School. That’s where the trouble began. This morning when I walked in I was asked would I be willing to help make mince pies with year 6. My thought was “There will probably be butter in the pastry. Can I handle that?” And the answer was a reluctant YES. I deal with other people’s dairy all the time. Our school fridge is jammed with milk jugs for people’s coffee and tea and I serve milk when I help with refreshments at the Historical Society once a month. I don’t like it, but I can do it as long as I don’t have to eat it. But here is where the trouble began.
I went out to the teacher’s car to pick up the supplies and there were EGGS. Lots of eggs. Who knew there were eggs in pastry? Probably non vegans, but as an omnivore I never made pastry so I don’t know. But the eggs had the words CAGED on top in big letters and I could feel a heaviness in the pit of my stomach as we unloaded. I looked at the small print—my vain hope had been the caged referred to the plastic container—and sure enough it said “Eggs from caged hens.” I felt genuinely sick. I said “Oh, these are caged eggs” and I was wondering what to do when the teacher said “Hell yeah. They’re so much cheaper than free range eggs.” And all I could see were those poor hens crammed up in wire cages living in their own shite having been debeaked with a hot wire and living miserable lives.
We walked into the building and were unloading the supplies. I could not even bring myself to unload the eggs and busied myself with the bags of flour. I knew I would not be able to make it through this. I could feel the tears pricking at my eyes. I knew that as children merrily measured butter and cracked eggs I’d be so po faced that someone would notice and someone would ask. This is my journey and it is not right to impose my beliefs of others—not in this sort of situation. I talk about my vegan and Christian beliefs very comfortably but in neutral conditions and only when children ask me. This would not be an appropriate time or place and I knew I couldn’t do it without saying something. I was sitting in the room crying and trying to decide what to do when another teaching assistant came in and agreed to do it in my place. Thank God for Cheryl.
I never thought I would feel like this. Like I said, I deal with other people’s dairy all the time and cope. But this was different. I know free range is a myth and hens can still have bad lives that way—but battery caged hens live a painful and torturous existence with no redeeming features and to hear the teacher’s callous laughter about it made me feel ill.
To me the suffering of animals is connected to the suffering of Christ. To knowingly hurt a living creature is like punching God in the face.
I was told afterwards that several children complained that the eggs weren’t free range. That is a step up because children are aware of animal welfare. If only adults could be.