If you’ve been a vegan for any length of time or maybe you’re still exploring what all this animal rights stuff is about, I know you’ve probably heard or thought at one point that’s there’s too much already going on in the world; there are too many issues to consider as it is without having to add animals to the list. Just reading the daily news can feel overwhelming. I read a book years ago that called it “compassion fatigue” where it’s easy to feel exhausted by all the problems and suffering in the world.
I can remember when I was a new vegan, during the first six weeks in fact when I was “just trying it out,” as I educated myself on how food got to my plate and I read up on factory farming and animal welfare, the thought hit me early on: This is actually something I can change today. This is something that can make a difference immediately. When I say that, I was not thinking that I, Nicola Sark, would change the world if I stopped eating meat and dairy that day. But with all the horrors in the world – the natural disasters, displaced people in refugee camps, war, racism, poverty, worldwide conflicts on both small and epic scales – the crime that was being committed against animals was something I could literally stop contributing to that very second.
This was incredible to me.
That’s a lot of power in just one person’s hands.
What was even more astounding to me was that I really didn’t have to do anything much out of the ordinary. I didn’t have to write a cheque, I didn’t have to give up friends and family, I didn’t have to travel anywhere, I didn’t have to join anything, I didn’t even have to tell anyone. It was a solution that was right there in front of me, all this time, at every meal I’d ever consumed. It was suddenly so obvious. And damn empowering too. This was something I could do!
Charity and philanthropy is great and under our current Western structure, is absolutely necessary (as one blogger put it: if the world were just, we wouldn’t need charity). But I always struggled with just writing cheques or doing a 5K run once a year. I always wondered about the other eleven months I didn’t donate or the other 364 days I wasn’t running around city streets to raise awareness. I always wondered how my day-to-day life could have more of an impact or at least reflect more of what I ultimately wanted to see in the world.
And there it was: Animal rights. Food choices. The violence, oppression and bloodshed I wanted to stop seeing in the world was something I could immediately stop seeing on my plate. It was a light bulb moment for me for sure.
Nearly two years later, as I read more in-depth about connections and links between animal oppression and human oppression (as I said a couple of posts ago: If there’s always a group considered “less than” what’s to prevent us from viewing another group or community in the same way?), I see just how crucial the rights of animals are to changing the world. Think about it: if we all considered the lives of the lowest of the low in our world – food animals – as deserving of the right to live their lives free from suffering and human interference, imagine how differently we would view other marginalized communities and people. It would change so much: our justice system, or economic system, our view of one another.
I’m not saying stop giving to your favourite charity or cause. I’m not saying stop caring about the issues that are closest to your heart. I’m not even saying me being a vegan is helping those animals currently toiling away on factory farms or being killed in slaughterhouses. What I’m saying is refusing to participate in the enslavement and death of animals by refusing to eat and wear them is a tangible, concrete, immediate action that we can all take that can only serve to make the world a better place – it doesn’t make it worse, it doesn’t make it the same – it makes it better. Right here, right now. Just as the song goes:
Right here, right now, there is no other place I wanna be
Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history.