In December of 2011, I was bored with the music I'd been listening to. I'd tested out a few bands that iTunes assumed I might like, but didn't find anything special. So, I revisited my own music collection in search of some old bands I hadn't listened to in awhile. When I got to Propagandhi, the Canadian Pro-gay, Pro-women, Pro-animal rights, Anti-corporate punk outfit, I realized that I hadn't heard anything from them since '96's "Less Talk, More Rock".
Were they even still around? When was their last album? I searched online and found that they had three albums released since ’96, each getting less punky and more metal-ly, which was right up my alley. I bought the latest release, ’09’s “Supporting Caste”. Right around the same time I had really begun to bond with a rescued English Bulldog named Jumbo, who had recently become part of my family. Jumbo had a ton of health issues, and needed a lot of care. His temperament was calm, though. He really just loved to sleep on the couch and follow me around, but there was something extra about him. He clearly needed me to take care of him and keep him healthy, but he had such a strength and stoic courage about him, it was unmistakeable. He was regal, and sad, yet proud and brave at the same time. He was everything I hoped to be as a person and we really clicked as pals.
That December I had some winter break yardwork to do and had Jumbo and my new Propagandhi album to keep me company while I cleaned the yard and front porch. As I swept the porch, Jumbo, who was all white with one brown ear and a brown patch on his back, grazed on the front lawn. He loved to lay in the sun and occasionally eat the taller grass or low growing palm fronds from the yard. Propagandhi’s songs were perfect. Fast, tough, aggressive, direct, and taking aim at human rights violators, religion, militarization, and then animal rights. A subject I’d never thought much about.
“Human(e) Meat” was a biting satire calling out the idea that one could ‘honor’ an animal as they slaughter and cook it, but instead reimagining the animal as a human. It hit me as an interesting thought. But, as I cleaned and listened and Jumbo stalked the yard, safe as could be from any human harm, I started to really listen to Chris Hannah’s (Propagandhi’s lead singer) words. Jumbo looked just like a little cow, or even a pudgy pig, with his little legs and stout body, and as I noticed that fact, track number 7 on Supporting Caste, called “Potemkin City Limits”, began. I initially noticed how much I liked the music and melody. Hannah’s usual direct and strong singing style told a story of business decisions effecting a trapped, fearful someone named Francis. Francis’ plight gets more and more dire, soon coming to a life or death situation and Francis escapes. Hannah describes how Francis lived free for a matter of months and ‘relived his only fond memory…a fond and distant dream of his mother’s loving eyes upon him.’ Francis is eventually captured and killed. It was a great song, fast, melodic, emotional, and I put it on repeat for a few listens. Singing along to the lyrics I’d just learned, “In his short life the only thing he’d ever known: Panic, fear, pain, darkness, pandemonium…”
I watched Jumbo in the yard. He looked up at me several times, with his usual stoic look…happy, but calm. Not excited, just content. I sang, “4th qtr. earning expectations…expedited their demise. The panic grew as the humans stomped among them…” And finally, it hit me like a lightning bolt. Like literally being struck by lightning, my life was jolted and I made a connection that Francis was a pig at a slaughterhouse and he was scared and hurt and cared nothing of the things we humans concern ourselves with…he just wanted to live. I looked at Jumbo and saw Francis. I saw in my beloved bulldog a living being who had his own desires and concerns and love of life in his own way, and however different of ‘simple’ we humans have made his thoughts and desires, they are his and I wanted badly for him to realize them without any pain or harm. I instantly wanted the same for Francis, and very quickly an avalanche of feelings came rushing down through me for all animals. How could I have been so blind?
There was a part of me that felt angry at being led into participating in the destruction of animals my whole life, but mostly I felt energized. I didn’t really know where to start, I knew the word vegan but didn’t really know what it really meant, but I wanted to find out how I could remove myself from the system of oppression and pain that humans inflict on animals. I turned off the stereo, brought Jumbo inside, and told my wife, “I don’t think I can eat animals ever again.”
It’s now almost 2015 and I’ve been vegan three years. It is, without question, the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I see it as my duty to spread the word and be a positive, healthy, productive example of veganism and what it means to be VEGAN.