I have a confession to make. You all know by reading about my personal journey to veganism, that it was finally daring to watch the images of how animals are treated in the food industry what completely changed my life and my habits. Having said that, in spite of reading first hand accounts of what happens in slaughterhouses, of watching plenty of videos and undercover footage through films like Vegucated and the work of other activists, I had been avoiding one particular film. Earthlings, Shaun Monson’s documentary narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, about the truth behind our treatment of animals in the pet, clothing, medical, food and entertainment industries is as real and honest as it gets and has been nicknamed “the vegan maker”. I knew it was powerful, I knew it was there waiting for me. Every weekend I would tiptoe around it, watch interviews and some of the scenes, but I was terrified to watch it. After all, I was already vegan, I had already stopped buying leather and I would only buy cruelty free products, I don’t go to the zoo or to the circus. I knew this new change in my life wasn’t going to go away, why did I need to watch it? I kept postponing it for months, but I couldn’t let it go, I felt that if there was something so powerful out there, I needed to bear witness to it. I needed to support it, and I needed to try and watch it. I knew that even the tiniest bit of new information would help me make better choices, would help me understand certain things better and therefore answer other people’s questions better. But it went even deeper than that, I had promised myself a while back, not out of masochism but out of compassion, that if the animals had to endure it, I needed to at least be able to watch it. So last night, I did.
To watch the images of animals in pain is as hard as it gets for me. Those who know me are aware of the fact that my love for animals is what makes me tick. Earthlings is by far the most comprehensive film about our treatment of animals, and in spite of that, they even spare you from a few images of some of the most common and horrifying practices. Yes it is very tough to get through, but no, in spite of always being overly sensitive (especially when the underdog is concerned..be it human or non human), I do not regret seeing this film one bit. In fact, I’m so grateful that for some reason I felt courageous yesterday and decided to push play. Even the most experienced and knowledgable animal rights activists can learn something from this movie. The images are tough, violent and scary, but when I stop and think of how many years I contributed to this kind of cruelty, the least I can do is learn, get inspired and possibly help others in this journey to someday stopping this unimaginable cruelty.
If you’re already vegan and have decided not to watch any more of the strong images that got you there, this is of course your right. You’re already doing so much for the animals. What if you’re not vegan? What if you’re transitioning, almost there, nowhere near there?
I have a question for you. What do you think of when you watch the news? I bet you’d be hard pressed to find someone that saw all the terrible things going on in the world and didn’t wish they could do something about it. I know I feel this way when I watch the news… if you’re a news cryer like I am, I bet you would love to find a way to make a difference. Sadly for many of the issues, the direct impact we can make is only a little tiny ripple at least in the way many things are set up in this world. What if I now told you, that one of the greatest injustices that this planet has ever witnessed (and which most have no idea occurs) is happening right under our noses. Not only that, but that we’re not only not doing anything to help, we are paying for it to happen, every day. What if I now told you that you CAN do something to stop it. That going vegan, can save 90+ animals per year, per person (and that’s the most modest figure I could find). That’s right, per year, per person! What an empowering thought!
If you’ve ever visited an animal shelter and had that overwhelming feeling of taking all of the dogs and kitties home to save them, can you imagine 90+ doggies or kitties lined up and actually being able to do so?! What about 90+ pigs or cows or chickens. When it comes to pain and suffering, trust me, there is absolutely no difference between them, or between them and us.
For me, taking the first step to actually producing some change, was watching the images. If I can do it (someone who cries while watching CNN or any film for that matter), you can do it. You can do it! If Earthlings seems daunting (as it is the strongest I have seen), start with a film like Vegucated (details below). Watch the film Blackfish or The Cove, to begin taking a look at what our relationship to animals is like on this planet. Read first hand accounts of what goes on in these industries through books like Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz or Diet For a New America and Food Revolution by John Robbins. If you want to rip the bandaid off, try watching Earthlings (it’s free online). Believe me, I know that watching this is hard, you won’t have to do it forever. I know that knowing the truth is hard, but we’re beyond the point of maintaining our personal comfort at the expense of others’ suffering. If we want a different world, we need to start doing something now. If you’re thinking that animals are not your thing, and that our focus should be on helping people, please know that you are doing both. Slaughterhouse workers have some of the highest rates of perpetrating violence and abuse and have some of the highest rates of alcoholism and domestic violence when compared to other groups of workers, at least in the US. They also work in the most unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Workers in tanneries suffer horrible ailments due to the chemicals used. Meat packing workers have some of the most terrible working conditions, they are usually underpaid immigrants with no insurance or safety measures to protect them and often suffer from amputations and other diseases. Children and women also get the short end of the stick in many third world countries, and yet, I have seen nothing that compares to the abuse the non human animals are going through.
Life after Earthlings is very different, even for a vegan like me. I feel more inspired to continue on this path. I feel more inspired to help others make this transition. I feel more connected to the animals and to my inner self. I realize what I’m here to do and I feel blessed that I dared to watch the first images, which for me came thanks to “Vegucated”, and now I feel blessed that I dared to watch Earthlings, in spite of the anger and heartbreak it caused me. I feel brave and willing to do something, because when I close my eyes, I see those beautiful little round eyes of the creatures that need our help. Creatures that have for centuries approached humans with curiosity, with the desire to play and make a new friend, not knowing we are not to be trusted. We’ve been bad fellow creatures of this earth and we all know it. Here’s the beauty of it, we can change it completely and we can start right now.
In the words of Shaun through the haunting and beautiful voice of Joaquin Phoenix:
…make the connection.
Feeling brave and inspired?
Here are some resources you might like to check out
– Watch Earthlings free online (or if you can, help support Shaun’s work and rent or buy the film on iTunes or through the website).
– Watch Vegucated, the movie that gave me the push to finally become vegan. Although it does contain some images of animal cruelty in the food industry, this movie is a powerhouse regarding the practical aspects of being vegan, and it can be a great first step before you watch additional strong footage. You can find it on Hulu, iTunes and Netflix.
– Watch Blackfish, a new documentary about Sea World’s orca “Tilikum” and a glimpse into the implications of keeping animals in captivity for entertainment.
– Watch The Cove, a documentary about the yearly slaughter of dolphins in Japan.
(More in our ‘I feel like watching’ page)
– Watch Ellen DeGeneres talking about the movie Earthlings.
– Watch this incredible speech by Gary Yourofsky containing some undercover footage of the dairy industry. This can also be a first step before watching a full length film.
– Watch Peta’s Meet your Meat, narrated by Alec Baldwin.
– Watch activist Phillip Wollen at The Wheeler Center Debate: Animals should be off the menu (segment)
(More in our ‘I feel like watching’ page)
There are so many incredible books on this topic, and it’s a great way to get some awareness if you have decided no to see the images yet. You can get our complete list of resources in our ‘I feel like reading’ page, but for now, here are some very powerful ones:
– Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz (Possibly the written version of the “vegan maker”).
– Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffran Foer
Please check out our ‘I feel like reading’ and ‘I feel like watching’ pages for our recommended library of resources if this has inspired you to help. We’re constantly updating it with new resources that come out.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. The animals need you, the planet needs you and you can do EVERYTHING to help.
UPDATE AND NEWS!
After several years blogging here at Little Green Kettle, we’ve made the blog bigger and better! Meet our new blog everyone!: www.brownble.com