On Sunday, my friend Sarah and I visited Animal Acres in Acton. It's a sanctuary for (farm) animals who have been abused, abandoned, and otherwise mistreated. We went there last year with Patrick, and were impressed by the tour (I wish I could remember the name of the woman who lead us on both tours! She was wonderful, and had a kind spirit). Patrick and Sarah are already vegetarians (Patrick has, in the past, been vegan for many years but is not a vegan now), but I'm not. I'm starting to seriously think about it, especially after considering what we learned about commercial farming.
(Don't get me wrong, though: I mostly enjoyed hanging out with Sarah and the goats and sheep! I love goats and sheep, and Sarah is awesome!)
One thing I heard this time on the tour was that though some of the animals rescued by Animal Acres do end up dying soon after they're rescued (some of them are just so far gone, too abused, too neglected, to be saved) that what they try to do is to make the last days easy and loving for the animals anyway. That kind of thinking is something very, very special.
On Monday, I happened to catch Jonathan Safran Foer on "Ellen" (he's written a book called "Eating Animals") and he said something that really surprised me: he was talking about the poultry industry, and he suggested that if you can only do one thing (in other words, you still want to eat meat), the no. 1 thing you can do to help animals is to stop eating eggs. Then he gave some grisly details about the poultry industry that were cruel, disgusting, heartbreaking and totally convincing. We also heard about this kind of thing at Animal Acres.
Right now I'm thinking about it from a "helping to end cruelty to animals" mindset. That's what they talk about most at Animal Acres, and it really struck me that animals are not only being killed to feed me, but are forced to suffer and to live their lives in pain because I want a cheeseburger, and because some big agricultural corporation wants more profits. I need to read more and think more about it before I can really start talking about it here, but for now, I have decided to definitely cut meat out of my life. I am not against people having meat in their diets in general, but it seems to me that there needs to be better laws, better protections for animals to make it something honest and healthy and fair to the animals, and if I can do something about that, I'm going to try to find out what it is.
This is complicated. I'm not sure I am ready to go vegan (and all the literature and websites I've visited suggest that making a huge leap into veganism is a mistake), now or ever, but I'm going to look more carefully at the foods I eat and where it all comes from.
I admit that I am already having a hard time with the eggs thing. Today I went looking for information about cruelty-free eggs, and I read a lot of contraditory stuff. Basically, what it comes down to is that these labels are not very well regulated. I got a little overwhelmed by the idea that the labels on cartons don't always mean what you think they mean: that outright lying is going on (I know: I'm naive) by the food industry kind of shocked me. I mean, this is our government we're talking about, and they're letting this go on? I don't eat eggs all that regularly (Chrismtas morning, with my tamales!) but they're in practically everything. Unless I start raising my own chickens (here's the law for the city of Long Beach, from a website called "The City Chicken": "Homeowners are allowed up to 20 hens. No roosters. Must be 20 feet from a dwelling and confined." Um, my backyard is big, but I don't think it's big enough), how do I know how the birds were well-cared for? The other thing is, not only are the animals being abused, but they're being fed horrible things, and given hormones: besides being cruel to them, how can it be healthy for us? I'm not a health nut or particularly spiritual, but it seems greedy, and ignorant, and wrong.
I'm kind of conflicted: I have some facts about the cruel things that are done, I know it goes on, but I'm not sure I can handle reading about it in detail. I'm afraid it's so awful that I won't handle it well. I trust what I learned at Animal Acres, but I'm not sure I'm ready to dive right in and (for example) watch PETA videos or see evidence of cruelty. I want to learn more, but seeing it for myself feels too scary. Can I be effective without seeing it myself? I don't know.
So. I am not perfect. I will make mistakes with this, but I'm going to try to help, and will do my best.
If you're interested in finding more information about Animal Acres, click on the link to the right of this post. They can tell you, in much more detail and much more eloquently, about what they do, and why, better than I can.