February 13, 2013

If You Love Animals, Boycott Plastic Bags. ~ John Merryfield

“Go vegan and nobody gets hurt!”

Great slogan, not entirely true. Some of us vegans like to distinguish ourselves as super human crusaders, in a competition to cause the least harm to animals.

I will be the first to say, ‘Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!’ But our lives on this beautiful planet earth are not a competition and viewing our choice to not eat animals and animal products as the highest form of service we can provide to animals (including wildlife) can deter us from looking elsewhere for how our other actions affect animals, humans and biosystems.

My wife and I live part of the year in Baja California, Mexico where I surf and generally live like a marine mammal. Here in Baja, there seems to be more suguaro cactus and loose plastic bags blowing in the hot dusty environment, than there are people.

Even if I stop at the market for two whole avocados, by the time those avocados get to the other side of the cajero (cashier) an eager, smiling Mexican kid has los dos aguacates in double ply plastic bags ready to go! These ubiquitous plastic bags easily find their way out of people’s hands, trash bins, or landfills and eventually find their way into the ocean.

Once in the ocean, they have a needlessly adverse effect is on coral reefs, sea turtles, whales, dolphin and all marine life.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision. The image of ourselves standing alone, with each of our choices seemingly separate from our other actions is a universal, ego based pitfall.

The contemporary vegan movement is founded on loving-kindness and mindfulness of others; based on the principles of nonviolence and the interconnectedness of all things. I like the word ‘Interbeing’ coined by the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn.

As if a verb, in motion, living life in unity of all things.

Our interconnection is deeply beautiful and at the same time, perplexingly troublesome; all of our thoughts and actions matter, in a sometimes unseen, web of connection. Birds, mice and rats are killed in the production of our grains. Marine life are affected by shoreline development. Untold numbers of animal species are affected in the production of fossil fuels for our energy needs…ad infinitum.

More and more cities and states in the United States are banning plastic bags; the entire state of Hawaii and even small mountain towns like Truckee, California, have voted to ban plastic bags and there is revived legislation in California to ban plastic bags statewide.

I’m thrilled to report that there is progress being made in Baja California, Mexico, because of grass-root groups like AICMMARH A.C. and Costa Salvaje, educating a new generation to protect ocean life.

Living “interbeing” is not as simple as just passing on the carne asada tacos. It might also mean juggling two avocados, a stack of fresh tortillas, a can of beans and a papaya in our two hands, with the inside of our elbows and our lowered, determined chins as we leave the market because we forgot our reusable shopping bags and won’t use the market’s plastic bags.

So, if you love animals, boycott plastic bags…oh yeah…and go vegan!


John Merryfield lives with his wife Carol in Lake Tahoe, California where he works as a painting contractor and in Los Barriles, Baja California, Mexico, where he surfs.




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Ed: Bryonie Wise



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