Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I've become the PETA girl.

And now, on a serious note...

It's amazing how life turns out.

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be the kind of person to share horrific images of animal abuse to friends and my community. Way back before I even considered vegetarianism, when I would see those images myself, I would close the computer screen, put the newspaper down, or turn the television off, hoping and pretending that those horrors don't really exist in the world. I used to even make fun of animal advocacy organizations like PETA in my head, because it was ridiculous to me (back then) that a group of people could use such extreme methods to protest the abuse of animals. I'll never be like that, I used to think, maybe as a way of comfortably keeping myself from really accepting the deep, dark truth - that these horrors do exist, and that we need people to work to stop them.

Three years ago, I came face to face with images from a movie that I could no longer turn away from - the kill floor of a slaughterhouse. I watched on, overcome with tears, as cows acted terrified and helpless as they were carelessly handled and led to their murderous deaths, all for a hamburger or steak that would satisfy a few people. It was like a horror movie, except with cows! A light went on inside me, and on that day, I decided - I no longer want to be a part of this

But how did I go from no longer wanting to eat meat to being the kind of person who shares animal abuse videos in my community? Well, the more I learned about the use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and experimentation, the harder it became to want to continuing existing in this kind of world. I know that sounds rough, and it was a hard notion for me to even accept, because I had never been a person who wanted to stop living life - I've always prided myself in being a bit of an optimist. But something changed when I began to learn about the horrors that exist - for both the animals helpless to stop whatever is happening to them, as well as the people who have to or choose to, for whatever reason, carry out these abuses. We have taken some of the most innocent, kind, and gentle creatures of this world and exploited them. Who would want to continue living in a world openly knowing that this is what people do on a daily basis? And that by purchasing the products of these abuses, I was supporting the abuse in the first place? To me, it was almost like hiring a hit man - I was reaping the "rewards" of consuming and purchasing animal products without having to be the one to commit these atrocities firsthand. 

So, once I went vegan, I made a decision - I would fight for these animals, even if it was something people wouldn't find socially acceptable. Even if it made people uncomfortable. Even if it meant I would lose a few supporters - which I actually have. The fact of the matter is, I don't take these "losses" personally - I can't, because it isn't about me anymore. It is about these animals. Animals that need our help now more than ever. Animals who will continue to be abused if we don't work to stop it. 

Yesterday morning, I shared a very upsetting image and link to a petition on my facebook wall concerning an animal cruelty issue (that I had previously seen on a friend's wall). In posting this image and link, I ended up receiving a very negative reaction from someone I know. And as difficult as it was to receive that kind of response, I've begun to realize that it may not be the last time this happens. The images and stories of animal abuse that are being documented (usually undercover) - while uncomfortable and downright infuriating to see and read and hear about - are proof that the world needs to change in a major way. If I don't share them with my community, who will?

So I occasionally make what a lot of people may view as the unpopular choice - I choose to share these stories on online social communities like facebook, through emails to my friends and family, and in conversation. I'm not planning on ever becoming abusively extremist myself - there will be no fake blood thrown on fur coats by the hand of this lady! But I have and will continue to share this vital information with my peers and family - because the animals need us to. More than we may ever know. 

And just to clarify - I absolutely love and fully respect PETA and the work they do. You know, when a lot of people think of PETA, I know they have the image of what I just wrote above - fake blood on fur coats - but it was actually individuals, and not the organization itself, behind these stunts. The assumptions and judgments I originally made about PETA all fell away once I learned about how hard they really do work to expose animal cruelty and protect these animals.  Yes, PETA chooses to display animal cruelty in a way that is shocking, unusual, and hard to accept for many. But in working this way, PETA has uncovered - and even stopped - countless cases of animal cruelty on an international level. If you need proof, just read their "Victories" page.

So, when I say that I've become "the PETA girl", I mean that with all the kindness and respect in the world for myself and for Ingrid Newkirk's extraordinary organization. I am learning to accept - and even love - that over the years, I have become what my friend Molly likes to call an "animal abolitionist". I am humbled by this choice, because it comes with a price - that people may not always like or approve of what I do. Which is okay with me. Because the gains outweigh the losses. I have gained a new community of like-minded people who also believe in a better world for animals. My relationship with my husband has been strengthened by our joined resolve to stop animal cruelty. I wake up knowing that I am working to contribute to the solution, rather than the problem. And I can look into the eyes of an animal and feel no guilt, no compromise, no hypocrisy. I can look at them with total peace now.

I decided to share this post with you all because I know how difficult the transition can be to go from making the popular choice of eating animal products to choosing veganism. From your emails and comments, I can see that your family and friends sometimes find what you do - honoring a vegan lifestyle - an uncomfortable choice to accept. But I say all of this because it is my hope that you will keep going - keep working to promote peace for animals and our world and keep sharing the positive benefits of your new diet and lifestyle. Because we - the animals, the animal advocates, and the world -  need people who will stick their neck out for this cause. We need you.

Thank you for your continued support my blog. It is because of people like you that I continue to do what I do. I can't do it without you, so just know that reading my words today is a very positive step towards improving the lives of animals and our fellow humans. 

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated
- Mahatma Gandhi 

18 comments:

Tracy H. said...

Good for you, Lindsay!

Anonymous said...

Yeah!!!! I share your feelings and will stick with you. O have the same feelings & beliefs. I am so glad you posted this. Every since going vegan after being veg for years o have been looking for a way to describe how I feel when looking at an animal & you said it perfect! Thank you.

Carol said...

I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above. If you see something morally wrong and you say/do nothing what does that make you, morally bankrupt? The animals need more people to speak up for them. I heard just today in an interview that i am transcribing that in Afghanistan an army patrol passed a donkey which suddenly exploded. Some 'lovely' human decided it would be a good idea to strap explosives to the poor animal and then detonate it from a safe distance when it came close to the army patrol. Never ceases to amaze me the inhuamanity some humans show. Luckily no humans were injured in this incident by the way.

shelly said...

thank you for putting into words what i have tried so many times to do.

Molly G said...

Great post, Linds. People tend to mock what they do not understand or afraid of. Our culture seems to be all about burying our heads in the sand. Standing up for what you believe is totally frowned upon. But if we don't stand up for those without a voice, who will? If we put it off until we have more time or more money, will we ever do it? Every day I am vegan I save lives. Period. Informing people important to me about that is something I have to do. It is our obligation to the voiceless. Often, those who at first mock or hide from the truth eventually become the animals' biggest advocates (Steve, for example). Your blog is wonderful. See you tomorrow!

Moo Something said...

I'm so happy you wrote this post. I completely agree with your choice to share the image.
And I consider myself "that HSUS girl," well I guess I really am though ;)

Working for HSUS, I have seen way too many horrifying videos. Many of my "seasoned" employees say they no longer watch the videos because it's too much. For them, I can understand because they have already seen it all.
I choose to watch the videos though. I force myself to watch the baby seals getting clubbed, or the dogs being skinned alive, or inside factory farms. It certainly messes with my head and there are times when I have not been able to get the image out of my head, but knowing the truth makes me more motivated to help.
Graphic images are disturbing, but it catches your attention. I'm glad you wrote about this situation and I completely stand behind your decision!
Have a great day, Lindsay!

Angela said...

Lindsay, I really appreciate your honesty and identify with everything you said. More people need to look directly into the eyes of an animal-sometimes it's just as emotionally effective as a graphic video. Great post!

Charity said...

It was a video of a man pulling the wings off a live chicken that convinced me to stop eating chicken. It was a video of a man killing turkies with a sledgehammer that convinced me to stop eating turkey. Images are powerful and we need to see the unpleasant ones too. You SHOULD get upset, cry, even get sick at what you see. Then you turn off the TV or computer, dry your eyes, and take action to stop it. Cut back on meat or eliminate it altogether, make a donation to an organization that helps animals, and show all animals in your life compassion. Small steps add up and make a difference.

Rachel said...

Thank You Linday for this post-

I know that I've shared with you before about some of my extended family's disgust with our choice to go vegan.

I often times feel discouraged-

I am trying to do what's best for my family, the animals and the world but am constantly slapped with the- "don't you just want some of this ice cream cake?" questions.

It is hard at times to live compassionately. There are sacrifices. There are misunderstandings with peers and family.
There are stumbling blocks in the road.

But, through a new found support system (like you) we are able to forge on and rejuvenate our hearts with reasoning that reminds us of why it is that we are choosing to lead our lives in this way...

And this helps sustain me. (us)

My prayer is for those who close their eyes to animal neglect and abuse... to those who don't connect the value meal burger they are eating with the lovely creature grazing in the fields that they drove by on the way to work... for those who think chicken is the stuff that comes on a styrofoam tray wrapped neatly without any consequence...

I pray for those people, because I was once one of them.
The road that leads to compassionate living is a long, bumpy and amazing journey! I pray that they too would make that journey....

Myra Wolf said...

I am taking a second to adjust my soap box. I will then take off my shoes and stand on top of it and type.
I stand for many things and always have all of my life. I have fought for causes for change in everything from sexual predators to bullies in the school system that administrators and teachers turned their heads away from. I have lived long enough to see many causes I fought for to expose, be changed for the better now.
I was not popular for many of my stands on this soap box. I was treated with down right disrespect in many cases. It made me stronger and my voice louder smd my smile bigger, because I knew it might take awhile but there would be change oneday.
Those changes have happened in many areas over my years but, only because there were people joined together holding hands fighting for it too. Even if their hands never really touched they filed complaints and fought to expose alot of horrible things. In those numbers change has happened.
If people turn their heads horrific things can happen to animals, children and themselves.
Some people can turn their heads from a hard to watch video...but they need not shut off their voices or use their voice to disrespect another person who is fighting a good fight for a good cause. They need not stop respecting the fighters that will fight for the right changes no matter what someone else thinks. Life in reality is for sure not candy coated or never-neverland.
I am so extremely proud of your work and voice Lindsay and proud of the followers that support you.
Love you beyond and forever! xoxo

Velovegan said...

I totally relate to what you are saying - especially the Facebook part. I recently put a link to how horrible the production of Foie Gras was. Someone I know retaliated by saying that it tasted lovely, that it wasn't ALL like this throughout the whole industry, that it's NOT harmful, that my video was an extreme case, and posted a ridiculous video of a chef saying how great Foie Gras is, how happy all the ducks are, and who said in a really condescending/patronising voice that some extreme animal rights activists actually think it's cruel!! You could obviously see that he was funded by the food industry as the video was so well produced and they put stupid happy music over the scenes of the farm!!! I was SO ANNOYED. But what can you say? You can't just delete a friend over that. So I just argued my point and it eventually frazzled out. I really never used to be so uptight about veganism. I only really did it for MY health and MY beliefs... but now, all the things I've seen, it really has gone too far and I have to let people know about it. My boyfriend is a meat eater and all I can do is advise him to buy organic Irish meat from the butcher so he knows it's locally produced and probably not from some massive factory farm in the UK or anywhere else. It's heartbreaking though. I just want to make a difference :( x

Megan said...

That was beautifully written! I adore your blog. You seem like such an honest, caring person - don't ever let people bring you down! What you are doing it beyond amazing.

Lindsay said...

Thank you for all of these beautiful and honest responses. Your support means the world to me! I am so happy to know such brilliant, kind, and strong activists across the globe! You have all greatly inspired me and have touched my heart today. Thank you, thank you, thank you. :)

Jeri@GodsDreamsForMe said...

I f I could I would keep clicking the cool button over and over for you girl. God showed me that fearless convictions would do some "cleaning" of our comfort zones. New levels, new challenges, but boy the scenery is awesome! Can you imagine all the beautiful new relationships your building/have built and all the existing ones you've strengthened.

I'm proud to be a KissMEI'mVegan supporter. Let's rock this planet!!! See You on the horizon.

Jeri@GodsDreamsForMe said...

I've been thinking...you should submit this to YourDailyVegan. Her motto is unapologetic veganism. This would be perfect just the way it is girl.

Cheryl Allen Salinas said...

You're not losing this supporter! You are amazing -- bless you!

Jacklyn said...

This sounds so much like me. It was a peta magazine that got me to change, after reading their 'meet your meat' article. Its so easy to ignore, which a lot of people decide to do. They see animals just as food and no one really wants to see it as an animal who feeds pain. Im so happy that veganism is growing in popularity.

Mikochan said...

Thank you for this post. People inevitably bring up PETA in my discussions of veganism, always in a negative light, and it takes a lot for me to express what you just did so well.

I've been realizing lately how many non-vegan friends I have (i.e.- I don't have any vegan friends that I talk to on a regular basis), so I try not to speak out as much because literally no one I'm around wants to hear it. Sometimes that's hard, because I do believe in activism, so posts like this help to keep me strong (as being my only source of camaraderie). Many of my friends don't want to understand why I am vegan.

However, recently two of my friends decided to try out vegetarianism, partly due to conversations I've had with them-- and they're happy with it. So I thank you and the other activists like you for keeping me honest and well, active. :-)