What are you waiting for?

corona meat
(Paul Sancya/AP)


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?


Eyes Wide Open


goat rescue
(“Lamb with Igualdad Animal Activist” –photo by Jo-Anne McArthur)

Why am I vegan and an animal rights activist? Because I abhor violence. Because I am sickened by suffering, appalled by cruelty, horrified by killing–and I don’t want to contribute to it.  It is really that simple. And yet the moral imperative that is at the core of my veganism is not easily understood by many; perhaps they think that acknowledging their own culpability in supporting violence towards animals, in their food (as well as clothing, entertainment and medical) choices–and then doing something about it by going vegan– is too complicated, too much of an effort.

I feel that there is something  else at play, however; something larger that is left unspoken and yet at some level is recognized by many people when they refuse to open their eyes to the plight of farmed animals.  When we  open our eyes to the violence humans do to these animals, we also open a door that leads to actively opposing that violence and influencing others to do the same. And that door leads to more and more doors. And all those open doors, while affording a vision of social justice for all beings, also offer a view of the world that is often bleak and troubling and confusing and overwhelming.

And there is so much that overwhelms us, so many images of suffering with which we are confronted, so much violence over which we have no control. One image in particular has, in the past few day, elicited feelings of  grief and outrage worldwide: the image of little Omran of Aleppo, Syria. How can you not view that image of a soot and blood covered little boy looking so small and dazed as he sits in the back of the ambulance, and not gasp at  what has just happened to him and his hometown? How can you not decry the ravages of a conflict which has caused so much suffering and death and has destroyed the childhood of children like Omran? How can anyone remain indifferent to such horrors?

When I saw that picture and then the video of Omran’s rescue from the rubble of his house, tears came to my eyes. Of course. But what to do with that feeling of grief? We see these images, we react as any caring human being should react but what then? I am outraged that such violence exists. But what to do with that outrage? Do I write a letter to the president? Do I take to the street in protest?  I confess, I do not have enough understanding of the Syrian conflict and I certainly don’t know what I personally could do to help bring it to an end. And so I cry tears of impotent rage.

Another captivating image graces my living room wall: a framed 30″ x 40″ print of an amazing photo by the Canadian photographer and animal right’s activist Jo-Anne McArthur; a lamb is cradled in the arms of a member of Igualdad Animal (Animal Equalityduring an open rescue of farmed animals destined for slaughter. What drew me inexorably to this photo and compelled me to purchase it at a showing of some of McArthur’s photos benefitting The National Museum of Animals and Society (now under the name of simply The Animal Museum in downtown Los Angeles) was that lamb’s eye staring out at us; unlike Omran’s stunned and hollow-eyed gaze, we can read in this lamb’s face hopeful anticipation, curiosity, relief. It’s an image that fills me with delight and also a sense of urgency. That lamb’s gaze never fails to remind me why I chose to become a vegan and why I  became an animal rights activist.

Those of us who care, those of us whose eyes and hearts are open to the suffering of others, we cry. But we also cry out — we cry out against domination; we cry out against social injustice;  we cry out against the exploitation and brutalization of sentient beings. We decry violence and we especially decry the violence of the powerful over the powerless. We come together to publicly denounce that violence, we do not cry out alone.

Sometimes we know exactly what to do, such as choosing to go vegan as a personal rejection of violence to farmed animals, or by rescuing animals from suffering and slaughter. Other times we are not so sure of what to do, especially when the problem seems far beyond our ability to solve it.

But we choose to keep our eyes open. We choose to not only be aggrieved  by the violence we see but also to be outraged. So outraged that we look for ways to turn that feeling into action. We choose to see and we choose to hope and we choose to act. We don’t always know what to do, that’s true. But we know that as painful as it is, we must keep our eyes wide open, always looking for that glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Monologues vs Socrates?

In their wise and practical guide to  effective animal advocacy, The Animal Activist’s Handbook, Matt Ball (Vegan Outreach) and Bruce Friedrich (PETA) advise,

“Rather than launching into a monologue about cruelty . . . we must lead people to recognize that what they already believe (cruelty is wrong) necessitates a change in diet.”

They recommend using  “the Socratic method” which involves leading the conversation to where others are answering their own questions, leading people  “to think about what it means to choose to eat animals.”  It is a dynamic way for eliciting change in others rather than trying to impose it on them.

So is something called The Veg Monologues an effective tool for bringing about a change to veganism? I have struggled with this question. I know very well Why Vegan? But why The Veg Monologues?

I have attempted to describe  the intentions of this project on the About  page. I believe in effective vegan advocacy but I also believe that we vegans have a need to tell our stories and I believe that in telling those stories, in all their diversity, in sharing who we are as unique individuals, the general public will come to connect with us on a personal level and in that connection seeds may be planted, doors may be opened, a light might be shined.

So, yes, as advocates for veganism,  let’s reach out to others, let’s draw them into a conversation, let’s lead them to coming to their own conclusions based upon compassion, or perhaps health or environmental concerns.  But as individuals who are vegan, who care deeply for animals and our fellow human beings, let’s not be afraid to tell our stories, to be authentic to who we are.

Sharing our own stories may prove to be prologue to the many unique and wonderful stories of all those future vegans out there.