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The Trial Begins: Risking Everything to Save a Chicken
Remembering the ones I've loved and lost. And the things they've inspired me to do.
The news is flying so fast that I don’t even know where to start. But I’ll encourage you all to follow the Sonoma Rescue Trial twitter or, better yet, the Open Rescue Advocates Slack to follow what’s unfolding. In a word, it’s a lot. (Among other things: the prosecution dropped all charges against Cassie; I’ve been gagged from speaking to the media — but have received support from legendary First Amendment scholars; and we’re bringing some of the largest food retailers in the world, including Costco and Whole Foods, into court on the first day of trial).
But above all, today, my felony trial, which may change my life forever, begins. I am a convicted felon already, and each additional conviction increases the odds of a long sentence. I’ve lost the two people who mattered more to me than anyone else in the world — Lisa and Joan — and I’ve moved on from my role at DxE. And I am, like so many others, discouraged by the state of the world — distrust, disinformation, and outright violence are spreading everywhere.
And yet, there is one thing that keeps driving me forward, even when the world is dark. It’s not my hopes for systemic change, though I am even more confident than ever that systemic change is on the horizon. (I spoke about it on the Animal Rising podcast, which posted the interview today.)
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It’s not even my expectation of a courtroom victory. While I am confident about our prospects — and believe we can “lose forward: even if we are convicted” — it’s not what happens in court that has lifted my spirits most.
No, the thing that drives me is my teachers and my friends:
The animals who have been a part of my life for the last 30 years, who have changed everything for me, and inspired me to risk everything to defend them from violence.
Even when things have been at their hardest, I think of them, and the path seems so clear. No matter how much pain I’m feeling, how cynical and hateful the world might seem, I think of them, and there is a bright light calling me forward.
I don’t have much time to write this, as I prepare for trial. Indeed, I might not have much time to write anything at all, if I’m convicted and incarcerated in a few weeks. But I do want to share these short remembrances of all the animals who’ve meant so much to me, and inspired me to be a better person. Almost everything good in me, I truly believe, comes from them. And it is with immense gratitude that I share their stories.
Vivian. My first, and the one who started me down this path. When I was a child, I had no one. The kids at school hated me for being too fat and too Chinese. But then I found you. And when I ran home, crying from the school bullies, you literally licked my tears away.
Natalie. I was young and lost in law school — on the brink of dropping out, or even being kicked out of school. And you taught me that the path to true achievement comes from service, not traditional success. I found you cleaning the poop from the pound cages, while my classmates were making $3000 week at big firms. But what I truly discovered, when you chose me as your dad, after a lifetime of fear, is that caring for the people you love is more important than anything in the world.
Annie. I didn’t know I liked cats. Or moms. Or kids. You changed that all. You should have been feral and hateful, and in many ways, you were. But yet you took three little kittens as your own. You protected them from everything, even the hulking monsters 20 times as big as you, and I learned for the first time that even those who bite, might have something beautiful, if we look at what lies underneath.
Flash. My little superhero, and also my greatest shame. I did not know two living beings could be so physically connected. You sat on my lap. My chest. And even my hands as I typed. And you never stopped crying, even when it seemed like no one would hear your cries. It’s because of that persistence and hope, that you and your brothers were saved.
Lisa. You taught me the meaning of love, and its power to overcome anything. And you taught me love can come from anywhere, and from anyone. Even a killer. Your lessons have served me well, even as the hole in my life remains.
Joan. It feels like yesterday, and it hurts. I think of you every day. I spent more time with you than any living being on earth. And even as our lives changed so much, over 20 years of adventure, one thing remained the same: you inspire me to be brave, as I was on the day you became a part of my family.
Mei. Your life never should have been. When we found you, you were literally wasting away. And, like billions before, you – and your profound suffering – who have disappeared into the barren wasteland of human violence and hate. But something in your eye sparked a light in the shadows. And you launched a movement that made me who I am today.
Oliver. There is not a day that goes by, where I do not wake and remember the most important lesson in the world. Miracles can happen, but only if we believe.
There’s so much more I could share and say, if I had the time. But for now, let me just say thank you, to each and every one of these teachers. And thanks to all of you readers, too. Your support, questions, and criticisms have taught me so much, too.
I hope what the animals have taught me, and what you have taught me, too, will serve us well in the days to come. Twelve random members of the public will be the judge of that. But remember: win or lose, these lessons and stories have power. And if we harness them, we will create change.