A few days ago I learned that my 26-year-old daughter was 'disturbed' that a friend of hers had been reposting some of my pro-animal rights blogs on his Facebook page. She viewed this as a bad thing since it amounted to “ramming veganism down people’s throats”. Her mother proffered that she might like to discuss it with me, but she declined on the grounds that she would find herself agreeing with everything I said.I know my daughter. She would indeed acquiesce to every argument I put forward. I know the subject matter and the arguments are pretty unassailable if you are a reasonable, thoughtful and compassionate person, which (most of the time) my daughter is. Nonetheless, I am also well aware that having agreed, she would ignore everything that was said very shortly afterwards. So I decided to reply in writing.
Then after I’d written my response, I decided to take the rather unusual step of making my reply public. So here is an open letter to my daughter and the rest of the world...
Your mother tells me that you have concluded that my numerous blogs regarding our treatment of animals amount to "ramming veganism down everyone's throats". She also tells me that you didn't want to engage me about it, so I thought I'd engage you.
Let's deal with the assertion first: Am I "ramming veganism down everyone's throat"?
I hope so.
I am deliberately doing this for reasons, which at least in part, you must know only too well. I proceed from some fundamental tenets:
Animals are living breathing creatures.
They have a right to their lives.
They value their lives.
They don’t want to die.
We have no right to deprive them of their lives.
Needless to say, these are not popular views.
Generally speaking, people either don't yet accept these things, or even if they do, they conveniently forget them. Granted, some are stupid enough to believe that an invisible man in the sky created animals for the sole purpose of humans enslaving, murdering and eating them. But those who don’t buy that brand of BS are either prisoners of their own habits, or they’ve lost their ability to be compassionate.
The sophistication of our society affords us the luxury of buying a piece of meat, prepackaged and bought off the supermarket shelf, in a manner that allows us to totally disassociate from the fact that it is actually the flesh of a living being that valued its life and wanted nothing more than to stay alive. When we buy a pint of milk we don't connect it to the calf that was torn away from its mother at birth so that we could drink bovine growth hormones never intended for us. I could list countless examples of the Chinese walls all around us that protect us from a web of horrors that are perpetrated in our names.
Such a depersonalisation of living beings makes it easy for our consciences. But is that right? Does that mean there is no wrongdoing? Does that mean animal's lives don’t matter?
I believe they do.
Having been raised in a house full of animals, you are only too aware of the uniqueness of their personalities. You have seen ample evidence of their emotions. You know that each animal we have shared our lives with is a unique individual with its own personality, peculiarities and particular zest for life.
Why would any creature be any different, be it a dog, pig, cow, chicken or whatever?
Has your ability to feel compassion for the helpless who get slaughtered fallen prey to convenience, laziness, peer pressure, an inability to empathise with what they go through, or simply a lack of caring?
Can you, in all honesty, dwell upon what you are complicit in and feel comfortable with the part you play? Personally, I cannot.
Consider these facts:
619 million humans have been killed in wars since records began.
The same number of animals get killed every 5 days.
If we killed humans at the same rate, humans would be extinct within 7 days.
Does any of that sound right to you?
Is it not horrific that ‘farmed’ animals get to live for 4% of their natural lifespan if they are lucky?
Is it not monstrous that for our pleasure, animals undergo abuse, excruciating pain, torment and torture? (Want to see the videos?)
Is it so strange that whereas most people may pass ‘livestock’ and see nothing, merely something awaiting to be food, I see gentle creatures with feelings that just want to stay alive, as surely as humans do?
Why should we eat them? What gives us that right? We’re not even physically designed to!
The answer is that we have evolved a habit. It is a matter of convenience. It’s what we expect. It’s a precedent.
But none of that makes it right.
It would be my observation that as we travel through our lives, we encounter many circumstances wherein we are required to make choices. At such times we use our discernment to establish what is right and what is wrong, and thus, how we should respond in the actions we take. Some situations are major and will have a huge impact upon our lives. Others are seemingly insignificant, even if they impact upon the lives of others. But the criteria we use to adjudge the importance of the situation is primarily based upon vested interest and concern for ourselves. We are far more likely to act out of convenience, opportunism and wholly personalised subjective analysis than we are to consider the impacts and repercussions of what we do upon others; particularly when we are not even able to recognise that consideration of those 'others' is a valid thing.
Thus most people are able to ignore animals with emotional and moral impunity. After all, society does not punish us other than for the rankest, vilest treatment of them. But that does not mean that we do not inflict wounds on our souls when we look the other way and tacitly accept that what is done to them in our name is acceptable.
Let's be real about it:
There is no humane or right way to take the life of a being that wants to live.
The animal kingdom, wild or ‘domestic’ is not our fiefdom.
To quote the author Alice Walker: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”
But how do you get people at large to think about these things?
Mostly they don’t want to look at the subject matter because it’s too uncomfortable. They are afraid to look at themselves and their choices for fear of their culpability. They may be too lazy to make a change. Or they simply may not care.
So should I give up? Are my writings futile?
Here’s the odd thing. Just through my writings I have, to my certain knowledge, managed to convert over 100 people to (at least) vegetarianism, so far. And since all change occurs on an exponential basis, it would not be unreasonable for me to conclude that those individuals are affecting change in others. And those changes literally save lives.
Sometimes people need reminding of what it is they're actually doing or tacitly condoning. So I write the blogs to reacquaint people with an aspect of themselves that they have forgotten, namely their supposed humanity; to draw their attention to what they maybe don’t even realise they’re doing, in the hope that it will perhaps spark something within them that will cause them to change; to goad them into action; or simply to shock them out of their habituated complacency.
When I "ram it down people's throats", I am standing up for what I believe to be right and what I believe is important for both the human race and the planet. I am moved to action by the implication of Hillel the Elder’s words: "If not me who? If not now, when?"
I accept that people don’t like having things "rammed down their throats". But the way I see it, the issue is important enough to stand up and be counted for. If I alienate others, then really, that's their problem, not mine. Granted, I have lost friends because of my stand. I consider that sometimes you have to give up on people, not because you don't care, but because they don't.
So why should it bother you that I take this stand? Don’t you want the message "rammed down your throat?"
We both know it's because it makes you feel uncomfortable. You know yourself that our enslavement and slaughter of animals is wrong. I have noticed that your views on meat eating are 'flexible'. It does not escape me that when you are with us, you apparently empathise with our beliefs, only to have them (apparently) easily swayed when you are with others, when you quickly revert to abandoning some of the tenets we have discussed and seemingly agreed upon. This is, of course, your choice.
However, you may wish to reflect that personal integrity - which must surely incorporate always doing what you believe to be right - is primarily exhibited through consistency and commitment.
Do you prefer to turn a blind eye to how animals are killed and ignore the shameful ways in which we use them? Don’t you accept that these helpless creatures actually have a right to their lives? Do you really believe that they're here for the sole purpose of feeding us? Or won’t you finally, irrevocably accept that we simply do not need to perpetuate unending agony and suffering in other beings? And if you can accept it, are you not able to stick to your commitment to play no further part in what befalls them?
Its your choice. But don’t be surprised that I keep on "ramming it down everyone's throat".
It matters. It matters to me personally, it matters to the animals who can't speak for themselves, and ultimately, it matters to everyone on the planet.
Are you familiar with this Margaret Mead quote?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”
I, for one, want to be a part of the small group that rights this intolerable, unnecessary and agonising wrong we perpetrate upon animals.