Animal Rights / Environment

A letter to myself


You are a vegetarian. There are so many reasons for this. Every time you eat meat, you feel bad about it. The chickens are debeaked. They are trapped in tiny, dark rooms with no room to move. Then they die. That is their life so that we can eat them. The cows are so sweet to look at. Huge, docile animals with doe eyes and long, dark lashes. They remind you of Cookie, your pet dog. Pigs are so smart. Smarter than our own pets, yet they are chained down in small pens, never walking or seeing the light of day. They are trapped and held down to make more pigs and then they too, die so we can eat them. This is not right, and you know it.
Hot dogs don’t taste that good anyway. Neither do burgers. Or steaks. Not so good that you are OK with animals being abused this way. You have seen the images and read the reports of puppy mills; the disgusting dog breeding farms that breed and breed and bread the same dogs over and over and over, never showing them human love or compassion, never allowing them to play or run, trapping them in tiny cells to breed more dogs to sell to ignorant consumers. You pass the dogs and cats at pet stores, knowing that some or all of them likely came from those puppy mills and your stomach turns at the thought. You refuse to support places where dogs and cats are abused in this way. You are a vegetarian because you know that there is no difference between someone who abuses a dog or cat and someone who abuses a pig or cow. You know that if you support the people that sell you meat produced through the abuse of farm animals, it is no different than supporting those who sell dogs bred at puppy mills.
You are a vegetarian because you know the perilous situation the climate is in. You know that we are pretty much beyond saving when it comes to the irreversible damage we have done to this planet. “Pretty much” you add, because the prospect of not being able to remedy the situation we’re in is just too dire, too depressing, too debilitating. So you say “pretty much” just to get by; just to remind yourself that there still may be something you can do. You start by not eating meat. You do this because you know that our meat consumption contributes heavily to our global CO2 emissions. You do this because producing animal protein requires eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than plant protein, and after all that, doesn’t yield much more nutrition. You do this because you know meat production generates toxic waste in unimaginable quantities. You are a vegetarian because you love the oceans and the brilliant creatures that live in it, you love the animals that soar through the sky and the fantastic carnivores and herbivores of the forests, deserts, and plains. You are a vegetarian because you do not want to see the diversity of life and the beauty and bounty of nature destroyed by the greedy and insatiable creature that is human-kind.
You are a vegetarian and it is time to state that clearly and with vigor.

This is a letter I wrote to myself. I have been on the fence for too long – cheating here and there and justifying it weakly. I’m stating it out loud, binding myself to this new lifestyle. David Sirota has an even better take on it here if you want to read on.

8 thoughts on “A letter to myself

  1. I can relate to your experience. I thought about abstaining from eating meat for many years, in fact. Eventually my thinking came down to one realization, ‘ Animals want to be happy the same as I do. How can my happiness be more important than another’s happiness?’ Of course everyone must live by their own conscience as faithfully and intelligently as possible.

    People are so distracted today and attached desperately to the quest for self gratification. Suffering doesn’t arise magically from nothing, but rather when millions of minds generate selfishness the world becomes a hard place. Our governments reflect our selfishness like a mirror. We must roll up our sleeves and prepare our minds if we wish to see material change in the world. The PTB draw their power from us. I have great confidence in the potential for happiness. These are my thoughts so far.

      • But the bigger question is, are you vegan? There’s a quote I’ve seen that says “you’re not vegetarian unless you’re vegan, ” which makes perfect sense in the 7 years since I switched. (Some) people falsely assume that because dairy or eggs are not meat per se, no animal is harmed in the process. Then they fail to account for calves taken from dairy cows each year for veal, the cows keep getting milked, and become hamburger at the end of their lives. Having worked on a vegetable farm for 2 years that was next to a “happy” dairy, I recall the occasional night where I would hear a cow in the field wailing madly, endlessly because her child had recently been taken from her. Etc etc but I won’t go on.

        So anyway, that’s the question to you. Maybe you were just using the term vegetarian because it’s more benign to an outside perspective, or because once upon a time vegetarian means what vegan means today.

      • All great points actually. When I wrote the above letter, my goal was simply to cut meat products out. Over the last few months, I’ve now cut dairy out as well. I think many people don’t know about the abuses that go on at dairy farms and the absolute torment dairy cows go through to be constantly impregnated and then to have their baby torn away from them. Cows are supposed to live to 20 or something like that but dairy cows live until about four because of the harsh conditions and constant impregnation. Anyone that cares about animals and understands that they have complex emotional lives just like humans cannot stand for that kind of abuse. Not to mention the environmental harms of eating meat and dairy.
        I have to add for those who may not see the animal cruelty argument as convincing that I have never felt better now that I’m on a vegan diet. Most winters I have a chronic runny nose and am fighting off chest colds and head colds constantly. Since cutting out dairy – I have noticed that I have had no problems thus far this winter with congestion. I also have far more energy and a much healthier digestive system. Couldn’t be happier both mentally and physically with this lifestyle move.

      • I don’t eat anything that has eyes. My mother ask me why are you eating potatoes, they have eyes! That’s another story.

        For the time being I just abstain from all meat and fish. It’s a physical act and especially a strong mental intention of compassion. For me this mental state which I try to keep going throughout the day is all important. A practice as they say. But just living in this weird world seems to make things difficult for others. When I drive my car for example I put dangerous chemicals in the air. Some one may suffer. Or when I use too much water I try to cut back. But I am spoiled living next to a great Lake. As long as I keep alert to what I am doing I am content with that for now. The mind runs wild when distracted.

      • Right on. Being mindful in every day acts is a great mental exercise. “Here and now” as they say.
        I’d encourage you to try to cut back on dairy and other animal products as well. It is not as difficult as it may seem initially.
        Yes, there is so much to be concerned about every day. The best you can do is just to be mindful of what you’re using, eating, and emitting into the world and try to cut that back as much as possible. It is a process – baby steps.

  2. Glad to hear it, Alyssa. Some people stop at vegetarian diet and never realize that dairy is arguably the most environmentally destructive animal product industry and the cruelest (seeing as how there are so many layers to it and dairy=veal=beef). And dairy can be a hurdle in that it (and cheese, 10x concentrated milk) contain opiate-like substances which account for their addictive nature and why the #1 thing I still hear is “I could give up meat but I could NEVER give up cheese!” Being a relatively newly-minted vegan I expect you will hear this to no end, and I have confidence you will be able to capably set the record straight when the situation presents itself. I can’t remember the last time I was congested or sick either. Dairy, environment and ethics aside, makes no sense. Why are humans the only mammal to consume milk outside of infancy. And from another species at that!

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