Something remarkable happened last night at Direct Action Everywhere Mass Connecticut's Day of Action. As we stood holding candles outside Chipotle sharing words about the horrors that happen to animals of other species, a man stepped out of the passing crowd and came up to me. "I love animals. Where do I have to sign?" he asked. Our chapter member Joe and I were confused before realizing he thought we were asking for a petition.
"No, nothing to sign, but you can join in," we told him as Lauri handed him a candle.
"I'm homeless," he told me, "got kicked out of my parents' house and lost my dog. I love animals. it's horrible what we do to them. I want to stand with you." I felt and could sense others' discomfort given the stereotypes and toxic prejudices our society teaches us about homeless people. He stayed with us as we rounded the corner to stand outside a Buffalo Wild Wings. Tiffany, Lauri, and Joe all said a few words as passersby asked us the question they'd asked repeatedly: "you care about animals when people are dying?"
Finally, Charlie, our new participant, spoke. I could feel people hold their breath. "Animals are skinned alive and killed for no reason," he said, "Eating their flesh is no different from human flesh. Eating them is just like eating the dogs and cats in your own home." When the action concluded, Rachael, Tiffany, Joe, and I got him dinner and helped him find a shelter since he had been repeatedly turned down, he said. We exchanged phone numbers and invited him to our future events, official or unofficial, if he needed a meal.
He took a stand, we later learned, despite still eating animals, because he knew the same truth we knew. Pointedly, this victim of repeated abuse and discrimination at the hands of humans, including us, made clear that violence is still violence even when it happens to animals. His conviction in the face of an overwhelming personal struggle is a potent reminder of the real affinity we all feel for animals and the often ignored universality of this fight.