Visiting Elephant Nature Park was one of the most spectacular experiences of my life and I feel like no pictures or words can do it justice; however I still want to share with you what I can. I've loved and appreciated elephants from afar for a long time - I've always been drawn to the majestic nature of large herbivores including horses and cows. I identify strongly with these creatures, and those who know me well can testify to this.
I used to think ways to appreciate beautiful creatures like these included riding them, watching them race, attending rodeos, visiting them in captive areas like zoos, etc; but now I understand that this is exploitation and physical and mental abuse. It involves breaking spirits, causing pain, supporting rape, breaking families, murder and more atrocities.
Many tourists come to Thailand and ride elephants- these intelligent, loving, social creatures are abused and tortured just so humans can have another "cool" picture in their Facebook album. It's incredibly sad and it's happening every single day. I spent years riding and training horses, I've helped out on animal farms where creatures are raised for slaughter, I've consumed so much animal flesh, milk and eggs, I've paid to see animals in captivity, and I've chosen to turn a blind eye to abuse countless times.
So while we can all look at pictures of elephants and feel love and compassion, I encourage you to try the same for cows, for sheep, for pigs, for chickens, for deer, for fish, for crabs, for crawfish, for mice, for rats, for ducks, for spiders, for all living beings. We can all be shocked and saddened by elephants that have been shot and stabbed in their eyes, had their backs ridden until broken, been separated from their families, forced into slavery. We can be horrified by the dog eating festival where dogs are raised for mass slaughter. We can be outraged by the killing of whales halfway across the world. So let's also be outraged by cows that are raped to produce milk that we don't need, by young male calves stolen from their mothers whose legs are broken so that their flesh may be "tender," by chickens whose beaks are violently removed so that they can't defend themselves in their short painful lives, by fish that sit on market tables suffocating, by the crawfish who you can hear screaming while they are cooked alive, for the pigs who spend their lives in tiny cages of filth, by the countless living beings tortured so that humans can have things they don't need. And also let's be outraged for the humans whose livelihoods rely on working in slaughterhouse, for the humans living in pain and dying of preventable food related diseases, for the humans living in food deserts full of liquor and convenience stores, for the migrant fruit and vegetable farmers who are lucky to see the age of 40 because conditions are that bad, who for the humans who are losing their homes, their families and becoming victims of wars of greed.
Going vegan has been one of the most fulfilling life choices I've made. I don't often share about my veganism because I don't want to make others uncomfortable- but honestly, I spend a majority of my life feeling discomfort and take it as a sign of growth; so I hope this does make you uncomfortable, that it makes you question choices you have made and will make. In the words of queen Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Forgiving myself for the injustices I've taken part of in the past is an ongoing process and I know there is still so much more for me to learn. I pray for a world where we all know and do better.