First off let me start by saying, veganism is a journey. I have never been 100% perfect in anything I do, including veganism. It took me two years of being vegetarian to take the step to become fully vegan. The reason I think it’s important to share this part of my journey is that it was a huge stepping stone into veganism. I did not become vegan overnight and I believe every effort in reducing our consumption of animals and animal products is a step in the right direction.
When I attended an undergrad class at Oregon State University called “Sustainability for the Common Good,” my whole world turned upside down. This class taught me all the ways in which humans use the environment for their own greed to the detriment of the planet.
One day we had watched the documentary “Food Inc.” and I was appalled at all the ways eating meat has an impact on the environment, social justice, and our health.
I rewatched “Food Inc.” recently to remind myself why I felt so repulsed after watching it, here are the main takeaways that made me want to become vegetarian:
How We Feed and Slaughter Cows Has Created Deadly Diseases to Humans
The way corn is subsidized makes it very cheap, so farmers feed it to cows instead of their natural diet of grass. They do this to fatten them up quickly to make meat cheaper for the masses. Unfortunately, feeding corn to cattle creates a mutation of E. Coli 0157:H7.
Cows mostly live in CAFOs, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, AKA factory farms. These are not the green pastures you imagine when you think of the happy cow commercials, these CAFOs are basically concentration camps for animals. They are extremely crowded and so unsanitary that cows stand ankle-deep in their own manure all day long. So if one cow has E. Coli the other cows will easily get it.
A slaughterhouse slaughters 400 cows per hour. Cows are caked in their own manure from their horrible living conditions and are being sliced open by machines at an alarming rate. This process allows for the infected manure to contaminate the carcasses introducing E. Coli 0157:H7 into our food system and into your body.
Aside from meat containing E.Coli, the runoff from these factory farms ends up in other produce farms. Remember the whole E. Coli contaminated spinach fiasco? Yeah, that came from COWS and the production of MEAT.
And want to know how the food industry tries to fix the problem? Instead of just feeding cows GRASS, they cleanse meat with AMMONIA to kill E.Coli. I’m sorry, but isn’t ammonia the stuff that can KILL you if you breathe it into your lungs? How about if you digest it? No wonder people are so concerned with cooking their meat all the way.*eye roll*
The Meat Packing Industry is Socially Irresponsible
In order to serve the needs of the fast-food industry, meat packing companies got bigger by borrowing the same type of labor practices as the fast-food industry i.e. assembly line production, speeding up the processes, cutting wages, and ensuring there were no unions. They also began to recruit immigrants from Mexico to work for them. When there would be immigration crackdowns, the workers were the ones being arrested, NOT the companies responsible for implementing the cheap labor and illegal immigration.
Veggie Libel Laws Make it Impossible to Speak Out Against Food Producers
At an attempt to silence anyone that wants to criticize their products, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) lobbied to pass a law that makes it illegal to raise concerns and express criticism on their production practices. Not only is this a violation of free speech, but it is also highly suspicious that a company that produces our food would feel the need to silence anyone who attempts to lift the veil on their practices. If they’re not doing anything wrong, why the need to hide? Makes you think, huh?
In the first twenty minutes of the documentary, seeing how chickens and cows were treated, I was ready to stop eating meat, or at least try to see how long I could do it for.
You see, I grew up not thinking about any of this. It never crossed my mind that what I was putting into my body not only was affecting my own health but was actually affecting a lot of innocent people and animals. I grew up loving meat. My favorite foods were steak, carne asada, and chicken. I didn’t think I would ever be able to give up eating meat...ever.
After the class was let go, I had my first (conscious) vegetarian meal, a hummus and veggie sandwich. From then on, I found it pretty easy to stop, especially when I created a strong “why” around I was doing it. I didn’t want to be a part of that needless suffering. No animal should have to go through the way factory farming treats them, and I should be more aware of what goes into my body and how it affects other people and the planet.
This class had made me switch my Sociology major option from Criminal Justice to an Environment and Natural Resources option. From there, I took many more classes on how people use the environment. Had I not taken this “Sustainability for the Common Good” course, my life and many other innocent animals’ lives would be drastically different. In the two years I went vegetarian, I saved over 50 land animals.
It wasn’t until I dove deeper into my environmental sociological studies that I took the step towards veganism. My point in telling you all this is that again, veganism is a journey. Considering my 20 years of disregard for animals, the planet, and my health, I would say the two years going vegetarian was an extremely important and huge step into living a more eco-conscious and animal-loving lifestyle. Veganism isn’t about perfection, it’s about making a more thoughtful decision about so much more than yourself and what you eat. My hope in telling you this is that it makes you think more about what you consume and how you can begin your own journey towards a more conscious lifestyle.
In my next blog, I’ll share the final straw in what made me want to fully become vegan. So stay tuned love bugs, I have so much more to share! :)