1. Something that you accept as true without question or proof
2. The act of taking a position of power, responsibility, etc.
I sit here feeling outlandishly grateful for my life. I am physically and mentally well, with a warm bed, a roof over my head, a kind and loving family, and the ability to have all of my essential human needs met- and a good number of non-essential wants, too. It is a fair assumption that tomorrow I will likely be just as fortunate.
What ‘assumptions’ could an animal make about their day, or their life? This depends on what species they are- and the societal and cultural assumptions we humans place on them and about them. Does wider society judge their lives, worth and existence as individual, thinking, feeling sentient beings-- or commodities?
Most people are caught in an in-between place where both are true. This cognitive dissonance is commonly referred to as ‘normal.’ How sadly commonplace it is to love one animal as a companion and another as a catalogue of bits to be worn or consumed.
The other morning I had to pop over the hill to get some petrol*. As I was about to turn in to the station, a vehicle towing a trailer filled with terrified sheep pulled out in front of me. I could see the sheep wobbling to and fro, unsteady and looking frightened as they were jostled about in their cage.
I went through the same routine that always comes into my mind when I see animals that I know are likely about to be transported for the last time before being killed-- I imagined signalling the driver frantically, tooting my horn and leaping out of my car. Rushing over, offering any amount of money, pleading to save the lives of these animals. My heart broke for the poor souls.
But then I reminded myself of sadly pertinent realities-- I have no disposable income at hand to exchange for the lives of these animals. I have a sleeping toddler in the back of the car. I have nowhere at my home where the sheep could live out happy and long lives, nor do I have the time to spare to give them the care and love they deserve (did I mention the toddler?)
So, feeling sad and impotent, and praying for the lives of the poor terrified sheep, I pulled up to the nearest petrol pump. As I sat there, I noticed the vehicle in front of me contained a boisterous, happy little terrier. Its owner appeared to be smiling and patting it. I imagined that after their trip out, this little dog, named and cared for by his human companion, would go home to a warm bed, good food and attention.
How stark a contrast, and how neatly does it illustrate the gulf between adoration for select animals and death for the less favoured. How can we change this?
Veganism is a good start. It is the act of assuming responsibility for the well-being of our animal friends. It is refusing to assume that just because ‘people have always eaten animals’ that it justifies it continuing forever. And it is a demonstration of gratitude for the great fortune we have in sharing our planet with diverse species, who can teach us so much, if we would only pay attention.
Additionally, donating our time and our voices- and money if possible- to local, national and global organisations working towards a vegan world helps.
A world where animals no longer need to assume that humans will exploit them, forcibly impregnate then wrench their babies from them, kill their friends and family members and then face death themselves.
A better world is possible. I’m grateful for the chance to help make it a reality.
*(Yes, I do agree that fossil fuels are pretty awful for the planet! Sadly we do not live in an area where public transportation is an option. As soon as our family can afford an electric vehicle, we will surely purchase one.)
About the author: Moni is a local vegan activist, wife, and mama. She is passionate about justice, fairness and cooking vegan feasts for her whanau and friends.
Artwork by Ōtepoti/Dunedin Vegan and Animal Rights activist, Cassandra Ransom.
A poignant poem by Ōtepoti/Dunedin Vegan and Animal Rights activist, Jessica Keogh,
about a bobby calf: a 'waste product' of the dairy industry.
I thought she was my mother,
I'm sorry if I was wrong.
Will you keep me locked up in this cage for very long?
There's no room to stand up in here,
Though I'd love to learn to walk.
Am I being punished for how loudly I talk?
Because I'm sorry I cried so loudly,
Next time I'll stay silent.
I promise not to cry if it means you won't be violent.
I'm sorry I tried to steal your milk,
I thought it was for me.
Is that why I'm locked up in here so cramped and so lonely?
I promise if you let me out,
I won't complain or cry.
I can still hear mother calling me, won't you let me say goodbye?
Who's this now, walking toward my cage?
Perhaps, at last, a friend?
I hope he takes me to a place where my suffering will end.
But he's hitting me because I can't walk fast!
Because my legs are oh so weak.
I don't understand how you expect me to walk after lying down for weeks.
But, fair enough, it must be hard to deal with the likes of me.
I must be an abomination who's caused you huge suffering.
So I'm sorry, for all the wrong I've done.
I know my life is owed to you.
I'll repent for my horrid sins
And let you do what you must do.
Kill me, I deserve it.
Let your stomach be my grave.
This is how I shall show my thanks for the life you compassionately gave.
About the Author: Jessica Keogh is a 25yr old mother of two, and drama enthusiast. Born and raised in Dunedin, she believes the vegan movement has the power to someday outshine the outdated dairy farming culture we have here in Otago.