This is such a hard post to write or even think about, which is probably why it has taken me so long to do so. I love how Alicia Silverstone has said in interviews that when you first find out about what is going on in the meat and dairy industry, all you want to do is yell FIRE! You want to get together with everyone you know and tell them what is going on. You want to read them the books you’ve read, show them the movies you’ve watched and clean out their refrigerators. Is this practical and actually doable? Probably not. I’ve contemplated a million different ways to write this post and kept going back and forth from giving the details about everything I’ve seen, to quoting the experts and leaving my opinions out of it. In the end, I chose to sit down and have a chat with you, to guide you to the resources that gave me the information that changed my life, and to open your eyes to a reality that is present in our day to day life but that seems so far away that none of us has dug a little deeper. I chose to leave up to you when and what you want to learn more about, but I also had to open the curtain so that you could see the fire from down below.
Our beautiful blue planet
By now you all know that the main reason I went vegan was because of the animals. When I learned that this was also the best possible lifestyle change for your health as well as our precious environment, well, that was just the glorious icing on the vegan cupcake. As it turns out, these are what I call the three big ‘why vegan’ reasons: your health, the environment and our fellow beings. In regards to the environment, I was suddenly reading about how meat and dairy production uses up our natural resources in a dangerous way, about just how much they contribute to global warming, how fishing practices have gotten so out of hand that we’re depleting our oceans at warp speed, about the ruining of our precious top soil (a resource we never hear about and that is essential for human life). I started reading about the destruction of ecosystems and the rainforest, about the displacement of native populations and the killing of wildlife to make room for cattle, about the dangerous contamination of animal waste in our water supply and crops. My jaw dropped when I read the numbers on the amount of resources it takes to raise these animals for human consumption. Here’s the thing, in order for me to have the steak I loved so much, enormous amounts of resources had to go into growing, watering, harvesting and transporting the grains used to feed the animals. A crazy amount of water had to be used to only produce 1 pound of beef. You also needed to clear the land, power the breeding grounds and factory farms, and use additional resources to transport the animals to slaughter, process the meat and transport it to my local supermarket. Now why didn’t I ever stop to think about this process? I was going through an animal to get all of the nutrients that are there for us by eating the crops directly. The veil is a powerful thing.
My first glimpse into the effects my meat centered diet was having on my body, was through the film Forks Over Knives which I’ll talk more about below. In the movie, leading doctors in the fields of oncology, cardiology, internal medicine and nutrition showed how they were preventing and especially reversing chronic illness through a plant based diet. This included patients with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and especially cancer. That’s right, the dreaded C word! Let’s face it, we all seem to be crossing our fingers not to get the C word. This film, and the book by the same name, were created to show us what these physicians stumbled upon after doing the most comprehensive study on nutrition to date, The China Study. If there’s one place I would recommend you start on your information quest it’s this movie. It’s a good start if you’re still a little bit hesitant to watch the images of the way the animals are treated in the industry, and it will definitely take you towards this as well.
We all want to be healthy and thrive, we want to see our parents and grandparents reach their old age without suffering, and we all want our kids to grow up strong and healthy. This movie is going to show you why we haven’t won the battle against these illnesses and how our health is NOT a lottery. Let me repeat that, it is NOT a lottery. You can get healthy, and I mean really healthy, right now. Isn’t that liberating? These findings will certainly shock you, but don’t worry, I’m still going to be here when you’re done watching and reading. You’re not alone in this. This information is as powerful as it gets, it should be prescribed by our doctors in my opinion. That’s another interesting point, after finding out this mind blowing information, you will definitely be thinking “Why didn’t my doctor tell me that?”. I can give you a reason and I got the answer first hand. Both my husband and my father in law are doctors and they were both as floored as I was when we watched this movie. Why? Because they had no idea. They are both awesome professionals and had no idea. Their colleagues had no idea. In fact,the average doctor takes a total of 3 hours worth of nutrition classes throughout their entire career, and that’s being generous in some cases. Not to mention the fact that they’re as bombarded by marketing and general ideas about food as we are.
Our fellow beings
If you already know about all of these issues or have seen or read some of the resources I recommend below, I need you to know that none of this compares to the horrors we’re putting our animals through thanks to our consumption of meat and dairy. When I got the courage to watch these images and get knee deep in the information of what the industry is like, I felt that my whole world had been turned on its head. I was this huge animal lover, loving and caring for my dogs has literally been one of greatest things in my life. Then I turned around and actually contributed to animal suffering with my shopping cart. I’m not saying that I did nothing to END the suffering, I’m saying that I CONTRIBUTED to suffering. Huge wake up call.
We’re bombarded with images of happy cows on a prairie and cute farms with bright red barns and fathers teaching their sons about the trade while chatting on a rickety porch, and nothing is as far away from that as the actual reality. Not only are we killing these animals in a horrifying way, but the way they live their short lives is the thing nightmares are made of. For the first time I was looking at it, cows in such tiny stalls they couldn’t turn around or lie down in their entire lives, chickens crowded so tightly together they are covered in the waste of the chickens crammed above and lying next to chickens who have died and not been removed from the cages. I saw pigs approaching workers to play, in the same way my dog does with me, and being severely abused as a result. I saw the horrid procedures done on a regular basis on their little bodies without a drop of anesthesia or pain killers. I saw chickens starved to increase egg production and baby calves pulled from their mothers and shipped to slaughter so that her milk could be taken. I saw the mothers wailing for their young, I saw the horrible conditions of the crates and cages and then when I was brave enough I saw the slaughter line from beginning to end. It was at this moment that something clicked inside my head.
One of the images was that of a cow in line right before slaughter, she could hear what was about to happen, she was in terrible distress, and then came a close up of her dark round eyes. I saw it. There was nothing different between this cow and my cocker spaniel Nala who I love more than anything. It was as simple as that. There is no difference between our beloved pets and a cow, or a goose, or a chicken, or a pig.
There’s a beautiful sanctuary here in Madrid called the Wings of Heart Animal Sanctuary, where they rescue farm animals that have been abused and neglected and have miraculously escaped or been tossed by the industry. Their two amazing caretakers have gone on record saying that every single one of these animals have tried to play (pigs especially love playing with tennis balls), get on the couch with them, push their hand with their noses for some cuddling. They all protect their caregivers as well as their friends and of course their offspring. They are beautiful social creatures and they do not deserve what we’ve been doing to them, myself included, although thankfully, not anymore.
The wonderful vegan writer Kathy Freston says that in her moment of awakening, she did this very simple exercise. She took a minute and looked into her dog’s eyes and tried to imagine how her dog would feel if she was suddenly put in the situations she had just read the farm animals go through. It took one second for her to realize how scared and in pain she would be, and how these practices need to stop. I did this yesterday with my dog and it took two seconds for my eyes to fill up with tears when I thought of my little loved one in despair and fear (that’s Nala below, smelling the cool Spring breeze). There is no difference between her and those animals, except I would never ever harm her, and my actions had harmed so many, for so many years, and without me even realizing it. It wasn’t completely my fault and it certainly isn’t yours. There’s a huge powerhouse of titanic proportions in every corner of our lives telling us that this is ok and even necessary, but now that we know, we can change everything.
I know some of this is really tough to take in. I’ve chosen not to turn the other way anymore even after making this change, so I get how hard this is to read and watch. Trust me, I once sat in my car crying for half an hour over the story of what a line worker did to a pig. I know the images in some of these resources are especially difficult, but if there’s one favor I need to ask of you today is that you consider taking a look. Just a look. If a look is too hard for you right now then start by reading about it (you already get extra brownie points by reading this post!). I don’t think I have a single family member or friend that wouldn’t wish the world was safer, that they could make it better somehow, that they could help to improve social justice issues if they had the time, that cried over news stories of injustice and suffering. Here’s the most beautiful thing of all, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING. YOU CAN DO A WHOLE LOT OF SOMETHING. On average, depending on your own consumption habits, you can save anywhere from 90 to 120 animals a year by adopting a vegan diet. Can you picture 90 animals lined up and you having the power to help? It’s as easy as going to the supermarket and buying from a different aisle, but of course, the first step to any of this, is information.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for even considering spending some time in here, I know life is simpler when you’re unaware and unawakened, but bravery and compassion is the stuff we all want to be made of right? Let’s take the first step and let our eyes see what is there, because it’s still there whether we’re aware of it or not. I leave you with two of my favorite quotes on animal activism (and some amazing resources to read and watch below).
“In their capacity to feel fear, pain, hunger, and thirst, a pig is a dog is a bear is a boy”. – Ingrid Newkirk (Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
“We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies.” – Gretchen Wyler (actress, animal activist).
Thanks for hanging in there today, I know it was tough. Let’s get to some rocking resources shall we?
GREAT READS, GREAT FILMS AND SOME VIDEOS YOU CAN WATCH RIGHT NOW!
It’s hard to choose what to recommend to you first, but here are some of the most acclaimed sources, some of my personal favorites, and in most cases the first ones I watched that sent me on my way to being vegan.
– Colleen Patrick Goudreau and her amazing speech ‘From Excuse-itarian to Vegan’. Trust me, you HAVE to watch this video.
– ‘The veganist’ Kathy Freston on TED talking about her own process and how you can get started.
– Activist Phillip Wollen at The Wheeler Center Debate: Animals should be off the menu (segment)
– Vegucated: The amazing film that covers my three ‘why vegan’ reasons, as well as the ‘how vegan’. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
– Forks Over Knives: The movie about the effects a meat and dairy centered diet has on your health and what happens when you start making the change. It will blow your mind and make you jump to the phone to call your loved ones.
– Earthlings: A powerful movie narrated by Joaquin Phoenix showing undercover footage about the treatment of animals in the food, entertainment, apparel, and other industries.
More movie recommendations on this topic in our ‘I feel like watching’ movie library.
– The Food Revolution and/or Diet for a New America: Two ridiculously powerful books on the truth about the dairy and meat industries, their marketing attempts to keep the public in the dark and the plight of our animals in exploitation. Written by the heir to the Baskin Robbins ice cream empire John Robbins, these are two incredible books by an incredible activist and vegan.
– The Kind Diet: A great book on everything related to veganism, including the ‘why vegan’ and the ‘how vegan’, told in a simple and beautifully written way by actress Alicia Silverstone (you can read more about this book here).
– Slaughterhouse: A first hand account by industry slaughterhouse workers about the way the industry and the workers themselves treat the animals. A powerful, powerful book by Gail Eisnitz.
– The China Study: The most comprehensive study on the relationship between nutrition and disease, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell PhD with Thomas Campbell.
– Forks Over Knives: a great companion to the movie, discussing the relationship between a meat centered diet and disease by Dr. T. Colin Campbell PhD and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn JR MD
More book recommendations on this topic in our ‘I feel like reading‘ library.
Podcasts and online programs:
The best podcast on veganism in my opinion is Vegetarian Food for Thought by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. There’s nothing like it out there. Colleen also has amazing cookbooks and an online program that is great for new vegans. Once you meet this awesome gal you’ll never be the same. Take a look at her work here.
Zucchini photo and the adorable photo of Nala smelling the breeze taken by Kim Sujo (that’s me!)
The beautiful portrait of a woman and her dog overlooking the ocean was taken by Christian Tan and is shared through Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial – No Derivatives 2.0 Generic.
The awesome cow close up was taken by David Wild from Public Energy (shared through Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 2.0 Generic).
The incredible photo titled “take offs and landings 3” (5th from the top) was taken by LHG Creative Photography (shared through Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial – No Derivatives 2.0 Generic).