In February this year, my daughter (The Girl) decided she’d try being Vegetarian for a month. This trial happened to fall during the weekend that my husband and I went to Bath to visit her for my Birthday, and I was mightily impressed at the dedication and stamina she displayed whilst watching us two, along with her boyfriend, devour plate after plate of meat-based dishes when we ate out.
At one meal, undecided on the choice of menu, I chose the same as The Girl: a vegetable filo pie with stilton and walnut pastry (or something like that) which was absolutely delicious, whilst the men continued on their beef-eating quest.
I fully expected The Girl, after her month of abstinence, to revert to her previous diet and when she didn’t, I was apprehensive of her decision to remain Vegetarian. In fact when I discussed this with my husband, we became typical ‘aghast carnivores’ in that we were concerned about her levels of protein, vitamins and other widely-publicised terrors that attach themselves to Vegetarianism. When she then began to look into becoming Vegan, I had to admit that my world as I knew it felt slightly toppled; I felt like I was losing her.
In fact so strongly did I feel that this might not be the right route for my little (she’s 23 but hey…) girl to take, that I wrote a blog post on my concerns, fears and (what I believed then) arguments against being a Vegan/Vegetarian: It wasn’t going to make any difference; It would make eating out a nightmare; Animals would always be killed – that was the way of the world; Enjoy a nice roast chicken for tomorrow you may die… that kind of thing.
And I posted it. And as I posted a link to it on my Twitter feed (and as me and My Girl are each other’s’ greatest fans) she read it and Tweeted me back. I Tweeted her back. We Tweeted furiously and angrily at each other about the pros and cons of Veganism, getting nowhere and culminating in my deleting the post because I’d clearly upset her, and her sending me a link to the video that she’d watched which had made up her mind, requesting that I watched it for education purposes.
Now a couple of years ago I caught a documentary on TV (British) which focussed on the lives and especially working lives of men who worked in a Slaughterhouse/Abbatoir and I can still feel the twists of violent anger and deep, deep sadness the sights and sounds of those being interviewed invoked in me. Not only were these (I can’t bear to even call them humans but sadly they were/are) people paid to kill the animals at this place, they admitted that they got so bored sometimes that they’d just injure them; beat them up if you like, shoot them but not kill them and watch as these creatures railed around in huge amounts of pain until slowly and humiliatingly whilst still being tortured, they died an agonising death in front of these laughing, taunting humans. All for the sake of a nice taste on somebody’s palate. I don’t know how the cameraman didn’t slap them round the face and call them pathetic excuses and I had to switch off because it upset me too much to continue watching.
It didn’t stop me eating meat; it did stop me watching programmes about abattoirs – in effect it made me ignore what I’d seen. It was nothing to do with me; I hadn’t caused the suffering of anything and I didn’t have to associate myself with this. Which is what every meat-eater does in their own mind to convince themselves that there’s nothing wrong with eating the flesh of another living creature.
So I watched the link that The Girl sent me and right at the the start, where this brash American bloke in shorts came out and started lambasting the state of animal farming and how he compares it with Hitler exterminating millions upon millions of innocent Jews, I thought ‘Oh, here we go, some bumped-up Animal Rights Activist having a pop at the way I live my life… I won’t be watching this to the end.’
But by the end I was a sobbing wreck. I was shaking, I felt sick and I felt angry at the way I’d been ‘brainwashed’ into not knowing that this kind of thing goes on, has been going on, and moreover is still allowed to go on under our noses – in our own country and in the lovely fluffy farms we’ve all grown up believing look after their animals and care for them and love them. Because it’s all an illusion. And the amount of further research I’ve done only serves to reinforce this. Quite apart from the horrific animal-farming for meat production, I have been more disturbed by the methods of Dairy farming and the tortuous way cows are forced to produce milk for our consumption. It’s a hideous, horrible industry and if we all truly understood what went into producing the milk,cheese,yogurt we carelessly eat daily, then I guarantee that anyone with an ounce of compassion wouldn’t be touching this again – for the rest of their lives.
I’ve also been astonished to discover so many ( proper researched, referenced and cited) facts about how animal farming is slowly destroying the earth we live in; from the production of methane gas (one cow produces way in excess of so many cars – I forget the figures but they’re available to all who want to know) and yet we still believe this is an okay thing to be doing? to the fact that dairy cows are forced to produce milk that was only ever intended for their own calves (who’re torn from their mothers at birth so that she can deliver richer, creamier milk that her poor baby needs but is denied because humans decide they’ll have it, thank you). And the amount of growth hormones and infected milk we drink due to the mechanical milk methods has to be read to be believed – because cows aren’t milked by a cutesy old-time farmer on his little three-legged stool in a barn anymore – those machines will keep on pumping and dragging and sucking everything from the cow until she’s sore and bleeding and infected, so that also goes into those lovely milky products we love so much. (check out the heart disease and cancer stats connected with dairy. It will make your head spin).
Another almost unbelievable fact is one that I could have worked out myself had I given it a lot more thought and that is: third world poverty. The amount of grain that the world produces to feed the animals that we end up slaughtering for our own consumption, could have prevented millions of starving children dying decades ago. I’ve always wondered how come these poor people are still relying on charity from other countries to provide them with pathetic sacks of rice to aid their survival – and it’s because we’re feeding the cows and chickens and pigs with food that these fellow humans could be living off of.
I could go on. But I’m not. It’s way too upsetting.
Essentially I’m an animal lover. But I was a hypocritical one; I was fine with having a furry creature to stroke and call a ‘pet’ but still thought it was okay to be faced with the flesh of another one on my plate. And putting it into my mouth (*gag*). But I’m not going to bang on about Meat is Murder etc because it’d turn me into a cliche; although I’d much rather be a cliche than be part of an innocent animal’s life of suffering purely for my own ignorant and greedy ends.
And actually I’m enjoying the amazing variety of vegetables and non-dairy milks that we can easily produce ourselves without harming another living soul. After all, isn’t that what living a decent, healthy life is all about anyway?