Sunday, 20 August 2017

Reconnecting to the Disconnect

It has been a day.

A day for connection.

A day for reflection.

A day to remind me why I chose compassion over cruelty.

A day that reminded me that for many years I did not.

A day for atonement.

The Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire Vegans spent the afternoon at GREENACRES ANIMAL RESCUE in the freezing Welsh rain. Our tour guide Mikey led us around, showed us the animals and told us their stories. He kindly took this picture of us in one of the rare moments when the rain had stopped.
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There were cats and dogs waiting to be find their forever home. I did not tour their quarters due to my allergies. But i am told that most of the cats that are left are black or black and white because cats with colour are chosen first. A ginger cat would be snatched up in a heartbeat, but a black moggy has to wait to be re-homed.

There were a variety of ducks and chickens, many ex-battery hens. Many with missing feathers, spindly legs and no beaks.

There were alpaca, sheep, horses, ferrets and bunnies and pigs. Beautiful pigs. Enormous pigs that looked you right in the eyes with a cheeky expression and were happy to be scritched behind the ears like a dog.

But I could not take my eyes off of the turkeys.

I have never seen a live turkey before. Only dead ones on a plate. There were three females in one pen and I watched them closely. I saw one who had had her beak burned off with a hot wire to prevent her from pecking other birds who had been closely confined. I saw her difficulty eating grain. It made me want to cry.

In another part of the barn was a gorgeous tom turkey named Mr T who looked like this:
                           Image result for tom turkey
He was magnificent. There is no other word for it. And I felt hot tears of shame welling in my eyes because of the indoctrination I had as a child.


Sometimes people called it Turkey-day.

You didn't just eat some sliced meat on a sandwich at Thanksgiving, you murdered a whole bird and put it as a centrepiece on your table.

I looked forward to Thanksgiving all year because I loved turkey. But I did not love turkeys.

Seriously, turkey was my favourite meat. I never saw the animal, even when it was animal shaped sitting on my grandmother's table. I was blinded by my taste buds.

We got a special kind of turkey every year. A Greenberg Smoked Turkey. They injected the birds with this pepper solution which made them taste *amazing*. They were "grown locally" near my grandmother's house in Tyler, Texas. We always felt like we were doing something good by getting a bird that was local. Not some anonymous bird with dubious origins from the local supermarket freezer, but a Greenberg. I visited their website to see if they were still going. It read:

Greenberg smoked turkey is a treat that is not to be missed, so much so that around 200,000 customers make us part of their holiday season each year. 

200,000. Each year. That's 200,000 lives lost every year.

I ate Greenberg turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas for 34 years. That is 68 lives that I am personally responsible for taking.

It got me thinking about how we objectify and glorify turkeys in school. I did this all through my school career and I am guilty of doing this as a teacher.

The month of November is all about turkeys. And Pilgrims with buckles on their hats which would NOT have been there (a pet peeve of mine, but that's a tale for another day.)

As teachers we make work fun by doing things like this:
              Image result for turkey math sheets

We all thought turkeys were fun.

And then we do art like this:
Image result for turkey hand print

We all thought turkeys were beautiful.

And finally, we read books like this:

Image result for twas the night before thanksgiving dav pilkey

This fantastic tale is all about a group of kids on a school trip to a farm who find out that that turkeys are going to be killed and stage an act of animal liberation by hiding the turkeys under their coats and take them home and have a vegetarian meal instead with the turkeys as guests.

I read this every year to my class. I read it and we all cheered because no one (and I mean NO ONE) wanted to see those animals die.

Then we all went to the cafeteria and ate this:
    Image result for turkey for thanksgiving

I couldn't see it.

I didn't want to see it.

But now I do.

Seeing those turkeys today made me realise how glad I am that we are vegan. How important it seems to choose compassion.

Many people ask me "Don't you miss meat?" I hold my hand up and admit that I used to LOVE the taste of meat. Especially turkey. Especially Greenberg turkey. But somehow, it stopped being about me and what I wanted. It started being about what is RIGHT and what is FAIR.

For years, there was this disconnect between the lives of sentient beings and my plate. These days, we are connected to life and all the living beings that inhabit this blue-green planet.  All the food we eat is delicious and cruelty free.

Today reminded me of the connection.

I let that turkey nuzzle my hand and I said a 68 apologies to him and his brethren for the lives I wilfully took.

It is good to reconnect with animals to help remind us they are beings in their own right who feel pain as well as joy, just as we do. If you have an animal sanctuary near you, I urge you visit and meet your meat if you are not vegan.

I would also say if you have spare cash and want to do something nice for animals please send some donations to Greenacres which you can do {HERE}

Be veg, go green to save the animals, yourself and the planet.

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