The Flaming Vegan

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And The Moon is the Only Light We See....
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And The Moon is the Only Light We See....

When I first got into the whole animal rights scene back in the early 80's, I was a real pain in the ass to the people around me.

. I was intolerably judgmental towards old friends who hadn’t made the leap with me and mad at them for not being as enlightened as I was. I alienated a lot of friends along my journey. As to the ones who stuck with me through that phase, well, I’m sure it took herculean efforts on their parts not to drop me like a hot potato. I would spout animal-rights bumper stickers to anyone who would listen, like a born-again Christian who has suddenly “found Jesus.” Eventually, I calmed down and learned that you can’t force anything down people’s throats; they will learn when they are ready.

Ironically, a very dedicated but pesky animal rights activist, a neighbor, who had been a longtime vegetarian, was in my face a lot about not being vegetarian. She was brutal. If she saw my kids eating hot dogs she would bang on my door and yell: “You’re killing your kids!” If she saw them with a McDonalds shake, she would scream at them (then ages six & eight) that they were “drinking pure pus!” She was rude and angry all the time and I didn’t want any part of it. I think I resisted being a vegetarian out of spite. But within a few years I finally transitioned to a vegetarian diet and the whole thing began afresh as I tried to get everyone I knew, and many that I didn’t, to see the truth behind factory farming. I was just like my neighbor, but I couldn’t see it. Back then, there weren’t nearly as many of us as there are today and we were truly swimming against the tide.

Then one day, I met my match. I had just started a new job and he was my boss. Turns out, he was just as passionate about HIS cause as I had become about mine. I was giving him the spiel-– sentient beings, slaughtered, not ours to wear, eat or experiment on, blah, blah, blah. I mean I had that whole argument down to a science and could spout all kinds of stats (and those I couldn’t, I made up) and would rehearse it to anyone who would stand still long enough to listen. Well, this guy listened, and then began to tell me about Greenpeace. He was a new member, and had just learned about the environment and pollution and how the oceans were being trashed and so on and so forth. I was smug. I didn’t listen so much as waited for a break so I could make MY next point. After he was finished talking about Greenpeace, I said to him, (in a tone of voice I’m sure was meant to be really smart ass) “How can you care so much about some dirt and water when the animals are being killed?”

He looked at me evenly and replied “Well, if the dirt and water disappear, where are the animals going to live?”

It stopped me dead in my tracks and I learned an extremely valuable lesson that day.

Now it’s happened again. This time it's issue that I had not given much thought to over the past few decades. Indeed, I wasn’t even sure it even existed. It had never crossed my radar. I was once again stopped dead in my tracks and forced to take a few hours, and then a few days, to learn more about it. Now, when I tell you what it is, you have to promise not to laugh because it may sound really silly in the beginning, as it did to me when I first learned about it.

Light pollution.

Go ahead, take a few minutes. I know you are thinking: “How can you care so much about how much light is in the air when there’re animals dying?” To which I reply “If the night sky is gone, how are the migratory animals, birds and insects that rely on the stars going to migrate? And if they can’t migrate, they will die.”

I saw a video on YouTube that grabbed my attention. It had been produced by a group calling itself the International Dark Sky Association. I went on their website and was so impressed that I immediately sent in my membership fee and became a member. You can watch the video below.

The point is, animals are being assaulted from all fronts. Not only on the ground and in the air, not only by loss of habitat and poisons in the ocean, but also from the sky. We concentrate our efforts on factory farming, animals in entertainment, animals in laboratories and companion animal issues, as we should. But for me, the environment has always taken a back seat to animal rights. Most everyone I know who is animal-rights oriented is a vegetarian or vegan. Very few environmentalists I meet are, despite the fact that factory farming is a major contributor to killing the environment. But these issues are all interrelated and we need to join with those who are working towards saving the environment so that animals, including humans, will always have a place to live.

The light polluting the dark sky is indirectly killing animals by the thousands. These are silent victims that have no voice because we can’t see what is happening to them, like we can with the abattoir which has been filmed and distributed widely. We’ve seen footage of puppy mills, destruction of coral reefs, behind-the scenes horrors in labs, greyhound tracks, zoos, pet stores and countless other places. But we can’t see the millions of animals who are killed because their circadian rhythm and instincts have been quelled by the lights we think nothing of. I’m not anti-lighting, obviously, but I am for enlightening. The more we learn about the harmful effects our daily habits have on creatures who have roamed this earth for generations (going back billions of years), the more concerned we will become, and hopefully, that concern will turn to action.

Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)

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Michelle A. Rivera is the author of several books including HOSPICE HOUNDS, Animals and Healing at the Borders of Death (Lantern Books); CANINES IN THE CLASSROOM, Raising Humane Children through Interactions with Animals;(Lantern Books) DO DOGS HAVE BELLY BUTTONS? 100 Questions and Answers about Dogs(Adams Media); THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN SLOW COOKER and THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK(Book Publishers, Inc.) and ON DOGS AND DYING (Purdue University Press). She is also an essayist and has been published in the vegetarian essay book “Voices from the Garden.” She is a freelance writer/editor and along with her Certified Therapy Dogs, a Humane Educator and R.E.A.D tutor. Michelle is a past blogger for and a writer for several online publications including eHow, Livestrong, Rachel Ray, The Daily Puppy, USA Today, Cracked and others. She has two Certified Delta Society Therapy Dogs: Murphy, a Golden Retriever, and Tabitha, a Standard Poodle; and two cats. All are rescued animals. Michelle lives in South Florida with her husband, John, an attorney, and is the proud grandmother of three lovely children, Austin, Alexander and Adrienne.

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  1. Granny Smith
    Granny Smith
    very well said - voted
  2. Theophile
  3. Terry McGee
    voted agree with this
  4. Shiela
    voted well said
  5. Pierre
  6. Doctor Mom
    I learned something new from you. There is also an issue of noise pollution. Earth is the only planet we know of that can sustain life. We must take care of it.
  7. No Name
    This is very interesting and has a lot of good information in here. I have learned a few new things reading this. Voted. Please take care of the planet Earth you are all we have. Thank you so much
  8. Jose Rodriguez
    This says a lot. If the land is polluted, the waters not fit to drink and the night skies gone where will the animals be.
  9. Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    Very interesting. Makes my personal concern for animal welfare seem almost one-dimensional. This is a lot for you to take so many issues to heart at once; no wonder you've adopted the Serenity Prayer! An enjoyable article.


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