Punk frontman and activist Henry Rollins once said that apathy is death. I don’t know if he said it originally but I first read that saying from him in the liner notes of benefit album for The West Memphis Three. He’s right of course, and those three simple words have stayed with me from the day I first read them.
Apathy. Complacency. Being afraid of change. These are hands-down the things I fear and despise the most, especially when I see them in myself. The truth is, I’m almost always battling them in some form or another and I hate it when I allow myself to give into them.
From the day I found out how meat gets to my plate and milk gets in my glass – the day those blinders came off and the real truth of animal suffering was revealed to me in all its blinding horror – the animals have become a part of me. Their very existence has changed mine and their suffering is never far from my thoughts. I once compared this knowledge to carrying a picture in your wallet: even when you aren’t thinking about it, you’re always aware of its existence.
And yet….it all seems so unreal some days. Very few people want to talk about animal rights so a huge part of who I am is silenced throughout the day as I go to work, go to lunch and go home again, literally riding the status quo of a passionless existence. I look around me and there is evidence of animal suffering everywhere: the dead flesh being kept warm in the chaffing dishes of a food court, cartoon animals on TV screens advertising their “products”, the fur trim on everyone’s winter coat. Most days I feel as though I’m just watching my day instead of actually participating in it. What I’m seeing as suffering others are seeing as perfectly normal and acceptable and that’s when I can feel myself disconnecting on a level that terrifies me. That’s when the complacency and apathy start to takeover. Because even as a vegan, it’s still hard to believe that the horror show of factory farming is going on every minute of every day. Even once you know, even when you have seen, it’s still pretty fucking hard to believe. My mind still wants to reject that this is happening, that human beings are capable of such cruelty and deception. And yet when no one else around you wants to acknowledge it, much less have a discussion about it, it can really start to feel like you’re losing your grip on reality.
I’m not losing my grip on reality, of course. I’ve got a firmer hand on it than I’ve ever had before, thank you very much, and I have no desire to go back to living like an ignorant slob who just consumes anything within my reach simply because it’s there for the taking. I have no desire to be that person again.
But I don’t want to be this person either. I don’t want to be silent, complacent, apathetic, plodding through life making no difference to anything. I now understand why activists scream and holler from the streets – they know that justice does not come quietly and awareness cannot come by lying to people. No more lies. No more sugar-coating reality. No more fucks to give. Everything is at stake right now with our food choices: the animals, our health, the planet.
Apathy is Death. I can feel its grip on me right now. I feel it squeezing tighter with every mundane task I go about in a day. But the animals…I remember them. The pigs in slaughterhouse trucks on the highway in the freezing cold. The cow strung up on a chain by her hind leg as her throat is slit. The ducks force-fed so their livers can be made into foie gras. The foxes killed by anal electrocution so their fur won’t be “ruined” and can be sold for fashion. The mother cow on a dairy farm pining for her calf who was taken away shortly after birth. I CANNOT forget them. They are a part of me. But I don’t want to just be aware of them. I want to speak for them, to represent them as best I can – I don’t want to be silent. So where is my voice?