A legendary animal rights activist is currently touring Israel and sharing his wisdom with the next generation of social changers.
Dr. Alex Hershaft is the co-founder of the Maryland-based Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and has spent the last decades of his life working to help protect animals.
He is also a Holocaust survivor.
As a young child he survived the Holocaust by hiding out and moving around with his mother. For five years after the war, he lived in a refugee camp before going to Israel and ultimately the United States.
Dr. Hershaft said that after the inhumane suffering he went through at the hands of the Nazis, he just couldn’t bear to have another being be treated in the same way.
“I saw a lot of parallels between what they were doing to us and what we are doing to animals,” Hershaft said.
After coming to the United States, he first earned his PhD in chemistry and was active in social causes.
While living in Israel for a while, he became a vegetarian.
Just being a vegetarian, he said, though, did not make him an animal rights activist or at least not yet.
Then, in 1976, he gave up chemistry and started the Vegetarian Information Service, the precursor to FARM.
“My pursuit of chemistry was sort of a memorial to my dad, who was a chemist,” the activist explained. “Once I got my PhD I felt I paid my dues to my father’s memory and I went on to do bigger and better things.”
FARM was officially launched in 1981. During the next 36 years, Dr. Hershaft says he has learned a lot about what it takes to be an activist and how easily you can do it wrong.
“The big mistake that activists make is not realizing what stage they are in and acting in a manner that is inappropriate to that stage,” the animal rights pioneer said.
He also said while in Israel sharing his knowledge, he also has some learning to do about why Israel’s animal rights movement has grown so fast.
“I think that the Israelis might be more open, because it’s a young country and it’s experimenting with technological and social issues,” he said during an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “I think people may be more open to new social concepts.”
In addition to lectures across Israel, Dr. Hershaft will also be meeting prominent Israeli animal rights activists and President Reuven Rivlin, who has been a vegetarian himself for a long time.