May 27, 2013

Learning to live up to myself

The rest of that title should read 'without feeling guilty', because that's the critical caveat whenever you talk about living your principles, if you want to keep liking yourself.  I work with women and children who are being abused, and so I think about some of my beliefs a lot.  I think about how gender inequality subtley and overtly undermines women every day.  I think about how much I dislike gender roles because they're arbitrary and lead to widespread dissatisfaction at best.  I think about poverty and discrimination and I think about justice and how the justice system in Australia is a choked mess arbitrated by often inconsistent and ignorant judges (I must speak as I find).  I also think about what it means to be a victim and an abuser and how you can be both at the same time.  I love my job because rather than having to set aside my beliefs to earn a dollar, I get paid to fight for them.  I consider myself stupidly lucky because of that.

So we've all got lots of beliefs about how the world should be.  They evolve (hopefully) over time as we test them out and some stubbornly sit on the sidelines waiting for us to pay attention to them.  For me, the issue of farming animals is one of those things.  I have always eaten meat and eggs and my love of cheese is off the charts.  I'm obsessed.  I have been an average person, consuming animal products daily.  But, as a kid I always thought that one day we would learn how to understand what animals are saying and then we'd have to give them all the vote (don't laugh).  As an adult that belief has evolved into not feeling inherently more valuable and important than other animals.  I don't think that I'm more valuable than a sheep because I drive a car and I don't buy into the argument that there's some level of brain development that makes suffering more poignant either.  Are there 'less intelligent' humans who have fewer needs too?  Hopefully most people would agree that that is a gross suggestion.

I don't have a problem with humans eating meat.  It's the way that we get our meat (and eggs and dairy) that bothers me.  I don't think that an animal should exist just to serve our needs.  Wait, isn't there something about animals being created for man in the bible?

My work leads me to think about power and subjugation constantly.  I have always felt uncomfortability with what I see as our subjugation of other animals.  Because I don't think that other animals are less valuable or important than us (just different) then I cannot feel ok with destroying them if they are not profitable (male chicks), about hijacking their reproduction for milk and eggs or genetically modifying them until they're a walking roast... no matter how delicious that roast might end up being with a bit of rosemary and parsley and garlic.  Argh it's not easy.

I'm still exploring the implications of my beliefs.  I want to figure this out on my own terms and to make lasting changes in my life, not immediately pour the milk down the sink then cry over it like so much spilled milk.  So far I have realised (with dismay) that my ideas fit most closely with being an ethical vegan.  I say dismay because I've always swallowed the tripe (if you will) about vegans being extremists and I suppose by extension irrational.  Do I regret my ignorance?  Enormously.  I'm also dismayed because I will have to make significant sacrifices in order to live up to my ideals.  When I think about not being able to match a cheese to my red wine again, I feel sorry for myself.  But fuck it.  Consuming animal products is not a necessity, it is simply enjoying privilege at their expense.  Not ok.

The first stage must be learning.

I'd like to leave you with a picture of an adorable animal.  Look into its eyes and tell it it doesn't deserve a happy, free life*.

Thanks to Howard Grubb for the picture.

*I'm just teasing... but what a cutie.