I moved to California in 2009 after years of wishing, pining, and planning to relocate there from the Northeast. I ended up in Fresno for various reasons, and I have stayed. I love the sunshine, the year-round growing season, the proximity to sea and the high peaks. I consider the San Joaquin Valley my home. Yet as a vegan and an advocate for animal rights, I am often pained by life along the San Joaquin Valley’s blood alley. Not because I have trouble finding food, clothing, personal care items, or entertainment that fit my ethics, but because here I face almost daily reminders of just how deeply the exploitation of animals permeates our society — from local agricultural fairs to finding decaying rooster corpses in the dry river beds, from countless stray animals on city streets to abysmal kill rates at county and city animal shelters — and the pervasiveness of callous attitudes toward animals, the environment, and the people who seek to protect them. Even lawmakers who represent citizens of the valley hold these views (and proudly and prominently state them).
I have cared about animals all my life, but have only been a true animal advocate since I was 23. Only after I stopped separating the animals who were my companions from the animals who were, at that time, on my dinner plate, did I truly come to respect animals. Only since then can I truly say that I fit the definition of an animal advocate. Regardless of the favored status we may place on one species or another, all animals are the same in their capacity to experience their lives, feel pain, suffer, and carry on as their instincts and interests lead them.
And it is not in their interest to be our food, drink, fiber, entertainment, or sources of ingredients. In most cases, it’s not in their interest to be domesticated. Our current environmental and political turmoil seems to indicate that it is not in their interest to be manipulated or controlled by humans in any way. We have no business expanding our own species at a rate that pushes animals from their native forests, oceans, rivers, deserts, and other habitats and drives them toward extinction. We have no business breeding animals solely to kill them at birth, mere weeks later, or after they become economically useless.
Yet that is one of the primary businesses in the San Joaquin Valley. Its culture, attitudes, and the misfortune of living in a region so welcoming for abusive agricultural practices weigh on me and urge my commentary in this blog. The fertile soil of this valley is soaked with the blood of enslaved animals. And as I step forth each day that I live here, I can see, hear, and smell the sticky warmth of death rising around me, filling me with rage and sadness.
I’m currently nearing completion of the first draft of a novel in which some of these subjects and themes intersect. Updates on my progress will be published here along with excerpts, commentary, other news, and notes about life in the Central Valley.
I hope you’ll read them all.