I have a secret that most of my friends and family don’t know: they break my heart almost every day. I am not using hyperbole here. Every day. Broken heart.
Every day people I love and respect choose to torture and kill animals for no good reason. I have friends who pay people to tear baby calves from their bellowing mothers for their cereal milk. All of the members of my family pay people to keep chickens in filthy, dank, feces and ammonia filled warehouses, without sun or fresh air, because they like the taste of eggs. My closest, funniest, generous friend, someone I love so much it hurts, pays agribusiness to swing baby pigs head first onto concrete floors because blunt force trauma is an industry standard and she craves bacon. And worse. Much worse.
Most days I let my heartbreak pass, so that I can move forward with the normalities of life—getting on the bus, working with people I admire, getting drinks with friends who make me laugh or think. Most days I tolerate the torture. Which seems strange. I don’t tolerate racism or gay bashing. I stand up against bullies and I point out misogyny in every day culture. I think that if one of my friends killed her dog by hanging him upside down and slitting his throat, or who tortured her cat on “rape racks” seasonally for kittens, I’d not be interested in prolonging that friendship. But I tolerate animal torture on a much wider scale.
Why do I withhold judgement against animal abusers who pay others to do the bloody work? Here are two logical reasons:
- Hurting and killing animals is accepted behavior in our society. Everyone does it. It is normal and expected. I used to do it. I’d be the extreme one if I expected my friends and family to give up this practice just because it was unnecessary. Just as racism and xenophobia used to be the norm, animal exploitation is not frowned upon and to judge my friends, family, or colleagues for this practice would be bizarre.
- Judging people doesn’t reduce the suffering. No amount of condemnation, self-righteous grand standing, or subtle guilting makes veganism more appealing. My secret crying, public protesting, or this blog post will not reduce the number of animals in pain in the future. People deserve compassion and I have no right to judge anyone. Contrary to what this post might seem, I don’t have a high horse. Just a broken heart.
But the real reason is that if I were to judge my friends for what they do it animals, I’d have to think about it for more than a few minutes each morning. And that amount of grief is debilitating. My friend Alex recently pointed out that my high standards cause my disappointment. I disagreed when it comes to veganism. If I held everyone to vegan standards, disappointment would be the least of my problems. I’d be overwhelmed, wrecked, distraught—there is no usefulness in the feeling I sit with this morning.
This morning I lied in bed with tears stinging the sides of my cheeks. Right now I can hear their labored breath. I can see their eyes. If I let my mind wander, I can reach out and feel their bristly muddy fur and feathers. I can hear squeals and panicked deep cries. I know that they are in cages, in dark places, in pain, completely without comfort or hope. Never experiencing a moment of human kindness or mercy. My stomach is cramped. Thinking about this for even more than a few minutes is crippling.
Beasts are suffering horrors we can’t bear to watch because my friends like the taste of cheese—or chicken or bacon or yogurt or buttery pastries, or juicy burgers or what ever flavor idea they have that makes it worth it for them. Today I am without hope. My heart breaks. I am miles beyond disappointed.
Most days I am comforted with the fact that there are growing numbers of people abandoning practices of animal abuse, exploitation, and killing for a kinder future. Not today. Today I am inconsolable.