The work I’ve chosen to do—confronting the exploitation of anymals in the food system—is perhaps one of the most depressing subjects I could have chosen to dedicate my life to. When I first started down this path, my mom said to me, “Couldn’t you choose something a little less overwhelming and depressing? This is just so dark.”
In retrospect, I suppose I could have chosen any number of topics for my graduate work that would have been a lot easier to think about. Less dark. Less soul-crushingly sad. And certainly less controversial. But these truths exist. They’re in the world. And these truths about food production implicate all of us with every bit of meat, dairy or eggs we eat. Shedding light on the lives of anymals in the food system is so much more than a dissertation topic for me. It’s my life’s work. My family understands this really well, especially seeing how this school work has started us down a path of transformation—it made some of us vegan and it made us think in a new way about all animals and the structures of power and domination that have been so normalized in our psyches.
I think fairly regularly about emotional reactions to this material–my own and others’. I imagine that pretty much anyone who is dialed into thinking about the state of the world is suffering from at least some fairly regular low-grade depression and anxiety. It’s hard not to feel depressed when you educate yourself about these things. But of course, there’s also amazing beauty and compassion and light in the world to balance out the darkness. The other day, I shared with you a trailer for the film ‘Midway’. It looks like an amazing film, but I sobbed consistently through the trailer. First, I cried because of the beauty of the albatrosses living their lives—flying, caring for their young, etc. Then I was crying because of the impact of human arrogance and carelessness on their lives. And finally, I wept because of the magnitude of thinking about the albatross as one symbol of a much much larger problem.
Yes, it was a pretty epic three minutes. Afterwards, I was feeling slightly drained and very cranky. But I dragged my sorry ass up to Pigs Peace to do some barn painting because that’s what I was scheduled to do. Spending time there, with Judy and the pigs, represents the other end of the emotional spectrum. Admittedly, sometimes I do feel like I could cry from joy when I’m at Pigs Peace, just like Oliver.
But, watching the pigs eating carrots, giving the dogs some scratches and talking with Judy, I spent the afternoon laughing. There is such amazing healing power in laughter. Laughing with good friends, spending time laughing and playing with anymals who are happy and well cared for, joking around about the absurdity of how depressing our work can be—these are the things that bring light into the dark.
Thinking about laughter, I’ll nudge you over to a short piece I wrote at MindBodyGreen—”5 Reasons to Laugh More.”