As the Thanksgiving holiday rolls round, it highlights many of the dichotomous ways we humans think about things. In order to celebrate surviving a desperate winter in a new land, a group of invaders once counted their blessings, or so the story goes, by eating and giving thanks. Not much for the locals to celebrate though – their future was to be short and painful as they witnessed, generation after generation, destruction and disrespect of all they treasured. As a vegan, this holiday is always heavy with double meaning and grief, too. It is a time of slaughter for many, many gentle animals that harm no one. It is a time many over-eat, over-consume, and participate in an increase in festivities that result in animal suffering. It is the start of a season of waste and overconsumption that will culminate in the end of one year and the start of another. It is also a difficult time for many American vegans who are often excluded, marginalized, or unappreciated at their family’s table. Many of us try to bring delicious vegan fare to share with others; some of us prefer to avoid the holiday altogether, unable to bear the sight of tormented flesh gracing the table. Thanksgiving, for vegans, is not always an easy holiday to embrace.
For this vegan, though, it is going to be a good time to reflect on my vegan blessings. In the past year I have joined the ARZone team as an administrator. Being able to belong to a small group of devoted, passionate vegans who believe in open communication, open dialogue, and a safe place for everyone to listen and share has led me to discover so many innovative and intriguing thinkers, people who are seriously and thoughtfully working to build a better world. I have also come to appreciate the depth of inquiry of some of our wonderful members. Fellow admins include founder Carolyn Bailey, Dr. Roger Yates, Tim Gier, Jason Ward, and Kate Marples; also on the team now is the legendary Ronnie Lee, who joins us for podcasting. We are not at all alike in our thinking, in how we express our concern for others, or how we react to criticism and personal attacks, but we are united in our respect for one another and the importance of the work at hand. I am the senior member of the team by age, but not by far when it comes to experience. To learn from those who have been working for years to end speciesism is a rare privilege and one I do not take lightly. I am grateful.
I have also spent a good portion of the year getting a local animal rights group, Animal Rights and Rescue of North Texas, off the ground. Joining me as part of the executive team is Adam Little, who is helping with social media, and is a constant source of innovative ideas.We now have over sixty members, and each one is someone who cares about other beings. Our group believes in the inherent worth of each individual animal and is working to increase respect for all beings. We have done leafleting, began developing a Speakers Bureau, looked into tabling events, discussed recent films about veganism and advocacy, and began building a group of local vegan and animal rights advocates. We participated in training for disaster rescue work, so that any animals found in harms way in various parts of our nation might have a better chance of survival with our hands on deck. We have been called on to help save local animals and have been networking with other animal advocates in our region. Not all rescues or animal advocacy groups are yet vegan, but most are willing to listen to our pleas on behalf of animals. We are learning to collaborate without compromising our positions; and we are learning to appreciate the work others are doing on behalf of animals, too, even if we might prefer a different emphasis. We attended a State Veggie Fair – and although we might have wished it to be named a Vegan Fair – it still exceeded our expectations for such an event in the DFW metroplex. And, the food was all vegan and in high demand!
Giving Thanks for Respectful Others
One of the primary tasks at hand is to increase respect for other beings, to end the speciesism that ends all too tragically in domination, commodification and slaughter. In order to increase respect for other animals, we need to be able to respect other advocates, too, even if they disagree with our ideology or perspective. Collaboration and sharing is necessary in order to tap into the wisdom of many. It means accepting the radical inclusion that is mentioned by Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet. This year, too, I felt the pain of exclusion, of being disrespected by some groups and even by a friend. But rather than being a negative, it was positive information about the various ways we advocates process our journey. I am very grateful this year to have been accompanied by too many people to acknowledge here, but know that your understanding, patience, and support have meant the world.
The other animals in my life have always been a source of comfort, affection, and delight. Whether it is the squirrels that scamper across my roof, the birds that beckon us in the greenbelt, or the tiny little aging feline that shares my office chair, these animal friends have always added immeasurably to the magnificence of life. To them, I give many, many vegan thanks.