Three years ago, on our way back to Chicago, my buddy and I stopped at the Thurman Café in Columbus, Ohio. I had a mission: to eat the Thurmanator; a foot-high and nearly three-pound burger.
I ordered it and it was monstrous, but an hour and a half later my mission was accomplished! I had once eaten nine brats at a baseball game (one per inning). Another time, on a dare, I ate thirty-six wings in twenty minutes.
On January 17, 2012, almost on a whim, I decided to try a vegetarian diet. I thought it would be cool and probably healthy. A day or two into it, a Facebook friend suggested I watch Earthlings. I put it off at first, but five days into my vegetarian experiment, I decided it was time to watch it. I turned on my computer and started watching.
Twenty minutes later, I was muttering, “No, no, no.” Ten minutes later, to no one in particular, I was saying, “Stop, please, stop.” Five minutes later, sweat and tears streaming down my face, I was a vegan. It was January 22, 2012. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word, but I knew my life had changed.
The change was profound. I immediately felt much happier and lighter as I walked around this world, knowing that I was doing my part in preventing animal suffering. I had seen what humans do to animals. I would not hurt an animal, and I will not pay to have people do it for me. It is wrong. It is cruel.
I gave up my old ways and yet, I haven’t given up a thing! In fact I have more choices in food, more freedom from advertisers, and an amazing liberation from lazy thinking.
You can be a “dog lover” or a “cat person” or a birdwatcher. However, you cannot truly be an “animal lover” if you eat meat. But, interestingly enough, you don’t have to love animals to be vegan. I don’t love all animals, just as I don’t love all human beings. I do believe in fairness, justice and compassion. And I respect all animals and their rights as individuals. They have exactly the same right to live their lives, from their point of view, as we do.
The things we do in order to stock our refrigerators, cabinets, and closets are brutal. Animals are innocent and they are in misery. They suffer through a shortened and horrible life…and then they are executed; unloved, scared, and without any dignity. The suffering that each exploited animal has to endure should make us wince.
We can change all of that. Being vegan is as easy or as hard as you make it. It takes an open mind and the willingness to rethink what you have always believed. We don’t need meat, cheese, eggs, and dairy. We like these things, but no, we definitely do not need them. We buy them because we always have. We buy because that’s what we have been told to do by the government, by advertisers, and by our parents. We buy because we think it’s easy or we think it tastes good and we think it’s cheaper.
But it’s none of those when you really think about it.
I don’t know everything, but I do know that the way we treat animals is wrong. I know it is easy to ignore ugly truths. It is hard to face ideas that go against what we believe. But that is growth, and no one is too old to try new things, or to change.