“The real struggle in being vegan doesn't involve food. The hardest part about being vegan is coming face-to-face with the darker side of humanity & trying to remain hopeful. It's trying to understand why otherwise good & caring people continue to participate in the needless violence against animals just for the sake of their own pleasure or convenience.”—Jo Tyler
Lighthouses In The Fog
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
I sat at one end of the table, listening, as the group at the far end talked about eating animals. Sure, they touched on a few other topics: weather, family outings, etc. But mostly they talked about eating animals. What they had for dinner last night, and what (or rather who) they planned to eat tonight. They talked about the big chicken wing sale at Stop and Shop and how good those wings would taste when grilled. One woman sighed in mock ecstasy while recalling the “unbelievably creamy” scrambled eggs she ate last weekend. Another brought up the new restaurant that was opening around the corner and wondered whether they would serve deli meats. On and on it went: turkey…lobster… ice cream. Talking about the animals they ate seemed to unite them; it was a bonding experience.
Now, most people listening would find nothing unusual or objectionable about their conversation. After all, it’s the same sort of conversation being had right now at work places, malls, classrooms, bars, golf courses, waiting rooms, etc., all over our country. All over the world, in fact. It’s just what people tend to talk about. It’s “normal.” But to someone who has opened their mind and heart to the grim realities of animal agriculture, and how completely unnecessary it is, chatter like this is deeply disturbing. In fact, when I think of the ease and casualness with which people speak about eating the products of suffering and violence, the expression “banality of evil” springs to mind. And it occurs to me that unlike other moral wrongs (such as racism, sexism, slavery, etc…), eating animals is actually a greatly celebrated and treasured part of our culture. It seems to be an integral part of how many people view themselves and how they “fit in” socially. In other words, it’s about far more than just “food,” as Jonathan Safran Foer observes in his book, Eating Animals. It’s about identity – both personal and cultural. And that’s a large part of what makes our jobs as animal advocates so challenging.
Remaining calm, friendly and professional while surrounded by people who are relishing in the products of animal abuse can also be a challenge. Not every vegan has the luxury of living and working with like-minded people. In fact, most of us must interact with carnists on a daily basis; and we must listen to them talk about consuming (and often actually watch them consume) dead animals. For me, this is no easy task. Sitting at that table, I found myself growing increasingly distraught. My skin felt hot and tingly. I could hear my heart beat. I was not part of the conversation and there was no good opportunity for me to interject. I could neither close my ears nor open my mouth…I felt trapped. The only thing I could do in that moment was try to detach.
So I hummed a song in my head. I thought about an uplifting Open Rescue story I recently read. I reminded myself that I, too, once sat around casually talking about the chicken and cheese I ate that day (unaware of the suffering I was contributing to). I took a deep breath and thought of all the incredible, dedicated, brilliant, caring people I have met since going vegan. (And how our numbers keep growing every day!) I thought of how hard you all work to create a more compassionate world even in the face of overwhelming apathy, ignorance, denial and resistance.
I envisioned each of you as individual, twinkling lighthouses standing tall in a dark sea of fog. I shut my eyes and felt a wave of hope and gratitude wash over my despair.
”This Vegan Life”, Jo Tyler
We Get What We Give
How ironic is it that we protest against the abuse and exploitation caused by those in power while simultaneously abusing and exploiting those at our mercy. As the saying goes, “we get what we give.” Until we stop harming others for our pleasure and profit we cannot expect any better for ourselves.
- Jo Tyler