I want to preface this story by telling everyone that we handed out more than 900 Vegan Outreach/Farm Sanctuary Compassionate Choices leaflets today at the beach in South Florida. Approximately 90% of people we approached accepted the leaflet and more than half of them began reading it, most of whom appeared to be reading it for an extended period of time. It’s so rewarding to see people turn the pages of the leaflet as they learn the truth about their food.
As always, we received a lot of positive feedback and comments that indicated seeds were planted (pun intended). Overwhelmingly, people disapprove of the mistreatment of animals. Our goal is to help them understand their role in the cycle of abuse. As I walked past the holiday tents selling the remains of dead animals to passersby, I provided them some reading material.
There was only one notable incident today but it’s worth retelling to provide insight into the minds of some of our fellow citizens. From time to time when we’re passing out leaflets on the beach, we encounter an angry person. Nevermind that we’re volunteers, we have permission to be there, we’re not selling anything, or that we’re trying to give voice to defenseless animals, global warming and pollution, and human health improvements. All that be damned. When you provide some people information that conflicts with their zombiesque views, it makes them fighting mad.
Today I encountered a bulky man who surprisingly identified himself as the “Meat Department Manager at Publix” (a popular Florida grocery store) after I handed him a leaflet. He crumbled it in his hands, threw it on the ground, and started yelling at me. “I slit pigs throats for a living fella. I sell pork. Yum, yum, yum! Bloody, dead pigs all cut up for sale! Ahaahaa,” he laughed. As I ignored his rant, he followed after me, trying to goad me and get his friends involved to no avail. “I love eating those fat little bastards,” he yelled. “Do you want me to make you a juicy red pork sandwich? I’ll kill the pig right in front of you. Get out of here.”
If you’re eating slices of pig flesh (bacon), chicken parts, (shredded parts of a pig (pork), flesh from a cow (steak or hamburger), the remains of an atrophied calve (veal), or flesh from any other animal, you should know that there are many people in the industry who actually take pleasure in tormenting these animals before they kill them. If this is how a manager at Publix reacts, thinks, and talks at the mere sight of a leaflet, you can imagine how much the decorum and mercy sinks inside the walls of a factory farm where undercover videos reveal the worst forms of abuse towards animals. If you buy and eat the remains of animals, you should know what happens to them before they’re slaughtered.
Did I get discouraged after the Publix employee shouted at me? Not at all. He was only one out of the more than 900 people we reached today. Who knows who was in that crowd — what spark we may have ignited in the minds of those people. We imagine some of them will become a vegan, leading to a healthier, compassionate, and fulfilled life. Perhaps somewhere in the crowd was the next Gene Baur or Jenny Brown who will start a new farm sanctuary. Maybe we crossed paths with the next John Robbins, Melanie Joy, or Jonathan Safran Foer who will write a best-selling book that informs millions of people about the importance of plant-based eating or the next Neal Barnard who will teach people how to practice responsible medicine. Or maybe we handed a leaflet to the next Ingrid Newkirk, Erica Meier, or Nathan Runkle who will start an organization exposing and ending the horrors of animal agribusiness, the fur trade, or experiments on animals. Perhaps we met the next Colleen Patrick-Goudreau who will write a must-have cookbook illustrating the ease and taste of plant-based foods. Could we have met the next Paul Watson who will commandeer future ships for Sea Shepherd to combat whale hunting in the Pacific, the next Marisa Miller Wolfson who will direct a major motion picture vegucating the public, the next Sam Simon who will create innovative programs to make vegan food for the homeless or use his fame and fortune to spread a message of kindness to animals, or the next Bruce Friedrich who will travel from college to college debating students about the fact that eating animals is indefensible? Or perhaps we just met the next Jennifer Mennuti, one of thousands of selfless grassroots vegan activists throughout the world who volunteer tirelessly to improve the lives of animals, the environment, and human health. We may have met a butcher but his reaction reveals the clear and present threat to his business model. The number 900 is a lot less significant than the number one. We met one person who didn’t matter because I bet we met at least one person who will.