Calvin Neufeld Introduces The Suffering Eyes Project

Presented at Wishing Well Sanctuary
May 31, 2014

I’ll begin by sharing a little about my mother’s book, Suffering Eyes: A Chronicle of Awakening. I absolutely love this book. It is the most beautiful, honest, purposeful book I have ever encountered. It was a labour of love for us both, an intense journey that I know will speak to every person here. A lot of people want to know what the book is about. We have tried countless ways to describe it but fallen short.

The truth is that the title says it all. It is a chronicle of awakening to the suffering of others. It is, in my opinion, a book of absolute integrity. It is the purging of my mother’s soul, and, I think, the reader’s along with it. For the sake of rescue. It is the book that exists solely for rescue. Rescue for the animals who are suffering, rescue for those who have yet to be awakened to the suffering they are implicated in, and rescue for those whose hearts have already been broken. Like you and me.

This is why my mother and I founded The Suffering Eyes Project. Our mission is to make Suffering Eyes available freely and exclusively to farmed animal sanctuaries throughout the world to raise funds directly for rescue. Already in the first few months of the book’s life, we have donated a value of over $9000 to some 16 sanctuaries (and counting) across North America. In the coming years, I would like to see this book in every sanctuary in the world. Through The Suffering Eyes Project, my mother’s book will provide an ongoing source of funds to sustain this vital undercurrent of rescue.

Suffering Eyes is available by donation only so that 100% of proceeds go to rescue. My mother is unpaid, I am unpaid. The book won’t even go out through booksellers, it is available through us and through sanctuaries only. We feel strongly that no one should profit from the suffering of others. No one will profit from this book except the animals.

It is an unorthodox model but it is one of integrity. I encourage you to support this mission of rescue in any way you can. Pick up a book, make a donation, read it, share it with a friend, with your social network. Let’s get this book out there where it can really make a difference. I firmly believe that Suffering Eyes has the power to open closed hearts and to heal broken ones. All of this, while raising funds for rescue.

And I don’t need to tell you how important this rescue is. Recently my mother and I were invited to speak at the kick-off party for Toronto’s March to Close All Slaughterhouses. As I said to those incredible people, each playing their own part in stopping the horror, “As you do your part, working to close down all slaughterhouses, don’t forget that as we succeed, the need for sanctuaries will grow greater than ever. As we disassemble our system of abuse, we must build and reinforce our network of healing. If we succeeded tomorrow in closing down all slaughterhouses, where would all those animals go? All sanctuaries are already nearing capacity, at capacity, or above capacity. And struggling. We must work quickly and purposefully to ensure that all animals have a home when the horror ends!”

My mother and I have observed from the start that her book has a life of its own. It came together – from start to published finish – in just a year and a half. All along the way we felt we were really just going along for the ride – it was a wild ride, sinews, structure, blood, body and soul coming together as the book took us into new, surprising, wonderful, terrible, grief-filled, joy-filled directions. And now it has exploded into the world, taking us along with it into whole new dimensions of joy as we encounter and participate in the rescue, as we are doing and experiencing with you today. I hope that you are as excited and eager to nurture the life of this newborn book as we are.

But what the book is doing – supporting sanctuaries, raising funds for rescue, raising awareness, nurturing kindness – is only half of what’s so exciting about it. I can’t come up here and speak about this beautiful book in an objective way only. It is so deeply personal. To me, it is a work of art. It began with the seed of awakening, and grew into something alive, tender and fierce. I absolutely love this book.

(And that’s one of the reasons that I’m glad we made the book available by donation only. We are selling nothing. Suffering Eyes is a gift – my mother’s gift – to the world.)

In her book, my mother wrestles with a deep and serious question: in the midst of a holocaust, how can art exist at all, other than for rescue’s sake? She later looks to the words of George Steiner: “Serious art…purposes change. The waking, the enrichment, the complication, the darkening, the unsettling of sensibility and understanding…which are incipient with action.”

To me, Suffering Eyes is a work of serious art. And the change and action incipient with it are one and the same: rescue. So I encourage you wholeheartedly to experience the book for yourself (fully, cover to cover, or else the experience is incomplete!) and please consider how you can support its mission – its crusade – of rescue.

Finally, I would like to say a few words about the message that my mother has prepared to share with you today. It wasn’t a message that came easily to her. Since receiving Brenda’s invitation last month, my mother has worked and worked and reworked her way to a message to share here at Wishing Well. What could she say that she hasn’t already said in her book? What more? What’s left to say? Well, I’m here to tell you that she found something to say. It’s about joy. And that… is saying a lot. I think that everyone here, after what each of us has faced, must know what it is to be a stranger to joy. But my mother has found a way through. When she shared it with me recently, as I’ve said before, it absolutely blew my socks off. I think she got it. Spot on. And boy do we need it. I need it, anyway.

Without further ado, I’ll again say thank you to every one of you. And I mean it. Thank you for everything that you do for the animals here at the sanctuary – supporting and participating in the rescue, the healing, the justice – and in your own individual awakened lives. My mother writes in her book about what it means to bear witness. She goes down to the very root of the word, "wit," which comes from the Sanskrit vid (to make known) and the Latin videre (to make seen). I think that is something that each of you is doing, each in your own way. You are bearing witness. You are making seen and making known. Thank you. 

And now, allow me to introduce my mother, the best and kindest person I know, the author of Suffering Eyes: A Chronicle of Awakening, Franceen Neufeld.