Let’s be blunt.
I grew up with the belief that getting a tattoo simply wasn’t the sort of thing respectable people did.
True, I went on to become friends with individuals (many of whom I greatly respect and admire) who have positively relished the opportunity to become living canvases; indeed our own daughter, Jenny, arrived home for a visit on one occasion, adorned with her own permanent branding.
Yet still my conviction about their inappropriateness for me personally has remained as a lifelong and unshakeable feature of my outlook.
All this being the case, what’s going on in the photo above?
Well, this is me, 3 days before my 60th birthday, having two very permanent tattoos inked into my flesh.
So what, after all that is written above, could possibly have possessed me to do such a thing? Read on…
If you’ve studied anthropology, you will be aware that in many cultures, tattoos are a statement of identity. Even in the west, where there are no deeply significant traditions associated with this art form, when a person chooses to adorn their skin in such a bold and (perhaps) obvious manner, they are making some form of statement about themselves and expressing what is important to them.
Be the tattoo simply decorative, or deeply meaningful to the person who will wear it, the degree of permanence associated with being physically marked in this way means that it's quite a ‘big thing’ to do.
For 60 years, I haven’t felt any desire to decorate myself; but recently I have developed an increasingly pressing need to make an irrevocable comment upon the way I see the world that makes it instantaneously and indelibly apparent what my view of life is.
In previous blogs, I have frequently returned to the theme of the need to ‘stand up and be counted’ if the vegan movement is to bring about the wholesale societal change that should be its remit.
Recently, I was asked to give my personal definition of veganism. This is what I wrote.
“Veganism should be regarded as a cause as significant as any race, sex or civil rights related movement in history. It represents the only logical progression in human development, without which there may be no true peace or compassion in the world.”
I believe that message needs to be placed before all those who have not yet eschewed carnism, in every possible way, at every possible opportunity.
When you pass by somebody in the street, you may know nothing about them and their beliefs. If that person were me, you are unlikely to talk to me; you may not read my vegan themed T shirt, and thus I may have no impact on you at all.
But have you noticed the curiosity engendered by tattoos? Have you watched eyes being drawn to them?
So I now have two tattoos, in totally visible, ‘in your face’ positions, on my forearms, that tell the whole world what I’m about.
The words they use are deliberate and multiple in their meanings.
In part, my tattoos are for me. They were a 60th birthday present from Sharon.
The decision to have them was not lightly or frivolously made.
They are a statement of the depth of my passion for what I believe in.
They are borne out of my personal desire to tell anyone who enters my world of my conviction and the utterly unalterable nature of my lifestyle choice.
I owe that to the animals.
But more than this, they are another vehicle for using every platform I have – my body itself - to try and raise awareness and sway thought.
I don’t expect everyone to be as extreme as I am in my commitment.
But what are you doing to contribute to the change?
As an addendum to this blog, you may have read my previous blogs ‘An open letter to my daughter, Jenny’.
Jenny eventually became vegan and she was with me when I had my tattoos.
She added another to her body too.
I couldn't be prouder.
Our tattoos were inked at a very pleasant, wonderfully hygienic and distinctly ‘upmarket’ establishment called ‘The Ink Parlour’ in Kelowna, BC. Its all-female staff could not have been more welcoming and professional, and the artist working on us, Myah Hoyseth, was truly first class in her care and skill. It was a painless and enjoyable experience. I HIGHLY recommend them. And before anyone wonders, the inks were all vegan!