Just mentioning the word “nonviolence” brings to mind two hallowed peace patriots: Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. There is some debate on whether nonviolence is the opposite of war, but in a world where animals are subjected to reprehensible degrees of violence every moment, almost exclusively at our hand, war is only the tip of the iceberg. Beyond the obvious examples of violence with which we have sickening familiarity, other subtleties exist.
Indeed, violence resides squarely upon every fork that delivers food that once lived a sentient life as it does in the hand that delivers it, however unknowingly. Violence is woven into each knitted and purled stitch of a wool sweater and equivalently about the head over which it is pulled. Violence is grooved into the creases and crevices of leather purses and shoes and equally so in the hands and feet they adorn. Even our words can be violent and the tongue uttering them equally so. Just because the slingshot is unacquainted with the rock it hurls, it is no less guilty a perpetrator of violence.
Years ago, a recently converted vegan friend was proudly relieving her closet of its last remaining leather items when I noticed that she had moved a couple of leather pairs of shoes off to the side. When she saw my questionable expression, she said, “Just a few won’t matter, will they?” The plaintiveness with which that phrase ended begged for an understanding response. I took a moment to explain to her the horrors endured by animals whose hides are used for clothing and accessories. She thought for a moment and then quickly moved them to the “go” pile. Meeting people where they are can frequently make all the difference in helping them to come to compassionate decisions. But sometimes I wonder if that message would be swifter if only those leather shoes could cry out with each step—how different our world would be! Check out this cruelty-free alternative to leather car upholstery.
What can you do? Listen carefully to those around you. Look for instances of passive or conditional violence and be a diplomatic educator who meets people where they are, giving them the information that they need to make nonviolent choices. You’ll find that many are simply unaware of the hidden cruelty in their day-to-day activities. Your patience and persistence could be pivotal in extending nonviolence to include all species.