A day for the loved and lost

Elsa

This is Elsa, our beloved baby kitten, who will move in with us in the near future. She is adorable, playful, happy, and loves cuddling. She hasn’t been around long in this life and because of geographical distance I haven’t been able to see her that much yet, but I still love her.

As most of my friends and family know, I also have a deep love for all life. I love and care for all animals. I cry for them, I pray for them, and I fight for them. The last time I ate meat was more than 11 years ago, and in a few weeks I have been vegan for 7 years. 7 beautiful years of living my truth, expressing my compassion and love for life every single day. 7 years of doing my best to not hurt anyone, human or non-human alike.

Today is World Animal Day, and I want this day to be a celebration, a tribute, to all animals loved and lost, as well as to those animals who never got to feel even the tiniest bit of love from anyone during their short lives, before they ended up on our plates, on our bodies or as part of our furniture. I want this day to be a happy day for our furry family members, like little Elsa, but I also want this day to be a remembrance of all those who have suffered to satisfy our selfish desires.

I want this to be a day of love for every non-human out there.

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.

Cuteness overload

One of the pigs at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary recently gave birth to eight adorable little miracles. The pictures and videos of these little piglets on the Happily Ever Esther Facebook-page just makes me smile;

Happily Ever Esther piglets

Picture borrowed from the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary Facebook-page

These piglets could have been born into such a different life. They could have been born to a life as products, as pieces on our plates once they had grown large enough. Instead they were born into freedom, into a life where they will be seen for the individuals that they are, into a life that gives them what they deserve.

It’s places like these sanctuaries that recreates my hope in humanity, my hope in the future. My hope that one day we will truly understand. That one day we will get there.

Finnish animal advocacy history

I recently finished reading the book “Jonkun on uskallettava katsoa: Animalian puoli vuosisataa” (“Someone has to dare to look: the half century of Animalia”) by Tiia Aarnipuu (2011), which depicts the history of Finland’s biggest animal protection organization, Animalia. At the same time it also gives a picture of Finnish animal protection and animal rights history in general.

For me, who is still relatively new in the animal advocacy movement, reading the history behind it is both interesting and gives me a better understanding of the situation we are in now. I appreciate more the work that has been done for the animals long before I was even born; the struggles that the organizations and individual animal advocates have gone through during the years, and the victories that have been celebrated. As in every other movement, knowing the history is very important if you want to be able to move forward.

Some important happenings in the Finnish animal advocacy history, based on the book, include:

  • 1901 – the foundation of Uudenmaan Eläinsuojeluyhdistys, today SEY (Suomen Eläinsuojeluyhdistys)
  • 1961 – the foundation of what later became Animalia
  • 1971 – the foundation of the Juliana von Went Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments
  • 1991 – Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” was first published in Finnish
  • 1995 – the foundation of Oikeutta Eläimille

Another interesting book, which depicts the rise of the new animal rights movement in Finland in the 1990’s, and the creation of the animal rights organization Oikeutta Eläimille, is “Ulos häkeistä! Kaksi näkökulmaa uuden eläinliikkeen sisältä” (“Out of the cages! Two perspectives from inside the new animal movement”) by Salla Tuomivaara and Joni Purmonen (1998).

Are there any other good books on the history of animal advocacy – especially in other countries – that you would recommend?

In loving memory

Today is World Animal Day, a day to remember all the animals in our world; those we call our friends as well as those who have fallen victim for our use in any form.

In several different cities around Finland, Animalia’s local groups organize events where people can light candles in memory of the four million animals that are killed for their fur here every year. Here in Helsinki the event will be held in Kaisaniemi park between 6 and 8 pm. If you have the possibility, feel free to join.

candle

I will not be able to go to the event, but I have lit a candle here in my home in memory of all the animals that have suffered and died for our sake. They deserve at least that.

I hope that this could be a day when we reconsider our relationship towards animals, not just towards the animals we keep as pets, but towards the animals that spend their lives in captivity – for example on factory farms, fur farms, zoos and in laboratories – as well.

Vegetarian Awareness Month

Today is the kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, a month centered on vegetarian food in all its glory. It starts off with today’s celebration of World Vegetarian Day. This is a great opportunity to take the pledge to go vegetarian for one month!

There’s a lot of different campaigns out there challenging people to ditch meat – or animal products all together – this month, and offering support (recipes, information etc) to you while doing so. Here in Finland we have for example Lihaton Lokakuu (“Meat-free October”) and Vegaanihaaste (“Vegan challenge”).

I also personally challenge you, try it out! It doesn’t have to be perfect, this is not a challenge that you can fail. It’s just a challenge for you to step out of your comfort zone, getting to know vegetarian food, making a change for the animals and the planet, and hopefully also having some fun in the process!

vegan bbq

Maybe you choose to go full-out vegan for a month, maybe you choose to only cut the meat out of your diet for a month, any way you decide to accept the challenge, it will still make a difference to the animals and to our planet, and probably most of all to you. When you are “forced” to look for alternatives of the foods you normally eat, a whole new world of food – food you never thought existed – will open up to you.

The Vegetarian Awareness Month will culminate on November 1, which is World Vegan Day (and coincidentally my anniversary as a vegan!). Then I suggest you eat some vegan cake! At least I will.

 

The problem with factory farming is not the individual cases of abuse

When I stood in the city one afternoon several years ago informing people about the conditions of pigs raised for food as a part of an ongoing campaign, one person came up to me and said something like “That’s nothing weird. That’s how it looks like” (pictures in the campaign included pigs living in dirt and sometimes even together with dead friends, wounded pigs etc.). The attitude of the person commenting was that this is normal and that there is nothing we can do about it, so we shouldn’t talk about it or even care.

Is it not exactly this that is the problem? It’s so usual that the animals are suffering that no one reacts anymore, it’s just “normal” and “okay”.

The issue is bigger than just farmers treating their animals badly, there is a problem in the whole system. Raising animals is not simply raising animals, so to speak. It’s an industry where living creatures are held and slaughtered on assembly lines like they were products. There’s no time, no space, no resources for well-being among the animals in an industry like the animal industry today (I don’t believe animals can be happy in any kind of situation where they are used for our purposes, but that’s another story). Animal “products” are cheap, even though the cost of production may not be, and people consume more and more of certain products, which leads to a faster and faster spinning industry. It’s not good for anyone’s well-being – not ours, not the animals’, not the nature’s. Something has to change.

This is one reason why I’m an activist. “Activist” may sound very ugly in some people’s ears, but that does not make me want to stop being one. I’m not ashamed. Prejudices are not a reason to stop fighting for things you believe in. I don’t want to live my life just watching the world get darker, if there’s something I can do to change this world to the better, I will fight to do it. I hope you will too, whatever it is that you believe in.