Why not re-think your thanksgiving dinner? Today, there are SO many cruelty-free options available at the grocery store for a delicious thanksgiving meal! A turkey living in deplorable conditions, in combination with experiencing torture and abuse, to in the end be brutally slaughtered, is not worth… anything. There is nothing that can justify the brutality that happens as a result of our modern system of animal agriculture (a.k.a. FACTORY FARMING – GOOGLE IT!) I know this post may be uncomfortable for some people to read, but I can no longer choose to place how others may feel/how others may perceive me above the animals that suffer, the earth that is being degraded , and every starving person in the world whose lack of nourishment is intricately tied to our Western societies’ consumption of animal products. I have always felt deep compassion for other human beings and animals. I have always felt obligated to stick up for those who are disempowered and/or voiceless. It is that same compassion that has made it difficult for me to educate others (especially those individuals who I am very close with) about the realities I have been discovering about modern animal agricultural systems: because I really don’t like upsetting anyone! I don’t enjoy conflict and heated debates, and I especially don’t enjoy making others feel upset and/or uncomfortable. So, with that, I have found myself in a constant dilemma between :a) wanting to share my knowledge in the hope of ending animal suffering and slaughter, helping planet earth be on a path of environmental well-being and helping other human beings internationally AND b) not wanting to upset my friends, or make others feel uncomfortable. Well, it has taken me many years, but I have finally realized that the animals, the earth, and starving children are a good enough reason to start making others uncomfortable, and definitely worth more than me being seen as “cool” and being “accepted”. The year I lived in Whistler I focused on my health and being environmentally friendly in many ways. But I lost sight of why I adopted a vegan lifestyle in the first place, which was to eliminate the suffering my fellow animals endure on a daily basis (no, I didn’t make a typo with the word ‘fellow’, humans are animals too). Whistler was kind of a bubble, and in this bubble I lost sight of this passion of mine. For example, there are no homeless and/or impoverished people that you would easily see in Whistler so it is easy to forget about the reality of suffering in general. Being back in school this year has re-sparked my passion to advocate for changes that will ultimately save our planet. It is a spark that has led to a fire within me I have never experienced before. I have found a cause to support that, if successful, wouldn’t only eliminate a range of suffering, but would also rectify some of our most concerning environmental issues, not to mention, it could alleviate much world hunger and tackle soaring chronic disease rates found in societies who consume animals and their by-products. Today, I can whole-heartedly say, I don’t care anymore about the things that once prevented me from speaking out against the consumption of animals. I don’t care anymore if people don’t think I am cool, or awesome, or whatever. What I care about now, is that I can confidently say: I have compassion for other human beings, especially those who are vulnerable; I have compassion for animals; I care about the well-being of the environment, such as the stunning trees that make my heart beat so fast when I marvel at their beauty; I care about biodiversity, and protecting all the species of animals that inhabit our earth And, I am now willing to speak out for these things I care so much about recognizing that doing so is much more important than being accepted by the mainstream and/or worrying about making others feel uncomfortable. I now understand that this discomfort is justifiable for the greater good of our humanity and our earth (which includes all of its non-human animal inhabitants). I am who I am. I love those around me with all my heart. I have a great sense of humor. I love having fun. I love being weird & silly. I try not to let little things bother me, or negatively affect my mood. I try to live in the moment and enjoy those moments whole-heartedly. I love hearing about others’ passions. I love being physically active and I love constantly challenging myself, both physically and mentally. If this is not someone that you think is “cool” than we weren’t meant to be friends. The changes I have made in the past few years to live a more compassionate and ethical life have brought me more joy, happiness, and fulfillment than anything I have previously experienced. A vegan lifestyle is something I am so happy to have discovered, it necessitates me wanting to share it with others. But I have always felt reserved to really share how amazing of a change this has been, in fear of making people feel uncomfortable or upset. Some questions to ponder…… with answers below Social aspect: Why is it that when I talk about the choice I have made to adopt a vegan lifestyle this makes people feel very uncomfortable, makes people become very defensive and makes people judge, and ridicule the way I choose to live? Health aspect: Why are we told meat, eggs and dairy are HEALTHY when there is overwhelming scientific evidence that eating animal products is the leading cause of most diseases, including cancer, heart disease, as well as the leading cause of premature ageing. Environment aspect: Why are we NOT told that our rainforest (our planet’s lungs) are being cut down at an alarming rate, with the main cause being to graze cattle and grow feed for animals we raise to eat Did you know that one football field in size is cut down EVERY SECOND? That is so much biodiversity, roughly 100 species, lost per day. Additionally, people with a wealth of knowledge who live in these forests lose their habitat, and die. Our earth’s ability to breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen is being diminished rapidly. Why are we NOT told that in many countries grains are fed to the livestock in countries where millions of children are starving (to then be slaughtered, exported and consumed by wealthier nations)? Why are we NOT told that 51% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the animal agriculture sector? Why are we NOT told that the animal meat on our plates is destroying our planet and causing so much suffering: to human beings, to farm animals, to wildlife. To answer the social aspect… it is because eating meat is so deeply ingrained in most of us in our society that this ritual has become part of who we are. Growing up in a culture where eating meat is normal has given us the tools to separate ourselves from the paradoxical realities of our dinner plates. Below are excerpts from an amazing article by Dr. Melanie Joy which you can find in its entirety here: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/carnism-why-eating-animals-is-a-social-justice-issue/ (Because I certainly can’t say it better than her) “We’d feel guilty eating certain animals, yet we take pleasure consuming others. We cringe when faced with images of animals suffering, yet we dine on their bodies multiple times a day. We love dogs and eat pigs and we don’t know why. Widespread ambivalent, illogical attitudes towards a group of others are almost always a hallmark of an oppressive ideology. Oppressive ideologies require rational, inhumane people to participate in irrational, inhumane practices and to remain unaware of such contradictions. And they frame the choices of those who refuse to participate in the ideology as “personal preferences” rather than conscientious objections. Eating animals is not simply a matter of personal ethics. Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions us to eat certain animals.” “We tend to think it is only vegans and vegetarians who bring their belief systems to the table, but when eating animals is not necessary for survival, it is a choice- and choices always stem from beliefs. Eating animals is just a given; it’s just the way things are. Because carnism operates outside of our awareness, it robs us of our ability to make our choices freely- because without awareness, there is no free choice. Carnism enables us to support unnecessary violence towards others without the moral discomfort we would otherwise feel. Because we naturally feel empathy towards animals and don’t want them to suffer, Carnism must provide us with a set of tools to override our conscience so that we support an oppressive system that we would likely otherwise oppose.”
- Denial: if we deny there is a problem in the first place, then we don’t have to do anything about it. Denial is done through invisibility; eating animals is seen as a given rather than a choice. The victims of the system are kept out of sight… It is not uncommon for them to be boiled alive. The dismembered bodies of slaughtered beings are everywhere we turn, and yet we virtually never see these animals alive.
- Justification: Carnism teaches us to justify eating animals by teaching us to believe that the myths of meat are the facts of meat. The three myths fall in one way or another under Normal, Natural, Necessary
- These three N’s have been used in any oppressive situation in the past (women’s ability to vote, slavery, racism)
- Normal: What we call normal is simply the beliefs and behaviours of the dominant culture. Most of us would not condone the killing of a perfectly healthy six-month-old golden retriever who “had a good life” simply because we like the way her thighs taste, and yet carnism prevents us from seeing the immorality of doing the exact same thing to cows, pigs, chickens and other farmed animals.
- Natural: What we call natural is simply the dominant culture’s interpretation of history. It references not our fruit-eating ancestors but their flesh eating descendants. And more importantly, infanticide, murder, and rape are at least as longstanding as eating animals and are therefore arguable as natural… yet we don’t involve the longevity of these principles as a justification for them
- DO we really want to use the behaviour of the Neanderthals as the yardstick by which to measure our current moral choices?
- In meat-eating cultures, people tend to feel comfortable eating only those species they learned to classify as edible, all the rest they perceive as inedible and often disgusting (dogs and cats in the US)
- Most people assume that because eating animals is universal, eating animals is a morally relative proactive. Yet, just as, for instance, the marrying off 12 year old girls in Sudan is no reason for us to consider sexual relations with children morally neutral. The eating of dogs in Korea is no reason for us to consider eating pigs morally neutral.
- IF THE MERE EXSISTENCE OF ANALOGOUS PRACTICES IN OTHER CULTURES ETHICALLY USTIFIED OUR OWN BEHAVIOURS, WE WOULD HAVE NO REASON TO QUESTION THE ETHICS OF EVEN THE MOST HEINOUS CRIMES. We can as thoughtful observers, examine our own culture’s attempts to justify eating certain animals/
- Necessary: Today, the evidence that a diet without animals products is nutritionally sound (and likely even healthier than a carnistic diet) is overwhelming. For those who are economically and geographyically able to choose what we eat, eating meat is necessary only to sustain the carnistic status quo.
- Framing animals as a biological necessity de-moralizes what is a fundamentally moral issue. If we believe that eating animals is unavoidable, we are alleviated of the responsibility of reflecting on the ethics of our choices.
- “if we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities”
- It is the mentality of domination and subjugation, of privilege and oppression. It is the mentality that causes us to turn someone into something, to reduce a life to a unit of production, to erase someone’s being. It is the might-makes-right mentality, which makes us feel entitled to wield complete control over the lives and deaths of those with less power—just because we can. And to feel justified in our actions, because they’re only…. savages, women, animals. It is the mentality of meat.
- We must appreciate that, just as feminists who challenge patriarchy, for instance, are not simply “imposing their personal views” on society, those who challenge carnism are not simply “imposing their personal choices” on others. Eating animals cannot be reduced to simply a matter of personal ethics any more than can the refusal to allow people of color to enter one’s privately owned establishment.
- And to challenge injustice everywhere, we must practice justice everywhere: on streets, in the courtroom—and on our plates.
To answer the health part: visit http://www.nutritionfacts.org and you will find hundreds of videos on why meat, dairy and eggs are so terrible for you and how the meat, dairy and egg industry have enough power to effectively influence us into thinking the opposite. To answer the environment part: I strongly encourage you to read the book Comfortably Unaware”. Very to the point and informative. I strongly encourage my friends to stop CHOOSING to be ignorant. I encourage this, not only for the animals, not only for the environment, but also because I strongly believe changing to a plant-based diet will bring them so much happiness. Eating this way, I have more energy than I have ever had, I am more motivated, I have so much more control over stress and other negative emotions, and overall I feel a deeper sense of happiness. It has been this wonderful path of discovery where I now feel more deeply connected to nature, animals and other people. I look at everything with fresh eyes . Life is just incredible. It is very difficult to explain in words! Why not try it for yourself before you write it off? Adopting a vegan lifestyle is an opportunity to live a COMPASSIONATE, HEALTHY lifestyle with the ADDED bonuses of what I’ve said above AND MORE. You’re silly not to take this amazing opportunity. It seems too good to be true that you can save the lives of so many animals and you can save the planet all the while becoming a happier, more motivated, less stressed, and more fulfilled human being. But it is true, NOW THAT’S INCREDIBLE.