In 2012, there were 70,000 vegans in Israel. But most Israelis didn’t know what the word vegan meant. In 2018, at least 5% of Israelis are vegan. In Gil Golan’s “One Angry Vegan,” which premiered at the Chelsea Film Festival, he sets out to document the militant vegan whose star ascended as she became the face of a movement.
“There is a war coming and we need an army of vegans,” Tal Gilboa tells a group of fellow vegans in the film. Gilboa cuts quite a figure, with her unkempt blonde hair, her rarely matching socks, her all-caps ANIMAL LIBERATION tattoo, the intensely Israeli way she gesticulates when she talks, and the visibly raw sadness that fuels her fury. In some ways, she’s the perfect face of the Israeli vegan movement. She’s a good-looking mother of three, a real sabra, and a former officer of the IDF (“but also a free spirit,” her husband Eran Yuz is quick to clarify), and the winner of 2014’s Israeli “Big Brother” and the founder of the Israeli Animal Liberation Front.
But “One Angry Vegan” is not about being one angry vegan. It’s about the price of activism, it’s about the radicalness of female anger, and it’s about the way modern activism involves seducing the media for those headlines that fuel interest in the mission.
Gilboa divides her time between her classes, late night visits to farms for surreptitious filming sessions, tending to her family, and planning stunts that will force their way onto the front page of the news. Her stunts include shackling activists to the gates of a slaughterhouse, killing a cow in the middle of the city (and then giving it a noble burial) and forming blockades in front of animal-laden trucks. “Give up your schnitzels and start being decent human beings!” she screams at police officers. Much discussion is had in the film about how to make headlines. “I don’t want to liberate animals,” says Gilboa during a planning meeting. “That doesn’t make headlines. We have to do something else.”
“We have to give the media what they want. The media wants provocations,” says Zvi Goldin, Gilboa’s partner-in-crime. Indeed, the Israeli media, and then the international media, ate those provocations up. Vegans have chastised them for ruining vegans’ reputation, while carnivores, of course, think they are too radical. Goldin and Gilboa’s version of veganism is one that declares carnivores as evil and wrong, that demands that carnivores beg an animal’s forgiveness. Gilboa grew up close to her sisters, but now she rebuffs them because they eat meat. “They aren’t bad people,” her husband tries to interject. “If someone served you human babies, would you just go along with it?” she snaps back.
Today, Israel is full of angry vegans just like Gilboa. Israeli Domino’s is the only chain of its kind to offer vegan options, developed in conjunction with the Israeli Vegan Friendly Foundation. Ben and Jerry’s offers its vegan ice cream in Israel. The Israeli army offers leather-free options for its soldier’s uniforms. There are Facebook books for vegays (vegan gays), deaf vegans and vegan babies. The war Gilboa spoke about is happening — and she might even be winning it.
Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org and @shirafeder