Why I’m Vegan

As a vegan, I of course get a lot of stupid questions on a near daily basis, but one I don’t mind is “Why are you vegan?”

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As a kid, it was my dream to become a veterinarian. When I look at all of my old drawings from my childhood, they’re all of animals. My old pit bull Buster was my best friend in the entire universe, and when he died it felt like I died too. So what? Almost everyone is an animal lover. However, it took twenty-five years for me to comprehend that I wasn’t truly an animal lover, because I was selective about who I loved, and I viewed some as a commodity, or simply a piece of meat.

At twenty-two, I became a vegetarian after being diagnosed with colitis, and morally I felt better about no longer consuming meat. I ate this way for three years and thought “How could people still eat meat?” because I was completely blind to the horrors of the egg and dairy industries, and later on became educated and wallowed in guilt because I thought I couldn’t give up cheese. Today I sit here and think “How could people still consume animal products?”

Farm animals are incredibly emotionally complex, sentient beings with an acute awareness of their surroundings and the ability to experience pain like you and I. They’re forced to live in filth and squalor until they’re herded to be slaughtered. The cognitive dissonance between cute videos of piglets and cows and the animal flesh on one’s plate is very real. Unfortunately the egg and dairy industry is just as violent, if not more than the meat industry resulting in a lifetime of torture ending in death.

There is no humane way to kill someone who does not want to die.

Understandably, many people avoid factory farming exposé videos because they’re really difficult to watch. But my philosophy, and I’m sure many others vegans would agree with me, is if you can’t face the reality of where your food comes from, how can you eat it? If you cry at the Sarah McLachlan commercials, how could you not spay and neuter your pets?

The turmoil between omnivores and vegans is pretty intense, but I believe that in any capacity, the best way to get someone to see things from your perspective is through education and empathy. In my opinion, calling people stupid or throwing fake blood on them or acting holier than thou is completely counterproductive to the vegan movement because it pushes others away. I’m vegan for the animals, not for my ego.

Why Everyone Should Watch Earthlings

I’ll be frank, Earthlings is hands down the most disturbing documentary I have ever seen, and I have a feeling it’ll hold it’s rank forever. When I was newly vegan, I was all about vegan documentaries. Cowspiracy, What the Health, Food Inc., you name it, I’ve seen it. I had always heard about Earthlings, and how it’s a “must watch” for all vegetarians and prospective vegans, so in February of 2017, I decided to give it a try. How bad could it be? The answer: really, really bad.

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Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, it’s broken up into five chapters: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. After having watched the first chapter (about fifteen minutes) that closed with the image of a pit bull in a garbage disposal, I clung to my dog for dear life as hysterical as I’ve ever been and it subsequently took me an entire year to finish the remaining hour and twenty minutes, watching parts sporadically as I couldn’t handle the emotional and psychological pain. It’s the realist horror movie you could ever see (and is even categorized as such by IMDb).

Why would anyone want to torture themselves like that? As a vegan, I thought I already knew all there was to know. Meat is bad, milk is bad, eggs are bad, leather is bad. But what makes them bad? Bearing witness to it is a much more visceral experience than reading about it, and honestly I think the experience of watching Earthlings is what made me commit to veganism for life and become more of an animal activist than a passive individual. To read that leather cows have their tails broken and chili pepper paste rubbed in their eyes to keep them moving, or that monkeys have their necks broken when they’re used as car crash dummies, or that foxes have electric prods forced into their anuses is bad enough, but maybe not enough to stop one from buying leather or products tested on animals or fur coats. When you see it, you may think differently.

We live in a capitalistic society which means we’re so very far removed from the products that we consume that we forget what they started off as. Bread was once wheat, your jacket was once a cow and your breakfast was once a little pink piglet. The age-old question is “Would you kill it yourself?” and although people may say yes to be spiteful, the true answer, once one is standing face to face with a screaming, suffering animal, is no. So even if your answer is no, you can still see what it’s like second-hand.

People are afraid to give up the lifestyles they’ve been accustomed to, trust me, I know. I grew up as a (mostly) Italian-American in New York who regularly visited Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to have mile high prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches. Taking everything you’ve known to be a symbol of family and comfort and flipping your world upside down is terrifying. But nothing is more terrifying than being an animal tortured for the sake of human consumption and entertainment.

If you’d like, you can watch Earthlings for free here.