Thursday, November 6, 2014

for the animals

When you don't eat animals, a lot of people ask you why not.  Over the past 7 years (not tooting my horn but it's something to celebrate), I've gotten used to smiling and simply saying "Oh, because of the animals."  And then they nod and say something about how they tried it once and only lasted a week.  Oh, if only the billions of animals killed in factory farms every year had the luxury to simply "try out" the gestation crate or wire cage for a week and decide it wasn't right for them.  My heart aches at the callousness with which we can decorate the suffering of other beings in such disregard.  The disconnect between a cow and "beef" is alarming.  How can we hope for a just world when every meal we eat is at the expense of a lifetime (I repeat: a lifetime!) of suffering for another animal?  Cafeteria-style ethics aren't ethics at all.  We can't pick and choose where we want rightness, where we want to accept responsibility, and call that ethics.  It's not.

I'm not vegan because I simply don't want to kill an animal.  I'm not vegan because I have a soft, sensitive heart.  I'm not vegan because it keeps me healthy and feeling good, or because I live in LA and am an actress so it's the thing to do.  I went vegan at 17 because I couldn't live in denial anymore.  I couldn't be who I wanted to be, who I felt that I was at my core, if I continued to let convenience, ignorance, disconnection, and the overwhelming pressure of the majority dictate my choices.  In order to be to fully me, I had to reach down to the truths that had been lurking in the pit of my heart since I was a little girl.  Truths that don't come from within, however, but that come from being wide-eyed and receptive towards the the experiences of other beings and how they affect every beat of this universe's rhythm.  This rhythm is always available to us - all we have to do is make the choice to listen.

This listening can occur when we have the courage to know ourselves, to see beyond the characters we play and surrender to the world inside that is chin-deep in feelings our culture attempts to protect us from feeling.  There is pain in there, there is grief, there is the brightest light of dawn and the most chaotic, night-soaked ocean.  There is loneliness, ecstatic bliss, fear, the helplessness that comes from being human on a planet where we really know nothing.  These feelings dance together and, without acceptance, cause discord.  Cause the desire to escape, to turn blind eyes and to wrap our perspectives so tightly in foil so that we aren't affected by the outside world.  The real world.  Because if we really feel, if we really surrender to what is, we're faced with a reality that highlights the falsehoods and illusions and coping mechanisms our society is composed of.

I'm not vegan because I care for animals; I'm vegan because I am an animal.  Because in choosing to embrace my whole being, I simultaneously choose to embrace theirs.  When I see it in me, I see it in them.  I can't love myself, can't tend to my own pain, without loving them and seeing theirs.  We hold such great commonality - us living beings on this speck of a spot in space.  Any violence or disregard towards them produces a ripple effect that brings violence and disregard back to human kind.  I see it in the news, I see it in the loneliness of peoples' faces that I pass on the street.  This ache of humanity is only soothed with the awareness of a whole self and in seeing our wholeness, we see our connectedness.  Our sense of belonging to one another despite the fact that we float in a spinning ball amongst stars.

I'm vegan because I can't look at another animal and deny their experience on this Earth.  I can't ethically take the lives of those who are defenseless just because they are different.  I'm vegan because I want to take responsibility for my actions and I know that in simply not seeing their suffering every day doesn't make it go away.  I don't want to have a plate put down in front of me and have to consciously not think about the living being it came from who wanted to avoid pain just like I do, who wanted to survive, to simply be left alone instead of exploited by the hands of humans just because they can.  To accept speciesism is to also leave the door open for every other injustice and oppression on the planet.  Sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia.  It's all one group oppressing the other. One big coping mechanism.

I'm vegan because I don't want to just cope.  I want the truth.  I want to know that I was a source of love in my time here.  And all mushy feelings aside,  I want to follow the golden rule - If I wouldn't wish it upon myself, what business do I have doing it to another being?  I'm not the person I want to be if I choose the facade of a "cheeseburger" over allowing myself to acknowledge the piece of flesh on a plate that was cut from a dead body of a being that didn't need to die or spend their lives being tortured and denied one ounce of dignity.

I want to honor all life regardless of its relativity or usefulness to me.  And in choosing to see and to feel, regardless of the being, I can best do that.

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