Last night I co-hosted the Ottawa launch of We Animals at the Ottawa Humane Society (although I feel like that’s over-stating my role; Erin O’Sullivan was the real engine behind the event) on behalf of the National Capital Vegetarian Association.
We sold 81 tickets in total, raising more than $900 for the animals under the care of the OHS. Ottawa native Jo-Anne McArthur, author of We Animals, was gracious, compelling, and understated; her photos told the story.
Her messages are simple. Animals are individuals with feelings and interests, not things for us to use. “Who”, not “what”. Her photography over the past decade has captured many of the heinous and tragic ways that animals are used and abused all around the world. Her photos are poignant, disturbing, and often heart breaking.
It’s not that most people are uncaring and cruel. Often people become overwhelmed by the huge number of animals who are suffering, which can cause them to become immune to it. Or to feel defeated, and like there’s nothing they can do to affect change. In many cases, people simply have no idea how deep our abuse of animals runs.
Jo-Anne focuses on documenting individual animals’ plights, because bringing it down to the individual level can make it more digestible for people. It may be difficult to care about the 700-million animals killed every year in Canada alone for food, but we are all moved by the stories of individuals. It’s the same thing that underpins the work of companion animal rescues.
It’s not just a matter of eating food, or wearing a coat, or watching a performance. Each and every individual decision we make has potentially far-reaching repercussions for other beings, beings who are sentient and who simply desire to live their out their lives. Jo-Anne’s work heartbreakingly makes this point, again and again.
It’s why I’m vegan.
Sometimes when I feel beaten down, like nothing I do makes a difference, I catch myself.
I remind myself that it means a great deal to Lilac that she was not euthanized at the animal shelter because her previous “owners” decided that they no longer wanted her at the age of 10.
Our efforts matter to the 13 orphaned baby squirrels from Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary who were fostered by my husband, who syringe fed them and gave them a chance at life.
The turtle I moved off the road.
The nearly 2,000 animals who I have not eaten by virtue of being a vegan for close to a decade.
None of the things I mentioned are heroic, or beyond the capacity of thee average person. We can all do things that make a difference. It takes simple actions to save lives. Start with one. Then keep adding. See where it takes you.