Tag Archives: animal rights

Golf Clubs and Extinction

If you have your news radar tuned to “fucked up,” then you may have recently seen an article titled “Intruder Uses Golf Club to Kill Nearly 1,000 Foster Farms Chickens” floating around. Every non-sociopath (and some sociopaths, too!) can agree that this is the work of “pretty sick” individuals (as one of the investigating deputies so aptly put it). However, if you’re not vegan, then you’re probably reading a different article when you click on the same link. “How is that possible?” you might ask. “Are you drinking again?” No, I answer defensively. Don’t change the subject. Why are you always so literal? I feel like we’ve had this conversation before. It’s about cognitive dissonance.

When I clicked to read the comments on the article–the one about 920 chickens being brutally slain with a golf club–a commercial for Hellmann’s mayo began on auto-play: “There’s chicken and then there’s juicy chicken….” I was struggling for a way to verbalize the cognitive dissonance and then this advertisement appeared, clearly heaven-sent. You can’t have your outrage and your juicy chicken, too. There, that’s the heart of it.

These chickens were individual animals with personalities, instincts, drives, and the capability of feeling pleasure, but the reality of only feeling suffering. Had they not been killed in this gruesome manner, they would have been killed in another, and there would have been no headlines, because grocery store sales advertisements don’t count. “Chickens first, then children–that’s how all psychopaths work,” one comment claims, but I’m certain they aren’t thinking of the slaughterhouse workers who would have otherwise dismembered these 920 chickens. It’s okay though, no harm, no fowl, because it tastes good. That’s something we can understand. See how dismissively I punned the fuck out of that? Who cares, right? Send those golf club wielding, chicken-killing fucks to prison and send these other assembly-line throat-slicing heroes* their paychecks. NO COGNITIVE DISSONANCE HERE, BRO.

*Heroes still subject to shitty pay and unsafe working conditions.

I shared this article along with a simple query: “Holy fuck, people are sick–HEY WAIT A MINUTE, but why is it okay to kill these animals on an assembly line?” No one challenged me on this point, most likely because I preemptively addressed concerns by following the post with an image from Vegan Sidekick:

from Vegan Sidekick


One person did, however, pose another question in response: “So do vegans feel domesticated farm animals should be extinct? Since they really are only husbanded by people for their parts and labour?”

Normally I wouldn’t feel compelled to formulate a response. I’d use Google to copy and paste a link where someone else already answered it, because that’s what Google is for (if not porn). However, it’s a Friday night and I’m feeling a little burnt out on watching Star Trek right now, so eh, why not?

“So do vegans feel domesticated farm animals should be extinct?”

Short answer: No.

END OF BLOG. THANKS FOR READING.

Serious answer: Still no. First, the framing of the question presumes vegans as a whole feel the same way on this subject. This isn’t necessarily true. I want to point that out, because I don’t speak for all vegans any more than I speak for all women, all feminists, all Atheists, all board game enthusiasts, all alcoholics, etc.

I can still answer with a fairly confident “no” because in my five years of veganism I have not yet encountered any hidden agenda to bring about the extinction of farmed animals.

But which farmed animals are we talking about? That matters.

For example, are we talking about turkeys? The majority of farmed turkeys have been selectively bred to be so top-heavy that they literally can’t even have sex anymore. Just a fun fact to share with the family! So if no farm employee is jerking off male turkeys to inseminate female turkeys, then the cycle of abuse ends. Future generations of those turkeys might not be around if we decide to stop eating/masturbating turkeys. There are heritage breeds of turkeys. There are wild turkeys. Turkeys would still exist, in some form, but the ones who are (thanks to us) so miserably unnatural that they can’t even have sex probably wouldn’t. Would that be a terrible loss for the turkeys?

If some brave, kind soul wanted to “save” this specific breed of turkeys, and put in the hard work of masturbating and breeding them, they’d find that the lifespans of these turkeys are drastically shorter than their wild counterparts. Also, they’re going to be plagued with hella medical issues because they haven’t been “designed” to live out a natural lifespan; they’re designed to live till they hit slaughter weight.

If you ever visit a sanctuary for formerly-farmed animals who have been rescued. and you talk to the people who work there, you can find out about exactly how much goes into keeping these animals (the few that escape your dinner plate) comfortable for their unnaturally brief lifespans: the medicine, the money, the care-giving, the emotional work. You have to really care about the animals individually to partake in an endeavor that isn’t considered cost-efficient to someone who views the animals as a means to an end. To be honest, I just don’t see anyone working that closely with the animals, and having the animals’ best interests in mind, wanting to perpetuate that cycle of misery.

But seriously, turkeys wouldn’t go extinct. There are breeds that would survive us not eating them. Imagine that!

We could go on through each and every species of farmed animals, but I think the one example adequately makes my point, and I do want to sleep tonight.

Veganism is about ending exploitation. What that might look like is a bit up in the air, because I don’t know if veganism will ever have the mainstream impact to shut down all farming, or just factory farming, or a certain percentage of farming. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to address the problems of what would happen if the entire world went vegan, because I don’t think that’s going to happen in my lifetime. I am a pessimist. I also don’t think I would have all of the solutions to all of the challenges such a dramatic change would cause if I were proven wrong and we all wake up vegan tomorrow. Luckily, the world is very rarely dependent upon me solely for these answers.

I do think we’d have a better chance of solving a lot of our problems if suddenly all of the great minds in our society, in their respective fields, woke up with a new paradigm in which animals were valuable beyond their utility to humans. Collectively we might even be able to address the very non-hypothetical extinction crisis that is occurring RIGHT NOW! We’re losing critters at “a rate of 100 to 1,000 species per million per year, mostly due to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change.” Do you know what one major contributor to habitat loss and climate change is? Do you want to hazard a guess? It’s animal agriculture. Isn’t that funny? The UN cites animal agriculture as responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector! And we’re deforesting the fuck out of Central and South America so we can graze cattle and grow livestock feed. While you’re understandably concerned about the potential extinction of cows if we stop eating them, it turns out that our desire for cheap hamburgers is forcing a fuckton of wild species into extinction. MASS EXTINCTION: That’s happening now. So do non-vegans feel that wild animals should be extinct?

I’m being facetious, but I think it’s just as valid as the original question that was posed.

If you’d like to learn more about animal agriculture’s devastating environmental impact, then you might be interested in the recent film “Cowspiracy.” (See movie trailer below.)

If you’ve come this far, then I presume you don’t mind reading, and that you might also be interested in the very well-written Eating Animals by my husband literary crush Jonathan Safran Foer. It addresses environmental concerns among others. He’s more eloquent than I, and curses far less, so I’mma let him finish via a couple of quotations:

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”

“While it is always possible to wake a person who’s sleeping, no amount of noise will wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”

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Anatomy of a Vegan Care Package

Vegan Care Package Guide
A few months ago, I began an outreach hobby of sorts. I began offering care packages to friends who are willing to give veganism a try for one month. I do this not because I think it is the most effective use of time out of all the available forms of activism, but because I enjoy doing it. I enjoy making care packages and gift baskets and all that nonsense. I enjoy giving to my friends. I enjoy being a resource to them when needed. A few fellow vegans have inquired about what exactly goes into these packages. Although my endeavor is still a work-in-progress, I have decided to provide as much guidance as I am currently able to vegans who might be inspired to make a similar offer to their friends. If you’d like to cop my style, I’m here to tell you how.

Step 1: The Pitch.

Offer You Can Refuse Yanno If You Feel Like It Whatever
I know you want to skip to the goodies, but don’t underestimate the importance of how you make your offer. I prefer to make my offer as laid back and low-commitment as I possibly can. This means stifling my raging vegan hard-on… I mean, enthusiasm. Sometimes I have even had to try my best to tone down the enthusiasm of well-meaning, intervening friends who make grand promises about how going vegan will DO THIS, THIS, AND THIS, and YOU WILL NEVER MISS MEAT AGAIN, etc. (Basically, shit I can’t promise because everyone’s experience will differ.) Low-key is key. If your transition to veganism was anything like mine, then you didn’t go vegan because a friend was yelling awesome promises at you, but because you read or watched something that allowed you to make that decision for yourself. Your goal is to get compelling information into the hands of your friends. Don’t scare them the fuck away before you get to that step.

Consider where you want to make your offer. Facebook works for me because I can make the post friends-only. If you have 4,000 Facebook friends you’ve never met in person, maybe reevaluate your life. I mean… err, um… okay, reevaluate your life is exactly what I mean. I can’t edit out my personal judgement here, folks! Well, I could, but sometimes you have to make a stand.

Let’s try again: Consider where you want to make your offer. An environment where you can have people come to you is ideal. Don’t push the offer on people who are kicking and screaming “I NEED MY MEAT, BECAUSE PROTEIN!” when your efforts are better spent on people who are receptive.

I specify that friends can message me privately if they are interested. This not only helps lure in more timid friends (MUAHAHA), but it protects your privacy as well. There will be months when few people are interested in a care package. Why advertise this? Friends may be less inclined to accept an offer if they’re worried they’ll be the only ones. We are social creatures, after all. Initially, people may be reluctant to accept your offer. Maybe they don’t want to be the first because they fear you’ll misplace all your hopes and dreams on their fragile vegan-hopeful shoulders. Maybe they’ve got other shit going on this month. There are so many factors–unless you’re a real ass-hat, it’s probably not you. It’s just timing. Try again next month.

You know your friends better than I do so your pitch might not look like mine. It is important to know your friends. You could make this offer to anyone, but you’re making them to friends, damn it! Acknowledge that they’re individuals and tailor your approach to that fact. I think starting with your friends is the best method for this particular brand of activism. Why? Anyone can order a Veg Starter Kit from the myriad of organizations that offer them, but people who choose to commit to a month of veganism because a friend offers to help usually want more than an impersonal guide. They’ve chosen to connect WITH YOU, because something about your approach appeals to them; something about you as a representative of veganism makes them think “maybe this is for me.”

Step 2: Put Shit in a Folder.

Sample

Seriously: Folders make everything look official. Here are some things I place in folders:

1. Coupons. Write to your favorite vegan food companies. They will provide. You will want to do this step in advance. Be cognizant of what food options your friends have. Try to send coupons for brands that are actually available in the area where they live. Even if you make all of your noms from scratch because you fancy as fuck, it is your moral obligation to keep up-to-date on current vegan brands so that you aren’t recommending some outdated cardboard-tasting shit.

2. Stickers, temporary tattoos, and buttons. If you’ve been vegan for awhile, you tend to accumulate some cute odds and ends such as these. (A lot of companies will send you some freebies along with your orders.) My favorite thing to include is a sheet of stickers from Action For Animals, but it appears they no longer sell them in bulk. I has a sad. As with all of the things, keep your friend’s personality in mind. Try to exclude merchandise from organizations that might be alienating. (I’m looking at you, PETA.) Check out sweet designs from Herbivore Clothing and Compassion Co.

3. Veg Starter Guide. You can get these from almost any major vegan organization (Mercy For Animals, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary, Friends of Animals, etc.). You can typically buy them in bulk or receive your first copy free. Organizations, especially those with less funding, often allow you to print .pdfs of their literature free.

My current go-to starter guide is from Mercy For Animals. Their most recent edition has the most mainstream appeal I’ve seen thus far. It’s filled with celebrity faces, recipes that don’t look like they’re from the 80’s, and recommendations for the best of the current vegan food brands. There is absolutely NO factory farm or otherwise graphic imagery, which is a different approach for Mercy For Animals. It’s easy enough to add an additional brochure for friends whom you think could benefit from a visual reality check. I personally don’t like for violent imagery to dominate my care package.

4. Recipes. Besides those included in whatever literature you provide, you may want to include some of your personal favorites. I don’t print recipes that I haven’t tried. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time. It also ensures that I’m not sending anything too complicated or expensive, because I don’t mess with those recipes myself. If you’re just getting into the whole cooking thing yourself, The Post Punk Kitchen is a great starting place.

5. Articles. I dedicate an entire SIDE of my folder to articles that are near and dear to my heart. You should choose ones that are near and dear to yours. Your activism and my activism will have variations, and perhaps even disagreements. “You mean you include an article written by Jonathan Safran Foer? But he doesn’t advocate for veganism, you fucker!” (Ahem, that article is Against Meat, and it was the beginning of my own veganism.) Try to show variety in style and length when choosing articles. Don’t limit yourself to non-fiction, either, as long as it’s clear to the reader which is which. Poetry can provide a welcome break from the information overload of essay after essay. I recently started including “Pigeon Manifesto” by Michelle Tea. Yes, you want to include fact-packed essays, but don’t veer away from an emotional appeal as well. Alice Walker’s “Am I Blue?” is another favorite of mine.

Choose writing that focuses on both the why and how of veganism. I like to include Chapters 8 and 25 of Erik Marcus’s The Ultimate Vegan Guide, which is conveniently free online, as a beginner “how.” I typically defer to Melanie Joy’s writing to add a little psychology to the mix.

The really awesome thing about your personal search for the most awesome essays and literature you can possibly include is that it provides an opportunity for you to continue your own education as well. Never stop reading! Seek out essays that provide different perspectives, such as the thought-provoking essays in the feminist collection Sister Species. Knowing your audience will guide your choices. For instance, I send far more nerdy articles to my fellow Sociology-majors than what is typically socially acceptable. However, don’t feel that you have to compromise your ideals to appeal to your friends. While I have no problem referring my religious and/or Republican friends to Matthew Scully’s well-written Dominion, I would never send ANYONE a copy of his pro-animal, anti-choice rant (unless that someone was a masochist in need of toilet paper).

6. A Personalized Resource Guide. This doesn’t sound that exciting, but it is! It’s where you get to type out all of the awesome things you recommend–movies, books, cookbooks, YouTube videos, websites, online shopping, restaurants to try, and ways to connect to local vegans. When I said exciting, I meant exhausting. This is the most extensive work you will do for this care package. NO PRESSURE, but: do this right. Don’t half-ass it. Your list should include not only titles, but descriptions and why you recommend these resources.

Example

Not every description has to be a novel. Maybe you’re more concise than I am. (Congratufuckinglations!) Each description should be an honest effort to reach out to your friend and show that you care enough not to copy and paste from IMDB. How many resources you want to provide is your decision. My guide is several pages long and now ends with a local dining and Meetup guide. Previously, I added a plug for Happy Cow in my recommendations. Lately, I’ve upped my game by visiting the site myself, researching my friend’s city, and writing out a short restaurant/shopping guide for my friend. I follow this with information about any local vegan listings on Meetup.com, because social support just makes life easier. Take some of the legwork out of it for your friend. Yes, it can be a pain-in-the-ass for you, but it isn’t unfamiliar territory. You’re already good at sifting through this information if you’ve made it so far in your vegan journey that you’re care packaging it up. Printing up a local guide can take some of the guesswork out for your friend, who will already be overwhelmed by the art of reading food labels.

7. A note to my vegan-hopeful. Complete your folder with a note to your friend. Mine is hand-written, typically on the folder itself. Say “hi, and thank you, and I’m here for you” in whatever regard you find appropriate. It’s your friendship, not mine.

Step 3: Feed A Friend.

You will want to provide a treat or two for your friend, the scale of which will depend on the size of your budget, package, and affection for your friend.

Real-life examples of foods I have included in vegan care packages: Go Max Go bars (Jokerz is the best!), Primal Strips, Dr McDougall’s (Spicy Kung Pao Noodle is my fav), Clif Bars (try Pecan Pie flavor for the holidays), Luna bars (hello, S’mores), Larabars (sample size perfect for care packages: mini variety pack), Tasty Bite pouches (be careful, some contain dairy; Mushroom Masala is my fav), GoPicnic meals for your gluten-free friends (Sunbutter & crackers or hummus & crackers), Lucky’s cookies (also GF), seriously…

omnom

…I’ve gotten slightly carried away with the food-gifting in the past. (If you decide to order any of your noms via the links provided above, it’ll help offset some of my costs.) Knowing why your friend wants to give veganism a try is important here in that you don’t want to send a bunch of delicious, delicious, delicious junk food to someone who is trying to turn a healthy leaf. Be sure to ask if they have any food allergies as well.

In addition to store bought goods, I typically send a small sample of homemade cookies to my gift recipients. Often I will send these separately, a week or so into the month as a bonus incentive to continue being awesomely vegan. Be sure to send along the recipe as well. My favorite is “Banana Everything Cookies” from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

Optional Step 4: Gift or Re-gift.

Steps 1-3 are adequate, but if you have the resources and feel that your gift recipient will utilize it: Add a final gift. This is typically a book or DVD, but it could also be a piece of art or some sweet-ass Lush soaps. People like to hold something concrete in their hands, and you will often have an intuitive feel for what your friends might appreciate. Chances are you have a few books and DVDs lying around that have already served their purpose. You could even reach out to your vegan friends to donate their used vegan literature. (Just make sure you stand behind what you send.) Sometimes this is worth it, sometimes not. It’s worth it if your vegan-hopeful will read or watch it, but there’s no use bombarding someone who doesn’t like to read with books. For your friends who don’t like to cook, printing a few recipes is a safer bet than sending a cookbook. For my friend who went to culinary school, a brand-spanking new copy of Isa Does It was a totally worthwhile expense for me; it isn’t one I can afford to make frequently though. Consider both what you might have found helpful as a new vegan and what your friend might appreciate. Sometimes friends will be specific in their requests, such as my friend who did not want any graphic content. (Lucky for him I had an extra copy of Forks Over Knives.)

Supplemental:

In the event that you aren’t sure where to start in creating your own list of recommendations, here are the movies and books I currently include in mine. (Note: Not all of them are strictly animal rights/veganism.) I’m not including descriptions or why, because you should experience these for yourself before including them on your own list. Your friends don’t care what books random-blogger recommends; your friends care about you and your opinion.

Movies:
Vegucated
Forks Over Knives
Nature: My Life as a Turkey
The Cove
Blackfish
Nature: Animal Odd Couples
Year of the Dog
Maximum Tolerated Dose
Earthlings

Youtube videos:
Gary Yourofsky’s “Best Speech You Will Ever Hear”
Modern Warrior: Damien Mander at TEDxSydney
Melanie Joy – Carnism: The Psychology of Eating Meat

Books:
Eating Animals
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism
Sister Species: Women, Animals and Social Justice
Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy
Duncan the Wonder Dog
The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter
Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health, and Society: Black Female Vegans Speak
Defending Animal Rights
Watership Down: A Novel
MAD COWBOY: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat
V Is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind
Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week
The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan

A Work-in-Progress:

Feel free to add your favorite AR book/essay/film in the comments as I am always looking to expand my list of resources. One rule: you must explain why it speaks to you.

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Goats in Coats

goats in coats

I shared this photo on Facebook last night, because, um, hello, goats in coats. I couldn’t keep that to myself.

I didn’t think much of the post. I’m not sure where the photo originated. It wasn’t advocacy for me. It wasn’t meant to provoke deep thought. It was just fucking adorable.

A friend from high school commented “I love this so much I saved the pic,” followed shortly thereafter with: “So I do eat meat but I don’t like animals being treated cruel.”

Although goats are the most “popular” animals slaughtered for consumption worldwide, goat meat isn’t common in the area where we were both raised. It never occurred to me that goats in coats would spark such a comment. I was surprised, but pleasantly so. Don’t shun me for my optimism, but the comment left me feeling hopeful. There’s a subconscious recognition of the disconnect between loving and eating animals present. Why else bring it up–unsolicited, at that–if you are not in the process of reevaluating and questioning? Other than those of you blessed by chance and circumstance enough to be raised vegan, we’ve all been there to some degree. As I was composing a message to my friend, I realized there were many aspects of it that I wanted others to know as well. I hope my friend does not mind that I have decided to share that message, with an edit here or there, but many run-on sentences remaining.

Hi J,

I wanted to thank you for your comment because it reminded me a lot of myself just a few years back. I think some ass-hat acquaintance of mine–I’m looking at you Ray–left some snarky commentary so please ignore that. Some people forget how conflicted society can make us feel about animals. You and I are from the same area so I don’t think either of us are shocked that people can fish and hunt and even work at Smithfield, and then come home to their dogs and cats, or be enchanted by images of horses, or awww at baby farm animals, and still sincerely care about animals. My sister will share a picture of me and one of the cows here at the sanctuary one day and then share a picture of her fiancé or son beaming proudly over a row of dead turkeys or a skinned buck the next day. I know she is capable of great love for animals. I glimpsed it in the raw emotion brought on by the recent loss of her cat. And while some people may not relate or understand how she can have such deep love for some animals, and suppress those emotions for others, equally worthy of love, I get it. It hurts to witness and I hope someday something will shatter that apathy, but I get it, because it’s the same place I came from. (Literally, we came from the same vagina.)

(Was that last bit a bit too much?)

I wrote a blog post awhile back with a photo of me in high school bio lab, pretending to lick the pig fetus we dissected for class. A lot of people virtually patted me on the back for being “reformed,” but missed the point that I was still at that point someone who loved animals. I ate them, I cut their corpses up for class (rather sadistically), and I wore them, too, but I loved animals. I have loved animals and felt a connection with them for as long as I can recall, even if it didn’t manifest in every regard of my life. (Yes, that’s an understatement.)

One of my first connections to animals was with dogs, because we ALWAYS had a litter of puppies in the yard. (I was too young to know about spaying/neutering, a concept still new to most of my family. “Where are his balls?” my mother asked, laughing, when I brought home my dog-son Sora, but I digress.) After the mama dogs had their first litters, they were usually less patient with their second or third litters. (Their bodies were probably a bit worn out from all the nursing.) They’d leave more often even when the puppies were still crying out for milk and warmth. I would warm a bowl of cow’s milk, and carry it out to them. Usually they were too young to drink out of a bowl, so I would curl up in the dirt with them, and tediously place drops of milk into their crying mouths using a drinking straw. One of my brothers would frequently taunt me by threatening to hurt the pups. I spent so many hours “guarding” them, not realizing that he would’ve had no interest in them had I not cared for them. My love for them made me vulnerable. Even then the message was loud and clear that caring was a weakness, especially when it meant caring for someone even more defenseless than yourself.

We had cows up until my freshman year of high school. I resented them for the many evenings they broke free of their enclosure and my sister and I had to herd them back from the woods surrounding the pasture. But I loved them, too. I loved that my sister was afraid of the bull, but that I was not. (In hindsight, that was probably recklessly stupid of me considering the sheer size–one accidental misplaced footstep would’ve crushed my lil kid feet, but still, I felt very brave, and I felt as if he and I had an understanding. He wouldn’t charge me because I was such a bad ass little kid.) I enjoyed feeding the cattle ears of sweet corn now and then, as well as the rinds from the watermelons I devoured. I loved the way their tongues felt like sandpaper, and the abrasive sound of their tongues against the treats I gave them. But I also loved hamburgers. At the age of twelve, I probably knew somewhere in the back of my head that hamburgers were cows, but I don’t recall ever thinking about it. Society isn’t structured to encourage us to think about such things. It’s just the opposite. Every step possible is made to remove that association between ground beef and the living, breathing, sentient beings slaughtered, and it is made with such expertise that not many tweens are going to see through it. There were so many days I’d be outside, feeding and petting the cows, or simply watching them lick salt blocks, which was oddly entrancing, and then run inside when my mother called to have steak or porkchops or fried chicken…. We probably never even had an accidentally vegetarian meal as my mother seasoned all the vegetables with pork.

So people who congratulate me on being a different person now than the person I was in that photo, holding that fetal pig, completely miss the point: I am EXACTLY the same person. I have always held the same values. I have never wanted to be “cruel” to animals. The difference is now I am informed to better align my actions with those values, and I am emotionally open to do so. I had to undo decades of social conditioning that taught me “these” animals were pets, but “those” were food. I had to shrug off the behaviors of my parents to live the values they had inadvertently taught me (or maybe it was PBS–I watched a lot of TV). I had to come to terms with the fact that eating animals inherently entails cruelty when it is possible to avoid eating them. In the words of Matthew Scully, “When you start with a necessary evil, and then over time the necessity passes away, what’s left?”

It is entirely possible to avoid eating animals for many, if not most, people in the United States. (Though it may be more difficult for some than others without resources and support.) There is no nutritional necessity provided by animal sources that cannot be derived from plant sources. Even people who otherwise have no moral dilemma with the act of taking an animal’s life would find the conditions of modern farming appalling if they were honest with themselves. And 99% of meat comes from such conditions, so getting hung up on the idea that there might be some “humane meat” source becomes simply impractical for meeting the nutritional needs of this country.

I don’t want to “preach” at you, and I would never send you this lengthy message unprovoked, but your comment reminded me of a time in my own life when I began to recognize the disconnect in my life: that avoiding cruelty to animals might just extend beyond concerns for the animals I accepted into my “family.” And I wish someone had come along, not hellbent to persuade me one way or the other, but just to present me with the information so that I could have decided for myself sooner, instead of stumbling upon it in fragments over the years.

You’re in the unique position of being one of the few people I’ve kept in my life from my teenage years. You knew me when I was kind of a dick to people, for lack of a more apt phrase, because I didn’t know how to relate to people. I was conditioned to view caring as being weak. It is not. Caring is strength because it takes strength to deviate from the norm of apathy. It can be depressing to think of the cruelty towards animals and to face having been complicit in it, but I hope that knowing me then and knowing me now is enough to show that the good, the positive, of feeling connected with one’s values can outweigh the uncertainty of facing those unpleasant truths. If you’re inclined to do so, you don’t have to face those truths alone.

Veganism is starting to come into mainstream consciousness in ways I would never have predicted. (Just the number of celebrities switching to a plant-based diet is overwhelming. Exhausting even, if you have to hear everyone be angry about it.) There has probably never been a better and more convenient time to give it a try. If you are at all interested, I send out care-packages to friends who are willing to go vegan for a month, with the outcome after that month being entirely up to them. I have only been doing it since October so it is still a working project, but I am proud of the effort I put into it and the selections I currently include. I would love to send you one. I am putting together the packages for January now. It would be a good time to give it a go as everyone else will also be hacking away at New Year’s Resolutions. All I would need is a mailing address and a list of any food allergies. Let me know if you’re interested.

Sincerely,
This is the end of the letter/I don’t really end Facebook messages with signatures/You know who this is; it’s me.

I won’t include the reply because I don’t have consent to do so, but I will be sending out another vegan starter kit. It isn’t a lifetime commitment, but it is a start.

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