I am reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is not an argument for Vegetarian simpliciter. It is a memoir about his life, growing up on his jewish grandmother’s chicken dinners, how important it was for that generation of holocaust survivors (their children and their grandchildren such as myself ) to have abundance,even excess, after living a life of brutality and barely making it out of the 1930/40s in Europe. It is about raising his son, his relationship with his dog, watching sea horses at the aquarium in wonderment and awe that can only be compared to religious experience. It is about the fact that 25/30 species of seahorses are extinct because of “bycatch” in tuna farming, which kills about 50 other species of fish (including many species of dolphins and whales) in the process.
Anyways, this book is still more than this: it is about what it is to be an animal, animals that are indeed born to eat other animals, and what it is to be human—then (the not so far lost past when factory farms and the agricultural revolution had not happened) and NOW (and we’ve all seen the PETA videos, etc.)
I can’t believe I was duped into thinking that “Free-range” and “Cage-free” or family farmed meat or eggs wereanywhere close to “Cruelty-free” or “natural.” These are only varrying degrees of the manipulation and violation that is being done to these animals. “Access to outdoors”=free-range: envision a shed with hundreds of chickens with one door at the end…and then the poor things attacking each other and hurting themselves perhaps in the process of yearning for the sunlight. Free range chickens are still mostly drugged, debeaked, and given space that is the size of a piece of printer paper—-how picturesque! Literally: I could keep a flock of hens underneath my kitchen sink and call them free-range.
It is an animal genocide. And who are we??? Humans, our species as a general whole, tend to be anthropocentric. But who are we to think that we are the rulers of this earth and all its creatures (christian dogma, this is realy)…who are we to think we are the appropriate yardstick by which to measure the lives of all the other creatures on this earth and beyond it, to think that we own and can dominate everything else that lives?
The parallels between the holocaust MY grandparents lived through and the holocaust on our animals are vast. This makes me nauseated. I am angry!!! I am upset because the only reason I have hesitated to be more adamant about veganism, animal welfare activism, etc., is not only the sheer laziness/poverty of my recent years of martyrdom at the hands of my undergraduate degree….but the desire for social cohesion! I often said I was vegetarian because of ahimsa(non-harming) but not vegan because of ahimsa: I didn’t want to offend my family and close friends who I share regular and pleasurable vegetarian, but not always vegan, meals with. No dairy? You’ve got to be crazy!?! I felt/feel horrible telling family/friends at dinner parties that I am vegan, and that I will thus (normally) have to ostrasize myself from part of the good-intentioned and wonderfully sensual experience —-because of this decision I have made (which is multifold). Why do people expect Vegans/Vegetarians to be perfect, idealistic environmentalists? For example: we all lie, big or small, either often or occasionally, appropriately, or not, and hopefully rarely maliciously. And still, most of us are healthy, honest, and far from pathological liers. And so why are vegans/vegetarians probed and proded about their (occasional) use of leather, rubber, etc? Clearly a vegan with a wardrobe full of leather goods has to reevaluate their lifestyle choices and be warry of hypocricy. I too, do not want to be a hypocrite, and make my purchasing choices accordingly, but why do omnivores question and probe and attack us about our vegan/vegetarianim, looking for loopholes in our lifestyles as such? No one is perfect, no “moral” choice is seamless.
Veganism is not a religion nor a political offiliation. I don’t want to have to get up in arms in a political debate every time I have to tell someone that I am one. Veganism was not the way of our ancestors, it is a reaction to what is happening to the animals on our planet today. It is not, even, really about nutrition. I might even dare to say that I am not vegan for only environmental and ethical reasons, but spiritual ones.
"According to the UN, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, about 40 percent more than the entire transport sector—cars, trucks, planets, trains and ships—combined. Animal agriculture is responsible for 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, which offers 23 times the global warming potential of Carbon dioxide, as well as 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, which provides a staggering 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The most current data even quantifies the role of diet: omnivores contribute seven times the volume of greenhouse gases that vegans do." THe Un states: “raising animals for food whether on factory or traditional farms is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global…”
"Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory—-disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Incresingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own."
"Today at the stake in question of eating animals is not only our basic ability to respond to sentient life, but our ability to respond to parts of our own (animal) being. There is a war not only between us and then, but between us and us."
We forget animals by eating them, when we eat them. We forget we are animals. We forget we are animals eating animals. “Animal bodies are burdened with the forgetting of all those parts of ourselves we want to forget.” What we forget about animals we begin to forget about ourselves.
And so as 2010 begins, and many of us continue our privledged, first-world quests for self-actualization and self-discovery, I ask, for you to ask, not only who you are but what you are.
“A vegetarian way of life actively creates six aspects of Ahimsa: (1) compassion and non-cruelty toward animals; (2) preserving the earth and its ecology; (3) feeding the hungry; (4) preserving human life; (5) preservation of personal health; (6) and inspiring peace.” by Gabriel Cousens
In the Suranga Sutra the Buddha states, “After my parinirvana (enlightenment) in the final kalpa (time era), different kinds of ghosts will be encountered everywhere, deceiving people and teaching them that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment… How can a bhikshu (seeker) who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings?”
When Ramana Maharishi, the most famous Self-realized sage of modern India, was asked what the most important aid to meditation was, he replied a pure vegetarian diet.
“Not to hurt our brethen is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them whenever they reqire it.” By St Francis of Assisi
“I would say—play with animals or watch them—they set us an example with their sense of innocent fun and pure joy, when they are happy. And it is up to us to give them happiness, not abuse them.” Mahatma Gandhi
“I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it.” Abraham Lincoln