I attended a conference this past weekend, AR2012, in Alexandria, VA. I knew that I risked being emotional, so prepared myself not to see videos, by keeping a cookbook in my lap at all of the workshops. Thankfully, the videos were voluntary attendance, and not shown during the workshops proper.
One thing I've learned over the years, is how much people would like to believe that animals, whose facial expressions are limited to our human understanding, do not feel pain the way in which we do. They do not cry, and huddle up in a fetal position when they feel defeated, do not raid the refrigerator and eat emotionally. No, they do not.
But animals feel loss of another, in the exact same way we do. For instance, I used to live near a cattle raising operation. They would separate the calves from the cows at a certain point, and their lives are not given another thought. But the cows and calves would cry, and low, and call for each other during the night and well into the next day and more. The cows would suffer depression, the calves would suffer fear, and abandonment. The same as we would.
Chickens will be compassionate toward each other. When one is suffering, another will stay near it, shelter it, the same way we do. But in the battery cages, they are not allowed. in the egg industry, in the chicken producers industry, their lives are more inconsequential than that of a bug. Only, the chicken is weighed against how much money she is worth.
Don't fool yourself into the myth that "humane" animal care is actually happening. Free range chickens is a total misnomer, from start to finish. There have been some concessions in the industry for "free-range" cages, which only offers the industry the opportunity to cram more birds into a larger space, indoors, out of sunlight, and fresh air. The chicken industry is only in it for the money, and profit margins clouds the ability to feel compassion for the suffering birds.
I had chickens as pets in Washington State for a time, and they are smart birds. They prefer to roost in trees, a natural behavior, over sitting on the ground. Even the ones who've been bred without wings, or with ineffectual wings.
Mr. Baggypants was such a rooster. His wings were token things, that only allowed him to balance, I suppose. Flight was never going to happen. I would search for him in the evening, find him in a huckleberry bush, place him in a wheelbarrow, and transport him to our horse trailer for the night. What a personality he had. He had the gall to kick a hen turkey that had been bullying him, when the opportunity presented itself, then he ran out of her retaliation zone before she realized what had happened. It was a very funny moment.
Chickens, along with fish, have personalities. Cows, horses...they all have distinguishable personality traits. Why should they be killed without regard to how they feel, to feed me? Why should they have to suffer such crippling fear, such pain, such paralyzing horror, until they die? It is not for me, not ever again.
What I learned at this animal conference, is that if we can convince people to go without meat of any kind for just one day per week, optimally two or three, we stand a better chance of changing the way meat is raised, and the amount of animals that are slaughtered.
The obvious is clear. Don't buy puppies from breeders, spay and neuter your cats and dogs, don't support the Quarter Horse Association, which supports putting a horse slaughterhouse back in the US, and work to get people to eat more vegetables, as opposed to meat, eggs, and dairy. Something needs to be done, and we are the army to do it. I will pass out more vegan main dish recipes, more vegan dessert dishes, more of the good recipes that will help people realize that it is not that hard, and it is damn good food. If only they would realize how easy it is to get your, our, protein through plants. Maybe we can show them, one meal at a time.
(Image by VisuallyHuggingLife.com, Astoria, Oregon)
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)