I grew up in a culture that took pride in eating animals and the art of serving them. Whether we marvelled at the redness of the roast beef on rye or shared our pleasure over the tenderness of “white meat,” we ate animals often and without pause — chicken, steak, turkey, fish, bacon, hamburgers, hot dogs, eggs, and cheese.
I rarely ever saw the face of the animals I ate: no eyes, ears, or nose. I never thought about them. I saw slabs of unidentifiable meat. I cringed as I cut the veins out of chicken and felt disturbed by the occasional blood splotches – a result of a weak stomach rather than compassion. As a child, I learned animals lived happy lives on outdoor family farms where they roamed freely. When they got older, they died a painless death. Finally, we ate them because we needed to eat them to survive. It sounded logical and humane. I thought nothing of it. I ate with confidence and without regret. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The awakening came for me at an annual fundraiser event for an animal shelter. Sitting among hundreds of dog and cat lovers, a video of abused and abandoned dogs and cats played on a big screen. I scanned the room and noticed people wiping tears from their eyes. They stood up one after another and announced donations of $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and even $50,000 to end the abuse. And then, in a moment that will forever be seared in my memory, because it marks the instant that I made the most important connection of my life, the host announced:
“Thank you for your support this evening. Your donations will go a long way to help us end the abuse of animals. Now, please help yourself to the lovely buffet. We have veal, chicken, steak, hamburgers, roast beef, and much more. Enjoy!”
Hundreds of people made a beeline for the buffet. I had seen a few videos recently and read about some of the conditions on factory farms and suddenly it clicked. Why would we eat abused animals to raise money to end the abuse of animals? I remember going home that night and looking into my dog’s eyes and asking myself “What is the difference between the pain my dog suffers and the pain any other animal suffers?” I couldn’t answer my question. I was raised to love my dog and eat other animals. “Was that the right thing to do?” I asked myself. And so began the exploration for the truth that changed my life forever.