Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘animal liberation’ Category

Thank you for all you do; you have changed me from a new and uncertain vegetarian to a strong and resourceful and most importantly joyful vegan! I am the other of two wonderful boys aged 27 months and 12 months; before and after I had them I sometimes became quite depressed at the idea that I had brought children into this world that was doomed by human greed and arrogance. I am now positive and joyful and I know that if I can bring my boys up with a solid vegan foundation in life then I will have succeeded as a parent even though, at some stage I will have to let them go into the world and choose their own path. At least, should they stray from veganism and then decide to return to it, the path back will be easy and familiar and not totally unfamiliar as it was for me and many others who were raised eating animals.

I too believe, as you have said so eloquently, that our violence against other human animals is rooted in our violence against other animals. Thus by bringing Zach and Caleb up with vegan values is two small but significant steps towards changing the world.

I became Vegan overnight at the beginning of this year. The catalyst was a series of small events – the biggest of which was watching “Meet your Meat” on the PETA website. My husband wasn’t as easily converted as I was; he was happy to stop eating red meat but still wanted to eat his favorite food which was chicken and especially Woolies Honey and Mustard Chicken thighs. His mother too was very obliging when I told her that we were going vegetarian and she said that she was happy to just cook us chicken! We have pet chickens at home – which neither of us would even consider eating and so, to make my point, I went to a live chicken (for meat) retailer close to our home to buy a chicken.

The public were not allowed in the shed the chickens were kept but as I was insistent that I wanted to choose my own chicken I was allowed in. I was directed by the man who was helping me to go down to the end of the shed and choose a bird from there. Although the chickens were raised for meat, they were all in battery type cages. Each cage probably measuring about 45 cm long by 30 cm deep and 30 cms high. There were 4 rows of cages on top of each other and of course all the excrement just fell down to the cages below. There were 4 or 5 birds to a cage; so small they couldn’t all stand up or lie down at the same time, let alone stretch out a wing or preen themselves. The birds had all had their beaks cut off, they had only a few feathers which were in terrible condition and the smell was terrible. Pretty much standard conditions for any chicken raised for its flesh or eggs world wide I believe.

As I was looking at all the birds the man helping me was making suggestions about which birds were nice and heavy. I explained to him that the chicken was going to be a pet and was not going to be eaten so didn’t need to be heavy. I chose a bird from the end cage that looked like she had given up. She was lying down at the back of the cage and just looked weary and broken like she had no fight left in her. When I told the man that I wanted her he said that no, she wasn’t a good choice and to illustrate why, he put her on the floor and pushed her with his foot and said because she doesn’t walk. I said that she didn’t need to walk and I was taking her. I was quite worried about her beak as the person who cut it off when she was only a day or two old had cut it crookedly, making the top of the beak longer than the bottom. Chickens beaks are like our fingers and I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to function in a normal environment with such a deformed one.

While walking back up the shed I asked why I had to choose from the end of the shed and I was told because that was where all the young, heavy birds were. The ones at the top of the shed were older and thin – the ones no-one wanted; I knew then that I’d be going home with 2 chickens. I asked how old they were and was told that the young ones were about 7 weeks and the older ones about 3 or 4 months! The hen I chose from the top of the shed was the opposite of the first one I chose. She was standing up at the front of her cage, her head pushed out between the bars as if straining for freedom. Her beak had also been cut off, giving her a pursed lips expression. The man helping me with the chickens was adamant that I shouldn’t buy her because, as he made me feel – she was feathers & skin & bone. The bones clearly palpable through her brittle feathers, the bones that I knew how they looked because of all the years I had eaten her kind – of which I was now so ashamed!

We got home in the early evening and all the chickens were settling down for the night. I let Honey and Mustard go at the stables with all the other chickens and then went inside to sort out the kids and dogs and cats and husband. I told my husband that we had two new additions – Honey and Mustard and next time he felt like his favorite chicken dish he could go down and have a look at them!

When I went down to the stables later Honey and Mustard had both gone to sleep in the piles of grass that are put in the stables for the horses. Honey in one stable and Mustard in the other, as far away from each other and the other chickens as possible as if to finally be able to sleep in peace; to actually be able to lie down at night! In a soft bed instead of steel mesh! Without jostling and bumping and pecking and squawking and fighting for food and water and space!

Over the next couple of days it was an absolute joy to watch Honey and Mustard begin to experience life. They walked around, felt the sun on their backs, scratched in the dirt, dipped their beaks in water to drink, pecked at seeds and insects and mud and grass and just anything that they could see or perhaps not see. They always stayed up late to experience as much as they could with each day; while all the other birds were in bed by 6, they were still up and about until 7. Honey was very quiet and gentle, she had quite a bad limp which concerned me as it wasn’t improving but she was happy. She rapidly developed a passion for grapes and would grab one from me and scurry off with it to eat in peace. Mustard was busy from the start, busy and clueless. She was always underfoot of humans, dogs and horses and would try and grab any food she could out of my toddlers tightly clenched fists. She would come running when she saw us and then would hang around determinedly until we went back inside. She would climb on your lap if you sat down, all the while talking continuously. Not clucking chicken sounds but a throaty purr as if she wanted to everyone close to her just how much fun she was having and how great life was!

It was wonderful to see the horses being so gentle with them, they would nose them gently and not move until the chickens were out of range of being squashed.

I took them both to the Vet when Honey’s limp hadn’t improved after about 4 days. He told me that Honey had a broken femur and that was why she limped. He said it was probably quite an old injury as it wasn’t that sore when he manipulated it. Just imagine, living in a cage full of pushing and jostling and bumping, not being able to lie down in peace – all with a broken leg. Mustard was just thin but otherwise healthy. My heart ached for Honey to think of the agony she endured, the days and weeks of suffering only because us humans have a taste for the seasoning we put on chicken flesh. No wonder she just lay at the back of her cage looking broken.

The chickens thrived; Honey became friends and a surrogate mom for some young Bantams we have. They had been weaned by their mother but still seemed to want some older female company. Mustard was friends with everyone! Dogs, cats, horses, guinea fowl and people – anyone who would walk around the garden with her!

And then on Thursday last week it was all over. I went out in the morning and Mustard was lying on her side in her bed. She was still alive, but barely. I stroked her and said my goodbyes and an hour later she was gone. Lying in the early morning sun that she loved. She had soil under her feet and leaves over her head; friends all around her and people that loved her.

She died of old age at 6 months old. Old age that came so early because of the way her kind had been selectively bred to reach maximum weight for slaughter in the soonest possible time – 40 days old; from a chickens normal life span of 8 years. Its all just tragic!

**************************************

I wrote the above about a month ago but hadn’t sent it as I needed to finish it. I am pleased to be able to report that Honey is well, her limp has totally gone and she is really asserting herself around our stables. A dog found me about two weeks ago and has come to live with us. Honey obviously doesn’t think much of dogs – especially strange ones and body blocks them if they come too close to the feed room! She is such a beautiful and happy bird, I enjoy her company so much and really feel honoured to have had 2 such special people in my life as Honey & Mustard!

~Paula,  Johannesburg, South Africa

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I was born in Taiwan but grew up mostly in Africa and the U.S. I have very few memories of Taiwan but one vivid memory I do have is of my mom taking my brother and me to the market to buy turtles. We then traveled to a river somewhere and set them free. This practice of “releasing life” is common among devout Buddhists and we continued to do it on occasion even in Malawi, where we would buy tortoises and turtles and let them go as well.

But unlike Buddhist monks and nuns, we were not vegetarian. In fact, I hated vegetables and wanted to eat only meat. My mom had to force me to eat vegetables so that I would have a healthy diet. For most of my life, meat and animal products were central to my diet. I never saw anything wrong with that.

Even though I would get to know many vegetarians, I always saw vegetarianism as a “preference” or a “healthy lifestyle choice” rather than an ethical practice. In my 20s, I would even tell my vegetarian friends (half-jokingly) that I was going to write a book about how vegetarianism is bad for our planet. How naive I was back then but I loved meat – it had to be part of every meal I had.

In my early 30s, I became more interested in ethics as a secular alternative to religions. I started reading books on ethics, including Peter Singer’s Writings on an Ethical Life. The book covered many issues but there was enough in there about animal welfare to make me give “vegetarianism” a try. It lasted six months – I gave it up when I had to travel to the Philippines and Mexico for work.

Fast forward to May 2006. Peter Singer released another book called The Way We Eat. I listened to the entire book on my iPod within two days. This time, I knew there was no going back. I had to give up meat for good. Not just meat but all animal products.

Having tried vegetarianism before, I knew that this time, I had to learn how to cook. So I bought several vegan cookbooks, rolled up my sleeves, and started cooking in earnest.

I wanted to make sure that my focus was not on what I’m giving up but what I’m eating. The new diet has to be more pleasurable, not less. That wasn’t really difficult, considering I didn’t really cook before. Now that I am cooking for real (and not just heating up food), my meals became more tasty, more adventurous, and more healthful.

A year and half later, I still make new dishes and new desserts every week. I invite friends over for dinner all the time and they can see and taste for themselves what vegan food is all about. No one has made the jump to veganism just yet but at least we’re talking about it.

I remember how long it took me to make the switch and I know everyone has to go on their on journey and it may take a while.

My own journey has taught me the following:

1) People can change.
We may be creatures of habit and we may follow traditions blindly. But from time to time, we do escape the mental cages that society puts us in.

2) Inner strength is key.
Our society, our families and our friends will all dissuade us from veganism. That doesn’t mean we need to argue, fight or struggle. Instead, we should listen… and share… and continue to follow our inner compass.

3) Veganism is not just about food.
Colleen teaches me this through her podcast. I’m still learning.

4) The joy of veganism is felt every single day.
Every time you cook, eat or shop, you are aware of the suffering you are alleviating and the liberation that is possible for yourself and other animals. Our efforts may pale by comparison to the amount of exploitation around us. But we know we are making a difference – that we are “releasing life” every day – and there’s true joy in that.

Thank you, Colleen, for being our guide on this incredible journey. When you become vegan, you soon realize it’s one of the most important things you’ve done in your life. You begin to see life more clearly and more truthfully than anytime before.

~Charles in Vancouver, British Columbia

Read Full Post »

THE FIVE STEPS OF MY VEGAN JOURNEY SO FAR

There were several steps in my becoming vegan, which I’d really like to share with others. Like many, I’ve arrived to this transformation in middle-adulthood, and I’ve largely arrived at it alone and on my own.

The process (so far) for me could be roughly broken down into five steps: emotional, intellectual, educational, “spiritual” and communal.

First, emotionally: I felt guilty and sad about what happens to animals in order to provide me food. The worse I felt, the worse all of it tasted, until I just couldn’t eat meat anymore. But this wasn’t enough to really push me from “lacto-ovo vegetarianism” into a more solid veganism. (By the way, I hope that someday the word “vegetarian” is reclaimed to mean what it originally meant, and what it sounds like. Eggs and cow milk certainly don’t sound “vegetarian” to me.)

Second, intellectually: I read a couple books. The most important for me was Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. I know that the title of that book is going to sound extreme to a lot of people who have not read it yet, conjuring images of militant action, breaking into laboratories, etc. But, in fact, the book is about more about the liberation of human morality than anything else. It may as well be titled, “When Is It Okay to Cause Suffering To Others?” or “What Is Morality, Really?” or many,many other titles. The book — as many others do — provides a very solid philosophical argument that gives you some basic ideas and tools by which to judge one’s own behavior on such basic moral grounds that even a small child (perhaps especially a small child) could understand. You may feel that something is wrong, but how can you KNOW that it’s wrong. This book can help. Basically, if you can survive and thrive without needing to cause suffering to another being, then to knowingly cause them to suffer is immoral, and it behooves you to change your ways. Do I need eggs and milk (whose production requires chickens and cows to suffer) to survive and be really healthy and satisfy my taste buds? No, no and no. Professor Singer ‘s book helped me clear out the eggs and cow milk from my diet.

Third, educationally: I began to learn HOW to live vegan — this really began at Colleen’s site and through her podcasts. Through her podcasts, it was the first time that a human voice explained to me patiently how to live a vegan life. And that made all the difference in the world. The human voice — we must all remember — is perhaps the most powerful tool we have! It’s the one thing or nonhuman friends need of us most. In my book, people like Colleen are bodhisattvas. In order that the rest of us might also see the light, they tirelessly share what they know. The good news is that, as time progresses, I believe it WILL become easier, not more difficult, to live a vegan lifestyle. People like Colleen are almost like secular rabbis or independent teachers, and as more of them become available to the average person, this process will become easier.)

Fourth, spiritually: I visited Farm Sanctuary — farmsanctuary.org — a place where rescued farm animals get to live in peace with humans for the rest of their natural lives, and for the first time in my entire life I felt that I was standing on sacred ground.

I’m an agnostic, but I’d use the word “spiritual” to describe those kinds of experiences which seem to tie into intelligences that are greater than any single person’s individual mind and experience, or connections to greater and more complex forces than those we can easily grasp intellectually. I’ve been to hundreds of churches and temples all over the world, all of which felt and seemed ‘sacred,’ but that little sanctuary in Orland, California, was the first time I felt with all my body and mind the sense that a place was really sacred. I kid you not, as I left that place, I broke down in tears. Bittersweet, overwhelmed, joy mixed with sadness. I’m not sure what St. Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, but I can tell you for sure, it could not have been more powerful than what I felt on the road home from Farm Sanctuary to San Mateo.

I don’t believe in heaven, but I’ve seen a small corner of what it might look like in Orland. I do, however, believe in hells — they are called “factory farms” and “slaughterhouses.” So, here’s the deal you get at Farm Sanctuary: You get to meet sentient beings who have literally escaped hell and are now in the care of human angels.

I dare anyone to really absorb that reality and not be moved.

If you’re unsure of your veganism or feel threatened by peer pressure, then plan your next vacation to spend a day at one of these places. Visiting a place like Farm Sanctuary is like seeing the future. (Hey, and put it this way: A vacation to Farm Sanctuary can save you a lot of money. Instead of flying off to some exotic, expensive locale, or Disneyland, just spend a day or two with animals who just got back from hell, and the wingless angels who watch over them. Adopt a turkey or burro before you leave. It will make your seemingly boring, unexotic hometown seem like the “happiest place on earth,” because you will come home with a lot of joy in your heart, and new connection to a place otherwise known as Planet Earth.)

Farm Sanctuary truly “closed the deal” for me, and I can never imagine returning to a carnivore lifestyle ever again. Wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’ve been transformed, and I can feel my whole body and mind changing as the reality becomes more “natural” to me.

These first four stages add up to a sense of basic integrity in my life. I have all the other problems that everyone else has (trust me on this one, as my friends know), but now there is a baseline of sanity and well-being. For the first time in my life, I really believe in my own “politics”: What I eat, what I wear, and most of the things I use are in alignment with my belief that all sentient beings have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I feel related to the world again, and not just a “consumer” or part of “the marketplace,” but as part of a conversation that really matters, a conversation that literally could change the world. (“Industrial agriculture,” the euphemism for the horrible things we do to thinking-feeling fellow earthlings, is literally killing the biosphere. According to the UN, this meat habit of ours is doing more damage than trains, planes and automobiles! Someone else’s “right” to eat steak, baby back ribs and cow’s milk, is literally depriving all of us the right to a planet.)

If there’s a Fifth stage in my vegan lifestyle, it’s actually happening right now, and it’s about actively building a community of vegans around myself. Why wait? Why feel left alone and misunderstood? Why waste time being frustrated that mainstream society doesn’t “get it”? Be the change.

After all, in this world, no one’s going to come find you and knock on your door and offer you a medal for “being vegan.” (Well, Colleen might, but she’s an angel, and angels can fly and all that sort of thing, and she might have superpowers too.) Again, just “be the change.” It’s a simple guideline by which to organize one’s life.

Anyhow, as a result of the first four steps of this process, two friends and I have started on this “fifth step.” We started a regular weekly dinner (“Vegan Thursdays” is what we call it) in our hometown of Beijing, China, and now have our simple website — the Vegan Social Club of Beijing, at http://vegansocialclub.com. And guess what? We just made seven new vegan friends in the last week alone.

Frankly, I sometimes get very frustrated by organizations like PETA and HSUS, because, despite their monumental work raising consciousness and working for better legislation, they do so little to actually create community. Communities are ultimately far more powerful than the media or celebrities or shocking images or donations. Both Peta and HSUS send strong messages to the media and do wonderful work in terms of fighting for better legislation, for which I’m grateful, but I wish I had their mailing list!


Those members are potentially my friends and why is Peta and HSUS not enabling them to meet each other? I sometimes hear stories about vegans backsliding into meat-eating because of peer pressure. Same thing happens to sober recovering alcoholics surrounded by heavy drinkers. Duh! Humans need community to survive in more ways than one.

Anyhow, nevertheless, I still thank goodness for orgs like Peta and HSUS, and maybe community-making is NOT their job.

Maybe it’s YOUR job — whoever you are who might be reading this right now.

If our little experiment in building a community here works — and it IS working — we’re going to help other people (anywhere in the world) repeat whatever we did that was successful. We’ll make mistakes, I’m certain, but in general it’s so much better than nothing. So much better than grousing about the lack of vegan options. So much better than being silent and alone.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re a lonely or underappreciated vegan, then make yourself a community! MAKE IT. You can do this. If you can’t find one, then, guess what: You’re really lucky, because you have the opportunity to build one yourself. Even if there already IS one, maybe it’s not your style. Well, make another one!

Find a vegan or vegetarian restaurant you like, put up an on/offline classified ad, make a simple website, and watch fellow compassionate humans come out of the woodwork. And, by all means, welcome curious non-vegans to attend! Some of the nicest, most inspiring vegans you’ll ever meet PROBABLY aren’t even vegan yet! Some day, years from now, they’ll be thanking for introducing you to the opportunity to “wake up” and see a new reality. I guarantee you, to be on the receiving end of gratitude is a good place to be. Instant cure for depression or sadness or whatever other unpleasant stuff is going on in your life.

Don’t know how to set up a website or community blog? Well, a vegan-near-you probably does! Don’t know how to organize dinners? Well, do your best to organize the first one and I guarantee some vegan will show up who DOES know how to organize dinners! Too shy to do this kind of thing? Find a partner who’s not too shy, and just get it started. People naturally “make community” — all you have to do is get them into the same place at the same time.

I’m only a month and a half into my community-building phase, and already it’s changing my life. Our last vegan dinner in Beijing had only 6 people (compared to 11 the week before), but four of them were newcomers (people who needed this community and were very happy about being there) and all of them were some of the finest people you’ll ever meet anywhere in the world.

For me, “Thursday” has become the one day of the week I know I’ll go to sleep feeling good about things — no matter how badly the day started. I could be broke, feeling depressed, frustrated, etc, but I know that on Thursday nights, I’m going to be surrounded by new and old friends, and unexpectedly good things will happen or be said. (Which is why we’re already thinking about starting some kind of event on Saturday too.)

Anyhow, I’m SO GRATEFUL TO COLLEEN PATRICK-GOUDREAU and everyone who makes compassionatecooks.com possible. You’ve changed my world and indirectly, you’re changing the world for people far, far away from Oakland, California. You have no idea!

Christopher Barden
Vegan Social Club of Beijing
http://vegansocialclub.com

Read Full Post »