The weekend of June 13th and 14th I went to an animal rights conference in the Twin Cities called Their Lives, Our Voices. Much like last year, it was awesome. I took notes and hope to write a few entries on what I learned there. For now, I’m going to start with the very last presentation (because I forgot my notebook so I don’t have notes, but it’s still fresh in my memory!) which was given by pattrice jones. It was called “In Defense of Actual Animals”, and it was fantastic. This post won’t do it justice, but I’ll try anyway!
As I sit here writing this, animals across the world are being slaughtered by the thousands every second. Sometimes I think about that and feel completely overwhelmed. As I’m sitting here in my comfy chair, chickens and pigs and cows and so many other kinds of animals are being strung up by their legs and getting their throats cut. Right now, someone is beating a dog, or torturing a cat or a horse. Someone is doing an experiment on a chimp or a rabbit or a rat. And here I sit.
Pattrice’s speech made me even more cognizant of these things when she said that “what matters to animals is what actually happens to them”. Being vegan is helping and is necessary if we’re going to save future animals, but right now animals are still dying by the billions – and me being vegan doesn’t matter one iota to those animals right now. Being vegan is vital…but it’s not enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I never thought that when I went vegan I would be saving the world or saving all the world’s animals or anything. I know that animals will still be dying for food every day. Being vegan, though, allows me to feel at peace with my own conscience when I look in the mirror every day because I’m staying true to my values. That feel-good deed, though, isn’t important to the chickens whose throats are being slit right now. What matters to them is what’s actually happening to them RIGHT NOW.
How very simple! And yet…I had become somewhat complacent in my activism. I thought that if I could at least get the word out about veganism, or encourage people to reduce their animal products intake, I would be doing enough. But it’s not enough if you’re a cow awaiting imminent death in the slaughter line. To her, my veganism doesn’t mean a thing. She will still die today, and someone will eat her flesh tomorrow.
We need to do more. We need to help the animals who are currently suffering in the system. What matters to them is that our actions SAVE THEM.
Now THAT seems even more overwhelming, doesn’t it? I mean, I’d LOVE to start up a sanctuary right now, and open it up to those suffering animals tomorrow. But there’s no way I can do that. So, what can we do?
Pattrice offered up some suggestions, after noting that the reason Big Ag is so powerful is because they have so much money – raising and killing animals for food is profitable business. We need to make it unprofitable. Part of that is decreasing demand – something that hasn’t worked so far (on a pure numbers basis) despite all the vegan converts. Meat consumption just keeps going up and up because they’re finding new markets and getting their current customers to eat event more meat. We do need to continue to get the word out to help decrease demand, but we also need to increase their costs of doing business. Passing animal welfare legislation (like the recent victory in CA) is a start, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
We also need to use our individual strengths to help animals as much as we can now. Saving one dog or goat or chicken matters a lot to that one dog or goat or chicken, and that is kind of a powerful thought. We may not be able to save them all, but if you can take in one dog off the street and find her a new home, you’ve made a huge difference to that one dog.
Given my current living situation – a condo association that dictates how many animals I can keep in my home – I’m at capacity and can’t really take in a bunch of strays. Until my situation changes, I’m brainstorming of ways that I could help animals directly now. If anyone has a suggestion, I’d love to hear it! And, if you currently have the capacity or ability to take in foster animals or save animals in some other way, please consider how much your efforts would mean to those animals!