‘The global atrocity of eating animals and wearing animal skins is responsible for the mass murder of more than 150 billion innocent animals annually. If you added up all the humans who have been enslaved, and murdered since the beginning of time, you wouldn’t even approach the 1 billion mark.’
I came across a post from Gary Yourofsky on Instagram today that compared a picture from the film The Boy With the Striped Pyjamas showing two boys, one an inmate of a concentration camp and the other an “ordinary” boy of about the same age, staring at each other across the barbed wire. For comparison below it was a picture of a dog and a cow behind a barbed wire fence almost touching noses as they stared into each others face. It could have been my dog on one of a countless number of walks where that happens as he does this a lot; I often sense he knows all too well that these creatures are not as free as he is.
I remember when I first became animal-abuse aware, like I was waking from a deep groggy sleep, shortly after turning vegetarian a few years ago (I am now vegan) and I started to notice things that went largely unacknowledged before. I was driving my daughter to school when one of those animal transporter lorries went past me on the roundabout and I was confronted with a multi-decker vehicle towering right over my windscreen, crammed full of sheep on the way to the slaughterhouse, their forlorn and terrified eyes peering out through the slats. It was as though such proximity enabled me to feel what they were feeling because I felt suddenly sick to my stomach, in fact it was as though my knees were suddenly too weak to continue driving, my throat became so choked-up with terrible, helpless grief while my heart-felt like it might burst with the direct-hit of sudden realisation I underwent. I remember so distinctly thinking “how is this any different to the holocaust….how is the nonchalant indifference of most people, when they see these transporters and other clues as to what goes on beneath our very noses (although, have you realised yet, these transportations mostly take place at night so we don’t see them…) any different to the same indifference displayed by those who witnessed jews being rounded up and marshalled to cattle trains at the station to be taken to hellish places where they encountered unspeakable torture and mass murder.
It’s a realisation that you can never unlearn and it starts to form cracks in your entire picture of this reality that we live in, which never seems quite so benign ever again. And my stance…its not hopeless, we don’t let grief knock us to our knees or make us so fearful of our reality that our only response can be to lock all these terrors away again, putting them pristinely out of sight in our minds, to where we don’t have to deal with them any more. Rather, our most mindful and heart-directed response is to face up to them, expose them to the light; make sure we, as quickly as can be, get into to a new era where these heinous circumstances are as retrospectively unrelatable to us as what happened to the jews now is. How quickly we could do this together, with all our shoulders to the wheel; but it takes having the nerve and the degree of personal accountability in place to wake up, shake up, speak up and make these changes because they are so obviously in need of being made.
And by the way, don’t trust that just because the status quo is so very good at making us feel that these are not obvious or necessary changes to our behaviour that this is necessarily so. Such complacency can be so terrifyingly harmful; as also demonstrated by what was deemed so normal, acceptable and even morally supportable to ordinary people…family people, wives, grandparents, children…living under Hitler’s regime. We have to do our own heart-work and that means looking into all the unseen places to see how we lie with all these things. How comfortable are we, with every stage of the process of how our food reaches our plate; for instance, would we willingly spend a day walking that conveyor-belt, like we might visit a chocolate factory for our own entertainment, or is the only way we are dealing with it because we are in total denial? If you ask yourself this and find yourself recoil then thein lies your answer because do you really want any part of your psyche or, indeed, the culture to which you lend your support, to be a dark corner into which you do not dare to look; which you wall off as somehow separate and not your business, somebody else’s dirty work? These are uncomfortable lies that we tell ourselves and they are why the messenger of a plant-based alternative is so often shot in the delivery of words like mine; we make people prickle with electric ants of discomfort because we poke the most inflamed corners of their own guilty conscience or, more accurately, the loving consciousness within, which does not lie well with these harsh and uncompassionate truths underpinning the way we have set-up our current world paradigm.
It’s just one short step to the other side and, I can promise you, it feels so so much more aligned, more truthful, more light, bright and comfortable to be standing on a different reality that fully matches your heart to one that is built on a foundation of abuse, torture and bloodshed. And when you take that small step, which feels so easy (as all heart-aligned things are…) once you have made it, though it can seem like an untraversable chasm when you are still hesitant and feeling so culturally directed on the other side, there are over 600 million vegans and vegetarians waiting to warmly greet you over here!
Yes, did you know: “There are over 600 million vegetarians and vegans in the world. That is bigger than the United States, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, all put together. If they were one nation they would be bigger than the 27 nations of the European Union. They are bigger than NATO, and they are bigger than OPEC. Despite this massive demographic footprint, they are still drowned out by the raucous ‘hunt and shoot and kill’ cartels who believe that violence is the answer when it should not even be a question. But alas, we live in a world of media sound bites and tweets”. Extract from a powerful speech given by Philip Wollen to the 2018 Communities in Control Conference convened by Our Community, May 2018.
Is it a coincidence that, the day before discovering this post at the top of my feed, I spent some considerable time removing all the barbed wire out of one of my numerous images of cows so I could transform it into the true image that was always there just beneath, of a mother and calf; the “Unbreakable Bond”, as I have now named it. I patiently, lovingly removed all traces of barbed wire fencing and ear tags from this image before creating an artwork designed at letting them be seen for what they really are; the universal mother and child, not “meat” for somebody’s plate. As I worked on this image, I focussed all my efforts on imagining how I was dissolving all such barbed wire, all such stamps of ownership from all sentient beings, whatever their species. In fact, I worked with the intention that speciesism be exposed for what it is, alongside racism and all other such discriminations.
With bizarre yet not all that surprising synchroncity, I just realised that it was Gary Yourofsky’s speech (frequently referred to as The Most Important Speech You Will Ever Hear) that marked the switch to plant-based for me 6 years ago…I watched it late one night, tore my heart to shreds, and never again ate a morsel of meat. With goosebumps, I also realised that was exactly six years ago..to the very day. I just want to add that I somehow knew I was at the threshold of needing to make this change when I did and went in search of the kind of information that would enable me to face up to what I knew I had been hiding from all my life and Gary’s speech was it; there was no going back from it. Not for the faint-hearted but absolutely for anyone whose priority is compassion, transparency and truth.
My new and growing Not Food series of artworks is available as prints and for license purposes from www/helenwhite.uk.