The holidays feel like a whirlwind from Thanksgiving on. The relatives, events, food, gatherings and more food. If you’re anything like me, you probably feel torn on these holidays. On the one hand, you want to enjoy and cherish your time with loved ones. On the other hand, your heart inevitably breaks during every meal as you watch people you love and know to be good people participate in consuming animals and their secretions.
For some advice on explaining veganism to relatives this holiday season, see our guide here. For some comforting news, read on to learn about five happy moments for farm animals in 2015:
1. A Teen and His Pig’s Epic Friendship
Bruno Barba and Lola the Pig’s epic friendship gives us hope for a better world. Bruno was just an ordinary teen student in Fullerton High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) program until he met and raised Lola for a few months. Their bond was so strong that Bruno thought of everything he could do to rescue Lola from the fate of all farm pigs, so he reached out to Farm Sanctuary for help. Lola was one of the lucky ones and she got her forever home, but, with great humility, Bruno went as far as to say that Lola rescued him. He changed his eating habits and got his mother to change her habits too. If a teenager can make a difference in the life of an animal, then who is to say that you can’t?
2. Animal Activist Shows Compassion Isn’t a Crime
When a video of Anita Krajnc, co-founder and organizer of the Toronto “Save” vigils, documentary filmmaker and journalist, and a pig transport driver went viral, Anita found herself at the center of a much-needed debate: the problems of live animal transport. While Anita herself says that she doesn’t feel like a hero because she’s only witnessed the suffering of pigs, cows and chickens and hasn’t actually liberated the animals, her passion and dedication at weekly vigils are hard to ignore. Plus how many people would be willing to face criminal mischief charges, a possible $5,000 fine and/or possible jail time just to give thirsty pigs in the middle of summer some water and compassion? Not many. And I’m sure the animals are grateful for Anita’s activism working to raise awareness of their plight.
3. From Cattle Rancher’s Wife to Vegan Farm Sanctuary Operator
Because it’s hard to ignore a problem once your eyes have been opened — just ask Renee King-Sonnen, who went from a city singer-songwriter girl to a cattle rancher’s wife to a passionate vegan farm sanctuary (Rowdy Girl Sanctuary) operator. Renee was on the brink of losing her marriage after she was confronted with the realities of life on the cattle ranch. As she explains in Public News Service, she had reached her breaking point: “Mammas were running after the trailer. It just blew my mind. And then they cried for, like, a week or more, all these cows, and I was in a very, very bad state.” Like she told me in our interview, she was so moved by the mama cows’ grief because she couldn’t have children of her own. But throughout this process, she’s given birth to a farm sanctuary in Texas and found her life’s purpose.
4. The Numbers Show We Care About Farm Animals
Bruno, Anita and Renee might be only three individuals with limited impacts, but their activism speaks to larger collective values. A Gallup poll published in May of this year says that 32 percent of Americans said they believe animals should be given the same rights as people and 63 percent believe animals deserve protection from harm and exploitation. And the poll isn’t just about dogs and cats. Fifty-four percent said they were “Very/Somewhat Concerned” about livestock and other animals raised for food, while 26 percent said they were “Very Concerned” about farm animals.
And these aren’t just beliefs. Official USDA figures from 2007 to 2014 show that we’ve killed 400 million fewer animals for meat consumption in the U.S. — that’s almost a 5 percent reduction! While the causes of this decreased consumption are unknown, it’s definitely not just because there are more vegetarians and vegans. A large driving force behind this decline is the average omnivore consumer is cutting back on their meat intake thanks to meat reduction campaigns, e.g. Meatless Mondays.
5. Big Guys are Listening
Lawmakers and for-profit companies are paying attention that we care about farm animals. This year, Arizona vetoed a bill that said farm animals aren’t really animals and don’t have to be protected under the state’s animal cruelty code. Even a horrible offender like McDonald’s is trying to show that it cares about animals by committing to offer organic burgers, not purchase chickens raised with antibiotics and serve only cage-free eggs in 16,000 North American restaurants by 2025. None of these changes may be the ideal, but they do show that animal welfare is on the map.
Unfortunately, change takes time, and it can’t come sooner for farm animals. But at least there’s more hope than ever that changes are happening, and true change starts with individuals. I’m sure the animals are grateful for compassionate people who fight for them in big, but usually small ways, and I am too.