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making a difference

I’ve been told that when you’re vegan, you save approximately a hundred lives a year. I don’t doubt that statistic, but I’m having trouble feeling like I’ve actually made an impact. Yes, I am no longer directly impacting the lives of farmed animals by buying products manufactured using them. But I do not feel that the market has changed since I did. I do not feel like lives are actually being spared because I am no longer making those purchases. I feel like there’s just going to be more meat eggs and milk going on rapid-sale to get it sold before the expiry date because I didn’t buy them. I know the market will eventually change, as more people make ethical decisions. My previous purchasing/consumption habits are haunting me; I just don’t feel like I can take any solace in the fact that I’ve impacted some animal’s lives for the better.

In order to feel useful, I agreed to take in a foster dog a few weeks ago, even though I knew that my dogs probably weren’t going to be thrilled with the idea of it. But this dog had a tough time keeping a foster home, and his previous “parents” were on the brink of euthanizing before a friend of mine took him into her small rescue agency, saving him. Initially I thought I’d be able to manage and help him, but his issues were much more intense that I initially thought, and I had a rude awakening to the fact that I really know nothing about dog behaviour (something I’m looking to change over time). He had aggression behaviours that were more widespread and intense than I was able to handle. I was a little afraid of him at times, even had nights where my dogs and I slept on my couch and left this dog alone in my room simply so that I could visit the bathroom and kitchen without having to get past him while he was growling. I didn’t want to give up on him though. I was mortified about what might happen if I couldn’t handle him, given that I was the fourth foster home that he had been placed in since his removal. I struggled for a long time with what I should do. I have the resources to help these kinds of behaviours in people, so I thought I’d be able to help him. But a trainer convinced me that I was not a failure because I could not help him, that I wouldn’t beat myself up if I couldn’t rehabilitate an elephant or bear; I don’t know their language so I don’t know how to read them. So I conceded and we began looking for somewhere else for him to go. He was able to go back to the second woman who fostered him temporarily (he was amazing with her, she just didn’t have room for him initially) and we actually found an amazing young woman who has a history of helping aggressive dogs looking to adopt him. So, thankfully he gets a happy ending and a chance to keep living his adorable life. I played a part in that, so I need to be proud. But I still have trouble shaking the feeling of failure.

After it was back to just me and my critters at home, I was coming home from a walk with my dogs, and I saw a dead mouse on the road. I went to move it to the grass so it wouldn’t get squished, and discovered that it wasn’t actually dead. It was incredibly muddy, fur was all separated, feet were so encrusted that they looked infected; barely moving. So I scooped the poor thing up in my dog’s ball launcher, and carried it home in that. That’s how little it was moving… it let me do that. I brought it home, and gave it a bath. It perked right up and I had a hard time getting it out of my sink. The little bugger eventually got out of the little habitat I had set up, so I guess that means they were feeling better. I had intended to release him/her back to the spot where I had picked them up after they were looking better, but they beat me to it. No sign of them since, so I assume they didn’t run into my cat. So I’m hoping that turned out for the best.

The main thing is, I need to focus on the differences I’ve made in the lives of my fur babies. I may not be changing the world, but I’ve changed their worlds. My cat no longer sits in an empty room at the OSPCA. My first dog no longer lives in a kennel only getting outside twice a day if he’s lucky, and doesn’t run the risk of being put back into a semester or year of testing/experiments. My second dog no longer is starving on the streets. But I keep forgetting that I’ve helped them, cuz they’re just here with me and I love them and this is our life now.

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I’m Grumpy

Every time someone (who I assume or know is a meat-eater) posts something about animal rights, ESPECIALLY something about typically farmed animals… I immediately comment on it all excited asking them if they’re veg/vegan too.

It’s my passive-aggressive way of calling them a hypocrite.

Oh, you think it’s cute and happy when Dairy cows are released from their confinement, and get to live in a nice field because of some amazing people, instead of being sent to slaughter? Oh cool, STOP DRINKING MILK AND EATING ANIMALS THEN.

Except, I can never actually open with that, cuz what if the person actually is vegan and I just didn’t know it yet.

I just get so mad at the hypocrisy. The disconnect. How stupid people are. How ignorant. How blind they are to the impacts of their actions.

I get mad. I get frustrated. I just want this shit to end and there’s nothing I can do to end all the suffering I know is going on around me every second of every day from every angle.

Sorry guys, guess I’m having a bad night.

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A Sunday on Pig Island

I was able to meet up with Toronto Pig Save again yesterday, during the largest vigil I have ever attended. There were a total of 37 of us there yesterday, and it was the strongest sense of community I’ve felt in a while. Some people even recognized me from here and my impossible-to-miss rainbow hat, so thank you to anyone who mentioned my blog 🙂

I saw people I’d met previously, I met new people. Most importantly for me is I met more people my age. Everyone that I’ve met has been beyond friendly (I mean, have you ever met a mean vegan? I’m pretty sure that’s an oxymoron) but with how I’ve felt lately in terms of feeling isolated from my friends… it’s great for me to be starting to connect with more people my age.

One dedicated young woman (with awesome pink hair) was there a whole hour before everyone else. One of the memorable conversations I had was with a gentleman; I had been telling him how I had come to be vegan, and asked how long he’d been vegan. He didn’t know. There was no solid date that he decided to be vegan. Apparently it just sort of happened gradually over time without much planning. I think this is an excellent thing in terms of telling people about how easy going and being vegan is. If some people just end up vegan accidentally, how hard can it be to do intentionally? Clearly, not very.

I had a conversation about that with a woman at a red light who had taken one of the pamphlets being offered to her. I told her that I was recently vegan, and barely noticing in terms of food. We talked about how there are substitutes for literally everything now, and I told her that to me, it really only feels like I’m buying different brands of food at the grocery store. She was very supportive and assured us she was going to do more research as she drove away when the light changed.

I think this is the first vigil that I’ve attended where the positives outweighed the negatives for me. I actually had a really good day.

I had a good day despite the fact that some people were laughing at us from their cars. Despite the fact that a driver re-routed his truck so that he wouldn’t have to stop at the light in front of us. Despite the fact a driver threw carrots at us on his way out after “unloading” his pigs (because, didn’t you know: vegans are always starving because we have nothing to eat… so really, he was being nice……………) while yelling who knows what. We had waved at his passenger because it looked like he was recording us or taking pictures on his phone.

I also had a good day despite seeing this after leaving the vigil. I had posted this link on my wall in the morning. 

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All in all, I think I’m getting better at managing things. Before leaving my house in the morning, I had to tell myself that I wasn’t allowed to get mad at myself for not being able to do anything for the pigs today. I need to remind myself that some things can be done today (like showing love and compassion to as many of them as I can) and some things can’t be done today (I can’t save any of the ones being sent to slaughter). But I can help reduce the demand by talking to people about it and helping them realize what they are participating in. Like the man at the light the first time I was there. Like the woman I spoke to yesterday. That is why I had a good day despite all of those thing, because someone listened and understood.

Now please excuse me while I go dig in to the delicious blondies I have cooling on my stove top.  Recipe.

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Photos: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Full Album: here 

Also, if you haven’t checked out Toronto Pig Save, you should!

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My words, My rhetoric

rhet·o·ric

noun

  1. (in writing or speech) the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast.
  2. the art or science of all specialized literary uses of language in prose or verse, including the figures of speech.
  3. the study of the effective use of language.
  4. the ability to use language effectively.
  5. the art of prose in general as opposed to verse.

I’ve been told I should tone down my rhetoric. The intended use of the word was not specified, so I figured I’d address them all.

  1. Undue. Exaggeration. Bombast (speech too pretentious/pompous for an occasion). What about animal rights activism is undue? What about drawing attention to the reality of food production is exaggerated? How am I pretentious for wanting to scream at the top of my lungs that we are no better than the animals we are exploiting for our enjoyment?
  2. Oh, so you want me to be less intelligent when I speak? No thanks.
  3. Again, where’s the problem?
  4. You don’t want me to be effective in my speech?
  5. I use my words and actions to convey what I need to. Typically this is trait is desirable.

So, why would anyone want me to tone my rhetoric down? To tone down myself, my actions, my words; is to be silent. Given that I already see so much that makes me want to scream but instead I lower my head, avert my eyes, and try not to think about it every second of every day… to do less than I do is to be silent. Is to betray myself. To do any less is to be complacent; which I am not. In a world where action is needed for anything to ever change, to do nothing is to consent. Which I do not.

My rhetoric should not be cause of concern for anyone. What my discourse and actions are about is what you should be offended by.

I do what I do because it is important to me. I do what I do because it is important. I do what I do because I care an awful lot.

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Right Foot. Left Foot.

One foot in front of the other. Just keep swimming. Dry the tears, take a breath, move on to the next thing.

The night before last I started wondering how often I saw or thought something, related to veganism (or lack thereof), that made me sad or caused me pain in some way. A point I don’t feel I’ve been able to get across to some people yet is the magnitude with which I am affected by what I am experiencing. It’s so much more than just when I see people eat meat. So in order to give my point more weight (notice, you don’t have to use the word “meat” here) to my statements about how my life has changed in terms of my emotions, I started a daily counter.

I know two days isn’t really much of a sample size, but same as when I started tracking my anxiety symptoms a few months back: I had no idea it was this high. Way higher than any anxiety symptoms were popping up. Yesterday I counted 134, and today I’m closing in on 180. Not quite there yet, but give it time, I’m not asleep yet.

So, I’m obviously pretty drained. It seems that on average about 160 things a day happen that I suppress. 160 things a day that remind me how awful the world is. That averages out to 1 every 6 minutes in an 16 hour day. Every 6 minutes. I literally cannot get ten minutes peace.

I had an incident with my roommate tonight. It’s really upsetting to me when it happens, because I love her very much and three months ago I never would have guessed that I’d ever have a reason to be hurt by her or vice versa.

She came across a super sexist article by some idiot, and got a little worked up about how that could have come from a real person. It was just so obscenely ridiculous to her that something like this could exist in our society. I looked over at her with that tight smirk that says “I’m holding something back right now” and she knew I was gonna say something about meat. The fact is… I have that thought 160 times a day apparently. Same shit, different topic. I forget what exactly happened in the middle, but I think she asked me if I could just respect her personal choices the way she was doing for me. I said I can’t. It got a little awkward for a minute, then I tried making small talk. But she just said something like “I’m upset right now, can I not be left alone?” and then walked away. I honestly can’t remember the specifics, because I was too crushed by that point.

I’m upset 160 times a day, and I don’t get to be left alone.  I just sat down on the kitchen floor and cried for what may have been 15 or 20 minutes. I cried for the 160 things that I hadn’t cried for yet today. I cried for the rifts I am experiencing with my loved ones. I cried for all the things I want to change in the world. I just feel so powerless and tiny up against it all and wanted to give up and just quit life and just… not feel like such a failure.

I wanted to quit. But my friend told me earlier in the day (apparently I want to quit life more than once a day) that I can’t quit; they need me. They need me to fight for them. So when I was done sobbing, I took some deep breaths, and I got up. I picked up my phone and went back to a conversation with a friend who was having a hard time finding stuff without milk products in it, and made a recommendation or two. I knocked on my roommates door asking her if she wanted me to set the coffee maker for both of us. And life goes on, one foot in front of the other.

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8

Pig Island

To the man at the red light who held my gaze for what felt like hours: Thank you. Thank you for looking. Thank you for not intentionally choosing ignorance. Thank you for not scoffing and turning away like so many others. You gave me hope. And I really needed that today. You looked at me and you seemed confused. But you didn’t look away. Then you looked concerned. But you didn’t look away. Then you looked sad. And you continued to look into my eyes. I felt like we had finally come to an understanding, and I swear I saw you give the tiniest of nods. You understand now. You understand where your food comes from, and you understand that it’s wrong. Thank you for looking me in the eye for that minute that felt like an eternity. Thank you for looking. Thank you for seeing.

When my class was canceled this morning, my friend and I decided to join Toronto Pig Save to bear witness to the pigs about to be slaughtered, and to protest meat in general to passers-by. We had signs, we had pamphlets, and we wanted you to see us. That was my experience with one person in particular and possibly the highlight of my day. There were obviously many low points too. Today I learned that SEVEN THOUSAND young pigs are slaughtered daily at that one death-house in Toronto.

We only had one truck pass by us when I was there. As it was getting closer I got angry at the people in the cars. I was waving and pointing ferociously, yelling THEY’RE RIGHT THERE! LOOK AT THEM! No one seemed to care. Or maybe I was just too heartbroken to notice. Then the truck was in front of us. It stopped with a jolt, and the pigs were shaken. I couldn’t control the tears by that point. Then the asshole lurched the truck again, just to shake them another time. I stuck my hand through. I rubbed them. One of them sniffed my fingers intently. I told them I was sorry. I told them I was so sorry and I couldn’t stop crying.

Jo-Anne McArthur was there taking pictures. I hope she got some of me crying. I need my friends and loved ones to understand how much this hurts me, to know that people that I love and value are participating in this. My heart is always breaking.

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Photos taken by my friend E