Animal Rights

Animal Rights and Human Rights and Life and Vegetarianism11 Sep 2009 06:26 pm

Today is 9/11/2009, and we all remember what happened eight years ago. My heart goes out to all of those who lost friends and family on that day. It was an event that shook us to our core, and I hope we never forget that more than 3,000 people lost their lives.

Not surprisingly, this day brings much somber reflection. As it winds down it occurs to me that that a couple of other things are also weighing on my mind, and I think deserve mention.

The first is that today — like every other day of the year — about 25,000 people will die worldwide from causes related to hunger. The reasons for this are multiple, including hard-to-solve political and societal causes, but in part because the wealthy of the world (you and I) are feeding much of the world’s grain to non-human animals (raising them for meat) and to our cars (ethanol). The events of 9/11 were a horrible tragedy, but we should not forget that hunger is causing many horrible tragedies every day of the year.

The second is that today — like every other day of the year — we in the US will kill over 2,500,000 animals (most of them to eat). That’s nearly 20,000 animals per second. The numbers are so huge that they are hard to fathom. The amount of suffering involved is numbing.

Let us not forget the events of 9/11 or the people we lost. But let us also not lose sight of the fact that there are even larger horrors going on every day, and ones that we can personally do something to help solve tomorrow.

Animal Rights and Life and Vegetarianism11 Nov 2007 09:25 pm

I’ve been vegetarian since I was a kid. People are often interested in where a lifestyle like this comes from. In my case, it was not directly related to my parents or my friends or others around me, but seemingly out of the blue (although there were probably other factors at play). I literally went veg in a minute.

It was one of those things that sticks with you forever. It was the summer I turned 12. I was sitting alone in our kitchen eating a burger, when I bit into something unexpected. On examination it was hard and white. “Ugh, what’s this?”

After a moment of thought, it dawned on me. “Holy cow, this is part of a … cow!” The thought of gnawing on a bit of carcass was suddenly disgusting. The follow-on thought of someone having killed a cow so I could eat its carcass was so revolting, and so wrong, that I decided right then that I wouldn’t be eating any more animals. I announced this to my mother when she got back from work a few hours later.

It proved to be an interesting next several days. Keep in mind that this was back in the ’70s, when vegetarianism wasn’t nearly so accepted or commonplace as it is today. My mother thought for a while that I might be setting myself up for a slow death. “What am I going to feed you? How are you going to get protein??” My father (who didn’t live with us at the time) was a bit more accepting, but also fairly clueless as to what I’d be eating.

Over the course of the next few weeks I tried to find out as much as I could about vegetarianism, if only to convince my mother (and maybe myself, too) that I would in fact be able to survive without meat. Back in those (pre-Internet) days, this sort of research happened at a thing called a library (a place dedicated to housing and loaning out physical books), and took a bit more effort than it does now.

In retrospect this seems pretty silly, but you’d be amazed how different things were back then. At the time, we ignorant Americans had no idea that much of the world’s population has thrived on a vegetarian diet for thousands of years. Fortunately, things have changed. Nowadays I can go to any restaurant and, if they don’t already have a veg section on the menu, will surely have something I can easily adapt. Nowadays I can go into the grocery store (not only upscale ones, but just about any store) and find all sorts of veg-friendly dishes, meat “substitutes”, etc. And everyone is familiar with the terminology.

Over the next several months I learned more about different foods I could eat, and at the end of the process found that my diet was more varied and a good bit better for me than when I started. This seems paradoxical to some people — “I removed something from my diet, but now it is more varied and healthy than before…” — but I found the same thing happened when I went vegan (18 years later).

I daresay that being vegan nowadays is easier (both culturally and from a food availability point of view) than being veg back in the ’70s.

And now my wife and I have four kids, and they’ve all been vegetarian (and pretty close to vegan) their whole, healthy lives. I can’t imagine it any other way :-)