Meet Rebecca Tolin, Almost-Participant in Thursday's SDSU Filmmaker's Showcase

As a 10 year old child I had a pet rooster. He was my sidekick and friend, and came running each time I entered the family backyard. One late afternoon I was called to the house of an adult relative who wanted to teach me a skill he said all chicken keepers should know. He opened the gate of his coop and abruptly grabbed one of the birds, which protested loudly and with much alarm. As he firmly pinned the bird's body to a tree stump in the center of his yard, I was told to stretch the neck and hold the head while he wielded the axe. I could feel the racing pulse in the warm veins of her face. Her eyes stared wide and intense into mine, a mixture of fear, confusion and pleading. How violently she tossed and squirmed to break free! In a second the hot blood had drenched my hands and arms. Some splashed my forehead. I felt horror and disgust. I was plunged into a nightmare. I cried till sunset, and cried again awake all night. I'd never felt such pain, shame and guilt. And most perplexing of all was the normalcy by which the act I'd witnessed was carried out by the people who knew and cared for me. Rebecca, in answer to the question of the farmer’s backyard slaughtering you asked, “Why not?” I share this story as a possible ‘why not.’ A friendship with any animal might make us pause to consider the inner life of all animals, the sentient and conscious dimension we do not usually see. Does our taste for flesh make it easier not to think and feel in this way? Can a powerful craving shout down a more powerful inner understanding? We substitute a rationalization: 'They had a good life.' 'It's the way of things.' 'We like meat.' We turn off our capacity to empathize and comprehend. We savor the taste on the plate while suppressing the knowledge of another life taken by force. We kill our ability to see, feel and think. And with this we slay our power to know, change and evolve. Our pleasure trumps their pain. Does not the violence, terror and suffering we impose on our animal companions provide an even stronger persuasion than the present environmental crisis—a passionate reason to end the carnage we so thoughtlessly impose? You are a skilled reporter and no doubt a gifted documentarian, Rebecca. And you have a heart that is beautiful and kind. I hope you will consider a future documentary that explores the new consciousness movement that is growing up around this awareness.
— May 15, 2012 9:08 p.m.

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