My husband Julian and I spent last weekend at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. Neither of us had been before and we spent two nights in a tiny house (part of Farm Sanctuary’s bed and breakfast accommodations) and two full days getting to meet rescued farm animals: turkeys, cows, pigs, goats, sheep and ducks. I wrote a post about it and included some pictures of the animals over at my other blog so if you’d like to read more about our visit, just click here.
Since going vegan in 2013, I have discovered that there are only a few places where I can just exhale and not have to be on guard at the meal table or wonder if someone is going to say something stupid about vegans: one is our home, one is around other vegans, and the other is at animal sanctuaries. In these surroundings I am able to truly relax; to be allowed to be a vegan without having to censor myself in some way or worry if I’m going to have to defend my choice to not eat animals at any given moment. And while I have never regretted my decision to go vegan, for me it is crucial that I have people and places like this in my life where I can be myself, with full acceptance of who I am and what is important to me. Without them I think the reality of how our world views, portrays and treats animals would be unbearable.
As Julian and I drove home from New York to Ontario, it didn’t take long before that harsh reality revealed itself once more: driving along the Interstate we saw three empty slaughterhouse trucks coming back from our country’s borders, and when we stopped for the washroom, we were met with this obnoxious print ad from Arby’s:
At the top of the ad you can see the silhouettes of five animals – cow, pig, turkey, chicken, fish – even pictured as WHOLE despite the fact that they would have been reduced to lifeless shreds in order to make the very sandwiches Arby’s is promoting here. To see these animals represented like this after having just spent two days petting some of them, learning their names and their rescue stories, was especially jarring.
Going back to work is yet another challenge: Julian’s co-workers don’t really ask how his trip went and the ones that do seem to simply tolerate his response. Not many ask to see photos of farm animals even though many of those same people wouldn’t hesitate to insist that he look at photos of their dog or cat.
As for my workplace, which is actually a vegan production facility so I certainly have more freedom than Julian, it’s still a place where not everyone is a vegan and the new person who was hired this week told me in great detail (on my second day back) about the steak she ate for dinner the night before. Just as I start to think that people at least get the idea of what being vegan stands for, I’m reminded that they really fucking don’t. It makes me wary of trusting people with my experiences and it makes me want to never share anything as personal or as special as a visit with rescued farm animals. Why would I share something so near and dear to my heart only to risk having it mocked or marginalized?
Yet in spite of everything – as awful as it is to see and hear animals characterized as nothing more than ingredients, a product to sell or a meal to consume, it also emboldens me to be more of a voice for them. This human obliviousness needs to end. People need to understand who and what they’re eating – they need to know the immense confinement, mutilation and suffering animals go through just to get to their plate. As shitty as it feels to be unheard and dismissed, being vegan isn’t about me – it’s about the animals. Seeing them in person and at peace one day and then seeing them visibly removed and in pieces the next is a powerful motivator to do more.
The contradiction is too great for me to do anything less.
Maggie at Farm Sanctuary, October 30, 2016.