One of the most encouraging and gratifying aspects of this great vegan movement is to have met over the years so many who look at life from another point of view. Whatever knowledge or wisdom we may have acquired, whatever material possessions are needed to sustain our lives and even the very breath of life itself—all of these are lent to us, given in a conditional loan or stewardship. If we have been fortunate to be entrusted with a little more, then so much the greater is our responsibility.
There comes a time in the life of every caring, sensitive person—a time to realize that fame is as ashes, massed fortune mere dust. It may be the last thought you think in this life. If at such a time you can truly say, “I have done my best,” and your only regret is that you could not have done more, then you will have done very well indeed.
There is an old saying among charitable organizations, “Give ’til it hurts!” This I am not saying for there is already too much hurting and suffering in this world. I say, “Give ’til it helps.”
That is usually said of monetary contributions that are always needed. I do not say it just of cash. I ask a far more precious sacrifice. I ask you to give of yourself—your time, your effort, your lifestyle. I ask that you get involved. I ask that you rearrange your priorities of life. You become determined that you will do the good work that needs to be done. This needs precedence over the mere struggle to get ahead in your job or standard of living.
Some express the view that we don’t have to help in this life because there will be a better life to come. I cannot ignore the clear cries of anguish from the victims of injustice and exploitation in this life. I promise you nothing except that you can make a difference to many lives in this life in this world. You can do your share and then some to make this world a little less like the hell for animals—and for humans also in many respects—that we thoughtless and selfish humans have made it.
We are passengers on a huge ocean liner that has been badly holed below the waterline—doubtless a mortal wound—and the ship is rapidly sinking. What can you do? Get to the lifeboats and help in an orderly manner. Fine.
Now supposing you are still below, and you notice an important watertight door has failed to close automatically. You realize that if it could be closed the ship would stay afloat longer with more lives saved—many more, though not all.
Then you realize that there is an emergency hand-crank system for closing the door. The water is now rising fast around you. There is great risk, but you know that you may be able to close that door in time to save many lives. It is fun to daydream and play the hero—is it not? So you stay and crank the door shut, and then go up and have a nice happy ending.
But life is not always so neat. Did I forget to mention? Due to some human error in design, the only passage to safety is now on that side of the door while the cranking mechanism is on this side of the door. A small detail but it does modify the price of heroism somewhat. Is our answer still the same? Honestly?
One of the greatest teachers of unselfishness said that no one has any greater love than to lay one’s life down for one’s friends. Surely no less is the love that impels one to lay one’s life down for complete strangers—those one does not know personally and whom one will never even meet. There are many ways of laying one’s life down for others. It can mean the ending of only the egocentricity—the selfishness. It can mean the bringing of one’s life to lay it at the service of life itself. It can mean devoting one’s life to righting the wrongs done to animals who have no choice in where they lay.
Get involved. Volunteer to work—full time or part time depending on what you are able to commit—for any of the groups who are currently doing great vegan work. Learn more about veganism and animal rights while already beginning your journey on the path. It doesn’t matter if you are shy or outgoing, old or young, or any of a multitude of opposites I can name. If your heart is inclined to seek where to put your efforts, you will soon be doing good work.
Make a list of all your terrific abilities and interests. Do you like writing, editing, organizing events, selling books, video production, speaking, cooking, showing documentaries, caring for animals, leafleting, or other activities? Where will you put your talents to the greatest good? You will be fixing the leak instead of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
On a typical day in the United States, according to 2010 statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the death toll of animals killed for food is estimated at roughly one-hundred-thousand cattle, three-hundred-thousand pigs, eight-thousand sheep and goats, six-thousand rabbits, twenty-four million chickens, six-hundred-thousand turkeys, fifty-thousand ducks, and—uncalculated by USDA yet relevant—millions of assorted aquatic animals.
That is the incredible slaughter required for just one day’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the American table not including the animals who perish before they can be brought to slaughter. This is the total commitment imposed upon the “food animals” by their human masters. Such statistics cannot begin to really convey a true picture of the agony suffered by the creatures, borne at the very personal, painful, individual level.