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.
My office is somewhat out in the countryside. Most of the road there is lined with rolling fields with cows grazing. This morning as I was driving to work, I saw one of the cows wading chest deep into this little pond. It made me so happy. What a little goof, I thought to myself. I really enjoy watching them everyday when I’m commuting to and from the office or when we take walks during our lunch break. Sometimes there are even curious babies that approach the fence to watch us as we pass by.
Knowing that my friends at work also enjoy our cow neighbors, I was excited to talk about what I saw this morning. I was quite shocked and caught off guard by the reply I received though. Instead of smiling and laughing at what a silly cow I saw earlier, my friend sadly commented on how he thought the cows were starving. I asked him what he meant, since I hadn’t noticed them looking particularly unhealthy or anything. He told me that he could see their ribs. While this made me very sad, it also made me confused and curious. He seemed awfully upset and sad about it. I almost asked him why he cared.
Obviously I care, and I think it’s right and natural to care about other living beings. That’s why I’m a vegan and don’t include these sentient beings in my diet. But my friend at work is not a vegan or even a vegetarian. Therefore this strange disconnect always intrigues me. It’s amazing how rarely human beings follow their thoughts and beliefs to their logical conclusion. Clearly he cares for these cows and doesn’t want to see them suffer. Yet the suffering that he pays for and ingests at each and every meal is far more gruesome than merely going hungry. If underfed cows could cause him so much sadness, why does he perpetuate far greater abuses?
I’m not trying to blame him or even shame him for the way he lives his life. I am just fascinated by the psychology behind this common hypocrisy. Even though I was once a part of the exact same mindset (animal lover/animal eater) it still doesn’t make any sense to me. But I want to understand how I overcame that mental block. I want to find a way to get other people to make the same connection that I finally made nearly a decade ago.
People often look at others in small religious sects, cults, political parties, or those who subscribe to other ideologies in general and wonder how on earth they could believe the things they do. We tend to think there is just something wrong with those people. Unfortunately we are all susceptible to these oversights in judgement. I would even go so far as to say we all participate in actions that conflict with our personal beliefs. A lot of the time we can recognize these inconsistencies, but feel unable to reconcile them. But there are probably still quite a few that each of us have that we don’t even acknowledge. I, for one, am very concerned about the ones that may exist within my own mind.
I’d like to think I would be grateful if someone were to point these hypocritical behaviors to me so that I could work towards becoming a more consistent and principled person. Yet I don’t know how I would actually feel were I confronted in this way. Most people tend to just get angry and think you are a jerk. This is why, despite my feelings, I don’t bring these types of things up to people anymore. It never seems to help the situation, only hurt our relationship. The mind is truly a fascinating thing. I hope to someday understand it better so that I may use that understanding to help myself, my fellow humans, and the other beings that we brutalize every day.
I went to a local fair today to pay a visit to the sweet babies that are in those hot barns all day. I am not entirely sure if it is very vegan to have anything to do with a fair, but nonetheless, I can never stay away. I feel that it is the least that I can do to go give those darling animals a few moments of kindness before they are sold off to slaughter.
It is so wonderful to meet those timid little souls and offer them affection, sympathy, and kindness. I met so many wonderful angels today, but I must say, the cows truly stole my heart this year. They were so sweet and grateful for the attention and caresses I gave them. Some were so fluffy and soft. I looked into their dark, intelligent eyes, and it broke my heart that their lives should be so wasted. Why is a cow so different from a horse or even a dog?
I saw the people happily petting the goats and the piglets and being so enthralled with these animals. I just don’t understand why so few people are making the connection. It is time to wake up and realize that though we would like to believe these animals are happy and our friends while still going home to a steak dinner, that isn’t reality. These animals a beautiful and innocent. I know that everyone can see that. Well, they are dying and suffering because of us. We have the power to change that. All animals are precious. I don’t want to have to know that all of the precious souls I met today are going to die for a dinner. Most people can’t argue that if they were to be the one to kill the animal they wouldn’t be able to do so. There is a reason for that.