I killed someone yesterday and the worst part of it is that I was the only person who seemed to care.
Yes, that someone was a snail.
And yes, I’m aware that approximately 55 billion sea and land animals are killed per year to uphold animal agriculture within the United States…
But I have been an ethical vegan for over 5 years, and there are no words to explain how it feels to accidentally, personally, be responsible for the taking of an innocent life. A life I would have otherwise interrupted my own convenience, tradition, lifestyle, and downright adherence to ignorance to protect.
I already know how this sounds to the vast majority of people in our society, because I have been them.
Crying over a fucking snail? Get a life…
I used to think that too.
But for every 100 people who might consider me overly sensitive at best, and overtly melodramatic at worst, I have yet to find a single person who can adequately explain to me what it is that makes my right to life any greater than that of a snail?
Replace the snail with a dog or a child or a baby tiger and people seem to care, but consider the equal right to lifE of a snail and no-body cares. This is stupid in the most profound sense — the sense that it makes absolutely none.
You see, I am not a religious person, but if you believe there is a God that put me here, then you better belive your God also had a hand in creating the life of this snail.
Similarly, I will be the first person to tell you that life is largely conducive to the on-going experience of suffering — but there is no reason I can locate as to why the suffering of one being is to be weighted more heavily than the suffering of another.
In every way that really matters: a boy is a pig is a dog is a snail. In the ability not only to experience pain and feelings of suffering, but also emotions such as joy, and happiness, and peace — you cannot tell me that we humans are so ruled by our egos that we presume exclusivity over these sensations.
Better yet, how dare we gate-keep them as we do, drawing entirely arbitrary distinctions between the animals we deem worthy of our affection and safeguarding, and those we feel entitled to eat, wear as clothing, use in laboratories, for our own selfish entertainment, or simply because it is easier for us to view them as objects than to concern ourselves with their right to life.
I say this with the understanding that we have been conditioned to operate this way for profit. There is no individual culpability under a capitalist society (save for the individuals working at the top to perpetuate it), but there is individual responsibility to oppose it.
I forgot to use the flashlight on my phone while walking home at night after it had rained, and as a result I ended the sole experience of life that that snail will ever have.
By whatever design or purely coincidental chain of biological events that led to my existence on this earth — so too did they lead to the snail. It just doesn’t seem correct not to pay all lives equal mind.
What’s more, is that I don’t think I’m a bad vegan for failing to be perfect, but I do know that sometimes it feels awfully bad to be vegan. There’s a joke that finding veganism is like finding out there’s no Santa Claus; you realize everyone you trusted has been lying to you, and your friends get mad at you when you try to tell them.
I’ve also seen the one about how being vegan is like being the main character in a horror movie; you’ve just come face to face with the monster, but when you try to warn others they don’t believe you. Who would have thought that a philosophy founded on the idea of all life being interconnected and of value could be so damn isolating from time to time.
There’s a quote by a man many times smarter than myself that reads:
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
— Albert Einstein
There are not many aspects of the vegan lifestyle that I haven’t covered in my articles so should you find yourself drawn to understanding it more, I suggest starting with any of the following that might appeal to you:
The Ethics of Eating Animals and Loving Them Too
Hypocritical or over-critical?
Eat Like a Man, Stan
How the meat industry profits from the promotion of toxic masculinity, and why you should be aware of it
The 7 Biggest Mistakes Most People Make When They Go Vegan
Being aware of these common potential pit-falls will help you make your transition as smooth as (non-dairy!) butter
Your Ultimate Comprehensive Cooking Guide To Vegan Substitutes (Hello Veganuary!)
A collection of bite-sized wisdom from a well-seasoned vegan — pun intended!
The Unconstitutionality of Ag-Gag Laws
And what they mean for animal welfare, consumerism, and freedom of speech
The Uncomfortable Link Between Animal Cruelty And Human Out-Group Prejudice
An psychological exploration of the available literature on the subject of speciesism, social identification, and…
I do not have much else to say aside from: I am tired.
Tired of a culture that does not cry at the death of a snail, and tired of being the only person I have to remind me to turn on my flashlight after it’s rained.
Alexandra Walker-Jones — May 2021