Farm Sanctuary’s great work — and an excuse to talk about veganism

Live in L.A. and wanna be part of something great? Farm Sanctuary invites you to join them – plus celebrity hosts John Salley, Jennifer Coolidge, and Bob Harper – at their 25th anniversary launch party this Saturday evening. Click herefor info.

If you’re not familiar with Farm Sanctuary, it may be because their approach is less in-your-face than other animal welfare organizations. Their impact, however, is just as valuable. A leading advocate for the humane treatment of all animals, Farm Sanctuary has been instrumental in raising awareness about the horrific conditions endured by farm animals – and the force behind many incredible rescues. Their work makes me proud to identify as vegan.

Truth be told, I still have a hard time with the v-word (this v-word, anyway), both because of what it implies and what it necessitates giving up (more on the former in a moment). Going vegetarian wasn’t a struggle at all. Sure, I enjoyed the occasional bacon strip, even a Big Mac now and then, but not in any sort of profound or addictive way.

Going vegan, on the other hand, was friggin’ HARD. Whereas poultry was something I could take or leave, cheese was among my top five reasons for living. (Gouda alone was number four.) I’m not going to lie to you: Years into this vegan thing and I still miss “normal” pizza, scrambled eggs, and half & half.

What’s more, I’m neither graceful nor inconspicuous about my cravings. A friend will order a lasagna and I’ll spend the entire lunch making goo-goo eyes at her plate and wiping drool from my chin. It’s not pretty but we’ve all learned to live with it.

So why do I do it? The most basic answer is that I believe causing another to suffer is wrong. And the suffering that most factory farm animals endure is epic: no question, a fate worse than death. (If you’re interested in learning more, there’s plenty of material out there. Start here or here or here.)

Still, in some crowds, I’m self-conscious about the label. I know that when people hear “vegan,” they think crazy radical militant. Someone uptight and hypercritical, not to mention, humorless and miserable – and probably hungry. (But believe me, I was no less cranky when I did eat meat.)

Being vegan, though, is not about spraying ketchup on people’s clothes or screaming “murderer” outside a fast food chain. It’s not about allegiance to a particular activist group or rendering judgment. It’s about reducing suffering: refusing to be complicit in another’s abject agony. In essence, the simple Golden Rule.

Sure, I still complain about the lack of selection in non-leather shoes. I’m not above resenting the price tag on cruelty-free mascara, and I sincerely miss gelato, tuna melts, and omelets. But at the shelter, I see enough abuse towards dogs and cats – those animals who are supposedly members of our families. I can’t stand to imagine how horribly farm animals – those who are simply commodities – are treated.

It’s enough to destroy my appetite. And sometimes, entire days.