I've become the PETA girl.
And now, on a serious note...
It's amazing how life turns out.
It's amazing how life turns out.
I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be the kind of person to share horrific images of animal abuse to friends and my community. Way back before I even considered vegetarianism, when I would see those images myself, I would close the computer screen, put the newspaper down, or turn the television off, hoping and pretending that those horrors don't really exist in the world. I used to even make fun of animal advocacy organizations like PETA in my head, because it was ridiculous to me (back then) that a group of people could use such extreme methods to protest the abuse of animals. I'll never be like that, I used to think, maybe as a way of comfortably keeping myself from really accepting the deep, dark truth - that these horrors do exist, and that we need people to work to stop them.
Three years ago, I came face to face with images from a movie that I could no longer turn away from - the kill floor of a slaughterhouse. I watched on, overcome with tears, as cows acted terrified and helpless as they were carelessly handled and led to their murderous deaths, all for a hamburger or steak that would satisfy a few people. It was like a horror movie, except with cows! A light went on inside me, and on that day, I decided - I no longer want to be a part of this.
But how did I go from no longer wanting to eat meat to being the kind of person who shares animal abuse videos in my community? Well, the more I learned about the use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and experimentation, the harder it became to want to continuing existing in this kind of world. I know that sounds rough, and it was a hard notion for me to even accept, because I had never been a person who wanted to stop living life - I've always prided myself in being a bit of an optimist. But something changed when I began to learn about the horrors that exist - for both the animals helpless to stop whatever is happening to them, as well as the people who have to or choose to, for whatever reason, carry out these abuses. We have taken some of the most innocent, kind, and gentle creatures of this world and exploited them. Who would want to continue living in a world openly knowing that this is what people do on a daily basis? And that by purchasing the products of these abuses, I was supporting the abuse in the first place? To me, it was almost like hiring a hit man - I was reaping the "rewards" of consuming and purchasing animal products without having to be the one to commit these atrocities firsthand.
So, once I went vegan, I made a decision - I would fight for these animals, even if it was something people wouldn't find socially acceptable. Even if it made people uncomfortable. Even if it meant I would lose a few supporters - which I actually have. The fact of the matter is, I don't take these "losses" personally - I can't, because it isn't about me anymore. It is about these animals. Animals that need our help now more than ever. Animals who will continue to be abused if we don't work to stop it.
Yesterday morning, I shared a very upsetting image and link to a petition on my facebook wall concerning an animal cruelty issue (that I had previously seen on a friend's wall). In posting this image and link, I ended up receiving a very negative reaction from someone I know. And as difficult as it was to receive that kind of response, I've begun to realize that it may not be the last time this happens. The images and stories of animal abuse that are being documented (usually undercover) - while uncomfortable and downright infuriating to see and read and hear about - are proof that the world needs to change in a major way. If I don't share them with my community, who will?
So I occasionally make what a lot of people may view as the unpopular choice - I choose to share these stories on online social communities like facebook, through emails to my friends and family, and in conversation. I'm not planning on ever becoming abusively extremist myself - there will be no fake blood thrown on fur coats by the hand of this lady! But I have and will continue to share this vital information with my peers and family - because the animals need us to. More than we may ever know.
And just to clarify - I absolutely love and fully respect PETA and the work they do. You know, when a lot of people think of PETA, I know they have the image of what I just wrote above - fake blood on fur coats - but it was actually individuals, and not the organization itself, behind these stunts. The assumptions and judgments I originally made about PETA all fell away once I learned about how hard they really do work to expose animal cruelty and protect these animals. Yes, PETA chooses to display animal cruelty in a way that is shocking, unusual, and hard to accept for many. But in working this way, PETA has uncovered - and even stopped - countless cases of animal cruelty on an international level. If you need proof, just read their "Victories" page.
So, when I say that I've become "the PETA girl", I mean that with all the kindness and respect in the world for myself and for Ingrid Newkirk's extraordinary organization. I am learning to accept - and even love - that over the years, I have become what my friend Molly likes to call an "animal abolitionist". I am humbled by this choice, because it comes with a price - that people may not always like or approve of what I do. Which is okay with me. Because the gains outweigh the losses. I have gained a new community of like-minded people who also believe in a better world for animals. My relationship with my husband has been strengthened by our joined resolve to stop animal cruelty. I wake up knowing that I am working to contribute to the solution, rather than the problem. And I can look into the eyes of an animal and feel no guilt, no compromise, no hypocrisy. I can look at them with total peace now.
I decided to share this post with you all because I know how difficult the transition can be to go from making the popular choice of eating animal products to choosing veganism. From your emails and comments, I can see that your family and friends sometimes find what you do - honoring a vegan lifestyle - an uncomfortable choice to accept. But I say all of this because it is my hope that you will keep going - keep working to promote peace for animals and our world and keep sharing the positive benefits of your new diet and lifestyle. Because we - the animals, the animal advocates, and the world - need people who will stick their neck out for this cause. We need you.
Thank you for your continued support my blog. It is because of people like you that I continue to do what I do. I can't do it without you, so just know that reading my words today is a very positive step towards improving the lives of animals and our fellow humans.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
- Mahatma Gandhi