Tuesday, October 2, 2012

“Compassionate people are EVERYWHERE”

Below is another amazing story from John Oberg’s current cross-country tour, from his outreach on 9/11 at North Dakota State in Fargo, North Dakota. Yes, Fargo:

“An ag school in an ag state surrounded by agriculture. Great place for outreach!

“I must say, for the interactions alone, today is one of my all-time favorite days of outreach.

“I had the single most meaningful conversation I’ve ever had doing outreach today. At the tail end of a class change, a student named Joel struck up a conversation with me. Turns out he is a cattle farmer, with about 3,000 head of cattle. With a little bit of help from Jon [Camp] yesterday (in regards to how to deal with talking to factory farmers), I was able to turn what could have been a debate into a conversation. My goal was not to debate the farmer, but to win him over.

“I made it very clear to him that we aren't out to demonize him, and we know that these practices aren't cruel for the sake of being cruel -- they're cruel as a result of being concerned only with dollar signs and efficiency, without a care for an animal’s sentience. Throughout the dialogue, he actually began agreeing that some of these standard practices are wrong. By the end of the conversation he extended his hand to shake mine, and thanked me for taking the time to discuss this issue with him. He told me ‘you're not like one of those whackjob hippies.’ He asked how being vegan was for me and I said it was the best change of my life -- I feel better physically, but more importantly I feel better mentally knowing I’m not paying someone to do something to an animal that I wouldn’t do myself. I handed him a Guide to Cruelty-free Eating and told him he’d be surprised how good some of the plant-based meats are. I’m so happy with how this played out!

“As I was reloading with more booklets, a guy on a 4x4 changing out the trash cans started talking to me. I thought he might tell me to stop leafleting, but it turns out Charlie is a total animal lover, with many dogs from the shelter. I gave him a booklet and told him he might be surprised how they treat pigs. Not only was he absolutely supportive, but he referred to himself as an animal rights activist and as he rode away yelled out, ‘Somebody’s gotta be a voice for the animals, man!’ (in Fargo, North Dakota. This place is awesome.)

“The last beautiful moment of the day was when Jamie [above] walked up to me and said, ‘I never want to eat meat again!’ I asked if that was because of the booklet and she replied, ‘Yes, I read that story about the pig freeing the other pigs and I couldn’t read any more.’ She was nearly in tears so I handed her a Guide to Cruelty-free Eating and she said, ‘Great, because now I need to know what to eat.’ As we parted, she told me, ‘You definitely made an impact.’

“Compassionate people are EVERYWHERE. Even in North Dakota, amidst animal agriculture at its most intense.”