Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

effectiveness; or, do turtles eat poop?

turtle in the grass

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.)

turtle eating poop

9 responses to “effectiveness; or, do turtles eat poop?

  1. Dino January 14, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I think it’s as important to reach the mainstream as the fringes, which is why it’s so cool that vegans run the gamut of the spectrum of types of people. We’ve got your punk fans who got into it from Earth Crisis and Slayer, and those who are parents with children and a minivan. You’ve got those in the big cities and the ones in middle Murrka.

    Excellent turtle pictures. Where were they taken?

  2. Deb January 14, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Thanks Dino. They were taken in Florida, along a walking path in a suburb. There are some ponds and stuff in the area, so he was on his way to or from, and apparently stopped for a tasty poo-snack.

  3. Gary January 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I think your point about listening is spot-on. People as a rule like to talk about their views and their experiences and feel like they’re being heard. When you’re the listener, they tend to think better of you. ganted, I’m generalizing.

    To continue…I also think that when you are an empathic listener, the person with whom you’re engaged in conversation feels more of a connection to you, and consequently attaches more weight to your words and ideas – even he/she is a mainstream conservative and you’re an anarchist punk.

    I’m also reminded of what a friend of mine said: “I have something in common with everybody,” meaning he finds something in common with every person he meets. Perhaps if we find (and seek) that commonality with the people to whom we’re doing outreach, that establishes some baseline credibility from their perspective and gives us a more comfortable base from which to express compelling yet initially challenging moral issues pertaining to animals.

  4. Mary Martin January 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    S/he’s a gopher tortoise. Endangered. Confirmed with wildlife biologists today.

  5. Deb January 22, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    @ Gary – It might end up being the same approach in the end, but my thought was more that if we’re good listeners, we’ll hear the perspective on the issues that is important to the individual we’re talking to, and we can speak to them from that perspective. Rather than always coming at it from one perspective (ours).

    @ Mary – Thanks for finding out for me! It is good to know exactly what s/he is.

  6. Gary January 22, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Deb – Yes, I agree with that also; excellent point! And I don’t think we do enough of that as activists. Everyone has their worldview, which may have formed over decades amd countless experiences. And I think those worldviews are very core to people’s beings (or identities) and are often resistant to change. So I think your point is of the utmost importance in activism; we have to try to understand where someone is coming from, and maybe how and why they got there. Within time and other constraints, what are their hot buttons, “grounding” activities, comfort zones, inspirations, insecurities, fears, sources of security and belonging, and so forth. There may many benefits to doing that, including, perhaps, improving activist-to-activist communications.

    I think we can also gauge, to some degree, the effectiveness of our approach in real time in a person-to-person situation by paying attention to the other’s reactions and responses (verbal and non-verbal), and tweaking our approach (including deciding to hold off or change the topic) as appropriate.

  7. Deb January 23, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Gary that is a good point about activist-to-activist communication, especially across causes. I’d love to see more collaboration, and I was very impressed by some of the people at AR07 with what they were setting up that crossed into one or more other causes. Of course implicitly we know they’re linked together, but knowing is one thing, putting in time to bolster each other’s causes is another.

  8. sarah April 27, 2008 at 12:03 am

    my turtle eats his own poop. its really gross.

  9. Deb April 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    gross, but apparently both common and natural!

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