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My Christmas Wish for You

It’s Christmas Day, 2006, and when I look back to Christmas Day, 1986 I can say that things are better for Animal People. There are more of us, and we are no longer a novelty (except in parts of the South, including some of Florida). We can buy vegan shoes and cruelty-free cosmetics, and we have alternatives to classroom dissection. We can decide which charities to give to-in an instant-because we have resources that have up-to-date lists that help us make decisions regarding our philanthropy.

Things are better for us, no doubt.

But are things better for nonhuman animals? More are being killed, more inhumanely, than ever. (One million animals are slaughtered every hour in the US for human consumption.) Fur appears to be making some sort of a creepy comeback, aiming for a younger, more casual market. And more women are hunting than ever.

Clearly, Animal People have it better than we did 20 years ago, but nonhuman animals as a group do not. Yes, there have been tiny victories, such as the closing of Greyhound race tracks, the increasing questioning of the wisdom of holding elephants captive in zoos (um, what about the rest of the creatures, though . . . ), and foie gras getting outted for what it really is. But in toto, things are looking very bleak for our nonhuman friends.

I don’t consider any kind of "more humane" factory farming to be a victory, as it makes people comfortable with the illusion that you can be a conscientious omnivore. As long as you’re killing without necessity, I don’t think being conscientious about your killing should be applauded. Maybe "merciful omnivore" is better, as your goal is to put the animals out of their misery as quickly as possible before you eat or wear or otherwise use them. Then again, true mercy would include a pardon from slaughter altogether.

My Christmas wish for you is that you are able to have the courage to live according to your beliefs, despite what your spouse, nuclear family, or extended family does. Rather than giving in to what people in your geographic area agree to as customary, I wish that you are able to define and live by your own "culture," and create new traditions that don’t involve–or revolve around–cruelty.

I wish that you are able to look at your reflection at the end of each day and say:

I lived today in alignment with a much greater ethic than exists in our society, and tomorrow I will do the same. I won’t be pressured by people who misuse the word "extreme" or call me a "fanatic." They do that because they feel uncomfortable about the cognitive dissonance they have created in their own lives. They do that because I make them see their own hypocrisy.

Live by example, speak kindly to those who disagree with you, and have a Merry Christmas.

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