Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Part 3 – Animal suffering and human indifference

("Non-Vegan 'Food' & Child Pornography: A former victim of child sexual abuse makes a screaming plea for help")
Link to part 1 of 5: [Note: Part 2 removed.]

I think sometimes about what it would mean to be a good ally to the animals. I know it would entail way more than what I do now. If animals in the factory farms and laboratories suddenly gained the consciousness and capacity to have an uprising, and had one, not only would I not think it unfair of them if they tried to commit genocide on humanity, but I'd also not think it unfair if they deemed me unworthy of having my life spared, despite that I have been a vegan since I was 20. After all, I don't scream in the face of, or even calmly confront, every single non-vegan person I know. I don't spend my life blowing up factory farms or assassinating those who own them. I'm a shitty, cowardly ally who only speaks up when she has nothing to lose, who would rather avoid the awkward tension of confronting other humans than speak up for the greater good. My efforts to help are no better than my parents responding to my screams of fear and pain by yelling up the stairs at my brother to stop playing so rough. And now it's nobody else but myself who tells me not to scream too loud.

What these animals go through is far, far worse than what I did. The reason I described certain details of my abuse experience is to help you understand the heavy implications of this point. I don't think it trivializes my suffering to have it compared to animal suffering. Quite the opposite – I think it minimizes animal suffering. It is offensive and trivializing to their pain to compare it to mine. I have never been forced to live in a cage more crowded than a rush hour subway. I have never had my genitals cut off without anesthetic. I have never been dangled upside down by my ankles to have my throat slit and the blood drained out of me. I would go through every year of what I went through again and again and again rather than spend one lifetime as one of these tortured creatures. Their bodies always in pain. Exhausted by the pain. Having no control. Being trapped. No rest. No relief. It never stops. Every moment of life an agony. No way to make the pain stop, or even ease. At least most of the 24 hours of my days were abuse free.

And every painful emotion you've ever known, they feel it too. The rage. The grief. The insane terror. The smell of death, the sounds of murder. For those animals kept in individual pens, loneliness. For those crammed in cages or sheds with others, severe social discord. Their hearts broken by this. Their minds shattered by it. And by the endless stress and boredom, the utter emptiness and pointlessness of their imprisoned lives. They're driven literally insane by it all. It's why the teeth of pigs are removed (without anesthetic) while they are babies – if not, they chew off pieces of their own and each other's flesh. It's why the beaks of chicks are seared off with a heated blade (also without anesthetic) – if not, the chickens peck each other to the point of flesh wounds or death. Anyone who doubts that animals experience emotional pain need only reflect on the fact that these are not behaviors that pigs and chickens normally display. They are behaviors they display when they have been emotionally traumatized or driven insane.

And this is all they've ever known of life. And all they ever will know. Never knowing what it's like to breathe with ease. Never knowing what it's like to feel the muscles in their body relax. Never knowing what it's like to be touched with love, to be touched in a way that doesn't cause pain. Never knowing what it's like to feel pleasure or even peace in their body – the grass, the earth; warm sun, cool water. Never getting to play. Never getting to form bonds of companionship or love with other animals. Robbed of the joys they could have experienced if they had a free life. And people who have lived with a cat or dog know that animals are capable of experiencing joy in life if given a chance. But not these animals. And the grand prize at the end of all of this is brutal, terrifying murder. A fitting end to a life in hell.

They, too, cry and scream in fear and pain. In the Meet Your Meat video ( ),
you can hear them crying and screaming when they're mutilated, when they're burned, when they're dangled upside down from their legs by a machine taking them to their deaths, when they are finally slaughtered. They cry and scream for their lives, for their freedom, for their babies and for their mothers who are separated less than a week after birth. And we ignore them. We go on eating their eggs and their milk and their bodies – and we ignore them and their pain. Utter indifference.

This devastates me. To see people's indifference and failure to protect animals hits too close to home for me. It is similar to, yet so much worse than, my parents' seeming indifference to my pain and their failure to protect me from abuse. And so I have a huge problem with those who choose to be non-vegan. My heart aches because of them, and although my love for others is unconditional, and my love for some non-vegans is quite overflowing, frankly I am quite bitter. I think it's despicable to choose to be non-vegan. I think it's a horribly unethical choice to make.

It's not like being vegan requires a sacrifice or a reduction in your quality of life. I've been vegan for over six years. It took a little extra time at first to learn new recipes, but within a few weeks being vegan became second nature and took no extra time or planning at all. The inconvenience was small and temporary.

The food I eat now that I'm vegan is more delicious than what I ate when I was non-vegan. I save money. I feel healthier. I'll probably live longer than I would have as a non-vegan. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a coalition of medical professionals who advocate veganism on grounds of health and ethics. Their website will show you that veganism (done right) is the healthier choice ( ).
And Vegan Fitness is a website which shows that veganism is compatible even with a highly athletic lifestyle in which you burn lots of calories and require extra protein ( ).

It seems there are two main reasons people choose to be non-vegan. One is an unwillingness to make the effort it initially takes to research vegan nutrition and to change their grocery shopping and cooking habits. The other is an unwillingness to give up the pleasures that certain foods give to their taste buds. This also hits too close to home for me, that an innocent creature be sacrificed to abuse in order to allow for someone else's convenience or trivial pleasure. It's just wrong.

Taking pleasure in hurting someone you're not angry at (sadism) or in sexually exploiting a child is inherently sick, whereas taking pleasure in eating something tasty is not. But valuing your taste-buds more than you value preventing the torture of animals is just as selfish and unethical. As for convenience, the choice to contribute to the torture of animals so you can avoid the temporary inconvenience of figuring out how to be vegan is at least as selfish and unethical as the choice to sacrifice your children's wellbeing so you can avoid the inconvenience of dealing with their problems. It doesn't take too long to research nutrition, learn recipes, and experiment until you figure out healthy and tasty eating habits. As for those who tried being vegan but went back due to health and energy issues, they chose to give up instead of being temporarily inconvenienced by the small amount of work it would take to figure out how to make veganism work for them (more research on nutrition, taking vitamin/mineral pills, etc.).

I have often heard non-vegans say: "I care about animals, but I like meat/cheese/etc. too much to stop eating it." Or: "I care about animals, but I don't have the time to figure out how to become vegan." Are these valid excuses? Consider these parallel examples: "I care about children, but I like child porn too much to stop using it." Or: "I care about children, but I don't have the time to get therapy to heal from whatever it is that compels me to watch child porn."

My parents had excuses, too, for not protecting me from my brother and getting him the professional help he so clearly needed. They came home from work feeling tired. They had projects to work on. Chores to do. They had marital problems. They were depressed. They were stressed out. And they didn't want any more stress. They didn't want to expend energy and time they felt they didn't have on dealing with our problems. They intended to deal with them eventually, but not yet; soon, when they had the time and energy. What's your excuse?

I accuse every person who chooses to be non-vegan of being complicit in crimes which in my estimation cause more suffering than what's caused by the sexual abuse of children. And it breaks my heart that so few people get what a big deal torture is – even when the victims of that torture are not human. If you have even a decent capacity for compassion you will stop making excuses and start making the transition to veganism now.
Link to part 4 of 5:

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