I have been a vegetarian for more than a decade, and this year became a vegan. I finally realized that I cannot call myself an animal lover and still eat products that come from animals.
When I mention my veganism, people respond in various ways. They get subtly defensive, saying that they only eat meat from local farms where the animals are treated well. Or they say they have cut back because of its health consequences. Or they ignore the subject altogether, suggesting that the topic is off limits. Until recently, I would then remain silent on the issue so as not to offend them, but then realized that it is absurd to shy away from taking a stand to end senseless violence.
If you eat meat, and you believe you are a compassionate person, then you must not know about the violence.
I do believe that most people are compassionate, and if they knew what was happening to animals on factory farms today, they would reduce or eliminate eating meat.
Factory farms supply 99% of all the food produced today in the U.S. They have put 95% of the local farmers out of business because it is impossible to compete against them. They are called ‘factory’ farms because they treat animals as units of production, with no consideration for them as sentient beings. They are highly profitable. Just Google ‘gestation crate’ or ‘farrowing crate’ and you will see heart-wrenching images of animals that cannot move for their whole lives.
Consider these facts:
- When you eat meat, you are eating the flesh, veins, organs and limbs of an animal that went through unimaginable suffering for your momentary taste sensation. And there is overwhelming evidence that you are ingesting food that contributes to heart problems, numerous cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, to name a few.
- Animals are sentient beings that experience emotions and feel pain. They want to tend to their young, enjoy their lives and be free from pain, just as we do.
- Factory farmed animals are so severely confined that they cannot even move a limb to scratch an itch.
- Factory farmed animals are genetically modified so that they grow to ten times their size in a few months. It would be like taking a seven-pound human baby and turning her into 700 pounds in six months. Imagine how painful that must be.
- In nature, a cow has only one calf in her lifetime and she forms a strong bond with it. On factory farms, however, they are artificially inseminated every year to produce a calf for the sole purpose of getting her milk for human consumption. That baby calf is allowed only 24-48 hours to be with its mother. It is then taken away and either killed, because it is now a waste product, or sold to a meat farm were it is fed antibiotics and hormones for eventual slaughter. The mother cow cries for months for her baby.
- 2-3 years of repeated rape, being robbed of their young, and then milked to exhaustion is the life of these cows. They never breathe fresh air or see the sun. The average life span of a cow in nature is 15-20 years. Is this worth a glass of milk? The same glass of milk that contains antibiotics and growth hormones? Do you wonder why your teenage girls are forming large breasts earlier than in previous generations?
- Chickens are so crammed into cages that they develop skeletal deformities. Their feet never touch the bottom of the wire cages for their whole lives. They never breathe fresh air or see the sun. In fact, lights are kept on for 18 hours in windowless barracks to force their bodies to produce far more eggs than their natural capability.
- Living in such cramped quarters results in the animals becoming understandably aggressive and peck one another. The factory farmer then de-beaks them, which is a very painful procedure of chopping off their beaks. So painful, in fact, that many of the chickens cannot eat after that. They die in extreme pain.
- The chickens that are up against the edges of the cages have their nails grow around the bars as they are hanging, suspended in air. When it is time for the workers to retrieve them for slaughter, they are then ripped out from the relatively small opening, tearing their feet from their limbs and ripping their fragile wings.
- Animal protection organizations have been fighting against these battery cages and a small victory that has been recently won. Many large companies are getting rid of them. While that is an improvement, cage-free chickens are still crammed into barns where they cannot even lift a wing. The ammonia-filled spaces make your eyes water. Imagine standing in that your whole life.
- A post hoc justification for eating meat is often offered i.e. God put animals on this earth to feed us. If God is supposed to be kind and benevolent, then would he agree with inflicting pain and suffering on innocent beings? Why did he put an abundance of plant-based foods on this earth?
On a recent trip to an animal sanctuary, I learned of a rescued chicken from a factory farm, that tripped on a stone and fell over. Before a worker could get to it a few minutes later, it died of suffocation under its own weight because it was unable to stand up on its own. That is because it had been genetically modified. Imagine the pain it feels just walking around with all that extra weight just so that you can eat chicken breasts.
If you want to stop these abuses, you can help by making some simple dietary changes by substituting plant-based foods one or two days a week. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And if what I said isn’t enough to persuade you, then think of this:
- If people didn’t eat meat, there would be enough food to feed the world, without the pollution, pain and suffering.
- If people stopped eating chicken for one less day per week, the environmental equivalent would be the same as taking one million cars off the road.
- You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you would by not showering for a whole year.
- If we were meant to eat meat, we would have larger incisors with which to eat it, and we would not have to cook it.
- There is an abundance of plant-based, delicious foods available that involve no cruelty or violence, and they are healthier for you and the planet.
- Vegans do not care more for animals than people. We care for animals AND people. It is because of a deep appreciation for all life forms that many of us choose veganism.
There was a time when we didn’t think slavery was wrong, or that women should have the right to vote. Eating animals is wrong on every level. Please take a stand for these voiceless, innocent creatures and choose plant-based alternatives.