Carpe Diem

Posted on 28 Oct 2012
 By: Marilyn Ramos
Carpe Diem = Seize the moment (or seize the day).
With 24 hours in a day, those of us who are animal activists have a unique opportunity to speak up for them each and every day, each and every hour. We should seize those special moments and opportunities throughout the day to get our message across. I know, however, that it is not always easy. We get distracted with our busy lives and busy schedules or if you have been an ethical vegan for a long time you sometimes can get complacent and forget why you became vegan in the first place. The fierce passion where you want to shout from the rooftops loses a little luster. I have to admit that I sometimes fall into the latter category although I try to do at least one thing per day for animals (besides not eating them, wearing them, etc.) – whether it is sign a petition, send an email or make a phone call; however, this isn’t much so it is important to look for those opportunities each day where you can make a difference or enlighten someone.
I had that opportunity last week when I went to City Wok to pick up my lunch. I usually order their hot braised tofu or their Szechuan eggplant. This was a particularly busy day and I was standing at the takeout counter waiting for my turn when an older gentleman next to me looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. He then asked, “Have you tried their BBQ honey pork? It is out of this world! I got some yesterday and my wife almost ate the whole thing herself”. GULP. Here was an opportunity! I smiled and politely stated that I don’t eat animals because I’m a vegan. The smile on his face disappeared. I then told him in about a minute or so how pigs suffer on factory farms, how they sometimes have their tails docked and teeth pulled without anesthesia. I also told him about gestation crates and how pigs are kept in these crates without the ability to stand up, turn over or simply move. I said, “This suffering is why I don’t eat animals”. Now the look on his face told me that he probably regretted making small talk. What I find humorous is that, more often than not, when you tell someone you don’t eat animals they spring into the, “Oh I don’t eat much meat either”. This gentleman said, “My wife is vegetarian a lot of the time but sometimes she wants meat”. I told him, “With all due respect sir, that doesn’t make your wife vegetarian, it just makes her someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat. They do have some great tofu and eggplant dishes here if the two of you ever want to try something different”. He said, “Thanks”, paid for his meal and left. I tried not to be bitchy and kept a small smile on my face. I hope that the next time they eat pork (or any meat for that matter) that he will remember the quick facts about cruelty I gave him and reconsider his choice. Maybe even make a more compassionate choice. We never know how our speaking up for animals will influence others especially strangers but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
I recall another time at an animal rights conference, I asked one of the staff to direct me to a specific room where a speaker was going to talk about factory farming. I didn’t ask, “Where is Ballroom B?”. I asked, “Where is the room where they will be speaking about factory farming?”. She wasn’t sure so I then said, “I think it is Ballroom B?” She gave me directions then asked, “So you are with the conference?”. I said, “Yes, why?”. She said, “Can you tell me what’s wrong with milk?”. I said, “Yes I can”. I chatted with her for about 3 minutes and she was engrossed in what I was saying. You could see the light bulb going off in her head. I then thanked her for the directions and said, “Now tomorrow, we can talk about what’s wrong with eggs!”. She chuckled, smiled and bid me adieu.
I will grant you that it took me some time to gain the courage to have these quick little conversations that mean so much. The key is to have 3 or 4 facts at the ready on any vegan topic – dairy, eggs,  meat, factory farming, animal testing, animals in entertainment, animal fur and skin used for clothing, etc.  On the occasion when they ask a question I’m not sure of, I always promise to get back to them or ask them for an email so I can follow up with an answer. Then do it! These little opportunities don’t cost us anything but a minute or two of our day but they can have a lasting effect. Of course, there is more we can do. In the past, I’ve treated coworkers to vegan pizza on World Vegan Day or World Farm Animals Day. The Berkeley Vegan Pizza from Z Pizza is great for that especially since they have the veggie crumbles and it fools the meateaters. They can’t believe that yummy slice is cruelty-free.
Many of us attend or organize protests against the circus or the rodeo or pet stores, etc. but it is these quick unexpected encounters on a daily basis that we need to seize so that we are speaking up for the innocent, speaking up for the voiceless. A bonus is that you feel pretty darn good afterwards! It also gets easier with practice.

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