Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday with so many meanings. A Hallmark day when we are expected to buy objects to demonstrate our love. (U.S.-ians spend $200 billion per year on this holiday, an average of $130 per person.) A pagan holiday Christianized and commercialized like all the others. We must buy chocolate, a substance with so many human and nonhuman rights abuses that a child slave described it as his “flesh.” Roses and other flowers grown offshore by the millions, tended by women working in sweatshop conditions. Jewelry made from precious stones and metals torn from the earth by slaves, an industry that leaves toxic scars in its wake.
Valentine’s Day can be so much more than this. A day for friendship, to share with those who don’t have or choose not to have romantic partners. To share love and solidarity with mothers who have lost their babies to illness or violence. For our friends who do have romance in their lives but whose sweethearts allow space for lovers and fighters of all sorts.
I don’t know what love is, but I know what it’s not.
Breeding and raising someone so you can kill them (is the term mercenary only for humans?) and turn their flesh into a commodity is not and never will be love. Even if you package it into heart-shaped boxes like these. Even if you treat them so, so kindly during their life.
When they were alive, they had muscles. Tongues to lick their babies and clean themselves. Legs to walk where they wanted. Ears to cock toward the sounds of threats or friends. And in death we’ve taken these tools of autonomy and survival and turned them into “meat.”
Today we can make the choice to give all animals (nonhumans and human workers) back their bodies. We aren’t entitled to cheap commodities at their expense. Instead, we can pour our feeling and talent into handmade, homemade cards and gifts. Our relationships aren’t worth a dollar amount. Couples spend less on on Valentine’s Day as they stay together longer… let’s take a lesson from our elders: Quality time is the greatest gift.