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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 20 December 2007 Issue

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter
By Judith Marie Gansen

An Open Letter to My Meat Eating Family During the Holidays

Dear Loved Ones:

I know that when I made the choice to stop eating meat nearly 15 years ago, all of you were shocked and some of you were even angry.  I endured a few bad jokes, some sarcastic comments and quite a few lectures.  Change frightens people and I know you were scared for me because you care.  One of you said to me that I could die if I didn't eat meat and that I needed protein to survive.  We do need protein, but of course meat is not the only place to get it.

I did not make this life change on a whim.  I have always loved animals and did not like eating them but I thought I had to eat them to live because that is what doctors told me.  Later on I decided to research the health issues myself after reading an excellent article by Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine where he spoke of how all vegetarian animals have long intestines as we do to process vegetables, fruits and grains.  And how all meat eating animals have short intestines to properly process meat.  How we have opposing thumbs and forefingers to pick berries.  How our teeth are flat instead of having fangs to tear flesh.  Every documentary about early humans shows skulls with flat teeth!  Science backs up being a vegetarian!!  Knowledge is so wonderful when we choose to use it!! Since then I have challenged any person of science I run into saying to them:  if you can refute what Dr. Barnard said, then I will return to eating meat.  So far, no takers.  Why doesn't that bother all of you?

Wisdom is a beautiful thing and I was so happy to finally give up meat knowing that even science was on my side.  I immediately felt great peace inside myself.  I was no longer a part of the carnage of the meat industry.  No innocent being had to die so that I could live.  By making this change I believe I have reduced my chances of cancer and heart disease.  Instead of dying, several of my health problems actually cleared up.  During a recent blood draw at the doctor's, they were surprised that my blood levels were so good.  I told them I don't eat meat and they told me that is why the bloodwork came back so clean.

At every family get-together, we have a huge layout of food which I am grateful for since there are people starving in this world.  I have to ask "is there meat in this dish?"  I don't mean to be a pain, but it would upset me greatly if I ate something made from another being who feels pain and fear like we do--no matter how delicious the casserole may be or how hard you worked to prepare it.  I don't expect you to understand this, but I hope and pray that you try to.  I am not doing this to get attention or to create a problem--please understand that it is a challenge to be meat- free in a society dominated by people who consume meat.  However, this is a choice I have made for the rest of my life.

You may not have noticed, but quite often I will leave the room when you say something like:  "Isn't this ham delicious?  I found a better way to cook it so it is more tender."  You see, I read an article years ago in Readers Digest that told the true story of a pig who saved a little girl from drowning.  It's hard for me to hear that one of his species is now something called "meat."  Sometimes I just try to think of something else when I hear these comments--like the fact that Burger King now has a delicious veggie burger and they didn't years ago.  Most of the time this kind of talk upsets me but I hate to ruin our family parties by speaking out about it.  It is upsetting to me to have to watch just about everyone else in our family chow down on flesh that once belonged to another being, but then I tell myself that if not eating animals makes me different, then I am very proud of that difference!

I do ask you one thing.  That even though we have many different political beliefs left and right, a diverse family of hunters, pet only lovers and a few animal advocates, Christians and non-believers, that we always treat each other with respect.  I believe that part of respecting someone includes giving respect also to those who have different beliefs than you have. 

One of the hardest things for those of us who have reached this level of enlightenment about animals (even though I am hardly the smartest person in the world), is that I haven't been able to convince you by my example that you can be healthier and probably live longer if you just stopped eating meat.  It tears my heart out to see some of you struggling with medical issues like heart disease which I KNOW would be made better if you would just cut out meat.  A wonderful and easy "cure" for many health problems and it's so economical--you just quit eating something!  Why not try it for a month and see how much better you feel?  Unfortunately, I have to accept the fact that most of you probably will never do this.

To my sister and my niece--you are especially understanding of my life-changing decision to never eat meat and you both understand my deep love for animals better than anyone.  Sis, you have so much compassion that recently you sent me a positive article about an animal story but carefully covered the article below so I wouldn't see it.  Of course, curiosity got the better of me and I had to peer underneath the paper you carefully taped over it.  It was an article about hunting with graphic photos and you knew that would upset me.  That is real love and gestures like that are the greatest gift a loved one can bestow.  You also try to be sure that some of the dishes you make for holidays are meat free--just for me.  I can't tell you how much that means to me but then you have always thought of others first so that comes as no surprise.

A vegetarian friend recently said to me--how would meat eaters feel if someone from a country who eats dogs sat down at one of our meals and talked about how tasty dogmeat was?  To most people, it would be very upsetting and rude.  Yet, people do this all the time with pigs and baby cows and duck, mindless of the horrific effect it has on those of us who care.  A family function recently involved a "pig roast" again.  This was especially upsetting to me because someone's body was there on a stick with people carving into it.  Even most of the meat eaters did not enjoy seeing that--what does that say about those of you who eat meat but don't like seeing where it came from?  It's much easier when it is all "sanitized" and neatly wrapped in a package at the store and no longer looks like the living being it once was.

I still believe there is hope for our world and even for my family.  People have the power to change if they want to.  We are not slaves to old ideas, we only choose to hold onto them.  Traditions should be kept that are positive, not destructive.  More people now know that you can feed more starving people on lands filled with crops instead of lands that grow animals for food.  I seem to run into more and more people open to learning about animal issues and that is such a good sign.

My request to all of my family for the New Year

Please try to remember that the "sports" that you indulge in that harm animals are not sports to me, but cruelty masquerading as a "sport."  If you care about me maybe take those conversations elsewhere.  I also worry about your safety when you hunt because every year there are so many accidents with hunters--some of them sadly being fatal ones.  In return, I promise not to preach at family get togethers unless provoked on the subject of animals.  This way, we keep peace in our family.  But if provoked, you must know that I most certainly will respond.  This isn't a game to me.

Sarcastic comments and jokes which I often tolerate I guess I often don't take very well because I believe that helping animals is my calling from a higher power.  When you make sarcastic comments, you demean that cause which is very precious to me and is one that I have devoted my life to.  You don't have to understand or support my cause, but just know that in my heart, I believe that some day the world will be a better place for animals because the number of people speaking out for them continues to grow.  I know in my heart that this cause is right and that is all that matters to me.  I wish you much love and peace, and I will pray for your enlightenment in 2008.
This is a favorite quote of mine by David Ames (I cannot find any information so far on this Mr. Ames unfortunately):

"My tongue is a sword and it has great power.

It can defend the helpless or it can wound the beating heart of a fellow human being.

I will be remembered for when I drew it and for what purpose."

Like Mr. Ames, I defend the helpless and I believe that is noble work. 

All My Love Forever,  Judy

Staff:  Animals in Print 
(free online animal publication)

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter
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