Tag Archives: Animal Rights

A Place To Breathe

The Toronto Veg Fest was this weekend and for the second year in a row I had the chance to volunteer with Mercy for Animals, one of my favourite animal protection agencies. They are organized, on-time, and they know what they’re doing. Not only does this appeal to the Type-A side of my personality but it also makes volunteering that much more fulfilling. When you can focus on the animals instead of whose supposed to be doing what, it’s much easier to remain positive and engaged with the task at hand and it removes unnecessary frustration and stress. Continue reading

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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

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Right Here, Right Now

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. Continue reading

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Animal Rights is a Human Problem

Back in June when I participated in my first ever protest march for animal rights, one of the speakers who spoke to the crowd prior to the march was an activist named Paul Bali.  He’d been in many marches before and he shared a story of one protest he’d been on where someone yelled at him from the street, “Human problems first!”  This is not a surprising reaction.  I’ve written about this before, this “but-what-about-the-starving-children” response humans seem only to have developed toward the topic of animal rights, one which no doubt every vegan has experienced at some point. As I’ve also mentioned previously, this attitude only seems to occur when discussing the treatment of animals we eat.

For instance, if I were to be a staunch advocate on behalf of abused or exploited dogs and cats or even wildlife conservation, I would bet my next paycheque I’d never hear the same “arguments” when advocating on behalf of farm animals: “Guess you don’t care about poor people, eh?” or “I guess people living on the streets don’t matter then.”  No one would dare say that.  As long as I speak on behalf of animals we don’t regularly find on our dinner plates, I’d rarely be challenged. I might even be called a hero or a compassionate person.  But as soon as a vegan mentions considering the suffering and rights of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, lobsters, fish, etc., look the fuck out.  Out comes the name-calling and the stereotypes. A compassionate person becomes a crazy person.  A hero becomes someone with nothing better to do with their time.  An advocate becomes a hippie; bravery becomes brainwashing.  I’m not calling all vegans heroes or brave – I’m (hopefully) illustrating how the labels change depending on the animal.  A person advocating on behalf of dogs is no different from a person advocating on behalf of pigs – the message is the same, only the animal is different.  And that’s where animal rights activists differ from say, an omnivore who truly loves their pet dog: activists view all animals as equal because of all animals’ capacity to suffer.  A pig shouldn’t be subjected to factory farming any more than a dog should simply because we don’t want to give up bacon. Continue reading

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Learning to Look Without Seeing

As you can probably tell from reading this blog, I’m fascinated by the human and animal relationship. More specifically, I’m curious about how humans have come to treasure certain animals’ lives and not consider another’s. I’m sure this will be a life-long exploration for me as I come to terms with my own changes in attitude towards them.

I can only speak to my own experience but living in North America, I can also speak to some of the messages that Western culture continues to perpetuate and certainly contributed towards my former prejudice against animals.  The Bible, for one.  I was raised in a born-again Christian home and the first chapter in Genesis was one of the earliest things I learned in Sunday school. The first chapter describes the six days of Creation and if there’s a single word that has done more damage in justifying the suffering of animals, it’s the word “dominion” that appears in verse 26.  While different versions of the Bible use different words (i.e., rule, master, etc.), that D-word has stuck like the A-word has when it comes to the church discussing gay rights (the famous “abomination” word in Leviticus 18, verse 22).  Both words are still used today like a trump card some people whip out when they want to have a quick response as to why they shouldn’t pursue either cause any further. Continue reading

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The Purpose and Privilege of Protest

Yesterday, along with Julian and two of our friends, I participated in my first-ever protest march.  It was the “March to Close All Slaughterhouses” and it not only took place in Toronto and Montreal but also in France, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, England, Turkey, Belgium, Scotland and the U.S.  It’s the third year for the march and approximately 500 people attended in Toronto.  It was well-organized, well-run and, the cause aside for one moment, the experience made me extremely grateful to live in a country where I am free to openly protest in the street.  We post our thoughts, feelings and opinions so automatically now that it’s easy to forget just how privileged we are to be able to do that without fear of arrest, prison or worse. Marching on behalf of animal rights made me aware of my own: I saw those civil liberties in action and it made me realize how important it is to exercise them, especially on behalf of those who have none.  Continue reading

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