Well, you know my view on the matter, but this was one of the write-ups in response to the passing of Bill 156.
The comment at the bottom is mine, but it's a condensed version as I was only allowed 750 characters, including spaces. So, not enough space to say my piece. Below is a longer version. It was originally intended as a letter to the editor (which I would then have to cut down to 320 words), but the article itself wasn't published offline, therefore I decided not to bother submitting.
Here is the long-winded version:
While I appreciate the reporter trying to provide a balanced view, here are some key points to consider.
Two themes in particular I’ve seen repeatedly put forth by proponents of the ag-gag law concern safety and disease. Farmers, apparently, are highly worried about safety. But safety of what? Their livelihood? Their reputation? That seems probable enough. Animals themselves though? That’s a bit dubious as they’re raised a) for profit, and b) to be killed, so I don’t think animals themselves will be “safe” for too long.
As for personal threats by trespassers, where are the statistics to back up this claim? How many farmers have actually been harmed or killed? And given the recent death (viewed as intentional by some) of activist Regan Russell, I would argue that activists may have more to fear from farmers and truckers than vice versa.
But back to stats. How many incidents of trespassing on Ontario family farms were actually reported to police in the last few years? How many charges were laid? How many convictions resulted? In other words, how have trespassers proven to be a real safety risk? Hmm, I see.
Another aspect often cited is that activist trespassing brings disease. But, as we know from prior zoonotic viruses like bird and swine flu, disease is already a part of farming because of the very practices that activists are trying to make public. The current Covid-19 pandemic itself underscores how infectious disease is a byproduct of farming and marketing animals.
And if things have changed considerably since 1989 as claimed by Mr. Witteveen, then why is it still considered reasonable to transport pigs, for example, without food, water, or rest for 28 hours? How is this humane? Why are certain practices, such as the killing of all male chicks, and the slamming of piglets into concrete walls, still considered both acceptable and standard?
Why are standard farming practices exempt from cruelty laws in the first place? That, in and of itself, makes the so-called tough anti-cruelty legislation of PAWS null and void, especially since the only duty to report in the PAWS Act lies with veterinarians, not employees. This makes Ernie Hardeman’s statement that nothing prevents employees from reporting animal abuse disingenuous at best.
The reality is that most animal farming industries would have died a natural death anyway were it not for being continually propped up by government bailouts. And now with Bill 156 we have a government turning an even blinder eye to industry promoted-and-protected cruelty by allowing animal agriculture to police itself.
No, the idea that this bill is balanced is so off-kilter it’d be funny if it weren’t so damn sad.
For anyone interested in the true and harrowing dangers of the bill I would suggest looking at the comprehensive brief submitted by Animal Justice:
In the meantime, here are the names and email addresses* of those who helped pass this monstrous bill. It's on public record, so it's not like their privacy is being invaded. Besides, if they really believe the bill is necessary as farmers have nothing to hide, then their vote shouldn't be hidden either. Feel free to let them know why you're both angry and disappointed.
Deepak Anand- firstname.lastname@example.org Roman Baber- email@example.com Aris Babikian- firstname.lastname@example.org Robert Bailey- email@example.com Toby Barrett- firstname.lastname@example.org Peter Bethlenfalvy- email@example.com Stephen Blais- firstname.lastname@example.org Will Bouma- email@example.com Paul Calandra- firstname.lastname@example.org Stan Cho (Willowdale)- email@example.com Steve Clark- firstname.lastname@example.org Lorne Coe- email@example.com Stephen Crawford- firstname.lastname@example.org Rudy Cuzzeto- email@example.com Doug Downey- firstname.lastname@example.org Jill Dunlop- email@example.com Christine Elliot- firstname.lastname@example.org Victor Fedeli- email@example.com Amy Fee- firstname.lastname@example.org John Fraser- Jfraser.email@example.com Merrilee Fullerton- firstname.lastname@example.org Goldie Ghamari- email@example.com Parm Gill- firstname.lastname@example.org Mike Harris- email@example.com Christine Hogarth- firstname.lastname@example.org Sylvia Jones- email@example.com Belinda C. Karahalios- firstname.lastname@example.org Vincent Ke- email@example.com Andrea Khanjin- firstname.lastname@example.org Daryl Kramp- email@example.com Naatalia Kusendova- firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa MacLeod- Lisa.email@example.com Robin Martinfirstname.lastname@example.org Gila Martow- email@example.com Jim McDonell- firstname.lastname@example.org Jane McKenna- email@example.com Monte McNaughton- firstname.lastname@example.org Norman Miller (Parry Sound—Muskoka)- email@example.com Christina Maria Mitas- firstname.lastname@example.org Caroline Mulroney- email@example.com Rick Nicholls- firstname.lastname@example.org Sam Oosterhoff- email@example.com Billy Pang- firstname.lastname@example.org Lindsey Park- email@example.com Michael Parsa- firstname.lastname@example.org Randy Pettapiece- email@example.com Rod Phillips- firstname.lastname@example.org David Piccini- email@example.com Kaleed Rasheed- firstname.lastname@example.org Jeremy Roberts- email@example.com Ross Romano- firstname.lastname@example.org Sheref Sabawy- email@example.com Amarjot Sandhu- firstname.lastname@example.org Laurie Scott- email@example.com Amanda Simard- firstname.lastname@example.org Donna Skelly- email@example.com Todd Smith (Bay of Quinte)- firstname.lastname@example.org Dave Smith (Peterborough—Kawartha)- email@example.com Kinga Surma- firstname.lastname@example.org Nina Tangri- email@example.com Vijay Thanigasalam- firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa M.Thompson- email@example.com Michael A. Tibollo- firstname.lastname@example.org Effie J. Triantafilopoulos-- email@example.com Daisy Wai- firstname.lastname@example.org Bill Walker- email@example.com John Yakabuski- firstname.lastname@example.org Jeff Yurek- email@example.com
Like many of you, I'm pissed off. Royally so. A good thing too that I didn't have much hope, given that the bill passed a second reading with a unanimous vote of 100-0 (how incredibly screwed up is that?), but still. I'm angry, disappointed, upset, outraged, and sad. (Note: third reading passed 68-22, so I guess some progress was made.)
Luckily, perhaps, I can no longer log onto my Facebook account (someone complained last year that my profile was not following Community Standards, but that's a post for another day); otherwise I'd have let off some pretty angry steam on that site. I did, however, come out of a 3-year dormancy on my Twitter account yesterday, before remembering why I'd gone dormant in the first place. Because besides being an enormous time suck, you end up either preaching to the choir, or leaving angry/snarky responses to people/organizations (e.g., Ontario Pork Producers who are very concerned about the mental health of farmers unfairly victimized by abusive extremist activists) whose views are so firmly entrenched that you might as well be trying to convince a hardcore staunch Trump supporter to vote for Joe Biden.
In other words, it doesn't help.
Especially in my part of Ontario that couldn't be bluer than blue politically, and is home to many farms and farmers. A lot of them, by the way, happen to be not only of Dutch descent (I'm a first-generation Dutch immigrant born in Holland, so have no qualms about discussing general characteristics of my own ethnic group), but also of a fairly strict and conservative Christian upbringing (as a member of this upbringing, also no qualms), and this is key.
Key because in this strongly upheld patriarchal hierarchy, God is top, Jesus is next, then comes the Holy Ghost, followed by men (literally, not mankind in general, but men), women, children, and finally, and usually reluctantly, animals. Maybe this is true for other religions and ethnicities as well, but I find it so strongly expressed that it's fairly common knowledge that domestic abuse is rife within the Christian Reformed Church. Because, you know, women have to be submissive to their fathers and husbands and all that.
I'm also reminded of a huge billboard that I saw while being driven in a more rural part of this place that not only declared abortion to be the most sinful thing anyone could do (by the way, there's a systematic campaign by members of these churches to elect government officials at all levels of government solely on the issue of whether candidates are pro-life), but that actually mocked in the same billboard anyone concerned with animal cruelty. I kid you not. Half of the billboard had an image of a fetus, the other half a puppy, with the captions more or less saying, animal cruelty okay, abortion not. I might be exaggerating slightly, but I remember being shocked, and that doesn't happen too often anymore.
So what I'm trying to say in a long-winded way, is that the notion of animals being property, and specifically, property to be used by man in any which way deemed useful or profitable, may be even stronger in this part of the woods than elsewhere.
Oh, but also in Alberta (which already has its own ag-gag law that Ontario eagerly imitated), BC and the Maritimes. And in case you think I'm making this Dutch demographic stuff up, here are some quotes from a book* I happen to own:
A look through the national poultry magazine's annual Who's Who reveals a strong Dutch presence in egg, turkey and broiler producers. p268
But it must be acknowledged that many within the Dutch Canadian community have assumed leadership positions in farming organizations. Nationally, the chair of the Canadian Egg Marketing Board in 1999 was (name omitted as it's likely out of date by now), and at the Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency, (name omitted for same reason). (Name omitted) was an executive member of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, while (name omitted) headed the department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan. p270
Now I'm not saying that only farmers of Dutch descent adhere to a "animals are ours to use" mentality, but that it may be even more strongly held or prevalent, and that would effect the industry wherever they are. And they're certainly here in Ontario!
Getting back to the bill, here it is in its entirety, and here is the submission by the influential OFA. Reading through their submission I have to admit that if I was just a casually if-at-all informed member of the public, I too might be swayed by their rhetoric and feel sorry for the poor disrespected farmers who love the animals they take good care of and are bullied by activists who aren't misguided, but plain mean. Well!
Okay, if you're a reader of this blog then I certainly don't have to tell you what this bill means, why it's atrocious, and that it's gotta go.
But what do we do in the meantime? What do we do with our anger? (Other than posting all over farmers' and farming organization media accounts that they're parasitic scumbags who deserve to rot in hell, which I confess I'm still tempted to do.)
This is the plan for me for now:
take the time to grieve (as this will have a huge negative impact on animals already in dire situations)
take time to feel all my feelings (e.g., disappointment, helplessness, worry, etc.)
take the time to feel my anger fully (without being too stupid, as that could backfire for those we're trying to help)
figure out how to channel that anger constructively (what can I do that will make a difference? how can I help to get this bill declared unconstitutional?)
figure out how to pace myself (make no mistake, this is gonna be a long war with many battles)
make sure to leave some room for joy and fun to prevent burnout
be prepared to get arrested! (only kidding, but it's probably wise for you not to know too much, again kidding, maybe...)
What about you? Any points you'd like to add to make all of us better warriors, and better equipped to deal with this colossal fuck-up?
p.s. can you tell I'm still boiling? maybe I should have calmed down a bit first?
* Uprooted: Dutch Immigrant Children in Canada 1947-1959 by Anne van Arragon Hutten, 2001.
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Whether it's climate or another issue, you don't have to feel hope to be motivated to keep fighting for what you believe in. Find something that pushes you to do what is right even when the future looks bleak. Maybe even especially when the future looks bleak.
Oddly enough, I found the above passage*, written by first-year Stockholm University student and organizer in the Fridays for Future climate movement, Isabelle Axelson, so freeing, that it actually made me feel more energized, and paradoxically perhaps, even a bit more hopeful.
Because hope (defined by Wikipedia as being an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large) is something I don't really have. Not in terms of seeing a vastly improved world for animals within my lifetime, that is. And that, I believe, held me back. Almost as if I thought hope was a prerequisite for being an effective advocate, and that if I didn't feel hopeful, there wouldn't be much use in trying.
Well, forget that! Feeling hopeless doesn't preclude taking action. Take Bill 156 (as in please, take it and throw it away), an awful piece of "ag-gag" legislation that will have its final vote tomorrow. I wrote about it to my local MPP, not because I'm hopeful they'll change their mind (it was touted as an accomplishment in their spring update), but to at least let them know that not every constituent agrees. Same thing in the follow-up email I sent to their canned reply.
Also wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper (unfortunately not yet published, if ever it will be) appealing to readers to contact their MPP as well. Again, not hopeful of results as such, but wanting to be on the record that not everyone agrees. If this bill passes, it will not be without vocal opposition, or I expect, a legal challenge.
So basically, hope is lovely, but not essential. Action, however, certainly is.
* read in the June 1-8, 2020 issue of TIME
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And it's about time that Black Lives Matter has finally gotten the international support and solidarity it deserves. It also goes to show what can happen when the possibility of real change (and fear of what will continue to happen if the status quo doesn't change) galvanizes people into action.
So what about All Lives Matter? Because from a vegan perspective, the idea that all lives matter (including other animals, specifically) seems to be reasonable and almost self-evident. And that notion IS what drives many vegan activists, this belief that all lives are worthy. Or to borrow from this quote:
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. --Paul Farmer
But we have to remember context here as the rallying cry of All Lives Matter has been used too often to dismiss the BLM message. A message often misunderstood. Black Lives Matter does not mean that ONLY black lives matter, but that black lives matter TOO. And that if black lives don't matter (with systemic racism suggesting they don't), all lives can't matter.
But for some reason this has confused people in a way that other campaigns have not. For example, those who fundraise for breast cancer won't get the pushback that they're ignoring other types of cancer. It's implied that all cancers are worthy of being eradicated, but that the particular focus here is a specific form of cancer. Same for other diseases. Campaigning for Diabetes, for example, doesn't mean Alzheimer's matters less.
So I was impressed to see Steve Jenkins from Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary thank the person who helped him understand why using the AllLives instead of the BlackLivesMatter hashtag was problematic, and state that he was willing to learn in order to be the best ally. Sadly though, I think a number of his followers didn't get that particular point of his post.
It takes humility to admit you may have been wrong, and strength of character to be open to growth. And isn't that what vegans hope nonvegans will do? Take information that may be new to them and consider it with an open mind? While I understand his followers defending him (because yes, Steve has a heart of gold and we see his values exemplified daily), it's a bit disheartening to see some followers continue to insist that saying All Lives Matter is absolutely fine, when actually, it isn't.
Also disheartening is that Canadians have been a bit ignorant (smug, even) in denying racism in our own backyard, as evidenced by Ontario premier Rob Ford declaring on June 2nd that Canada doesn't have the same systemic deep roots of racism that the United States does. Um, right. Thankfully he quickly backtracked on that comment after receiving massive criticism.
But the belief in the absence of racism in Canada is something many Canadians share. And I can even see how they may have that perception. Take the small town I live in; so incredibly white it's rare to see someone in it who isn't. You almost couldn't even blame anyone here for not knowing what white privilege is, and that almost everyone in this town benefits from it. That is, of course, if you conveniently forget the historic (and current) treatment of Indigenous people. Or the internment of Japanese Canadians back in 1942. No, racism is definitely NOT absent in this country.
What does systemic racism in Canada look like? Here are five charts illustrating the challenges Black Canadians face in terms of income, employment, education, and hate crimes. Contrary to the claim that systemic racism doesn't exist in Canada, Black Canadians say racism is just as harmful on this side of the border.
Want to be an ally in the anti-racism fight? Here are some actions you can take to help in the fight against racism.
The takeaway for vegans in particular, I think, is that we have to be willing to listen and learn. Just as the feminist movement was rightly criticized for being mainly relevant to white middle-class women, vegans have to listen when we're told that veganism is mainly relevant to white middle-class folk. (Did you hear the echo?) We have to listen, respectfully, when we're told comparisons between the animal rights movement and the civil rights movement may be problematic. We also have to pay attention when survivors of sexual assault tell us that having their experience of rape compared to artificial insemination of animals may be inappropriate.
We have to remember that the ultimate aim of veganism is to eliminate oppression, period. That includes racism, sexism, classism, ableism and a bunch of other isms too. While it may be tempting to say that you only care about animals, humans ARE animals, and we have to help end oppression of them as well.
And one way of doing that is to honour the fight for racial equality by not routinely saying all lives matter whenever you hear Black Lives Matter.
If you enjoyed this post, please share. And until next time, Keep Calm and Vegan On.
This is a partial throwback post (see the 2 links), but also my way of letting you know I'm still around, still vegan, still looking after my mom (for now), and still hoping to see a more vegan world someday.
I'm also drafting a more in-depth post on the impact of Covid-19 on other animals (stay tuned!), but thought that today I'd briefly point out how this pandemic has disproportionately affected women and mothers. While Covid-19 has impacted everyone, it has hit women particularly hard in terms of both paid and unpaid labour. A few cases in point:
the number of female front-line essential workers
the number of mothers who now have extended hours of childcare
the number of mothers (and fathers, hopefully) who now have to home school
the number of women who still provide care for elderly family members
the number of women who have lost their jobs given their over-representation in the service sector
This all adds up to an awful lot of gained or lost labour, on top of the stress created by the pandemic itself. Another area of concern is safety; not only in the workplace, but at home. Added isolation, service cuts and shelter closures, and bam, gender-based violence rises exponentially, making 'stay safe' more of a challenge than a wish.
But please, do stay safe yourself, and be sure to thank anyone who does any form of mothering today.
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In short, producing dairy is an act (or series of acts) of violence. And if you oppose cruelty, theft, kidnapping and murder, then you can't justify consuming the products of such violence. Because even if it isn't considered criminal by the legal system yet, it's most certainly immoral.
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Oh right, I didn't HAVE a summer vacation (and summer seems forever ago, now that winter is just around the corner has arrived), but here are three highlights anyway. :)
Ate a burger from A&W.
Which is something I hadn't done in years. Not even before going vegan. In fact, if memory serves me right, the last time I went A&W still brought your meal on a tray to your car. Yep, it was that long ago.
But having seen an A&W commercial that didn't offend me to the core (they're usually filled with self-congratulatory "all of our beef is raised without any added hormones or steroids" prattle as if that negates torture and death), I decided to check out their Beyond Burger. I wouldn't say it was Beyond good, but it was good enough indeed, and I'm pleased that sales of this product did well.
Had a letter-to-the-editor published.
Having heard about the death of the owner of Marineland, I was quite sure that our local newspaper columnist would have something to say, and say he did. Now this is the same chap who was so derisive of vegans that it prompted me to write my first letter. Once again I couldn't resist responding:
Re: Gauche animal activists
James Culic may think he knows a thing or two about animal activists, but I knew a couple of things even before reading his latest column. I knew, for example, that he would use the word ‘hippy’ at least once.
I also knew that he would likely resort to stereotypes and insults (e.g., radical zealots, insufferable, sociopathic), lump all activists together and conveniently ignore those who urged other activists to be compassionate, ignore the numerous allegations of cruelty against John Holer over the years and his penchant for lawsuits, and somehow make him out to be some sort of hero simply by profiting from the type of animal abuse that the public is increasingly rejecting.
So no, “By any measure, he was a good man.” doesn’t really apply, despite the fact that he was loved by some. Which reminds me of the “Everyone loves Marineland” slogan that the corporation continues to use; just because you say it, doesn’t make it so.
And while I don’t mourn Mr. Holer’s death, I don’t celebrate it either, because with or without him, captive animals will continue to suffer at Marineland, which columnists like James will continue to endorse.
Celebrated (well, acknowledged more than celebrated) 10 years of being vegan.
Yep, 10 years! Not that I feel I've accomplished much for animals in that time, but at least I haven't added to the problem. I hope.
I also hope that I'll become less pessimistic about humans improving how they behave both towards each other, and the billions of beings we treat so badly.
Soon this year will be over. In case I don't post again before that time (psst, I have a creative endeavour up my sleeve for next year), I would like to wish you safe holidays, and the strength to make your corner of the globe a better place for all. Take care, and see you again soon.
Note: this post was originally scheduled for Mother's Day, but time got away from me (as it often does these days) and since there are plenty of folk who are fathering their father, I thought I'd publish it now...
Demean. Demeanor. Dement. Demented. Dementia. Demerit. Those were the surrounding words I found in my dictionary1 when looking up the term dementia. All neutral or negative, which isn't surprising given that the definition of dementia itself (Irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties with concomitant emotional disturbance resulting from organic brain disorder.) isn't positive either.
This was the diagnosis given to my mother back in December. Also not too surprising given her age (90) and her obviously failing memory and occasional confusion. (Technically, Mom suffers from mild cognitive decline, which doesn't sound too bad, but can pack a wallop in terms of how it impacts daily functioning.)
Still, it was a bit of a shock to discover just how bad things had progressed. We had assumed, when she'd gotten a call for a room at the assisted living retirement residence where I work, that she would pass the required Mini-Mental State Exam. But just to be sure, we downloaded the test and administered it ourselves only to quickly find out that answering the question, "What is the year? Season? Date? Day? Month?" would be her undoing. No problem. Mom had two days to study and practice, and practice for hours she did.
(Sadly, time disorientation occurs fairly early in this illness, and many folk have told a story about a person with dementia practicing the day, month and year all the way to the doctor's office, only to forget when they are asked during the assessment.2)
The result? 3/5. For the question, "Where are we now? Province? Country? Town? Hospital? Floor?" the score was 2/5. Mom was kindly re-administered the test by the retirement home, only to score even lower than the first time at the doctor's office.
To this day Mom maintains that of course she couldn't remember the year because unlike everyone else, she doesn't have a daily newspaper informing her of the date. Never mind that we had recently installed a computer monitor with a permanent screen shot of the day, time and year. And never mind explaining to her that most people, newspaper or not, have no problem identifying the current year when asked.
To be honest though, as awful as getting a diagnosis of dementia sounds, it was also a relief. Finally, we could use the right term. Finally, family members could all be on the same page where Mom's memory was concerned, and not have to convince each other (convincing her is a different story altogether) that there was a problem.
Because if there was one thing our mom still excelled at was hiding her difficulty, especially with outsiders like doctors. Now at least it was in black and white that Mom's noggin wasn't quite what it used to be. That in short, her short-term memory is getting shot to hell.
Even though we may use the term memory often enough, and most people tend to think of memory as one function, there are in fact, many types of memory processes including immediate, short-term, long-term, emotional and procedural, with short-term memory often being the first affected in individuals with Alzheimer's disease. 3
What did we do next? We held a family meeting, discussed options, and decided that I would take a one-year leave of absence from work to be her personal caregiver. I had already taken over some tasks (like driving her to appointments, dispensing her pills, checking mail, vacuuming, and changing her bedding), but am quickly taking over more care. For starters, making hot meals and ensuring that she actually eats them. And as time progresses and Mom continues her slow decline (we now realize that symptoms started years ago and that her dementia is of the slow progressing kind), so will our assistance.
Is helping to look after Mom rewarding work? In a way. It has its satisfying moments, and certainly you know you're doing the right thing. But it can also be stressful, tiring, frustrating, annoying, aggravating and difficult. And that, of course, is for both parties.
Not always being able to come up with the right words means that you talk about things in a roundabout way. "The big store" now could mean either the grocery store or the drugstore, and only relying on the context will tell you which one she means. The name of one of her aunts is now often used instead of my sister's name, and "say hello to your dad" (my dad died three years ago), means I need to pass on her greetings to my brother. And because she can't remember, a lot of things get repeated, and repeated, and then repeated some more.
Numbers, especially, don't always make sense anymore, and the easy-enough-sounding question of what year it is, is tricky precisely because the number 2018 doesn't hold much meaning. It's also, unfortunately, the punch-in code for a number of doors at the building where she does a fair bit of visiting. So now that number is written on her purses and walker, because being told to punch in the current year for her is like being told to ride a bike. Except that in this case, the adage of 'it's like riding a bike' no longer holds.
So what does any of this have to do with veganism? Well, lots. Even though this is an experience that I'm currently going through (and I tell ya, learning to deal with dementia is one hell of a learning curve indeed), many people my age, women especially, are experiencing variations of exactly the same thing, as parents of boomers are booming at an exponential rate.
But there are a few parallels between being vegan and being a caregiver that I now see more clearly, with one of the major ones centering on grieving.
The insidious nature of dementia (although Alzheimer's is its most common form, we're not actually sure what type Mom has) means that it's often developing slowly enough that it doesn't get properly diagnosed until it directly effects functioning. It also has no cure, and you know that the process (never mind the ending) will not be pleasant.
In my mom's case, knowing how hard and tiring it already is in this comparatively "easy" stage, and knowing that you can't stop it from becoming even worse, engenders some of the same feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that I sometimes feel as a vegan. As much as I can do, I can't save many animals, if practically any, from a horrible fate that they don't deserve.
I can't protect the animals I see dead on the road, I can't protect the untold billions about to be slaughtered, and except for changing my own habits and hoping to influence others, I don't feel I have much power. As for our mom, the only thing we can do is provide as much personal care as we can, and hope for a speedy demise from anything but the dementia itself.
Imagine that! Wishing for someone's death (Mom, by the way, has expressed that she is more than ready to go, having a number of physical ailments that also interfere with her quality of life) because it's much kinder than what this disease will mete out if she doesn't.
It's a peculiar kind of grieving that you do when someone has dementia. A sudden unexpected death is hard to deal with no matter what, but a gradual dying away of a person right in front of you brings its own set of challenges, and a continual process of grieving before physical death even takes place.
You could call it anticipatory grieving because you know what's coming up, but with dementia you're grieving losses as you go. The first time they forget your birthday. The first time they forget your name. That one smarts a bit, but you already know that will pale in comparison to how it'll feel when they forget who you even are.
It's the protracted and compounding grief that's hard to take. And for a control freak like me, the constantly changing nature of what she can and cannot remember, can and cannot do, is enough to drive me around the bend. As soon as you think you have a handle on something, it's already morphing into something else. Plus the seemingly never-ending contradictions between what is said one day to the next (even something minutely small like, 'I love strawberries' vs. 'I hate strawberries' - which one is it?) and the ever-increasing gaps in language and memory making it hard at times to even figure out what she's talking about, is plain tiring. On the other hand, she can still talk. Because even that will eventually go away, if, God forbid, she lives long enough.
And maybe I'm wrong comparing the grieving process, but isn't constant grieving part of what vegans have to cope with? Death and suffering on an untold scale that isn't seen or mourned by most others. Isn't viewed as a legitimate cause of concern. Being vegan can be stressful when you focus on all those lives at stake, when what you do seems pitiful in comparison to the sweeping changes needed. Burnout is common for both vegans and caregivers, so what about those who are both?
It's a lot of stress. A lot of grief. And incredibly tiring. With my mom at least, there's a definite end in sight. With changing systems to make life better for those oppressed, that'll be a lifetime of work. In the meantime, most of my energy these days goes to trying to help the woman seen above. We weren't particularly close as I was growing up, and not wanting children of my own I certainly never foresaw mothering anyone, so this may be the closest I get to that role.
And while grieving takes many forms, it would be wise to remember that grief is not species-specific. Think of all the cows grieving when their calves are unfairly taken away, sows separated from nursing piglets, elephants remembering their deceased kin, and the grief recently shared by the residents and friends of HEEFS, just to name a few examples. Sharing your heart with another living being, regardless of species, means it'll get broken at some point. Opening your heart to the vast, systemic, and often brutal slaughter of billions to satisfy the needless wants of one species, means it'll break over and over.
So maybe instead of paying lip service and celebrating Mother's Day and Father's Day once a year, we could actually take the roles of mothering and fathering (whether that type of care is directed toward the young or old) a bit more seriously, and include in our consideration of those roles species other than our own. Parenting, and the inevitable grief that comes with it, should not be deemed important only for humans. And the emotions of beings of other species, even if they're not always exactly similar to our own, should not be discounted either. Grief is grief, love is love.
Happy mothering and/or fathering to everyone, and a special Happy Father's Day to the two awesome dads of the pups and pig above! :)