Monday, February 16, 2009

R.E.S.P.E.C.T - thinking what it means to me

Last week something happened at work that's been playing on my mind. A flippant comment I made sparked a mild rebuke from a coworker along the lines that since they respect my position (as a vegan) I ought to respect theirs as a meat-eater. It was the old 'it's-my-choice-we-are-all-different' kind of argument with which we're all familiar but which I had not yet faced directly.

In the interests of politeness and good coworker relations, I smiled and let it go even though there were a few choice things I could have said. However, an additional but unconnected incident at the end of the week, has brought the comment back to the forefront of my mind. I have an account on one of the many popular social networking sites and discovered a comment written on my wall. It reads as follows:

I just realized the irony of you talking about the meat menu at School St [our Valentine's destination], and then me saying I was making Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner like I wasn't nearly so bad as to have a meat filled diet. Gee, thats terrible Amanda, a completely overrun meat menu? Hey, I am making ham and cheese wrapped chicken soaking in butter.....

At first I thought 'what the heck?' Then I started to feel annoyed by the snarkiness of this posting. And then I started to think a bit more deeply about this perceived 'respect' that my coworkers have for my veganism. Now, I am not tarring everyone with the same brush but I am now wondering how deep this respect goes.

Because, you see, when someone makes the effort to post on my wall about 'making ham and cheese wrapped chicken soaking in butter' I guess they think they've come up with a novel and untried way of irritating me. I guess they think it's all pretty clever...

But it's really not.

Because when they see a neat way of playing 'Poke the Vegan', this is what I see: a pig, a chicken, a dairy cow and a veal calf.

I see sentient creatures who are tortured and killed just to satisfy something as fleeting and transitory as our taste for their flesh.

So now that you've savored your meal, let's take a moment to deconstruct what you's your chicken:

(photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

and here's the ham wrapped around the chicken:

(photo courtesy of Slaughterhouse Cam)

Still hungry? OK, well here's the provenence of that cheese and butter the chef in question so relished:

(photo courtesy of Animal Angels)

This is a 'spent' dairy cow - a mother whose body was used up providing for offspring she never got to raise just so we could have her milk made into butter and cheese. Oh, here she is again:

(photo courtesy of Animal Angels)

Taking a break? Not exactly. Her bones have given out due to the calcium loss she's suffered from having spent her foreshortened life being impregnated over and over again in order to remain productive milk-wise.

Oh and lastly, let's not forget the unwanted by-product of that process - the veal calf:

(photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

He'll spend his brief life tethered in a stall unable even to turn around, deliberately rendered anemic to keep his flesh pale, before being sent for slaughter at the tender age of between 16 and 20 weeks of age. Just a baby....

Hmmm....the components of a truly satisfying meal, no?

So, to come full circle, when we talk about respect, this is why I cannot and will not respect your position as a meat-eater.

Because the suffering your position causes, supports financially and perpetuates socially is unnecessary and unconscionable. What happens to the animals that we call food is horrifying beyond belief and it is all for nothing: for something as ephemeral as a morsel of taste; for the 'convenience' of a lunch-stop at a burger joint; for a 'Chicken Cordon Bleu'...


Sara said...

Well put Amanda! I get that on occasion too - the 'you should respect my choices because I respect yours' from my coworkers. There are coworkers I call friends, and these are the ones who truly do respect my choice - they eat vegan when we're together so that they don't flaunt their horrible choice in my face, they go out of their way to make sure I have something to eat if they are in charge of food at seminars (often ordering me a special lunch), they take the time to research and understand what being vegan means and they admire my choices. My other coworkers who claim to respect my choice make stupid cracks about meat to me (like how tasty bacon is, or whatever), say 'tuff stuff' or 'don't you wish you ate meat now' at a seminar where all I can eat is the fruit. It all boils down to those unfortunate souls who feel guilty because they know what they do is morally unjustifiable yet don't have the ovaries to stand up to society's convention that animal tissue is good for you and our right as humans to consume. So yes, it's irksome..but one thing I've learned - you can't reason with someone who has no ability for rational thought, and you shouldn't frustrate yourself trying.

Amanda said...

Hi Sara,

Yes, you are exactly right, of course. And I do have coworkers who I am lucky enough to call friends - one of whom felt the same way as I did when she read this post! I accept that it is part of living in a meat-eating world but sometimes I let it get me down. The take-away from it is, I suspect, that we can't control others' behaviours...only our reactions to them.
Thank you for your support! :)

Gary said...

Excellent, compelling post.

I try to convey to people using this weak defense that:

a) They are - linguistcally, anyway - equating killing innocent creatures for pleasure with not killing innocent creatures for pleasure.

b) What about respecting the animals' choice? The animals, by far, have the most at stake here.

It's really not about respecting my choice. To put in those terms (my choice vs your choice) deflects attention away from the victims of the selfish and violent choice.

Amanda said...

Hi Gary,

Yes, it is a deflection, of course. And it's one whose purpose is allowing people to go on doing what they're doing without having to think through the implications of their 'choice'. What's really telling, though, is the quasi-aggressive tone in which this retort tends to be presented: 'it's MY choice!' I could almost imagine it being accompanied by a petulent stamp of the foot for emphasis!

KD said...

Amanda, very succinct and correct. I love that you took the time to display the images that so many people don't think of when they say stuff like "vegan? yeah well I'm eating a hamburger right now!".

Love your blog and thanks for your post! :)