I grew up in a typical family in the United States eating a lot of meat, dairy and eggs. We had family pets and we doted on them and never made the connection that the animals we were exploiting were individuals just like our cats and dogs.
When I went off to college, I was assigned a job working on a student farm where we raised cows, pigs and chickens. One day the supervisor pointed to me and led me into our small butcher shop where we tied the bridal on a cow’s head to a metal ring on the floor. He then instructed me to strike the cow’s head with a large sledgehammer while he slit the animal’s throat. He handed me a hose and told me to keep the blood from sticking to the floor. I watched the cow thrash and buck on the slippery bloody cement floor trying desperately to breathe through its severed windpipe.
This experience did not sit very well with me, but I was confused by the fact that I was immersed in a society where meat eating was the norm. I thought that I had to have meat to survive and that somehow eating other things was the natural order of the world. I eventually decided to stop eating pork and beef products since these were the animals that I had to kill at my farm job. I particularly didn’t like the fact that I had to betray the animals who had grown to trust me.
Several years later I decided to give up eating poultry as well, but I continued to eat fish, dairy and eggs for another ten years. When I began reading about the devastation that commercial fishing has on the oceans, I gave up eating fish and seafood. Still, I continued to equate protein with animal products and I kept eating dairy and eggs. At the time, I remember feeling good about the fact that I wasn’t killing any sentient being to obtain my food.
Several years later I read Will Tuttle’s book The World Peace Diet and I realized that the dairy and egg industries were responsible for as much, if not more, suffering. This was over five years ago and I have been vegan ever since.
Since becoming vegan, I have also made the connection between health and plant-based foods and environmental degradation caused by the animal agriculture industries. Much of this is due to having seen several good documentaries such as Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy, as well as reading excellent books by Dr. Richard Oppenlander such as Comfortably Unaware and Food Choice and Sustainability.
I am the advisor of the Vegan Club at the College of Charleston where I teach mathematics and I try my best to advocate for animals and vegan diets.