Tag Archives: Humans and Animals

Our Contrary Relationship with Animals Continues

One inescapable reality of being vegan are the constant examples and reminders of how some animals matter in our world, and others don’t. From sitting at a table with meat-eaters who speak of love for their pets while they chew on the flesh of a cow, to people walking their dogs while wearing a coat with fur trim from a coyote, to coworkers with calendars of cute animals hanging at their cubicle as they tell me about the barbecued pig ribs they ate over the weekend, this contradiction is not something most people even realize is happening but it happens ALL of the time.

As children, some of the first words, sounds, and pictures we learn to identify are farm animals: cow, pig, chicken, turkey, sheep. Yet those same animals are some of the first we’re given to eat, normalized by such phrasings as, “It’s good for you”, “It’s tradition”, or, if you were raised in a born-again Christian home as I was, “God gave us dominion over the animals”, as if being granted authority means never questioning how we’re actually using it. By the time we reach adulthood, farm animals have long since ceased to even be animals; they are simply thought of as food. Continue reading

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The Guilt of Meat-Eating, the Forgiveness of Animals, the Redemption of Veganism

I recently finished reading Mark Hawthorne’s book, Striking at the Roots: A Practical Gide to Animal Activism. In the last chapter, he talks a lot about guilt, and how animal rights activists generally carry around a lot of it: they often feel like they’re not doing enough for animals, they feel guilty if they take time away from activism, they feel guilty if they say the wrong thing or don’t say enough….the list goes on.

I can relate to this, mainly because the suffering of animals is never far from my mind.  If it’s a bitterly cold day outside, I think of the animals on slaughterhouse trucks and feel guilty that I don’t mention them when someone complains about the temperature outside. When I’m menstruating, a cycle that is always accompanied by tender breasts and painful uterine cramps for me, I think of the mother cows, their lactating and swollen udders attached to mechanical milk machines multiple times a day, and I feel guilty for giving in to any of my own pain. Perhaps some of it is not so much guilt as it is an awareness: now that I know what animals endure day after day, it changes the context for how I process my own suffering. Continue reading

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Serving Suffering To Relieve It Makes No Sense

One form of animal use I find particularly repugnant are charity fundraisers that serve or cook animals “for a good cause”. Not only does it use the tired rationale employed by humans to justify the way we treat certain animals – treatment that should not be questioned if it furthers a human agenda or desire – but serving someone’s suffering to raise money to alleviate another’s is about as senseless as it gets.

We see fundraisers like this all of the time: from annual BBQ’s to bake sales to black tie events that cost hundreds of dollars a plate. Organizations from hospitals to private corporations use food as a way to raise funding for charity.  I mean, we all have to eat, right? Sure. But we don’t have to eat suffering, particularly when the focus of a fundraiser is to raise money to end it. Continue reading

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Veganism and Elitism

There’s an old song by Melissa Etheridge called, I Could Have Been You.  The lyrics to the chorus are this:

I could have been you
You could have been me
One small change that shapes your destiny
If you want the proof
Cut me and you’ll see
I could have been you
You could have been me

From the first time I heard this song in 1995, those lyrics have stayed with me, often coming to mind when I read or witness any form of injustice or abuse, whether inflicted upon humans or animals. Needless to say, I carry a lot of white guilt too.  And while I had no more control over the colour of my skin or the country and circumstance to which I was born into any more than anybody else did, I frequently wonder why I got to have it so good compared to so many others. Continue reading

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Licking the Frog

Back in the 1990’s Ellen DeGeneres released a comedy CD called, “Taste This.” In one bit called, Licking a Frog, she describes the bizarre human discovery that licking (certain) frogs can actually give humans a bit of a high.  In it she asks: “How desperate are we to get high that that was a fad going around, that if you licked a frog, you could get high?  And how many animals did we go through to find that out: ‘Here! Lick the anus of a mongoose, see what happens!  Yes, I was wrong about the raccoon but this…’”  Classic comedy.

There are countless human discoveries and inventions that are worthy of admiration, from the discovery of penicillin to the invention of electricity.  Just being able to sit here and type on a computer that has a better brain than me is the result of someone’s remarkable achievement.  It is a testament to both humanity’s strength and weakness that we are always looking for ways to move forward, even though advancement isn’t always the same as improvement. Continue reading

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