I Married a Vivisector: Challenging Assumptions

Occasionally during one of my talks, in order to highlight the fact that people can change, and to challenge us to be mindful of our assumptions, I bring up the fact that I married a vivisector (someone who conducts experiments on animals). 

Recently, during a MOGO (most good) talk at the University of California at Berkeley, I spoke about the most good, least harm principle and how we can put this principle into practice in our lives, consciously and conscientiously. At some point (I can’t remember the context), I shared with the audience the fact that I married a vivisector, and someone asked me, “How could you?”

She did not emphasize the word “could” (as in, “How could you?”), which would have been a bit rude, but rather the word “how” because it so perplexed her that I could date (let alone marry) someone whose values were so opposed to her own, and presumably to mine, since I was a budding animal rights advocate when I met him.

I shared with the audience that when I met my husband 26 years ago, while I called myself a vegetarian, I actually still ate sea animals. Since he killed about a dozen amphibians a year in his research on vision, and I ate way more sea animals simply to please my tastebuds, I could hardly condemn his work. 

Ironically, while I still enjoyed going to zoos, because I loved seeing the animals, he told me he didn’t want to go to a place where wild animals were so confined and miserable. Suddenly the seeming disparity between my husband and me because less clear cut. 

Suddenly the black and white thinking to which so many of us gravitate (myself included at times) became awfully gray. I went on to become vegan, and my husband went on to become a veterinarian, giving up his grant and his work as a scientist. People can change.

When we wonder how someone could marry someone seemingly so different in some fundamental way, perhaps it’s time to challenge our assumptions and stretch our thinking. Love is a great tool for seeing the world from another’s perspective, but we can bring this tool to all our interactions and relationships. 

In Aikido, a martial art which I practice, we are always attempting to blend with our aggressor and see the world from their perspective. It’s a great tool for life, too, enabling each of us to grow in understanding, awareness and the capacity to evolve in new ways.

Related Stories:

Learn MOGO Principle this Earth Day

The Vivisection Scam (Video)

A Call to Progressives to Embrace a Wider Ethic That Includes Animals

Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), which offers graduate programs in comprehensive humane education, linking human rights, environmental preservation and animal protection. IHE also offers online programs, workshops, and other resources for teachers, parents, and change agents. Zoe is the author of Nautilus silver medal winner Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life; Above All, Be Kind; The Power and Promise of Humane Education, and Moonbeam gold medal winner, Claude and Medea, about 7th graders who become clandestine activists in New York City. Zoe has given a TEDx talk on solutionary education and blogs at www.zoeweil.com. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ZoeWeil.

Image courtesy of firemedic58 via Creative Commons.

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Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Beverly G.
bev G.4 years ago

hurting animals poor animals, sickens and upsets me. I cudent marry or even talk to someone who does this for a job,. Theres something wrong wiv them mentally. Sychopaths i say. How can they go a work and come home with a clear, clean conscience ? God bless all them poor animals. world wide. x

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

However, I still don't believe that love caused it, because love is nothing but a euphemism for sex.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

It's good that he has changed.

Sandy G.
sandy g.4 years ago

I am also glad the husband came around, but the majority of the time that doesn't happen. I actually know someone who gave up his part of the veterinary practice he co-owned with my vet to practice "research veterinary medicine" on the poor animals his wife tortured in her job as a medical research technician here in one of the research/medical capitals of our country, Houston. How anyone can keep animals healthy enough to prolong the torture inflicted upon them is beyond me. Vivisectionists/ism continue to disgust me.

Alice Thompson
Alice Thompson4 years ago

Wonderful "stretch your mind" article. In my own feral cat rescue work, I find many in this area very inflexible and always angry at others that don't act and do as we do. I feel often times we make enemies instead of changing minds. I think a stretch the mind approach is much needed in animal welfare to make progress.

Diana S.
Diana S.4 years ago

Everything that Lynne B. said!

Petra Luna
Petra Luna4 years ago

Wow. Just wow!

Ally T.
A T.4 years ago

I'm glad your husband was able to change. I hope more people can be so compassionate. Great article. It was eye-opening.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing =]