The Value of Friends, Human or Non Human

When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a Friend.

A D Williams, Author

On Saturday I got to spend a whole day with my Wonderful Friend Kay. I have written about Kay before, in Acceptance & Appreciation. She is the one friend who can truly identify with my pain at how we treat our Non- Human Friends because she too feels the exhaustion that comes with feeling compassion.

When you feel the suffering of every living thing in your own heart, that is consciousness

Bhagavad Gita

Therefore it is such a relief to be able to spend time with Kay and to be able to truly share my thoughts and feelings yet know that I’m not going to find someone trying to reason with my beliefs or subtly dismiss them because they make the listener feel uncomfortable.

Friends are a wonderful and essential gift. I don’t see nearly enough of any of my friends but they all play an indispensable but different and unique role in my life because they satisfy my needs at a particular time just as I hope I satisfy their needs. I have Friends from school who I have known for over 30 years and Friends who I have only known for a relatively short time.

Some are interested in my quest to make Vegan living mainstream and will listen to my reasoning. Others will make a reference to it in some way, and for others, perhaps because they see me as Jen, rather than Jen, the Vegan, it will not come up in conversation at all unless I reference it (which I do at every opportunity!)

Kay, however, is not just interested in Veganism and working towards a more tolerant, peaceful and Compassionate World, She embodies it! I love to be around her. She has an aura of kindness and gentleness and is a great Ying to my Yang! Where I may come across as a little defensive and passionate, Kay is calm, articulate and draws people in with her ability to listen and challenge in a very non-confrontational way.

Kay plays just about every role she could in my life. She is my Confidant, my motivator, my energiser, my supporter, my collaborator, thought provoker, and most importantly, my sounding board! I don’t know what I’d do without her! When I feel desperate and I can’t bear to read another story about the cruelty being inflicted on our Non-Human Friends, I will send Kay long emails pouring out my grief. Just by being able to do that, by being able to project my feelings into an email that I know will be read by someone who cares as deeply as I do helps to reduce the torment.

I am so grateful for her friendship and wisdom. I wouldn’t be able to function as proactively as I do without Kay because my emotions would get the better of me. Kay does not allow her awareness to become too overwhelming as I am prone to do, and with Kay, I feel stronger and more positive. She helps me to make the push beyond feeling directionless, anguish and frustration at the abuses inflicted on our Animal Friends so that I can find a way to implement positive action towards alleviating their suffering.

Man is the only animal who can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.

Samuel Butler, English Writer and Artist

So, on Saturday, we were in our rather conservative home town of Witney collecting and leafleting on behalf of the Amazing Animal Aid. This was our 5th Outing this year and we had hoped to be very busy with lots of Christmas Shoppers passing our table. However, due to the Christmas Stand that had set up in our usual spot, we had to set up further up the hill where there wasn’t as much passing trade. However, we did see our regulars who came out to offer us support and, as always we had some useful conversations with all kinds of people.

We had two scientists visit our table. One was very supportive of our cause and told us that even though she tested new medicines on human beings as opposed to non-human beings, she was troubled with this because she knows that the medicines have been tested on Non-human beings first, in order to get them to the stage where they can be tested on Human beings. She went on to tell us that ninety five percent of the medicines that she tested on Human beings (which have first been tested on Non-Human beings and deemed to be effective) do not give positive results.

As you can imagine, this was a really interesting conversation and direct confirmation of the needlessness for Non-human Animal medical research.

We spoke also to another scientist who had a very different view point however. He knew friends and colleagues who have been targeted by Animal Rights Activists and who had been directly affected through injury or loss of home or possessions. He believed that there is a need to conduct medical research on non-human beings and was unable to see a future when there wouldn’t be a need. He also believed that because we are Animal rights Advocates in a public place, that we would be being watched right now and that there must be files and information on us!

We gave him a pocket list from Animal Aid that shows the charities that do use Non-human animals in medical research and those that don’t. We also talked to him about Cancer Research Wales who don’t conduct experiments on Non-human animals as an alternative to Cancer Research UK who do.

I am not sure if we made any impact on his own beliefs but what we did do was show him that you don’t have to be a radical extremist to protest and campaign about an issue you feel strongly about, in our case, Non-Human Animal Liberation. We joked with him about the fact that we might be being watched because the last time we were leafleting and collecting, we were actually visited by the police who had been advised that we were there and it had been requested that they come and “check us out”!

As we told the scientist, the police, were in fact, very supportive of our message and even picked up some leaflets, and part of us actually felt glad that someone had felt threatened enough by us, two middle aged woman, to ask the police to visit us. To us, this felt that we may just have pricked someone’s conscience! So we laughed with the Scientist about this to show him that we do not feel threatened or worried and are in fact very proud to be creating debate with people such as him! Not sure he quite knew what to say!

Another visitor to our table was a farmer and his wife. He had stopped to actually directly challenge us and to tell us about his organic farming methods. He was very pleasant and we were keen to listen to him and engage in dialogue. He explained how it was his living and that he loved his animals and didn’t enjoy sending them to slaughter. He told us how he delivers the lambs and will look after them if the mother is unable to. In response we gently pointed out that everyone has a choice in what they want to do for a living and that it was hard for us to understand how he could bring lambs into the world and nurture them but send them to slaughter.

It was a good conversation and the farmer actually took some leaflets and said he was pleased to have met us and that we had changed his view of Animal rights Campaigners! Result!

All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.

Charles M. Schulz, American Cartoonist, 1922 – 2000

The fact is that the Animal Rights movement is a multi-faceted campaign which consists of many Passionate and Loyal Campaigners. We all choose our own paths in which to fight for Non-Human Animal Liberation, and yes, some individuals do choose the road of civil disobedience and direct action. However, it really is a small minority who cause damage and seriously break the law. In their defence, I believe it is their passion and anger that drives them to these militant actions. It is the despair they feel about the tragic, brutal and incomprehendable atrocities inflicted on our Non-Human Friends that compels them to act. However, I believe that most of the Animal Rights movement is made up of peaceful and non-violent campaigners who, driven by the knowledge of the outrageous abuse of Non-human beings, fight for radical and progressive change through raising awareness and education by leafleting, peaceful protest, giving talks, sharing Vegan food, writing to local papers, education in schools… and the list goes on.

I do believe it is so important that Animal Rights Activists/Advocates become more visible in their community so that we can start to change people’s attitudes towards us so they stop seeing us as some form of terrorist, just as Kay and I try to do as often as we can in our own community.

Animals are my friends…. And I don’t eat my friends.

George Bernard Shaw, Irish Playwright (1856 – 1950)

Another encounter was a woman who walked past us, and when she was at a safe distance, started shouting at us, asking us if we had thought about what would happen to all the animals if we stopped eating them. Shame she didn’t feel certain enough about her views to come and have a talk to us so we could go into more detail about what a Vegan world would actually look like.

It’s a question I get asked frequently by curious friends who are concerned about an England with no black and white cows to grace its green and pleasant fields, nor sheep to adorn the snowy fields and lambs frolicking in green grass.

Unfortunately, what they don’t realise, is that the cows of which they speak, actually only get the pleasure of being out in the fresh air and green grass for 6 months of the year. For the rest of the year, they are kept indoors in barren concrete cubicles and unfortunately, around ten percent of these dairy cows never get to see the light of day and are housed in zero grazing units, the like of which may become more common place in the near future which is a tragedy for our cow friends and a disaster for our Environment.

http://www.viva.org.uk/dark-side-dairy/intensification-and-zero-grazing

What they don’t realise is that 10 – 25 % of lambs die within their first three days of life… a year. That works out at 2 – 6 million lambs a year. (The UK has around 22 million sheep, 14 million whom are slaughtered each year) They die from severe neglect from the farmers who breed them because they do not provide shelter from extreme weather conditions. People see sheep in the driving rain and snow or in scorching heat and think it’s all perfectly natural. But wild animals do not stand about in fields in fierce weather – as sheep are forced to do. Wild animals take cover in burrows, in forests, or in nests. There is invariably no shelter for sheep. Nor can they rely upon enough feed or even sufficient drinking water in the summer months

http://www.viva.org.uk/what-we-do/wool-big-cover

So, what would a vegan world look like?

Well, sadly, there is no chance of the world going vegan overnight. However, if it was a gradual process, as the demand for Non-Human Animal flesh and skin decreases, they would, in turn slowly cease to be bred for our own selfish greed. Those that were left, would live wild and naturally adapt and evolve to their environments; Evolution.

There are wonderful Sanctuaries around the world who would also care for our Non-Human Neighbours and allow them to live a life of freedom and peace, unseparated from their babies.

Animals are our Friends and you don’t hurt your Friends

Fiona Oakes, Endurance Athlete 

Many years ago, when I was not in a good place emotionally and mentally, I was visited by the Jehovah Witnesses. They handed me a leaflet which depicted a world where Human beings and Non-Human beings were existing in blissful harmony. This drew me in and I very nearly became a “follower” believing that if I joined then I could live in a world such as this! I was young, lost, lonely and very impressionable. I was also weighed down by the awareness I had of the cruel way in which I knew my Non-Human Animal Friends were being treated.

Safe to say, I didn’t join and eventually found my spiritual guidance in Mother Nature but this image still stays with me and with it, the hope that one day, sadly not in my life time, all beings really will exist in such harmony.

Another question I was asked on Saturday is how I feel about “keeping” non-human animals as pets. I have been asked this question on occasions by various people. It is a valid question and some people are genuinely curious. Others, I feel, are simply asking it as a defence mechanism because, perhaps I make them feel uncomfortable as they examine their own consciousness.

I have always had Companion Dogs and all my Companion Friends have been rescued from a Sanctuary. I am firmly and vehemently opposed to “buying” any Non-Human Animal as all this does is create a market for breeders, and in the case of Dogs, terrible “puppy farms”. All my Companion dogs were at the sanctuary because they had been abandoned or their owners were no longer able to look after them.

My Gorgeous Greyhound Girl was only 18 months when we rescued her from a concrete hell. She was still lactating having had a litter of puppies taken away from her at just a few weeks old.

This was her 2nd litter of puppies.

She was covered in sores and looked so sad. She is now nearly 13 years old and we have enjoyed the most amazing life with her and our other companion Friends. My Companion Friends teach me how to live in the moment and I am so grateful for the gifts they give me and my family, every day with their delight in just being with us. They teach me a lot. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. Just a simple walk, some food and lots of loving! I wish I could be just as happy with those simple and free things in life!

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The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.

Mark Twain, American Author, 1835 -1910

My daughter cares for and occasionally rides a friend’s rescue horse. I have struggled with the concept of her “riding” this horse but after getting lots of advice from a fellow, very passionate Animal rights Campaigner Friend, who also loves her rescue horses and rides bareback on the beach (!) and also from the founder of our local Farm Sanctuary for rescue Non-Human Animals, I have found some peace of mind with my daughter riding although I am still not completely convinced.

I guess that where there is a respectful, loving bond between the horse and his/her human friend, then horseback riding could be as much an act of companionship and exercise as walking my canine companions. This issue changes completely however when a whip or any painful equipment is used on the horse.

I was concerned about this when my daughter first started riding, but have spoken at great lengths with my passionate friend about my concerns and she has given me advice about bitless bridles and the more traditional snaffle bridles and what is best for the individual horse. I would rather see a horse without a bit or shoes and for them to have their feet trimmed by a qualified barefoot trimmer. However, my friend advises me that when bits and shoes are fitted and cared for correctly, they do not cause the horse pain and that a lot of careful training goes into ensuring the horse accepts both, just as a dog might learn to accept a collar and lead.

You think those dogs will not be in heaven! I tell you they will be there long before any of us.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Of course, there are lots of schools of thoughts about this subject. Some of us see it as “exploitation” and “using” non-human beings who cannot voice their desires and I completely understand and agree with these opinions. However, all I know is that my 13 year old daughter is gentle, caring and Passionate about Non-Human Animal Welfare and Rights and she loves her Horsey companion and Friend. She is up at the crack of dawn to clean out his stable, feed him and keep him company. She doesn’t do this because she wants to ride a horse; she does it because she simply loves to be around him.

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If it wasn’t for my friend who rescued him, he would have been sent to be killed, being surplus to requirements for his then owners (a farmer who, sadly, breeds horses). He is now cared for and loved and has a lovely paddock and other horse friends to spend the rest of his life with. In a perfect world, he would be free to live his life free of human interference but, in this case, as in many millions of cases of rescue horses, it is due to Human interference that he now has a good quality of life and is able to live it.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

Anatole France, French Poet and Author (1844 -1924)

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There are so many questions that we, who advocate a vegan lifestyle get asked, some are valid, some are just downright crazy stupid! But I think I have highlighted the two that I get asked most and came up this weekend. Perhaps, the 3rd most asked question to me is if my Companion Doggy Friends are Vegan? But I think I need to leave that one for another post!

Kay and I will again be out in the streets of Witney in 2015 behind our table, among our pigeon friends who, out of curiosity, come and see what we’re up to and end up staying, as we feed them crumbs from the snacks and sandwiches that keep us going! I hope many more conversations will be generated, questions asked, beliefs challenged, minds changed, consciousnesses shifted and connections made!

They say people are smarter than animals but animals don’t have to be smart to be better than people.

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