Our first obligation to the animals and to the Earth is to stay in the movement, to keep making a contribution in our several ways and our separate ways. – Tom Regan
Memorial services are often a time of many emotions. We feel sad for losing someone we loved as we celebrate their memory and remember the good times we’d shared. Often, too, memorial services are when we reconnect with special people we love and care about, that in our busy lives we don’t visit with as much as we’d like.
Tom Regan, an American philosopher who specializes in animal rights theory died this morning. Gary and I met Tom at the memorial service for Marti Kheel on April 1, 2012, which took place at the Roosevelt House in Manhattan. Marti had been a vegan, ecofeminist, activist, scholar and founder of Feminists for Animal Rights. I knew of her work and writings and had wanted to interview her on my radio show It’s All About Food. Then I learned she had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with her while she was staying in Connecticut to be treated. I shared whatever I could about what I had learned about healing during my own cancer experience. This was not how I had imagined engaging with such an iconic figure in the ecofeminist/animal rights movement but I was grateful that she would share a few hours of her too brief life with me.
There were many notable vegan, ecofeminist and animal rights activists at the memorial for Marti. It was a sad day, but the love in the room was inspiring. Afterwards, many of us went to Candle 79 for dinner. Here, celebrating Marti’s life, we reconnected with old friends and made new ones. Gary and I were seated across from Nancy and Tom Regan. I could not believe it! I had read his groundbreaking books on animal rights. He was so influential to many of us. For a brief moment I was awestruck but I quickly relaxed when we were introduced. Tom and Nancy had a gentle nature and a wonderful sense of humor. We were in contact a few more times since then. I interviewed Tom on my radio show, It’s All About Food.
The last time I saw Tom was at the memorial for vegetarian historian and author, Rynn Berry in 2014 at the home of Victoria Moran. We were all in shock learning about Rynn’s death. I sat with Tom for awhile and we discussed his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s. I made a note to email him with some supplement suggestions that might help. We spoke about Rynn, his writing and Rynn’s prolific book collection. Tom told me that he would be bringing much of Rynn’s book collection into the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive at North Carolina State University for safekeeping.
Since I just heard of Tom’s passing this morning, I do not know about any upcoming plans for a memorial just yet. If there is one, I hope to be there to celebrate his life and his work, and perhaps, make new friends to engage with and carry on the work for the animals and the Earth. This is what Tom would want. He said this when I interviewed him in 2012: “Our first obligation to the animals and to the Earth is to stay in the movement, to keep making a contribution in our several ways and our separate ways.”
Here is an expert from my interview with Tom. Listen to the entire podcast here.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I want to say that I was fortunate to meet her (Marti Kheel) shortly before she left this life and the wonderful thing about that memorial, all of us who gathered afterwards, it was really a wonderful experience to be together with so many people who share the same dream of making this world a better, more kinder place.
TOM REGAN: Yeah, it was an inspiration to me I can tell you and to Nancy as well. We went home fueled with the compassion that we felt at the memorial service and also at the table, so we were better for having gone there.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I agree and inspiration is something that all of us to get continually because it’s easy to lose focus, we’re depressed because we are continually focusing on what is wrong.
TOM REGAN: Well that’s an astute observation. The movement goes forward despite those who leave it every day, despite because they are dispirited, despite because they are impatient. Because they give up hope and it’s like a revolving door, people come in and people go out. Our first obligation to the animals and to the Earth is to stay in the movement, to keep making a contribution in our several ways and our separate ways. But the enemy wins if we go out the door.