My morning began with a post from a friend of mine about a family of farmers, the Benners, who are being targeted and harassed by animal rights activists because their dairy cow is eventually intended to feed their family. A housewife, mother, and incredibly ignorant woman Kimberly Sherriton attended an educational tour of the farm, asked about their cow Minnie, and grew incensed upon finding out that Minnie was eventually destined to feed the family. In Kimberly’s world, the farmers should get their meat at Whole Foods where it doesn’t have to suffer. (Yes, this intellectual heavy weight actually said this to the family). She then proceeded to start a campaign of hatred and harassment against the Benner family, one that includes death threats–nor are the Benners the only farmers to have been threatened by bullies like this. The article provides a disturbing list. I myself have seen them in action any time the subject of sacrifice comes up (though fortunately in my case the harassment was restricted to a few nasty posts and an email from David S. implying that I was evil and mentally ill) and like anti-choice activists who clearly believe that 51 percent of the world’s population do not deserve bodily sovereignty (you know, that thing called freedom), there is no reasoning with them.
I absolutely believe that animals should be treated with care and compassion. Moreover, I think that we should avoid sentimentalizing them and should instead allow them the dignity of being animals. But I respect the cycle of predator and prey and attacking a family because they’re putting food on their table in exactly the same way that our ancestors did is just foul. Moreover, these animal rights activists are little more than hate groups and they will use any tactic including lying and aggressive threats, even violence to achieve their ends.
More importantly from my perspective, every gain for these people is an attack on our religious sovereignty. Make no mistake, people like Sherriton, and they are many, have no problem whatsoever doing anything they can to make the practice of religious sacrifice illegal. They’ve succeeded too in many places. We are fortunate in the US: there is a Supreme Court Case (the 1994 case of Ernesto Pichardo and the Church of Babaluaye vs. the City of Hialeah) that ruled in our favor. Pichardo was and is a fierce fighter on behalf of his own tradition and by extension ours. He is a trail blazer and I pray the Orisha bless him daily. That this ruling exists, however, does not mean that we cannot still be threatened. (To make the parallel again, look at the constant chipping away at Roe v. Wade). This is all the more so when our polytheism might likely be met with incredulity and disdain and dismissed as “not a real religious position” by those whose imaginations are too small to encompass the idea of more than one God as licit.
I firmly believe that these animal rights activists must be challenged and driven back. Their intentions may be good, but they are ultimately ill thought out. They are working from a place of immensely blind privilege and for the most part simply don’t care about the consequences (or worse, see those consequences to our indigenous traditions – and our farmers– as positive). Before you sign that next petition or join in support of the next bit of animal rights (not animal welfare but animal rights) legislation, consider what it will be like when we’re not permitted legally to practice our religion (this happened with the festival of Gadhimai this year, and there were legal challenges even to orthodox Jews on the topic of sacrifice, and ARM, a particularly vile animal rights group is hard at work attacking Lukumi), when our farms are closing because farmers can’t feed themselves, and when eating a burger is a felony.
As my friend Ruth said, if Kimberly Sherriton cares so much more about Minnie than she does about the welfare of the Benners, let her buy the cow.
“I think a fair price for a now celebrity cow would be… let’s see… *searches for John Lennon’s last interview for the price of Yoko’s cow sale* here we go : “LENNON: Sean and I were away for a weekend and Yoko came over to sell this cow and I was joking about it. We hadn’t seen her for days; she spent all her time on it. But then I read the paper that said she sold it for a quarter of a million dollars. Only Yoko could sell a cow for that much. [Laughter]”
Not up for that, Kimberly? No? Then how about this: shut the fuck up, you ignorant piece of shit. How about that? And leave these innocent people in peace.
For those who would like to offer their support to the Benners, there is a link in the body of the aforementioned article. I have already emailed them to offer my support and to encourage them to stay strong.
Let us all stay strong and resist the encroachment of this type of thing into our practices. Let us be vigilant and on guard because we are in fact on their list. I hope that when the time comes we can all stand together to defend the most sacred of religious practices across our many traditions and to defend our farmers too. We’ve had enough stripped away.