Taking our time, taking their lives

cow-1805371_960_720Yesterday I heard a sentence that I can’t stop thinking about. The sentence was, ‘I was on my journey to being the best me.’ It was said by someone seeking to make a case for the several years of their transition to becoming vegan, and how they couldn’t have managed without support from a ‘nice vegan person’. I want to make it absolutely clear from the start; I intend no personal criticism and I have no views about either the person whose words began this train of thought, or their mentor. I don’t know them. I would however suggest that neither of them started with a clear understanding of what veganism is. The reason for this essay is not because these individuals, or this view, are in any way unique or unusual, but rather the reverse. It’s a position that I find distressingly common.

I know however that there are many who adopt or promote a gradual transition to becoming vegan. Groups abound where individuals find praise for their incremental ‘journey’ from fellow travellers. I have always agreed that depending on one’s individual circumstances, it may take a period of time to incorporate the vegan ethic into our life, and support and practical advice is a great thing. There are many places to get it online, recipes, products, pointers to help us in our new life – we all value these no matter how long we have been vegan.

But I have always struggled to understand by what right any of us claims to be able to forgive atrocity and injustice on behalf of our victims, and every day we delay that transition is costing them their lives. In my mind, veganism is a black and white issue. We support needless harm or we don’t. Harm or not. It’s as simple and straightforward as can be. And here’s the key thing. It’s not about us. If we think it’s about us, we’re not thinking about veganism. Veganism is all about our victims.

The way I see things

So let me present an alternative perspective.

This morning, in the shower, I found myself thinking that for billions of unique individuals, today is just another day in hell. Short, disjointed scenes flashed through my mind’s eye, images of business as usual in the shrouded world of our vile and unnecessary predation.

I envisaged the massive fleet of trucks and transports, a never-ending procession, a conveyor belt heading into places we refuse to even think of; places where these innocent and gentle, harmless creatures will be confronted with things we cannot face as they die piece by bleeding piece in the clanging stench of steaming entrails and blood; places where they will know a fear that we cannot even imagine, where they will whimper and sob, beg and plead, unheard or ignored by those with the hooks, the hard hands, the knives and saws, the hide-pullers and the panoply of torment apparatus deployed amidst the screaming of the damned.

As my mental gaze skipped over the massive convoy of trucks, I saw curious pigs huddling silent with dread, I saw sheep cuddling close, stacked in layers on motorway transports, I saw new-born calves shut down and overwhelmed with need for the mothering warmth and the milky smell forever out of reach. I saw boisterous bovines, coats gleaming with adolescent vitality, stopped at traffic lights, peering out between slats in nervous amazement, I saw crates packed with six-week chicks, their infant peeping hushed, shivering in the first and last breeze of their joyless existence, I saw the tired and the sick and the used up and exhausted of every species, old long before their time, all heading inexorably into the slaughtering maw.

As the film of my mind’s eye rolled relentlessly on, I saw the violating and the cutting, the de-beaking and the de-toeing, the dis-budding of infant horns and the branding, the tooth clipping and the tail docking. I saw screaming castrations, arms and metal implements violating mothers restrained and defeated, ear nicking and notching and tagging, the sucking pumps and the swish of milk filling industrial vats, the visceral convulsing of small feathered bodies to lay yet one more egg and it just went on and on and on.

And, heart breaking again, the water streaming down my face had nothing to do with the shower as I stood there, shaking with grief. I pictured their eyes as I do every day, those mirrors of the pure unsullied souls that we torment with our refusal to be vegan. As I looked in each mutely pleading, bewildered and desperate gaze, I knew that if there was anything I could do right now, instantly, to end their abject misery, the bone deep hurt that my species inflicts on them, I would do it and gladly.

And I want to shout to the world that THIS is what veganism is about. THEY are the reason that we need to be vegan, and they cannot wait. And I wondered what I would say, how I could possibly look at those eyes and say, ‘Sorry, not today, it’s not convenient’? I wondered how I could possibly tell them that their anguish doesn’t fit with my journey to being the best me, so today they’ll just have to die but never mind, I’ll get round to stopping hurting them at some point. And I knew that I couldn’t say those things. I have to hope that no one could.

Make no mistake, the need for a vegan world is urgent beyond words. When we’re asking others to become vegan, we need to recognise that it’s the only message of hope that there is for our victims.  We need to understand exactly what we’re asking and not dilute the message. We truly are all they have, and they need each of us to be crystal clear on their behalf.  The plight of our victims is so poignant, so desperate, so heart-breaking, and we owe it to them all to tell their story clearly.

We will not save those who are on farms, in sheds, in labs and in zoos today, or those who are on those millions of transports, whose dying screams are happening as I type. But by convincing others to become vegan we can all work to end the voracious consumer demand for torment and death.

We need to do it now. Please be vegan.

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29 Responses to Taking our time, taking their lives

  1. Your essay was beautiful, if heartrending. I’ve been inspired by your vegan writing many many times, yet I missed this one. My friend Victoria alerted me to it, and we talked a long time about it- the whole problem of how to respond to the “incremental steps” apology we grant society. I just loved what you wrote about it, and I shared your essay on my FB page, with my own preamble to it. I am copying and pasting it here (see below), for you to see. Know that what you write/say on your blog here is way more influential than you can imagine. We write stuff and we post stuff, and it seems like it disapears into an ether. But never discount the ripple effect of your efforts. I see 20+ people commented here on your essay. And they will all be more effective in their advocacy as a result of gaining insight from you. Which is also true of me. I write and I give vegan presentations. You just helped me better articulate and address something very fundamental: Your passage talking of “…by what right…” do we claim to give people a free pass really struck me, and this is how I responded in my post sharing your essay:

    Jack McMillan
    November 30 at 12:15 PM ·
    Thanksgiving leftovers food for thought…
    From the essay (See below for link):
    “…I know however that there are many who adopt or promote a gradual transition to becoming vegan. Groups abound where individuals find praise for their incremental ‘journey’ from fellow travellers…”
    The essay makes a point I find striking. If we are speaking for the victims, by what right should any of us claim to say to perpetrators of atrocity that is OK and even laudable to be on the “path” to veganism? If we are speaking for the victims, with a voice that is their voice, are those the words they want us to utter? And aren’t such words a betrayal of what they wish us to speak? Would the subjects of MLK’s words, the victims he was speaking for, have wanted him to praise the oppressors for taking small steps, or tell them it’s ok to take their time, no urgency…
    We must not tell ppl the slo-go is ok. That is their excuse, but we don’t have to double-posit it with niceties. We can say, “I understand you want to only gradually get there, but I can’t say that’s ok. I won’t judge you or hate you for that, but I will only praise you once you finally stop the oppression in its entirety. I understand, for I see most people taking the slow route, but if I am speaking for the animals, I can only speak what they want me to speak, and they want me to say “I want you to stop hurting me now, not some time in the distant future. I am imprisoned now and I am dying now”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This was the first thing I read this morning. I’m sure I’ve spoken online to your friend Victoria, and I’m so grateful that you’ve taken the time to contact me with your feedback. I’m rather overwhelmed with such encouragement and support but it’s greatly appreciated. Thank you for sharing my work and also for your on-point introduction where you stress that the absence of praise and approval from us does not mean we are condemning or judging those who aren’t vegan. We can support and encourage, enquire what the barriers are and help if at all possible, but the one thing we have no right to do, is to say, ‘Take your time, there’s no rush’.

      We owe our victims the absolute best we can do for them. And we also owe unflinching honesty to our audience, because for many of them we are offering a life-changing truth that so many of us wish we’d experienced sooner. Although this is definitely the better essay, I did write an earlier piece ‘on trying to be vegan’ where I tried to convey just how grateful I am for the day that I truly understood why I had to be vegan.

      Thank you once again. You’ve made my day!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the thanks. Do keep speaking out and writing on your platform here. It’s important that we strive for our best insight and articulation of the vegan message and all the nuances relative to sensibly countering society’s resistances and push-backs, and we look to cutting-edge thinkers and writers like you to help us on that path.


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  3. Margaret Worrall says:

    That was so sad and it touched something in me that I won’t forget. I hate the thought of how these poor animals must suffer, but unfortunately we tend not to dwell on it when we are sitting down to tea. I pray what I have read stays with me and I stop eating meat. I will be following you to strengthen how I feel in this moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. I am glad that my words affected you and I am grateful that you took the time to tell me. I recall having a similar reaction to information about animal use in 2012 and it led to my becoming vegan. It is a step that I have never regretted – even for a moment – and, like every vegan, I can only wish that I had done it sooner.

      On this blog site, you will find many of my thoughts and experiences along with links and information about animal use. My own decision to become vegan is detailed in the blog ‘Crossing the Border’ but I invite you to explore. My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/TheresAnElephantInTheRoom/ where I write short pieces most days and also share any items that I consider to be of interest.

      If you would like advice or pointers to information about veganism please do not hesitate to contact me and I shall be more than delighted to help. The following are also good links to check out regarding practical aspects of making the transition. http://www.internationalvegan.org/vsk/

      Best wishes from Linda Clark

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. andromedaway says:

    Recently, the light flipped on for me. I call what I’m going through now a journey, but there was no “transition.” The moment I realized, I couldn’t think about what I usually ate without breaking down. Instantly, the whole world seemed so dark, twisted, and macabre. I realized just hours in that it’s not just the food we eat, it is almost everything we touch. It feels a lot like isolation. I agree that those who are just okay with taking years on thier “journey” do not fully understand.

    This is the first time I’ve read your work, and you’ve gained a follower. It is also the first time I’ve ever publicly shared my beliefs. This was beatiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your heartfelt experience. It’s one that will strike a chord for many vegans, and I particularly relate to the way the world seems suddenly so alien once we look at it with vegan eyes. I have to say however that the darkness and isolation has eased for me as the years pass by meeting (online and in life) some of the nicest people I have ever known, and gaining true friends who share the deep conviction that becomes an essential part of our identity when we decide to live in line with our values. I hope that you will find similar people, because although the horror never fully leaves us, I’m always grateful to find I’m not alone, and neither are you. Vegan best wishes.


  7. owl615 says:

    Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I thought of a couple things when I read this sentence: ” … unheard or ignored by those with the hooks, the hard hands, the knives and saws, the hide-pullers and the panoply of torment apparatus deployed amidst the screaming of the damned.”

    “The hard hands” … yes …. the punching fists, the kicking feet, the electric prods……. Thanks for your post. It’s good to see this written about.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Veggie Gyrl says:

    Thank you for the written equivalent of any film or clip that would get one’s attention to turn toward Veganism! Inspired & gripping writing. I will be sharing for certain!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. HARPforAnimals.com says:

    Thank you for this beautifully-written article. I often feel a ‘silent scream’ just beneath the surface. It’s important to find that place of balance within, where we express vegan advocacy while understanding that we cannot force anyone to change. Your article expresses the urgency for people to live vegan, and that is important to convey. People have so many baseless rationalizations, clinging to the familiar and afraid to go against the status quo (a survival instinct). Expressing the joy of living vegan is equally important as exposing the horrors of animal industries.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Joelee Salvalaggio says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years now and my journey started after watching the documentary Earthlings narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. I don’t think I ever cried so much for so long in my life. It was a harsh reality of how barbaric and inhumane this world is. I’ve tried so hard to convince people to live a cruelty free life and after 7 years they are slowly starting to see. We will win this battle. One day we will look back and weep at what we use to do.
    Thank you for this story. I had tears in my eyes reading it because I get it! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • nancypoznak says:

      Joelee, Earthlings is a startling, honest film, demanding an end to every bit of animal, fowl, and fish exploitation. Since becoming vegan in July 2016, “Vegetarian” has taken on a new meaning for me and I respectfully wonder what i means to you. The egg and dairy industries contain all the horrors of industries that beed victims for the sole purpose of killing them with the added, sordid exploitation of their victims’ bodies. Vegetarian is actually lacto-ovo omnivore, and no less cruel than being an omnivore. I hope you can come to terms with this and “win this battle” too!

      Liked by 1 person

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  12. acharyacreatives says:

    I found this on my Google Feed, so congrats on that placement and I hope others found it there as well!

    I very much appreciate your compassion towards the millions of living entities suffering everyday for the tongues of ignorant people.

    I disagree with the idea that meat eating has been ingrained in society for hundreds of years.

    After speaking to my parents from Jamaica and another older (60ish) friend from Switzerland meat was considered a delicacy and not a regular occurrence, and cows which were milked for their lifetime were left to pasture to live the rest of their lives out peacefully.

    The issue came about when the principles of the industrial revolution and assembly lines were placed on the production of meat as a commodity.

    Anyways, I appreciate your enthusiasm and I think of we all offer our unique individual contribution to a world without cruelty, the world will be a wonderful place for all living beings.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Edward Drake says:

    What a fantastic piece of writing! Dazzling at times. Very powerful and truthful.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. proudwomon says:

    so very true… shared on google+, twitter and facebook… thank you for your passion, your activism…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Vicky says:

    I’m sorry I know I risk a backlash, but I don’t agree. Yes I agree that I would love everyone to turn vegan over night. I anguish every second on the suffering and humiliation endured by millions of innocent animals. But every ethical cause through history that is near to or has reached its conclusions takes time. We are taking about centuries of conditioning. Yes you get the mild mannered, wishy washy fence sitter, teetering between what they know is right and finding the inclination to do something about it and will happily sit there until they randomly fall to one side. But the majority of vegans have the ethically strength but lack resolve, with everything in life it needs to be fully accepted to make it stick. Surely a person taking 3 months to wean themselves in is better than jumping in feet first, feeling overwhelmed and slipping back to square one. Yes I know the lives lost in the 3 months are insurmountable but I personally feel support is paramount not judgment and rushing. I regret not going vegan sooner, I shudder at the suffering I’ve contributed over the years, but please don’t rub salt into the wounds of someone like me who has seen the light or more importantly someone just having the light switches on

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Vicky, I actually agree with you and you’ll see that early in my essay I do in fact mention that each of us can take some time to transition, depending on our circumstances. I was in a fortunate position when I became vegan in that I wasn’t having to cater for other people, but I really don’t think it’s my right to set timescales that are ‘acceptable’ – the lives that are being lost with every day are not mine to forgive. Like you, I regret every moment that I delayed and although it was never my intention to rub salt into your wounds, these are wounds we all share, and a feeling of regret that we never fully escape. However, the comment that sparked this essay had stated that their transition took several YEARS. To take that long, one clearly does not understand what veganism is.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This is great and this is why I don’t sugar coat it. I have NO PATIENCE for stupid excuses. If I hear “I wish I could be vegan” one more time, I’m gonna scream!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Spunky Bunny says:

    Reblogged this on Spunky Bunny and commented:
    Awesome essay by blogger “There’s an Elephant in the Room”.

    Liked by 1 person

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  19. Spunky Bunny says:

    Wow! This is your best one yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. dizzielizzie88 says:

    The time is now. The animals can’t wait for people ‘on their journey’ !!!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. oideschachdl says:

    So right. So true. So simple.

    Liked by 2 people

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