collared cows

Collar-free, so far

Lately I stumbled across some information about a company that makes collars for animals in agricultural operations. The solar-powered collars are used to manage the animals wearing them: everything from creating virtual fences to tracking the animal’s location and providing health information right down to when it’s coming into heat. The collars are also used to drive the animals to different locations, using auditory and sensory cues.

While all this seems to be right there on the leading edge of technology in animal agriculture, I find this application distressing. Animal agriculture is distressing to begin with, but amping the whole thing up in such simultaneously intimate and impersonal ways has very disturbing implications in my mind. Where, ultimately, does this lead?

“What we do to the animals, we do to ourselves,” writes Will Tuttle, in his book, The World Peace Diet. He describes the “boomerang effect” – the notion that “as we sow, so shall we reap.”

Tuttle carefully details numerous ways in which this plays out, demonstrating the connections between our oppressive, exploitative practices with animals and related human issues like obesity, rape culture, disease, drug use, stress, confinement, lack of privacy, and so much more. I was astonished at the parallels when I first read the book years ago, but easily saw the truth in it.

And now here we are in 2021, in our pandemic-altered world, where we have had a taste firsthand of just how easy it is for humans to be labeled, branded, herded, confined, medicated, and tracked like collared cows. The only difference is that we just voluntarily carry our devices – and pay for them – instead of wearing them around our necks. 

While technology and medicine can do awesome things, everyone should be deeply concerned about the capacity to overtly or covertly exercise impersonal control over individuals and populations in very personal ways (whether bovine or human), who it is that would presume to exercise such a capacity, and why.

I mean, just look at what happens to cows.

Despite or because of the immensely powerful scientific tools we are now capable of wielding, it is imperative we find our way forward with compassion and connection.

###

go ahead, change the world

As we all watch our leaders in Washington struggle, yet again, to bring themselves to serve the people instead of, say, defense contractors, who can help but wonder what we can do. 

As we watch even the progressive “squad” demur from forcing Medicare for All to a floor vote during a pandemic, we wonder just what it will take to effect real change. 

Each day, as we see the President-elect prepare to nominate yet another empty-suited crony to a top position in the new administration, we struggle to know how real change, positive change will come. 

We feel powerless, helpless to change this massive system that rolls along and over so many.

And yet, it is we who really do hold the power in our hands. Short of organizing, beyond organizing, there is one simple thing each of us can do that would immediately trigger change towards the world we want to see. 

If we all really want peace on earth and good will to all beings, we will walk away from using and eating animals. It’s that simple. And it’s something any of us – yes, even you – can do.

The uncomplicated act of refusing to participate in our society’s oppression, abuse, and killing of animals on a scale beyond imagination is the beginning and the key to massive, positive societal change. 

If our society really embraces a whole food plant-based diet, we will witness profound changes in everything from much-improved health to a reversal of climate destruction (and just in the nick of time). We will break the grip of the cabal of corporations on government and in our lives.

We will change the world in amazing ways, turning toward a compassion-based way of life instead of the cruel competition that we were taught to believe is inevitable and normal. 

Cruelty, killing, impoverishment, suffering, control is not normal. Nor is it inevitable. We have the power to change it for the animals, and, in so doing, we will change it for ourselves and our culture. We will change it for our children, and theirs.

So simple. It’s something you can do. It’s enjoyable. There’s tons of support and information. Be delighted by what you discover.

YOU have the power. Step up. Go ahead, change the world.

considering the food on our plates

These two won’t be food, thank goodness.

We don’t like to think about it very much. We are pretty good at avoiding thinking about the lives and deaths of the animals that we eat or use for food. It is indeed a difficult subject to contemplate, and yet it is an absolute, inescapable fact due to our choice to use animals, on a grand scale, for food.

Maybe we have seen the large trucks rumbling down the highway, and perhaps noticed the eyes and snouts of the animals packed inside. They are on their way to the slaughterhouse, but we probably never get that far in our thoughts. We just notice a truck full of pigs, never processing what that ride must be like for those beings, or exactly where it is they are headed.

As the trucks arrive at the slaughterhouse, it sometimes happens that there is a group of animal activists there. They are there to bear witness. They are awake to the fact that these are animals just like us. 

Just like us, the animals feel fear, they feel pain. They are sentient: conscious, aware, feeling.

So the activists bear witness to these last moments of these animals’ lives by speaking tenderly to them, by giving them some water to drink, by perhaps giving the animals the only real show of compassion and respect that they have ever known from humans — all while the animals are still crowded inside the transport truck. 

The animals were born trapped into a system that profits by their death. And it is all about the profit. These animals have never known freedom on this earth: born, living, and dying to serve another species’ market.

The protest also serves as an attempt to raise awareness of this cruel industry and our part in it. Rest assured, there would be no industry if not for our part in it.

On June 19, just a few days ago, such a protest took place in Burlington, Ontario. There was an additional impetus for this protest due to the fact that Canada, like its neighbor to the south, had just passed an ag gag law, Bill 156. Such laws are designed to further protect the animal agriculture industry, make it easier to keep its practices concealed, and insulate it from scrutiny or protest.

That day, one of the protestors in the Toronto Pig Save group was a 65-year-old woman named Regan Russell, a longtime advocate for animals and for other social causes. But at this particular protest, by the time all was said and done, Russell was dead, having been run over by a slaughterhouse truck.

It is my hope that even one person will stop and think about the meat on their plate, and decide to say no. In saying no, we reject a vast, cruel system of exploitation, one that abuses the animals, the planet, and, indeed, the consumers for profit. In saying no, we choose kindness and love and we help to open the world to more of that.

In the memory of Regan Russell, please give a moment to consider the food on your plate.

what the other animals know

veru05_18_20My best friend seems unaware of the only thing that anyone talks about anymore. Coronavirus is not a thing to him. He appears to feel no fear and no trepidation. He has never worn a mask.

No, Tippy spends his days more concerned about things like the birds and the squirrels that he spots outside the window. He notices the trees in the wind, or the first pitter patters of a rainfall. He loves to nap. And, thankfully, he loves to spend time with me.

As a cat, Tippy does not spend inordinate hours scouring the news. He could really care less. He has his priorities. Aside from eating, pooping, sleeping, and tracking anything that moves, he values being close to me. He likes to sit with me while reading, lay on top of me asleep in bed, position himself in the middle of anything on which I am working. He follows me around.

I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows more than I do, than we all do.

For one thing, he has instincts, and he trusts them. To the letter.

He knows the difference between an actual, existential threat and mind games. Were a big dog to come into view, there is no doubt Tippy would make himself scarce.

That’s not to say that Tippy doesn’t pick up on vibes. He is, after all, my best friend. It’s clear, he ‘gets’ things. He can tell when I’m sad or scared or tense. He knows when I’m awake, staring into the dark. I don’t think he cares at all about what is going on that might affect my frame of mind, but I think he cares a lot about my frame of mind.

Every animal that has graced my life has been a teacher. They have shown me love and patience and humor and joy and tender compassion. Sometimes I have been witness to their fear, suffering, incomprehension, death. I have grown from every encounter – from my beloved cat friend to the cardinal singing in the tree or the snake slithering away from my approaching foot.

With our culture’s anthropocentric perspective, we suppose we know so much more than the other animals. Or the trees, for that matter. We’re all about our brains, and all that we’re able to accomplish with them.

While it is true that amazing and wonderful things have been born of the human brain, we don’t honor how little we really know. Nor do we own the many detrimental purposes to which we put those brains, on a grand scale. The other animals do not behave that way.

I suspect they are, in actuality, more highly evolved than humans. They are extremely observant and they understand the priorities. 

Like Tippy, they pay attention to the fundamentals of life – food, water, air, sunshine, exercise, relaxation, play, shelter, relationships, tribe. They tend to all that without leaving an indecipherable and disproportionate path of destruction. Nor do they just muck around with their own or other species for gratuitous or ruinous ends.

They live in sync with life.

But as the almighty human species, look what we do to the animals. We pen many of them up for their entire shortened lives, use them, abuse them, kill them, eat them in incomprehensible numbers, all while wreaking destruction across the planet.

Maybe the fact that the other animals seem incapable of doing that to us isn’t evidence of their ignorance but in truth shows us how truly advanced they are.

I think during this pensive time it might be wise to ponder the idea that the other animals know more than we do. Maybe give some thoughtful consideration to how they walk their life paths.

My wise and wonderful best friend Tippy never touches on the news, but he reminds me daily about the important things of life and the elements of true health.

if we truly care about health

veru5_15_20

If we are so full of fear about health that we can be easily compelled to wear masks of dubious efficacy and to submit to severe restrictions of our freedoms — how is it then, that we fail to take the truly meaningful steps toward health?

If we truly care about health, we would change how we eat.

We would walk away from animal agriculture. We would say no to animal foods laced with antibiotics and unhealthy fats. We would not tolerate a system of slaughterhouses staffed with suffering, at-risk workers surrounded by suffering, doomed animals. We would walk away from dairy and processed foods, and head straight for the fruits and vegetables.

But, hey, we have masks.

If we truly care about health, we would seek fresh air and sunlight.

We would be outside every day, soaking up the vitamin D and oxygen, and moving our bodies. We would connect with nature instead of staring at screens as we huddle in our homes.

If we truly care about health, we would demand a healthy environment.

We would recognize that pollutants both on our earth and in the air we breathe are factors in the conditions that predispose a person to succumb to illness. We would recognize the terrible contributions of animal agriculture and other industry to the degradation of our environment and its impacts on health. We would refuse to support the practices, corporations, and government leadership that kill the planet upon which we depend. We would demand new leadership, and find new ways. We would stop walking around our yards spraying weed killers, too. Got your mask?

If we truly care about health, we would question our medical system.

We would insist that health care be readily available to all, not just to some. We would take the profit motive out of health care. We would insist that health care for all issues not be delayed or neglected while providers are busy flattening the curve or idled or laid off. We would look at the implications of the many drugs and treatments our system prescribes in both the current crisis and beyond. We would seek multiple perspectives from a diverse group of medical professionals. We would recognize that a system that promotes extended lockdowns by fiat across society is turning a blind eye to a host of serious health problems. We would denounce blatant propaganda and censorship attempts to thwart access to full information. We would question the mad rush to a vaccine, with all the risks and unknowns that entails, being prioritized over actually working to improve health.

If we truly care about health, we would insist on supportive community and government.

We would be intelligently going about the business of life, which involves other people. We would admit that forsaking actual community for virtual ones – or often, none at all – does not support health, but, in fact, compromises it. Going without employment, social commitments and relationships impacts our very ability to live at all, cutting off both economic means and derivation of purpose and satisfaction. We would demand a responsible, independent media. We would reject any form of censorship. We would not pick sides and vilify the others, rather we would join together to solve our problems – with new leadership that actually works for the people. We would reject any form of surveillance knowing that no thinking adult human being watched and tracked thrives under such treatment. We would insist on education that supports critical thinking. We would recognize that health does not derive in extreme authoritarian overreach that subverts the very foundations of a free society.

If we truly care about our health, there are so many things we could and should actively be doing — not just for the current moment but for the future. This business of corporate control of health, food, media, and government systems; extensive authoritarian lockdowns; economic devastation and instability; censorship; surveillance; pervasive fear, distrust, division, anonymity — this is not it.

If we care so much about health, our own and our neighbors’ and our loved ones’, we need to let go of our cowering fear. We need to own our responsibility in this — and that means far more than wearing a mask.

peace on the plate

veru9_9_19c

So, apparently, just a few weeks ago was about the time the little turkeys were born who will be featured on plates across the USA come the holidays.

Personally, I do not want to see another feeling being with whom I share the earth slaughtered for my plate. I know that in many minds that seems like an extreme position, but it’s really not at all – unless one considers compassion extreme.

I get it. I really do. Like pretty much everyone else, meat-eating was an unquestioned way of life for me for literally decades. The turkey and all of the accoutrements defined the Thanksgiving holiday.

veru9_9_18bOne Thanksgiving when I was a little girl, my father excitedly told us that he had brought the turkey home and it was in the trunk of the car. He convinced us that the turkey was alive. My brother and I were enlisted to stand at the ready, weapons in hand, as my father opened the trunk. Our job was to subdue and kill the turkey for the family table.

Dutifully, I stood there, shaking and tearful, holding some bludgeoning tool from out of my father’s toolbox. Of course, after much build-up, he finally opened the trunk, revealing the turkey’s carcass.

My father and the rest of the assembled family and relatives had a great laugh over the prank, but the moment rests darkly in my memory – both for the odd personal cruelty of it, and for the way it made me look at the turkey. I finally got it that the food on my plate was once a living, breathing, feeling being that didn’t want to die.

Although I glimpsed that sentiment as a young girl, it would be many, many years before I seriously processed the significance of the food that I eat through the lens of compassion. At long last, I am committed to a vegan lifestyle, albeit still occasionally an imperfect one.

Veganism is a journey. It’s not a matter of flipping a switch, and, voila, you’re done. No, it’s an unfolding, enlightening exploration of food, what it really is, and the suffering involved on the path to your plate.

Once you open your eyes to it, you can’t just unsee it. It pervades every aspect of your life, and calls you to be something more – and less.

It turns out that veganism is really just part of a much larger expedition about what it means to be the human that you are, sharing this planet with other life. It is an odyssey toward compassion, peace, and justice – something I believe to be a worthwhile journey indeed, especially during these days of ever-increasing harsh rhetoric and actions in our society.

veru9_9_18a

I could not celebrate a dead turkey on the table, with an inkling of how it arrived there, an understanding of how it impacts our shared earth to eat this way, and even a consideration of its impact on individual health both physical and mental. There are just so many reasons.

So, like I said, I get it that veganism is a difficult concept for most people in a culture so thoroughly steeped and invested in animal agriculture. I don’t judge people for the way they eat, even though, oddly, it doesn’t always work the other way around.

Still, you might want to think about it.