"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way it treats its animals" - Gandhi
Last week my neighbor spotted a turtle on a busy road. She pulled the car over and brought him safely to her home. Her children doted on the little guy, feeding him lettuce and hovering as he wandered around their yard. The next day they took the turtle to the nearby Sligo Creek to let him live out his days in freedom. Later I asked how the drop off went. My neighbor was slightly anxious because the turtle swam away into the creek but a passerby said "no you should not have put him there, that's not a swimming turtle". She wondered aloud if she had done the right thing, and you could see in her eyes that, amidst her busy life as a mom, she hoped that little turtle was OK.
This past spring I saw a baby bird on the sidewalk. My 3 year old son asked me what I was looking at and I told him a baby bird must have fallen from the nest. A woman walking by heard our conversation and came over to see the lifeless pink body. She seemed particularly sad about the tiny creature, quietly wishing she could have protected him from that abrupt end to life.
A couple of years ago my dear friend had to put down his ill dog. They were best friends for over a decade. The relationship was sweet. My friend was devastated for a very long time. He LOVED that dog.
I see this behavior all around me, all the time. Humans are not only capable of incredible tenderness toward other species, we WANT to live our lives with compassion, and actually try to do so when we encounter animals in our daily lives.
There is a great disconnect though. Humans have successfully convinced themselves that compassion only needs to happen for certain animals. If people knew what was happening behind the locked doors of factory farms to pigs, cows, chickens, and all types of laboratory animals, I believe they would not stand for the cruelty. If people could see that pigs are capable of the same love as dogs, or that cows are actually very social creatures, their eyes might be opened and food choices might change.
Have you ever killed with your own hands, an overfed, 6 month old pig, squealing for it's life? Or separated a new baby calf from her milk-filled mother (as the mother cow pleads in her own way, to have her baby back)? If you can't bear the thought of doing those things to animals, then you must face the difficult question: why do you continue to participate in an institution that causes suffering and death to 9 billion animals each year?
We have the capacity for great kindness. But we have to make the choice. When we turn away (as I did for my first 34 years on this planet), the cruelty persists. I am not here to make you feel dumb for thinking "what would I eat if I don't eat meat"? I know, I was there. I am inviting you to take a step and choose compassion. Because here's the thing: the baby bird is not so different from the baby cow. The pig and the turtle and the dog are the same. They are all creatures who have a desire to live. Though a lion might occasionally hunt and devour a gazelle, humans need not consume (copious amounts of) meat. Or any. When we choose to eat with compassion, it's like saving a turtle from being hit by a car everyday. Three times a day.