Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.

A Case For Veganism

Imagine that you’re standing in a small elevator suspended between floors. It wont move, and there are dozens of other people stuck in that elevator with you. You dont have enough room to turn around, and its so crowded that sometimes you’re lifted up off the ground. There are no bathrooms or buckets, and the air quickly becomes stale and stenched by the smell of other people’s urine and feces. You realize those elevator doors are never opening, and this is your life now. What would happen? Would you go mad? Someone in that elevator probably would, and who knows what could happen next….

What I have just described is the life of a chicken being raised for meat or eggs. Instead of an elevator, they live in  battery cages, with less than a sheet of papers length of space. The wiring of the cages cutting into their feet, these chickens live horrific lives filled with relentless pain. Their beaks are sawed off without any pain relief to prevent them from pecking each other to death.  Ninety five percent of American egg laying hens are raised this way. This is what we’re funding every time we buy and eat eggs.

This may seem very out of the blue. After all, if you look at my recipe index you will find plenty of chicken recipes. I eat chicken every day. Well, I used to. 

This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to visit and tour Farm Sanctuary, a rescue for farm animals who have been exploited by factory farming. Now, if you know me, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. How many times have I expressed the desire to go vegetarian? I dont think I could even count myself. You see, the desire has always been there, because I love animals and dont want to eat them, but I was still able to disassociate them from say, my own pets. Sure, I like cows, but they’re not nearly as important to me as my own dogs. And I would sooner die than eat a cat or dog. But, Ive seen all the documentaries. Ive watched PETA’s videos. I could not be traumatized into making this choice. What I needed was to come face to face with the very animals I eat, look them in the eye, and then decide if I could rationalize eating them anymore.

I cannot. 

Im nauseated by the fact that I ever could.

I met a 2,000 pound cow named Bruno, who fell off the back of a truck transporting him and other baby calves to a factory farm. The driver left him there injured on the highway, but thankfully someone helped Bruno and brought him to Farm Sanctuary. As I approached Bruno, my first thought was that I couldn't believe how enormous he was. How could a cow look so....majestic? He looked at me with such tenderness, and as I kneeled beside him I found myself apologizing to him. Apologizing for what we’ve done to him and to others like him. I probably looked crazy, but it dawned on me that if it were not for that bystander who rescued him, Bruno could have very well been my dinner. The thought tore through me, and was enough for me to never want a steak again.

I met Yolanda, a perky, talkative hen who escaped a slaughter house. I learned that she likes to be pet underneath her wings, and loves shiny things, like my engagement ring which she couldn't keep her eyes off of. People are usually surprised to hear that chickens are incredibly smart, and that they have unique personalities, much like our own dogs and cats. Scientists have found that chickens can measure time, count to ten, and think about the future. Chickens, like Yolanda, live their entire lives in the dark, though, in overly crowded spaces. They are bred to become very fat in a short amount of time, and this leaves them unable to walk, and causes them great pain. I was saddened to hear that when chickens and hens get sick, they are left to suffer. They receive no veterinary treatment. As for the healthy chickens? When their time is up they meet a gruesome, tortuous end.

I met the lovely Jumper, a huge, sunbathing pig who also escaped the slaughterhouse. I call my dog, Comet, my little piggy because he genuinely looks like one, especially when getting a belly rub. Im surprised that wasn't enough for me to swear off pork forever. Pigs are emotionally complex creatures and can remember their own names. They love playing with toys and can even be taught to play video games with a joystick modified for their snouts. Pigs like jumper are confined to spaces so small that they cant even turn around. If a mother pig has piglets, she cant even see them while they nurse. Pigs often become catatonically depressed due to being under stimulated. Its hard to believe that we treat animals in such a relentlessly callous way. 

I met lambs, goats, sheep, turkeys, and even a donkey named Honky Tonk. They each had a unique story of survival, and I was determined never to be a funder of their pain again. 

I walked away from Farm Sanctuary knowing that my world was forever changed. There would be no going back. I had to ask myself why it’s acceptable for animals like Bruno, Yolanda, and Jumper to be abused and tortured while there are laws in place to protect my dogs, Comet, Ella, and Pepper from that very same treatment? We have to ask ourselves why we’re outraged by the dog meat festival in Yulin, when this is happening here and now. When did we decide to value some animal’s lives but not others? Why is it considered cruel to kick a puppy but not to castrate a conscious piglet?

I used to think it was enough to just eat organic, but this week I’ve realized what a crock of shit that was. Organic doesn’t mean cruelty-free. Nor do terms like cage free or free range. Even if I only consume organic dairy, that cow still had her baby ripped from her to be sold as meat. She will also be slaughtered when she is deemed to be no longer useful. She is treated as a commodity, not a living, sentient being. My friend asked me if Ill get enough protein, as if there isn’t plenty of protein in beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens. The protein argument has been proven false. Just ask David Carter, the 300 pound vegan defensive lineman. Ask Kendrick Ferris, the vegan weightlifting olympian. Ask Venus Williams.

I watched a documentary the other day, and a woman posed this question, which I will now pose to you. If you were alive at a time when people kept other people as slaves, how would you have reacted to this injustice? We all like to believe we would be adamantly opposed to it and devote ourselves to rebelling against it and changing the system, but the parallel is clear. We keep animals as slaves for our needs. We alter them genetically so they look more appetizing to us. We impregnate dairy cows and then take their babies from them. We force hens to produce eggs at such an unnatural and alarming  rate that they suffer from prolapsed uteruses. We boil pigs alive. This is not an extreme. This is not the exception. This is the rule.

Its time to cut the bullshit, and I apologize if this offends you. But, when we eat meat, we enter into a contract relationship whereby we pay other people to mutilate animals without pain relief even on the best of farms. We are funding cruelty and abuse. We cannot say that we’re adamantly opposed to cruelty against animals, but that its okay to pay others to slit a chicken’s throat for something so inconsequential as a pallet preference.

We’ve reached an impasse, and I didn't even touch upon the environmental consequences of Factory Farming. Every time we eat we are voting for a type of future. Either it will be a future where we treat all living creatures with dignity, or it won’t. I cast my ballot. I made my choice. Now, its up to you.