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On Communicating with the Deeply Religious

Animal Person reader Chris e-mailed me the following yesterday:

Dear Mary,

This is a copy of a letter I wrote to a very close friend of mine, a deeply religious person who has been a steadfast carnivore despite being utterly compassionate in his relationships with human beings. The letter was sent about a week or so ago. I just learned two days ago from him that as a result of this message, he is going to try to get his whole family to go vegetarian. If appropriate, feel free to publish any or all of this on your blog.


Dear –,

Do you believe that God calls people to action through strange channels? And that such channels could be totally obvious, mundane and of the "no big surprise" variety? And that such channels may not even know the whole truth of what they are conveying?

Something in me is motivating me to call on you to stop participating in the consumption of sentient beings who are bred and born merely to be separated from their natural family units at infancy, confined, maltreated and slaughtered.

There is no part of that reality (happening now by the billions) that is in alignment with God’s love.

There are mountainloads of ways to explain it away (why it happens or how it happens — its cultural origins, its normalcy, its nutritional advantages), or to "find meaning" in such things with words that, at the end of the day, are merely words.

But there is no argument that justifies it.

In almost every religious tradition, the places in sacred scriptures that endorse it are usually outweighed tenfold by other places that deplore it.

And, we are not talking about accidents, bad weather or terminal illnesses. These acts are not what lawyers call "acts of God." We are talking about consciously planned and executed suffering and slaughter, of a kind so depraved and horrifying that few of us have the stomach to witness it.

Something in me calls on you for a special reason: You are a leader. People look to you for guidance, for strength. You have great patience and wisdom. You are also a storyteller, an artist, a filmmaker — a modern scribe or maybe even a prophet.

So, Something in me — maybe it’s God? You decide —  calls on you to walk into a desert, a place where most of humanity will consider you outside of normalcy, but where every single meal will remind you that your body is in alignment with non-violence and compassion.

In any case, whatever this Something in me is, it calls out to you. Once this e-mail goes out, it is no longer from "Chris." Instead, it is just a message. I don’t expect or want any answer and will forget I even sent it. Indeed, there is no possibility of answering it. It would be irrelevant. I am not That which initiated it.
Maybe it will be repeated. Maybe it won’t.


Well done, Chris! Thanks for sharing. And just so everyone knows, Chris is an agnostic, which makes his letter, starring "Something," particularly impressive.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Megan #

    What? I thought this was a vegan website? Is vegetarianism okay with you now, Mare? What's up?

    October 15, 2007
  2. Actually, Megan, you're right. Vegetarianism is not acceptable to me, and probably not to Chris (though I'll let him speak for himself). I like what Chris wrote and I'm an idiot for not saying something about the vegetarian thing. (I would have to have caught it first, and I was so excited about the letter that it went right over my head, unfortunately.) Thanks for reminding the linguist to attend more closely to the language!

    October 15, 2007
  3. Ellie #

    A lot of people are vegetarian before they're vegan, so I think it's a good start.

    October 15, 2007
  4. And we don't stop being vegetarians. (We do stop being ovo-lacto-vegetarians.)

    October 15, 2007
  5. kim #

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully Chris will continue to advocate veganism to his friend and look at this as a transitional step.

    And I think Lee pointed out an oft overlooked misperception. Veganism is an all encompassing approach to eliminating animal exploitation from one's life, while vegetarianism is our diet within that model (and how eggs and dairy ever became "vegetation" will always remain a mind-boggler.

    October 15, 2007
  6. What a magnificently crafted and inspirational letter; it is a model for communicating with "people of faith." It sounds like both Chris and Chris' friend have been moved by something very good and that Chris' friend is taking meaningful strides toward a more compassionate and moral life. Let's see where this leads.

    October 15, 2007
  7. Chris #

    Clarification: I myself am vegan, but the news here is that a simple message like this moved a carnivore to make the commitment to adopt a vegetarian diet. This is huge! For him, at this point, ceasing to eat meat is already an enormous step. And it is not an easy step, by any means, since his family will certainly resist this kind of dietary change.

    As for the ethical implications in continuing to eat eggs and dairy, I'm pretty sure that once a person has left meat behind, it's a far smaller step conceptually to see that a leather-wearing egg-and-dairy eater is still participating in a vast and cruel system of exploitation. (And to overcome, for instance, the torrential amount of disinformation and propaganda by the dairy industries that have convinced a good portion of the planet's human population that huge quantities of cow's milk is somehow an indispensable part of a human diet, despite hundreds of thousands of years of evidence to the contrary.)

    As a relatively newbie vegan, I really can't emphasize enough how strongly I feel that "the perfect is the enemy of the good." If this is a process of consciousness-raising, then one must give people time and room to wake up fully. All awakening comes in stages. Anyone who's ever left a physical addiction or bad habit behind knows that "knowing it's wrong" is often not enough to lead one to change. If one has an honest desire to change, real change in is often only acheived if pursued in simple, doable steps and stages.

    For me and my religious friend, this is a huge step in a conversation we've been having for about a year now. Frankly, I was totally elated that a single message could accomplish what almost a year of verbal rants (on my part) could not.

    October 16, 2007
  8. For the record, and I think I'll blog about this, I know only one person who stopped eating animal products overnight. And she's still wearing Gucci shoes and leather pants and has shearling rugs all over her house. It certainly is a process, in which the food part is the easiest part to handle for some people.

    Every other person I know became a vegetarian first. But it's up to us to keep the conversation going and educate them about everything that is involved in producing their "humane" eggs and cheese. As we all know, it's easy to stall at vegetarianism.

    And as for special groups like anti-mushing, rodeo or racing groups, they aren't necessarily designed to get anyone toward abolition, but my point was if you have an issue you care madly about (like me with greyhounds), there are groups that advocate for abolition of that one thing, but the situation is far from perfect and there WILL be compromise (e.g., the organization isn't a vegan organization, which you might not care about, and they might do some reform work, which you probably do care about).

    October 16, 2007

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