To be vegan is to be consistent. We extend our natural feelings of empathy not just to dogs and cats, but to cows, geese, and humans.
Today a neighbor of ours found a stray Dachshund mother wandering in the woods between our neighborhood and a very busy road. He took her home. She was not spayed, had no collar, and shivered with more than a little fear as he brought her food and water. She had recently given birth.
Let us do a little visualizing. This won’t hurt, and it won’t be disgusting. Bear with me.
You are a Dachshund. You are alone, wandering through unknown territory. Your babies are where you left them, whimpering and hungry, still wet from birth, crawling over each other in search of you, their sole sources of warmth, love, and of course life-giving food.
What would drive you to leave? What would have to go through your head that you would leave your freshly born children defenseless in a strange place?
I cannot speak for her, but I imagine it was fear and desperation. Maybe all she wanted was water. Or maybe she hadn’t eaten in days, and now she was going to risk her children’s lives because it was either stay with them, and die of starvation herself, or wander off and risk her children being eaten by a predator.
My heart goes out to her. I really cannot imagine being in desperate, hopeless situation. I work a desk job. Maybe you feel similarly. Maybe you agree. Most people wish her what she deserves: safety, shelter, food, water and a clean place to raise her children.
Now transpose those feelings onto a cow. Why is she any less deserving of our mercy? Why are her children relegated to a few short days, or weeks, of terrible life before being slain for their pale flesh? Surely, the cow and her calves are every bit as scared and sensitive as the Dachshund.
Before I was vegan, reading stories like these evoked sickening feelings of guilt and helplessness. I was only able to console myself with a (false) reminder that eating flesh and drinking non-human milk are necessary for human life. Now I know that vegan diets are healthy – extremely healthy. I know that flesh is not mine to take, nor milk mine to demand from captive, lactating mothers.
The idea of exploiting a Dachshund for some weird, personal pleasure was as repulsive to younger me as it is today. But, back then I ate flesh and drank dairy. I had not made the connection yet. What pleasure, you might wonder, could anyone gain from her? Shudders arise at the mere suggestion.
One day, we will protect and respect all sentient beings. Be consistent. Go vegan.
Cows, chickens, fish, goats, geese, and all other individuals are every bit as deserving of justice and compassion as is any beloved family member.
In the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning, our cat Titus was struck by a car and killed. Judging by his wounds, and the fact that he crawled not an inch from where he was struck, we can guess he died instantly. I’d like to think so.
To help cope with his passing, I posted some pictures of him online as well as a video I made the night before, in which I scratched his belly and rubbed his head. He playfully batted at my hands, flipped himself over and over, and rolled around, alternating between swatting at me and hugging me. We will miss him dearly.
I don’t think anyone would say that the car which ran him over was a compassionate car, nor would they say that the act was exonerated if the driver got out and chanted or prayed or somehow showed respect to Titus. No, Titus is still dead, regardless of the means, intent or ritual around it.
Are baby cows any less worthy of our compassion simply because they had no humans to love them, to name them, and to dote upon them? Do they deserve freedom any less?
When we can mourn the passing of a neighbor’s cat, yet feed our children the milk of a mother cow, we are denying the connection between them. When we snack on the dessicated remains of sentient beings (“beef jerky”) on the way to the veterinary clinic, we practice numbness and denial. The animals we consume are every bit as deserving of life as my cat was, and in consuming them we reinforce a disharmony and a confusion in ourselves that reverberates with every meal.
If inflicting pain on any helpless creature, human or not, brings you unease, then I beg of you to cease eating animals. If we are ever to experience the world honestly, without fear, and without denial then we must begin by facing our actions toward all animals that way.
The murder of “food animals” is more tragic than accidentally flattening them with our cars because these unnecessary deaths are intentionally ordered. We pay individuals to kill individuals. We crush them under our own machinery for absolutely no good reason.
Let me leave you with a deeply salient point Dr. Will Tuttle makes in his book, The World Peace Diet:
Most of us have had the experience of receiving pain at the hands of doctors or dentists, yet the hands that administer the pain are, we feel, ultimately well-intentioned. The fact that they are doing these painful things for our own good makes the infliction of pain tolerable and gives it a meaningful context. To imagine those same hands performing painful procedures on our bodies with the sense that these hands do not care at all about our good, but are causing us pain simply because it profits them or they enjoy doing so, is horrifying in the extreme, particularly if we are powerless in their hands. When we put animals in this position by purchasing their flesh, fluids and eggs, we must bear responsibility not only for their suffering but for the hardening of the human hands and hearts that inflict this suffering.