I have been reading Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth and it has inspired me to create this gallery of photographs I have taken at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary accompanied by quotes from the great yogi, and some of my own commentary.
"To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man." ~Mahatma Gandhi
"I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants." ~Mahatma Gandhi
"It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings." ~Mahatma Gandhi
The piglets in this photo, Antonio and Bertha, were born to a sow who was rescued after being beaten and burned by a factory farm worker. The abuse was so awful that it was reported by a co-worker, an almost unheard of act of bravery in this industry. The abuse earned the sow, who was named Julia, her freedom. Upon being transported to Farm Sanctuary, she gave birth to 16 piglets. Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary soon after provided homes for two of them, Antonio and Bertha.
It is a sad truth that in factory farms and slaughterhouses the workers treat the creatures, who already endure lives of horror and suffering, with additional levels of violence and cruelty, including beatings and sexual abuse. Before condemning these workers, imagine yourself working in these conditions, earning your living from the exploitation of other beings. In order to feel OK about it, you will have to create a mental barricade between your sentience and theirs. Once this wall is erected, these beings become insentient in your mind, and to reinforce this distortion of reality you must trivialize their brutalization. You at the very least participate in it, and may even escalate it, building the wall between "us and them" ever higher.
The workers in these industries are typically exploited themselves; often immigrants who can not find other work, do not speak English, and fear being deported. We who buy the flesh, milk and eggs stolen from those that they imprison, torture, rape, and kill - are not separate from the acts that they commit. We are an interconnected web of beings who have ourselves created mental barriers between the food that we take into our bodies, and the realities of where it comes from.
"I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. We err in copying the lower animal world if we are superior to it." ~Mahatma Gandhi
While I feel that we are not superior to the "lower" animal world - we are a part of it - there is a meme of human superiority that we encounter everywhere in our culture. As vegans we often have to argue against it ("I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian" "If god wanted us to be vegetarian, why did he make animals out of meat?" "Nature is red in tooth and claw"). I believe that we are evolving, and that our qualities of intellect and inherent spiritual nature give us the ability to choose the path of our evolution, to some extent. Shall we choose to continue on as a violent species, whose greed destroys everything in its wake? If so, then I predict we will not survive much further into the future.
There is another path, the one of compassion, that presents itself as a choice in every interaction we have with other beings. It is the path of the yogi. Every time we sit down to nourish our bodies with food, we have this choice. Let us use our vast creative and intellectual potential to imagine a world where we are nourished by plants, and where animals live liberated from the prisons we euphemistically call farms. Liberated also from zoos, science labs, entertainment industries (as Maybelle was), and pet stores.
"You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." ~Mahatma Gandhi
Please check out my photographs of farmed animals living in sanctuaries for inspiration. You can also purchase Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's 2013 calendar which is filled with my photographs, to be inspired for a whole year!