No no, not mine (at least, not yet, snort) or anyone we know, or even of this blog (although I can't blame you for wondering where I've been -- this post was first drafted nearly a month ago!), so let me explain.
Not to sound morose or anything, but this concept has actually gotten me quite excited. I mentioned obituaries in my last post and how when you reach a certain age you both read and understand their appeal a bit more. I've even had to write one myself a few years ago (for my step-dad), but when I read the one published for my own dad this past summer I was disappointed at how generic and bland it was. This is it?, I wondered. A couple of lines indicating age and relatives left behind are all you get for having lived almost 88 years? It seemed unnecessarily sparse, and gave no indication as to who and what this man was all about.
But it got me thinking as to how I want my own life represented once I leave this earth for good. (And hopefully I will have left Earth a bit better then when I arrived.) I want it to capture not so much what I have done, but an idea of who I was. I would love for it to read something like; our sister/partner/friend (depending on who does the writing) was smart, funny, creative, kind and generous. She was also sassy, strong-willed, opinionated, and could be a real pain in the ass. And she would completely agree with this assessment if she were able to read it! More importantly though, I would want it to mention what I was most passionate about -- veganism.
In fact, I want it to be more than just a mention. What I really envision my eventual obituary being is a public statement and declaration of my vegan beliefs. Wouldn't it be great to have the last written words about you (unless you're famous I would imagine these would be the last) be a testimony about what was most important to you, and an appeal for others to go vegan as well? So, being a bit of a control freak, I intend to draft at least the vegan portion of my obit and indicate in my personal effects containing my will that I want this included. My last wish, if you will.
And why not? In other obituaries you see requests for donations to certain charities (why not request that they go to your favourite vegan/animal rights organization?), Bible quotes (why not an animal rights quote that has great meaning for you?) or work, sports, and other extracurricular activities. So why not a powerful statement about what you stood for, and what you hope future generations may achieve that so far we have not? Yes, make your obit count! Let's start a new trend and let your vegan voice speak from beyond the grave, boo haha.
p.s. I waffle between thinking there may or may not be life after our bodies give up the fight (what happens to that all former energy otherwise?), but IF my dad still exists somehow on some plane or another, I could see him shaking his head and uttering one of his favourite Dutch proverbs Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg, which roughly translated means, "Just act normal, that's crazy enough" -- sorry Dad, no can do! ;)
Because I don't have as much time as I'd like these days but still want to keep posting on a somewhat regular basis, I thought I'd jump on the popular #ThrowbackThursday bandwagon and hitch a ride myself, snort. After all, why not recycle and reuse some of the material I've written over the past five years while I work on new stuff? Besides, it might be fun to look back and see what still resonates.
The twist? Well, not really a twist, but instead of republishing the entire post, I'll likely just link back to it and perhaps provide some additional commentary. This post, for example, will deal with the advantages of being an older vegan. Okay, maybe some of the disadvantages as well. Like this:
But before you read the holy-crap-that-was-written-back-in-2011? post (and yes, it IS true that when you get older time flies by even faster), I want to add a couple of things. First, while I still agree that reaching out to younger people makes sense and is a good idea, I believe even more strongly that discounting the power and influence of the boomer generation is a bad mistake. For better AND worse, this population demographic still has a big say in how our society operates (for example, they're not willing to think of themselves as old the way previous generations may have, and quite a few of them don't even want to retire), so if we can get this group to say no to animal use and abuse while they still have the political and economic power to make a difference, then we should encourage that as much as possible.
Second, when you get to a certain age, obituaries start to become more interesting and you finally begin to understand why older folk find them so fascinating. You also start to think more in terms of what you've done with your life so far, and what is important for you to accomplish still before kicking that proverbial bucket. And if you're lucky, and finances permit, you may even start planning what vegan and animal rights organizations will inherit whatever you have left. Another reason, I would think, for agencies not to discount the older vegan.
Thirdly, whatever happened with CarpeVegan? They're linked in the original post, but it felt to me that while they started out with a bang, they more or less sputtered out. They still publish occasionally, but the site really didn't take off as I thought it would. Pity.
Finally, I want to take the opportunity here to introduce you to another delightful older vegan (yep, we're everywhere) who is proof that blinders can be removed at any age, and that much good can come of older-generation-vegans spreading the word. So, please say hello to my friend Vegan Grammie Annie!
And, finally finally, it occurred to me during the prepping of this throwback post that revamping old posts can be just as much work and just as time-consuming as composing new material, but hey, anything to get me writing, right? ;)
As y'all know, I love Esther, and her two dads, and the fine job the three of them are doing in raising awareness. "The Esther effect" has proven to be strong and far-reaching, and what I particularly like is the positive and joyful approach this trio embodies. One heart at a time is their strategy, and I think it's a smart one. With all the misery that animals face and activists are witness to, it's easy to forget that being vegan should also be fun and life affirming, so it's nice to have Esther and her dads remind us of that. Plus, saying Yes (to life, compassion, love) is, in my opinion, a stronger way to get folk to stay vegan rather than just focusing on the No (to cruelty, suffering, death) in getting them to go vegan.
But what some of you may not know, is that I also like making up words -- as the animal industrial complex shows, language can be manipulated to hide all sorts of evil, and one of our tasks as vegans is to strip away the veil (notice how evil and veil are almost identical) of words that make cruelty invisible -- and Esther has been a rich source of inspiration. Thus, here (in no particular order) are my top favourite five new Esther-inspired words and definitions:
Estheresque: similar to statuesque (as in being striking, majestic, magnificent) Estheresque takes it one step further to include any quality that matches her impact on human consciousness
Estherapy: better than booze, massage, and perhaps even chocolate, a visit to Esther's Facebook page is bound to lift your spirits and make you smile
Esthercise: okay, this one I didn't make up myself (saw it in a FB comment), but the word brought to mind images of brief spurts of running at top speed, sandwiched in between bouts of napping and eating, and somehow, this exercise regime seems appealing even to me
Estherache: pain brought on by not having at least a daily dose of Estherapy
Estherology: future scholarly study of Esther and "The Esther effect" leading to countless Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology courses featuring this life-changing porcine loveliness
One of my all-time favourite adjectives though is one coined by Esther's dads themselves: Esther-approved (what a creative and gentle way to describe a better way of eating and living!) and confirms for me that these two men deserve all the respect, admiration and attention that they're receiving. May these sweet Canucks stay humble and gracious, and continue to inspire and effect change. Campbellville, here I come! :)
Read the following this morning, and liked it so much I decided to look for more. :)
For those not familiar with Farley Mowat, he was a crusty but popular Canadian icon (he hated that label but I'm gonna use it anyway) who authored forty-one books (which I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read any of yet), a noted environmentalist, a lover of nature (not all environmentalists necessarily love nature I've come to suspect), an important critic, and an influential figure.
And while he wasn't vegan (although I like to think he eventually would have become so), he nonetheless was a champion for other sentient beings and certainly recognized the destructiveness of the human species.
For two in-depth articles on this rascally one-of-a-kind national treasure, click here and here, but I'll let Mr. Mowat have the last word:
“It is to this new-found resolution to reassert our indivisibility with life, to recognize the obligations incumbent upon us as the most powerful and deadly species ever to exist, and to begin making amends for the havoc we have wrought, that my own hopes for a revival and continuance of life on earth now turn. If we persevere in this new way we may succeed in making man humane ... at last.”
As you know, t-shirt activism is one of my favourite ways to spread the vegan word. This past summer (yikes, can you believe we're already talking about summer in the past tense?), I got three new ones and pretty much wore them all the time. The first Captivity Is Cruel tee got a few nods and "I like your shirt" responses:
The second Not Your Mom, Not Your Milk tee got the most polarized response ranging from a cold stare (given by a Farmers Feed People in Cities clad person, snort), to an enthusiastic "You're vegan? Wow, my respect for you has just gone way up" exchange with the checkout clerk (thanks again, Monika, in case you're reading this!) at my grocery store. I didn't hear it, but apparently, the otherwise-hip young couple behind me were rolling their eyes and saying how veganism was too extreme while M and I were discussing the tee.
And grocery stores, by the way, are one of the best places for vegan tee advocacy because when people are stuck in line, you've got a captive audience. Did I ever tell you about the time when a teenager behind me excitedly told her mom to look at my Food Is To Eat, Animals Are To Love shirt, and the five people behind them promptly demanded to see it too? Now THAT made waiting in line worthwhile. :)
But the vegan tee that got the most response this summer was the sweet and gentle Friends, Not Food, as it elicited a smile from just about everyone who saw it. It also got quite a few "oh, that's SO cute!" responses as well as initiating a couple of more serious discussions. But what I really liked about this t-shirt in particular was how it seemed to get non-vegans to see their food in a different light. I swear I saw at least one mental light bulb going off!
So, as a cooler fall begins, my tees will get a final wash before they're put away for their well-deserved rest. They did a good job this year, and will be summoned for vegan duty again next summer, along with a few reliable others. :)
Actually, we do, but it's so little known (I only ran across it myself a while ago) that it hardly even registers in Google search. Try looking for its cousins, and you'll find misogyny (hatred or dislike of women) coming back with a scary 1,640,000 results, misandry (hatred or dislike of men) clocking in at 1,100,000 results, and the more equal-opportunity term misanthropy (something I definitely fall prey to on occasion) yielding 542,000 results. But misothery? A paltry 1,780 results is all you'll get.
A shame, really, since the term itself (coined by Jim Mason in 1993) contains the resulting misery for animals right within its letters. I like this term, I really do. And it reminds me of the dangers when we don't have proper names for things so commonplace, so underlying just about everything, and yet so silent. Remember the world-changing effect when Betty Friedan described the problem that has no name? Naming is powerful, necessary, and exciting too.
The word misothery may have an awful ring to it, but I'm glad I found it, and will be adding it to my arsenal of tools to fight animal and human exploitation. Because these two types of exploitation are linked, with the one enabling and the other perhaps begetting, but definitely reinforcing. And who knows, maybe one day, certain acts of animal use and abuse will be seen more widely for what they really are: hate crimes based on species.
p.s. if you agree that this term is a damn fine one, and deserves a wider audience, please help pass it on :)
Two weeks ago, I wrote about being speciesist as I found myself feeling both relieved and guilty when I discovered that the dead animal I removed off the road was not a dog or a cat but a raccoon. Upon reflection though, I think one of the factors that made me less upset involved human responsibility. Or irresponsibility, I should say. While it's always sad when a sentient being meets its end, living near humans (especially when we've encroached on their habitat) is risky for wildlife. And even though humans shouldn't strike an animal on purpose and should do their best not to run over them again in passing, squirrels, raccoons and rabbits who scamper across the road risk being hit.
Cats and dogs, however, have no business being on the road and unless they happen to be feral, it's up to humans to make sure that they're not. In other words, when I see a dead cat or dog on the road, I blame their guardian. All dogs should be leashed when walked (I always cringe when I see dogs off leash on the sidewalk because you never know what will cause them to suddenly dart onto the road), and cats supervised if let outdoors. No, when dogs and cats end up dead on the road, it's not so much an accident I feel, but a dumb decision leading to needless death. And that, I think, is partly why I get more upset with certain species getting hit by cars.
A reader mentioned being more moved to tears about stories involving animal than human suffering, and I wonder if the same element is at play here. Most animal suffering is intentional in some way or for the benefit of human desire (e.g. factory farming), so when we see, for example, stories about chicken or pig barns going up in flames, it's even more heart-wrenching because we know that raising animals for food isn't even necessary. It's based upon human greed and appetite, and a complete denial about a sentient being's emotional life and a right to live their lives as free from human harm as possible.
Stories of human suffering though, are often self-inflicted, and involve humans doing stupid things to each other when they should know better. Unlike natural disasters, man-made disasters usually reflect greed at some level, meaning that humans are at least partly to blame. Actually, one could argue that certain natural disasters are the indirect result of climate change and global warming, which are the more direct result of humans not being as bright as they claim to be. While any kind of suffering is to be lamented, there's a greater innocence where animal beings are concerned, especially when it's through direct human action.
Familiarity, though, is also a key factor. We respond differently to beings that we identify as being more similar, or that we have more knowledge of. It is thought, for example, that folk tend to think of cats as being so cute because their round faces and pleading meows remind us of human babies. (For an illuminating discussion of how we, women especially -- myself included! -- infantilize other animals, please read the comment section of veganelder's post.) People have begun to respond to Esther the Wonder Pig on a large scale because they can perceive her personality (through the photos and words her dads share) and realize that when they eat pork, they're eating someone who could be Esther, someone who shares traits with humans that they can recognize. They're experiencing what Krissa means when she wrote, "...the more interactions and experiences that one has with different species, the more it's revealed that we are all the same."
So am I speciesist? Likely (probably, given that I wouldn't max out all of my credit cards if my cat got sick, but maybe would for a relative), but it's a matter of degree. And just as it's foolish to claim that because no one can be 100% vegan one shouldn't even try, recognizing speciesism when it rears its ugly human head (are all species speciesist though?) is better than not recognizing or acting upon it at all.
(Will update my speciesism post next, but needed to get this off my chest first.)
Within twenty-four hours three different kinds of animal abuse situations (actually, four, but one was so heinous I won't even mention it) came to my attention with the result that I felt like crawling into a misanthropic bunker for the rest of the weekend. "Misanthropic bunker" is a term I came across in Kim Stallwood's interesting memoir Growl, currently campaigning (ending tonight!) on Indiegogo.
Let me introduce the runner-ups first. Third (and definitely NOT honourable) mention goes to sheep-shearing sadists. Shearing sheep may not initally sound like the worst form of abuse, but as Debra Roppolo points out, sheep are gentle and kind beings, which makes the vicious violence demonstrated in these videos even more hard to take.
Second prize (although there are no winners here) is awarded to all who participate in, get ready for this, pig wrestling. Yes -- PIG wrestling. I thought I had pretty much heard of all the asinine ways in which humans treat other sentient beings (who in my opinion have more dignity than a lot of humans at this point), but no. Even worse is the fact that this dubious activity is being sponsored by grown-ups (the idea of pig wrestling could be amusing, you would think, only to drunk male adolescents) as part of a church event. Call me stupid, but I can't see the connection to spirituality here. Now, one church in particular is getting a lot of heat about this (despite massive protest the event went ahead yesterday), but sadly, pig wrestling is actually fairly common "entertainment" at many county and state fairs.
No drum roll please, but first place (not that ranking animal abuse makes sense except to human animals who seem to want to rank everything) is bestowed on the f@*#ing a$$holes who decided that Harry Harlow was such a hero that his despicable monkey "pit of despair" study should be replicated. Yep, "scientists" (I don't know how to convey sarcasm better than that I'm afraid) are being funded to study monkey maternal deprivation all over again. As if the original studies weren't horrendous enough, repeating them is monstrous.
At the moment I can't think of anything more dumb (although using monkeys to try and figure out whether smoking is bad or not for pregnant women--um, we don't know that yet?--is pretty close) and cruel and heart-breaking and possibly evil, and it's making me want to email the numbskulls involved and use language that would make the above slightly altered swear words sound like something a nun might say. Channel anger constructively is what I'm repeating to myself over and over lest I compose undiplomatic and tactless (but who says polite is always best?) messages that likely shouldn't see the Send button. So, there you have it. Never fear that human stupidity and cruelty will ever end, or that our work will ever be finished. :(
It's at times like this that I like to go visit Esther, who along with her two fine dads, reassures me that not all humans are hateful. In fact, I say we nominate them for a Most Likely To Put A Smile Back On Your Face award right now. Anyone second the motion?
The incident in question took place last summer, but honestly, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Looking out the kitchen window one morning while getting my lunch ready for work, I noticed an injured animal in the middle of one of the traffic lanes in front of my house. It was hard to see, but it looked big enough to be a puppy, so I quickly grabbed a plastic bag with the intention of at least removing the poor thing off the road so that they wouldn't be run over again.
Cars dutifully stopped (at 7:45am they may not have been too happy about it, but the alternative was to run me over as well) while I gently scooped the now-clearly-dead creature with the plastic bag and placed them underneath a tree across the road. I was late for work, so said a few words of "I'm so sorry this happened to you, rest in peace." and went on to do my shift.
The kicker of the story though is that while I felt badly for the being and was glad I had at least prevented more cars from carelessly driving across them, I also felt more than a tinge of relief (and subsequent pangs of guilt) when I saw that it [clearly it wasn't an it, but the rules of the English language are complicit in reducing animals to objects] wasn't a puppy, or even a large cat, but a raccoon. So what does that say about me? Because the truth is that I would have been more upset had the dead animal been a dog or a cat. Does that make me speciesist?
I believe the general definition of speciesism is being prejudiced when it comes to species and favouring your own above all others (please correct me if I'm wrong), but what about favouring some species over other species? Omnivores do it all the time when they happily munch on a pig while petting their pup, and while vegans make an effort to be less speciesist, is it possible to eradicate this tendency entirely? (Please note that I'm not trying to justify speciesism, but to understand it a bit better.) Especially when studies have shown that human infants as young as three months already exhibit signs of favouring those they perceive to be in their own group, and "othering" others, I can certainly see that discrimination based on species is the most difficult ism to recognize, let alone tackle.
And it reminds me of when as a brand new vegan six years ago, I ran across a group on Flickr called Speciesism and thought that that was going a bit far. Or when my sister-in-law (the most supportive of veganism in my family and the one who actually purchases some vegan products for herself) saw my Alice Walker "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans anymore than black people were made for white, or women created for men." button and let out an abrupt whoa as if to say, now that's definitely going too far. Ms. Walker, by the way, is no longer vegan and has decided that chickens are, for example, made for humans, otherwise I can't imagine why she's eating them again. Tsk, tsk, Alice.
My point is that speciesism is probably not the best place to start with pre-vegans or perhaps even vegan newbies, as the indoctrination of Animals Are Ours To Do With As We Will is just too strong and deep. Better to begin with animal cruelty and suffering methinks. But even to a more-seasoned-by-now vegan such as yours truly, speciesism remains a challenge. Because let's take those silly and worn-out hypothetical scenarios involving burning buildings or leaky lifeboats where you're asked if you'd save the puppy or the baby. First, why is it always a dog and a baby? Have we no imagination? What if you had to choose between, let's say, a piglet and an opossum? Or a rabbit and a baby rhinoceros? Then what? If the deciding factor is no longer our species versus any other species, what factor determines who gets saved? Familiarity? Cuteness? Fairness? And how the hell would you decide what's fair? And to whom? As for the hypothetical burning building, if I was babysitting my niece in my apartment and a fire broke out, speciest or not, I'm fairly certain I'd instinctively grab the baby before the kitty no matter which one I loved most.
So there you have it. Speciesism is a toughie, even if you're a vegan who believes that beings of all species have a right to their own lives, and that human animals don't have the right to discriminate based on species, especially when said discrimination is manifested in cruelty or exploitation.
I have, sadly, in the past year, removed several kinds of animals off the same road. :(
p.s. I was serious before -- feel free to explain or elaborate on the notion of speciesism if I haven't gotten it quite right.