|West Australian author, publisher and teacher Gypsy Wulff has released a book she hopes will make a difference to the way people choose to live their life. Inspired by a vision for a world where animals can live a life free of suffering, she has collected the personal journeys of animal advocates from around the world. Turning Points in Compassion is an ambitious project that covers a range of topics from politics and law to spiritual and social change. All proceeds are being donated to animals sanctuaries and rescue groups. Today Gypsy shares the story behind the book.
Your background is in teaching and music and you’ve only turned your focus to writing in the past few years. What inspired you to swap the piano keyboard for the computer?
In actual fact, I do both. There are different ways of making music and bringing harmony to life. The piano keyboard is one, the computer keyboard another! Writing has been an interest of mine on and off over the years but I’ve never had the time to put into it. My recent work however, was very much purpose driven. And yes, it was the result of a turning point in my own life.
In an unexpected way, I came face to face with the deep and painful reality of animal suffering. An unnecessary suffering that was simply the result of our eating choices. Knowing that people are basically caring, I became troubled by the fact that so many good people were unwittingly contributing to a suffering that would otherwise be unconscionable to them. The truth is that we are making unconscious choices based on habits we have inherited from prior generations without questioning. The repercussions those choices are having on the lives of animals, the environment and our health are wide-ranging.
With vested interests having a strong hand in sustaining those habits, such issues are difficult to raise awareness about, but I felt I had to do something. I wanted others to know what their choices meant for innocent beings and just as importantly, I wanted them to know they could turn the situation around by making different choices. Education is the most powerful tool we have so I decided to reach out to people through personal stories.
What was your ‘turning point in compassion’?
Many years ago, a beautiful bird flew into my life. She had been neglected and was malnourished. I cared for her and before long, we developed a very deep bond and she taught me how beautiful, intelligent and deeply feeling she was. She was the equivalent of a soul mate and when she passed away prematurely I was devastated. Her legacy though was an awakening in me. It became apparent that we needed to see animals differently, to learn how both we and they can be enriched by our connection with each other, and to also become aware of the deep travesty being perpetrated on them. I began studying as much as I could and came across the World Peace Diet, which unearthed one revelation after another. My eyes were opened and my only wish is that I had understood all this much earlier in my life.
We humans have adopted a position of superiority that allows us to use and abuse animals as though it is an inherent right, rather than seeing them as co-inhabitants on this earth of ours to live with in harmony. Having been subject to the same unconsciousness as many others and unaware of the vast cruelty perpetrated by the animal industry, it was quite a revelation to learn what I did. I also realised I had been complicit in contributing to that industry every time I bought an animal product. Every time such a product is bought, we are paying someone else to kill an innocent animal. All this opened up my awareness and consciousness and I could no longer participate in any part of it.
This book would be an ambitious project, even for a seasoned writer with a strong background in journalism. Did you realise what was involved in collecting this number of interviews from people across the globe and presenting them in a readable format?
No…and for that reason, ignorance is bliss! Fortunately, between Fran (my co-editor) and myself, the project unfolded very naturally. It took four years and an enormous amount of thought and work…but amazingly it worked. I had no idea it would take the format it did in the end but we are both happy with how it evolved.
Did you devote a lot of time to preliminary planning for the book or was it a more organic process that took shape along the way? It was definitely an organic process that took shape along the way, no question.
How did the final time frame compare with your original estimate of how long it would take? I’m almost embarrassed to say! I thought I would have it done and dusted in six months. Four years later…
What was the most challenging aspect of creating the book? When a lot of material comes in for a project based on the same topic, much of it can be repetitive and boring to the reader. Fran and I set ourselves the task of extracting the unique element, the “gold” in every story and then crafted the book in a way that would present a different angle on the subject matter in each chapter. This was definitely the most challenging aspect but also the most creative and rewarding.
What was the most gratifying aspect of being involved in sharing this message of compassion? Seeing people respond to the message and being touched and inspired by the stories. The book is an inspiring read but also challenging. I love seeing the courage of people who can stop and change the way they do things when they see it impacts another being so deleteriously. We’ve had some beautiful feedback. Many people already sense that our treatment of animals for food is wrong and all they need to have is the information and how to live healthily on a diet free of animal products. Each time a person makes that change they are not only blessing the animals but their own body and the environment.
What would you do differently if you were starting over? Initially I sent out a standard questionnaire to guide the authors in their writing. This resulted in some fairly repetitious feedback. Now I would send a general guide but the standard questionnaire is a pitfall I would avoid in future.
You’ve opted to self-publish Turning Points in Compassion. What was behind this decision? We were offered a contract by a publisher but I had several concerns about it. The standard template they used would not present the book in the way I wanted. We used a lot of photos that I felt needed to be in colour but the publisher would only do black and white. I had a very clear idea of how the book should look and self publishing allowed me that freedom. I’m so glad to have gone the way of self-publishing through Pickawoowoo Publishers. We have a high quality product presented exactly as I wanted it. It’s harder work from the marketing angle but Fran and I are on a learning curve and having a lot of fun getting the word out there.
What do you hope readers will take from the book? The message that compassion towards animals, our environment and our own health means we have to stop contributing to the suffering by changing what we buy and put in our mouths. I also want people to realise there is no difference in the sentience of a calf or a lamb or a chicken to a dog, or a cat or a bird. These are just false dividing lines assigned by people. Pigs are capable of as much intelligence as dogs. And yet, we love one and kill and eat another. If we did to “pets” what we do to farm animals we would be charged with cruelty. And yet, as a society, we accept such illusory divisions because that’s how we’ve been taught. We have to become conscious about the alternatives and there are many. We have to also see through the euphemisms that we use to disguise the fact we are killing living beings, not things.
Euphemisms are used constantly used to keep us disconnected from the truth of “who” we are eating. “Lamb” is the slaughtered body of a baby animal taken from its mother. “Veal” is a baby calf removed from its bereft mother and kept restrained for a few days before being slaughtered. “Chicken” is an animal confined in shocking conditions until it is spent from egg laying and then slaughtered. Bacon, pork and ham are body parts of animals who wished to live, and like all the others mentioned had to face the fear and anguish of being killed. Would any of us survive five minutes in a slaughterhouse? How much work has gone into sanitising the truth of our treatment of animals?
Deep down, we know there is something inherently wrong with this practice and yet we have been conditioned into accepting it. I want people to know they are empowered to make new choices and to be healthier for doing so. We don’t have to be part of this. The book helps them to do that. It is not a book about making people guilty; it is a book that inspires people to show that in this world of seemingly endless problems we can do nothing about, we are empowered to make changes that significantly impact the life of another in some important areas.
Do you have more books in mind? Not immediately but I would like to continue with the children’s book series, I Love Animals once the busyness of releasing Turning Points in Compassion settles down.
What advice would you offer anyone else contemplating a project of this scope? It’s very important that you have enough commitment and passion to stay the distance. There is no question that it’s hard work and requires a great deal of time, energy and in my case, finance. The project has to matter to you and you have to be deeply motivated to go the full yard on it. Having a good co-editor as I’ve done in Fran is enormously helpful; we’ve kept each other going.
This inspirational collection of personal stories challenges our widespread perceptions about our relationship with animals. With a powerful blend of compassion and honesty, the writers in Turning Points in Compassion share pivotal moments that awakened them to a life-changing awareness. Each one’s life has been enriched beyond measure as a result of their journey. With open eyes, hearts and minds, they describe their entry to a new world of compassionate living where they no longer see animals as their food or their property. Their description of a life lived with awareness of animals as equally feeling beings who have conscious awareness and lives that matter to them will touch the hearts of people everywhere. No readers will be left unchallenged by this book.
All profits from sales are donated to animal sanctuaries and rescue groups. Turning Points in Compassion is available from http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Points-Compassion-Personal-Advocates/dp/0987192965/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 and other online retail stores.