We are causing massive suffering to billions of animals each year for nothing more than a tasty meal. We need to re-evaluate our cultural values and abolishing animal products would be the beginning of a path towards a more ethical future.

I was a non-vegan for over 30 years of my life. Like many around the globe, I had my addictions to certain animal products and consumed them daily. My family and I ate the standard American diet and didn’t think anything was wrong with it. We were blind in our ignorance.

My first encounter with a vegan occurred while I was working in NY during the summer of 2008. I was 22 at that time. Yes, I made it to the age of 22 without ever meeting a vegan. It’s easy to do when you grow up in a small town in the middle of Nebraska where steak is the staple for dinner. Anyway, I had never met a vegan until that work trip and I proceeded to ask her the same stereotypical questions and make the same stupid jokes that I now get when I tell someone that I am vegan.

When you aren’t vegan and don’t want to change, you are very much blind to the truth.

The perspective from the other side of the fence is quite different! Now that I am the one being questioned and forced to defend my “shocking” way of life, I see how I must have sounded that summer in NY. I sounded no different than those that now surround me. It is the sound of someone that doesn’t understand (or want to) in defence of not having to change. When you aren’t vegan and don’t want to change, you are very much blind to the truth. It is exactly how I was.

I can give numerous reasons to go vegan during conversation, but the banter that inevitably comes my way sounds like nothing more than selfishness to my ears. I can remember one conversation that I had where my coworker actually acknowledged the horrible conditions that factory farms exhibit and then turn around and say that he likes the taste of chicken too much to go vegan. During this same conversation, another coworker told me that if everyone in the world went vegan, then there wouldn’t be enough food to go around (very much the opposite of the truth).

We are trained to ignore the suffering of specific animals so that we can eat them and use their bodies and by-products.

These examples are great at showing just how ingrained it is for us to consume animal products. We are conditioned from the very first moments of our life that animals are put on this earth for us to consume their flesh and by-products. We are trained to ignore the suffering of specific animals so that we can eat them and use their bodies and by-products. I was no different before I went vegan.

These actions by the majority of society, even when faced with facts and truth, demonstrate that the true problem is ignorance and ego. Not knowing the truth and living in ignorance isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It was how most of us were raised and we don’t know any better until we know better. When faced with the truth, the selfishness of not wanting to give up animal products seems to take over and palate pleasure becomes the main argument.

I didn’t set out to become a vegan. My path to becoming one happened purely by chance after trying to find ways to be healthier. It all started with sugar for me. I would watch videos about sugar and how toxic it is for our bodies. After a while, that led to learning about diabetes and heath. While I was watching these videos, I would have vegan videos pop up on my recommended list and I would completely ignore them.

I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t want to learn about veganism. Time passed and I found myself looking for new content, so I started watching those videos on veganism. They didn’t truly stick with me until I watched a documentary called Earthlings. Watching that was the final nail in the coffin. It was an eye-opening experience of what happens to animals as a result of humankind’s desire for things like steak, fur, leather, etc. Seeing a fox getting skinned alive after being anally electrocuted isn’t exactly something you easily forget. I knew that veganism was the answer and that I had a moral and ethical responsibility to change. Not only did I think that I should change, I knew that I must change.

The vast majority of non-vegans don’t personally commit these inhumane acts, but we sponsor it through what we purchase. The separation between what is happening and how we view it (or ignore it) is huge. This cognitive dissonance is what keeps these inhumane industries from going out of business. From a consumers’ perspective, if they didn’t personally commit the act or didn’t see it happen, then it didn’t happen.

The suffering that is happening is unknown or ignored by consumers and it’s that way by design.

There is a study that was done on WWII and how so many people could blindly follow Adolf Hitler and commit such horrific crimes against humanity. In the study, they took ordinary citizens and had them electrocute people that they couldn’t see (they could only hear them through a speaker) while under the guidance of an administrator. He would tell them to increase the voltage and push the shock button when the person being shocked, who was being asked questions, got answers wrong. When the voltage reached lethal levels, the test subjects would hesitate to shock the other person and would protest. The administrator would insist that the shock be administered, saying that it was fine and that the administrator would be personally responsible for damages and death, should it occur. Sadly, the subjects often administered the lethal shock knowing that the consequences didn’t rest on them.

This is very much what animal agriculture is like. Consumers are so far away from the act and aren’t the ones on the kill floors, so it’s no big deal. The suffering that is happening is unknown or ignored by consumers and it’s that way by design. This gives rise to the saying that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, then everyone would be vegan.

The truth is that what we humans are doing to other species is no different than the slave trade or Hitler. We are causing massive suffering to billions of animals each year for nothing more than a tasty meal. Because of our ego, palate pleasure is king and anything that doesn’t immediately impact our lives is often ignored.

In an attempt to convince someone to go vegan I could rant about the atrocities that humans commit. I could easily recommend documentaries or studies to reference. The material is fantastic and is supported with facts and studies, but it still requires people to actually listen and look into it, which many don’t. It also requires people to be ready for the change and open to the idea of going vegan, which many aren’t. I honestly don’t know that I would have gone vegan if someone was advocating for it in front of me. I probably wouldn’t have been ready.

And yes, I will acknowledge that most animal products do taste good. They are designed to taste good and to be addictive. Dairy is a perfect example of this because it chemically produces something similar to morphine when consumed and morphine is highly addictive! When someone counters something I say with a reference to taste, I acknowledge and agree with them. I didn’t eat animal products for 30 years because they tasted awful; I ate them because they tasted good and that was how I was raised. Is taste really worth the suffering of billions of animals every year?

I will also acknowledge that most plant-based products taste just as good. Many fight going vegan because they fear that their food will be bland and gross. Somehow, there is a stigma that vegans eat nothing but soy and tofu and use that as a reason to avoid trying veganism. Wondering if I eat cardboard is a personal favorite. We use tofu maybe twice a year and avoid soy as much as possible. The variety of plants that one can eat is so vast and tasty that I would challenge any non-vegan meal to a taste challenge.

There is no logical justification for exploiting the environment and destroying the world for future generations because bacon tastes good.

To me, there is no question that the world needs veganism. Any way you look at it, animal agriculture is wrong and unsustainable. There is no logical justification for exploiting the environment and destroying the world for future generations because bacon tastes good. There is also no logical justification for knowing that billions of animals suffer needlessly so that we can use and consume their products.

To make it more confusing, these same people then turn around and show absolute love for a pet and take care of it’s every need with infinite compassion and care. Shoot, there are laws in place to enforce the humane treatment of pets, but none to do so for farmed animals. Treating animals humanely seems only to apply to those that are viewed as pets.

We had a family meal once with our pet Blue and Gold Macaw and we were eating chicken of some sort. Our bird was quite the beggar and would eat at, or on, the table with us. She ate chicken that day (and on many other days) and we joked around that she was eating her own kind and that she should be ashamed of herself. In our blindness, we didn’t see the irony in the fact that we were caring for one creature at the expense of another. We just didn’t know any better. Sadly, it never clicked in our heads that what we were doing was wrong.

Humans as a whole don’t view life equally and we place ourselves and a select few other species on a pedestal that somehow has privilege over other species. If we farmed dogs, anally electrocuted them and wore their skin and fur in the name of fashion while eating dog ribs for lunch, people would be appalled and disgusted! Yet this is what we do to billions of animals each year. If we took a cat and submerged it underwater over and over again while destroying its mouth and its ability to eat, then we would be jailed. Every fish experiences this when hooked and pulled from the water.

As a species, we don’t even have the integrity to take care of our pets in the way that they need it. There is a huge rise in cancer among pets because we don’t know how to feed them properly. I have been in houses overrun with fleas as a result of not taking care of dogs. The bird trade is just plain heart-breaking because people think that birds will be happy living in a cage for 50 years as long as you give it 5 minutes of attention every day. We don’t even treat each other with respect and dignity. I would even go so far to say that we barely know how to take care of and do the same for ourselves.

One could call this a problem of love, or the lack of it on a global scale. Buddhism and Christianity both talk about unconditional love as a foundation for life. This love wasn’t meant to satisfy ego only, it meant to love one another as you love yourself. To me, that means all life on earth, not just humans. That means loving your mother and father as well as pigs, chickens, cows, beetles, possums, etc. There is just as much value in their lives as there is in ours.

Abolishing animal products is just the beginning of a path towards a more ethical future.

Humans shouldn’t just stop eating animals. As a species, we need to re-evaluate our cultural values and do more than that. We need to develop a deep respect for everything that we have and everything that sustains us. We need to treat the entire world and everything on it with respect. Abolishing animal products is just the beginning of a path towards a more ethical future.

Article by Ryan Nealon

 

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