I decorate my cubicle at work to reflect who I am and what I like. There are magnets from a trip to Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter a few years ago, and postcards from South Dakota. There are photos of the family (Millie included, naturally). And there are photos of me with some animal friends I made up at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary – one being Devlin the sheep and another being a pretty turkey lady whose name I can’t recall.
A co-worker was walking by one afternoon and noticed one of the photos. “Is that a turkey?” she said, with a hint of surprise in her voice. “I never saw a white turkey before!”
“They’re bred that way,” I replied. “That’s why the turkeys you eat are white meat. They also breed them to get very large, very quickly, so the ones who make it to a sanctuary live longer than intended, and they…”
“Kind of waddle?”
“Yes, because their bones can’t carry the weight.”
My co-worker looked at me. “It sounds like torture when you say it that way!”
What else could I answer with? “Yeah, it is!”
There’s nothing earth-shattering about this conversation, is there? You might have a similar one each day. But it reminded me about something I often have to keep in the back of my mind: people don’t know how their food is produced. I didn’t; not until fairly recently in the grand scheme of things. A former boss was fond of the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
That’s why it’s up to us to inform. This doesn’t mean walking up to unsuspecting folk and showing them pictures of slaughter or of skinless animals at fur farms. But it does mean opening up conversations. Post a photo of a farm animal at your desk. Tack up a movie poster for one of the documentaries that are currently on tour. Bring in a tasty, plant-based dish to share with a group.
Ethical veganism is not and never will be about a diet. But if we want people to know why it is we live vegan each and every day, we can’t give them the excuse of ignorance. Share kindly, share openly, and share in a way that might last – even if in a passing conversation about a turkey who got out.