I am broadcasting on all AM frequencies. I will be at the South Street Seaport every day at mid-day, when the sun is highest in the sky. . . . If there's anybody out there, anybody, please. You are not alone.
There are days when I feel analogous to Robert Neville in the movie I am Legend, one of the last human survivors on earth. Like Neville and his dog, Sam, my only companion is a cat, Max, and I'm surrounded by zombies who want to infect others with their flesh-eating disease. Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic but some days it fits.
This year marks ten years that I've been vegan. Choosing a vegan way of life has been one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made. Growing in consciousness as an ethical vegan has been a blessing as I've grown more connected to my animal brethren and more enlightened of how my choices impact them and their environments. However, like any progressive act, it also has its challenges. After all, they don't say ignorance is bliss for nothing. Just as you cannot have flowers without rain; with knowledge and truth comes the burden of awareness and personal responsibility.
I, too, was once an oblivious, flesh-eating zombie, doing what everyone else did, and causing much pain and suffering to myself and others. Now, I struggle to adapt as a vegan in a non-vegan world while attempting to open the eyes and minds of those around me who remain corrupted by an invisible virus. I offer them an alternative—a cure if you will—to this deadly and deleterious way of living. Some are willing to apply the corrective antidote but most are myopic and resistant, reacting like a vampire to garlic.
"You're not going to get me to stop eating meat," one of my coworkers scoffed after I explained how the meat and dairy industries separate animal families and cause them so much sorrow; "Mind your own business," wrote an anonymous Facebook user when I pointed out the problems attributed to buying companion animals from breeders as opposed to adopting from shelters; "Do me a favor and fuck off," wrote my neighbor when I expressed concern over finding her cat outside during the bitterly, cold winter months.
Comments like these and similar everyday transgressions against animals often make me wonder, who's really sick and disturbed? A small minority of ethical vegans, traumatized by a world awash in normalized violence and the commodification of living beings? Or the remaining 99 percent who are numb to and detached from the oppression of others, merely content to go on with business as usual—exploiting and harming animals for their own pleasure, convenience, and entertainment? The real walking dead are those blinded by their own consumptive desires, who harbor corpses within their own bodies and linger as living tombs. They feed on the dead and they are rarely challenged to account for their victims.
You don't have to be an activist to witness the daily traumas inherent in our human-extremist plagued world, you just have to open your eyes. Monsters do exist, but they don't come up from the bottom of the ocean and they're not dropping in from outer space. Monsters can be found on every Main and Maple Street throughout the world. We are the monsters and our grim imprint is everywhere: in the deceased deer on the side of the road, a victim of our machines; in the eyes of frightened pigs, crammed into a trailer truck on their way to the slaughterhouse, victims of our unjust laws and savage appetites; in the remains of the smashed insect in the office bathroom; a victim of our repulsion and apathy; in the chicken's body parts in the cafeteria, a victim of our chilling indifference.
"It is exhausting to be constantly exposed to so much suffering and feel so powerless in the face of it," said Vegan Life magazine Publisher Keith Coomber.
All too frequently, the sadness of what I see and hear overwhelms me and sometimes there's very little I can do but acknowledge it and go on. It helps to cry and give Max a hug, and remind myself that I'm not alone in the struggle. I know there are similarly passionate vegans working for the greater good, who know that there are consequences to every decision they make and who choose not to engage in violent and destructive acts of eating and living simply because they can.
"Community is a group of people who have a particular characteristic in common. When you have a social justice movement like veganism, the community surrounding you acts like a support system. It's really easy to become isolated . . . which is why it's so important to try and engage with other people who share your views," said Damien Clarkson.
It is vital that vegans recognize the feelings of sadness, shame, and anger that come with living in a non-vegan world, and that they share these feelings with others. Writing, talking with empathetic people, and staying active can be very therapeutic and healing, according to Pattrice Jones in her book, Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World, A Guide for Activists and their Allies. "Activists need to learn to tolerate their feelings. But they ought not [to] be expected to do so passively. Activists are doers. Upon learning about a grievous injustice or impending calamity, we don't just say 'that's so sad' and go on with our day . . . activism—doing something about the causes of trauma—can be curative for many survivors of trauma."
Slaughterhouses are more terrifying and bloody than any Halloween tale and, though we may not see them, they continue to abide because we allow them to. Inside these living houses of horror, terrified animals squeal and cry out, pleading for mercy and finding none. Some try to escape while others, too ill and discouraged, no longer have the strength to fight. Helpless and hopeless, chickens and turkeys cower in corners of cages while traumatized pigs rock back and forth. And we pay for these awful things to transpire against them every single day of every year for our lattes, chicken salads, bacon cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizzas . . .
The world is a very dark place for so many and it's easy to feel alone and out on a limb when you don't subscribe with the masses. The less-traveled vegan path is not trouble-free, but it is honest and worthy. As I speak out for the liberation of animals, I also advance my own liberation from injustice and fear, brutality and oppression. I endeavor to remain in peace and love, and I know there are others with me on this road I travel. They may not be consistently present in body, but they are always there with me in spirit.
How Do I Go Vegan?