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.
Let me get this straight. We artificially inseminate cows. We steal their babies and hook up machines to steal their milk. We pasteurize the milk, ship it across the country in chilled trucks to prevent curdling, feel sick to our stomachs when we consume it, must take pills to prevent gastrointestinal upset when digesting it, wouldn’t dare drink it if it sat on a counter for a day straight, and we think this is natural? Meanwhile, we see plant-based creams (soy, almond, rice) as strange?
Ignorance is bliss. We’ve heard that before.
Is it blissful to stay ignorant of animal suffering? Maybe. But who among us is truly ignorant that animals suffer at our hands? On this topic most of all, 99% of us live in a state of willful ignorance.
Intentionally denying and ignoring the truth is willful ignorance, and is anything but bliss. Willful ignorance is artificial numbness. Numbness to what? To the pain caused by refusing to act.
The truth does not set us free. Not from this kind of pain. Simply knowing the truth about suffering does not set anyone free. Acting on the truth does.
The truth is that we all have the power to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings. Knowing this truth and taking no action causes our own suffering. Intentionally contributing to the unnecessary misery of others puts a heavy burden on us, and it takes a lot of energy to deal with.
Nope, nope, don't feel a thing. Nope.
Willful ignorance is like taking morphine rather than removing your hand from the stove, as if in a state of paralysis. The burning is knowing we can help someone with very little effort on our own parts, and not doing it. The paralysis binds us to our own suffering, and will not depart until we take action.
Compassion does not exist thought alone; that is called fantasizing.
In the case of eating, wearing, experimenting on and otherwise using animals, we actually can change their fates. We can reduce the demand for them as inbred Yorkshire puppies, as easter bunnies, as cows turned to “steak” and lobsters into bisque.
Willful ignorance compounds the suffering. Maintaining willfull ignorance requires great amounts of energy, because every time we kill one animal but keep another as a companion, we contribute to a split personality, and we reinforce the paralysis that keeps us tied to the stove, burning ourselves.
Why would someone stay in this state?
It’s not because they’re evil. It’s not because they’re stupid.
Replacing meat and dairy requires making changes.
Making changes requires exploring the unknown.
Fear is always about what’s coming. It’s never about what’s here, what’s happening now.
Most of all, I think, people fear the lack of “payoff” of veganism. Pizzas and hamburgers are bound to nearly limitless cultural references, habits and memories. Will vegan pizzas be better? Will the soy milk taste just as good as the kind the posters tell us the mothers happily give up to their benevolent, caring, and gentle human masters?
That’s the funny part. People really do not know. Here we are, as vegans, eating delicious, affordable, compassionate meals that could literally be grown in hydroponic labs in the most cramped of space stations. And our friends, relatives and neighbors really do not know how good our lives are, how little we’ve had to give up. They simply don’t get it.
All because they’re afraid of giving up hamburgers.
Help two someones out, and share your meals. You’re helping the animal and you’re helping the human animal who grabs your tupperware. Cook a little extra, and give away food without asking permission first. Who cares if it’s not perfect?
It’s up to us to help people take their hands off the stove.