I’ve had an odd collection of conversations in the past few months. A coworker who claimed that cows “don’t want to live,” which I found particularly odd. He lives in a house with cows on the other side of the fence, and somehow he believes that it is right to eat these cows who he watches as he sits on his back porch because they don’t want to live. “Then why do they bother eating?” I asked him. He just looked at me.
More recently I’ve talked to someone who is a newly converted vegan, and who has spent his life in the mainstream right up until the vegan thing. I, on the other hand, never quite managed “normal” even when I put effort into it, so I don’t feel like I really understand what the mainstream folks are open to hearing. His input into what we can do to be effective is very interesting – reaching people on the fringes seems to be easier than reaching the mainstream, after all, yet it is the general population we should try to reach for greatest impact. Even when it comes to one-on-one advocacy, I often feel that people find what I say interesting, and they’ll actually commend me (their words) for what I do, yet the overall implication is that veganism and animal rights is for me, and people like me, but not them. And that stumps me a bit.
I’ve also thought about my own conversion to vegetarianism over a decade ago. The people I talked to (who don’t know I went vegetarian because of them, since I knew them for a random weekend while traveling) presented their ideas from a moral-ethical-rights foundation, and I came away from it with the conviction that since I could not personally kill these animals, I was a hypocrite for paying someone else to do it for me. My reasoning had nothing to do with their actual arguments, which is odd in some ways, but perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise if I thought about it some more. What they did for me was remove the disassociation between the animals I didn’t want to harm, and the food (i.e., the animals) I was eating. The rest of the reasoning was simply what I already felt behind the blinders I was wearing about the food I was eating.
What does that mean? Everyone is different, and I’m pretty sure that our brain’s complicated filtering process means that people hear only certain aspects of what we might say. We need to be good listeners as much as good talkers, essentially. And we need to remember (as I have recently been reminded) that it is important to get beyond the abstractions, and to work for the good of the animals themselves. They’re what it is all about, after all.
So, do turtles eat poop? The answer, based on my observation yesterday, of a turtle in the “wild”, is that yes, turtles eat poop. (I also looked it up, and it does seem to be considered normal, a way for them to get trace minerals that they might not otherwise be getting.)