It’s not that I don’t have hobbies. It’s not that I need a greater purpose. It’s not that I like conflict. Nor is it that I like to be different or that I don’t have other things to talk about. In my ideal world, this issue wouldn’t be an issue and I’d just be playing outside, enjoying the sunshine.
And to be clear from the start, I’m less of an activist than I want to be. I’m occasional poster on social media and an aspiring blogger. I give money to organizations that do good, but at the end of the day, I should/want/will do more. This article isn’t about my level of activism. In this context, my activism is a boolean. I am deeply concerned about our crimes against animals and I take actions to be a voice for them.
Why would I not want to be an activist?
For one, a lot of people don’t like vegans or veganism. While things are certainly beginning to change, it’s still absurdly common to be mocked for being vegan. With old jokes. That are rarely funny. People are defensive, even if you don’t start the conversation or try to persuade them, they like to wave meat at you and question your nutrition, your environmental impact, or the fact that animals feel pain. Certain social interactions are unpleasant.
I am also well aware of how annoying people with causes are. I’ll admit, that I disconnect from people that I deem to be thoughtless fanatics. They’re so righteous, I think to myself. I can imagine that some people have that perception of me. While my core belief is that it is wrong for anyone to torture animals, those who disagree with me believe that it is a personal choice, or that I am ill-informed, or a bleeding heart. I stick by my view and hope that others will see it the same way. In that respect, I may be perceived as an annoying person with a cause.
In many groups, vegans are the minority. I am often ‘the vegan’ and this is often the topic of conversation that we keep revisiting, whether or not I bring it up. I’m glad that to discuss this important issue, but I can’t help thinking that people walk away with a very one-dimensional opinion of me.
Finally, when I think about being ‘productive,’ I rank doing something to alleviate animal suffering highest. When I work on getting better at my professional skills, I think about how to apply them to help animals. When I think about volunteer work, I think about animals. When I get sad about the weight of the world, I think about animals. Maybe I have become one-dimensional in a sense, because I can’t stop thinking about the horrors I’ve seen and I am making an effort to aim my energy (even in indirect ways) toward doing something about it.
Why am I an activist?
I’ve made it clear that having a cause is annoying and affects some social interactions, and caring about something that you can still get away with ignoring makes the world a heavier place. It hardly seems worth the trouble.
The problem is that I’ve seen the unspeakable violence that the animals that we exploit endure. I have seen the videos and the photographs. I have listened to and read the descriptions and first-hand accounts, both from those who were horrified by it and the matter-of-fact descriptions from those who are desensitized to it. I have seen the individual crying eyes of pigs, cows and sheep, the mangled bodies of chickens, the mutilated, defeated, pained, scared, and agonized.
I have also seen the numbers, the statistics, the sheer, overwhelming amount of suffering that makes it hard to even comprehend. It can be difficult to empathize with one suffering individual, but it’s damn near impossible to multiply that understanding by hundreds of billions.
The fact is – and this usually hard for people who aren’t here yet to understand – that none of this is about me and I don’t have the choice to be silent. I will not be able to save the animals that will be bred, tortured, and brutally slaughtered today, this week, or this year, but if I do nothing then it will continue at the same rate. I cannot have understood this crime it and let it continue. It’s not an option.
A lot of times, I hesitate about telling people the truth. I have some kind of inherent desire to protect ignorance. I don’t like knowing what I know, having the images burned into my brain, or feeling like I have to fight this fight. I don’t want to emotionally traumatize people with the truth. Still, in the end, how sorry for myself can I feel? I’ve never been anally electrocuted. I wasn’t bred so my bones would break beneath me. I haven’t spent my life in a crate so small that I couldn’t turn around. I’m not feeling sorry for myself and in the end, I feel less sorry for informing free and healthy humans about sad things than I do the for the the animals that endure them.
I don’t want to be an activist, but I have to be.