I have a memory of a family trip to visit friends in Windsor one summer and while there, driving over the bridge to Detroit for a final lunch. On the way back along the freeway I spotted a dog on the median between the lanes of traffic running frantically back and forth as cars sped past. I remember what he looked like vividly. I recall twisting around in my seat and shrieking at my dad to stop…to go back. He was most certainly going to die. To say I cried all the way back to our friend’s house to gather our bags would be a lie because the truth is I cried all the way to Toronto. I cry as I type this.
Have you ever seen an animal get hit by a car and not stopped to try to save it? Have you ever passed by a baby bird at the base of a tree and not done everything within reason to get it back into the nest? Have you ever caught a fish and then regretted it when your hook took out its eye, and rather than the release you had planned you actually killed it?
Have you ever looked into an animals eyes and been humbled by the trust reflected there?
I know people choose Plant Based diets for a multitude of reasons, all of them are compelling and all slightly different in their flavour and colour. Mine was ultimately solidified, without my even realizing it until recently, to the timing of one big beautiful yellow dog coming into my life. His name is Tonka. I call this the Tonka effect. I call this the Tonka effect because now I have a living, breathing animal that I love more every day. I care for him and can barely imagine him hurt in any way. My instincts to protect him (and him me) from harm are so strong, and because I don’t eat animals I can see the unfairness of choosing to love one so deeply while frying up another for dinner. Another equally sentient and kind and loving animal. He kinda makes it all make sense.
Have you ever wondered why you call some Animals dinner and other ones for dinner? In Melanie Joy’s book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows I found so many answers I didn’t even know I was looking for, because according to her, until we understand her ideology Carnism we don’t even know to ask or question why we eat animals or how we can justify the atrocities we inflict on them to satisfy our taste buds. Her book is summarized beautifully in her Ted Talk. Please listen to this and share …. m.youtube.com/watch=o0VrZPBskpg .
Going vegan has been one of the most fascinating trips I have ever been on. At times mind numbing, often heart breaking, definitely teeth grinding. I am not describing anything about the food I am eating or how I feel physically. That is a different post altogether. A healthy and happy post. What I am talking about is what happened to me when I opened the door and let in all the reasons future generations are going to look back at this point in time and say what on earth were they thinking and why didn’t they stop?
Well according to Melanie Joy we can’t stop until we make the invisible, visible. A staggering fact….Every week worldwide 1.2 billion farm animals are slaughtered….that’s more animals in one week killed worldwide than humans have died in all wars throughout history. This is an astonishing number of animals. So she asks the question “where are they?”…98% of them come from factory farms (or CAFO’S- Confined animal feeding operations); windowless sheds in remote areas that we rarely even see and most definitely will not gain access to. “From the moment they are born, these animals are kept in intensive confinement where they may suffer from disease, exposure to extreme temperatures, severe overcrowding, violent handling, and even psychosis”.
As with any business, the CAFO’S are designed to manufacture their product at the lowest cost for the highest profit. Again quoting Melanie Joy “from a business standpoint, animal welfare is a barrier to profit, as it costs less to mass produce animals and discard those who die prematurely than it does to care for them adequately. In fact, it is estimated that upwards of 500 million animals destined to become food die before reaching the slaughterhouse, a factor that is built into the cost production. It is these cost-cutting measures that make modern meat production one of the most inhumane practices in human history”.
Vegan activist and writer Colleen Patrick Goudreau writes about the stages one goes through while transitioning from eating animals to a plant based diet. She also has a podcast about each stage (www.joyfulvegan.com). At first I found them a bit hard to listen to but eventually grew a bit dependent on them as they mirrored almost exactly what I was going through (and still am). I think I have listened to every one of her podcasts now and highly recommend.
If I stood up and spoke up every time I feel the volcano inside me erupting I would have no voice left at all. It isn’t just the animals I ache for, it’s the environment, it’s the people suffering everywhere, it’s for our planet earth staggering under the collective abuse (did you know it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef or that 1 gallon of milk equals 1000 gallons of water?). Check out http://www.cowspiracy.com/infographic/ for some eye opening facts about the impact animal agriculture is having on our environment. If you haven’t seen Cowspiracy yet it is a must see. There is a trailer in the above link. Check it out.
At the end of the day we all do our very best. None of us perfect that is for sure. Maybe striving to eliminate animals from our diets even one day a week, or one meal a day could be a starting point. Maybe when the time feels right, open the door a crack and stop being afraid to let a little of this in. It feels really bad but then I promise you it feels really, really good.