Eva posing with Anna, who was rescued from a breeding and testing facility
This blog is part of a three-part series. To learn more about the pledge, start with Part 1
If you know me, you know that I’ve been heavily involved in the animal freedom movement for years. I’ve been inside factory farms housing pigs, cows, and chickens and I’ve seen unspeakable suffering in each. I’ve looked into the eyes of countless animals nearing slaughter and carried only a precious few to safety. I’ve been arrested and charged with felonies for the work, and I gave up a meaningful career in hospice care to give more of my time and energy to the movement. I did all this because I believe the cause is profoundly important, a matter of life and death. In turn, these experiences have further shaped my worldview.
My purpose for this letter is not to convince you to share my beliefs; I only ask that you understand me. You know that my work is about animal advocacy, but in spending time with my loved ones, I’m not just an advocate for animals- I’m a sister and a daughter who wants to be understood for what my inner world is like.
I know I haven’t always communicated the way I want to about this. I’ve probably spoken in a way that felt like an attack on you. I imagine there’s a lasting impact from some of those conversations, and I’m sorry for that.
Of course, I care about animals, and I want people to agree with me that their suffering matters, but on the other hand, that belief causes me so much suffering that I almost envy those who don’t share it, or who have made peace with this way of the world. Are you willing to hear what it’s like for me?
In my world, animals used for food are fully conscious beings. Their lives and deaths are the stuff of nightmares. I won’t get too graphic, but they experience unspeakable pain, grieve when separated from their families, and every single one of them experiences the same terror at slaughter that you or I would. Again, I’m not asking you to agree that this is true, but to consider what it might feel like for me to believe that it is.
You can think of it as constant grief that never fades because the loss is still occurring, day by day, second by second. It usually isn’t overpowering- I can be absorbed in other things and experience a rich life for myself, but I encounter reminders dozens of times each day. Some of them are subtle- like when someone mentions their dinner plans, which I suspect include eating an animal. Other reminders are much more acute, like when I walk by a recognizable body part on display in a restaurant window.
Piled on top of that is the guilt I feel every time I don’t speak up. I see people fishing in the park, and I wonder if there’s something I could say to prevent someone from suffocating to death in the next few minutes. I wonder if someone will die this way because of my cowardice, my unwillingness to intervene. I wonder if there’s something I should be saying at all sorts of moments to at least try to prevent the suffering of some animal or another. There’s a sense of paralysis that comes with having so many times where I think I should say something as if to speak up once I’d need to speak up every time. So I almost never do.
The main part of this experience I want you to understand is what it’s like for me to sit and socialize when someone’s eating an animal. I can choose between disengaging emotionally to avoid the pain, verbally addressing the violence I perceive on the table, or avoiding the situation entirely. As you can imagine, I encounter this agonizing decision all the time.
I want to let you in on this part of my world because I care about our relationship. I don’t want to relate to you in a way that holds such a large part of myself back; I want you to know what it’s like to be me. I also share this to give you some information about what might make our relationship more comfortable for me. If you’re willing, when we eat together or attend an event where food is served, it would do so much to help me feel seen and welcome if you decided to go without animal products. I ask this of you, specifically, because you’re someone I feel close to and supported by. I know that not everyone will oblige to this request, and I don’t make it of everyone.
I want to hear what this is like for you to read, and I’m happy to answer any questions. I especially want to hear if any part of this letter comes across as an attack or a judgment because that’s fully not what I intend. I understand that we have different outlooks on this subject, and I really do accept that. In my work, I’m not interested in making more vegans- I want to see a world where the incentives are changed, and it isn’t so difficult to go without eating animals. In my personal life, this request could help me stay present with the people I love.
Wow. That’s really good. If they’ll read the whole thing. I imagine an eye roll and knee jerk reaction where you say I’m not asking you to agree just put yourselves in my shoes. I really love this.
Thank you for reading! Of course, every family is different and I definitely encourage folks to adjust as needed.
I wrote a letter when I first took The Pledge. It was, at the time, the best way I knew how to avoid conflict and share my story. I keep the letter just in case I ever have a sticky situation. Now I'm more willing, less shy, and more able to talk about animals rights. Being an activists in many spheres, that overlap, is more of who I am than when animal rights was the only activism I partook.
Thanks for writing this series. I look forward to your future writings. Even without reading this I've noticed that I've softened and understand society's brainwashing and greenwashing of the food industry and that you have to do research to know what I know now, which most people how no clue about.
Thank you for this. Writing this letter and posting it online has a massive ripple effect that helps animals worldwide. It inspires me to write my own letter from a place of love and humility.
Thanks for reading, Meg! That means a lot