Thursday, August 26, 2010

Animals and Activism

I follow a lot of blogs. There is one blog this is all about animal activism. There was a post one time about the author being frustrated that more vegans are interested in baking brownies than really doing any activism.

I am not the activist type. I honestly do not have time to be doing tons and research to spread around, writing letters, attending protests, and the like. I believe in what people are doing, and I admire people who stand up for what they believe, no matter what.

The thing is, I am doing more by being a vegan than just searching for the perfect brownie recipe.

I live in a very small farming community. I don't know for a fact that I am the only vegan, but I would not be surprised. I have heard rumors of a couple of vegetarians. Farming animals and crops is the way of life around here. It's practically blasphemous to some people that someone would choose not to eat meat. I have personally offended more than one person just because of my diet, not by anything I have said. I have been attacked verbally more than once. I know there are people who think I am crazy, because people have said it.

But there are also people who are curious. Every day I am surrounded by students who have no clue what it means to be vegan, and they have no clue what a vegan would eat. I answer any questions they have, and they have many. Some of them just shake their heads at how ridiculous I am. Some of them respect my choices.

There is one guy who graduated, and he came back to visit one day. He had been working on a dairy farm. He said to me, "I thought about you the other day, Jade. Remember when you said something about taking the baby cow away from its mom?" I said I remembered. He shook his head. "Well, now I'm the asshole who does it."

I am not optimistic or foolish enough to believe that he is going to change his diet or the way he lives. But I planted something in his brain that actually made him think about what he was doing, and the effect it has on the animals. I felt sorta victorious that day.

I don't have to preach or protest or be obnoxious or outlandish to spread the word about being a vegetarian or vegan.

This morning I finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. This should be required reading for everybody. People should be educated about where their meat comes from and what happens to the animal before it gets to your plate. This book is not preachy, it is just what Foer found out about factory farming during his extensive research. His amazing writing skills make it seem like he is just having a conversation with you while you read it. It's very straightforward as he talks about the meaning of suffering, food, family, tradition, culture, and the effects of factory farms (where 95 percent of our meat comes from) on the economy, our health, the environment, and the animals themselves.

When I was a teenager I became a vegetarian because I couldn't stomach the idea of eating a piece of dead animal. I still ate dairy and eggs, because I rationalized that no animals had to die for them. I had no idea the kind of suffering that laying hens and dairy cattle go through. I had no idea that there was a lot more suffering going on in an animal's life than just the end, when they are slaughtered.

Although I have been vegan for more than two years now, this still shocked me and horrified me, and at one point, brought tears to my eyes. I have been able to live without the guilt of eating meat for some time, but now I have another guilt. How can I let my kids eat this stuff, when I know how it affects their little bodies, the hormones and antibiotics, the filthy shitty living conditions, the diseases that have been born from factory farming, the terrible consequences it can have on their health? How can I let my son eat a chicken McNugget when I know that's it's not even food? It's some processed version of factory shit, formed into a nugget with more than 30 ingredients that are harmful to his mental and physical health?

At least Garrett has quit eating meat. And Grace is a vegetarian about half of the time. I don't think she quite yet understands what it means, and I hope that when she is more educated she will make the right decision. Should I be educating her more right now? How much should I tell her about animals and the way they are treated? I don't know. I am working on that.

I am going to read the book again, this time with a highlighter in my hand. There were many parts that I wanted to be able to go back and find. It was brilliant. It may have been the best non-fiction book I have ever read. It hit me hard.


  1. Wow I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a town where I would be the only vegan. Props to you for standing up above the rest and hopefully with time, your diet will effect more people in your community.
    I think it might be too shocking to tell your daughter how badly animals are treated. Maybe when she gets a little older? I seen a lot of good 'why people are vegetarian' children books..maybe you could read her some of those?
    As for McDonalds, yeah I agree..that's not even food. I wouldn't get it for them anymore..there's no nutrition in there. Its just a waste of money and really a waste of a meal, since nothing really is gained.

  2. The problem I have is that my son Drew has major food issues, as in he will eat about ten things on the planet and that's it. Hardly any of them are nutritious. When we are out and need to stop to eat, that's the only place he will eat. It doesn't happen very often, but I wish it did not happen at all. My husband is not exactly on the same page as me when it comes to nutrition and food. These things make it more difficult. But I am working on it!