I was talking to a friend of mine today who is travelling the world (lucky thing) about war (depressing I know) as they had been travelling around some countries that had been heavily damaged by war and they were quite sad about it. We started to talk about blame. Who is to blame for these wars? Are some people more to blame than others? Is it the world leaders who sit there and make the decisions? Is it the industry that is built around war and the money that our countries make from it? Is it religion or cultural differences as we are so often led to believe? Or are the soldiers who actually pull the triggers and set the bombs off the ones we should be directing the blame at? In reality we are all complicit in war and the horrible things that happen in this world if we know that they are happening and we chose to ignore them and their consequences. All that we can do is stand up against war in a way that is practicable in our own life. But how does one stand up against something so scary as war?
I pointed out the similarities in our search for war blame with the hypocrisy many people show when discussing animal rights. Yes, there is animal suffering happening in the world but who is to blame for it? Is it the poachers that are skinning seals alive? Is it the farmers that have to de-beak their chickens so that they don't peck themselves to death when they eventually go insane from being in a tiny cage? Is it McDonalds and the big food corporations for their exploitation of farmers and animals alike? Is it people who abuse their pets and don't take enough responsibility to neuter them meaning that there are so many animals left to die on the streets or in shelters every year? Who is the most to blame? Is it actually the every-day-guy who would never kill an animal with his bare hands, says he loves animals but still consumes them every day, paying others to do his dirty work. In choosing to ignore the consequences of consuming animals you are complicit in their abuse.
Even thinking about standing up to any form of oppression is daunting. Compared to the massive amount of suffering there is in the world you feel like a drop in the ocean. What will the efforts of one person even contribute, and how much can we realistically achieve in a day, a year or a lifetime. It may not feel like much.
However the reality is that all of the good things that have happened to our society have come about because of a few individuals that have stood up against oppression. Sure, if they had fought against it alone they wouldn't have made a difference, but their actions inspired others and sooner or later, they made significant change and made the world a better place.
My friend told me that they had always felt terrible about eating animals and I suggested that they just ate one vegan meal today. 'Well, what difference would that make?' they said. 'I just feel so insignificant.' I told them that they are not insignificant, they and their actions are important.
Every time someone eats just one vegan meal it is a political statement against animal abuse. If we managed to convince our friends and family to eat vegan for only one meal a week we would drastically reduce animal suffering and death. I made a lovely little illustration to illustrate the benefits of eating one vegan meal. Feel free to print it, share it, post it on the noticeboard at your school or office, or mail it to your gran.
As I was drawing this, one quote was going through my head from Margaret Mead:
Taking time to consider what we can practically do leads to small changes, small changes lead to big ones which lead to tiny little revolutions, which actually do make a difference. We are not insignificant, our actions absolutely define us.