A few years ago (about four years, but who’s counting?), we were sitting for a family dinner, and my sister stared at the chicken on her plate and then stared at me. She looked into my eyes with the saddest expression and said, “I think we need to stop doing this.” I knew exactly what she was talking about, but at the time I was playing innocent. “We need to stop eating this,” she added. Knowing this was the right decision, I replied “you’re absolutely right,” and the rest is history.
Slowly but surely, we took off the meat off of our menu, and turned vegetarian. About a year-and-a-half ago, I became really thirsty for knowledge, and started doing my own research about what is really going on behind closed doors in slaughterhouses and farms. Following the new and shocking insights, I decided to go vegan. It was the best decision I have ever made.
I quickly came to discover that I am really not the only one. Israel, my home country, is taking huge steps in the direction of becoming a vegan nation.
It was the year 2012 when veganism first became a notable phenomenon in Israel. I remember when the “popular videos” category in YouTube introduced me to “the best video you will ever see”. This was a lecture by the known animal rights activist, Gary Yourofsky. At that time I had no idea what that meant and did not even watch the lecture. Only later I realized what a huge impact this lecture has made on so many people by inspiring and encouraging them to go vegan. I was glad to learn that Israelis were particularly influenced by it.
“Anonymous”, a registered charity promoting animal rights in Israel, certainly plays a huge part in the Israeli veganism revolution. Between the years 2013-2015, Anonymous has conducted several comprehensive investigations in Israel’s most busy slaughter houses. A few of them were even broadcasted on the biggest commercial channel in Israel. The investigations revealed the extremely poor conditions in which cows and chickens were held before ending their lives in misery. Thanks to the revelation, horrifying pictures and videos from the slaughter houses instantly became viral. Anonymous has also created the “22 challenge” program, which helps people coping with the change, by staging 22 vegan days as the first step on the way to a vegan lifestyle.
Another NGO that has made a tremendous impact is the Vegan Future organization, which is best known for its leading project – the ‘Vegan Friendly’ program. The organization was the one to arrange Gary Yourofsky’s visit to Israel. It has also initiated the Israeli “Vegan Fest”, the greatest vegan festival in the world, as well as collaborations with some of the most popular restaurants in the country, in a joint effort to create vegan menus. As part of the project, businesses that sell vegan products are certified as “Vegan Friendly”. As of today, more than 150 restaurants and 200 businesses in Israel take part in the program.
In August 2014, Tal Gilboa, a charismatic vegan activist in the “Animal Liberation Front”, won the Israeli Big Brother show. This was the first time that the horrors of the animal food industries were bluntly discussed on prime-time TV in Israel. Gilboa’s participation in the show has raised awareness to the cruelties of these industries, and her victory has helped promoting “Glass Walls”, a special documentation production she had worked on along with photographer and activist, Roee Shpernik. The main part of “Glass Walls” is, in fact, a recorded lecture. Providing unbelievable information about the food industries atrocities, the original video in Hebrew has been viewed by over 200,000 YouTube users, many of them declare themselves to be proud vegans today. Due to the wide international interest, an English version of “Glass Walls” is now also available on Youtube.
Protest activism also plays a significant role in the Israeli veganism revolution. In 2013, activists from the “269life” protest group broke into a chicken coop and released 200 chickens. This group also produced a special performance that is nowadays popular among activists worldwide. Following the successful liberation of a calf from one of Israel’s dairy farms, the group’s activists have burned the number he was bearing, 269, onto their bare skin.
In 2015, the “Animal Liberation Front” activists in Israel broke into a hatchery and unplugged the chicks grinding machine. There was also an attempt to set some of the chicks free. In July 2015, about 100 “Animal Liberation Front” activists took over and blocked the entrance to a major Israeli slaughterhouse, preventing the trucks carrying the victims from getting inside.
If there was ever a doubt that veganism has taken Israel by storm, the numbers do not lie. According to a research that was published in 2014 by the Israeli “Panels” research institute, 5% of the Israelis define themselves as vegan, 8% are vegetarian, and 13% more are considering becoming vegan or vegetarian. The US and the UK are placed second together with 2% of vegans, while Germany is following them on the third place, with 1%. With a vegetarian president, an abundance of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, and an incredible amount of new entrants making the transition to a cruelty-free life every year, Israel is definitely leading the way to a global vegan revolution.