Do I ever have the right to decide that it’s time for someone’s life to end?

Philippines has a big problem with stray dogs and cats. You can see them walking around pretty much anywhere you go, mostly malnourished and dirty, sometimes sick or wounded. My empathy for these animals is of course huge, all I wanted to do when seeing them was to take them all in, feed them, bathe them, give them medicine for their problems and somewhere safe to rest. All I wanted to was to give them a loving home, but I couldn’t.

One of the dogs we saw was in worse shape than all the others; I have never before seen an animal that look like it’s suffering that much. The fur was mostly gone and the skin filled with rashes and wounds, he stood for hours in the same spot without moving, and worst of all; someone had put a metal chain so tightly around his neck that it created an infected wound and most likely limited his breathing. Just watching him was painful, imagining the suffering he must go through every day, every moment.

R made a decision to have him euthanized to end his suffering. He called a veterinarian, who after some talking agreed to come for free if we would just pay for the medicine injection. It took some hours before they came, but the dog was still standing in the exact spot where we had left him.

Watching them catch him and give him the first injection to put him to sleep was painful. Already before they caught him, he knew that something was going on, so he got angry and started moving away from them. His scream when he was caught and given the first injection in his thigh was heartbreaking. I had expected a painless death to end his life full of suffering, but he was in such bad condition that this small injection tore his skin and caused him pain. I couldn’t watch, and I couldn’t help crying. I was wondering if this really was the right thing to do, did we really have the right to decide for this poor creature that his life was over and this was the way he was going to die?

In a little while, which felt like an eternity, everything grew quiet. Finally I dared to go closer and look at him. He was sleeping, his chest slowly raising and lowering; peace. The veterinary assistant prepared the injection that would go into the cardiac muscle (the heart), and once it was given the dog’s legs moved for the last time before everything was over.

Death had come. Was it better? I’ve thought about it so many times afterwards, praying that he is now in a better place. A place where he can run around without pain, a place where he never has to be hungry, a place where no one will deliberately cause him pain. Do I have the right to decide when it’s better for someone to die than to go on living, even though this someone is a dog? I don’t really know. I live after the premise that we don’t have the right to take someone’s life, or use someone, for our own purposes. But how about taking someone’s life to end their suffering? Do I have the right to take such a position of power, even if I use this power for what I believe is the best for that living being?

This dog, who lived his whole life without a name, without love, without anyone caring for him even the tiniest bit, has gotten a special place in my mind and in my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget him, and I don’t either think that I want to.

R.I.P.

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“Do you feel sorry for them?”

As I was having lunch with some of my work mates, they asked me – as so many times before – about my food and what it contains. One of them thought it contained fish, so I told her that I don’t eat fish. Her response was “Why? Do you feel sorry for them?”. I’m not really fluent enough in Finnish to properly explain to her my reasons for being vegan (which I have to admit frustrates me), but I told her that my decision doesn’t have to do with feeling sorry for someone, because that’s not what it’s all about.

This question, “Do you feel sorry for the animals?”, comes up quite often when you tell someone that you are vegetarian or vegan. It is a legitimate question, because you could choose not to eat animals just because you feel sorry for them, but for me – and for most other vegans out there – the choice is about something much deeper than just pity for the animals that get hurt. It’s about respect for them and their lives, not simply their right to be alive, but their right to a good life.

Seeing vegetarians and vegans as just people feeling pity for animals reduce the message that lies behind the choice to not consume them or their secretions, since that would mean you base your choices on emotion rather than rational thinking. Of course there are emotions involved – realizing how animals have to suffer every day for our selfish purposes can be very painful – but the choice to go vegan is usually based on a lot of research, discussions and rational thinking. It’s a choice you make because you come to the conclusion that not consuming animals or their secretions (of which you actually have no nutritional requirement) is the most compassionate way to live; not a decision based on naive emotions.

Why I don’t own a touch-screen phone and a bunch of trendy clothes

I have an old phone with no cool apps, a lousy camera and no touch-screen. I barely never buy new clothes – except when it comes to underwear – almost everything I own in that department is second-hand. I recently sold my car and I’m not planning to buy a new one even though it takes a while to get to work without one. I don’t have an Ipad, a new laptop and a house full of nice furniture. And I don’t care.

It’s not that I could not afford a new phone, some new clothes and a car. I work full-time, so money is not the problem. Actually, there is no problem. I just don’t want those things. I don’t believe they will make me happy. I actually believe they kind of make us more depressed, because we buy and buy and buy and think it will make our lives better but after a while were back where we started, only with less money in our bank account.

Lately I’ve become more and more interested in living more “simple”. I’m thinking to sell off quite a lot of my stuff, things that are mostly just lying around without me really knowing why I have them. I’m also planning to work less in the future, to have more time to spend on things I love, like writing and volunteer jobs in different organizations and on my own. It’s just been about half a year since I finished my full-time studies and went out into working life, but somehow I already feel like it’s not my thing. I don’t want to spend my life working most of the time, leaving very little time and energy to other things that I find important. I don’t mind earning less if it means I have more time to do things I love.

The world just seems to be spinning faster and faster all the time. You should be done with your studies faster so that you can get out into working life, you should work hard to move up on the career ladder so that you can earn more money and buy more nice things, you should see and do as many things as you can as soon as you can. Does it really make anyone happy? I think we all would benefit from slowing down a little, stop focusing on performing, not asking so much from ourselves and each other all the time. Instead we could start living more, enjoying more, loving more.

No more angry vegan

I used to be a quite sad and angry person, disappointed in how we treat each other, how we treat non-human animals and the earth. There is also a general notion out there about vegans always being angry, and I understand it, because a lot of the vegans I know, or even some that I have only met briefly, are angry. How can you not be angry when there is so much that is wrong in the world and you feel so small, so hopeless, when it comes to changing all of that?

But I realized somewhere along the way (partly because I was finally fighting, and winning over, my severe depression, but also because of other circumstances) that being angry was not getting me anywhere, neither was it doing much for the animals. I was so desperate in making people see what I see, making them understand the world the same way that I do, that I would have done anything just to change them. But you cannot just change people, change comes from inside, from realizing something yourself. And me being angry, sad and desperate did not help anybody to realize anything, because who wants to listen to someone who is constantly angry?

I’m an overall happier person today, I smile so much more now than a few years ago. Of course I have my days when everything feels wrong, or when the truth of the world just washes over me and makes me feel totally out of hope that it will ever change. But most of the time I’m hopeful, and I try to stay happy. Because I am happy that I’m a vegan, that I changed. I can’t make anyone else change, but I change myself constantly to become a better person, to evolve. I know that I inspire others to change too, and that is not because I’m angry and constantly tell people about things that are wrong in the world or things I think they should change in their lives, but because I’m happy and sure about the decisions I’ve made and because I answer honest questions from people without demanding anything from them.

Nothing makes me happier than when someone is genuinely interested in veganism or animal rights, or something else that is close to my heart. Every time I can help someone with a concern they have it pretty much makes my day. That’s why I like having this blog so much too, every time someone comments I get to smile. So thank you!

I want a vegan world!

I re-listened to one of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcasts today. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably know by now that I admire Colleen greatly, she is a true inspiration for me to continue learning and writing about animals and veganism and to keep thinking compassionately.

Anyways, the podcast I listened to today is called “Turning the tables” and in the podcast she, among other things, talks about that many people believe vegans have an “agenda” to turn the whole world vegan. It reminded me of an article in the local newspaper some years ago, in 2009, in connection to a campaign by the animal activist organization Oikeutta Eläimille about ending fur farming. The article was about an own campaign the fur farming industry had started as an answer to the campaign by Oikeutta Eläimille, and it said something about that we (“the vegans” or “the activists”) start with a ban against fur and fur farming, then we want to go on to ban other types of animal farming for meat, dairy and eggs, etc.. The article was angled in a way that it seemed that this aim is something animal activists are hiding from the public, that we pretend to “only” want a ban against fur farming, but actually we want to ban all animal industry.

I was almost laughing when I read this article back then, and I still find it very ironic, because for me it has never been about any hidden agendas. I would love for the whole world to be vegan, free of animal industries, even though I don’t believe that a ban is the best way to get there. Ethical decisions like that need to come from people themselves, not from any higher authority, to be understood and have an actual point for both humans and animals. Anyway, while I was still in the local activist group we were never about hiding that we are vegans and that is what we are striving for more and more people to be. It has always been out there for people to see.

I think a vegan world would be great in so many ways, not only for the animals but also for the people and the environment. If we would show more compassion towards animals – all of the animals and not only pets, getting a more one-sided view of animals instead of the very confusing view we have now where some animals are friends and others food or products to be used – I believe it would come as a consequence that we would also be more compassionate towards one another. Veganism is not a perfect way of living or an end of something, it is one step on the way towards living as compassionately as possible, towards doing as little harm as possible.

Veganism is not a diet

Many people believe that veganism is merely a diet, something you do because it’s good for your health, or because you want to lose weight. But it is far from just a diet, it is about so much more than what you choose to put on your plate every day.

Today I stumbled upon the blog Rakkaudesta eläimiin ja luontoon (In Finnish) through a Facebook-page that I follow. Netta, who is behind the blog, phrased what veganism is about in a very nice way, which I want to share with you. Since the original text is in Finnish, this is my own translation:

“Ethical veganism is not a diet. It is not a religion, which you can believe to be the one and only truth. It is not only a sign of love for the animals. It is not a pursuit for health. It is not oppression of agriculture. So what is it then? Ethical veganism is a whole set of values. It is a lifestyle. It is an indication of that you don’t want to be a part of the speciesism of today. It is thinking of the future. It is respecting nature. And above all, it is empathy, love an equality.”