Today I went down to the edge of DC’s Chinatown and leafleted with a bunch of other people for COK. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and 70, and while I should feel guilty for enjoying the benefits of global warming…I hate the cold. The world is going to hell, but today it was beautiful out and I loved it.
We were handing out samples of veggie hot dogs and literature, and there were some great responses. I’d say it was because of the great weather, but I think it was actually about the same as when I leafleted in the rain. I had a lot more fun in the sun, but otherwise it was pretty typical in terms of the responses, number of people taking leaflets.
Erica of COK said that they handed out about 100 hot dog pieces in less than an hour!
I had an interesting conversation with a guy who seemed to have given some thought to these issues before. He wanted to convince me that plants were sentient, and made an interesting point when I argued that the lack of nervous system was one sign of a lack of sentience. There are other criteria, but that is the easiest one to discuss in a leafleting situation. His response, though, was interesting because it would do us all good to think this way.
He said that we shouldn’t judge sentience based on our human-centered criteria. And he has a point! We judge everything from this standpoint, and if only he knew it, his argument was also a powerful one for veganism. We are often told that certain animals don’t feel pain, or aren’t intelligent, or don’t feel emotions. But this can only be argued if you are looking at it purely from a human perspective, assuming that if a fish felt emotions, it would look the same as a human feeling emotions. Just because we don’t necessarily recognize the expression of these things doesn’t mean they are not there.
But plants. It is an old argument. I told him “Okay, let’s go with this. Let’s assume you are absolutely right, and plants are equally as sentient as animals. That is a very strong argument for veganism. The efficiency of nutrients and calories as you move up the food chain is quite low. You lose a relatively high percentage with each step away from plants as your nutrition source. This means that you are killing more plants by eating animals than you would by eating plants alone.”
He actually seemed a bit thoughtful after that. He certainly didn’t have a comeback.
We discussed property status, health, companion animals, environment, went over the “we don’t need animal products, so why support the cruelty and exploitation if you don’t have to?” argument, and I honestly have never discussed so many aspects to the argument for veganism with one person in such a short period of time. I felt like I was in training, or maybe that I was putting to use all the other conversations I’d had, all the other leafleting I’d done.
He took all the various leaflets I had to hand him. VegDC guide, Vegetarian Starter Guide…I hope he’ll think seriously about this, and do more research.
Interestingly, I don’t think “cruelty” issues were issues that could move him. He works for animal control, he told me, and he sees the kind of cruelty that make us all shudder. Generally when you have to face these things as often as he must, you become either hyper-sensitive to it or numb. I think he is a bit numb to that issue. When I mentioned issues relating to property status, however, it really struck a chord with him. Which just goes to show – you never know quite what will resonate with different people.
Before we finished for the day, we had a chance to talk to someone from CodePink, who was setting up to leaflet, promoting the Peace March on Jan 27th in DC. All in all, a great day.