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

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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

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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

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The Hardest Ceiling to Crack

Earlier this month when – and I still can’t believe it as I type these words – Donald Trump won the U.S. election, Hillary Clinton gave a moving concession speech the following day.  As I wrote over at my other blog, not many speeches made my politicians in my lifetime have moved me to tears but hers did. It was an emotional day.

A week later, there was a protest here in Toronto to speak out against Donald Trump and I decided to go. There’s a Trump Hotel downtown and, in what must be the shortest march ever, we walked from City Hall to the hotel (it took less than ten minutes, even with hundreds of people).  It may seem odd to march against the President of another country but Trump’s election will still affect us, as it will other countries. Plus, speaking out against his “victory” to the highest office in the land lets our Prime Minister know that we are not all onboard with Trump’s bullshit and to tread carefully when dealing with him on our behalf.

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“What Difference Does It Make?”

The title of this blog is in quotes because those are the words that someone yelled at us last week at a vigil in front of Maple Leaf Foods, a chicken slaughterhouse here in Toronto. Actually, his precise words were, What FUCKING difference does it make? but I decided to edit that part out since it doesn’t make for as strong a title. The man who yelled at us was an employee and it was after two truckloads of chickens – about 7,000 birds per truck – had been driven onto the property and were being held in an area prior to slaughter.

This is only the second vigil with Toronto Pig Save that I’ve been to.  The first was in 2015 when I joined in one held at Maple Leaf Foods, St. Helen’s Meat Packers and Ryding Regency Meat Packers, all three which are located very close-by to one another (both St. Helen’s and Ryding slaughter cows, calves and lambs, Maple Leaf slaughters birds).  Although nothing can ever prepare you completely, I was more mentally ready this past week and had at least some idea of what I was going to see.  And smell.  Even just standing outside of a slaughterhouse on a chilly night in November, the smell of blood and feces and raw flesh hangs in the air. It’s an unmistakable stench and all the Styrofoam, refrigeration and plastic wrap in the world could never make me forget it.  Continue reading

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Coming Back, Moving Forward

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. Continue reading

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