Veg Fests and Vegan Feelings

I just had possibly the most awesome weekend of my vegan advocate life – though eating that donut from Hot Beans at the Toronto VegFest in September is a close second!

On Saturday I helped out with a guided tour of the sanctuary. The education director, Marji Beach, who ran the tour was incredibly inspiring. She has mastered the art of delivering the importance of the vegan message while never withholding the horrors of farming and keeping the tour fun and engaging. I overheard two people stating their plan to go vegan after the tour – I’m sure the vegan chocolate cake that someone brought and shared didn’t hurt! Seeing other people take in the beauty of the sanctuary and the individual personalities of the animals helped wake me up even more to how grateful I am to part of this.

On Saturday evening I drove to Vacaville to spend the night at Rescue Ranch before heading to San Francisco on Sunday morning to table at the San Francisco World Veg Fest. It was a solo mission and I loved every minute of it. It was such a beautiful drive and I was thrilled to see more of California.

My tabling experience was fun, fun and more fun. I met so many wonderful people. What an amazing community we have! I am simply falling in love with my time here.

DSCN1787As I spend more time here, the emotional side of my veganism is deepening – which I didn’t think was possible! I came to vegetarianism at 21 from a purely theoretical standpoint. As an undergraduate student studying critical social theory and philosophy it became glaringly obvious that vegetarianism was a progressive movement. Everyone in my life who embodied my ideals made it well-known that they were vegetarian (perhaps vegan too, though this was 2004-2006 when “vegan” was less of a buzz word). It was clear to me that anyone who considered themselves a progressive person or a social justice advocate ought to at least strive toward not consuming animals. So, despite having contemplated it for years, it was in 4th year when I was coming out of a break up and wanting to actualize more of my values, that I went vegetarian just about overnight and never looked back. Veganism snuck in a few years later, but I’ll save that transition for another day.

All this background has a point, and here it is: Many of the vegans I’ve met tell their “how and why I went vegan” story with reference to witnessing or hearing about cruelty, usually with a very direct emotional experience. I never had that. I never even met a chicken until last week. I watched Earthlings only after I went vegetarian. So, it seems that it’s only now that I’m truly developing the emotional side of my veganism. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cried over animal cruelty too many times to count, been in angry and tearful arguments with nonvegans, felt so much empathy that I thought I would melt, and learned and written extensively about the treatment of animals, but it was only in the last few days that I felt a direct and personal connection with farmed animals. In the past I’ve felt an emotional reaction to witnessing cruelty, like any truly human person would, but only now am I starting to feel physically ill at the thought of someone eating an animal. In the past I felt its absurdity, it struck me as no different than eating a human – I felt moral repugnance, but not ill.

DSCN1660That changed the other day when I read a casual post on social media by a friend who referred to eating turkeys and chickens, or rather, the generic “turkey” and “chicken” as though the flesh didn’t come from an individual. When I read the post I just about threw up – no seriously, I just about threw up. The only way to convey this to nonvegans is to have them really imagine that someone they know is happily discussing how they’re cooking up some cats or hamsters for the week. The trouble is that we can’t really imagine this because we know that no one we know would do it. But, if anyone can truly imagine it, or better yet, feel it, then they can start to imagine what it feels like when you’re compassion and sense of justice don’t end at the maybe 10 species that we western humans have exempt from daily violence.

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything.
And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn
to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet
empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
—  Andrew Boyd

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