Thursday, October 11, 2012

Haunted...

is a reasonably good word (and seasonable...seeing as how this is the month of Halloween...but make no mistake...this is about horror but not a fun horror) to describe my reaction to this post over on the very fine Animal Rights blog.

I'm going to reproduce it here because it is not too long and I think it should be reproduced....again and again.

The post:

My Vegetarian Child and Her Melt-Down

Came home last night to 6 year-old kid on couch, sobbing her head off.  Husband tells me it's because of a scene in the movie they're watching, in which two dogs (cartoon dogs) fight --and one almost falls of a cliff.

She's just bawling.
I sit between them and look at Husband, bewildered.  He whispers, "She's also upset about Thanksgiving."

I whisper, "What? Why?" before the epiphany hits that they're probably talking about turkeys at school and daycare all the live-long day.

He whispers, "The turkeys."

Of course she hears us; we're right there.  And she just Loses her Shit.  Oh my god.

"Why do people eat animals? why why why why why? I wish the whole world were vegetarian. Why why why why why??"

She's just sobbing. Her eyes are puffing up and everything.

I'm so saddened and so surprised, as I always am, because I just try to play this vegetarian/vegan life we have on the down-low.  She asked me last week if she could have the chocolate milk at school on Fridays and I said yes.   But, of her own accord, she is consuming fewer and fewer animal products.

Then, she reminded me of the story she told me last year, about one of her friend's uncles shooting a bear.  "For a carpet!" she sobs last night.  "He killed a bear for a carpet!"
Then, she's inarticulate for a while.

I look at Husband.  Part of me wanted to whisper, "She doesn't know the half of it" ( but I remembered her excellent hearing.  I thought to myself:  imagine if she heard what I just heard at my meeting at the Humane Society).


She cheered up a bit when I told her that more and more people were stopping eating meat and that more and more people were reducing it in their diets.  And that I just came from a place where people love animals too.

She liked that.  (I had recently talked to a friend who told me his 12-year old boy was freaking out about climate change. I told him to tell him about activists for the environment, that people were working hard for it.  He thought that was a good idea.)

Then, I gave her a candy I managed to dig out of the bottom of my bag (might've been older than she was).  She chewed it quietly and calmed down.

I felt wretched.  I still do.  I had never wanted to make her so sad.  I am trying to figure this out.

One of the things that isn't often talked about when we consider ethical veganism is the suffering and horror that is inflicted on human children as they are made into unwitting bystanders and/or accomplices in the depravity that is at the heart of exploiting and killing sentient beings for profit or fun.

The suffering and misery and pain we inflict on our fellow animals doesn't stop just with them...when our children realize what is happening they are tainted by that knowledge and they feel pain too.

Are we witless? Doesn't the sorrow of this human child...of all the human children tell us something? Instead of stopping and changing our behavior we try to hide it from them...we lie to them...we distort reality for them. We damage their ability to clearly perceive the world around them. We do all these things to ourselves too but doing these sorts of reality-scuttling operations on children is much worse because it deforms them as they grow...it twists how they see the world...it blinds them and makes them crooked. They look to us to help them comprehend their world...and we gift them with lies and distortions and minimizations and avoidances and euphemisms.

We all were once them, and each of us who came to veganism as adults, we each have had to struggle with seeing clearly, with regaining our sight, as it were, with being able to see our behavior toward other animals as it is...not as we were told it was. We were gifted with the added misery of having to accept our own complicity in the ongoing horror story of we human animals. All because we got twisted when we were small. And part of the reason we got twisted was because no one wants to cause a small child pain. No parent wants to see their child in misery....no society wants to see its children suffering. But our parents and our society cheated...instead of evaluating and changing the behaviors that caused the misery...they lied...they hid things...they distorted...they sabotaged reality and in so doing they damaged our ability to see....to comprehend...to know.

The original harm...exploiting and hurting and killing our fellow animals was compounded by more harm...by lying and hiding and twisting what we were doing...instead of just stopping the harming.

I'm upset tremendously simply by writing about this...I have thought about this post over and over ever since I read it. There's a big big truth here if only we will not hide it from ourselves.

The mother writes that she had never wanted to make her child so sad...she didn't...the truth made her child sad. And we have fashioned a truth...the truth of our treatment of our fellow animals into a truth that is sad...that should make anyone sad. Anything that sad and terrible demands that it be ended...that it be changed, most especially since it is unnecessary...it does not have to be that way.

But...those that create this truth generally don't feel that sadness...they hide from it....they hide it from themselves...but it doesn't disappear...it doesn't become any less sad because of the hiding or avoiding. It sits there waiting, becoming more and more monstrous the longer it continues...waiting to be encountered by an innocent child's eyes and heart...and it wounds her just as it wounds all of us. But hers is a special wounding because she is powerless and guiltless and innocent. She had no hand in making it this way. It is our legacy to her...and it is a miserable thing.

Shame on us...shame on those who harm...shame on those who use our animal relatives...for goodness sake! We can do better than this, we can't leave the world in the hands of the liars and the wounders and the hurters and the killers and the profiteers and the thieves. We mustn't. We owe this little girl much more than that...we owe our fellow animals much more than that...we owe our planet much more than that....we even owe ourselves much more than that.

I admire and respect these parents so very much. I have no doubt that human beings as a whole would be a much better and kinder and brighter group if all parents were like these. I can only ache for them and thank them and apologize to them and their daughter for the behavior of my fellow human animals. Living as an ethical vegan means not inflicting gratuitous misery on our fellow animals...it also means not inflicting gratuitous misery on our own children either. 

6 comments:

D.E.M. said...

Ohhhh, I just read this! Thank you so much! She's ok & often quite proud of her little ethical self :). I think thanksgiving had gotten to her & now she's feeling fine. Maybe schools can stop their constant talk about carnivorous feasts & have some compassion.
Hugs, d

Bea Elliott said...

This post strikes so close to home... I am that child - We all are. And what you describe as the damages as a result of lies is unerringly true.

I remember when I became aware - I must have spent weeks or months afterwards berating myself for not knowing. Kicking myself over and over for being such a dupe. I even wondered if I subconsciously chose not to to question. It was horrible - To be deceived - And to know that I was also the accomplice in the betrayal as well. Words just can't describe the way my reality was turned upside down/inside out. It will always remain my biggest disappointment and the most challenging dirge I have ever had to resurrect myself from - still.

But I'm here! I survived! And so have you! And you. And you. And countless others. A bit scarred, bruised and tattered from it all - But we made it to the kinder side. And much better for it!

How fortunate some kids are to start from the beginning with courageous (D.E.M.) parents that guide and equip them with what they'll need to live an honest life. No fantasies about happy animals just dying for us to eat them. What a cruel thing to make a child believe! Even worse... How horrible that most adults still do!:(

You labeled this post perfectly veganelder... This story is indeed about the haunted.



veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. A friend reminded me that children are much less traumatized when they are gifted with parents who are supportive and accepting of their emotions. This is true but acceptance doesn't negate the horror of realization, it can only cushion it.

I agree, the kiddo has great parents.

A challenging dirge to resurrect oneself from....well said.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. I'm glad the storm has lessened and let's all hope compassion rules. Thank you guys for looking out for your daughter (and for all us animals).

Have Gone Vegan said...

The story in this post makes me wonder if one of the ways we can illustrate how intertwined animal rights and human rights are is by pointing out to folk how animal abuse is, in fact, also child abuse. Thanks for writing this!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. I too believe there's some validity to the notion that reality abuse harms everyone.