January 29, 2016 by Cláudia
Vegan is one of those buzzwords that people react negatively to except if they are part of the movement, much like feminism, or religion. No one likes to be told what to do, how to live and what to believe in, so vegans, feminists and religious people (weirdly in a similar way) are perceived as pushy, annoying or moralistic.
This post will not end with a go vegan message, my purpose is to make people think about it. I don’t want to tell people how to live their lives, only provide my point of view and perhaps initiate some thought and consideration.
Even if one believes they have the correct lifestyle, and doesn’t subscribe to any vegan ideas, then it’s still okay to go through some information and think a little about it (the cover-my-hears approach has been a very recurrent attitude in denial throughout our History). So if you stayed with me thus far, then please stay a little bit longer. I want to explain why veganism is right for me, I don’t claim to be the archetype of animal activism, I don’t claim to be more ethical than you. I don’t claim to be a better person, and I don’t think meat eaters are cruel, etc. etc.
Clearing that out, which I think has become a major barrier of communication between vegans and non-vegans, I would like to expose my thoughts when it comes to animal rights.
Firstly, it’s important not to forget that when I’m buying something I am supporting the way it was made. This is something that is easily forgotten because when we acquire a product – clothes, food, a house, whatever it is – we are only shown the final stage of its making and transforming. However, all that has happened before us buying the product is nonetheless connected with our purchase. It’s not our fault that something was done unethically, but if we know how it was made and buy it anyway, then we must recognize we are supporting the making process with our money and validation. (I talked about this related to fashion industry – How to truly feel good about yourself when it comes to fashion – but it applies to everything we obtain in our daily lives).
I would like to argue that most people know, even vaguely, the tortures animals go through before coming to our plate. But it’s normal to forget about it when we are eating meat or animal products because of course we are not being shown how that animal was contained in a minuscule space, mistreated, often abused, and finally killed. A steak is food, and an animal is a living being, and although intellectually we recognize the connection, emotionally that is separated into two completely different things. No sane person would be eating a chicken wing while imagining an actual chicken being beheaded.
Although we disconnect the act of eating and the act of killing, those are undeniably connected. Eating animals is killing animals, and I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, I mean it as an obvious premise. We can’t possibly imagine eating meat and killing the animal we’re eating as two completely different things, because the first would be impossible without the second. So even if the person who is eating the meat never harmed an animal, an animal was harmed in order to provide the meat, which when we come to the bottom of it, is pretty much the same thing.
Again, emphasize on this is not judgmental. I ate meat for many years, while I always adored animals. For me that was never contradictory, I never thought about the animals that had been behind my food.
There is a massive controversy between pro and against vegans, debating the supposedly “undeniable” reasons that made one side of it better than the other. Vegans say that plants give you all the nutrients our body needs and that we are naturally plant-based. That doesn’t make much sense to me, I think we are “naturally” omnivorous like our ancestors and also we definitely need our B12 vitamin that has to be taken artificially in order to keep us healthy and our brain functioning correctly.
So I don’t think veganism is “natural” (whatever that means). I am typing in a computer connected to the Internet, using symbols we recognize as language, wearing clothes, listening to music and debating a cultural dispute around diet, so I don’t know how less natural we can get. We have culture so we have choice. In wildlife, we don’t see an animal willingly becoming vegan because of compassion towards other animals. But we have choices, and we have science. We have created a way to healthily survive without having to harm animals and we have the amazing ability to think, to reflect, to form opinions and make choices that are in conformity with our beliefs.
This doesn’t apply only to animal rights, but to every aspect of life. The most beautiful blessing not eating meat has brought me is not having to block my emotions and feelings in order to eat what society told me I was supposed to eat. And that could apply to anything in life. My biggest advice for anyone would be don’t do something you don’t agree with just because it is considered “normal”. The general concept of normality is just a contraction of multiple beliefs that, despite individuals not agreeing with them or supporting them in certain situations, are fully accepted and practiced in our daily lives.
I had the privilege to talk to someone who worked in a slaughterhouse, and asked a few discrete questions about his work in which I understood he had no pleasure whatsoever in doing what he did, it was an obligation. He felt bad for the animals before doing it but it was one of those things that “someone had to do it”.
I strongly believe most people would not be okay with killing an animal with their bare hands, with seeing him suffer. Mostly, animals are electrocuted, gassed or killed by machines and this way no one needs to do it with their own hands. It is easier if you look away or just press the button, but pressing that button is killing the animal nevertheless. The result is the same, only our action changes to make it seem more acceptable. When we see a harmed animal, our first instinct is to save and help, and not to kill. It’s the distance that changes the way we look at this subject. Distanced from the cows and pigs and chicken, we forget they are living breathing beings, much like our dogs and cats. It would be unthinkable to kill and eat our own pet (we would feel so nauseous I doubt most people would be able to eat it). And the only difference between eating your pet and eating a faceless animal you never met is merely distance.
The journey into animal rights was for me extremely long. My beliefs have shifted a lot of times and I still have a long way to go until I am fully in accordance to my conscience and beliefs. I don’t want to push anything on anyone but I do believe in this deeply and I want to at least raise a small question in the back of someone’s head. I never changed my life because someone told me it was better for me – no one should. I questioned my own way of life, looked for information and realized I wanted something to change. I realized I cared about the animals’ well-being and thought “maybe I can do better”.
So please, look for some information, some researches, don’t reject the subject right away. These are some of my suggestions:
- Ted Talks : Beyond Carnism and towards rational, authentic food choices by Melanie Joy
- Movie: Cowspiracy
- Movie: Earthlings
- Movie: Forks Over Knives
I don’t speak for all animal activists, I am just one person. I don’t prescribe or subscribe the aggressive vegan attitude. I want to discuss ideas, maybe broaden some minds. I want to have a positive attitude towards animals, people, the Earth and myself. That’s what being vegan is all about.
Most of the information around this subject is violent and disturbing. It is important to know that but I want to share something that gives a new more positive light to this and may help to not objectify the animals we eat: