Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Lauren Ornelas, Founder of the Food Empowerment Project.
It has happened to many of us, but admittedly it had not happened to me in a while. Having recently moved from a very urban area to a more rural area, I had forgotten how common it is. So I was not prepared for the incredible emotional reaction I would have. Mostly that of anger.
When I saw it ahead I had to make the decision whether or not to look to see if anyone was inside. While driving down the highway, I passed a transport truck, filled with animals destined for a slaughterhouse. Now, I am someone who has done investigations of numerous factory farms, slaughterhouses, and auction yards. I have a tendency to not turn away from such atrocities. I prefer to confront it. But I wasn’t sure I could deal with it that day. I looked and, yes, I could see there were animals inside. I admit to being relieved that I could not see them staring back.
After I gave the driver an incredibly dirty look (which, even if he saw, he would not have understood), I drove on, thinking about the encounter and the decades that I have dedicated to trying to educate others in order to stop animals from being killed. And I know that many of us are looking for that one thing that will make those people who eat animals open their eyes and see the millions of deaths they contribute to so that they stop eating them.
Which direction do we, as animal activists, take? Do we only talk about the ethical aspects of animal consumption? Or do we talk about the environment? Or just stick with the health benefits? Is there one of these approaches that will help people stick with it? Which one is the best? Do we do them all, or does it weaken our credibility if we do? In terms of outreach, is it leafleting? Is it protesting? Is it vegan food giveaways? Is it investigations? What reaches the public in the most effective way to make change?
The animal rights movement has certainly been going down a dangerous path of becoming homogeneous.
I have always been an activist who believes in the “we need all of the spokes in the wheel” philosophy to move us forward. Yet I felt anger and frustration when I saw that truck. I wondered, why is none of what we do enough?
I wish I was going to have some wonderful answer here, but I don’t. I still believe that it is going to take all forms of outreach and reasons to spread the word (although as a vegan food justice organization, Food Empowerment Project focuses on the ethical stance as we do for all food issues), but I do worry that we have lost sight of the real goal.
I worry that some animal rights activists have gotten so focused on the living conditions of the animals (which I agree are deplorable and should be worked on by some) and have forgotten that we need to stop them from being forced into these trucks – that all of our attention and energy needs to be focused on stopping these animals from being trucked off to slaughter. Regardless of how they are raised, they will end up here and at the slaughterhouses.
We need to keep our eyes on the prize, and that prize is saving their actual lives and preventing more from being kept in cages and crates. To see, hear and smell their fellow beings killed is an incredibly traumatic aspect of these animals’ lives – actually the end of their lives. Truly, I can’t think about it in too much detail; I don’t feel like my mind can handle it. But we know from humans who have had to endure such situations that it is psychological terror.
I really worry that we can get so caught up in other things that we forget that what is most important is stopping these trucks from continuing down the highways to the slaughterhouses. And saving their lives. As we know, getting more and more people to go vegan is what will accomplish this.
Continuing my drive, with tears in my eyes and anger in my heart, I saw a sign of hope. A car drove past me with a paw sticker on the bumper that read “Who Rescued Who?”
And, well, that gave me hope. Now, do I think that the person driving that car was vegan? Not necessarily; however, it reminded me that at their core, most people truly care about animals, and our job is simply to open their hearts and minds to the plight of all beings.
Thankfully I know that is a task we can do.
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