopped this practice? Absurd and appalling.

I want to say something as a vegan. We're so removed in the U.S. from this landscape of goat, sheep and cow raising. How tied it is to villagers - people all over Senegal and much of the world! I see an animal who moments later is carried to a slaughter room downtown or in a village. This is so harrowing. Horses are transportation. Same with donkeys for people who can't afford cars. And public transportation is unsafe.

Some of our rights theorists are so removed from the way of life of people who not only will never hear their names and couldn't make sense of theory anyway. Arriving at the New Year, I would say that global culture is a mess. I'm trying to make a small part of it sensible, at least to me. My nerves are pretty shot now after thousands of miles of travel: hot, dusty, landscapes; goats, sheep, cows carried to slaughter in a market and much of this is smack in your face. We're so removed from it in the U.S.

Slogans such as Meat Is Murder amongst ourselves in the US and Europe are not changing anything in the world. Explaining my "strict vegetarian/vegan" diet with people in person is accepted and treated as the most fascinating message most everyone here has heard. This has been harrowing; haunting. I'm consumed with it and try to focus on the animals who are not someone's food. More later,



Kudos to you, Priscilla, for making this trip and for your honest comments. I have not had the fortune to visit Africa yet, but I fully understand your disorientation coming from our world where everyone can choose a diet and lifestyle to the realities of life where animals serve as everything - food,transportation, clothing, etc- except possibly companionship. We should not judge other cultures for doing what they have done for eons, making the best use of their resources that they can and know how to. That doesn't mean we should accept unnecessary slaughter, neglect, abuse, habitat destruction, or any form of animal/environmental degradation. I think more of us need to visit more of the world, as you are doing, to keep perspective. Our problems are real but are of a different order. I flinch at the luxury of "adopting" a pig, goat, chicken or chimp from a U.S. animal sanctuary and sending money monthly for its care, despite my great love for animals and appreciation that they are being valued as individuals and cared for. I once read of a huge but typical factory in China that slaughtered 900 pigs daily to feed the workers, in contrast. It is the way of much of the world that lacks access to the resources we have, and will continue to be. I do think we have much to learn from, but also much to share, with cultures that rely on animals for food and more.

What you write here reminds me of my trip to India last spring. The sight of those hard-working oxen tied to a stake so tight they couldn't even stand up; the cages stuffed with chickens for sale; and the people, too, so crowded and in such poverty. It is a reminder of just how removed many of us are from the realities in much of the world.

Thanks for doing this Priscilla. From your description, I feel that I am with you. I am happy for the success of the Oryx's! I just returned from a visit to Hippocrates Health Institute, they are promoting veganism with a passion, there is so much sickness related to our diets. Even in Africa, they won't be able to sustain eating animals. We cannot keep feeding plants to animals and then eating the dead non-nutritious flesh. Keep being a beacon for them.

From the Online Etymological Dictionary. I looked it up because it's such a cool word with so many consonants and the vowel 'o' (well, some people consider 'y' to be a vowel, but enough pedantry.) It's just a lovely word for a lovely animal. Thanks for working for them, Priscilla. [Online Etymological Dictionary late 14c., from L. oryx, from Gk. oryx (gen. orygos) "North African antelope with pointed horns, the digging animal," lit. "pick-axe." Used in Greek and Latin bibles to render Hebrew tho, which early English Bibles misidentified as everything from a small hibernating animal to a wild bull.

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