July ’21 Update
Hey Fam 🖤 I hope the past five months have treated you well. Mine have been a busy—but good—five months. Lots of movement, and i’m grateful for all the opportunities and relationships they brought. What follows is a quick summary. Like my last update, i center this blog around various Instagram posts, as doing so is meant to enable fast scrolling for those pressed for time, and deeper exploration (via their captions, and via scrolling through the photos on posts that have more than one) for those interested. As always, i sincerely welcome updates from you. I share these blogs to stay connected, but it takes two to tango 👯♀️
I spent the two months following my last update in California, and as usual, largely split my time between activism in the streets and activism from my desk. I see them as two sides to the same coin, and believe they each inform and empower the other.
I moved to Berkeley last September to organize with Direct Action Everywhere. While i first began organizing with DxE in 2018 in Colombia and later in New York City, i’ve long been impressed with the network of Bay Area activists and was grateful to plug in and work intimately alongside them. During these months i focused the majority of my time on legislative and policy work at the local and state level. However, there’s almost always a weekly AR protest in the Bay, and i didn’t miss many. The first and second posts are from two of our central campaigns during these months:
The first was from our No More Factory Farms campaign, where we have called on Gov. Newsom to place a moratorium on building new factory farms and slaughterhouses. The first step towards addressing the harms caused by animal agriculture is to stop expanding them… (more information at nomorefactoryfarms.com).
The second was from our No Cash for Cruelty campaign, where we have called on Berkeley’s Mayor to divest city funds from animal ag, i.e., to require food purchased with taxpayer dollars to be plant based.
While the protest pictures are sexy, most of my work on these campaigns was behind a desk researching and drafting the policies we are now asking legislators to implement (work that i found deeply engaging and meaningful).
The following two posts are of speak outs i gave at protests:
The first was given at a protest we had at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to raise awareness around the harms of industrial fishing. If you are interested in learning more, i recommend Seaspiracy on Netflix for an accessible intro.
The second was given outside a slaughterhouse moments after being released from jail. (While the speak out didn’t happen in the past five months, i didn’t share it until more recently and figured i’d include it in this update 🖤).
Before leaving California i finished up my work with the Animal Law & Policy program at Harvard Law School. Over the course of a few months i researched the public health threats posed by live animal markets, livestock auctions, and ritual/sacrificial slaughter in the United States. The report is in its final stages, and will soon be shared with policy makers around the country to inform the ways in which we can safeguard human health by addressing these markets. I thoroughly enjoyed deepening my understanding of these topics in a way that will hopefully lead to some level of structural change moving forward.
Beyond my desk work for Harvard Law School and Direct Action Everywhere i had the opportunity to speak on two panels, as referenced in the next two posts:
The first panel was hosted by VegfestUK, and explored what the Dharmic traditions have to say about veganism. You can watch the full panel here: Ahimsa Dharma: The Consistent Anti-Oppression Imperative in Pan-Dharmic Communities
The second panel was hosted by Sparks & McNeill, and explored the interconnections between the prison-industrial complex, speciesism, and capitalism. You can watch the full panel here: Towards Total Liberation: Veganism, Labor, and the Carceral State
I also had the opportunity to publish another OpEd with Sentient Media, this time about banning the sale of meat. I wrote the article with Elan Abrell, and given that Elan advised my Master’s thesis on the same topic, it was rewarding to continue exploring this idea with him in a public space. You can view the OpEd here: Want to Protect Workers, Animals, and the Planet? Ban the Sale of Meat
I left California for Colombia in late April after receiving my second vaccine. I first moved to Colombia in 2018 for animal rights activism, and returned this year for the same reason. Specifically, Covid-19 took a heavy toll on the country’s AR activism, and i returned with the central purpose of helping to reinvigorate the organizations i spent so much time helping to build in 2018 and 2019.
Unfortunately, as is too often the case with activism (and Colombia for that matter), things did not go to plan. While the pandemic was relatively under control in Colombia when i purchased my ticket, a new wave erupted as soon as i arrived, leading to daily curfews from 9pm-5am, and total weekend curfews from 9pm Friday to 5am Monday. Needless to say, these public health dynamics made community building more difficult. Moreover, sustained national uprisings exploded my second week in Medellín, which absorbed much of the country’s activism energy. As such, i adapted to focus on organizing around these anti-state/anti-police protests, helping new AR activists learn from within these spaces, and developing coalitions to build on moving forward.
The first post below documents pictures from an afternoon and night of protests. Its caption explains the significance of each photo/video.
The second post is an example of how i adapted my AR activism to support—rather than co-opt—the national protests i was plugging into.
Outside of street activism i worked on a chapter i’m writing with Jeff Sebo, a professor from my MA program. The chapter will explore the ethics and politics of meat taxes and meat bans—a topic that has yet to be seriously explored—and i’ve really enjoyed helping put it together.
Outside of AR work i spent a lot of time in physical therapy. It’s been over two years since i’ve been injury free, and i took advantage of Colombia’s [relatively] affordable healthcare to focus on healing up. While i still have a ways to go, i made some serious progress towards recovery.
For many reasons, there is no place i’m happier than Colombia. The Colombian people have won my heart, and i deeply enjoyed exploring new and old relationships these months. Below are pictures from two trips i took with some of my favorite Colombians.
I returned from Colombia just in time for a family trip to Alaska. For nearly a decade my parents have pursued their goal of biking 50 miles in all 50 U.S. states, and Alaska was their final one! They were kind enough to invite me along for the ride (literally), and i was all too happy to join! It had been well over two years since our last family trip, and i cherished every moment of it. The post below features some of my favorite memories 💖
For the past three years I’ve written blog updates noting my excitement to begin law school in the fall. For better and worse, this update marks my third time revising that timeline. After a LOT of consideration, i made the difficult decision to push law school off once more in order to finish my book. This time was the hardest, and i did not make the decision lightly. However, i believe my book can make a worthwhile difference to the animal liberation movement, and know that now is the time to finish it. I returned to Colorado a few days ago, and will be living here and working on the book until it’s done. Below is a 200-word summary of the project.
Animal agriculture and industrial fishing are two of the most damaging and exploitative industries of the modern era. And as global population and per capita consumption of animal products continue to grow, so too do their harms. This project is a response to this urgent reality.
The book begins by introducing the diverse harms caused by animal agriculture and fishing—including those to farmed/fished animals, workers, proximate communities, ecological systems, wild animals, public health, and societal norms. With reference to these harms, the book then canvasses the industry’s current regulations across the United States. Having outlined the scale of these harms and the regulatory gap in addressing them, the book centers around considering the policy options available, and ultimately argues that banning the sale of animal-based foods is a particularly pragmatic solution in the United States. By seriously exploring and normalizing policies historically dismissed as radical—meat bans in particular—the project addresses what i view as an important hole in the literature. In doing so, the book is meant to help shift the Overton window towards more ambitious policies, and thus empower their collective passage by organizations around the world.
With some luck, i’ll have a rough manuscript done by the end of the year. Regardless, i’ll follow up with my next update once it’s complete. Until then, i always welcome messages from you.
Truly yours, -nico 🖤