This I believe: This single phrase illuminates the thread of an idea that holds the essence of my life together. I believe in compassionate living; Compassion to everyone, to the earth beneath and the sky above.
I believe in animal rights causes and organic living, environment awareness came by the way of my sympathies with it. A couple of years ago, when I was still relatively new to this country, one of my many bosses saw me wearing a sweatshirt with PETA’s logo on it. Immediately he exclaimed ‘oh, you throw blood on people?’ I was stumped. I was expecting a remark more along the lines of ‘Oh, you believe in animal rights?’ or ‘How long have you been into this?’, but nothing had prepared me for a remark that so effectively blocked out any positive ideas I might have expressed to him about animal rights. In gatherings, when I do find myself talking about how the most innocuous things hide cruelty to animals, the conversation dries up. People do not know what to say to me anymore and they all drift away isolating my thoughts and my eagerness to share the knowledge.
These kinds of experiences brought it home to me that this was how people looked at activists who believe in and fight for animal rights. The society is very good at stereo typing and it stereo types people believing in animal rights to be people waving banners and throwing blood at people outside buildings, people who are bent upon creating anarchy, people who protest against establishments for pleasure. They hardly ever see beyond the act to see the reason that causes it. And that’s what isolates the activists from their audience.
My own journey as an animal rights sympathizer – for I cannot call myself an animal rights activist, having not done enough to qualify – started when I was in college. And it continues to be something that is worth striving for. After college I folded into myself – trying to find a job, lead an independent life and concentrated mostly on my own life and attempting to be compassionate in every way. My family supported me and willingly followed into a compassionate way of life saying no to such things as leather, silk, cosmetics tested on animals, wool. Having seen them do it out of personal choice and not out of my arguments, it occurred to me that an argument will never convince anyone of anything. The change comes from within and so the best way to serve the cause is to be the change and find a seed to plant in everyone’s mind that would lead to them find their own special way to lead a compassionate life.
But that way is ponderous and slow and often ignored or ineffective in the fast paced lives that we lead. The urgency that the activists feel is because of the pain and rage of helplessness. The kind of pain that does not let you sleep at night; or lead a normal life. Last Thanksgiving, I visited a dear friend in NYC. She is an animal rights activist and believes in protests and demonstrations. I shy away from making any such public statements…usually. But that time, some of her enthusiasm infected me and I found myself holding banners along with a bunch of the most varied people protesting outside the noted furriers in the city. I cowered for the first few minutes, all the while aware of how much of a coward I was. But then as I chanted – under my breath at first – with the group somehow my courage grew. I placed an image of an animal being skinned alive in a fur farm with tears in its eyes, mute in voice but eyes reflecting so much pain and the fear vanished like the fog vanishes when the sun comes up. I had arrived as an animal rights activist. I always believed in it, now I was doing something about it. Of course, it was one evening of action in my rather quiet life in the suburbs, but it brought home to me that this is why the activists did what they do. It is the only way to live with our conscience. For if I did nothing about what I believe in, what is my life but an empty shell kept upright only by habits?
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