‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’, and other reasons to fight like hell for the animals

For most of my life, I have been called an “angry woman”.

The fact that I have had my fair share of things to be angry about is rarely taken into consideration. That common term used to denigrate emotional women sticks regardless of the reasons behind my rage. Anyone who isn’t an absolute pushover would react the same in the face of the injustices that I have seen against animals in my work. As a vegan animal rescue director with zero interest in appeasing the animal eating “animal lovers” of the world who tend to be attracted to the rescue field, attacks are common. Over the eight years of my organization’s work, the rage-filled comments against our anti-speciesist stance have never quit. Even more than the angry comments are the dismissals of the organization because we stand up for the species which they harm and the way that I convey our stance ruffles feathers. Regardless of how I write about veganism, whether in soft and fluffy terms I think people prefer or in clear and honest language about the horrors of animal agriculture and fishing, nonvegans are always going to label it “angry”. At this point, I take it as a compliment. It means my eyes are open and what I see is worth reacting to with the level of outrage that I write with.

This is worth being angry about. He needs you to be angry.

What people fail to understand is that I work for animals, not animal eaters. I do not work for donors. I do not work for Facebook fans. I do not work for people who would put half of the species at our shelter on a grill and still proclaim themselves animal lovers against all logic. I work solely for the interests of the animals who need me and my organization and that includes dogs and cats, but extends to every species on the planet because most humans, “animal lovers” especially, are hell bent on killing so many of them. If this hurts feelings, it is not the intention, but it is not something I work terribly hard to avoid. If it is a choice between a painful truth about animal suffering and pain inflicted on the fragile ego of someone who harms animals in their daily consumption of animal products, then the obvious answer is to speak up for the trillions of victims on land and in the sea that “animal lovers” are killing year after year with impunity.

If it does not enrage you to think of the victims of animal agriculture and how most animal advocacy organizations are complicit in their suffering, then you aren’t paying attention. When I look at the animals in our shelter and how we all love them equally there, but then see that all other organizations around us in Vietnam and most throughout the world have placed a higher value on some of them than others, I am rightfully enraged. I am not sad. I do not want to cry. I am furious and I want to scream. I want to put my fist through a wall to think that people who are tasked with the protection of animals cannot see these other animal species as anything more than economic input whose killers they protect. You cannot be against the dog meat trade and also for free-range eggs or grass fed beef and expect me not to call you out on your hypocrisy. If you want to jail dog beaters but keep the profits rolling into pig farms with slightly larger cages, I will not be silent about your illogical argument. At the same time people ignore the vast majority of animals on the planet who are being tortured and killed for products we do not need, they elevate animals that are pets or endangered wildlife to a status that is related only to their rarity or their utility to humans. Even then, animals who are less attractive to humans and are endangered also lose that status of being worthy of protection.

How many petitions are going around the world for an endangered frog in Indonesia?

How many petitions are signed to end the abusive trade of exotic pets and reptiles?

If it is not cute enough or loyal enough, animal advocacy organizations could give a damn. They do not work for animals. They work for donors. They work for human selfishness. This is worth being angry about. This hypocrisy is worth screaming from the rooftops about.

Some days my rage is ugly. Sometimes my rage terrifies people. That is always something I need to work on. But rage has many faces. Rage is what has protected me from violence in my past and it has protected many other vulnerable animals and humans who were the victims of someone’s violence. My rage has pulled a knife on a few horrible and abusive people who very much needed to be scared shitless. My rage has stopped dog/cat catchers and pig killers, though no one appreciates that rage when it is stopping the killers one of those species that most people think is nothing more than an ingredient. My rage has stopped a man from beating his unconscious wife on the side of the road. My rage has stopped me from being kidnapped in the Mongolian steppe and raped in a Vietnamese rice paddy. My rage has stopped people beating their animals and their kids. I assure you, if you are being attacked or threatened somewhere, it is my rage you want by your side, not my calm and diplomatic self who only comes out when the coffee buzz subsides. My rage has a place both as an animal rights activist and as a way to protect vulnerable beings who need someone with fire in their eyes to stop a violent situation. We cannot ignore the fact that seeing red and acting impulsively with zero ability to access risk has its place even if it can make a lot people uncomfortable.

My rage started my animal rescue in Vietnam and it has kept it running against all odds and through years of being attacked and dismissed by animal eating “animal lovers”. My rage against the local vets who torture animals in their clinics opened my vet clinic, the first nonprofit veterinary clinic in Vietnam, with hardly any money and very little community support. My rage may be something that makes me unlikeable, but it is also what has saved me and many others who needed saving many times. My rage has kept me alive when suicidal depression and compassion fatigue threatened to kill me. My rage is who gets me up when I get knocked down again and again and again in work that is nothing more than constant exposure to preventable suffering and death with hardly any resources or support to battle it.

To call my rage unproductive or even destructive misses the point. It is my superpower that can both save and destroy. My rage makes me both a screaming ball of psycho that sends the masses running and a mama bear who will rip you to shreds if you get near me or my furry, feathered, or spikey babies. Both are necessary in this work, even if my rage gets a lot of knickers in a twist. Being able to make someone shit their pants is an underrated talent and one I wish I could put on my CV.

Through the years of trying to manage my rage and aim it towards something a bit less terrifying, much of it has come out through my fingers onto the pages of our social media and in articles I have written. I suffer from what I like to call “Resting Bitch Pen” which, much like its more commonly known ailment, Resting Bitch Face, makes people think you are angry and accusatory even if you are just thinking and commenting on a controversial topic. I cannot tell you how many times as a waitress I was told to smile more because I looked angry, and as any woman working in any a customer service or hospitality job can tell you, this made me want to throw plates and quit more times than I can count. As a vegan who stands up for all species, regardless of how I write, I get attacked by some numbnut trying to justify their murder of non-pet species. Activists who are leaders in any social justice movement are aware of how this works. Standing up for the vulnerable will always piss off a lot of people and there is little to do about this other than just get used to being hated. Being hated by people who “love” and kill animals is quite a compliment. I have had to acknowledge that most of the people who troll me will never be vegan, no matter what wording I use to explain our stance against speciesism. At some point, I have to just let go of that fact and focus on the people who are actually receptive to hearing the message against killing animals.

I recognize that being angry is not always effective communication in activism, but not being able to creatively express my outrage over the hypocrisy of the animal advocacy sector would undoubtedly make my brain explode. I write authentically and with passion and acknowledge that many people will be repelled by it regardless of how I express myself. That’s fine. Good riddance to them. No writer, especially in social justice activism, has any obligation to placate the entire potential audience of any of their work.

My rage is fueled by love. This is not something I will apologize for.

Writing feeds my soul and calms my rage. It makes my rage digestible. Writing takes the fire of rage and turns it into the embers of outrage and critique which I hope at least a few people can take in. The motivation I get from rage is vital to the work of my rescue in both how I discuss it with the public and how on a daily basis it keeps me fighting for more resources and greater understanding from the public as to the big picture issues we are facing. I refuse to get rid of that rage if this is what drives me.

Having logical emotions when being faced with nonstop crises is not the problem. Taking these emotions out on people who do not deserve it in a negative way is the problem, and one I am continually working on. Eliminating or attacking the emotional response itself is not the answer. I am proud to be someone who was pissed off enough to do something big for which I have sacrificed so much for which has saved so many lives. Being a rage-filled activist who said “hell no, fuck this” to an injustice and stood up against the masses of people who are fighting for animal cruelty even in the animal advocacy movement is not something that I will ever feel bad for. No activist working against a massive tide of oppression should ever feel ashamed for speaking up. Hurting some feelings along the way is also something that I will not lose sleep over. I am not a customer service representative tasked with smiling through the tirade of bullshit that comes at me, doing so for a crappy wage and taking home the stress with a smile. I fight for victims of a global industries built on their suffering and unnecessary murder and it takes a bit of fire to stand against that. I am grateful for the rage that got me here and encourage all the other “angry women” out there to join me.

Side note: PLEASE read/listen to “Rage Becomes Her: The power of women’s anger” to understand more about the way that women are socialized to hide their rage and attacked for letting it out in ways society deems “unfeminine”. This brilliant book is a must-read for women in activism.

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Cat Besch is a ferocious animal activist, pig snuggler, amateur vegan chef, and runner who is the founder and director of Vietnam Animal Aid and Rescue-US.

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Catherine Besch

Catherine Besch

Cat Besch is a ferocious animal activist, pig snuggler, amateur vegan chef, and runner who is the founder and director of Vietnam Animal Aid and Rescue-US.

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