I was invited to blog on Powell's because I'm a writer. And for the last three days, I blogged about this strange
, quasi-sexual experience
I didn't have while on my book tour in San Francisco, even though my books have nothing to do with sex.
Because let's face it, orgasms are a lot sexier than factory farming and slaughterhouses.
The truth is, I'm not really a writer. Yes, I currently have #1 and #2 NY Times bestsellers, and yes, I wrote both books. But I never set out to be a writer. I'm actually an animal rights activist.
Now before your brain goes to that dark place of what that means ? "animal rights activist" ? just wait a second. I, too, used to conjure up "tree-hugging hippy meets wild-eyed, paint-thrower." Until I became one ? an animal rights activist.
Just so we're clear, I was not raised on a commune and my parents were not hippies. I was, and still am, like most everyone else on the planet.
One day, during college, a magazine arrived at my apartment. And it had an article about factory farming and slaughterhouses. There were also pictures. As an animal lover, and a meat-eater, it never occurred to me to ponder how animals went from living, feeling, sentient beings...to meat. Sitting there with that magazine in front of me, I was confronted with the "how."
There was a photo of a cow. She and her calf were taken to a livestock auction. When her calf was taken from her, she went crazy, slamming herself into the stall door. In doing so, she broke her own neck. She was still alive, left to die in a puddle a mud. With her neck at a horrific angle, her tongue hanging from her mouth, and her eyes bulging from her head.
There was also a picture of newly hatched baby chicks ? those little yellow balls of fuzz. These day-old babies were also alive, but they were stuffed into clear, plastic garbage bags and piled into a big green dumpster. Because they were males, they were of no use to the egg farmer, and they were thrown away as trash.
How could I call myself an "animal lover" and contribute to that? I couldn't. Unless I also wanted to call myself a hypocrite. There was no escaping the truth: by eating animals, I was contributing to their torture and slaughter. Just because I liked how they tasted.
In that moment, I knowingly became a vegetarian. Without realizing it, I also became an animal rights activist. In my more than fourteen years as an activist, I have never thrown red paint on anyone. I have collected signatures for petitions, called my senators and representatives about legislation, contacted companies to ask for policy reforms, distributed educational materials, attended demonstrations and protests, and written letters to editors of magazines and newspapers. I also wrote a diet book, Skinny Bitch, which exposes the truths about the meat and dairy industries.
To me, it's so simple. I am a vegan; I don't eat any animal products. I also abstain from wearing them. Beyond that, I'm like everyone else. But I know that "vegan," like "animal rights activist," is a dirty word to many people. And I don't know how or why or when that came about. I was recently at a demonstration in front of a restaurant. And on his way out of the restaurant, this guy approached me. He said, "I don't support what you're doing but I know you're here volunteering your time for what you believe in, and I think that's admirable." I thanked him for his kindness, but then asked him, "What is it that you don't support? Do you even know why we're here?" He hemmed and hawed for a moment, and then laughed at himself. To his credit, he realized that he carries around a negative view of animal rights activists and protestors and demonstrators. He asked me what it was we were doing out there. "Trying to influence one of the largest fast food chains in the world to adapt better treatment for the animals they kill for human consumption." He was quiet. Then he said, "I'm so embarrassed. I can't tell you how many times I've walked or driven by you people and yelled something nasty or honked my horn and given you all the finger. All this time, you're out here doing something good."
Vegans and animal rights activists seem to elicit such a strong reaction from people. Granted, there are a ton of crazy, annoying, self-righteous fanatics out there that invite a little loathing. I should know; I used to be one. And, in fact, there are times I catch myself going there. But it's not because I'm trying to be an asshole or I think I'm better than anyone else. It's because I feel passionately about what's happening to the ten billion animals that are slaughtered every year (in our country alone) for food. And I get caught up. Other times, it's because some asshole omnivore is getting all huffy with me for being vegan. Either way, I don't mean to do it. It's just me being human. But I regret it every time, because I can't bear to make the movement look bad. Because every time the movement looks bad, it's the animals who suffer.
There are good omnivores. There are bad ones. There are good vegans/animal rights activists. There are bad ones. Try not to judge an entire movement by its crazies. Chances are, you fully support what the crazies support. You just don't like them yelling in your face. There's certainly nothing sexy about a wild-eyed hippy throwing paint on your coat.
But there is something sexy about being compassionate. For your health, for the animals, for the environment...go vegetarian.
Who's willing to give it a try?