I’ve been focusing a ton on health lately, mainly due to the Healthy, Fit, and Fabulous Initiative, and all the information I’m anxious to share. However, I feel like I’ve been leaving out information about the animals recently.
As many of you know, while I’ve been an animal lover my whole life, even to the extent of opening my own dog daycare and boarding facility and making a career out of taking care of other people’s pets, my whole vegan journey started strictly because of health reasons. No, nothing horrible happened forcing my decision to get healthy. So many people wait for that – some scary cardiac event, a disappointing diagnosis, overwhelming aches and pains, etc. Anyway, I started my mission to get healthy based solely on reading a few good books – The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and Food Revolution for starters. In my quest to eat the right food, I was eager to learn as much as possible. In the beginning I was even reluctant to use the word vegan because it had so many negative connotations. Things like radical, freak, crazy activist, etc. When describing my diet as “whole foods, plant-based, which means I don’t eat any animal products at all”, some people replied with, “oh, so you’re vegan.” In the strangest way, my response was, “yeah, but for health reasons.” As if doing it “for animals” was no good reason whatsoever.
Like many things, that too has changed. The health reasons got me started but it’s the animal reasons that keep me going. I’ve always known that eating cakes and cookies and piles of cheese was not healthy. But I did it anyway. Even if I was trying to lose weight at the time. I didn’t have the willpower to stay away for my own health. But now, avoiding those things is just about as easy as avoiding chewing tobacco. Talk about an easy decision. But how did I get that way? How did I go from an ice cream-aholic to driving past Dairy Queen and Brusters and being totally grossed out? It was remarkably easy.
When I learned that Americans consume an average of 3,000 animals in their lifetime, I really began to wonder. I’m all about self-love and treating myself well and valuing my own self worth and all that jazz, but who the hell am I that 3,000 animals have to die for me?? It would be hard to stomach that statistic even if it was necessary to sustain my own life. But the fact that I would be consuming 3,000 animals simply for habit, taste, tradition, and convenience is just too much to swallow.
And then there’s the concept of factory farming. So not only am I going to take the lives of these animals just because I’m used to having them on my plate and it’s the norm, but their entire lives are filled with fear, torture, disease, pain, and suffering. We’re still just talking about life on the farm. I haven’t even gotten to slaughter yet. And I hardly need to. It’s every bit as horrible — Scratch that – it’s 100 times more horrible than you’re thinking it is. With the speed at which the slaughterhouses operate to keep up with the public’s hungry demand for animal products, well let’s just say they don’t always do as thorough a job as they should. And then there’s the callous treatment of ‘byproducts’ of farming such as male chicks on an egg laying farm and male calves on a dairy farm. You don’t honestly think they just head out to pasture to graze do you?
If I’d stepped inside a chicken farm where they raise eggs for my omelets or wings for dipping, I’d never dream of touching poultry products again. If I had to take the life of every animal I ate with my own hands, I would have been a vegetarian from the beginning. If I had to spend even one day at a modern-day dairy farm and see the kind of slavery and abuse the cows go through, I would have never touched dairy products again.
I know it’s hard to hear. It’s even harder to see. But I implore you to educate yourself about what’s really going on behind the curtains. If you saw the neighbor kid beat up his dog and swung his cat around by the tail before throwing it as far as he could, would you just close the curtains? If you heard sounds of domestic violence coming from the house next door would you just turn your music up? Just because you choose to look the other way does not mean it’s not happening right under your nose. And just because you don’t acknowledge it does not mean you’re not a part of it. By not taking action, you are condoning it, supporting it, and you are making it ok for the perpetrators. Why would they stop their actions if no one is telling them to?
In honor Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday, I’ll share one of his well-known quotes, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
Take a chance, look behind the curtains. Learn about the ‘animal reasons.’ I swear it will actually make your future food choices easier. It may be tough at first, but you’ll be glad you did.