It was probably for the best that I was already vegan, a shiny new one, on April 28, 2013, the day a friend had chosen for us to go watch the premiere of “The Ghosts in Our Machine.” Had I still been a pre-vegan, in the grip of apathy and hopelessness regarding all things to do with social justice or animal rights, the film would’ve been more painful to watch than it turned out to be, simply because of the acute embarrassment bordering on shame that found a nest in my gut as Jo-Anne McArthur delivered line after line of simple, self-evident, powerful truths.
The memory of the invitation is fresh: my wonderful friend sent a link and suggested that “Ghosts” should be really good. I read the info and sketched a basic impression of what the film might portray, and decided that it would be the typical bleeding heart feel-good piece seen here and there: a worthwhile effort, but hardly special.
I truly had no idea. My eyes had only begun to open, even as a longtime (on and off) vegetarian recently turned vegan.
“The Ghosts in Our Machine” changed my life. Jo-Anne’s comment “dairy is one of the cruelest industries” was a body blow, a gut kick, because of the many years I spent weakly rationalizing and justifying my consumption of some animal products. (The nonsense was of this type, which I expect is typical: “since it’s not necessary to kill the cow in order to get the milk, then cheese is acceptable”; “eggs are totally fine because hens lay them anyway.”)
I experienced an intensely emotional response to the compassion,love, commitment and strength that the film shows, as well as the suffering and outrage at what humanity continues to inflict on those who are most defenseless. When the Toronto Pig Save portion rolled on screen and we watched the dedicated rabble-rousers on Lake Shore Blvd., I was sold. I didn’t simply think “Hey! That could be me doing that.” I actually felt more: “Hey! That should be me!” I joined Toronto Pig Save and a few months later and also started helping with vegan education outreach in public settings.
I owe a huge debt to those who motivated me to finally stop participating in the exploitation of animals, to star taking an active part in helping others stop as well, and to take a step in finding my voice, long silenced. Liz Marshall and Jo-Anne, and the entire film crew: thank you. Toronto Pig Save and all others working towards the abolition of animal exploitation: thank you for showing us newbies the way and for being so welcoming.
And to my wonderful, beautiful friend: You were the original spark, the best example of boundless compassion and hope against all odds, and you continue to inspire me. Thank you.