A book had been sitting on my nightstand for a few weeks, and I finally found a lovely summer day to read it in my relaxing vegetable garden (with kitty Kaci by my side, of course.) It was a quicker read than I'd anticipated, and a very powerful one. The author, Melanie Joy, is apparently local and, as we found out rather serendipitously, a good friend of one of Ryan's bandmates. (Don't you just love stumbling across those funny little connections?)
The book is called Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. It explores oh-so-effectively the disconnect so many of us have to the abuse of certain non-human animals and why we categorize those animals the way we do. It's a very do-able read, even if you're squeamish. There is only one chapter in the book that delves into what is actually done to some animals, but the author does it in a way where I think anyone could come through it unscathed, yet better informed. (But if it's too difficult for you at this point, just skip it and read the rest of the book. You don't want to miss out on this!)
What especially captured me was its allusion late in the book to the movie The Matrix. As soon as I swore off animal products, I saw the world in an astonishingly new way, like a thick layer of gauze had been removed from my eyes. And it immediately felt like that scene in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves' character decided to literally unplug himself and see the world for what it was, not what he was fooled into thinking it was. I was always surprised that I didn't see any mention of the movie in any vegan literature before, as the parallels between the movie and the meat/dairy/egg industry jumped out at me. In fact, I'd brainstormed a list of topics for this blog back in June and "The Matrix" was one I was going to write about. Luckily Dr. Joy beat me to the punch, and did it far more competently than I could have at this point.
If you haven't seen the movie, I urge you to see it. If you have, then I recommend seeing it again with new eyes. Yes, it is a blockbuster. And yes it is also an action movie. But it is also an amazing mind film. And once you start to disassociate yourself even slightly from what has been considered the acceptable standard diet (and its dependence on abusing, mutilating and killing sentient beings) you begin to see how very strange the whole thing is; how Matrix-like.
When I was still eating animal meat, dairy, and eggs, I always sensed that something was off. Just the fact that I couldn't bear to look at factory farm footage or even see pictures of the confined animals told me that I was in some sort of denial. I loved the Laurence Fishburne line, "You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind." Bingo.
About a year or so ago, we dropped our cable and instead became Netflix junkies, mainly to cut costs. Not only was it cheaper, but we had way more variety to choose from! What I didn't expect, though, was how strange TV would be after we'd stopped watching it. The other day we were eating out and there was a television in the restaurant. (Why do they do that? Do they assume our ability to just talk to each other is that deficient?) It was astonishing how quickly the screen hypnotically flipped from image to image, never truly settling in on anything. Talk about brain overload!
But most notable was how much animal meat was advertised on TV. (Along with the advertised medications for people with problems stemming from eating animal protein.) I'd never noticed it before. But it's pretty constant. Which is why I find it interesting that some people claim that vegans have an agenda. (I've run into this comment on occasion!) And while I do have an "agenda" to make the world a more peaceful and enjoyable place for human and non-human animals -- oh the horror! -- the meat/dairy/egg industries have quite the agenda themselves, and a very effective and violent one at that. Like the Matrix, it is everywhere. Everywhere. I don't say this to suggest there is a conspiracy theory or, like the movie, that we're all being used as human batteries. :) But the messages we are bombarded with get the message across loud and clear. Eat your meat, drink your milk, eat your eggs. And top it all with cheese. To do otherwise is, frankly, weird and un-American (apologies to readers from other countries). And when you pull out of this whole way of life and say "no" it creates quite a stir because we are so entrenched in the idea, for example, that a person will waste away if they don't consume dairy. It's no conspiracy theory. The higher-ups in the industries simply want to make a boatload of money and to do so at minimal financial cost. (But at great cost to all animals, both human and non-human.) I'm not one to tout my opinions as gospel -- I can in fact be annoyingly flexible when talking about issues -- but this one's just a no-brainer. There's a lot of greed out there.
So I encourage you to read the book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows and to see the movie The Matrix. And keep taking those babysteps! :)