Posted on July 21, 2009
COMPLICITY IS NOT A CHOICE
“When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal. When he destroys one of the works of God we call him a sportsman.” – Joseph Wood Krutch, Literary Naturalist, 1893-1970
Some people seem somewhat shocked initially. Others are in disbelief and others still feel it necessary to dish out mild jabs in good fun. While at the same time, some people have simply exclaimed “finally! I was wondering how long it would take you…”
While I previously went through a two-year period of vegetarianism when I last lived on Vancouver Island, I had long been a big fan of meat. I loved eating it, cooking with it, creating new recipes with it, smelling it as it baked or broiled or barbecued. April 12, 2009 was the last time I ate meat.
A little over three months without meat seems like a short time for most and, while some may doubt the genuine intent behind my decision to cut meat entirely from my diet, that time is irrelevant. I’m still new to this “vegetarian thing” and know that there’s still a lot to learn. I’m constantly educating myself, researching the lifestyle I’ve undertaken and finding new recipes and ways at which to keep myself healthy without eating meat. My choice didn’t come about because I decided it suddenly tasted “gross”. In fact, my diet still includes eggs and dairy products from humanely-obtained local sources.
With so many questions being bounced around between my family, my friends and even my blog readers, I’ve felt the time is right to deliver my vegetarian’s manifesto, if you will. I can’t necessarily pinpoint the “how” but I can definitely articulate and expand on the “why”.
It’s no secret that I’ve long been a lover of animals. This includes everything from cats to dogs to chickens to birds to whales and every other living, breathing creature under the sun. To me, they have always been beautiful, abundant and gentle beings, each possessing somewhat of an innocence that we humans dropped along the way at some point. What was missing in my own life in this regard was a connection.
There was no particular incident that spurred on my decision to shed animals from my diet, my make-up bag or my closet. I know that I can honestly say that, although it may have been an idea floating in the furthest reaches of my subconscious, I truly did wake up one day and realized my perception had changed entirely.
It was Easter Sunday and my mom was out of town, so my aunt and I were left to our own devices for dinner. Rather than cooking a large turkey for the two of us, I found a recipe for Cornish game hens and planned for that instead. Easter Sunday was also the day I decided I was done. I carefully prepared the meal, as well as the vegetables to go along with it, and then sat at the dinner table with my aunt that evening. “Today is the last day I’m going to eat meat,” I told her without batting an eyelash. It was simply that matter-of-fact.
What caused that connection or that proverbial light bulb to illuminate is beyond me, but perhaps it was simply an inevitable culmination of my personal beliefs. If I love animals as much as I purport to, then why do I have no problem at all throwing parts of their carcasses on a grill or in a pan and proceed to devour them?
This is where the problem lies: animals are living, humourous, loving, emotional, intelligent beings that eat, breathe, sleep, feel, think and move. Food, on the other hand, is completely inanimate. A hot dog just sits on your plate without movement or sound. The only thing meat will do if you leave it long enough is decay. But making the connection between the living and the non-living isn’t easy. What joins the two usually involves a sharp blade, inhumane treatment and much pain.
It isn’t my endeavour to shock each of you through facts or unbelievably disturbing details of how the animals make it from the farm to the plate. Many of you have seen the PETA videos while others still may have witnessed it first-hand.
It’s my belief, as a woman and an individual human being, that we are all here on the planet by the design of something greater than all of us. Animals have personalities and feel, experience and understand many of the same quotients and emotions we humans do. If you have met Jordy, you know what I’m talking about! We are all species and none of us can say that one is greater than the other. Animals feel physical pain, experience the emotion of fear and feel the natural urge to flee when threatened just as you or I do.
Something as simple as a backyard BBQ with family is deemed more valuable than the life of the pig whose ribs are being devoured. Dispute that if you will, but actions always speak volumes above words. Last month, an Oklahoma woman and her friend were charged with killing and skinning a seven-week-old puppy with the intent to make a belt [source]. While the community was outraged, I couldn’t help but wonder how this was deemed to be a “despicable” case of animal cruelty, yet if the belt had been made of a cow, it would be okay. Something doesn’t add up.
I’ve heard a million arguments made to justify the consumption of meat. While some will say that the production of meat is actually good for the environment and the economy, others still will tell tales of the astronomical impact it has on the global environment. The point can also be attempted that eating vegetables is also killing living things, but it is scientific fact that plants do not possess both the central nervous system and brain required to feel and register pain [source]. But instead of respecting these beings, we assume we own them by locking them up in zoos, keeping them confined to large tanks at city aquariums and corralling them until they’re ripe for slaughter.
All of that is besides my point. The irony is that humans take such pride in being a group of beings so incredibly evolved as a species that our lives are seemingly worth more than those of animals. Yet, we rely on the idea that eating meat is our primitive right.
The truth about us humans is that yes – we are evolved; so much so that we no are longer required to consume meat to ensure a balanced diet and live a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. While at one point in time, eating meat and testing on animals may have been essential, it’s no longer necessary. Technology has moved us past that, and the choice to eat an animal is no longer premised on a need but instead on desire.
Very recently, I was discussing the beauty and gentle nature of cows with someone close to me. “I love cows too but I could never look one in the eyes – I’d just feel too guilty!” was what they told me. That, right there, is precisely the reason for my choice. I can no longer look at what is literally staring me in the face and deny it any longer.
I have made a decision and declaration to live a vegetarian lifestyle. I now make every single effort possible to use products that have not been tested on animals. No longer will items purchased for my wardrobe be made of leather products. By making these choices I am not claiming to be perfect, just as I do not attempt to describe those that eat meat as imperfect.
However, no matter what kind of argument anyone attempts to make against my choice, there can be no argument against compassion. There can be no argument against equality or love. I believe that every living being, whether toes, heels or hooves, has the exact same right to live a normal, happy and healthy life.
In 2007, Academy Award winner (and bonafide babe) Joaquin Phoenix passionately contributed to a film called Earthlings. It is as incredible as it is intense. In it, he points out the direct correlation between all of the Earth’s species and their individual values. While containing compiled videos that are not isolated events, but instead the norm, Earthlings is perhaps the most violent and graphic film you will ever see. Except it’s real.
Earthlings can be viewed online in its entirety here.
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