In was Christmas Day, 2012, and my family was in the midst of a tour of Europe when, after being served rabbit covered in a red sauce that looked eerily like blood, I decided to become a vegetarian.
I had wanted to become a vegetarian for months out of concern for animal welfare. More than 2,500 research studies conducted by scientists have shown that nonhuman animals are sentient beings. Mammals, birds, and others feel a range of emotions, from joy to sadness to fear to jealousy to grief. Farm animals like chickens, cows, and pigs feel empathy. Nonhuman animals are sentient beings, can feel suffering, and like humans, have an interest in avoiding suffering. And like the moral philosopher, Peter Singer, I think those interests should be respected. The more I learned about the factory farm system where meat came from, the more horrified I became. I didn't want to support a system that caused so much suffering for so many sentient beings.
The catalyst for my diet change was the aforementioned rabbit. From that day on, I never purposely ate meat again. At first, it was incredibly challenging. Meat had been a staple of my diet for my entire life and it was hard to not be able to enjoy the foods I used to love. There were no more sausage pizzas or chicken sandwiches for me. I also faced ridicule and discouragement from my friends and family, the people closest to me. My parents thought it was just a phase and my so-called friends failed to understand the rationale behind my sudden choice. Everyone I knew kept telling me to give up being vegetarian and just eat meat. But in my heart, I knew I couldn't.
I had several people tell me that killing animals for food was justified because animals exist for the benefit of humans. But such a view, while having a biblical basis in the Book of Genesis, seems to me to be a quite arrogant assertion, and one that contradicts scientific evidence. Animals were not created by God for the benefit of humans. Humans evolved from animals. In the words of Alice Walker, "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women were created for men." They are living, sentient beings in their own right and it is unjust for us to cause them so much suffering just for our own selfishness and greed for food that tastes good.
I've been vegetarian for 6 years now, and it's one of the things about me that I'm proudest of. I wasn't raised in a vegetarian family; this was a decision I chose to make. I formed different beliefs from my parents, from my friends, and basically from society as a whole and I took those beliefs and turned them into action, determined to live a life in harmony with my ideals. I made a sacrifice for a cause bigger than myself. And yet I was still a hypocrite. Because while claiming to stand against the oppression and abuse of animals, I was still consuming eggs and dairy, products which still involve the suffering of animals within the factory farm system.
Despite popular belief to the contrary, the production of milk and eggs involves killing animals. Once their production declines, dairy cows and egg-laying hens are slaughtered. The egg industry kills male chicks through gassing, crushing, and suffocating. Like other mammals, cows only produce milk for their young. So they are constantly artificially impregnated to produce milk and are separated from their calves despite already forming a maternal bond. Their male calves, a byproduct of the dairy industry, are slaughtered shortly after being born and turned into veal. Chickens suffer great emotional distress crammed together battery wire cages, and their beaks have to be seared off because they start obsessively pecking each other.
The facts show that the dairy industry is just as bad as the meat industry. Animals are still experiencing tremendous suffering for the sake of human greed. And that is not something I can tolerate or accept, not something I can ignore any longer. In the words of Angela Davis, "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am working to change the things I cannot accept." Sorry Mom and Dad, but I'm going vegan.