I woke up this morning ready to cry, and the tears have not left my eyes.
On a day like Memorial Day, which is designed to remember the dead, tears will fall all across the U.S. This day was set aside to remember those who have left this world before us during war or during everyday life. The deaths of millions and millions of people will be remembered today, often with tears.
But how many people will take a moment to remember the billions of animals that we humans are responsible for killing? Whether it is in laboratories, factory farms, forests, circuses, zoos, or any of the other killing fields that we have institutionalized. The death tolls climb too fast for us to even conceptualize the counters spin and spin, with too few people trying to slow the progress.
I can only speak of the brutality and slaughter in which I have chosen, for good or ill, to immerse myself. Pictures of sentient beings whose captivity, suffering, and victimization have led them to self-destruction swirl in my mind. Primates tearing at their flesh, biting off their own fingers, ripping out their hair. They are accompanied by visuals of those thoughtlessly destroyed by humans used and thrown out as if they were nothing more than some piece of trash. Ironically, rats and mice, those considered most disposable, are given so little consideration, that we can't even be bothered to insure true death before they are tossed into the carcass freezers. We can't even kill them correctly.
Ninety-nine percent of the time I am ready for battle, wielding facts as weapons, hell-bent on exacting retribution by shaming the abusers in the public eye. But it's the one percent when the stench of death so fills my nostrils, when the visions of corpses spin endlessly in my mind, when the stream of carnage and insanity is so overwhelming that despair claws at my consciousness and declares that I am utterly powerless to make any difference.
When I find myself in this pit of despair, I am tempted to give up. Walk away and do something simpler and less depressing that doesn't fill my mind with images that no one should be forced to see. But even now, when I am at my weakest, when capitulation seems like the only choice, I know that it is not a choice at all.
This is my lot, it is what I have chosen and I will not flinch from this mission. I have said this so many times before, that it has become a clich้, but with knowledge comes responsibility. Those of us who have seen these horrors first hand, have an obligation to fight to the bitter end for their termination. The price is irrelevant and the pain that we feel is insignificant.
For if simply reading about their suffering, or seeing a picture can swamp our souls, how much worse are the experiences of the animals who actually endure the agonies that we only read about? If the imprisoned animals can somehow, someway, get through another day as they wait for someone to open the cage door and lead them to freedom, if they can go on, then I MUST.
There really is NO CHOICE.
Right now, as you read this, millions upon millions of animals are struggling through another day of suffering, waiting for an end. Hoping for either freedom or death. Longing for their lives to become something like what they were intended to be and less like a nightmare.
What they are really waiting for is US. They wait for us to realize that despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, despite the apparent strength of those who exploit animals, despite the apathy of the masses, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
We are capable of opening the doors of the labs and forcing the public to look inside. The truth is sufficient, reality is horrible enough. We CAN make everyone see that there simply is NO justification for brutality. Selfishness does not justify slaughter. No matter how much money can be made, no matter how scientifically interesting a process might be, Scientific Curiosity does not justify Cruelty. Abstract Knowledge does not justify Abject Victimization.
In the end, one thing helps to make it all worthwhile knowing that animals can have freedom, too. In this imperfect world, we do sometimes get it right. Animals do get out of labs, and circuses, and factory farms. Sometimes the tears shed can be tears of joy. Recently, I have had this experience, of watching an animal being released into a sanctuary, and knowing that they had this experience, knowing that an animal is free at least in part because of something you did, that is enough to last a lifetime. A few animals are no longer waiting for someone to lead them to freedom, they already have it. With that picture now in my mind, knowing that death doesn't always win, it is possible to move on.
We must always remember that there is also good in the world, and we are a part of it. If we fight hard enough, we have a chance to literally make it happen. The freedom of even one animal is blessing enough to keep up the battle. If you have saved even one animal, removed one being from suffering, hold on to that one positive. Keep that rescue in your heart. Every new day is another opportunity to make it happen again. Don't miss out on the chance to give freedom to another, there are no better experiences in this world.
Read more Essays