Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Odd but normal – the non-vegan supporters of animal sanctuaries

chicken at ps

It just isn’t something I expected to learn – around 80% of the donors to Poplar Spring are not even vegetarian, let alone vegan. Even some of the volunteers are not.

I’ve worked with some of the non-vegans, though usually I don’t realize until sometime later that they were not vegan. And then I wonder, in a sort of fascinated horror, whether they go home and eat slices of dead pig after spending time, weekend after weekend, bonding with the pigs at the sanctuary. Do they think about the chickens they care for with such devotion as they purchase the body parts of a dead chicken at the grocery store?

Today there was a family helping out; they’ve been helping all week, they said. They are there partially because it is time towards the required community service their school asks of the students, but obviously also because they have an interest in, and a care for, animals.

I was telling the mom the story of John Lee of Peaceful Prairie today. It was fresh in my mind, both because I had heard from Michele this week, and also because I’m a bit worried about them – another blizzard is hitting them this weekend. So I told about John Lee, about his care for his flock, the intelligence and diligence he displays, the awareness he has for the world and the chickens he has taken charge of. She was fascinated by the story, seemed quite moved by it. And thoughtful as she said, “they’re so intelligent. So much more than we give them credit for.” That’s when I knew that she, and her family, were not vegan, not vegetarian.

I still think it is odd, though it is also normal, from what Terry and Dave tell me.
Horrified or hopeful? I am both.

pig love

10 responses to “Odd but normal – the non-vegan supporters of animal sanctuaries

  1. Rich December 30, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    I just read your blog and it got me thinking about how hard it is to comprehend how people can have such a disconnect. When I visited Farm Sanctuary I was taken-back that they had signs asking people not to consume any non-vegan food on their property.
    I can understand (barely) how someone could visit thinking it was a petting zoo and not be vegan or vegetarian. But to volunteer to work there and really interact with the animals and go home and eat one of their relatives in incomprehensible to me.
    If it was a pet shelter I could understand since their is a disconnect between a dog and a farmed animal but geeze you are working to help farmed animals and can go home and eat them.
    I guess I need to be hopeful that the volunteers can wake up and face the reality and go vegan.

  2. Deb December 30, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    We talked for hours today about the disconnect, and the many ways it can manifest. Terry had given a talk at a school (middle school I think) for a “care about animals” type of club. They wanted to visit after school one day, and when they arrived they had the food they’d picked up on the way. “I hope you don’t mind if we eat lunch first,” one of the women in charge of the girls said, as they started to pull out their coldcuts and chicken salad. Terry had to explain that they had an absolute no-animal-product rule at the sanctuary, that she could not let them eat turkeys and chickens and all these animals that she was about to introduce them to. She said everyone sort of froze. One girl had even said to her “this isn’t meat, is it? it is chicken salad,” and it all proves the disconnect that people can have.

    The group hadn’t talked to her about whether it was okay beforehand (and it wasn’t at a normal meal time), otherwise she would have told them before they got there. Terry said it was a really tense awkward tour.

    Amazingly she got letters and calls from people thanking her, saying that it just hadn’t even occurred to them, they hadn’t made the connection, but they were thinking and talking about it now. We all know it could have gone the other way, with parents complaining about their kids being upset. So, yeah, I do think there is a lot of hope for the people involving themselves with the sanctuaries. Maybe part of them wants to be faced with the reality, so that they’ll have to make changes. It is hard to know. I think hope is valid.

  3. Gary December 30, 2006 at 11:56 pm

    For years I had that disconnect myself. I’d look at cute pigs at a county fair and really take a liking to them, and connect with individuals, then within the hour eat pork chops. What scares me is that it was, at least superficially, so easy.

    The mind and emotions are frightfully good at compartmentalizing, avoiding cognitive dissonance, making up or believing myths to justify pleasurable addictions, however wrong and/or harmful. When we’ve been engaging in the behaviors practically since birth, and when our friends and family do them with us, and society promotes and rewards them, they feel normal, and it’s often too jarring to consider that they are gravely immoral.

    One day, when I was on my way to becoming vegan, but not quite there yet, a meat-eating friend of mine – who loved his cat and dog – was snacking on homemade jerky. He was pleased with the way it came out. Eventually the conversation turned to the origin of that jerky, to the living beings who suffered and died against their will to become that jerky. Academically, my friend knew that there were troubling moral questions about what he was doing. But, with an honesty and clarity I appreciated, he admitted that emotionally he blocked all that off when he ate meat. He also said that although he knew the basic facts about where meat came from, in his mind, and without any conscious effort, he viewed the jerky as something distinct and disconnected from an animal. He said it was “food, not an animal.”

    What was disconcerting to me was that I knew exactly what he meant. It is too easy, especially in this society, to slip into that disjointed, self-serving, self-protecting, false reality.

    Fortunately, we’re also good at getting used to new things, and subscribing to new ethical paradigms once we or someone else or society forces us into them. As you and I have discussed, in general, once we are no longer committing the acts for which we have to make excuses and engage in denial, we can see clearly how wrong they were, and how ridiculous if not horrid our rationalizations were.

    So, yes – surprised and not surprised; horrified and hopeful. A little more of the latter, which is one of the reasons I keep advocating.

    (BTW, when writing this, I mistyped “scares” as “scars;” that would have worked, also.)

  4. Deb December 31, 2006 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for sharing your stories, Gary! I think it helps to hear them, to be able to look at these situations in maybe a new way. I do have a lot of hope.

    It is funny – I always thought that the sanctuaries were part of my vegan bubble world. I guess that isn’t necessarily true! 😀

  5. Gary December 31, 2006 at 9:28 am

    I forgot to add… In a way, I am most heartened to see non-vegans volunteering at farm animal sanctuaries. One of the most valuable functions of a sanctuary is to let people meet these wonderful creatures up close; the animals become real and full of life instead of abstractions; they become like persons with individual personalities instead of commodities. Hopefully, interacting with sanctuary inhabittants, seeing them go about their days, observing how they use their minds and bodies to get joy and meaning from their lives, will cause visitors to question and consequently change their food habits, as well as their perceptions of and relationships to animals in general. As we know, the animals themselves can be quite eloquent advocates. Opal the turkey sidling up to someone, and softly cooing as her feathers are softly stroked – that’s more powerful than anything I could say. It’s interesting (and nice) that this blog devotes so much space to writing about animal sanctuaries, for those are places where the animals’ voices become…visible.

  6. Deb December 31, 2006 at 9:44 am

    heh. i write about sanctuaries a lot because it is easy. the truth is out! but you are still right – it is easy because it fits in really well with what i want to write about, what i want to do with this blog.

    dave and i actually talked a little about this yesterday, about the purpose of animal sanctuaries. the obvious pupose is to save animals, and that is definitely a purpose, but probably secondary. i mean, realistically they can’t save them all. how many sanctuaries would be needed to save 10 billion animals?

    their primary purpose is exactly what you described – advocacy in a very direct way, a way that gives people a chance to see, to hopefully disconnect. Education is huge.

    but gary…you are supposed to be there right now! 😀

  7. Gary December 31, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    I got there a little late. They raved about your margarita cupcakes.

  8. Deb December 31, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    they were good cupcakes! 🙂

    we even had a chance to give one to someone who just went vegan on the 25th. and she just got the vctotw cookbook, so it was nice to be able to validate her veganism and cookbook choice in so many yummy ways!

  9. cja January 2, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Amazingly she got letters and calls from people thanking her, saying that it just hadn’t even occurred to them, they hadn’t made the connection, but they were thinking and talking about it now. We all know it could have gone the other way, with parents complaining about their kids being upset

    I think the above is awesome. My jaw dropped when I realized where the story was going and how these people brought that type of “food” onto the sanctuary property. But look at the difference it might have made! And I’m guessing it had something to do with delivery, too, that she let them know gently but firmly.

    It is probably a good thing that omnivores and lacto-ovo-vegetarians get this exposure. Ignorance and disconnect only get you so far in life!

  10. Deb January 2, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    I think that the tour had an even bigger impact than otherwise, because every single one of them had it fresh in their minds that these “cute” animals were exactly the same as the ones in their sandwich. No room for disconnect. I’m sure it was a powerful force in their lives.

    It is so important that omnis and l-o-veggies get this exposure. It is for their sake more than for us vegans that the sanctuaries are there. The outreach potential is enormous.

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