I’ve never met a more righteous group of people: animal rights activists. Occasionally, I’ll take a step back from the work we do and study the way we’re perceived by the general masses. And it isn’t pretty. There is no compromise, no “I’ve been there before myself so I understand how difficult it is for you to stop eating animals, to give up your cruelty-filled products and clothing, to avoid the circus and the zoo, to be as sickened as I am at the mere sight of burnt flesh on a dinner plate.” But no. We want animal rights and we want them now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Today. And we’ll take no prisoners.
I’m at the brunt of activists’ wrath sometimes myself. “Is that leather?” someone will ask, fondling my shoe. And even I get righteously indignant. “Leather? Do you have to ask?” They do. They’re relentless — excuse me, rabid. I mean, let’s face it, if I can be annoyed by some of the “in-your-face” accusations, questions, implications, and such, shot at me from the “lunatic fringe,” then how does the mainstream — a group considering itself the “normal” majority — perceive the way we struggle for the rights of animals?
I consider myself a thought-provoker, not a hell-raiser. Make people think. Ask them a question they have to find the answer to themselves, because then it becomes a journey, a process, a self-realization from which they shall never escape.
But animal rights activists, a great number of them, are merely a dedicated group of conscientious objectors filled with uncontrollable rage. And it oozes out of their pores. It’s contagiously cancerous, too. Note the back-biting, the unfounded accusing, the outright attacks on each other’s efforts or programs, the internal criticism in those quiet corners of the meeting rooms. Lethal people.
I’ve got no use for them.
The number of animals bred, raised, transported, and slaughtered for the American diet went up another billion last year. The United States now kills more than 14,000 living, breathing, reasoning, thinking, feeling animals a minute. More than a million an hour, 24 million in a day. They are confined, deprived, medicated, dehorned and debeaked, castrated, branded, and artificially inseminated. They are shocked, crowded, bruised, shoved, and screamed at in order to be crammed into trucks and trains for hours or days of transportation without food, water, or rest. They are terrorized upon their arrival at slaughtering plants with the rancid smell of putrefying blood, with the sounds of other animals vainly screaming in their death throes. And then they are electrocuted or shot (and sometimes boiled alive), then stabbed to death at the rate of 275 life-loving, panic-stricken, death-dreading sentient beings a second.
Gandhi once said that the most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.
Ten billion land animals. Maybe twice that many sea animals. For food. Forget the millions of other animals used for clothing, in science, for entertainment, and in sport. Twenty billion animals, to be eaten and passed on to sewage treatment. And every one of those animals is a someone. Every one of them, as Plutarch described, is deprived of “the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.”
It isn’t any less true of the days-old bull calf whose mother allowed me to photograph while she bathed him one beautiful spring morning. That photograph, capturing her love for him and his trust in her, has literally gone around the world. He had been curious about me and came to the fence to investigate. She came, too, the way she always did at the end of each school day, to greet me when I got off the bus, for a back scratch, the vigorous kind she loved to get and I couldn’t wait to give her. On this day, she happened to come with her calf.
I didn’t live too far away, just down the road. So when the vealers came for her child, I heard the commotion. I got to the farm just as the truck was pulling away. And I sat in the wet spring grass outside the barbed wire while she frantically chased after the transport as far as the fence would allow. I wept while she plaintively called for him. And she called not for minutes, not for hours, but for days — and every night in between. I heard her while I lay in bed each of those long, pain-filled nights with an open window and the moon throwing its shadow. Her suffering would not go unheard lest I be damned.
I can still hear her — and the billions of others like her. Their crying is deafening.
I loathe the ignorance and the apathy and the cruelty and the indifference of the normal majority. I thank God for the outraged and righteous lunatic fringe. I get down on my knees and thank God.
Keep fighting the good fight.