Tag Archives: compassion

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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What Will You Do?

“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory– disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”

– Jonathan Safran Foer.

New Undercover Footage at Tyson

You can’t determine if something is morally acceptable unless you know what it is you’re supporting. If you aren’t vegan, this is what you’re supporting.

Feel free to watch and summarize this video for me, because I’m just not doing it. Go vegan and get a free pass: never have to watch horrifying farm animal abuse videos again.

When you buy from Tyson, you are literally supporting this exact cruelty. You are more likely than not doing just the same when buying from other brands. Factory farms account for 99% of the meat sold in this country. Don’t fool yourself into thinking what you buy is any different or more humane.

I’m only speaking very generally because–as previously stated–I am not watching this video. I imagine it features some of the more egregious examples of cruelty–the types of cruelty we all hope are isolated incidents even when they aren’t. It’s easier to sleep at night when we think that this is the exception and not the rule. People can’t really be this horrible. But I remember being sixteen, very much not a vegan or vegetarian, and dating someone who worked for a local hog farm. He enjoyed telling me in graphic detail about finding rotting pig corpses that had been overlooked because there were too few people to manage the number of animals being held captive. He enjoyed making me uncomfortable. Surprisingly (considering what a sociopath he turned out to be), he didn’t enjoy telling me about the piglets he slammed against the concrete or smashed with wooden boards just because they were the runts of their broken family units.

He told me because it weighed on him emotionally and he couldn’t keep it to himself. I told him I didn’t want to hear about it. I’m going to ask that you do as I say and not as I did: Don’t turn a blind eye to suffering when you are contributing to its demand.

If this video–if even the idea of it–disturbs you, then please engage the problem. Don’t look away. It may hurt, emotionally, but you need only glimpse it. You aren’t the one living it. Please watch. Please employ every ounce of empathy at your disposal for these individuals and their plight. Know that you don’t have to be a part of this. Know that there are alternatives and that they are not out of your reach. Take the first step: ORDER A FREE VEGAN STARTER GUIDE.

“We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?”

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Throwback Thursday: upsetting image warning

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This is me aged sixteen years. This is me in my high school Advanced Biology class. This is me. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

For those of you who didn’t know me as a non-vegan, or those who have simply forgotten what I was like as a teenager, there it is: reality check.

Every person to ever tell me “I could never be vegan, because I love cheese too much” can basically shut the fuck up now. Does this look like a future vegan? I think I can top you on the apathy scale. DO YOU LOVE BACON? No fucks given. Been there, done that, originality points somewhere in the negatives.

If you had asked sixteen year old me to go vegan, I would’ve asked you “WTF is vegan?” (Followed by “Go away.”) If you had asked me to go vegetarian, I would have told you I could NEVER, because it’s too hard, you know. I would know, I tried it for like… a whole week once.

I would have also said that I love animals. If you had tried to point out the obvious contradiction while I was midway through my first directing role on the set of “Fetal Pig Kama Sutra,” my head may have imploded? I don’t know. I can’t honestly predict what would have happened, because I can’t slip back into that ignorance, and also, I’ve been watching too much sci-fi to be an accurate judge as to whether my head is actually capable of imploding.

Hypothetical responses amount to little though. Here is what actually happened: Less than two years after this photo was taken, I became vegetarian. Five years later, vegan. I’m taking a few story-telling shortcuts here.

Alone this photograph is merely an ugly reminder of humanity’s potential for cruelty and indifference. It’s just a snapshot; it isn’t the full picture. It doesn’t tell what comes after. And after is the best part! It’s somewhat redeeming, though not entirely. I mean, it’s definitely an improvement. It’s good enough.

I have seen my own potential for compassion and change realized. I must have hope that the same potential exists for the rest of humanity.

I keep this photograph around as a reminder to myself when my outlook on humanity is at its bleakest: Hey, don’t hang yourself yet. There’s still hope, even if it doesn’t look like it.

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First blog post: Prepared to be Underwhelmed

Look at me! I am writing! These characters form words and ta-da! OFFICIALLY BLOGGING.

I’ve been putting this off, because I have these fantasies in which inspiration hits me (but in a friendly way that neither bruises nor offends my feminist sensibilities) and I write the perfect first blog. I had hoped that a recent internship would fuel that blog. I am only a week in, but I think inspiration is something I’ll have to fake for the time being.

Today I have deliberately decided to slow down my productivity for fear of running out of things to do before the workday is over. I am listening to a podcast my supervisor sent me so at least I am multi-tasking. I am also ignoring messages from a friend who tells me that maca has increased her sex drive. She highly recommends it. I’d only be interested in finding the opposite of maca. I’m more than 1,000 miles away from my partner so all the maca in the world can burn for all I care.

I am also reading Matthew Scully’s new article “Pro-Life, Pro-Animal” at National Review Online (http://www.nationalreview.com/node/359761/print). It becomes problematic about one word into the title. I respect Matthew Scully’s craft. Dominion is an animal activist’s wet dream, filled with powerful, righteous quotes. I love that shit. That being stated, I don’t agree with his conservative (ahem, patriarchal) stance taken here. I anticipate that many of my friends who aren’t especially into denying reproductive rights will promote his article regardless, because he is oh so polite in asking that women not have autonomy over their bodies! It’s kind of subtle if you’re desperate to promote veganism at almost any cost. You might not even think of it as throwing women under the bus. You might think of it as targeting a new market. Finally, someone is telling those “pro-life” people to go vegan! If it requires reinforcing every misconception about abortion in the process, so be it! After all, in the long run, what’s one more article proliferating the idea that women’s rights are second to the “greater cause” of animal rights?

Can we think about that for one moment and what it means to give “props” to an author for reaching out to a constituency hellbent on denying the rights of women?

To clarify, I understand that this is not a ploy by Matthew Scully, who truly believes the crazy things he writes about the “abortion industry.” (It’s just like factory farming, folks! because factory farms enslave, confine, exploit, and slaughter sentient creatures, and so does… hey, wait a minute… that’s actually a pretty shitty analogy.) If you are likewise anti-choice, then this is the perfect article for you to share with your anti-choice brethren. I don’t waste much breath trying to convince people to change their beliefs when it comes to reproductive rights, because it’s a struggle enough just to get the people who agree with me to become actively engaged with the political system. So, if you’re anti-choice, do what you’re gonna do, cray-cray. That’s my mentality.

However, I, personally, specifically take issue with the idea of pro-choice individuals supporting this article. These individuals maybe don’t even want or need my input, but I need to vent. These individuals MAY NOT EVEN EXIST, but I still need to vent. I need to vent about the very IDEA of these people. I’m on a farm, people; I have too much time to ruminate. (Is this a pun? I am eating a lot, too.)

The key concept here is that anti-choice is anti-woman. The pro-choice individuals I know grasp this concept. If you grasp this concept, also, why would you EVER applaud an article that is Anti-Woman, Pro-Animal? Would you also give kudos to an Anti-Gay, Pro-Animal article? (Don’t forget to invite the Westboro Baptist Church to next month’s vegan potluck.) I’m not saying that hate-crazed people are off-limits when it comes to advocacy efforts, but I don’t think getting through to them should be at the cost of anyone’s rights. Animal advocacy shouldn’t and doesn’t require reinforcing hatred and ignorance. The notion of animal rights does not negate basic human rights. An animal rights movement that doesn’t care about women’s rights is one in denial of its own constituency. The two struggles should be one and the same. Feminism + Animal Rights = BFF. ❤ ❤ ❤

I started this blog entry on October 7th, the date Scully published his article. I ranted and raved to my roommates over the course of that weekend, but I didn’t feel motivated to contend with the slowness of the house desktop computer long enough to complete my blog. Work picked up the following week, which partially explains why I left the entire matter on the back burner. Mostly, however, I came to the realization that Scully’s article missed the mark in a crucial way: Who has the patience to read a 13 page article? (It printed at 29 pages.) There are 600+ comments on the article itself, but I see little reverberation throughout the AR-community or Internet at large. Most of the comments just serve as a reminder to never read the comments.

Now I am left to wonder why I even bothered to read it. I worked myself up in a huff for probably nothing! In my defense, I’m on an isolated farm 500 miles from friends and family. What else am I going to do in my spare time? Be productive? Yeah, sure.

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