Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Bridge Too Far

"No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned." – Yoda to Luke, The Empire Strikes Back

I have this friend. He’s a great guy, concerned about the environment, social justice issues, local and international politics, sustainable living, heritage preservation and so on. He has so much integrity, passion and commitment that he started an online newspaper, devoting most of his free time and energy to inform and educate the masses (and he doesn’t even get paid for it!).

He’s also a huge animal lover. For as long as I can remember he’s written about issues concerning animals. He’s always condemned local and national acts of animal cruelty. He’s called for stronger laws to protect animals we call pets from abuse. He’s written against the insidious past-time known as sport hunting. And he’s been a relentless pain in the butt towards those who keep whales in captivity.

He supports local animal rights groups when they hold their protests and vigils, advertises and covers various lectures and symposiums to enlighten the public on animal issues, and even features animal adoptions on his website.

Yet despite all his concern and compassion for other living beings, he still supports the exploitation, suffering and slaughter of animals for food. He still EATS animals and animal products.

We’ve talked about it a lot, and I’ve even offered to take him out and treat him to a delicious vegan meal at a restaurant just down the street from his house. So far he hasn’t taken me up on it.

In a recent email, my friend wrote:

“please don't ask me if I am vegan yet .... as much as I share your passion for all creatures great and small on this planet, that probably ain't going to happen for me. .... not eating an egg is a bridge too far.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. Many people I’ve spoken with over the years have expressed the same sentiments. But does this make my friend a hypocrite? Is it hypocritical to condemn those who exploit and kill animals for commercial gain or personal satisfaction, only to support other forms of violence towards animals?

What’s the difference between stealing whales from the wild (or breeding them in captivity) to live as slaves for human entertainment, and breeding cows, pigs and chickens to live as slaves destined for slaughter (yes, cows and chickens are slaughtered when they can’t produce any more milk or eggs) because people enjoy the taste of their flesh and secretions?

And what’s the difference between the family who buys a season’s pass to the marine park and the family who buys a ham for Easter?

I can picture my friend interviewing someone who kills animals for their fur. “Isn’t it cruel to kill an animal just to make someone else look good?” he asks. The fur trapper then replies:

“please don't ask me if I am going to give up killing animals for the fur industry .... as much as I share your passion for all creatures great and small on this planet, that probably ain't going to happen for me. .... not trapping animals is a bridge too far.”

Or how about the person who keeps whales in tiny concrete tanks?

“please don't ask me if I am going to stop displaying whales .... as much as I share your passion for all creatures great and small on this planet, that probably ain't going to happen for me. .... not displaying whales (and jeopardizing the success of my business) is a bridge too far.”

Cruelty is cruelty, and suffering is suffering. It is no less so just because it’s being done to a different kind of animal. That doesn’t mean I think my friend is a cold-blooded killer or cruel animal collector, but in regards to reducing animal suffering and ultimately the amount of unnecessary violence in the world, if you’re not part of the solution…

So what IS the solution for my friend? Put your money where your mouth is. Like Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world. If you’re against animal exploitation, slavery and cruelty, go vegan. Can’t give up eggs yet? Then give up everything except eggs. A little bit is better than nothing at all. But don’t write it all off because you’re too old or too set in your ways.

Or as Yoda would say, only in your mind is the bridge too far…


veganelder said...

It is curious that the example of an egg is used by him. Does that mean he's willing to stop hurting animals in all other ways?

There is something rather strange in all this, given his activism on behalf of animals. Strange indeed. Is there some sort of clinging to the notion of "superiority" because he is a human animal?

You present a real puzzler.

Daniel Wilson said...

Old habits die hard.

Anonymous said...

As much as I share your passion for animals, this militant veganism is absolutely ridiculous. Eggs purchased in the supermarket are not and would never be living beings (not counting all the microorganisms, but vegans love eating microorganisms). It is chicken-period. Sure, it's an animal product, but it is not a dead animal, or a living one. Not being willing to give up eating eggs is not the same as supporting other forms of animal cruelty, or hunting endangered species, or other things you mentioned. In any way, at all. Another thing, It's extremely cruel to animals when vegan families feed their small children foods which do not contain complete proteins and vitamins that are required, sometimes resulting in the death of a child. I'm a vegetarian myself, but militant veganism bullsh*t is doing much more harm than good.

Daniel Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Wilson said...

I don't usually post comments by people unwilling to use their names but I wanted to reply to this one as the writer is clearly confused as to what it means to be vegan.

The question isn't whether the chicken "period" was alive, the question is whether the animals - in this case the egg-laying chickens - are exploited, made to suffer and slaughtered. The answer to all three is yes.

The birds are used by humans to produce eggs, suffer (whether it's in a factory farm or when the farmer kills the unproductive layer). There's also the matter of disposing of unproductive male chicks - useless to the egg industry - which are suffocated, drowned or ground up alive.

Veganism isn't just about what (or who) you put in your mouth. It's a stand against oppression and violence. It's showing respect for other sentient creatures.

I don't know why you're vegetarian, but if it's for the reasons I listed above, then you owe it to yourself and to the animals to live your convictions. Going vegan is the way to do it.

This is no more militant than opposing human slavery or child molestations. If it harms others, it's bad. If it's bad, you oppose it instead of supporting it.

And if you're going to use the example of vegan parents starving their child, consider this:

"Prosecutors said an investigation revealed the two, who lived a vegan lifestyle and ate no animal products, only fed their baby soy milk and apple juice, and had failed to seek medical treatment when their young son was wasting away.

Prosecutor Chuck Boring said during the trial no matter how many times they want to say, '"We're vegans, we're vegetarians," that's not the issue in this case. The child died because he was not fed. Period.'"

These weren't vegan parents, they were BAD parents. Being vegan, or being on a vegan diet, had nothing to do with it. What parents, in their right mind, don't feed their baby food???

To say veganism is to be blame, is the same as saying meat-eating was to blame for the terrorist attacks on 911. Weren't all the suicide bombers meat-eaters?

I hope this clarifies a few things for you.

Vegan Cat said...

I'm learning and seeing too much of this mamby pamby, save one species and eat another. Being an environmentalist is veganism, yet I am finding groups, rescue organizations or clubs saying they are all for the environment, all for saving and rescuing animals, yet go home each night to a plate of ham and steak, with cheese sauce on broccoli and for desert, mincemeat pie topped off with ice cream. Its hypocrisy. It's infuriating.

Organizations that hide behind the the environmentalist hat or animal rescue/advocacy hat and still perpetuate the deaths of billions of animals annually is egregious. Its time to take a stand people. It is ALL of the animals that need saving, not just a select few species because they are cute and cuddly. The esthetically unpleasing, unpopular animals and livestock also bleed, also have feelings and want to live, just like the cute cuddly ones like puppies and kittens.

How can you go to the grocery store, fast food takeouts like McDonalds and Burger King, the animal shelters, the puppy mills, the farm, clothing and shoe stores, claim you care about animals and continue the perpetuation of killing animals with your buying dollar. Buying leather, wearing fur, eating steak, frying eggs and drinking milk kills animals horribly every second of the day. It's bull shit of the most ugly kind. People who are hunters, our government officials in office which support farm factories and traditional hunting practices, people who don't care about animals, apathethic uneducated lemmings, all, laugh at how foolish Animal Rights Activists are, who say they care about animals and yet continue to eat animals. It's hypocrisy.

The time will come when people will have to make a choice, who they will align with, will have to cut people out of their lives because of the perpetuation of deaths of animals, the destruction of the environment and cruelty to people. Its time to walk the walk and talk the talk. Its time to speak up and speak out. I will NOT support advocacy or rescue groups who continue to perpetuate the deaths of animals. How about YOU?

Where will you draw the line in the sand?