Thursday, February 23, 2012

Much Ado About Murder

By now, you've probably heard of Meredith Lowell from Cleveland Heights, Ohio (pictured above), who set up a bogus Facebook profile in order to hire someone to murder a random person wearing fur. She was prepared to shell out $750 to $850 to get the job done.

Her scheme backfired, thanks to an undercover FBI sting operation that thwarted her. She's now getting a lot of media attention. It all began with her Facebook post last year that said: "I would like to create an online community on Facebook which would allow me to find someone who is wiling to kill someone who is wearing fur toward the end of October 2011 or early November 2011 or possibly in January 2012 or February 2012 at the latest."

The whole plot unfolded like a bad film noir. An undercover FBI agent emailed Lowell claiming to be an interested party. Lowell emailed back: "You need to bring a gun that has a silencer on it that can be easily concealed in your pants pocket or coat. If you do not want to risk the possibility of getting caught with a gun before the job, bring a sharp knife that is at least 4 inches long, it should be sharp enough to stab someone with and/or to slit their throat to kill them." (Source) She said she wanted the victim to be between 12 and 14 years old.

She wrapped up her solicitation with the following unambiguous request: "I want the person dead in less than 2 minutes (under 2 minutes or 1 minute or less would be better)." (Source) Obviously, the plan went nowhere and Meredith Lowell is now facing prison time.

Lowell's story is getting so much play in the media precisely because it is so anomalous. These days, it's exceedingly rare to hear any animal rights proponents - radical, moderate or conservative - advocating violence. Even the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which advocates very aggressive forms of direct action and sabotage, urges its followers to avoid directly harming human beings. There is some debate in animal rights circles whether their tactics - which include destroying cages, ruining equipment used in animal tests, slaughterhouses and factory farming, and setting animals free - is violent. I won't go there, because that is not the purpose of this Blog post. Suffice it to say the ALF has never advocated or resorted to the violence that Lowell sought to carry out.

Lowell is, by all accounts, a sensitive soul who is haunted by fish being trapped in the local aquarium (which she likened to a "bathtub") and the violent slaughter of fur-bearing animals. She has professed her unhappiness living in a home where her parents and siblings consume meat and eggs and dairy products. She spoke of "liberating" animals in the same way that "soldiers liberated people from Nazi camps in World War 2." (Source)

Lowell wanted to hire someone to murder an fur-wearing person because she hoped to shock the public. She said she planned to leaflet at the murder scene. Judging from the extensive media coverage of her botched attempt, had she carried out the plot successfully, she probably would've received the attention she so desperately sought.

Few people understand the truth of the statement that you can't stop violence with violence more deeply than animal rights activists. In democratic societies, violence rarely, if ever, helps to promote a cause. On the contrary, it almost always irreparably harms the causes it seeks to advance.

The consumption of animals by human beings is the most violent system on earth today. Gandhi once said the most destructive weapon on the planet is the table fork (I'd add the so-called steak knife). We animal rights advocates are well aware of the truth of this statement. And it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that the violence plotted by Meredith Lowell warrants our strongest condemnation.

But let's also put her act in perspective. She is clearly a desperate person, resorting to an extreme act with a potentially horrific outcome, in order to put a stop to a system that is murdering billions of sentient beings per year. Since you started reading this, millions of animals have had their arteries severed, their fur ripped off of their bodies, their babies separated from them, and they've been pulled out of their homes in the oceans and lakes and rivers in order to be consumed by human beings.

Most people, as I've said before, construct high walls of denial to protect themselves. But what about those of us who cannot - will not - build these walls anymore? How do we live with the enormity of the bloodletting and crimes going on around us every second of every day without going a little crazy? How fine is the line that separates us from Meredith Lowell?

A system so deeply shaped by, influenced by, imbued with, saturated with, defined by violence - at its very core, at the very center of how it operates on a second-to-second basis - is bound to have deleterious effects on those sensitive souls who eventually awaken to the savagery and become repulsed by it. How can you not be the product of the society in which you live? If you refuse to look the other way, like so many omnivores, at the constant, nonstop violence, how do you emerge with your compassion and your commitment to nonviolence intact?

Amazingly, most of us have figured out how to walk that fine line. We do this by recognizing that we love all sentient beings, and we reject the violence going on around us by trying to disengage, as much as humanly possible, from the very forces that make life such a miserable and hellish experience for non-human animals. In the process of walking this tightrope, it becomes so vital for us to find other qualities in life that bring us happiness and emotional sustenance, qualities that allow us to continue making the most out of our short time on earth. Friends, family, music, art, good movies, long walks in nature, and, yes, time spent with animals who were fortunate enough to somehow escape the maelstrom, help us heal from what torments us.

It's tempting to simply condemn Meredith Lowell and move on to other issues. But can we not find it in our hearts to feel sympathy for a misguided, ultimately self-destructive woman who could not maintain her balance on that precarious tightrope any longer?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Words of Wisdom: How to Help a Wounded Planet

Signs of Hope in China

In China, where conditions for animals have traditionally been among the worst on earth for decades, Animal Rights activists are on the march. They're mobilizing as we speak, emboldened by basketball superstar Yao Ming, a retired NBA player who gained fame for his stunning performances on the court for the Houston Rockets.

Yao Ming is a superstar in China. So when he visited his homeland recently and spoke out against shark fin soup and the selling of bear bile tonics - both of which cause enormous suffering for sharks and bears respectively - his words influenced millions of people and helped strengthen China's fledgling AR movement.

The movement has been making tremendous gains over the last few years. They've enjoyed particularly strong success in the campaign against shipping dogs and cats to restaurants, and Chinese society is now moving away from that barbaric practice. Organizations such as the Chinese Animal Protection Network have been thriving since the mid-2000s. The Chinese are becoming much more receptive to pro-animal campaigns.

Moreover, more Chinese families are switching over to vegetarian diets. A new organization called POVchina (translation: Pioneer Vegetarianism of China) is an online resource for Chinese men, women and children who've removed meat from their diets.

And the wonderful group AnimalsAsia has functioned as a much-needed watchdog to monitor developments in China and across the rest of the region. They're sort of the Amnesty International of animal abuse in Asia.

These are but a few hopeful developments in the growth of the Animal Rights Movement in China. The internet has performed a valuable function in bringing a wide array of groups together inside the vast and densely populated country. Talk about a place that desperately needs such a movement. And when you begin to think that 10 years ago, there was very little in the way of animal rights agitation in China, recent developments are extremely encouraging.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Progressives Who Don't Connect the Dots

I admit: I was one of those progressives who, for the longest time, failed to connect the dots.

I spoke of human rights, yet I devoured pork chops. I agitated for peace, but thought nothing of the terror experienced by the chickens that eventually became my food. I wrote of social justice without realizing that justice is meaningless if it doesn't apply to cows and horses, lions and whales, and every other living, sentient being.

In short, I lived in ignorance. Thankfully, I came out of the darkness eventually. I realized that progressivism and humanitarian politics mean nothing unless animals are included in the equation. I'm just glad I realized it before it was too late.

I've been distressed to read that California's progressive governor, Jerry Brown, is calling for a budget cuts that will hurt animals. An article from the L.A. Daily News sums up what's happening:

Brown is hoping to convince the state Legislature to save about $23 million a year by repealing provisions of state law that require longer holding periods before euthanasia for shelter animals. The Hayden Law, passed in 1998, requires holding periods of four to six days for shelter animals before euthanasia - an increase from the 72 hours in previous state law - and requires the state to reimburse cities and counties for the costs of the extra time.

Brown's proposal would not force shelters to euthanize animals after 72 hours - but the state would no longer pay them for expenses longer than that, according to H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

"It would simply say that the state is not going to reimburse local governments for the cost associated with that additional holding period beyond three days," Palmer said.


To be fair, Governor Brown is governing a state that has been experiencing severe financial problems. California has been teetering on the verge of financial collapse for years. Cuts are needed in lots of areas if the state is going to move beyond crisis mode.

Moreover, the problem of overcrowded shelters is an issue for which the general public needs to take responsibility. It is the public's reckless disregard for the protection and lives of animals that results in shelters being so overcrowded.

But activists rightly point out that the cuts will harm a law named for another famous California progressive, Tom Hayden, in 1996. Hayden heroically campaigned on behalf of a law that would extend the period that shelters hold animals to four to six days before euthanizing them.

Cutting funds that help animals is a no-brainer for most Democrats and Republicans. Animals don't vote. They don't send in campaign contributions. They can't demonstrate on their own behalf. They can't speak out for themselves. Instead, they sit in cages for a day or two or three, trembling, disoriented, waiting for something to happen, not knowing that the something is going to be the end of their short lives.

My various Facebook friends and groups post pictures of shelter dogs and cats that are on "death row" and desperately need to be adopted before being euthanized. Their adorable yet sad pictures fill my Facebook page. On many of the images, there is a caption: "Sorry we failed you. Rest in peace." My heart sinks every time.

If Jerry Brown were a true, well-rounded progressive like Tom Hayden, he'd fight to keep that small portion of the budget intact that helps animals. Unfortunately, it's beginning to look like Brown is a pragmatic "progressive," someone who talks the talk, but has yet to connect the dots.

Words of Wisdom from Will Tuttle

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remembering the Dead

The wonderful folks with Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals (CETFA) are calling for a roadside memorial in Manitoba at a spot where a semi truck crashed and killed 71 cows in January.

CETFA is asking for a sign to be placed at the crash site that reads: "Careless driving costs lives: In memory of 71 cows." The sign would be similar to the memorials created by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) that are placed near places where people died as a result of impaired drivers.

It occurred to me as I read this article that we don't always take time to stop and remember the animals that have died. I'm not talking about our pets, mind you. Most of us have lost a pet that was very near and dear to our hearts, and we take comfort in the idea of a Rainbow Bridge, where our pets play and frolic with other animals.

No, I mean animals like the 71 cows killed in the semi collision. Or the countless animals who've perished in factory farm fires in Canada and the United States during the past decade. Or the millions - ultimately - billions slaughtered by the Animal Murdering Industries (meet, dairy, leather, fur, etc.).

We vegans and animal rights activists stare down into the abyss confront death every single day. Day in, day out. We're surrounded by it. We stare at those animal death counters where the numbers are climbing at an astonishing rate (you know what I mean - "Animals Killed Since You Visited This Website" - those counters). We watch some of the most horrible videos imaginable. We feel sick inside when we see meat wrapped neatly in shrink wrap and styrofoam.

And those of us who love animals, who pray for animals, who want to see the bloodletting and the violence stop, die a little each time when we see these things.

So it's probably asking a lot to think about remembering and memorializing the animals who've died as a result of human violence, especially factory farm animals, fish and other aquatic lives, and fur-bearing beings. How do you mourn thousands? Millions? Billions?

When I grapple with this issue, I think of all the people who toss around numbers of human beings killed when talking about the past. More than 6 million Jews murdered under Hitler. Twenty million Russians killed in World War II. Millions who perished in gulags, famines and purges under Stalin. It all becomes miles to Pluto.

How do we put a human face on the millions? How do we put an animal face on the billions?

I look at the bottom of my blog page: 59 billion land and sea animals, murdered for Americans alone in 2009 (Source).

How do you mourn each one of those animals? Billions. Do you find one animal that is representative of all of them and mourn him or her? Or maybe a few symbolic animals who met such a grim fate?

Should we be mourning the dead? The dead cows? The dead pigs? The dead sheep? There are moments when I'm walking by the meat section in the store and I want to break down and sob. Death is everywhere. It swallows you whole in the meat and fish section of the supermarket.

Is there not a Rainbow Bridge for these animals, where they can frolic and play and have fun in the sun? A place where there are no factory farms, no fishing boats, no canneries and butcher shops? No one to rip away your baby when he or she is only a day old?

I realize I'm only asking questions, and they aren't questions with easy answers. I do know that those of us who have experienced our epiphanies about animals, who have awakened to the horrors, and who have consciously chosen to no longer participate in the mass murder any longer, are haunted far more deeply than those who haven't opened their eyes, who can't feel the suffering and who have no empathy for animals.

We're surrounded by death on all sides of us. Mourning is part of the process of loss. How do you mourn the violent end of so many precious beings?

Maybe Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals has the right idea. It begins with memorializing those 71 cows who met their tragic fate on that highway in the middle of Manitoba.

On the surface, it may not seem like much. But it's a start.

How Many Words Are Pictures Worth Again?

These ones (below) must be worth millions. The crying calf says it all - no words necessary.



Where We Vegans Get Our Calcium...

One of the anti-vegan myths you encounter all the time is that vegans do not get sufficient calcium in their diets. For vegans, there are many ways of obtaining our daily calcium requirements, just as there are many ways of taking in protein, iron, vitamin B12, etc.

This helpful list (above) shows, in a very graphic way, sources of calcium that do not involve cruelty to animals. Remember, dairy products and eggs also cause tremendous suffering among animals. If you can figure out a way to eliminate those foods in your diet, you'll be helping a lot of sentient beings.

Let the calcium intake begin!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Truth That All Omnivores Must Ultimately Confront...

Love It!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at C-A-L-F.com for this beautiful image!

And while I'm posting about C-A-L-F, check out the organization's wonderful introductory video on their homepage. It's very inspiring!


I'll stand by you ( go vegan ) from kat vegan wain on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fighting for Chickens

The struggle never ends. And the Good Fight is worth it.

Saving Animals, the Vegetarian/Vegan Way


There is a fascinating article from the Website Counting Animals.com about the number of animal lives saved by going vegetarian. After crunching a lot of figures about animal deaths and the number of animals consumed per person, the author of the article concludes that vegetarians save about 404 animal lives per year. In other words, at least one animal a day is saved by switching to the vegetarian lifestyle.

The author, Harrish, concludes:
My numbers are larger than the ones previously quoted in animal advocacy circles (usually 50, 95 or 100), but I have not seen these quotes accompanied by a detailed explanation of methodology or pointers to their sources. Given how conservative my methodology is and how much larger my numbers are, vegetarians have been undercounting the number of animals they actually save and short-selling their impact on animal lives. Yet, this estimate is a work in progress. With more data becoming available and more meticulous tabulation of some things ignored in this post (such as bycatch), the estimated number is actually bound to increase.
The article includes a lot of stark statistics, such as the following:


When you're dealing with numbers in the billions, it becomes miles to Pluto. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around so many animals being slaughtered. And for what? Because we human beings think they taste good? What an appalling reason to commit murder. Cannibals used to use the same reasoning to eat human beings. When will carnivorism go the way of cannibalism?

When you start to consider that each one of the above animals is a sentient being, with feelings and emotions, and they form bonds with each other and savor life as much as you or I, then it's easy to become overwhelmed with the brutality of human beings.

Yet it is also encouraging that a growing number of people are removing meat from their diets. By doing so, they're saving lives. And if a vegetarian is saving more than 400 lives per year, imagine how many lives a vegan is saving. Remember, dairy is extremely destructive. Dairy cows are kept pregnant to continue giving milk, and their newborns are ripped away from them and turned into veal, and the mothers are murdered when they can no longer give milk.

The chicken egg racket is equally violent. Huge numbers of male chicks that can't lay eggs are routinely thrown alive into huge garbage cans or grinders. Egg-laying chickens live absolutely miserable lives, eventually cut short by death.

Alas, vegetarians who consume milk and egg products are perpetuating this destruction, even as they are saving lives.

A wise person (whose name I can't remember) once said, "The only true vegetarian is a vegan." But even vegetarians are to be commended for saving so many lives.

Vegans deserve even higher praise, for saving lives and being 100 percent consistent in their practices.

And the above study shows that just one person changing his or her lifestyle can save a lot of lives. Which just goes to show what we vegans have been saying all along: Veganism is not just a diet. It truly is, in the last analysis, a way of life. The way of life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Words of Wisdom

"Even if you're a minority of one, the truth is the truth."
- Mohandas K. Gandhi

An Extraordinary Video of Heroism



Only when we are able to fully connect with the suffering of other sentient beings, human or non-human, and do something - however small - to free them from that suffering, can we really begin to fill our own internal humanity in its entirety. Please watch this beautiful 2010 video, in Spanish (with English subtitles) about Animal Rights Activists in Spain rescuing five hens. It really is extraordinary.

One might wonder: What difference are they making by rescuing five out of 160,000 hens? For those five hens, they are making all the difference in the world. The symbolism of the act is just as important as the lives that were saved: Each individual life matters. Each hen is a being with dignity and with a right to live, free from violence, exploitation and harm.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is applicable to animals, too.

Here is the context, from the Website We Animals:

RELEASE FROM IGUALDAD ANIMAL | igualdadanimal.org

Animal Equality activists have rescued five hens from a farm containing 160,000 animals on Monday 16 September.

After entering one of the sheds via an unlocked door and without having to use any type of force, the activists removed five hens, who were later examined by a vet. One of them had to be operated on to remove a huge mass from her head resulting from an old eye infection. Another hen is currently receiving veterinary treatment but is out of danger.

These animals were being subjected to a process called a forced molt, in which through severe food restriction - including going for days without eating - and in total darkness, their bodies are shocked into a new cycle of egg-laying.

These one-and-a-half-year-old animals have spent the last eleven months trapped behind bars without being able to see the sun. They are suffering from various nutritional deficiencies and some of them also have liver damage due to the high protein content of their food which is given in order to increase the weight of their eggs.

The Animal Equality Open Rescue Team has recorded these images because we believe it is essential that society has access to what happens inside places like these so they have the ability to think about how the animals must feel.

This rescue was carried out on a farm with battery cages similar to the 'enriched cages' which will obligatory from 2012 onwards throughout the European Union. Nevertheless, on 'free-range' farms, hens are still deprived of their freedom and used as mere resources for human benefit, and finally all of them are sent to the slaughterhouse at a fraction of their natural lifespan.

In Spain, more than 47 million hens are victims of this system which exists to satisfy the demand for eggs. Eggs that we do not even need. In the UK the figure is 32 million. The same number of male chicks - their brothers - are also victims of this consumption. Often forgotten they do not even register in official statistics. On every type of farm, male chicks are killed, either ground up alive or gassed, because they do not lay eggs and they are not profitable for any other purpose.

Animal Equality rescues animals not only to help these particular individuals, but also to get society to reflect and stop seeing the other animals with which we share the planet as being at our disposal, as resources we can make a profit from.

As in all open rescues we carry out, we always come away filled with a sensation of sadness and impotence when we have to close the door and leave behind the thousands of other animals who will suffer their whole lives only to end up with their throats slit in a slaughterhouse.

We are simply unable to rescue all the animals on farms, in slaughterhouses, or laboratories. Ending this ongoing animal holocaust depends on each one of us, it depends on removing our financial support from all of it, in all its forms.

Living as vegans means we free those animals who were going to be forced to suffer and die for our demands, and builds a base of support for a world that is more equal for all, regardless of the species we belong to.

Towards the abolition of animal slavery.

VĂ­deo -- cross posted from vimeo.com/​16163156
Karol Orzechowski | decipherimages.com

Photos -- flickr.com/​photos/​igualdadanimal/​sets/​72157624970154504
Jo-Anne McArthur | weanimals.org

Words of Wisdom from Moby



“If you look at the course of western history you'll see that we're slowly granting basic rights to everyone. A long time ago only kings had rights. Then rights were extended to property-owning white men. Then all men. Then women. Then children. Then the mentally retarded. Now we're agonizing over the extension of basic rights to homosexuals and animals. We need to finally accept that all sentient creatures are deserving of basic rights. I define basic rights as this - the ability to pursue life without having someone else's will involuntarily forced upon you. Or, as the framers of the constitution put it, the ability to have 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' By what criteria can you justify denying basic rights to any living thing? Realize that by whatever criteria you employ someone could deny basic rights to you if they objected to your species, sexual preferences, color, religion, ideology etc. Would you eat your housecat, or force a mentally retarded child to ingest oven cleaner? If not, then why is it ok to eat cows and test products on sentient animals? I believe that to knowingly commit actions that cause or condone suffering is reprehensible in the extreme. I call upon you to be compassionate and treat others as you want to be treated. If you don't want to be beaten, imprisoned, mutilated, killed or tortured then you shouldn't condone such behavior towards anyone, be they human or not.”
— Moby

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Earthlings: The Film That Has Turned So Many Into Vegans



I'm posting Shaun Monson's powerful film Earthlings on my Blog because it has had such a huge influence on so many people. The film lasts a little over an hour and a half. It's quite powerful. Have a look if you get the time.

This is not the film that won me over to veganism. For me, the film Death on a Factory Farm, an HBO documentary about the mass murder of pigs inside of an extremely brutal Ohio farm, pushed me over the edge.

Film can have a tremendous impact on people's thinking. There are countless other films, such as Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc. - the list goes on - that have planted the seeds of doubt in people's minds, and given viewers the nudge they need into the vegan camp. Earthlings seems to be the most successful among the vegans I've met in terms of pushing them over the edge.

It is a powerful film. A haunting film. Please see it if you haven't already. Even if you're one of the converted. Films like this help reinforce our convictions and our lifestyle choices.

Food For Thought: Reflections on Double Standards

I love this image.

About ten years ago, I was in Vietnam and I was horrified to see dogs and cats squirming in small cages, barely bigger than their own bodies, a thought that still horrifies me.

When I came back to the United States, these images continued to haunt me in my memories. Those poor animals, in that sweltering heat, cramped together, with hardly any room to move around.

The Vietnamese sold these cats and dogs in open-air markets as pets. Eventually, the animals would be freed and sent to live with people. But seeing them in those cages, in triple-digit, equatorial heat and muggy humidity, nearly broke my heart.

It took me a while - another seven years - to put two and two together and realize that what we do in North America to pigs and chickens and cows is really no different.

We have social taboos about cramming dogs and cats into tight, tiny cages like the ones pictured above, where they hardly have any room to move around. Sadly, we don't have any taboos about dropping them off at shelters and letter other people do our dirty work for us. But there should be a taboo against that.

Nor are there any taboos in our society about cramming livestock into cold, dark spaces, where they'll live short lives of being frightened and disoriented. There should be a taboo against that, too.

Images like this one help bring our double standards into perspective. We should feel an instinctive revulsion about the prospect of imprisoning any animal in a tight space, not meant to be inhabited by a sentient being, as much as we feel that revulsion toward doing the same thing to a human being.

The Vietnamese typically set their animals free from those little cages. Can we say the same about our pigs, chickens and cows?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reflections of Veganism, Loneliness and Life

For a long time, I took a break from this Blog, even though I never took a break from believing that Animal Rights and Veganism are the most important issues of our time.

I had to work on editing a manuscript which will become my first novel. I'm excited that my novel is going to be published this fall. And for months, I devoted all of my writing energy to revising it and, hopefully, making the finished product better.

But I missed this Blog. And I missed advocating for the animals. After a few weeks, I started feeling out of sorts. A deep melancholy gripped me. On the freeway, I'd drive past those long, silver livestock trucks - some empty, some full - staring in those openings the forlorn passengers, going to some unimaginable destination.

If you're a sensitive type, and you feel a deep empathy for the suffering of other beings, how can you not go a little crazy when you see one of those trucks? Or watch one of those hidden-camera films of animals bleeding and kicking in the slaughterhouse? Or see all of the people you love eating meat without giving it a second thought?

It can be challenging to be vegan in a non-vegan world. It's especially hard if you're like me, surrounded by people who do not share my values or my lifestyle. It's easy to feel lonely and isolated. It helps to be part of a larger vegan community.

But some of us live in towns without large vegan communities. Where I live, there aren't any vegan bakeries. There aren't any vegan support groups or vegan clothing stores (although some stores do sell vegan clothes and shoes). You can buy some kinds of vegan ice cream, like So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream (I think it's called Purely Decadent in the States). And even though our one vegan pizza joint in this area, Valentino's Organic Pizza, closed its doors last year, you can still buy Tofurky-brand vegan pepperoni pizza. It's no Valentino's, but it'll give you your fix.

It's lonely. But it's even lonelier when you live the lifestyle and believe deeply in animal rights, yet you don't have an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. I suppose that's why this Blog has been so important to me in the past. It has helped me preserve my sanity and cope with the world around me.

Thankfully, every now and then, life offers a pleasant surprise or two. A week ago, I sat down with a graduate student who also happens to be a vegan, and she made these wonderful vegan Snickerdoodle-type cookies. Talk about heavenly! I ate a couple of them and told her how much I loved them. She said these cookies were one of the best ways to recruit people over to veganism. I asked her if she'd had any luck, winning hearts and minds with those wonderful homemade treats. She told me the cookies are but one way of nudging people over to the lifestyle. There are many others.

It's funny how one little moment like that made me feel hopeful and refreshed. Even if you can't find a beloved community inhabited by countless kindred spirits, you can still find inspiration from one or two or three like-minded people.

This is where the Internet helps. When I see the wonderful and creative and nonviolent actions that my brothers and sisters in Toronto Pig Save are doing to stop the murder of pigs on a daily basis, I take heart. I'm moved by their simple courage. Now they're starting a new group: Toronto Chicken Save. Thank goodness for activists like Anita Krajnc, whose quiet heroism has been tremendously inspiring.

When I wrapped up the rewrites and revisions on my novel, I was so happy to see my little Blog, my little shack along the Information Superhighway, still waiting for me. The Blog posts and images - both uplifting and tragic - seemed to beckon. There are still lots of times when I feel alone and isolated in my feelings and beliefs.

But even as I write these words, I feel rejuvenated. And I can feel my priorities changing. I realize the sadness I feel in those moments when I'm lonely pales by comparison to the sadness that a pig feels in a gestation crate, or a cow feels when her baby is stolen from her, or the way a chicken feels when she's fattened up during her short life in order for her to be murdered for her meat.

There are a lot worse things in this world than being lonely. And yet, in order to continue fighting for what's right, we vegans and animal rights advocates need to grab hold of those beautiful moments when we're not staring into the abyss, but - rather - we're savoring the simple pleasures that come from being able to enjoy what is denied to millions of animals on a daily basis: Life.