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Converting Empathy Overload Into Passion for Compassion

Posted Jan 22 2009 6:46pm

My problem with empathy overload is ongoing.

I avert my eyes when people devour flesh or eat products with eggs & dairy because it makes me want to scream at them. How can you not think and feel for the poor animals that live horrid lives of confinement, torture and painful slaughter just so you can have your steak, ham, turkey sandwich, roasted chicken, omelette or cheese?

People just can't seem to give up their taste for meat & dairy. Do they savour the pain & sadness inherent in each bite of flesh or sip of milk? I guess some let their tastebuds control their conscience or they just don't care enough to change or they just don't care. I think that it's interesting to note that sociopaths experience a limited range of human emotions which explain their lack of empathy for the suffering of others. Sociopaths can't imagine or feel the pain of others. Am I implying something in the juxtaposition of these thoughts? Well, I will just leave that implication heavy and hanging like guilt or like chickens who are shackled upside down by one leg along a conveyor belt before having their throats slit...

Last Saturday evening, Fcat & I attended the Farm Sancuary charity event. I had been tired from the week and was feeling so overwhelmed that I hadn't been so excited by the propects of having any plans that evening, but it ended being exactly what I needed- a nice event for a great cause, surrounded by people who can truly empathize for the suffering of animals and choose not to eat meat with conviction.

The event was held at Jivamukti downtown. When we arrived, it was extremely crowded and the flow of the event was not properly coordinated. Since it was a yoga studio, we had all been advised in advance that our shoes would have to be removed- you can imagine what it was like, all these people stooped over to remove their shoes. I keep thinking of that episode of Sex & The City where Samantha gets her Manolo Blahniks stolen at a friend's house when they all remove their shoes before entering. I make sure to tuck our shoes into a hidden back corner.

This was the main room where all the food & drink was. Funny to think of all these people in the room in their socks- wasn't so funny when I stepped on a little piece of squishy food- yuck.
When there is a crowd and there are jostling lines for food, even compassionate vegan brains take on a whole other hardwiring....feeding frenzy!

Was a difficult balance, wine in one hand, camera in the other & Fcat holding our shared food plate because I was adamant about getting as many food pics as I could in that crazy crowd. I didn't get as many pics as I wanted and I didn't get a full description, but enough to give a sense that there was lots of food to be had.

First, Sheese & crackers. Had heard about this Sheese before and was anxious to try it. Didn't love it, but many did. One guy was just filling up a small bowl of Sheese with his fingers and eating at the same time and telling me how great it was, maybe that made it less appetizing to me.

Voracious eaters had descended on this sushi platter:

Polenta thing from Angelica Kitchen:

And toast point things, also from Angelica Kitchen, alongside their cookbook:

Wrap thing from Counter: Scary chicken legs-I think these might have been from Red Bamboo, complete with 'skin' and 'drumstick'. Tasty, but made me slightly ill because they were a little too realistic. Why couldn't they just make them medallions or nugget shaped? Well, certainly a good thing for those just turning veg and having cravings for meat and such...

This was super tasty seitan satay from Candle Cafe: And then onto desserts from Purely Decadent:
There was also vegan cheesecake and the yummiest cutest vegan chocolate farm cake with a layer of berry cream filling from the nicest people at Moo-Cluck Corp:
There's was a break from stuffing our faces, when we were all ushered into another room. As we were walking over, Fcat spotted Martina Navratilova. He's a huge fan and the first thing he he directed at her was a question about her veg diet at the height of her career. She was very gracious and responded by saying that she used to eat eggs as her main source of protein, but had gotten very ill- so had recently started eating fish again. I was a bit disappointed in her response, but it was really great that she was at this super-packed event after some recent knee surgery to show her support.

We all sat on the floor as our hosts from Jivamukti Yoga , Farm Sanctuary & Russell Simmons made wonderful impassioned speeches about animal liberation and the progress made. I felt a sense of warmth, belonging and hope. Don't know how to explain it- I was just so happy to be there in that very moment with the sense that I was surrounded by those who also cared. We were all in this room because of our shared compassion for animals.

Then they announced the screening of a short presentation about foie gras. A sense of dread overcame me, I knew I didn't want to watch the cruelty- others felt the same. Then we were told that of course, this was like preaching to the choir-none of us would eat foie gras, but we were asked to watch so that we would be so outraged that we would be renewed in purpose to speak out for those that have no voice.

I watched with horror as image after image of rows of ducks in wire contraptions lined up next to each other with their head & necks sticking out- so that the person could come by and shove the metal feeding tubes down their gullets to force feed them. Please visit this site and watch the video at It brought tears to my eyes and at times, I had to look away. It was painful to watch and to listen about this culinary cruelty. The metal tubes are not smooth- they have rough edges. The ducks attempt to push away the metal tube with their wings and feet but are unable to because they are so sick from having their livers swell up 10 times their normal size. This force-feeding lasts a couple of weeks until the ducks & geese succumb to their fatty liver and die. Oh yes, what a delicacy.

There were tons of great stuff for auction from jewelry to art to massages & bodycare baskets:

Here's Fcat looking so handsome with our goody bags ready to go:

Said contents of fun party goody bags- cream samples, food samples, calendars, magazines, etc.
Booboo not included.
Evening in NYC upon leaving the benefit, the city seems filled with possibility because I know that I have just left an event packed with people who have as much empathy for animals as I do. There are so many of you out there who love animals and who would never dream of wearing fur and are against animal testing, well then follow through with conviction and stop eating meat & dairy. I leave this event with a lesson- whenever I feel anger because of my empathy overload for animals, I must replace it with compassion. One person living their life with compassion for all living beings may inspire others to do the same even if it is just one person at a time.

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