My parents made me eat meat, because I would surely
get ill otherwise. When I was six years old I could
no longer stomach it. As I spent hours behind the window
observing birds and feeding them in the wintertime together
with my parents, I started wondering as a 6-year old
"why you would eat other animals". But my
parents made me, so I swallowed it, severely stressed.
My father used to fish in the Meuse river. As children, we had to come along, because we always used to picnic in the pasture. I would ruin the entire day by sitting a long way off from the rest, far away from my father's fishing. I couldn't bear to watch it. My parents didn't understand at all.
In spring, my father used to be very annoyed at certain people from our town who destroyed bird's nests. Every day he went into the forests and fields to catch those who did it, and to "bless the worm". He removed the snares our neighbor put out for rabbits, and scolded the pigeon hunters when he spotted them in action. I respected my father a lot for that, but I couldn't understand that he still went fishing.
I didn't know a lot about animals, or nothing at all really. I never had a pet because my parents were against keeping animals in cages. So I was too, I was raised that way.
Once I was married, many years later, I took my son into the park to feed the ducks. He loved ducks when he was five years old. He always wanted picture books with ducks in them. And so we have them. Of course I also fed plenty of ducks during the summer, because my son enjoyed it, and because I had no idea that it wasn't good for them. When he turned eighteen, my son suddenly took up fishing. At that time I didn't know that fish can feel pain, it hadn't gotten through to my provincial brain yet, and ducks and fishing lines never entered my mind. Still I was furious when my son went fishing. Once I went to the river, ripped my adult son's fishing rods out of his hands and destroyed them on the spot. I didn't know exactly why I didn't want him to fish.
In 1995 I found a duck near the road across from my
apartment building. The duck woke me up. I thought it
was odd that the duck looked healthy but didn't move.
I'd never held a bird, never mind a fat duck. But I
felt that something was wrong, and I found the fishhook
that was stuck into it and the fishing line that had
wrapped around its tongue.
I think that I changed and have become more aware of
animals, after I got seriously ill. I fell off my bike
on the way to work, and never saw my workplace again.
For six years I lay in bed paralyzed, and underwent
thirteen major back surgeries and about 46 minor ones.
These operations and the ever-present hellish pains
that I will have to learn to live with for the rest
of my life have changed me (I think). Sometimes it's
hard on people I work with for our foundation. When
I'm in a lot of pain I can be very cranky! That's very
hard to explain when you can't see anything just by
looking at me.
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