Rewind the tape back seven whole days, when the plate on my table consisted of chicken strips, spicy wings and mayonnaise dips. You’d find me munching on a Five Guys burger or a Domino’s pizza, blissfully ordering KFC cheesecakes for dessert with a hefty side of milkshake. A diet, which had been hammered into my brain since early puberty, when I’d reach for anything cheap and easy, as opposed to forming consideration in nutrition.
As Dr. Alejandro Junger would gently put it – I had stopped eating food and was instead surviving off of food-like products.
Now, going back into my family history, we find an abundance of farms and countryside traditions. I grew up in a small town, where everybody had animals and most suppers consisted of according derivatives. We had cold, harsh winters where grandmothers would stack beef cutlets and can chicken soups to attempt and preserve our warmth. This lifestyle had been passed through generations for hundreds of years. Our animals were treated with respect until the day they were too old or too ill and would have to be put down. Only then did we find a reason to consume them. Mostly, cows, pigs and chickens were a part of the community’s agricultural system, limited as it was, and they helped us grow tomatoes and potatoes. Whenever a herbivorous friend passed, we couldn’t afford to waste their food source. Grasping only what the Earth gives you can be an exiguous find, especially high along the mountain ranges. Long story short – we made do and that meant meat.
Today I find myself in London, among twenty-three million other citizens. An overcrowded city, which is struggling for air and space. Supermarkets and independent sellers have to compete with their prices in order to feed as many people as possible. This means that sometimes their farms turn into factories and morality becomes a weakness, rather than a strength. Large hangers equate to increased simultaneous production per single farmer, which thereby reducing labour costs. Push safety laws to their very brink and you can feed the “produce” hormone-infused supplements, rather than natural ingredients like grain, seed and plants. This forces animals to grow faster and bigger, making them suitable for market early, which once again speeds up the manufacturing process. We no longer put them down, we slaughter them by the hundreds of thousands.
The result is a dark room with a sea of chickens, whose breasts are so big and swollen, they collapse to the ground, unable to carry their own weight. Cows fed and milked in metal cubicles, where all bodily functions can be made in one standing position. Pigsties left ridden with feces, kept perpetually dirty despite their confinement. These are some of animal farming’s severest cases and I would like to acknowledge that not all holdings are like this. To me, the very idea of such existence, even on a small scale, is more than disappointing – it is increasingly frightening. But I shan’t make this article about cruelty, I don’t wish to make it a propaganda-like piece or word it to be perceived as such. This is merely my own journey and reasoning to change.
If you are interested on learning more about this side of the topic, however, I could recommend a few good watches, which are conveniently available on Netflix. Some of them include “Hungry For Change” (2012), “Food, Inc.” (2008) and “Food Matters” (2008). Probable exhibition of unethical animal treatment is present, so do beware if you are on the squeamish side.
My lengthy opposition to becoming vegan was that plants are also organisms. Just like us, they breathe and rest, they feed and grow. So what justifies killing a vegetable more than it does a cow? One argument, which has been presented time and time again is that flora has no brain. It has no thought process. Despite this, we need vegetation to survive on this planet, because we rely on the oxygen it produces for us. Do those two balance each other out? Maybe.
Another is that humans were designed to be primarily herbivorous. Let’s take a look at our distant cousins – the chimpanzees, who have a similar digestive system to ours. They are omnivores, meaning to feed off of anything their habitat provides. Upon closer inspection, we see that equates to the vast variety of plants and fruits available to them, alongside small insects. Occasionally, chimps have also been known to hunt mammals, the key word here being, you guessed it – occasionally. We are wired in a very similar way! Another mammals’ meat could be eaten often, but not as a primary source of protein and nutrition. It is a part of our evolutionary make-up to hunt and feast, but that does not mean there are no other options for humans to be healthy as a species and even gather benefits from a plant-oriented existence.
For me, frankly, there is no winning side. Animals get treated badly, plants have been notoriously abused with chemicals for a multitude of years, humans incorporate both of them into the production machine. However, I cannot expect to survive with longevity and vibrancy on a diet purely consisting of meat. So, the scales have weighed in the opposite direction, which now makes me a vegan.
It all boils down to one accident, which happened not so long ago in a kingdom called England. I was standing in my kitchen, contemplating some late lunch recipes, when I decided to make roast chicken. It would feed me for at least two days, which meant I could concentrate on other things in the meantime. So far, so good, I have made roast chicken with sea salt a million times before. It is perhaps the easiest way to make a delicious and simple meal.
I took the whole chicken out of my fridge and went to wash it off in the sink. But as I opened its packaging and ran the cold, tap water, a sudden wave of emotion came over me. I felt sad. No, I felt horribly sad for this poor animal, who I had never known or been friends with. I hadn’t grown up with it or pet its feathers. It was a chicken, which had never seen me either, who now lay dead in my hands, because I wanted a quick bite for lunch. I felt strangely ashamed and selfish, but I carried on with my day as if nothing had happened at all.
I lived with meat for another few months, until last week came around, when I woke up in the morning and decided that today was one of change. I would begin a new lifestyle, supporting animal rights and dignity the best way I knew how to – through caring for them and not consuming them.
Please, do not take this as a call for action. No one in my family or friend circle is vegan or vegetarian and that is okay. I am not here to attempt and convert anyone into a new non-dairy, non-egg, non-animal religion. I respect your choice, whatever that may be. Supporting animal rights can be done in many different ways, being vegan is simply one of them. And when I look back through the years and wonder how it all started, I’ll come back to this article and remind myself why I began and where I was headed.
Thank you for sticking with me this Tuesday!
See you next week.