The Ghosts in Our Machine – Reflections

Donna Oakes

Last week’s post about The Ghosts in Our Machine featured insightful and thought provoking remembrances of the ‘aha’ moment from 3 of the project team members – Jo-Anne McArthur, Liz Marshall and Ananya Ohri –

Those remembrances were so honest and inspiring that I found myself going back to the post and reading them over and over  again – especially during those moments when I wondered if there will ever be true justice for animals.

Just as inspirational are the writings of 2 other team members – Nina Beveridge (producer) and Lorena Elke (researcher). These are their reflections on the project and what it has meant to them on a very personal level.

Nina’s reflections:

Working on“The Ghosts In Our Machine”  has been a unique and transformative experience for me. It is a cross media documentary so we wanted to employ cross media strategies to gain support and build community. First we built a website ‘demo’ as a sales tool to find funding partners. Simultaneously Cross Media Director/Producer/Writer Liz Marshall created a beautiful trailer with our photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. We accomplished these with a lot of hard work, sweat  and support from professionals who collaborated with us. Once our website and trailer were unveiled, we launched our social media campaign (facebook, vimeo, youtube), which Liz has done an amazing job spearheading. As our community took shape and the outreach progressed, we launched our crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo. The best part about the indiegogo campaign is that the people who donated have become really vested in our project. This is where the magic really started to begin for me. I feel like we are a big family now. It’s exciting to see so many people rooting for the project!        

Since I dove in to TGIOM last February, I have been intensely focused on the logistics of implementation, planning and financing. It wasn’t until I volunteered to participate in our first Veggie Challenge that I had time to explore the project with my heart and not just my head. It gave me a chance to explore veganism personally, not just as a cause to support. I was born and lived for a while in India so I know some great Indian veg. recipes. I was vegetarian for a few years before I had kids. When I took on the Veggie Challenge I embraced vegetarianism and began to scope out what it took to be a vegan. Complementing the experience with reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran-Foer was perfect. From many angles the book beautifully presents the case for the absurdity of humans eating animals. There are many other systematic abuses that we humans cruelly impose on the “Ghosts” in the interest of profit, but food is so personal and such a constant experience, it is a great entranceway to the vegan perspective.

From my view the greatest challenges to becoming a vegan in the kitchen are primarily habit and convenience and secondarily economics, taste preferences and protein cravings. My personal challenges include: having a family in which my husband has been the primary cook (I’m not complaining-I’m the sous chef & dish washer) and he and my son like meat. (Who wants to cook two meals? We are figuring it out.); rarely seeming to have time to plan meals and prepare them with care; being on a budget & trying to minimize shopping time so I can focus on caring for my kids and working. When your life is busy and pressured, effecting change can be tough. Now I have to go to two or three stores to buy my groceries, not just one, and now I have to end my work day sooner to prepare a vegan component to our meal. Obviously there are many positive results, but still, it is change. My favorite quote has always been “the only thing that is constant is change” (Albert Einstein), and I believe we humans are capable of making this shift. Not only that, I think we’ll be forced to in years to come for the survival of our planet.

I was heartened by the Gene Baur interview we did at Farm Sanctuary. He maintains an optimistic view about humanity’s capacity for change. I know that I am changing. Purposefully, I will progress, step by step, with care, into this state of being. Carefully, I will share my change with the people around me. My guiding principle – Ahimsa.


Lorena’s reflections:

Reflections on The Ghosts in our Machine – We have to look

The Miram-Webster dictionary defines the verb “look” in the following ways:

to make sure or take care (that something is done)

to ascertain by the use of one’s eyes

to exercise the power of vision : to see

to direct one’s attention

As a little girl I was not given a choice as to whether or not to look…and what I saw, living on farms in Manitoba, were the slaughter of chickens, and wild animals for food and profit.

The chickens were my friends, from the day they first arrived in the mail as peeping little babies, through their growing up time, until the day I saw them running around with no heads, blood everywhere. It was then, I now realize, that I left my body- disassociated, in order to endure the horror of what I was seeing.

In my teens I saw the wild animals….the deer, elk, moose, fox, coyote, ducks, geese, grouse, prairie chickens. I saw them hanging upside down, fresh from the hunt and trap lines, ready to be skinned; some kept for meat and some sold for their fur.  The antlers hung on our dining room wall.

In my early 20’s, I chose to look. It is a scary, painful, lonely, overwhelming, depressing process… to look.  I watched video after video of the horror of animal abuse, until I couldn’t watch anymore. I chose to reenter my body and become a vegetarian.

I couldn’t look anymore until my mid-to late 30’s, and then I couldn’t stop looking.  I needed to make sure “that something was done”.  I became vegan and met animal rights activists and protested and rescued animals.

Still, I struggle with my own species in terms of our blatant cruelty. The Ghosts in our Machine project is helping me to remember that there are members of my own species that are good…and that we are everywhere. I am reminded that people want to learn and that there is support with the pain, confusion and loneliness that can happen when you open yourself to truth.  Now I can offer that support to people that choose to look.

I am NOT an extroverted woman, in fact, I am very “cat-like” and prefer my own company most of the time as well as company of non-human animals. So community events do not work for me all of the time, unless it is a protest.  As a researcher/consultant on TGIOM, I am fulfilling my need “to look” and “do something”, AND I am feeling incredibly supported emotionally along the way. I have joined facebook for the first time and I feel relieved!

There will always be pain and heated emotions as long as non-human animals are captive to our human greed and cruelty.  This is precisely why we have “to look”… it is the only way.

In this photo –

On the left – Lorena Elke with her beautiful rescue boy named Mr. Bill.

On the right – Nina Beveridge with her good friend Nomad


3 Responses

  1. Beautiful, Lorena and Mr. Bill, Nina and Nomad.

    Thank you for sharing their stories, their faces, their love, Donna Oakes.

  2. I’m sure Mr. Bill and Nomad know and appreciate what caring humans they have found.

    Thanks for giving us more insight into the “looking” at things – And guiding us as to what to look at and for. Looking for peace in the end… Surely that’s it.

  3. Lorena, I relate so much to your story about “looking”. I also have hunters and fishers in my family, and dissociated for years from looking at animal exploitation for what it really was. Now I can no longer dissociate, and it’s painful, but I cannot imagine going back to the denial.

    Thank all of you for these amazing stories. I’m looking forward to seeing Ghost in the Machine, and hopefully helping it reach some people who wouldn’t otherwise look. Thank you again.

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