If you had approached me even one year ago and told me that I would go vegan, I would never have believed you. For my entire life, eating meat was simply a thing that everyone did, and there was nothing wrong with it. I had vague conceptions of unethical farming practices, but I assumed that this must be a small minority of cases. And I was never a huge animal person. I mean, animals are nice and all, but I’m not an Animal Lover™.
I viewed the condemnation and information sessions of factory farming by animal rights activists as mainly emotional manipulation or even some sort of exaggeration of reality. I suppose my irritation was something like the irritation some pro-choice people express at March for Life protestors who carry photos of aborted fetuses.
I also absorbed society’s portrayal of veganism as a thing only for hippies and bleeding heart liberals and people who think it’s unethical to even have a pet. (And PETA, to be fair, doesn’t do the best job at being palatable)
But mostly, I simply didn’t think about the ethics of my food. I simply followed the accepted norms of society, which was eating meat and dairy and eggs. I didn’t contemplate it any further. Sure, I knew the death of an animal was involved in the food on my plate, I knew it intellectually, but I didn’t KNOW it. It was mainly something I blocked out of my mind: a simple and unavoidable fact of life. No one else seemed to be bothered by the origin of their meals, so for the most part, I wasn’t either.
Then, one day around February of this year, I was watching YouTube and came across a video by one of my favorite channels, CosmicSkeptic. I’d been following him initially for his atheism content; I found our thinking styles and beliefs very similar and he also grew up Catholic, like me. A couple years ago he became vegan and began focusing his channel on that issue as well. His video called “A Meat-Eater’s Case for Veganism” popped onto my recommended that day, and, intrigued, I watched it.
The video goes into the philosophical case against animal products and factory farming, and I appreciated that it focused more on pure logic than emotional appeals or pictures of dead animals. When I finished the video, I was slightly unsettled. I hadn’t ever thought about humanity’s treatment of animals this way before.
It really had never occurred to me that there was a huge socially-conditioned difference between the way we view animals like cats and dogs and the way we view animals like pigs and cows. Nor that there was no intrinsic reason why humans deserved to exploit and kill animals simply because we were more “intelligent.” Or that torturing a sentient being for your own convenience and taste pleasure– which is what a lot of animal farming is– is wrong. Really wrong.
Essentially, I realized that the ethical and logical case for veganism is very strong and the only real reason I didn’t pay it any attention before was pure ignorance and peer pressure.
So I left a comment on the video: I always had this in the back of my mind (my parents shut down my childhood vegetarian attempt tho) but I never REALLY thought about how little sense the justifications for eating meat are…. Maybe I should actually go vegan…?
And then I closed the tab and pushed it out of my mind for five more months.
Starting to Consider Veganism
As the year progressed, I kept my newfound revelations in the back of my mind and tried not to think about them too hard; after all, becoming vegan would be such a hassle, vegans were weird and crazy, and I liked cheese and bacon.
But vegetarian… now, vegetarian I could maybe do. In the summer, I began to think about it some more. I took to ordering vegetarian options at restaurants. And I kept watching YouTube videos about veganism, even though I’d decided it was too extreme for me. Also, seriously, what was wrong with eating milk and eggs? It’s not like you’re hurting any animals by doing that!
But then, I came across a couple of videos. One was Erin Janus’s “DAIRY IS SCARY” in which I learned the deceptively obvious fact that cows don’t just… magically produce milk. Female cows produce milk after they’ve been pregnant. For their calves to drink. Just like human mothers make breast milk for their babies to drink. Just like basically all mammals. Why did this fact never occur to me?
And how, then, do we get the cows to be producing milk all the time? Artificially impregnating them. Yes. The milk and cheese you like is probably from raping a cow.
I watched some more of Erin Janus’s videos, becoming more nauseated as I continued. Surely this could not be real, I thought; it’s probably cherry-picked worst-examples for propaganda videos from animal rights nuts isn’t it?
It was around this time also that I watched the documentary Earthlings and cried through the entire thing. Again, I thought it could not possible be true. The documentary was made in 2005, and surely, things had improved by now? Plus, it’s not like all farms are like that, right? They had to pick the worst ones to make this documentary. Gotta use that pathos. And I was NOT going to be emotionally manipulated into giving up mac and cheese.
Unfortunately, as I continued digging deeper into the issue of factory farms, it was becoming more and more clear to me that there was a lot of things the food industry wants to keep hidden from you– and had successfully kept hidden for me for my entire life.
A Sample of Things I Didn’t Know When I Was An Omnivore
- Cows don’t just magically produce milk. They have to be pregnant before they start making milk… just like all other mammals. And to maximize the production of milk, dairy cows are artificially inseminated, meaning that the dairy you eat exists because we are quite literally raping cows.
- Factory farmed animals are bred to maximize profit. And so quite often, these animals are genetic mutants. For example, turkeys raised on factory farms grow so large they can’t even walk. For chickens, there are two main breeds: broiler chickens and egg chickens. Broiler chickens are raised for meat, so they’re designed to grow super big super fast, causing them all sorts of health problems and making their lives terrible. This isn’t what you think of when you think about chickens on a farm. And then there’s the egg-laying chickens. Not only are the hens bred to lay way more eggs than is healthy or normal for them, the male chicks born of this breed aren’t worth the investment. So they are just killed as soon as they are born
- “Cage-free” and other ethical labels don’t actually mean anything in most cases. That probably just means the chickens are crammed in a giant room instead.
- Cow agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change
- Pigs aren’t stupid. They’re actually possibly smarter than dogs. But does that really matter?
- Most animals killed for food only live to a fraction of their natural lifespan
- Again, there is almost nothing resembling the “natural food chain” in anything about modern-day farming
- Factory farms aren’t just an unfortunate minority of cases. The fact is that the vast majority of animal products you eat in the Western world come from one of these places. Some studies report that 99% of farm animals in the US live on factory farms (where they’re basically tortured for their entire lives)
When I moved into college, I was officially identifying as vegetarian. Though I continued to eat egg and dairy products, I felt a pang of guilt every time I did so, but I procrastinated fully making the switch to veganism, trying to ignore all of cognitive dissonance for my own convenience and peace of mind.
But finally, now, as of about last week, I’ve made the switch. I have done a lot of research on how to stay healthy on a vegan diet, and I’ve acquired B12 supplements as that is the only vitamin which is not possible to get without animal products. To be honest, I know way more and pay much closer attention to nutrition now than I ever did before.
And so far, it’s been fine. You would be surprised how easy it has been to be vegan. The hardest part is dealing with the judgement of others.
Why do people hate vegans?
In sharing with those around me that I am now vegan, I’ve been met with a variety of reactions. Some people have made fun of me, others are convinced I have simply fallen for propaganda, and some have even become offended by me explaining why I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s wrong to eat animal products due to the things I have learned.
But once you learn these things, you simply can’t unlearn them. And it’s true that I cannot look at meat and eggs and dairy the same way anymore. And it’s true that I bring up these opinions in conversation with others now.
Perhaps I am playing into the stereotype of the pushy vegan. Perhaps, as someone said to me, I am forcing my “religion” on you all now. But to me, ethics are important, and I believe in sharing information I find ethically relevant with those around me. I do not think it is good to be willfully ignorant.
So, thanks for sticking around through this entire post. I’d strongly encourage you all to think about going vegan, or at least reducing how much you support the evil industry of factory farming. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even just reducing your intake of animal products or sourcing from local farms can make a difference. And if you do decide to go completely vegan, make sure you do proper research on eating a balanced diet and obtaining all your necessary vitamins.
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