True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.
~ Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a sow? She is not the “mere animal” you think you know. She senses and smells your presence. She can see your silhouette cast against the light. She advances, timidly, and seeks your eyes. Her orbs measure you, depose your shield of solid convictions and seek the empathic spark that is dormant within you.
Indifference ceases where eyes meet: we are drawn to the deep moonlit wells of the other, burrowing deep in the psyche as we disturb the murky waters of ourselves. This introspection, this deep instinctive soul-searching is the galvanising spark that tears off the blindfold of our self-centred existence as we can lie to ourselves about the other, but we cannot do so without betraying the feral emotions that surge within us. It reminds us that, on this precious planet, we share our paths with other beings; beings gifted with the primeval urge to pursue an existence free from pain and humiliation.
To some veganism may just be a label, a passing fad, a radical extremist statement against sensible norms; to others, common earthlings like ourselves, it is the promise of social justice made to the eyes of the sow and to many others. It is an oath, a pledge to recognise that all eyes are a window to a sentient being but also mirrors reflecting back the suffering that we, as a society, inflict on the defenceless.
I have looked into her eyes. I have not seen the raw mechanics of Descartes’ automata. I have not seen the acquiescent victim of the Dominion contract. I have seen dread, confusion and demoralization. I have seen questions asked of myself and of my people. And that is why I will always be vegan: to restore the light to those eyes, to restore the promise of life and to fulfil the one universal value we can build a new planet upon. That value is empathy.