I’m spending thanksgiving alone in Ohio this year, so I’ve had some time to reflect. Thanksgiving is such a beautiful tradition of appreication, family, and delicious food. It breaks my heart to know that some people in this world can’t afford a thanksgiving meal or can’t be with their families on this day. For that reason I’ve started making a point of donating a thanksgiving meal to the hungry every year. But just as heartwrenching is the knowledge that at the center of most thanksgiving tables lies the body of an individual who suffered a life of continual discomfort, pain, and misery just so we can eat her at in the course of one meal. It strikes me as a contradiction to the spirit of Thanksgiving that we take the lives of others in order to celebrate our own, especially when it is possible to have healthful and delicious meals without doing so.
Having a turkey at Thanksgiving is a tradition that we’ve all grown up with, and that we’ve all participated in for a long time, but that few people really think about. We look upon some behaviors and traditions of the past (such as slavery, the treatment of women, the persecution of jews, etc.) with disgust, and wish that people had stopped participating in them. But it is important to notice that injustice is not a thing of the past–it is very much a part of our present day society. We are participants in some of the most intense, widespread, systematic and socially sanctioned suffering ever inflicted by humans on this planet, and that is the production and slaughter of animals for food. It is a horror hidden behind closed doors, and one that will not end until we stop supporting it.
I hope that you take a moment this thanksgiving to reflect, to open your heart to the feelings of others, and to embrace the sense of compassion that I know lies within all of us.
This is a preview for Peacable Kingdom, a movie that is guarenteed to touch your heart–as long as you have one 😉
Sanctuary noun 1. A place of refuge. 2. A shelter from danger or hardship.
Finding sanctuary is not something most Americans think about regularly–the lucky ones of us don’t need to at all. Some of us have found it already, and some are still searching. But for the majority of animals on this earth, farm animals, the idea of sanctuary–a place of shelter, protection, and safety, is but a distant dream.
Farm Sanctuaries are some of the most beautiful places in the world. They rescue animals who lived lives as machines in factories, and were in line to die as products being manufactured. Sanctuaries open their doors to animals who have lived through a more horrific hell than any one of us could begin to imagine, and provide them with peace and freedom from the incessant suffering and pain, both mental and physical, that had plagued their prior lives. Farm Sanctuaries are a glimmer of hope in an ice cold world.
I was given the opportunity to visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY this past summer for their annual Hoe Down event, and the animals I met there touched my heart in a way I never knew any creature could. It was my first time meeting a cow, and I nearly lost my breath at their patient, gentle characters. The saying “gentle giant” took on a new meaning, for never before had I experience a creature (or person) as gentle, nor as big, as those cows.
And to think, animals in factory farms don’t even have enough room to turn around.
I was so moved my experience with these incredible animals that our society treats as commodities that I wanted to share my experience. As the president of the Case Animal Rights & Ethics Society (CARES) at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, I came back to school this year ready to organize a sanctuary trip for students. I found a closer Sanctuary in Ravenna, Ohio, called Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, and planned a trip there.
The trip was fantastic. We took a 15 person Case van down to Ravenna and got to spend the afternoon with a farm full of incredibly friendly, not to mention playful, eager and nuzzley farm animals. Here’s a little taste of the trip:
These gentle horses were rescued from slaughter. Horses that can no longer be slaughtered in the US are auctioned off and instead shipped to Mexico for slaughter. The whole process, from auction to transport to slaughter, is incredibly traumatic for the horses. What a sad way to treat a spent horse that not only trusts you, but often would do anything for you.
The event was a huge success, and everyone that came had a fantastic and enlightening experience. Yearly trips to the Sanctuary will definitely become a CARES tradition. To all you readers, if you have never been to a Farm Sanctuary, I cannot recommend it enough. I guarantee it will change your life, as it did mine.
So many people believe that the treatment of animals in factory farms is unethical but demanding those products and supporting the factory farms and eating the animals is ethical. I don’t understand how supporting something you believe is unethical can be ethical. So I ask: How is this ethical? One common answer I got was this:
“Because if I stopped eating meat, which would take significant effort because I love my meat, I’m not convinced it would make a difference. Slaughterhouses would still exist and animals would still be treated in those ways. There are billions of meat-eaters in the world supporting the factory farming industry, and I don’t believe one person giving up meat will make any difference in the grand scheme of things.”
This belief in the powerlessness of individual actions is terribly daunting. It is this very frame of mind that will stunt change and progress in our society by excusing people from acting according to their ethical beliefs. I couldn’t find a good way to explain how one person’s actions can make a surprisingly significant impact (especially by becoming a vegetarian or vegan, considering the average American consumes 99 animals a year, and the meat industry loses money on producing excess meat so they aim to produce the minimum amount to meet the demand). But I found it. I just came across a story that demonstrates the impact small actions can have…impact that is too often overlooked. The story goes like this:
One day a man was taking a sunrise walk along a beach. In the distance he caught sight of a young woman who seemed to be dancing along the waves. As he got closer he saw that the young woman was actually not dancing, but picking up starfish from the sand and tossing them gently back into the ocean.
“What are you doing?” the man asked.
“The sun is coming up and the tide is going out; if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”
“But young woman, there are miles and miles of beach with starfish all along it–you can’t possibly make a difference.”
The young woman bent down, picked up another starfish, and placed it lovingly back into the ocean, past the breaking waves.
“It made a difference for that one,” she replied.
This story describes perfectly an incredible phenomenon: as single individuals it is very hard to make a big impact on the “greater scheme of things,” but it is unbelievably easy to have an enormous impact on the life of other individuals. Now, this impact can be good or it can be bad, it can be purposeful or passive or even subconscious, it can mean almost nothing to you but the world to someone else.
(Story compliments of Animals in our Hearts )
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Ghandi
“All beings Tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt?
“I don’t have any understanding of a human being who doesn’t respect the beauty of life and that goes for all creatures that have thoughts, feelings, and needs.”
“To be a vegetarian is to disagree–to disagree with the course of things today. Starvation, world hunger, cruelty, waste, wars–we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it’s a strong one.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer
“I tremble for my species when I reflect that god is just”
“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is–whether its victim is human or animal–we cannot expect things to be much better in this world… We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.
“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
“There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer
Life can be deeply enriched by compassion, love, respect, trust, and tolerance.
Why is it that animals have embraced these concepts while man has cast them aside? Man claims dominion and prides in dominance, and that may well be. But is the slaughter of those less powerful than ourselves really the way to happiness?