Dahmer – A Vegan’s Perspective

I’m only a few episodes in so far, but the new Jeffrey Dahmer series on Netflix is definitely worth watching. What has drawn my attention is somewhat different than what a lot of other people I’ve spoken with about the series have noticed. This discrepancy in perspective is all the more fascinating to me because of the way I am able to see how this part of the story was intended to be interpreted versus how I interpret it.

More specifically, what I am referring to is the focus on the killer’s upbringing and early childhood/adolescent experiences. There are scenes that come off to me as if the director thought it would be clever foreshadowing. In a dark way, I almost find this funny because it is so obvious to me. Ominous moments in the series depict a young Jeff Dahmer fishing with his dad, practicing taxidermy, dissecting the infamous fetal pig in biology class. It’s as if the people that produced this show want this to be insightful. As if the viewers will watch and think to themselves, “Ah, one day he’ll be doing this to HUMANS!” and shudder.

For me, this is laughable because harming and/or killing animals is a known warning sign for future serial killers. Is it really a mystery to people why that might be? Is the majority of the population truly so far removed from the grotesque brutality of animal abuse in the forms of hunting, fishing, taxidermy, experimentation, dissection, etc. that they can’t see the similarity?

It’s interesting for me to see these two things side by side in the series, knowing that for some reason there is a distinction being made. One is wrong, horrific, criminal while the other is harmless, wholesome, and a hobby. What is the difference? Both acts involve suffering, robbing another conscious being of their life and bodily autonomy, and the cold, calculating mutilation of corpses. Even Jeffrey’s cannibalism to me is no different than what most human beings participate in multiple times a day. Does the simple substitution of one species for another really change everything so completely? It doesn’t change a thing in my eyes.

I think Jeffrey Dahmer’s story is an excellent example of why we should not be teaching children or anyone for that matter that it is okay to kill animals, regardless of the reason. I really don’t think it’s that wild to imagine him making the jump from these behaviors to what he later did to his human victims. I’ve made the same connection, albeit with the reverse conclusion. He was taught it’s okay to kill animals, so he decided it was okay to kill humans. I was taught it’s not okay to kill humans, and made the connection it’s not okay to kill animals either. Killing is killing. Suffering is suffering. Violence is violence. It’s only arrogance, ego, indoctrination, and delusion that creates an arbitrary separation between the perpetration of these heinous, immoral acts against other animals versus our own species.

After ten years of living this truth, that human beings are no better than any other type of animal, I truly have a hard time fathoming how this is not obvious to everyone else. Perhaps the strangest thing is, I used to think like they do. I always loved animals, while simultaneously justifying confining, killing, and eating them. I was somehow able to hold these completely contradictory ideas in my mind without the slightest difficulty. Now I can’t make it make sense. I wish I knew how the insanity and hypocrisy of it all finally struck me. I wish I could help others to understand.

At the very least, I wish other people could understand that in the same way they are disgusted, horrified, and enraged by what Jeffrey Dahmer and other killers do, I am disgusted, horrified, and enraged by what is done to farmed animals. The only difference is that I have to share a table with five Jeffrey Dahmers at dinnertime and smile and not upset and offend them with my “radical” views. I have to shop at a grocery store stocked with what the rest of the world would equate to human body parts. I have to bite my tongue every day and be polite and “tolerant” in the face of institutionalized, industrialized, mass murder.

I just wish, if only for a moment, people could comprehend how unbearable that is. How I have to perpetually shield my mind from the horror of the truth, and how guilty and weak I feel for doing so, because it feels like I am condoning this behavior, disregarding the innocent victims, and allowing it to go on right in front of me. Just put yourself in my shoes for a moment, even if you think it’s a ridiculous comparison. It’s how I and other vegans truly feel. But what can I do? What would you do? At least Jeffrey Dahmer tried to make sure his 15 victims didn’t suffer. I can’t say the same for the billions of animals.

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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.

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

The Density of Suffering

There is this weight
that presses me down
into the thick clay earth
the undercurrent of awareness
of all the souls left unseen
the immensity of the masses
subjected to bone shaking suffering
the surreal recognition of
the world somehow still turning
despite the violence that lurks
just below the surface
the colossal cruelty of humankind
how can a system so monstrous
continue to exist without consequence
how could justice ever hope
to tip the scales back from
what we've collectively done
what we continue to do
the inexplicable gravity of grief
overlooked and unacknowledged
left alone with this deep knowing
an anchor of unbearable anguish
I am helpless to lift from those I love
the gut wrenching screams of billions
kept hidden behind closed doors
cannot distill the poison these sins
spill into every particle of air
apparently no peace can prevail
until we all choke
Be Their Voice – Protect the Innocent Original, 2021

On Animal Abuse

I’m currently reading Neither Man Nor Beast by Carol J. Adams, a feminist and animal rights activist. She is best known for her ability to tie significant social justice issues together to show the intersectionality of all who remain oppressed in our society. I have also read one of her earlier, and perhaps more famous books, The Sexual Politics of Meat. Both of these books work to bring the animal and women’s rights movements together to see the similarities between the types of oppression they are fighting.

Among the many new things I’ve learned from reading Adams’ books, I learned the other day that hunters are more likely to be domestic abusers. While, this was no surprise to me, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about this data before. I was also surprised when, upon telling people this somewhat obvious fact, there was a lot of hesitancy and discomfort in response. People are quick to say: Well, not every hunter hits their spouse and/or children. That’s true, but that wasn’t what I was asserting. The fact remains that it is a risk factor and a red-flag for women to look out for when finding a partner.

This new information and the reactions I got regarding it, led me to think more deeply about the ways in which our society categorizes animal abuse. I can’t think of anyone who would openly claim to support animal abuse, yet the vast majority of human beings take part in it every day. You might find yourself disagreeing at this point, and if so, I’d like to ask you how you define animal abuse. Wikipedia defines animal abuse as: the infliction by omission (neglect) or by commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human animal. The Humane Society’s definition says animal abuse, “encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing.” It goes on to clarify: Intentional cruelty can run the gamut from knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization or veterinary care to maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing an animal.

You’ll notice that these definitions are broad and include the majority of interactions that the human race has with our animal brethren. (I am including the eating of animal flesh as interaction, although most people would not consciously consider eating a hamburger to be interacting with an animal.) Hunting certainly falls into the category of animal abuse by these definitions, does it not? Animal abuse definitions are not offering exceptions based on “intention” or “purpose” of the abuse. You’ll notice that there is no footnote indicating that these things are okay if we consume or display the carcass of the animal afterwards.

It never ceases to amaze me when the internet goes wild about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, while in the same day, the same people will sit down to several meals of meat. How is a dog different than a pig or a cow? It’s not intelligence. It’s not friendliness. It’s not inherent value as a living being. It’s simply a difference in cultural brainwashing. Realizing this makes the opposition to another culture’s meat eating practices, while excluding our own, problematic if not outright racist.

However, getting back to the issue of animal abuse as a warning sign for violence towards other humans, I’d like to know how psychologists would explain this connection, given our culture’s general acceptance and inclusion of daily practices that cause harm and death to animals. It seems like most people know about the early warning signs of future serial killers, pychopaths, sociopaths, etc. One of the main ones is torturing or killing animals.

If the psychological issues that these warning signs reflect are lack of empathy, violence, aggression, lack of impulse control, and the like, I don’t know how we would be able to make distinctions between these random acts of animal abuse and culturally acceptable forms such as hunting and meat eating. If, on the other hand, the psychological problem that animal abuse in childhood reflects a disregard for socially unacceptable acts, then I can see that distinction making more sense. Although, I don’t believe that is the case.

Whether we realize it or not, I believe there is evidence for negative social outcomes in regard to all forms of animal abuse, even if it is condoned by our society. There is more and more data coming out every day about the detrimental mental health effects of working in a slaughterhouse. Many workers have even developed PTSD from these jobs. Slaughterhouse employees are also, unsurprisingly, more likely to commit acts of domestic violence. One researcher even discovered that towns with slaughterhouses have higher crime rates in general:

Amy Fitzgerald, a criminology professor at the University of Winsor in Canada, has found a strong correlation between the presence of a slaughterhouse and high crime rates in U.S. communities. One might object that a slaughterhouse town’s disproportionate population of poor, working-class males might be the real cause. But Fitzgerald controlled for that possibility by comparing her data to countries with comparable populations employed in factory-like operations. In her study from 2007, the abattoir stood out as the factory most likely to spike crime statistics. Slaughterhouse workers, in essence, were ‘desensitized,’ and their behavior outside of work reflected it.

The Green Star Project

Ultimately, the age old saying, “violence begets violence,” holds true. There is no way to escape this simple fact. Whether you choose to identify it as such, hunting animals, as well as purchasing their bodies from the grocery store, is violence. It will negatively affect you and our society regardless of how hard we try to blind ourselves to that truth. Karma has never appeared to me so clearly as with the results of eating animals. The human races’ mass scale animal abuse has and continues to contribute to all of humanity’s ailments whether they be illness such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, global warming, racism, misogyny, domestic violence, or crime overall.

We will never be able to accomplish world peace if we continue to sit down to dinners of corpses each night. Humanity supports itself through suffering, domination, and death. How then can we still wonder why there is so much hatred and violence in the world? It is there because we perpetuate it every day, because we have already closed our hearts to those most vulnerable.

Truth! #govegan #vegansofinstagram #mercyforanimals #loveanimals #repost  @pauline.dagonneau ・・・ For the animals ❤️

Asking the Wrong Questions

As a vegan, I am endlessly asked questions about my lifestyle. Even though I find them aggravating and tedious to answer over and over again, I always try to stay friendly and informative. After all, while I’ve answered these questions a million times, it may be the first time the person I’m talking to has had the chance to ask anyone.

For example, a coworker asked me roughly, “Isn’t it difficult to be vegan?” Frankly, the answer is no. It might be somewhat challenging to adjust to at first, as any lifestyle change would be. But after a few months it is ridiculously easy. It’s not even something I have to think about. Especially now when there are so very many vegan options available. Even without those “fake” meats and replacement foods, you simply learn about all the naturally vegan dishes other cultures have been enjoying without even thinking to label them “vegan.” It’s just food. People seem to forget that the majority of everyone’s diet, vegan or not, should be mainly fruits, grains, and vegetables anyway.

After getting flustered and anxiously trying to express all of this in a clear concise way, it dawned on my just how irrelevant this question and it’s answer really are. Whether the answer is yes or no ultimately does not matter. The right question is whether or not it’s worth it. No one ever asks that.

I think from now on I am going to start redirecting those who question me toward the more important questions rather than directly answering the ones they ask. Even if veganism was hard, I’d still choose to be vegan. I mean, like I said, it was hard in the beginning and I wasn’t aware back then that it’d get easier. Whether or not it’d be easy had no bearing on my decision to change my life. I changed because it was the right thing to do. It was the only way for me to live in accordance with my morals and core beliefs. It was the only peaceful, compassionate path forward.

How ludicrous it seems to imagine justifying the continued abuse and slaughter of animals because it’s just easier that way. Human beings are always so focused on themselves. It is hard for most non-vegans to wrap their heads around the idea that I would happily “inconvenience” myself, completely change myself and my way of life, in order to save the life of another or even just relieve some their suffering. That’s an easy choice. I’d be vegan even if it only helped a single animal.

Some people even falsely assert, “Those animals are already dead. It won’t change anything whether I order a burger or not.” This also baffles me. Besides being disingenuous (most people understand supply and demand), it simply doesn’t matter if it truly changes the world or not. For instance, just because you don’t abuse children, doesn’t make child abuse disappear. Does that make it okay for me to abuse a child? Even if that particular child will be abused by someone else anyway? Of course not! There are many horrors that exist in our society and in our world. That does not make those horrors acceptable or morally okay.

I could go on to dissect all of the common questions we vegans know so well. In the end, we get so distracted by answering the question, trying to defend our beliefs, making veganism look appealing, and dispelling misconceptions, that we don’t even realize how irrelevant the question and it’s answer really are. In the future I am going to try my hardest to remember this when asked these questions. Rather than rattling off facts and figures that, let’s be honest, are pretty much ignored, I am going to ask my own questions in return.

I hope by doing this, I’ll actually be able to spark some genuine contemplation on the topic. I know my past responses haven’t been making the impact I have hoped. Besides, it’ll be much more interesting for me than repeating the same facts, which fall on deaf ears, again and again.

I’ve never been able to understand why knowing that animals suffer and die isn’t enough for people to be inspired to end that, to stop participating in such cruelty, such violence. It’s really that simple. Suffering, violence, and death are awful. Producing meat and dairy requires violence, suffering, and death. We do not need to consume these things to live or be healthy. That should be all anyone needs to know. That’s all that truly matters.