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Banging out this essay on my laptop as Delta Airlines ferries me from Kansas City to Portland, I’m once again preparing to table for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office at the Let Live Conference. It was about this time last year that I attended this same conference and met fellow press officers Jerry Vlasak and Camille Hankins for the first time. I also attended several demonstrations with some local Portland activists (for whom I have a great deal of admiration) and listened to several inspirational talks by powerful activists.
Those experiences motivated me to go home to Kansas City, where little or no Animal Rights activism was taking place, and found my own on-the-streets activist group, Bite Club of KC. Two major campaigns, multiple legal provocative actions, and hundreds of demos later, to say that I’ve jumped into the war against speciesism feet-first with a fierce intensity would be a gross under-statement.
While my determination and commitment have not diminished, I have lost that sanguine, devil-may-care attitude of a young recruit signing up to go to war for their country. Over the last year, I have discovered that the old adage that “war is hell” is quite true, even sociocultural wars such as ours. And when the hell starts to get to me, I often find myself mentally revisiting Peter Young’s reminder that no matter how difficult our lives may become as a result of our activism, the nonhuman animals for whom we fight suffer much more mightily.
As ethical vegans and Animal Rights activists, each of us faces our own set of unique and significant challenges and makes difficult sacrifices to advance the cause for which we persevere. While the types and degrees of adversities we encounter as a result of our insistence upon drawing nonhuman sentients into an all too exclusive anthropocentric moral circle vary, we each face substantial tribulations imposed by our choice to fight specieism and its accompanying bloody barbarism.
Yet for me (and probably for many of you), the spiritual sustenance and fulfillment that I derive from my strong moral stand as a voice, thinker, writer, and agitator for an infinitely just cause far outweighs the inconveniences, insults, semi-isolation, financial strain, professional risk, legal difficulties, broken relationships, harassment, intimidation, and similar hardships that I’ve endured.
I love waking up each morning as an ethical vegan and Animal Rights activist, despite its cost. Those of you who share my dedication to fur, feather and claw bearers can attest to your own trials and tribulations related to your choice to act on behalf of our nonhuman friends. And I strongly suspect that most (if not all) of you are willing to continue paying the heavy price as well.
Since our Movement tends to be so splintered and fragmented (a fact that has troubled me for some time now), one of my goals in penning this piece is to evoke a sense of unity. And my experiences in life have taught me that few things draw people together more closely than adversity.
So as you read the various components of the price I’ve paid (as enumerated below), let them resonate with you and spur you to empathize with me and the hundreds of thousands of other activists out there who are facing similar strife. In so doing, perhaps each of us will feel a little less alienated from one another, regardless of differing ideologies or tactical approaches.
And repetitive as it may be, to demonstrate the facts that my devotion to the cause of anti-speciesism is reason to celebrate and that it sustains me in the face of adversity, I’m going to preface each aspect of the cost of my vegan activism with “I love.”
1. I love the daily challenge of finding food that isn’t derived from dead animals or animal reproductive secretions.
2. I love my ongoing efforts to severely limit animal-derived and animal-tested products from my life.
3. I love being one of a relative handful of people awash in a vast ocean of specieist necrovores.
4. I love the broken intimate relationships and family fissures I’ve experienced as a result of my commitment to Animal Rights.
5. I love the hatred, ridicule and marginalization I face as a result of my vegan philosophy and praxis.
6. I love that, despite the fact that many of us vegans are more spiritually committed and active in our beliefs than most so-called “Christians,” our profound spirituality is not yet protected under the First Amendment.
7. I love fighting the often losing battles against exploiters who have the law, vast financial resources, and immense political power on their side.
8. I love the fact that the J Edgar Hoover crowd has become a part of my extended family, with no less than six different agents interviewing multiple people associated with me, including co-workers, ex-significant others, other activists, and my son.
9. I love the fact that my finances and I have been stretched perilously thin as I attempt to balance my professional life, parenting, and my activism.
10. I love that many and various law enforcement officials from numerous different entities have surveilled and harassed my allies and me at our hundreds of demonstrations.
11. I love the fact that I was arrested, jailed briefly and am now on a year’s probation for aggressive above-ground activism.
12. I love that other activists distanced themselves from me because they thought my attitude was too hard-core and my tactics too aggressive and I love the fact that I am now distancing myself from allies who are crossing lines that I’m not willing to cross.
13. I love living in a world that is populated by callous, empathy deficient moral primitives who have been indoctrinated to believe that animals are here for our pleasure and convenience and that abuses, exploits, tortures, desecrates and murders billions of sentient beings whom I consider to be sacred sometimes takes a devastating emotional toll on me.
14. I love that I often feel the excruciating prick of my conscience, needling my soul with a painfully persistent nagging voice that screeches, “You don’t do enough,” that is only relieved by the guilt-assuaging voice of reason shouting it down with, “You do far more than most!”
15. I love the fact that there are times that I can scarcely stand to be a part of the most arrogant, malevolent, destructive, wasteful, greedy, mean-spirited, self-centered, and dangerous species on Earth.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the pay is pitiful, the task is nearly overwhelming, our numbers are small, the opposition is strong, the Green Scare is in effect, and we each face myriad vexing personal obstacles( like the ones I detailed above).
And yet, driven by our consciences and the moral imperative to fight for defenseless sentients who suffer incomprehensible pain and die unimaginably horrid and lonely deaths at the hands of ruthless, profit-driven exploiters, we press onward toward our goal of expanding humanity’s moral circle to encompass our nonhuman brethren.
And we do so because we must. For their sake……
So why the Hell aren’t we making these sacrifices and waging this war together? For their sake……
Jason Miller, the Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious vegan abolitionist and animal rights activist who lives in Kansas. He has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In early 2005, he founded the widely read radical blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner. Jason is an accomplished, prolific essayist and his writings on social and political issues have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. He is a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, and the founder of Bite Club of KC, a grassroots animal rights activist group which he started in Kansas City in 2009 and through which he and his allies give animal exploiters some serious hell. You can reach him at email@example.com.