We Are What We Feel

"You're vegan? Well.... ...what do you eat?"

This is one of the most common questions we vegans are often asked. It is also one of the most curious questions as well. Is this really the best response people have? Are people really not aware of all the non animal foods that are available today? Unless the person asking is emerging from a cave after a life of seclusion or they are just arriving from decades of living among the ice drifts of the north seas most of the people who ask this question more than likely already know the answer.

However, this post is not going to attempt to answer that question at all or even attempt to dig down into the obvious transparent quality that this line of questioning from people infers. Rather, this post will pose another even more important question.

Why are we vegans never asked what we feel?

We are constantly asked by the curious in relation to our veganism what it is that we eat if we don't eat animal products. Yet the fact remains that we are never asked what we feel. Nearly every comment or question is usually tossed to us with the intention of avoiding anything authentic, ethical or compassionate. It appears as if the omnivores of the world have all attended the exact same continuing education course titled....

"How to Deflect Any Possibility At Getting To The Essence of Someone's Ethical Veganism....101."

Well, prepare yourself to be unimpressed by the results of their schooling.

But seriously and with all due respect.... Why is it when we further express to others that we've chosen not to eat animal products for ethical reasons the question concerning what we feel is never proposed?

Maybe we simply need to begin the dialogue ourselves and mention to the questioner that our choice is not merely about what we eat but really much more about what we feel. Investigating the nature of our emotions and sharing them directly may take some practice but the work itself can help transform our conversations with others about who we are.

This M.O. may provide us with a much more gentle approach when articulating our inspiration for opting out of who we don't eat rather than what it is.... we do eat.

If we can make it clear that it is what we feel personally that moves us it may in fact dislodge the usually defensive reactions which many people have when we talk about being vegan. Discussing what we feel is very different from explaining to someone why we are vegan and it may make all the difference...in the world.

When we can go straight to the emotional aspects of how it feels for us to live on this planet with so much violence against non humans and how it feels to have our hearts broken over and over again everyday we can begin to make our experience personal for others. When we layout what we feel regarding our reasons to not participate in the exploitation of non human animals and allow the meaning to become rooted in who we are provides us a much greater opportunity to ignite the awareness of those questioning our veganism.

This is about revealing our truth and about unrolling the sentiment behind our basic convictions. Maybe its a way we can expose that extra layer of grief to other humans which we animal rights advocates and ethical vegans live with day to day. We live with the knowing how unnecessary, how brutal and how tragic the short life of a farmed animal is.

Maybe we can express that our sorrow is even claustrophobic at times because we realize we have no way of stopping the machine that kills so many millions everyday as it does one by one and life by life.

What does it feel like for instance to have empathy that extends beyond our own species? What does it feel like to have that empathy crushed, ripped and torn? What does it sound like? What does it look like and taste like?

What does it feel like to attempt to stay one step ahead of the pain we feel for animals?

Maybe there is no way possible to stay ahead of the pain but rather have the courage to stay in it. Pain not fully felt will never heal.

In fact staying with the discomfort we have over the suffering and injustice committed against non humans also keeps us pledged to fight and speak out on their behalf.

Defining our experience of being vegan and sharing those feelings may be the only door way we have. It may in fact be the most efficient way to open the door for others as well.

Now before this feels like a sudden dash into abstract or speculative ideology we must remember that nearly everything we do is really only a reaction to what we feel.

Communicating to others that we are what we feel and that our love for animals and our hoping for a more compassionate and less violent world is what brought us here.

Having compassion for others is what links us to the chain of living vegan yet it is what most often is also overlooked. Having compassion for ourselves in regard to what we feel is often overlooked as well. Discussing our feelings of why we are ethical vegans with those who question us can be a reward to ourselves and a gift to the animals who will somehow be ironically pushed out of the argument in favor of protein myths or vitamin B12 sales pitches.

Comprehending what is we feel allows us to have a wisdom and composure that goes further and deeper than we can imagine. Being able to touch our sorrows and our grief as well as our anger and frustration allows us to express our being vegan with others in a much more rational and calm way. This may be the most important angle we have in illustrating, demonstrating and teaching our veganism to others. This is not an easy task and most of us are lucky if we have 5 minutes a day when we can slow down enough to focus on what we are feeling and then to be able to express it with a no drama...(Obama) like focus is even more difficult.

Yet, it can be done and it might be the key to making a connection from our hearts to others. We live in a world of others and we do need to make the best of that world.

When we can have our priorities straight emotionally and our concentration is precise because we have connected to what it is we feel it enables us to be grounded enough to be real without being offensive. Our attention is more focused to express ourselves clearly and truthfully. Then we can begin to realize and make this point to others that our feelings of grief, sorrow and pain are actually born from our compassion, kindness and love.

Our frustration with the way humans abuse and kill animals comes from our wanting others not to suffer and lose their lives. Our empathy felt is our empathy experienced and we can begin to have insight into our sameness with the animals and our sameness with other humans as well rather than always looking for the differences.

Maybe this is what leads us to the wisdom in understanding that our sadness and anger comes from a place of warmth and goodness. We are what we perceive about the world and our ideas themselves have the power to change us and possibly others forever.

Feeling what it is that makes us who we are enables us to embody and convey ourselves in a more rational and direct way. When we pay close attention to what we feel moment to moment in living vegan we can make the detailed claims that are necessary for others to understand our subjectivity. A subjectivity based and born from empathy and kindness and from caring about those whom we love. When we can articulate this truth for others they will understand that there is nothing irrational about feeling grief or even anger when the ones we love are killed.

Explaining to others we are vegan because of what we feel rather than what we don't eat allows us to bring the reality of our motivations out into the open and to the rest of the world. It gives us the chance to connect with the fact that our feelings of sorrow, grief, anger and frustration were instigated by our caring, compassion and empathy. When we move into what we feel it can open us to a better way of sharing who we are with the world and the others who are not.........yet.

Be a sanctuary

for who you are

and what you feel.

REGINA: a story of milk, tears and a rescued life.

Thou never did'st them wrong, nor no man wrong:
And as the butcher takes away the calf
And binds the wretch and beats it when it strays,
Bearing it to the bloody slaughterhouse,
Even so remorseless have they borne him hence;
And as the dam runs lowing up and down,
Looking the way her harmless young one went,
And can do naught but wail her darling's loss.

William Shakespeare,
King Henry the Sixth, Part II
(King Henry at III, i)

Regina at Animal Acres

It has been said there is more suffering that goes into producing one glass of milk than what it takes to make a slab of steak. When we sit down to do the math and add up the anguish, heartbreak, loneliness and death that is indigenous to the dairy industry the above statement seems quite possibly a bit restrained.

In order to provide a constant flow of milk dairy cows are forced to produce a calf every 12 months. When we understand that a dairy cow's pregnancy time is the same length as a humans....nine months, we can realize the strain it inflicts on her body.

We then take this mothers milk from her and keep it for ourselves. However, we also commit a crime of theft that crosses the line of decency as to what anyone could claim as being humane. We take this mothers baby from her.

When the calves are only 48 hours old they are stolen from their mothers forever and neither will experience each others company again.
This is not the wonderful life of cows living in a beautiful green pasture we are often told about. This is a life where the one thing desired most by any mother, her baby, will be stolen away from her for an eternity. The tragedy here is two fold. The newborns yearn for their mother and the mother longs desperately for her baby. This is a world also where the never understanding of what is happening is as dark and as terrifying for the babies as it must be for the mothers.
Mother cows will wail and bellow for days begging for their babies to be returned to them.
Adding to this affliction the mothers are continually hooked up to a computerized machine that sucks them dry of not just milk but of their life. Most dairy cows will only live four years before they are rounded up and sent on that journey to become hamburger meat.

The female calves taken from their mothers are then kept isolated to become future milk machines. They will be forced to give up their babies as well one day too and their male calves will be considered disposable and most often killed immediately at birth.

This was the world that beautiful Regina pictured above was born into. A world that if we choose to as most of us do, will never have to worry about. In this world like all dairy calves little Regina was denied her mother only hours after being born. She was fed colostrum as a replacement for her mothers milk but her mothers affection and love would never be replaced. We do not create machines to mimic a protective, nurturing mother. The machines we create for farms are invented only to take from the animals and are never intended to give anything back to them.

Regina would spend her next 6 months alone in a cruel existence until her auction day would arrive. Most of the babies brought into this world will be sold for less than the price we pay for a pair of designer jeans yet little Regina would go un purchased that day and she would most likely be left to die in the auction house with the other unsold calves.

Yet Regina instead would be taken away by a farmer who planned on utilizing her as a test subject for new medications he wished to try out on a baby too sick and too weak to become a profitable milk machine.

Regina's life would change once more but this time it would change for the better when Vanessa Hidalgo wandered to the back of a building where the farmer had left Regina to live as a bovine guinea pig. When Vanessa first laid her eyes on Regina she was frail, half starved and terrified of humans. Each time Vanessa would approach, little Regina would attempt to move away but was nearly to weak to escape even her own shadow.

For the next 3 weeks in the brutal scorching heat of summer Vanessa would visit little Regina everyday to check on her and to also make it known to this particular farmer that Regina would be rescued as soon as Vanessa could find a place to bring her.

Vanessa dialed the Animal Acres phone number one afternoon and spoke with the shelter manager Frank Allen who told Vanessa she could bring Regina to their sanctuary.

Up until this point in her life Regina was like every other dairy calf. She had no name, no one to comfort her and no one who cared about what would ever happen to her.
But on that day in the back of her father's utility van Vanessa sat with the scared, dirty, fragile little baby and she was given a name. On this ride to her new home at Animal Acres it would be the beginning of the end of her invisibility and loneliness. It was the beginning of her life as Regina.
A life which is overflowing now with hugs, kisses, comfort, healthy food and attention. A life that she shares peacefully and joyfully with many other animals who were once just like her and were destined for a life of disrespect.

It is an amazing and beautiful irony that this baby who might have been forced to give away her own babies and her own milk to us now instead gives away only her love and affection. Regina happily and naturally now gives away big licks, playful nudges and winks. She now also gives her trust away freely to everyone who visits her as if to say to the world, this is who I am when visible, when respected, when cared for.

Regina is now living that wonderful life that you might possibly read about somewhere but this life is at Animal Acres which as a sanctuary for rescued farmed animals is a far cry..... from a normal farm which would exploit her for her milk and her flesh. For this one baby there is a happy ending.

Regina with Vanessa

Just as sometimes we may feel our own suffering goes unheard by the rest of the world and merely disappears into silence so does the suffering on dairy farms go completely unnoticed. The pain goes undocumented, the anguish goes overlooked and the deaths here go unacknowledged and even denied by the ones consuming it's products.

Yet we do know our own pain is felt somewhere. We recognize that it exists in our insides, our flesh, our nerves and acknowledged by neurons which send it throughout our brain so our minds can make it real for us.
Our suffering does not go lightly and unnoticed by ourselves. And either does the unimaginable suffering and death from the dairy business go unnoticed for every single one of these mothers and babies who live invisibly behind the walls of the dairy industry.

Not seeing this industry clearly for it's brutality and depravity is not caused merely by the concrete and steal barriers that separate our eyes and hearts from these very much.... women and children beings. The invisible aspect here is in reality created by our own indifference and our own apathy. This partly because to know this world would involve a direct confrontation with our own complicity and partly because this business is defended and arranged so that the realities never reach us.
One major aspect of living mindfully and compassionately is about taking responsibility for our own actions. When we imagine what it might mean to awaken ourselves it's simply just about being able to see.... clearly.
There is no judging in this truth only responsibility and gentleness.

We do not need to make the claim of something as right or wrong but we can look at the arithmetic of so many millions of babies and mothers suffering and see it as unnecessary and unjust. Whether the cows are raised on an organic farm or a supposed humane dairy operation the pain, the loneliness and then the death is all the same. The only real compassionate alternative to this brutal industry is veganism. That's it.

When you become vegan you are taking action in an almost identical way that Vanessa did when rescuing little Regina or in the way Animal Acres has by saving hundreds of animals just like Regina from having to live and die in such a remorseless world.

Become a sanctuary for all the mothers and their babies suffering in the dairy industry.

Go vegan.

listen here She Just Wept