Growing up, I associated animal rights activists with the people who threw paint on fur coats. After all, my geography means I know a lot of hunters. My home is the state where BBQ is a sport.
I didn't initially come to be a vegetarian because of a deep love for animals; yet, in my experience, being vegetarian for a long time changes your relationship to them.
The vegan community seems to be a mixed bag of "encouragers"--those who want to help anyone interested in making a lifestyle change--and "condemners"--those who want to tell you how bad you are for murdering baby chicks. In fact, that latter designation is why many people see the vegan movement as a joke.
John and I went to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" recently and it helped to crystallize some of my thinking. There is a theme in the movie where animals are treated as commodities, but the part that jumped out at me was one of the guards who would poke them with the cattle prod just for fun.
I remember that as a kid. The boys who would pull the pinchers off the crawdads. Or the person in our neighborhood who killed a dog by feeding it glass. Or having to dissect a cat in class. There are ways of being in the world that treat animals as if they don't matter and beyond that there is a cruelty that can exist because they don't matter.
Most of us who have pets know they have feelings. Dogs are capable of joy, love, boredom, embarrassment. They feel pain. And something about that is significant...maybe even down to the food sources we eat. After all, are cows that different from dogs? What about chickens?
It is easier to ignore what so many movies, books, and activist groups are trying to reveal...because none of us wants to "be that guy with the baby chick murderer sign." But maybe we could make personal decisions that would make the world kinder. Like buying cloth purses instead of leather ones or eating less meat. Or maybe we simply become aware that the products we buy aren't inanimate objects on a box store shelf. They came from somewhere. I think it is time I started thinking about that.