It has been far too long (four years!) since I last posted to this blog. Since that last post there have been any number of vegan and animal rights related topics out there in the world to write about. Out there in the world. Back then, in the before times. Back when I could easily excuse my neglect of this project by saying, “Life gets in the way.” What was I waiting for?
For most people a plague provides a good excuse for putting pet projects on hold until things go back to (the new) normal. All attention is turned to the pandemic at hand, to daily and perhaps hourly reports of this novel coronavirus and the deadly COVID-19 disease; it’s rapid, exponential spread; the attempts to “flatten the curve.” And the economic havoc it has engendered. And the right-wing funded protests of stay at home orders. And the criminal lack of leadership and even empathy in a time of crisis from a man who muses about injecting disinfectants into people’s bodies as a supposed cure.
So we turn to sources such as the CDC for what we trust is accurate information, such as their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report posted just yesterday, which states that as of April 27th, 4,913 meat and poultry workers in 115 plants in 19 states had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Twenty people have died. The total number of infections is likely an undercount. More than 640 coronavirus cases were linked to the Smithfield Foods pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Giant meat processing corporations such as Smithfield , as well as Tyson and JBS USA have a long history of abusing animals and the humans who work in their plants. Now we have a president who signs an executive order to keep those places operating, thus not only perpetuating those abuses but the “increased risk for infectious disease transmission” due to the working conditions, according to the CDC report.
Luminary primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall has recently pleaded for an end to the nightmare for animals who are captured and kept in horrible conditions to be sold as food or for purported medicinal value. She has also asked us to make the connection between our relationship with animals and diseases such as SARS, MERS and now COVID-19. Conservative author and journalist Matthew Scully has written recently in the National Review that we need to make the connection between the treatment of animals in Wuhan’s so-called wet markets and U.S. factory farms.
You don’t need me to tell you that we are in a time of profound crisis. We desperately need to make profound changes if we don’t want endless cycles of unnecessary suffering and death. We need to take a hard, deep look at an economic system which treats sentient beings as commodities and treats workers as fungible and expendable, that is willing to put human and non-human lives at risk to make a profit. We need to recognize that we are all, indeed, Earthlings. We absolutely need to change the way we relate to non-human animals and stop despoiling their wild habitats. We need to practice more compassion and demand more ethical behavior from everyone.
What are we waiting for? Of course, many of us have not waited to work at bringing about such changes. Many have been actively doing so for years. At the same time, we have encountered great frustration and heartbreak, asking ourselves over and over, “Why doesn’t everyone get it?” Why don’t the majority of our fellow Americans, our fellow humans, understand what we understand before — no — if it is not already too late.
For those folks who are now worrying about a shortage of animal flesh and secretions, who believe that meat and animal products are a vital part of the food supply, I implore you to make those connections. Please, take a good hard look at what you feel you cannot do without and think about all of the suffering and disease associated with that pork chop; that strip of bacon; that piece of chicken; that omelette; that glass of cow’s milk; that hamburger. Now, more than ever, is the time to choose a healthier, more compassionate, a more ethical way of eating. If not now, when?
Go vegan! What are you waiting for?