Which Resistance Are You In?

I often think back to the night I went vegan. It was a Sunday evening in November of 2013. I was sitting on the bed trying to find something to watch on Netflix, not thinking of much in particular. My husband and I had recently seen friends, all of whom were either vegan or vegetarian (including my husband), and we saw them often. Usually our time was spent playing video or board games, talking and having a laugh.  As was custom when we got together, we usually ordered take-out. In the beginning of our friendship (I had met this group through my husband who had known them all for years), I was the only meat-and-dairy eater in the group and at first, I was the asshole kind: I would order a meat dish just to prove some point that now seems lost on me. But as time went on, and as I got to know each of them better, I started ordering vegetarian dishes. I had reached a point where I didn’t want to offend their beliefs, even though I still clung tightly to my own.

Here’s the other thing: I genuinely liked them. They were fun, funny, thoughtful, and smart people who embraced me from day one. And without saying a word about their veganism, they were influencing me. They didn’t know it but the more I hung out with them, and the more I saw all their animal-free products and animal rights books and T-shirts, the more I began to see animals and the people who represented them – vegans – differently (spoiler alert: stereotypes are usually bullshit). Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

Let’s Play Taunt the Vegan!

I eat my lunch early everyday at 11:30. The staff lunchroom, or any meal table with non-vegans, can be one of the least enjoyable places to be. Even before I was vegan, I was never a fan of the staff lunchroom nor have I ever understood the obsession people seem to have with what they and others are eating. Although it pains me to say this about my own gender, women can be the worst for this:

“Oooh, what do you have there? That looks healthy,” as if I need their approval before I can begin eating.

“Oooh, fries – are you treating yourself today?”  Oh my god, fuck off.

As a vegan, it only gets worse:

“Is that tofu? It looks like chicken.” Yes. Yes, it does. But it’s not and that’s the point.

“So you don’t eat animals. But you eat fish, right?” Um…. Continue reading

Tagged , ,

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

Tagged , , , ,

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

Tagged , , ,

Making Animals Visible Again

I’ve been out of a job for nearly three weeks now and the upside of that is it’s allowed me the chance to do more activism.  I had a job interview on Monday and though I’m still actively looking for work, I’ve welcomed this time to get out there and do some of the things I couldn’t do when I was working full-time. One of those things was attending slaughterhouse vigils with Toronto Pig Save, an animal rights group here in Toronto.

I don’t want to assume everyone knows what vigils are so here it is: vigils consist of standing outside slaughterhouses, on public property, and watching the animals marked for slaughter come in on trucks. The purpose is to document what is happening to them with photos and videos, and to also raise awareness by holding informative signs visible to the public driving or walking by. Inspired by the writings of Leo Tolstoy, “bearing witness” to the suffering of another living being is a powerful act: it is upsetting, yes, but when you see it with your own eyes, and happening in your own city, it does push you to do more. The pain you feel from seeing suffering up close also becomes the force that drives you to keep going. A double-edged sword, to be sure, but one I feel honoured to carry. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Why I Don’t Like the Term “Animal Lover”

I am waaaay late to this New Year’s party but Happy 2017 everyone!  Thanks to all of you who’ve been reading my old posts while I’ve been procrastinating for the past two months.

Over the holidays, I encountered a few scenarios where someone, after finding out I was vegan, referred to me as an “animal lover.”  Though attributing this label to me was not meant to be an insult, I find the term presumptuous, inaccurate, and as I’ve written before, dismissive.  Not only that, but it’s become more of a statement than an expression, the kind I might have printed up on a business card like a Private Detective or Chartered Accountant: “Nicola Sark – Animal Lover.” The term paints me with a very broad stroke, enforces a stereotype, and doesn’t get to the heart of why I choose not to eat or wear animals. Continue reading

Tagged , ,