“Genuine synthetic leather.” Honest, that’s what it said, engraved neatly on the inside of a plastic fashion belt. Times are a-changing.
My uncle came to visit from the east coast and quickly discovered the rules: no meat in the house; no meat anywhere within my line of vision. He was hungry one evening and asked me to stop at a local McDonald’s. I was reluctant to oblige but when I reminded him of the no-animal policy, we compromised. I would take him to the fast food store and he would order a Big Mac without the meat.
Right before he left my truck, he paused. “I feel kind of silly,” he admitted. “They’re going to think I’m weird ordering a hamburger without the hamburger.”
“This is California,” I reminded him. “You’re in good company.”
He left and was gone a few minutes, coming back out of the store with an armload of French fries and drinks — and a meatless Big Mac. He climbed into the truck. “You won’t believe this,” he said, laughing. “The guy in line before me ordered a Big Mac without meat! When I ordered my Big Mac without meat, the counter clerk asked me if it was Vegetarian Month!”
And one day it will be. Times are a-changing.
Even for me, especially for me. I was working for animals back in 1970 when — even in California — I was as weird as they came. Back then when I ordered a sandwich without meat, I was asked things like, “You’re not one of those people, are you?”
“Those people?” I’d ask.
“You know … a vegetarian.”
“Well,” they’d counter, “you don’t look like a vegetarian.”
I hoped by that, of course, they didn’t mean I looked like a meat-eater!
It was hard to find leatherless shoes and vegetarian meals. Now, have you noticed, they actually mark the vegetarian meals on restaurant menus with little asterisks and hearts. Sure, maybe it’s mainly done because of health reasons, but it’s being done.
When Binti, the gorilla who rescued the little boy from the moat at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, CNN held an hour-long live discussion about the intelligence and compassion in animals.
They were amazed to think animals think. We animal people watched and mused: How about a program on the so-called intelligence in human beings?
But I have to share my all-time favorite. For decades now, we animal people have sacrificed: in fashion, meals, entertainment.
I mean to say we’ve given up a lot to do what’s right. We’re not part of the status quo. Not that we mind it, you understand, but our ethics have made our lives a little less than easy.
And so it was painful for me, decades ago, to learn that gelatin–made from animal hooves is an ingredient in those nearly edible sugar pillows, marshmallows. My days of roasting them over a fire on a sandy beach under a moonlit sky came to an abrupt end.
Well, not totally. I fantasized about them in other ways: I invented the gelatin-free marshmallow in a novel I wrote several years ago. If I couldn’t have it in real life, I’d create it in fiction. I was so proud of myself. The characters in my book could sit under a moonlit sky and roast marshmallows over a fire on the sandy beach.
Recently, however, while at an animal rights conference, I happened to glance across to the neighboring table and spied–you guessed it–bags of marshmallows for sale! How dare anyone bring animal-hooved edibles to an animal rights function! I grabbed a bag and turned it over to study its ingredients.
Animal-hooved gelatin wasn’t on the list.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. The words — minus that one ingredient — blurred behind my tears. I dreamed again about moonlit nights on sandy beaches, roasting marshmallows. We have arrived, I thought. And how good it feels to get here. Hoof-free marshmallows. Life imitates art. Yes, times are a-changing.
Keep fighting the good fight.