Why I’ll Never Be Vegan (or, a whacky field trip with SCHS)

This past Saturday six SCHS volunteers – myself and my 16 year old son included – attended the First Annual Animal Law Symposium at UNC Chapel Hill.  I will tell you up front that Damon was the only male in our group for this field trip – he was also the most interesting-looking member of our party, as you can see:

We all met at Mona’s with plenty of time to spare, and we actually left early enough to make the hour and a half drive to Chapel Hill.  We took the Loser Cruiser (aka the official SCHS minivan, an elderly Ford Windstar that serves its purpose and is a very comfortable ride, dubbed the Loser Cruiser by Mona’s teenage daughter).  I noticed upon entering the van that no one (we’ll blame this on Danny as I doubt he’ll bother reading my blog) had bothered to spring forward, and so the clock on the dash read 5:45 when it was in fact 6:45 – Damon & I left our house at 6:15 and arrived at Mona’s at 6:35, so all things considered this was a good start time.

We headed for Winston, where we would hit US 52 South to Business 40 Westbound.  However, we all wanted breakfast  (except Damon, who had eaten an amazing amount of cold pizza prior to leaving the house) so we stopped at a Bojangles prior to getting onto US 52.  At this point it was 7:15, and I had to pee.

We all ordered our biscuits and I went to the little girl’s room, and then we all piled back into the Loser Cruiser and headed toward Chapel Hill.

The Symposium was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m., with registration starting at 8:30.  For Mona’s sake we wanted to get there early enough to find a good close parking spot.  By 8:40 we still weren’t there and some of us (yes, me too) wanted to stop and pee.  At 8:50, Ann, who was driving and who had bragged prior to leaving that she was never, ever late, remarked that we were making fairly good time so she would stop at the next Bojangles for us to pee.  (I don’t remember why Bojangles, honestly; I think something to do with refills.)

We pulled into a Bojangles in Chapel Hill at around 9:00.  Ann and Mona both commented on what great time we were making and how we might as well take our time since we were running so far ahead of schedule.  Lynn, Lisa and I exchanged looks, and Lynn said, “Um, you do know that clock’s not right.”

Mona said, “Yes it is, it’s right – it’s just barely 8:00!”

“No,” I said, “it’s actually 9:00.”

“And what time does the thing start?” Mona asked.

“9:00.”

“Oh crap!”

Well, I didn’t care how late we were – I had to pee.  I said, “We might as well, we’re already late, and who knows what the bathroom facilities will be there!”  (I would’ve snuck a refill but there were 800,000 people clustered around the fountain & I wasn’t about to waste time fighting through them.)

Lynn has a nifty app on her iPhone 4 (not iPhone 4S) that shows a little blue dot where we are & a little red dot where our destination is.  She discovered a direct route from Bojangles to UNC Chapel Hill School of Law, and we got there around 9:20.  We dropped Mona off at the door and drove around the parking lot three times before one of the nice young law students came over & found us a parking spot.  We rushed inside – Mona had already gotten us registered so we just picked up our folders and headed for the first room on our itinerary.

Because this is a public blog, I’m not going to call out names of people or organizations.  However, I will say that a certain animal rights group has a belligerent extremist on their staff and he spent the entire first panel attacking his fellow panelists, being confrontational whenever someone presented a viewpoint with which he disagreed, and behaving in an all-around childish manner. 

I have my own set of opinions and beliefs on all manner of moral and ethical matters, but that doesn’t give me the right to attack people who believe differently.  I really wanted to stand up and ask this moron what he thought he was going to accomplish with his militaristic verbal assaults against anyone and everyone who disagreed with hi m.  I wrote a note on the comments form we received at the end of the day that this particular person shouldn’t be invited back as his behavior indicated he thought he was an inquisitioner rather than a peaceful panelist.  I swear if I learn that this young man has run off to join Greenpeace and died with a bomb strapped to his chest on a whaling vessel, killing the crew of the vessel as well as himself, I won’t be a bit surprise.

I wrote Damon a note:  “This young man is to his organization what Rick Santorum is to the Republican Party – TROUBLE.”

Damon agreed. 

At the end of the first panel, we moved to our next location where we would participate in four round table discussions with representatives of four different groups.  I put my papers and purse at the table, made sure Damon would guard them with his life, and took off to find the ladies room – and I am pleased to report that the UNC Chapel Hill Law School’s restroom facilities are far superior to those at Bojangles.

I saw this posted on the wall outside one  of the lecture halls and went back to get a picture of it:    It caused me to be late to the round table, but that was ok – I’d been wanting to pull a tag off of one of these for awhile.  Mine said, “I can see it in your eyes.”

During the round table discussions, we were privileged to speak with Amanda Arrington from HSUS, some volunteers from The Goathouse Refuge for house cats (http://www.goathouserefuge.org/contact/), animal rights attorney Calley Gerber, and Pam Fulk from Carolina Tiger Rescue (http://carolinatigerrescue.org/).  In truth these round table discussions were the highlight of the day.  Very informative, everyone was respectful, and group participation was very much encouraged.

After that came lunch.  Ah, lunch.  Per the agenda lunch was to be a vegan selection catered in from a local deli.  I was excited.  I love new culinary experiences.  There were pitas with hummus; there was an orzo curry with apples, oranges, and grapes (I looked online for a photo of this dish & can’t find anything that remotely resembles it; there was falafel with cucumber sauce; and there were stuffed grape leaves. 

I was disappointed.  It was horrible.  Well, the pitas and hummus were good, and the falafel with cucumber sauce was ok (too dry without the sauce)…  The grape leaves tasted like pickled something, only soggy, and I’ve never been a fan of soggy pickles.  I happened to say this out loud and Lynn said, “Yeah, they look like pickle turds!”

Lisa was the only person who cleaned her plate… and she really enjoyed the pickle turds.  Ann had brought a small bag of Nabs and apples for snacks (wise, wise woman, is Ann) – if it weren’t for her the rest of us would have starved.  Lynn had her iPhone 4 out seeking alternative dining but all of the fast food joints were far enough away we wouldn’t make it back in time for the next presentation.

We cast furtive looks around the dining area and confirmed that the bulk of attendees appeared to be vegans – I know it’s supposed to be very healthy, but these people were too skinny & their skin was waxy pale & they looked anything but healthy.  Maybe they’re doing it wrong.

The next panel involved a wildlife rehabber and a representative from Fish & Game, who is a wildlife biologist and avid hunter.  We settled in, expecting some more drama, ranting and groundless attacks – but these two, though they represented opposing viewpoints on some things, were very much in synch on others, and it turns out that they work together on a regular basis.  I left that panel feeling very much like there is hope for this world, after all.

The final panel was a key notes presentation by a reputable Florida attorney who specializes in animal law.  He works as a contract prosecutor as well as a defense attorney – it just depends on the case.  He’s very much an animal welfare advocate.  I’m pretty sure he’s a vegan too – only if he is, he’s doing it right, because he looked very healthy.  His key notes speech was on the direct correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse.  He cited studies and statistics – for example, one study found that a person who has abused animals is FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY to commit a violent crime against humans.  We came away from his presentation feeling more hopeful about animal protection and cruelty laws than we’ve felt in a long time.  Mona got his card and said she will definitely contact him next time we shut down a puppy mill, as the owners of the last one that SCHS raided (along with HSUS) last month got off with no charges at all and an order not to own or breed animals for two years. 

So ended our day at the First Annual Animal Law Symposium at UNC Chapel Hill School of Law.  We were famished by that point, fair faint with hunger… but before we could leave – you guessed it – I had to pee. 

We all piled back into the Loser Cruiser and headed for Red Robin, where we all indulged our carnivorous natures with beef and chicken.  That was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life… Actually, it really was a good burger, but it was also very overpriced.  I’d never eaten at Red Robin before, I was very glad for the chance to eat there Saturday – but I doubt I’ll eat there again anytime soon.  Not and pay $10 for a burger.  No way.

I think our first SCHS field trip was a huge success.  We all learned a great deal – perhaps most importantly that, while it’s important that animals be treated humanely, and while it’s imperative that our laws regarding the treatment of livestock be changed, we will never stop eating meat.  It’s just too damn good.

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