Posted on Apr 12, 2018
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
In Tennessee last week we were driving on the freeway and to the left, we passed a truck full of tiny cages stacked six feet tall, stuffed with chickens, their feathers blowing wildly in the wind as they shivered and huddled to stay warm in the extreme chill. Simultaneously on the right, we passed a slaughter truck full of cows with their noses pressed up against the holes on the side of the truck trying in vain to see the outside world and breath fresh air while suffocating in their own excrement and fear. It was a split second that passed by in slow motion. The car fell silent, the light, funny banter stopped abruptly, the music kept playing but we could no longer hear it. Our heads turned to maintain eye contact with these animals until they were very quickly swallowed up by the other cars and disappeared out of view. We sat and stared, blank faces, teary-eyed, open-mouthed, unable to process the horror of what we just saw. And all the other cars driving passed didn’t notice or didn’t care, as they sped by thinking of dinner plans.
How is this normal or accepted in our society?! Why are we helpless to stop it?! Then my mind wandered to slave times when it was normal to buy, own, and beat another human being. It was legal to break up a human family and sell the mom, dad, and babies to different homes as they cried for each other, helpless and hopeless. A few hundred years ago men owned property, businesses, and ran the household and could inflict corporal punishment on his wife and children, as his right. When I was a child, I went with my family to South Africa, and there were signs everywhere saying, “whites only” or “blacks keep out.” I was sick to my stomach and could not wait to come home to America. When we look back in history there is so much we have overcome, but when we look forward there is so much we have yet to accomplish.
I offered a prayer aloud for my twelve-year-old to hear as she sobbed in the back seat. “Please, angels help us make a gentle world. Please help our voice be louder, our light shine brighter, and our reach be further. Please help us be the voice for the innocent. Please help us set them free. Please help us open hearts to love, change minds to compassion, and teach this world to hold reverence as our core value. Please help us make a gentle world for all of us!” And then when we arrived at the restaurant, we ordered the vegan food on the menu, knowing that we were making a difference, we were voting with our dollars, and we were playing our part in creating peace for beloved animals everywhere.
We will forever hold those chickens and cows in our hearts and minds, knowing that they are not invisible: we witnessed them, they mattered, and we will work hard to make life better for their kind every single day. And we will cradle our chickens a little bit longer, and hug our cows a little bit tighter, and feel grateful that they are safe and loved. One day soon, in our lifetime, all animals will be loved, and all humans will be kind, and it starts with us, right now, at this very moment.