Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I Became a Vegetarian

It didn't happen overnight. It was a slow process. In fact, I always joke that it took me less time to stop being a Christian than being a meat eater. For me the two things were linked. If you believe in what the Bible says, that animals have no other purpose than to feed our bellies and provide occasional company, then I guess killing them and even torturing them, since they have no soul or feelings, as the Bible teaches, is OK. I guess this is way animal rights as a movement has taken so long in this country to develop and make way. If you don't think so, look at India. On the other hand, if you believe in biological evolution, which is what made me disbelieve in Biblical creation, than it's hard to reason that killing animals is OK. Not only are we animals. But we all share a common ancestry. Therefore, it can be supposed just on this that many animals, especially those more like us (mammals, primates)  have the same emotions, feelings, and thoughts that we do. That is, not only do they feel pain but they feel sad and distressed, too. And who's to say that another organism's life should end here or there. Who are we? Owners of all creation? Ha.

Some would say: Hey, look, this eating-each-other thing is normal - look at nature. We are the dominant species and what do the dominate species do? Eat the subordinates. Yeah, but animals also rape and kill each other and we don't condone that, right? Evolution tells us what the order of things is, what traits are favored by nature, but not what is right and what is wrong. Survival of the fittest is just reality. But reality kind of sucks. I don't think it's cool that lions are killing zebras and gazelles and wildebeests right and left to survive. But they have to. We don't.

And that's my point. We don't have to. So why? Honestly, I think that most people don't. They eat their chicken nuggets and pet their dogs. (How different are chickens and dogs? How do you know?) They feed their kids bacon as they watch Babe. Cowboys mourn the death of their horses, but slaughter cattle. Sure, you can argue they have to to make a living or feed their families. But you don't. Not in the twenty-first century. Not if you live in a modern city. So why? Do you not think that the pain and suffering of an animal is important? I do. I feel, after all. Do you think they don't feel pain? Stab a cow and see if it winces. Do you think we can kill animals painlessly? I don't. No knife is sharp enough. But even if we could. Why? Wouldn't you rather sustain yourself without killing another feeling, breathing organism, one that has experiences and connections, however insignificant to us, to others like it. That seems to disregard the uniqueness and the gift that is life.

On to my story. I watched a few of the Faces of Death videos when I was sixteen or so. I would never have watched these videos if it wasn't for my friend at the time who got a copy somehow. Seems illegal. Well, those videos made me physically sick for a week. Many of the videos contained images of animals being slaughtered. (Chickens getting their heads chopped off and running about; cows having their throats cut by a machine and a gallon or so of blood gushing out, the cow trying to get away; pigs being beaten and electrified to force them into their execution machine.) If you haven't seen an animal slaughtered and eat meat, you should. It isn't going to be a pleasant experience - hopefully. But I think it's a matter of personal responsibility. I'm not saying you'll change your mind or that you'll now be able to eat meat guilty free (somehow knowing what it takes, the sacrifice, to get you that hamburger), but I think it's just something you have to do.

After losing God, I began to lose my appetite. I would order hamburgers and remember the images. I'd felt bad. And, honestly, I'm thankful that I did, and do. Shame and guilt are wonderful things. Without them, we'd be monsters. I remember deciding one day I'd become a vegetarian after much guilt and contemplation. Friends doubted me. My dad tried to sabotage me. Those people are out of my life now. And I've been a vegetarian ever since.

For vegetarian/vegan alternatives to fast food, clothing, and shoes or more about the general topic, click here for a previous post.

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