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A Story About My Father

Posted by at 1:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


My father was an adventurer who drove across the salt marshes of the Great Rann of Kutch at the most dangerous time of the year, took his little boat out into the Gulf of Mexico in tropical squalls and climbed to the top of a 200-foot tower on a windy day just to change a light bulb.

When I was born, his only child, he made the best of having ended up with a daughter rather than a son. He taught me boys’ games, like how to spit cherry pits, and practical things like how to read survey markers. Together, we clambered up mountains, including those covered with ice above Tangmar in Kashmir, and out onto rocks on the wild Cornish coast to gather mussels to debeard and steam for our dinner.

He was a bear of a man but also kind in his own way: He gave to the poor in Bangladesh after seeing the devastation caused by a typhoon there, he hired men who were down on their luck, and he would share his packed lunch with a stray dog or passing seagull. But it was only much later that I witnessed how his generational bias, his old-fashioned belief in not being “soft,” would literally be the death of him.

He loved meat and milk: steak and chops, curds and ice cream. In his day, not to indulge in feasts of flesh when the opportunity presented itself was thought to be unmanly. And so it evolved that my father, who fearlessly traveled by traditional dhow in the Gulf of Arabia and on foot across the Sahara, was felled by his own fork.

Gout got him first, then heart disease, and finally prostate cancer, all diseases that today’s men? at least those who have read up on the artery-clogging and cancer-inducing properties of meat and milk-based foods and are no longer afraid to show their compassion for animals?are, in large part, able to avoid.

Sometimes I wish I’d spoken to my father more about his health, albeit a touchy subject, like politics. What would have happened, had I, when he asked me what I wanted for my birthday, said, “The best gift you can give me is to stop eating meat”? Perhaps I and my mother, now a vegetarian, would have had his company for many more years.

It is often said that animals have no voice so we must speak for them. But of course, they do have voices: Elephants communicate in rumbles too low for us to hear without auditory equipment, rhinos communicate with breathing sounds, frogs tap out their messages on tree trunks, and monkeys have various screeches that let their fellows know if a threat is coming from the ground or the sky. Studies of prairie dogs have shown that they use verbs and nouns and have different calls to indicate the approach of a stranger, more than one individual, or perhaps even an insurance salesperson! Still, they need our voices in order to be heard in a world where our species’ most trivial considerations take precedence over their most basic needs. Indeed, to be good people, we must speak up for all those who cannot adequately defend themselves: the hungry dog, the injured bird, the elderly, women being harassed, children, and so on.

And perhaps we must also speak up for those who don’t yet understand that by no longer sanctioning the killing of animals for the dinner table, they can live longer, healthier lives that they can spend with those they love. That’s why, at PETA, we say, “Animal liberation is human liberation.”

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6 Comments

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    Holland says...

    June 17th, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Both my parents were tremendously kind to animals. They ran hunters off our wooded, deer-inhabited land, adopted and always neutered family dogs and cats, and never tolerated the smallest unkindness to an animal.

    But that was in the 50s, and meat was the centerpiece of our meals. I recall my father Paul saying to me when I was around 11 or 12 that he disliked eating drumsticks because meat-on-the-bone reminded him of the animal it had been, and it disturbed him. How I wish he’d carried that sentiment to its natural conclusion, and become a vegetarian.

    Though a kind, courageous and intelligent man, my father’s life was severely shortened by a meat-laden diet. I am happy to have gone veg 38 years ago. My mind, heart and body are the better for it. Had my father done the same, we might be enjoying our dinners together still.

    Joelle says...

    June 17th, 2011, 5:54 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful story about your father. And for all you do.

    Sandy says...

    June 17th, 2011, 6:22 pm

    My father also died of causes directly related to eating meat – he had high blood pressure & cholesterol, was morbidly obese and had heart disease and died of a massive heart attack at age 48.

    Kathryn Reyna says...

    June 17th, 2011, 9:39 pm

    Ingrid… you are such a fascinating writer; I loved reading your article about your father. I am hoping you have written a book or two, and will have to check out the PETA website to place an order if you have; I’d love to read more recollections and stories about your life. I enjoy reading your articles in the PETA magazine, and I am so grateful for all the spectacular work you do, and all the great wonders you have accomplished in saving the lives of our best friends (members of the animal kingdom). You are truly an angel on earth and your birth into this world that bears so much pain, suffering and horror inflicted upon the innocent has been a blessing for all beings – both human and our precious animal souls. You never give up no matter how difficult things so often become for you. You are a wonderous saviour of those who cannot speak for and defend themselves. I truly love you and have the greatest respect for all you have done and continue to do without fail. Imagine when you return home to heaven in a time far into the future – you will be completely surrounded by trillions of grateful beings who will show their love for you in so many different, joyous and beautiful ways forevermore. I thank you so much for being a wonderful, gracious, wise, generous and caring lady. You are a top champion of the world!

    Barbara Lester says...

    June 19th, 2011, 5:46 pm

    Thank you for all you do for animals. I think of you and PETA and mention you in my daily spiritual sayings…may man’s inhumanity to man and animals cease and may tolerance prevail worldwide.

    Hyou KitztaBane says...

    July 7th, 2011, 6:25 pm

    Lets be honest, humans are not meant to eat large amounts of meat. The size of our teeth is one indication, we have more grinding teeth for plants than slicing teeth, our job in the ecosystem was probably to only eat scavenged meat.

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