More thoughts on factory farming

Last week I dreamed that our yard was filled with rabbits, big fat rabbits who moved very slowly and seemed completely responseless to anything we did or said to them. They marched through our yard in single file, and those who came last were badly wounded. One of them had a big hole in its side and I could see its guts. My family and I gathered up these hurt rabbits to take them to the vet.

Last night I dreamed I was driving, and a guy crossed the street in front of me with two dogs, both unleashed. One of the dogs trotted along at his owner’s side, but the other suddenly veered toward me and ran into my path. I was too close to stop, and I hit it. I pulled over as soon as I could, and got out. The dog had survived (and I knew it would live okay), but its owner was livid. He told his other dog to keep me away from him, so the dog (a big one) lunged at me, growling and snapping. I couldn’t even get close enough to yell at him that it was his fault his dogs were unleashed on a busy street.

I’m pretty sure both these dreams have to do with all the thinking I’ve been doing lately about factory farming. Two nights ago I started reading Farm Sanctuary, and by the middle of the day yesterday I was crying as I read. I spent the afternoon feeling depressed and at first I didn’t even connect the feeling with what I’d been reading. (And if anyone thinks I’m being foolishly sentimental, I challenge anyone with a conscience to read that book and not get depressed.) It’s a good book, because it is very compassionate and not militant at all, which unfortunately also makes it much more painful to read.

It’s always interesting how my thoughts manifest themselves in my dreams. Here, I had two dreams about suffering animals, and in both, the animals in question were those I do not usually think of as food animals. I guess most of us care more about “pet” animals than we do about the ones we eat, so it makes sense that in my dreams I’m translating my deep anguish about factory farming into relations with companion animals. But in the first dream, which happened before I started reading Farm Sanctuary, the animals came to us voluntarily, and we helped them. In the second dream, I was the perpetrator of harm to an animal — albeit unintentional and unavoidable — and I was not allowed to make amends for my action, which was the most wrenching part of it. This reflects my feelings about factory farming after reading the book; I feel so terribly complicit, and so powerless; our society is one where meat is so ubiquitous that not only do most people not think about it anymore, a great number of people actually take offense when asked to think about it at all! (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been made fun of for not eating meat — sometimes by people I didn’t even know — and I’m not even a full or very staunch vegetarian.) That’s the part that gets me depressed.

I still stand by what I wrote earlier, which is that I can condemn no one for eating meat or not eating it, because our world is so built on suffering that our mental wellbeing depends on our ability to ignore it. But for me, though I don’t plan to become an animal-rights activist or switch to full veganism just yet, I’m definitely moving more and more in the vegan direction. I read about the abominable cruelty done to living creatures in factory farms and I just don’t want to consume anything to do with it.