I haven’t eaten meat since May of 2011. The last piece of animal flesh that touched my lips was a small piece of pepperoni. Delicious, of course, savory and chewy, but I could not bear to eat more than a few of these slices before I developed a knot in my stomach, and a pain in my heart. I could no longer do it. I could not live any longer, knowing that something I decided to consume, for pleasure, not for necessity or desperation, came from the living, breathing body of an individual animal. An animal with thoughts, feelings, pain receptors, ability to learn, ability to communicate, ability to bear and raise its babies. What right do I have to take this creature’s life, no doubt in pain and confusion during the process, just so I can enjoy its flavor? I do not have the right to do that, nor do I want that right. This is not about eating out of survival and instinct, no, not at all. Because as far as I recall, we are living in the 21st century, and thus, have the resources, skills, and ability to make other choices when it comes to sustenance. Furthermore, the fact that many of the animals we consume are tortured before being killed by cruel, unconscionable grunt workers who derive pleasure in wielding what little power they possess over other innocent, supposedly “inferior” beings brings me fairly close to rage. Do I really want to be a part of that sick, twisted mentality? Because one likes meat, and decides to purchase it, they contribute to the suffering of millions of animals, indirectly of course. You’ll hear folks say, “I wouldn’t hurt an animal”, or “It’s already here, I may as well eat it!”, or, as is usually the general consensus, “I don’t want to know – don’t tell me!” Well, it’s just that kind of thinking that contributes to some of the more distasteful aspects of mankind. People did not want to believe the Holocaust, either. Some still do not, despite the indisputable and irrefutable evidence to the contrary. It’s because people cannot grasp it, do not want to fathom it, to face it. Because facing it would require owning up to the responsibility and the blame we ALL share with respect to the problems of the world.
By now, I’m sure you’re all sick of my “soapboxing” (yet another term people who are passionate about something get labeled with when others don’t want to face the truth), so I’ll go ahead and tell you what prompted this essay. The other night in the bathroom, I saw a black object moving out of the corner of my eye. I turned and looked, to find it was a creepy bug. I still have no clue what it was, but it was creepy. Isn’t that the typical description of any kind of insect? So, out of instinct, I grabbed the closest hard thing I could find – a bottle of bleach cleaner – and proceeded to smash the poor little guy. He took his time dying too, and as I heard his segmented body crack, it tore up my heart. I literally began to cry. I just killed this creature – I know, most of you are saying, “It’s just a bug!” – because I was freaked out by it and didn’t want it near me, or in my home. How I wish my cats would’ve devoured the poor, unfortunate insect so as I didn’t have to, but as luck would have it, their lazy butts were asleep and nowhere to be found. I would not have been upset if one of my felines had attacked it, because it is their nature. My reaction was out of pure fear, disgust, and creeped-outness. I am aware that is not a real word. But my intentions were all wrong.
I spent the next ten minutes or so crying my eyes out, feeling ridiculous for said crying, but feeling even more ridiculous that a bug that was no bigger than my pinky nail had just had his life snuffed out because I, a human being, didn’t want him around. This argument may be extreme to some, but it is the same for all superiority beliefs. We believe we are better than and superior to most non-human animals, let alone a measly, forgotten bug on the bathroom floor! My point is, if our ingrained and inherent views towards other living things is projected towards a bug that cannot seriously do you any harm, it can also extend to non-human animals. Then, everyone knows what the next step is, right? Human beings. This is an example of the slippery-slope doctrine, more commonly referred to in criminal justice (I should know) than in arguments concerning the rights of sentient beings, but I feel it applies here. If we are so quick to act upon what we have been taught, every step forward gets a bit easier. Consider a child who pulls the wings off of butterflies, or the legs off of Daddy Long Legs’. He may very well lean toward harming what we call “cute and fuzzy” creatures (dogs, cats, etc.) If his parents are too checked-out to realize the harm their child is causing other living things, he will not respect life in any form, and this will lead to causing harm to fellow humans.
Honestly, this is the argument most animal advocates have to use when justifying our beliefs (not that we should have to) to the stubborn ones in our lives. “It’s a cycle”. As if animals cannot be protected for their own sake without there being some kind of repercussion for human beings. This is a selfish thought, but if it gets people to think about actions, choices, and consequences, I’m on board. I never try to force my beliefs or lifestyle on anyone, as I am against indoctrination of any kind. I only ask that people think and consider my beliefs as they go about their day. My mother eats meat still, but every time, she thanks that animal. She thinks about what she is doing, and makes a conscious choice. This is not to say that I judge others on their food choices, hell, it’s only been a little over a year for me! Most people I know are carnivores, and I have no problem with it. I have no issue being around others as they eat. The thing that gets me is when people are unaware of their choices, especially when it is consciously blocked out of one’s mind.
I never ask anyone to change for me, nor would I ever do that. This was a personal choice, and I only ask that people respect it. I have had so many people question me, to the point of insult, about being a vegetarian. Not many, mind you, most people are accepting, and don’t think much of it. However, some of that vitriol has come from a few individuals in my family at times. It’s almost as if I’m doing something wrong! I never would have expected that some folks would actually get so put out by it that they become angry. Literally angry. I still have not figured this out, but I do acknowledge that it is different, especially coming from a very carnivorous family. I’ll give you an example or two. My uncle, whom I love, is a very carnivorous person. I’m talking hardcore. Last year, while I was still considering giving up meat, I had chosen a steak at Applebee’s during my aunt’s birthday get-together. As I’m eating the steak, my uncle proceeds to tell me how he loves steak so much, he would go in and bash the cow’s head in himself with a sledgehammer. I was very upset by this, and it seemed no one thought anything of it. Here I was, eating a piece of a cow, as I have the description of its slaughter (of which I have been aware for years) laid out for me in a restaurant. I was so offended by this, but apparently, I took it too seriously, because he got up and left the table for a good half an hour. I had done nothing wrong. I don’t think I was wrong in asking him to stop being so vulgar and graphic at a dinner table as I’m eating a half-masticated piece of flesh. That experience really got under my skin. He did not know why I was so offended, and he doesn’t want to. He won’t even try to understand it. I get that, some people can’t, but it was as if he was purposely trying to hurt my feelings. Well, it worked. Anyway, I am still adjusting to this lifestyle, as I have always been afraid to try new food, which sounds completely contradictory from someone who purposely chose to no longer ingest animal flesh. But, I have always been a little different, and I only hope this might help people understand me a little better, as well as my choices!
Thanks for reading!