Imagine being told by your family that you unknowingly consumed your own beloved pet during a family dinner. That’s exactly what happened to Valezca Lango Munsuri.
Born in Mexico City in 1992, Valezca’s childhood was by today’s standards normal. Her mom, a teenager at the time, was not equipped financially or emotionally to raise a child herself. Valezca was raised by her grandmother.
Valezca’s upbringing was rooted in old world religious values, defined by conservative beliefs and rules.
The catholic bubble, as Valezca refers to it, was spiritually oppressive. Her early sense of adventure and affinity for social movements was marred by catholic school restraints and the strong patriarchal cloud that hovered above.
Valezca’s Mexican ancestry began when her great-great-grandfather immigrated from Spain and created Avigrupo, one of Mexico’s main poultry factories. This venture quickly became the pride of the family as well as their main source of income.
As a child, Valezca spent many days with her grandfather visiting “the farms.” This is where she would spend hours adoring the hundreds of cute little chicks. Of course, then she was completely unaware of what was really happening to them behind the scenes.
From a young age Valezca’s family recognized a fierce rebellious streak in her: Always defending herself and others against any kind of injustice.
Pain is a Fierce Professor
Her first real encounter with loss was devastating. This bittersweet experience would prove to be the wedge that separated her from a segment of her family but also the spark that would ignite an international animal activist and animal rights law career.
One day, while at school, her two family chickens were taken with no real explanation. Her grandfather, now estranged, had given them to her after a young Valezca asked if she could keep two. Valezca loved these chickens as we love our dogs and cats.
Most of the world is unaware that chickens have the same ability to form strong emotional connections with us, just as our four-legged companions do. An incredibly intelligent group of animals, chickens are capable of empathy, fear, and connection; each one has a distinct personality.
Years later she was told that the chickens were used in a Mexican dish she had eaten with her family. Valezca was mortified by this act of betrayal.
Leaving the Nest
In order to garner a sense of independence from her family and the stifling environment in which she was raised, Valezca began working. At a young age, this gave her an opportunity to quench her curiosity and form her own personal opinions of the world around her.
In 2007 Valezca watched the documentary Earthlings. Like anyone with a heart, she was shocked by what she witnessed. A great study, she then dedicated much of her time researching and learning about the multi-faceted worldwide oppression animals are subjected to on a daily basis. By the age of 17 she had made the switch to vegetarian. It took her only one short year to move to a completely vegan lifestyle.
Desperate to make her mark and bring change on behalf of the animals she has now spent years studying law. A formal education in Mexico is hard to come by, according to Valezca. She set her sights on The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). UNAM is the largest university in Latin America, ranking high in the world based on their extensive research and innovation.
Valezca’s tenacity and determination carried her through two failed submissions…until her third attempt proved victorious, and in 2017 she was finally accepted to study law at UNAM.
In a courageous attempt to institute her life’s purpose to her family, she confronted them and announced her dedication to veganism and the animals. Now with the help of her “teach by example” attitude, several of her friends and family members are vegan.
The State of Mexico
Most of Mexico’s slaughterhouses and factory farms are located just outside Mexico City District Federal (The DF) or The State of Mexico. This area is made up of a collection of 35 independent municipalities located to the north, east, and west of the D.F. This is where many of Mexico’s Animal Save Movement vigils are held.
Animal Save Movement is a global network of activists that bear witness to animals at the gates of slaughterhouses in order to expose and dismantle animal exploitation industries.
The communities in these DF areas are dangerous, and the activists who attend the vigils are exposed to some of the most unstable neighborhoods in the world. Women in particular are in danger. By attending the vigils they are putting themselves in harm’s way.
“Here in Mexico, female activists are faced with a lot of violence,” explains Valezca. “Our lack of resources and transportation make it difficult to attend protests and campaign for what we believe in.”
Valezca and her team of volunteers have coordinated and attended almost 100 vigils, and by doing so she has witnessed terrifying things.
Valezca recalls a particularly disturbing memory, one that not only exposes the atrocities towards animals but also the slaughterhouse workers as well.
“We were conducting a vigil just outside one of Mexico’s largest slaughterhouses. A few of the activists noticed a young boy who had been waiting for hours just outside the main entrance. When we asked why he was standing there for so long, he responded by telling us that he was waiting for food handouts from the other workers.
He had just been fired, leaving him and his family destitute. When we asked why he was fired, he explained that he had gotten injured by the animals, fighting for their lives while being slaughtered. He was too weak to withstand the abuse, so they threw him out. That’s how it is done here.”
Another particularly devastating incident happened in 2019. Valezca received a message via social media from two activists who were already on the scene of a major animal transport truck crash that happened early that morning. The truck was carrying over 200 pigs en route to a local slaughterhouse. The crash took place two hours outside of Mexico City. Valezca immediately responded and traveled to the site of the crash.
“There were hundreds of pigs lying in the road covered in their own blood. Broken bones piercing through their skin, some were screaming in pain, others were already dead.”
NEWS FOOTAGE OF THE CRASH (Warning: Disturbing Content)
Valezca and her team arrived at 2:00 PM and they immediately ran to the pigs. Despite a Mexican law that prohibits animals involved in an accident to be slaughtered for food, the truck driver and farmers at the scene were trying to arrange alternative transport to get the surviving pigs to a slaughterhouse.
As time went on, more and more activists arrived at the scene. Valezca and the others were frantically trying to help in any way they could, giving water to some of the pigs, which only angered the drivers and farmers even more. In a desperate and dangerous attempt to protect the pigs from being taken by another truck, she and the other activists began to push the drivers away from the pigs. Physically threatened, Valezca and a group of other activists formed a human chain around 16 pigs to stop the police and farmers from taking them. This dangerous and desperate attempt to protect the animals proved worthwhile.
In the evening, they finally received assistance when a female government deputy arrived and offered to help. With this united front they were able to rescue the 16 pigs. After being evaluated, 8 of the 16 pigs survived and were taken to local sanctuaries. Now, in their 11th hour, the activists finally left…at 1:00 AM the next morning. This, Valezca says, was bittersweet.
For months the images she witnessed haunted her. Losing sleep and with no appetite, she went into a deep depression. It was only the comfort of sharing with the other activists involved that would bring her any relief. Valezca now talks about therapy and feels strongly about self-care. Two necessary components, Valezca says, of being an animal rights activist.
In Valezca’s words, she cannot look away. She feels the work she does is a constant reminder that there is always more work to be done. Even more importantly, it is her way of keeping her promise to those she says good-bye to.
“I know I can’t save you, and I am so sorry for that, but I promise to do whatever I can to save others in the future.”
For Valezca, this is her calling. Her sense of justice compels her to forge ahead. It reminds her that we cannot stop!
The protests, the vigils, the danger, the sacrifice, the thousands of hours studying for the law degree that will ultimately be used to fight for the animals.
In 2017, without any consideration for her own safety, she crawled under a truck to rescue a chicken from slaughter. A knee-jerk reaction. The chicken was later taken to a local sanctuary. Valezca remembers visiting the chicken later on and enjoying the personality that emerged after having been rescued and allowed to roam free and enjoy his life in the sanctuary. Valezca said she could actually see the joyful expression on his face.
Maybe she is propelled by the experience of her family’s betrayal, to give back what her young self believes she took by eating her beloved friends, or maybe this is her true destiny, brought about by a metaphysical force that none of us can truly explain. Her admitted rage and sadness notwithstanding, she is answering the call. Fierce and devoted, her compassion for and commitment to the animals can be felt over the phone 2000 miles away.
Valezca would like to thank the following people for inspiring her. Anita Krajnc, Adriana Ximena, Azul Cardozo, Alejandro Merino, Roberto Arias, Ana Carranza, Adrienne George, and Jessica Navit.
When asked why the Animal Save Movement, Valezca explains she is drawn to the compassion of the mission. She remembers being amazed and shocked by a video of a woman giving water to a group of pigs on a transport truck. Her immediate thought was to replicate this act in her town. A few months later someone from the Animal Save Movement was conducting a tour and created the first local vigil. Valezca attended and joined. Through her dedication and exemplary efforts, at the age of 30, she is now ASV’s national liaison to Mexico as well as the regional liaison for Mexico City.
It is believed that the energy of an organization trickles down from the top. After speaking with Anita Krajnc, the co-founder of Toronto Pig Save and the Executive Director of the Animal Save Movement, this could not be more true and definitely explains why the global movement ASV is so successful. When asked about Valezca, Ms. Krajnc had this to say.
“Valezca is a passionate, dedicated and dependable activist who gets up in the middle of the night to travel long distances to bear witness at the gates of slaughterhouses. As a country and regional liaison, Val helps connect LATAM to our global movement. Her gentle, positive energy is infectious. She’s a great team player who has played a key role in building community and expanding our movement.” ~ Anita Krajnc
ASV is a global movement with over 900 chapters, all working together for a common cause. “The support ASM gives the chapters around the world makes all the difference”, says Valezca. “This helps us make a bigger impact in our local cities. Our collection of chapters have compassion for the animals and for each other. It is a beautiful way to honor the animals.” she explains. This gives her and so many the chance to transform such heavy feelings into amazing actions. “It is how we show the strength that lives inside us,” she adds. So much inspiring wisdom in such a young lady.
Making Her Mark
Valezca admits that the animal rights movement is not perfect. She believes the strength of the movement would benefit from a more united front.
Industrial agriculture is a global stain on the morality of humankind. While all are unacceptable, some countries are worse than others, and Mexico is one of those countries.
One investigation that rocked Mexico was a 2016 Mercy for Animals investigation which revealed shocking images of minors who are oftentimes employed in slaughterhouses, hitting animals with electric prongs. The animals are then beaten with sledgehammers and dragged to the kill floor. They are repeatedly and viciously stabbed, left to choke on their own blood and vomit. This is typical of Mexico’s industrial agriculture and why Valezca feels so strongly about the work she does and will continue to do.
In addition to vigils, Valezca uses many forms of activism. She has partnered with DxE, Vegan Strike Group, Anonymous, and Independent Activism. She has also collaborated in protest performances with Animal Save Ciudad de México and worked with Roberto Arias, Mariana Cobos, Abril Fabian, and Brenda Palacios to Investigate the inside of a Mexican slaughterhouse. Her other accomplishments include organizing Mexico without Slaughterhouses along with activists Roberto Aryas and Marianna Cobos as well as her Main Ave Performance Art Campaign which was covered by Televisa, Mexico’s largest news outlet.
Despite all our complicated personalities, Valezca believes in her heart that Animal Liberation will happen. The questions are – Will we do what we can to make sure it happens in our lifetime? Putting all our differences aside for a common goal, will we begin to understand that we are all on the same team, regardless of those differences? Will we ultimately resolve the petty squabbles we spend so much time and energy on while millions of animals are unnecessarily murdered as we strive to be right. Will we put our egos aside for them?
Valezca has conducted training on law and activism, spoken at the premiere of Dominion in Mexico City, conducted virtual trainings in the ALC, coordinated marches in Mexico, and has presented in front of the President’s building on behalf of animal rights, and at several vegan festivals.
Her advice to young activists is to bear witness and make a promise to them. Get out of your comfort zone and you will find support along the way. Remember why you are here and what encourages you in the first place. Always strive to work on what you can do better and stop focusing on others who don’t live up to your expectations. Learn from those we fight to protect…the animals.
Currently, Valezca and her team are developing a local Plant-Based Treaty. It’s a new and innovative campaign with very ambitious goals that will benefit all the animals, the planet, and humans alike. They are presently working on the treaty’s endorsement by the government of Mexico City.
Tuesday, March 1st is National Pig Day. Please consider posting a loving message about them and sharing this article to honor our true love and appreciation of these beautiful and intelligent beings we share the earth with.