“When you eat meat it feels like there’s a rock in your stomach”
I remember months ago I came across a photograph on the Portraits of America Instagram of an older woman by a bridge as she described why she became a vegan. Although the picture is hidden in the depths of the app, I remember wishing I too had the courage to make a decision so bold as becoming a vegan. I kept thinking about how nearly every morning I woke up feeling none other than disgusting, it did, in fact, feel like there was a rock in my stomach. I had been attempting to eat healthy on and off for a year or so, only seeming to find inspiration when I came across a fitness Instagram page. Although I come from a very “Whole Foods family” I still woke up feeling, for lack of a better word, gross. As veganism has changed my energy, mood, etc., health is only a tiny fraction of why this new journey is something I hold very close to my heart.
Easter morning, 2016, I go onto twitter and see someone had retweeted a post by Peta. As I was killing time, I decided to scroll through the page’s media. Of course I came across a video on “what’s really in your easter candy”. The video zoomed into a chocolate egg and played footage of a dairy cow being tortured. I remember I felt bad, but not bad enough to avoid eating milk chocolate that day, this is not the first time I’ve ignored a pressing issue involving animal cruelty. The perfect example of human ignorance.
Before I begin, I must make a disclaimer. It’s really easy to put up a wall when you hear what I’m about to say. It’s easy to say vegans are crazy or “milking a cow doesn’t hurt it!”. It’s easy to turn the videos off because “you can’t stomach it”, you can stomach that burger, can’t you? And above all it’s easy to forget about what you just read, it’s easy to laugh this off, it’s easy to go back to your good old traditions and cultures and values that are so wrongfully tied with animal products. If only it were very American to get salads at drive throughs or eat tofu on Thanksgiving, but apparently we place our meat right next to our guns, at least there’s not an amendment for “your right to eat meat”.
You’re right, we are, so called “omnivores”, We’re supposed to eat meat right? Well your teeth beg to differ. Opposed to carnivores like wolves or bears, we are equipped with flat teeth. I’m willing to bet none of you would look at roadkill and have the natural instinct to eat the flesh raw. If we truly were supposed to eat meat, we would have been born with the right tools to do so. We only enjoy the taste of meat after it’s been cooked, marinated, sauteed, and fried. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a wolf cook its next meal.
Above all, this post is not to make anyone feel bad. This isn’t an I’m right, you’re wrong kind of deal. No one asked to live in a world that functions the way it does, no one eats meat for the purpose of harm, or so I assume. We eat meat because we’re raised to enjoy the taste. We drink milk because that’s the first poster we saw when we walked into our school cafeteria’s. Got Milk’s been plastered into our brains since we were five years old. But we’re not five anymore and it’s time we start thinking for ourselves.
56 billion, that’s how many farmed animals are killed for human consumption and use in America alone. This number does not include sea creatures, yet is eight times larger than the population of the entire world. How have we reached the point where animals are no longer living creatures with hearts and minds, but ours to take and destroy? Could you kill for your own food? Could you look into the eyes of an animal and kill them despite witnessing their pain? I suppose you couldn’t, but it’s easy to eat meat when the blood isn’t on your hands. It’s easy to walk into a grocery store and see body parts wrapped in styrofoam and plastic wrap with cute pictures of cows and barns with words like ORGANIC BEEF, screaming you to buy it. And you do buy it, because you care what you put in your body, because your doctor told you to eat protein, and you’re trying to be more organic. Grass fed cow or not, they’re still being manufactured since the day they were born and killed far before they’re meant to die. Slaughterhouses don’t come with glass walls, if they did we’d all be vegan.
Not only does the meat and dairy industry destroy animals, it destroys our bodies, it destroys the Earth. Ignorance is not bliss, ignorance is destroying the world humans and animals are meant to coexist in. The disconnect from the slaughterhouse to your dinner plate is harmful beyond belief. Animals become prepackaged discounts, the next ad in your local newspaper, the best burgers you’ve ever had. Animals are mutilated, and stripped of their right to live as you flaunt your newest leather bag, or belt, or shoes. And it’s not because we aren’t animal lovers, not because we have no compassion, not because we are selfish. It is because the American meat and dairy industry sales totaled at $186 billion in 2014. That’s a hell of a lot of money to make off death. Death doesn’t look too bad when it’s stuffed in the pockets of billionaires, does it?
According to meatinstitute.org, in 2013 the US “processed” 8.6 billion chickens, 33.2 million cattle, 239.4 million turkeys, 2.3 million sheep and lambs and 112 million hogs. “Processed” well doesn’t that word say it all. These animals, these living beings, are just products to us. Many never see the light of day, never know the feeling of grass or fresh air, of enjoying the world we’ve obviously taken over as ours. Cows are so cute when you can retweet the pictures of them with flowers on their heads, and pigs are just adorable when you can buy the little ones as pets, but when do they reach the point of becoming food? Not to mention, these statistics do not include fish, which, to many people’s surprise, are animals too.
My favorite family member reaction to vegans is “milking a cow doesn’t hurt it!” Yes milking a cow seems very pleasant when you picture a quaint farm in the 1800s and a girl milking her beloved cow to have fresh milk for her family’s breakfast…however that’s very much not the case. Cows, like us, produce milk for their children. Their children are called calves, which many people often assume means humans. Well a dairy cow has many humans to provide for so in order to do so, her calf is ripped away from her in its first week of life, good thing cows don’t have feelings or are attached to their children as much as humans are. And the mother cow endures this process multiple times through artificial insemination, until she becomes so physically weak she cannot stand up anymore. But her torture is not over until she is sent away to the slaughterhouse where she will finally end in your local grocery store for only $4.99 a pound! Let’s not forget about the pus and chemicals that come along with our this nutritious drink. Got milk anyone?
And I do not want to make this post morbid, although I could, I do not believe that’s the most helpful way to get a point across. If I have in any way interested you, I do, with all of my being, encourage you to watch the movie Earthlings. I have never once cried at a movie until I saw this, it has truly impacted the way I view and will forever view animals and our treatment of them. We must stop taking animals for granted, we must stop picturing cute little farms in our heads when we buy our meat or our milk, there’s very little room for farms when there’s 6,278+ slaughtering houses and processing plants in the US alone. We must stop placing economics above our morals. Money can’t fix everything, shocking, right?
What can you do? No you don’t have to drop all meat and dairy right this second, but try, two days a week to have vegan meals. Start transitioning to putting almond or soy milk in your coffee. Find local restaurants that have vegan or vegetarian options. Research the benefits of veganism, which you will find many. We must, must start loving the world and treating it with the respect it deserves. Animals are not ours, they never were and never will be. If you do decide to watch Earthlings or other documentaries such as Cowspiracy, learn what you will from the violence you witness, and do what you can to change it. Compassion and love will always, always overpower hate. Animals do not have a voice, it is up to us to give them one.
“As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought…the smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplify the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right”-Enemies, A Love Story: Isaac Bashevis Singer