I wrote my first letter, suggestions to prevent nuclear war and a vision of a post-apocalyptic world, to the editor of a local newspaper at age 10. I wrote a column in high school for a community newspaper that focused on the impact of anti-Semitism, racism, bullying, and other issues affecting students. As a college student, I wrote about the threat of global warming, the scourge of crack, homelessness, animal welfare, murder, the influence of lobbyists, and the aftermath of war. As an adult, I’ve confronted genocide, cruelty to animals, gang rape, tsunamis, earthquakes, social inequities in education and employment, and housing discrimination. I’ve written about some of the most heinous crimes against humanity, many of which I heard first hand while working to reform inmates in prison.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of writers. My father sat me on his lap and read to me as a child. My mother taught me the value of writing at a young age to express gratitude to family members for visiting or sending gifts or simply to send updates about my life and ask about theirs. I exchanged hundreds of handwritten letters with my grandparents.
My grandmother once told me, “Don’t be afraid when you write.” I never forgot those words so I never held back. I was always writing — diaries, poems, songs, and gratitude journals. I never had any formal training in it nor proclaimed to have any particular skill — only to believe in it as a useful means to affect change.
A few months ago, I started writing “If Ducks and Geese Could Speak Our Language” on the heels of working on legislation to ban the production and sale of foie gras in Florida. I intended for it to be another installment in a series of articles I’ve written that present the view of the animals from inside the confining chambers where they live and die, enduring cruelty that is both unthinkable and unbearable in nature.
My goal is to provide those who do not know the truth about animal agriculture insight so they will stop supporting these industries and choose a more compassionate path. As I have written each piece, it is often so painful that I feel like parts of me die every time I research and write their stories.
For the first time, I couldn’t finish an article. The sickness I felt writing about what happens to ducks and geese to make foie gras caused me to become dizzy and disoriented. As I learn more about what happens to these ducks and geese to make foie gras and down products such as pillows, comforters, and coats, I become so disappointed in humanity. I had to step away.
I’m hopeful that people who eat foie gras will find out that what happens to these animals is so egregious and gratuitous that I couldn’t even write a story about them because it is so ghastly. I’m hopeful that it will cause them to have a change of heart. I’m hopeful that this story will be the voice of the ducks and geese. This is the story about the story I couldn’t finish but you can write the ending. You can make it a happy ending. You can take my pen and turn it into your voice. You can take my pen and take what you learn about what happens to ducks and geese and change. Don’t be afraid.