I Am the Vegan Activist
By Will Tuttle
I am the vegan activist,
My heart filled with the wish to relieve the hideous suffering
Mysteriously inflicted on animals seen as food.
Rising early, sitting in silence every day, listening within, opening... dilating....
I am the day-old calf at the organic dairy,
Pulled from my mother by strong hard hands, while she moans and bellows.
Alone in a tight crate, I shiver, hungry, nursing on the iron bars.
I am the little child, being spoon-fed my first solid food.
I keep spitting it out, but it keeps coming back, relentlessly.
“Eat this,” mommy says, “it’s mashed potato and calves’ liver—it’s good for you.”
I am the little girl, on the day it sinks in—
“Hot dogs,” “hamburgers,” “bacon,” “eggs,” “veal,” “chicken,” “liver,” “fish sticks”—
You mean, it’s animals I’ve been eating? A darkness enters my chest.
I am the young child, being taught how to fish.
“Don’t worry, fish can’t feel any pain,” I’m told.
“And even if they could, God gave ‘em to us to eat.”
I am in the dentist’s chair,
Immobilized, while he pulls, pries, drills: oh, it hurts!
Deep down, I know he’s doing it for my own good...
I am the calf at branding time, castrating time,
The pig at ear-notching, tail-docking time,
The chicken at beak-cutting time,
Immobilized, while he cuts me, burns my flesh—oh, it hurts!
Rough hands that hurt me, the horror of strong inescapable hurting hands!
I am the minister at the church barbecue,
Laughing, happy, my flock spread around me,
Chewing on the ribs of lambs, why, we’ve raised five hundred dollars here today!
I am the cowboy at the rodeo.
“Shock him good, I want him runnin’!”
A quick chase and lasso throw, jerk the rope, he’s flat and down;
I drink the cheers.
I am the young cow—another rodeo.
The ropes and blows and cages, suddenly a searing pain, like a knife,
A door flies open, I run to escape. Sudden slamming twisting agony;
Cheers and laughter.
I am the former vegetarian, I’ve been there.
I’m not rigid and judgmental, and anyway:
A person’s body is not defiled by what goes in the mouth, but by what comes out.
I am the slaughterhouse worker,
Prodding and poking cows along with my knife and electro-shocker,
Like I was prodded and kicked when I was a kid.
I am the slaughterhouse foreman, doing my job;
If I don’t, the company will find someone who will…
“Speed up the line!” we’re lagging—big trucks keep comin’,
Full of pigs, their eye whites showing terror.
I am the feedlot operator, fattening cattle.
Belly hanging, back sore, joints aching, I sit down to a comforting steak.
“Anyway, it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth...”
I am the terrified dairy cow,
Still young, just five years old, facing the slaughterhouse chute,
The pain of the prod, the fear so thick I can smell it, the hard hands. . . .
I am the young fattened turkey,
Grabbed by one leg and hung upside down,
Ligaments torn, I hang in the moving line with the others, struggling:
Helpless pain and panic.
I am the self-shining light of infinite love,
I welcome every turkey, pig, cow, duck, chicken, lobster, fish—
Not as animals, but as what they actually are—myself.
The nightmare ordeal over, their pain-wracked bodies forever left,
I embrace them as the essence they are—
The joy of life’s eternal longing,
The life springing forth from the heart of the universe.
And I embrace my other beloved children, when it is their time:
The hardened slaughterhouse worker, the diseased housewife, the manager,
The scholar and the minister, the vegan, the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian,
The gorilla, the wolf, the pet cat and the hunted deer,
I open and enfold them all with perpetual love,
And envelop them forever as rays sent forth,
And embrace them when they return, as the heart of their own heart,
And they are judged only by themselves,
And are punished only by their own actions in the endless rounds of being,
Of learning and growing, of eventually understanding,
Of awakening from the mass hypnotic trance,
And celebrating me, the love that is the source of all,
The freedom shining in the heart of every being.
I am the vegan activist,
My heart filled with knowing the perfection of being,
And working hard to help relieve the gruesome suffering
Mysteriously inflicted on animals seen merely as food.