Updated 25 May 2018
Meat, dairy products, eggs. When we are not vegan, we grab such items thoughtlessly from the supermarket shelf, chuck them in the shopping trolley, paying hardly any attention to what we’re doing. We have become accustomed to thinking of these substances as ‘ingredients’ and our actions simply do not connect with any awareness or empathy for our victims. We don’t even consider ourselves as having victims.
Even if by some chance we do feel a slight shiver of concern, we look around and see everyone else doing the same as ourselves. We see smiley people on TV joking and chopping vegetables beside gory scenes that should make us retch. We don’t connect. ‘It must be okay. It’s normal. That’s the way things are meant to be.’ The reassurances that we were taught as children, surface to soothe the prickle of conscience, and we carry on without remorse.
But today, let’s stop and look again.
Each pristine package of blood-drained flesh, each container of breast milk or yogurt or cheese, each carton of eggs has a tale to tell; each leather purse, each wool jacket, each shampoo and bottle of bleach has a story, and that story is crying out to be heard.
The stories they have to tell are of their rightful owners; are of those whose lives we destroyed to turn them into commodities, ingredients, and laboratory test subjects. If only we were to stop and listen to these stories, theirs is an eloquent and deeply poignant legacy. If only we were to see the pitiful items on that shelf for what they really are; each one a desecrated life, the final earthly remains of a unique individual who wanted more than anything to go on living. The tales told by their remains are of desperation, of grief and of fear, of violation, pain and heartbreak, of partings and loss and helplessness.
The tales are not of lives and living as we know and value the terms, they are of the crushing despair of existence as a resource; a resource enduring an ordeal where every single moment was carefully calculated to maximise profit and minimise outlay for those who make money from supplying consumer demand for harm and for misery. At the end of every tale is agony, despair washed over by a terror that we can’t even imagine.
As our thoughtless hands arrange body parts on plates, or as we admire our own reflections draped in the skins and body fibres of others, we are looking through a window into the private hell of a despairing individual. We are looking through a window at someone exactly like we are in every relevant way, someone who struggled so desperately not to die.
Laid before us in our every non vegan choice, are these lost lives; lives who had identities and personalities; lives who had thoughts and hopes and memories of an existence that afforded no dignity and no recognition of the fact that they mattered to themselves and to their family and friends. In the actions that were taken on our behalf there was no acknowledgement that our victims were worth anything other than the cost per kilo or litre of what we stripped and gathered from their abject and defenceless selves.
The stories are all there, calling out to us from a myriad windows on every supermarket shelf, in every store and restaurant; we only have to look. And having looked, and heard and really seen, we can never look away again. To find peace we have to be vegan.
We can live and thrive without having victims. Why not refuse to have victims today?
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