Before I get into the topic of today’s post, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who wished me luck with my surgery two weeks ago. I’m proud to say that last night, I walked a bit over three miles and I feel good today. I feel like my abs got a bit of a workout, yes, but that’s a good thing in my book. I am utterly convinced that by being in shape before the surgery and eating a plant-based diet, I am healing by leaps and bounds every single day. I had a similar type of surgery 9 years ago, and I don’t remember feeling this good, this soon after the surgery. I also ate meat and dairy at the time and hardly ever worked out.
In case you need to see how much animals are like us, please see this video on three horses that were reunited after being separated for several years and watch their reactions.
When I mention to people that I’m vegan, there are a range of responses I get, sometimes depending on how well I know the person. “Do you eat fish, though?” is one question. “How much percentage vegan are you?” is another. “What does that mean?” is a third question. And the most commonly asked are “Why? Don’t you miss meat? or dairy?” Now I’m not always able to express myself easily verbally, but with writing, I seem to do alright, so I thought I would write a post about it, and if I educate some folks in the reading of this, well, I will feel it has served a purpose. Because some folks are more comfortable and fluid when talking about this issue, I’ve included some of their videos or links in this post.
Chase Avior, What the World Needs Now (a talk on veganism) [Ladies, note that the man giving the talk is vegan. You don’t need to eat meat to have a good body. :-)]
I’m a vegan because I love animals. Plain and simple. I LOVE ANIMALS. Notice I didn’t say just domesticated animals, but “animals,” period (or “full stop” for those of you in other countries that use different terminology.) Do I occasionally miss the smell of or taste of meat? Occasionally, if it smells particularly good. But here’s the thing. It stops there. I get this image in my mind of a cow being slaughtered, or a pig being slaughtered at just 6 months of age, or a chicken being scalded alive because the assembly line just goes too fast for the slaughterhouse workers to keep up, and any kind of desire to eat that meat vanishes. (I feel the same way with milk chocolate and cookies made with eggs, because of the reasons discussed below. And that’s saying something because I have a HUGE sweet tooth!)
I was vegetarian for about two years before making the switch. I thought to myself “well, the chickens laying the eggs aren’t being harmed, and besides it says “free range” on the label.” I also thought “well, the cow normally has to produce milk so I’m not doing anything that isn’t necessary.” That is, until I started reading up more about the dairy industry and the poultry industry. That was before I took an Intro to Animal Science class, and learned that while it used to take turkeys 25 weeks to grow to full maturity of 18 pounds, nowadays, they grow to full maturity (in the industry’s eyes) in 16 weeks and are 25 pounds. And you know what? Cows aren’t supposed to be pregnant for the majority of their lives (and they need to be impregnated by the industry in order for them to produce milk, as the lactation is meant for baby calves. Not humans, but baby calves.) Cows are supposed to live for 20 years, not 6 or 7. As humans, we wouldn’t want to be taking antibiotics every day, even when we’re not sick. So why would we want to put something into our bodies that was fed antibiotics almost every day of its life? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
I remember my professor stating these figures in his powerpoint lecture with what sounded like a lot of pride. He was proud of the agribusiness industry for having been so smart and learning how to make products so much more efficiently (the amount of feed that had to be consumed per turkey to reach maturity was half of what it used to be.) The agribusiness folks had been so smart when it came to increasing the efficiency. He said it with pride, yet I heard it with disgust. In nature, an animal doesn’t change the way it grows so rapidly over a period of 40 years. In nature, a bird doesn’t grow its breasts so large that it can’t even support its own weight and topples over and dies.
I’ve decided I just don’t want to be related in any part to misery or pain to animals. People say to me, well, just because you decide to not eat meat, doesn’t mean that the agricultural business will stop producing meat. But here’s the thing. There is one thing that came across loud and clear during my professor’s powerpoints. Consumer preference is very important to agribusiness. It is one of the main factors that determines the path of their industry. Lamb is no longer a preferred meat source, so less lambs are produced now than before in the United States. Imagine, then, if consumers, one by one, or group by group, started to eat less meat and animal products. Just think about what could happen! (And if you doubt that consumer preferences make a difference over the long run, well, just read this article on McDonalds and how they are closing hundreds of stores this year, and why.)
Now, just as with everything, people try to get their message across in different ways. Below is a video shot this past weekend by a friend of mine, BSG, at an event where lambs were being shown/exhibited, and at the same time, eaten by others. If even one person heard the message, then that’s one less person who eats meat. It’s hard to look at the live animal in front of you and then look at what you’re eating and not make the connection between the two. My personality is more of the way that Chase Avior speaks, but everyone has their own way of dealing with issues that they believe in passionately.
If you’re more into movies or books, a few I suggest are Peaceable Kingdom: Journey Home, and Milk? (available through Amazon Prime Instant Video), or Cowspiracy. I’m going to go see the Maple Farm Sanctuary in MA that is featured in Peaceable Kingdom, in a few weeks, and can’t wait. I’ve been told I should watch Earthlings but I have also heard that it makes Food, Inc. (I believe I saw it through Netflix) look like a Disney movie on the agriculture industry, so forewarned is fair-warned.
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6 thoughts on “Why I’ve Chosen to be Vegan”
Great post Terri. The #1 reason I left the Animal Health Sciences is because of the mindset about how animals are treated. The AG business sees animals as a commodity. I was hoping to hear that this mindset within academia has changed in the past 30+ years. Sorry to hear that it hasn’t.
As I said in our FB interaction, getting in people’s faces and having them feel demonic for their choices isn’t the most effective tool for change. Changing people’s state, connecting with people so they are willing, even eager to hear what you have to say, then delivering useful information and choices that are immediately actionable are much more productive.
As activists we feel the urgency of our message, the agony of the suffering, and the frustration of the pace of change. If we buy into these emotions we will not only be less effective but we tend to burn out. After 8+ years of daily activism in this manner (and a full time business in Animals Welfare & Environmental issues) I burned out. I often felt depressed and an almost hatred for humanity towards the end of closing my business. None of the emotions I felt was moving me to inspire change at that point. I’ve been doing this work on varying levels for about 35 years. You learn a lot if you’re paying attention. Everyone needs to try their methods to see what works for them. My concern is that we’ve overcome a negative stigma to a large degree which has the people we’re ‘targeting’ be more open to hear and change. If we use tactics that have people feel they’re wrong they will tend to feel defensive. It’s human nature.
I like to work with where people are. I’ve used AG events to inspire change and have experienced enormous interest. I’ve used my ability to connect with people and begin a conversation. In the Chris D. video he has no idea if he’s had an impact because he’s not made an attempt to personally engage with anyone. I use the same methods I used to parent and it’s worked beautifully. Not only do you get much more interest, but if you establish rapport you will often have people want to continue the conversation.
I’m also not sure if I can sit through a semester of learning about lab animals, Darris. I really don’t know that I could live with myself every night, so if I end up helping animals as a vet assistant, and not a vet tech, then I’ll be ok when I fall asleep at night. The difference in pay won’t make up for how badly I think I would feel. I just can’t imagine having to give some sort of anesthesia or shot to an animal that doesn’t need it just for my class.
My attitude with my friends is that if they want to listen to me talk about veganism, or why I do it, or have questions as to how I fulfill my nutritional needs without meat or dairy, I’m more than happy to talk to them about it. I don’t want them to think that I’m preaching at them, because i know that if it were me, I’d probably turn them “off.” So I completely understand where you are coming from, Darris. And I always respect your opinion and advice.
So were you able to convert your mother while she was in town? =)
Nope, but she did seem to like almond milk and noticed she felt better after drinking it than regular cow’s milk. When she left she said she was going to buy some! 🙂
I applaud you for actually thinking about what you put in your body, something most Americans never stop to do. Consider letting others have their individual choice and allow them to decide what they want to do with respect to their dietary lifestyle. I personally think you are way out of bounds on this whole Café Gratitude thing. You have a life, let the Engelharts have theirs. In peace.
Thank you for commenting. I do allow others to have their choice – many times when I am with friends or at a restaurant, people will ask me, “do you mind if I eat meat? will it bother you?” and my answer is always the same – “you can eat what you want. I just choose to not eat meat myself. If I chose to not be friends with people who eat meat, I’d be all by myself all the time!” So I really do let others choose. Seriously, my best friend back in Boston is a meat eater and probably always will be. She knows why I don’t eat meat and we realize “to each their own.” This post was simply to educate others on why I eat the way I do, not to tell them they HAVE to eat a certain way or not. I would never presume to tell people what to do, so I am sorry you interpreted this post in that manner.