After going purely vegetarian last January based on ethical grounds, more than a month ago I took the final step: becoming a vegan.
How much of a vegan? As Jenny said recently, I’m a radical vegan, one who will no longer eat animal products, purchase clothing made from them, or otherwise partake in any manner of cruelty against sentient life.
I know of exceptions. I have no qualms with taking antibiotics when necessary, as my recent bout with strep should make clear. I must drive my car, so I accept that some insect life will be destroyed by that very act. Ignoring my acute allergy to ants, wasps, and bees would spell certain death for me, so I must act in urgent cases to ensure they don’t post an immediate threat.
However, I no longer can view these living beings as any kind of commodity, as things to meet my needs.
I once made an exception for meals at the family farm, given what I know of the conditions and health of the animals there. That no longer is the case.
I refrain from being preachy about this issue, refrain from prodding those who know better and those who should know better, because my decision is personal. We all have our ethics, our morals, our ability to judge right and wrong based on what we know.
What I know is what my heart tells me, that the horrific cruelty inflicted on the beasts we consume portrays us as the heartless monsters we are, a practice I can neither tolerate nor support. I also know humans measure the worth of a life by means of a superiority complex, a purely subjective can-I-kill-it-before-it-kills-me mentality, one of wanton waste, abject heartlessness, and complete and utter barbarity. As much as we inflict terror upon our own species, imagine then what we find acceptable when it comes to other life.
But why vegan? Certainly organic and humane sources of dairy products, eggs, and wool—to name a few items—can be found.
That is a correct statement. I mentioned before that I knew the life the chickens enjoy at our family farm, and therefore their eggs should be considered both organic and humane, the product of free-range hens who live in luxury and safety, who enjoy being a part of the family rather than a product thereof.
Nevertheless, the emotional journey I began more than a year ago ultimately brought me to a place where I must respect the creatures who share this planet with us. Cows produce milk to feed their young, just as humans do. Chickens produce eggs for reproduction, just as humans do. By what stretch of my own moral fabric can I see a difference in taking from them and taking from us?
A life of harmony, to me at least, seems the best option. A life of respect for sentient beings no matter what form they take appears the only road I can travel.
Not to put too fine a point on it, in my quest for the really important answers, the search for what our very nature should entail, mercy rose to the top of the list of the least practiced yet most needed approach to making my way through the world. And that mercy, that humanity, should not be the exclusive purview of interacting with other people.
Nay, poppets, we have failed utterly in that regard. However, we still seem to believe only amongst ourselves is there the greatest demand for the best of our very nature.
Shameful, that is, and unfathomable.
I see elephants show respect for human dead, yet we show nothing of the sort for their living. I see coyotes honor the unspoken pact of mutual understanding with regards to those of us who revere their places and lives, yet we encroach on their domain and push them to desperation. I see kindred spirits in the love of all mothers, yet I cannot count how many newborn seals are murdered in annual hunts…and all in front of the mothers’ eyes.
To add insult to injury, we pick and choose those lives we wish to cherish, and the rest we discard as fodder for human folly.
How many would happily dine on dog or cat? How many would blink at a meal of shark? How many would lavishly enjoy a bit of rabbit, a bowl of goldfish, or a plate of tiger?
You see, we base our respect for life on the society in which we are born. We selectively take offense when one is consumed as opposed to another. Why? Because our insult has nothing to do with the life taken and everything to do with personal whim.
I make no such distinction. To me, all creatures great and small deserve respect. All life, no matter how insignificant in our culture, deserves the same chance we reserve for our own kind.
I would scarcely tolerate a human woman being used for mass production of milk. Why then another mother? Just because she doesn’t look like us?
I would scarcely tolerate human children being used as bait to catch wild animals. Why then other children used in such a way? Just because the woeful parents can’t express their anguish and loss in terms we can understand?
In truth, a lack of respect for the living has caused all manner of anguish and suffering for our own peoples. I see we feel more comfortable visiting that hell upon life so long as it doesn’t speak our language.
For me now, things change. I simply can’t be a part in this horror any longer.