Forgive me lord for I have sinned
No, I am not talking about eating meat. I am a vegan. I am begging forgiveness for I’ve shamelessly lifted the following paragraphs from the book “Eat, shoots and leaves” and re-purposed them to suit my agenda.
Either this will ring bells for you, or it won’t. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. “Come inside.” it says, “for freshly slaughtered chicken”.
If this satanic phrase causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably stop reading this article at once. By all means congratulate yourself that you don’t suffer from empathy; that you are happily equipped to live in a world of plummeting compassion standards; but just don’t bother to go any further. For any vegan person, you see, the sight of “freshly slaughtered chicken” will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, thought greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and there is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage.
It’s tough being vegan these days. One almost dare not get up in the mornings. True, one occasionally hears about a marvelous vegan eatery but in general the vegan’s exquisite sensibilities are assaulted from all sides causing feelings of panic and isolation. A sign at the health club will announce, “Veg Protein Shake”, but you know it will have eggs or milk. Meanwhile a store showcases the latest snack, which looks interesting until you look at the ingredients list. It looks like they put milk powder in everything just on a whim.
Everywhere one looks, there are signs of ignorance and indifference. What about monasteries. Guaranteed to give vegans a very nasty surprise, you see monks eating dairy and eggs, with no end in sight. I remember, on my first visit to a monastery, entering cheerfully and stopping dead in my tracks with my fingers in my mouth. Where was the compassion. Surely a life was being consumed. If “Do no harm”, is the mantra, surely animal products must not be allowed. I missed the meditation session while I communed at length with my inner vegan, unable to move or, indeed regain any sense of perspective.
Part of one’s despair, of course, is that the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive vegan. While we look in horror at a carcass on display, the world carries on around us, blind to our plight. We are like the little boy in “The sixth sense” who can see dead people, except that we can see dead animals. Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones: dead animals are invisible to everyone else — yet we see it all the time. No one understands us seventh-sense people. They regard us as freaks. When we point out violation of sanctity of life, we are often aggressively instructed to “get a life” by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having or respecting lives themselves.
Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions. Being burned at stake is not safely enough off the agenda. A local dog rescue buys “freshly slaughtered chicken”. Should I go and mention that it absolutely makes no sense to kill one animal to save another? It is appalling ignorance. But what will I do if the elderly lady gives me the usual disbelieving stare and tells me to bugger off, get a life and mind my own business?
On the other hand, I’m well aware that there is little point in asking for sympathy for vegans. We are not the easiest people to feel sorry for. We refuse to patronize any shop with “freshly slaughtered chicken”, and we get worked up after a natural calamity not just because of the human lives lost but because nobody is thinking of the animals stuck there. When we hear “Where do you get your protein?”, we suck our teeth with annoyance, and when we are asked why do we care about animals when there are so many suffering humans, some of us can not suppress actual screams.
Vegans never eat something without checking ingredients. In short, we are unattractive know-all obsessives who get things out of proportion and are in continual peril of being disowned by our exasperated families.
To be continued…