Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!: Interview Series #23: Mark Devries, director of Speciesism: The Movie

Speciesism The MovieWhether it's food-related (Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Got the Facts on Milk?) or compassion/ethics-related (Earthlings, Fowl Play, Blackfish), documentaries are incredibly powerful tools to explain what vegan means, create new conscious connections to animals & all living beings, present the healthiest way to eat & live.  Beyond words on a page, this visual medium of film, chock full of information, allows us to go on a deeper journey into a world presented with purpose and meaning.  The aforementioned documentaries, and so many more, have been influential in spreading the word of compassion, of bringing veganism to the mainstream in a creative and responsible way. Another documentary is coming that will continue the line of progress, of growth, of communication, of awareness - Speciesism: The Movie.

We had the wonderful pleasure to chat with the film's director, Mark Devries.  Featuring interviews with such prominent figures as Peter Singer, Bruce Friedrich, Temple Grandin, and Richard Dawkins, along with a suspenseful journey into the world of factory farming - one of the many institutions that furthers "speciesism" (according to Mirriam-Webster: "prejudice or discrimination based on species..." "the assumption of human superiority..." "especially against animals"), we explore what this concept really means and how it has affected our lives, affects our lives now, and will affect our lives to come if we don't make a change.

The doc recently premiered in NYC and is heading around the country to locations near you (hopefully!).  Let's dive into the word & the world of Speciesism with Mark:

Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you? When did you first understand what "speciesism" was?

Mark: I became vegan while filming this documentary. Things began innocently enough: I came across a few PETA demonstrations, and wanted to learn more about what was behind it all. Eventually, this led me across the country, sneaking onto factory farm property, flying in propeller planes overhead to record the environmental devastation they cause, and - though I can't yet reveal how - even convincing some factory farm owners to let me inside.

Mark Devries
Surprisingly, though, this wasn't enough to make me go vegan. What really changed me was learning about speciesism, which is why I gave the movie that name. A growing number of scientists, lawyers, and academics have been arguing that our most basic ethical principles - such as that causing suffering is a bad thing - extend to nonhuman animals, precisely because they are capable of suffering. The widespread assumption that nonhuman animals suffering matters less, they conclude, is a form of prejudice no more justifiable than racism.  If this is correct, it would mean that what happens to animals on factory farms is a phenomena of unfathomable significance.  

I spoke with many of the scholars on the cutting edge of this philosophical discussion, to see if I could put forward an argument to justify this sharp distinction that we draw between humans and nonhuman animals.  The more I spoke with them, the more clear it seemed that they really are onto something.  That was the realization that made me vegan.

KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?

M: At first, it seemed like it would be a difficult change.  In actuality, making new food choices is not a difficult task, when you know how to do it.  I go to places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and can find vegan versions of pretty much everything I ate before.  The unexpected rewards, though, were all of the new foods and dishes that I discovered.  I never ate this much delicious food before I became vegan. (How could I have never even tasted quinoa?  How is that even possible?)

KMIV: Tell us about the birth & journey of Speciesism: The Movie. Trials and tribulations, joys and rewards, and upcoming plans.

M: The most difficult parts of the whole experience took place during the filming itself.  It was sometimes just very painful to speak with the neighbors of pig factory farms, who are having their water polluted so that they can't use their wells, their air polluted so that they sometimes collapse in their back yards, and their lives downright ruined. It was also sometimes more than a little intimidating to walk up to factory farms and confront their owners on camera.  

It has been a joy to see the audience reactions.  Just last week, at the sold-out world premiere in New York City, the audience reactions were outstanding.  When people contact me to tell me that the film changed their lives, I couldn't imagine a bigger reward.  

Speciesism premiereThe movie's West Coast premiere will be in Los Angeles on September 26, the Northern California premiere will be in San Francisco on September 30, the Midwest premiere will be in Chicago on October 2, and the Washington, DC premiere will be October 10. The tickets are selling quickly, though, so if you would like to attend any of these events, you should reserve your seats soon at http://SpeciesismTheMovie.com/screenings.
 
KMIV: How do you think filmmaking and more visual artistic vehicles, beyond what's on the written page, can benefit the mainstream/world in spreading the message of veganism & concepts like speciesism?

M: Documentary film, and investigative journalism involving video recording, can make a tremendous difference. There does not appear to be a medium that can bring specific places and events to people with as much clarity as these.  I hope to continue using these mediums to help bring attention and discussion to a number of topics, and I hope and believe that many other people will do the same.

KMIVKiss Me, I'm Vegan!, while informing and educating, definitely focuses on the positive, the "moving forward" side of veganism, compassion, etc. What are the most positive aspects of the animal advocacy movement for you, and what do you feel are the biggest reason to smile when doing this work?

M: We have every reason to be excited and optimistic. There are more vegans today than there have ever been. As the demand for vegan foods increases, the number of vegan options at supermarkets and restaurants will continue to go up, making it easier and easier for more and more people to make the change.  

KMIV: Many people "lean into" a vegan lifestyle, often with food & for health purposes initially, before connecting with the ethical, compassion-based founding elements of veganism. What advice would you give to someone who's just discovered compassionate living to help him/her understand what it's all about? Recommended resources?

Speciesism Mark DevriesM: In preview screenings, there were certain topics people were particularly interested in learning more about, and certain resources people were seeking, so I created an "after you've seen the movie" page at the film's website: 
http://SpeciesismTheMovie.com/next.  On that page, the first resource that I recommend for people who wish to change their eating habits is the new Mercy for Animals introduction to vegan eating, http://ChooseVeg.com/buildameal.

KMIV: We've been talking awhile and I know you must be getting hungry. Here's our KMIV classic: You're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?

M: Kale, quinoa, and a Sticky Fingers breakfast sandwich.  Kale and quinoa are boring answers, I know, but I really do like them a lot, so at least I'm being honest.  As for the third item:  I live in Washington, DC not far from a place that every DC vegan knows, Sticky Fingers Bakery. Among their many items (all of which are vegan), is a breakfast sandwich made of vegan eggs and vegan sausage on an english muffin - seriously delicious (and don't forget to warm it up in the microwave).


Get on over to http://SpeciesismTheMovie.com/screenings to reserve your tickets for an upcoming screening. We hope all of our Los Angeles KMIV family/friends enjoy the screening on the 26th, as well as our KMIV family/friends around the country when the movie reaches you!

Comments

Melinda Amato said…
Come meet Mark!
During the Celebrities Give Back event as part of awards season, come and meet your favorite celebrity activists. Hear them talk about their favorite causes and charities and share about the issues that matter to them. This is a great opportunity to interact with the people we have admired and watched on t.v.

Tuesday, Feb. 2nd 7pm-10pm
The Colony Theatre -
555 North 3rd Street Burbank, CA

Panel Discussion starts at 8pm
"How to Best Spread an Activist Message in our Modern Media Age"
* Shaun Monson (Unity & Earthlings)
* Mark Devries (Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms)
* Katie Cleary (World Animal News)
* Ted Braun (Darfur Now)
* Simone Reyes (Director of Television Development at Def Pictures)
* Jane Velez-Mitchell (Celebrity Justice)

Celebrities Attending Include:
Andy Dick (Comedian)
Debra Wilson (Mad TV)
Katie Cleary (America’s Next Top Model)
Jane Velez-Mitchell (Celebrity Justice)
Simone Reyes (Rush Communications)
Bonnie-Jill Laflin (ESPN)
Lisa Bloom (CNN)
Shira Scott Astrof (The Office)
Amy Jean Davis (American Idol)
Mark Devries (Speciesism: The Movie and Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms)

Tickets must be purchased in advance, as this event will sell out.
VIP Tickets $50 (Get Backstage Access)
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=QGLY5VGTUTJ5N

General Admission $20
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=KF2FRLYPR9942

Full Event Details:  www.PositiveTelevision.org
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