Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Connecting the Dots

Last week, a smallish dairy farmer wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper, going on about how "God's law frees people to love unconditionally" and then gushing about how up to 1000 people from the area, as well as from all over Canada, had come together a few months ago to help him in a time of need. Early this spring, there had been a story in my local paper about an event that apparently triggered warm fuzzies. This same dairy farmer's barn had collapsed in the middle of a cold January night. He and his family had managed to get around 20 cows out and then over the course of the next day or two, local firefighters and neighbours came to assist them to free the remaining 70 or so from the fallen structure. The local paper had featured a front page photo of him, smiling broadly and with his face smooshed up to that of one of the cows. People were not, of course, patting themselves on the back for having saved the cows for the cows' own sake; the kumbaya moment had to do with having helped save the farmer's "livelihood". Unconditional love, indeed.

I remember the story well, not just all I could think of at the time was of how these cows were just things with a cash value to the farmer (as well as to the community that pitched in to help him). I also remembered the story because a friend (who knew that I was vegan) had ended up emailing me about it, inviting me to a hamburger and hotdog barbecue that was being held to raise money to help build a new barn. She added in her note that she had figured that even if I chose not to eat anything, I'd be interested in helping the farmer build a new "home" for the cows, and that at the very least, I'd have compassion for the poor man who'd lost the uninsured structure in which the cows had previously resided. I declined the invitation.

I got an email a few days ago from a former coworker who, years and years ago, would take great joy in mocking me for being what she called "a big wuss" for not eating animals (because obviously, bucking the status quo and removing oneself from participating in animal slaughter is a cowardly act). She'd recently obtained my email address from a mutual acquaintance. She mentioned to me that over the years she's "become an animal lover" and has been volunteering at one of the local companion animal shelters, fostering kittens for them. She joked that she hadn't become an "animal rights nut like [me] yet" and added that she fosters the kittens on her small hobby farm--where she also raises chickens and a few goats to fill her family's freezer each fall. She was emailing me, she said, to invite me to a fundraiser for the shelter, adding that she figured that if anyone would be eager to get the word out, it would be me. The fundraiser? Yet another barbecue.

In both of these situations, I took advantage of the opportunity to try to connect some dots by explaining why I would not support the activities in question. In neither of the two cases did the individuals in question get it, because in their minds, certain animals exist to end up on our plates. In their minds, that's just the way it is.

We have a lot of work to do.


wchanley said...

"But, we're HELPING animals..."

You're helping animals land on your plate.

"What do you mean?"

You're asking me to support your fundraiser *for a pet shelter* by inviting me to a BARBECUE?

"I don't understand...?"

Switch the roles. What if we barbecued kittens to rescue farm animals?

"Ummm. You're horrendous! Why in the world would anyone barbecue a kitten?"

Why would anyone barbecue *any* animal?

"So you don't care about homeless cats, eh? So much for your 'compassion.' Gee, these animal rights people are *crazy*."

B said...

Jeez that's kind of depressing.

I think I may have heard about that farm, or at least a similar situation.

I find it so ironic when "animal lovers" have and care for pets but go out hunting. I have so many teachers who love to talk about hunting and skinning animals and whatnot, and yet they have pets. Its the social institution of animal welfare - it makes things like this acceptable.

Its so frustrating!
Nice post though =)

M said...

"Switch the roles. What if we barbecued kittens to rescue farm animals?"

The sad/funny thing is that anyone suggesting that would be perceived as a veritable monster.

Thanks! It is a bit depressing, but it is what it is. And bit by bit, we're going to chip away at that mindset.