County Fair

My favorite part of the county fair was always visiting the animals. My mother, grandmother, sister, and I would spend hours visiting each barn and spending time introducing ourselves to each and every animal. I always especially liked the rabbits and the chickens even though they wouldn’t let you pet them 99% of the time. I’d usually still risk a peck or a nibble for the chance.

As a vegan, I’ve never really known whether or not it was okay to go to the county fair. Was paying for general admission making me complicit in the live auctions as well? Was I paying to prop up the 4H program, teaching children to short circuit their empathy and stamp down their natural love for the gentle animals they are forced to raise? Probably.

Still, I can’t help but go to the county fair most years. With hardly any food I can actually eat and no rides that seem safe enough to get on, I go solely for the animals now. $10 seems like a small concession to make for the chance to offer a few gestures kindness to beings in their last moments of life. I try my best to send them love as they prepare to leave this world in the most brutal of ways.

It’s interesting to notice how everything about the cow barns are set up to discourage connection. Each cow is tied with its head turned away, hind legs facing the aisles. They are not even given the measly amount of space to move that the others get in their small pens. The most they can do is turn their heads slightly, pulling against the ropes that tether them tightly in place. It’s obviously not wise or safe to walk up behind a frightened two ton animal. Still, I try my best to spend time with the few that I can manage to get reasonable access to.

I hope that the small crumbs of affection I am able to offer them is worth something. I fear it may be the only compassion they have ever or will ever receive in their bleak lives. Tears well up as I gaze into their big baby eyes full of fear. How quickly they overcome their distrust and surprise at my soft words and gentle touch. How hungry they seem for the smallest source of love. It breaks my heart when they tug at their ties as I have to finally walk away. I try to take heart in the knowledge that I’ve done all I can and at least allowed them one solitary experience of true love. I tell them that I see them. That I love them. That I’m so sorry. I pray for mercy. I pray they will be the last beings to suffer this heinous fate. Even though I know that they will not be. I know what I am able to give them is not enough, but it’s all I have.

At least this year there were a few in the “petting zoo” area.

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Opting Out

Why should I have to opt out of violence?
brutality and bloodshed shouldn't be
weaved into the very structures of society
I hate proclaiming "I'm vegan"
like it's something special and exotic
othering myself in the eyes of those around me

Why am I the odd man out for not killing animals?
it feels like I'm living life upside down
having to justify myself to those with
viscera and flesh stuck between their teeth
receiving weird looks for eating a plum
rather than slitting the throat of another being

Why is it my responsibility to explain choosing peace?
compassion and kindness were supposed to be the default
but in reality they are so far from the norm that
I am a sensation, a social pariah for caring for others
for simply trying to exist without victimizing those
not even worthy enough to be considered victims

Why is it my job to not ruffle any feathers?
years spent learning how to make myself small enough
not to offend the inhumane actions of the masses
choking off my own inner sense of justice and morality
just to share a meal with those I love
as they grin between bites of slaughtered babies
and mock me for not partaking in the carnage

Why am I the one left to make sense of this madness?
the surreal sensation of a sinking stone inside my stomach
as I snuff out the ever swelling righteous rage before it spills
out of my tight lips and separates me from all the "normal" people
that I desperately want to share my life with despite
their conditioned participation in egregious daily cruelty

Why is it weird and sentimental for me to cry
when the realities of this world come crashing down on me?
when I can't help but remember the shuddering suffering
of billions and billions of precious innocent beings
being exploited and mercilessly tortured and confined
on behalf of my own friends and family

Why do I have to opt out of violence?
why am I part of a pathetically small minority
of people who live by the values we all pretend to have
I'll never understand why it's even up for debate
whether we should subjugate and slaughter
or take the life of another for a fucking flavor
Omnivorous Irony – Protect the Innocent original 2020