March 28, 2010

After 31 Years of Being Vegan...

After 31 years of being vegan, I realize that I am testimony to the fact that living vegan is beneficial. It has enriched my life; physically and spiritually. There is no reasonable excuse for inflicting suffering and death on*53 billion land animals a year when even mainstream organizations like the Canadian and American Dietetic Associations state that a vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and athleticism. Our chances for a longer and healthier life increase with the elimination of animal foods.

When I learned ‘meat’ was a dead animal at age 12, I innately knew that this was wrong. I never ate animal flesh again. No respected authority could convince me otherwise. I didn’t know if I would die (because I was told I would), but I knew that I didn’t want to eat my friends. At age 21, I rejected my societal and parental indoctrination and chose to live without cruelty and violence - by becoming vegan. My parents consumed animal products. I had to climb out of exactly what I urge the human race to climb out of.

It is empowering to trust and follow our inner sense of right and wrong – our conscience. It’s not easy for some to abide by their conscience (regarding the practice of exploiting animals) when society, religions, governments, commercials, school systems and doctors are instructing us otherwise. It is challenging when we are surrounded by a lack of awareness to break free and be in touch with the part of us that knows our treatment of other animals is appalling. It does take effort to triumph over our conditioning, but it is worthwhile; we are doing our part in the advancement of the human race. However, once we are fully aware of the repulsiveness of eating corpses, and the unnaturalness of drinking the milk meant for an infant of another species, and recognize our own speciesist mindset, it is very easy to be vegan. Perhaps initially, when overcoming my dairy-addiction, becoming vegan felt challenging. But after 31 years of being vegan, I can report that there was NO deprivation - only rewards: vegan-organic ice cream, vegan pizza and cheese, vegan friends and lovers, magical interspecies friendships, veganic gardens, and excellent health.

Our anatomies, such as our teeth, jaw, nails, stomach acidity, and intestinal length indicate that we are herbivores. After 31 years of being vegan, I know that we are not predators. I have no craving to jump on the back of a deer, kill her, suck her blood, and eat her raw muscle and organs. I am not a carnivore. I am in awe of animals in the wild. I have no desire to harm them, but only to help them from those who would. And I believe I speak for all humans - if they were living in their heart-of-hearts and more awakened self.

Veganism is a standard of living. It embraces people of all faiths and spiritual beliefs. ‘Reverence for life’ and ‘harmlessness’ are the essence of the vegan ethic, which has lifted me to a greater spirituality than I had found in religions. I question any creed that allows humans to exploit, sacrifice, or eat animals. If a book claimed that God gave us animals to eat, I would suspect that book was not the ‘word of God’, but a misrepresentation of Godliness. From my perception, ‘enlightenment’ has not been reached if one is inflicting misery on others; human or nonhuman.

The other species of animals feel pleasure and they suffer; and it is easily recognizable. I don’t need the emerging scientific evidence proving the obvious; that a fish feels pain when you stick a hook through his mouth. Science confirms that the intelligence of dolphins and Great Apes resembles that of human intelligence, and therefore, some believe they deserve more ‘rights’. Although their similar intelligence is a marvel, I don’t believe that extending ‘rights’ to any species should be based on intelligence. To put it in the words of the esteemed Professor of Law, *Gary Francione: “…just as we recognize that every human, irrespective of her particular characteristics, has the fundamental right not to be treated as the property of another, we must recognize that every sentient (perceptually aware) nonhuman has that right as well.” 

Over the last 31 years, it has been reassuring to learn that vegans are like-minded with some the greatest thinkers in history. Indian leader; Mahatma Gandhi, said “To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than the life of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.” Russian philosopher Leo Tolstoy said: “If a man’s aspirations towards a righteous life are serious…if he earnestly seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food… it is plainly immoral, as it requires an act contrary to moral feeling, i.e., killing-and is called forth only by greed.” American essayist; Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You have just dined and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” Italian artist and inventor; Leonardo Da Vinci said, “From an early age I have abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they look upon the murder of men.” 

It’s time to create the peaceful world so many of us long for. Vegan Society Founder; Donald Watson, said “If the vegan ideal of non-exploitation were generally adopted, it would be the greatest peaceful revolution ever known.” There are many ‘peace activists’ working diligently to end wars but they don’t see the significant connection to violence they can find on their own plate. They have not realized that peace will be ours when we stop declaring war on our brothers and sisters of fur, feather, and fin. Nobel Prize laureate; Isaac Bashevis Singer, explains, “…there will never be peace in the world so long as we eat animals.” Likewise, Tolstoy said, “As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.” 

Eating vegan has a very favourable influence on human (and canine) nature. The most well-known scientist of the 20th century and a Nobel Prize recipient; Albert Einstein, said: “It is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” With the ushering in of a vegan society, the devastation to the planet and to all life, that ‘war’ represents, would end.

“Veganic” agriculture is a component of the Vegan Ethic. The forerunners of the first vegan society wrote of the significance of vegan-organic growing. If everyone used the animal-free method of horticulture and agriculture, we would have a sustainable and more compassionate society, a response to global warming, and we would remove the concern of disease-spreading bacteria. Those producing ‘veganic’ food have become the prototype for others to follow.

"Meat" requires far more energy to produce than it provides. Animal farming is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. WorldWatch Institute reports that 51% of Global CO2 emissions are directly attributed to livestock and their products. Animal farming is the main cause of the deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest; the lungs of the planet. Animal farming is the largest global consumer of our limited fresh water supply. Most of our fertile land is used to rear farmed animals. Once fertile pastures have become deserts because of over-grazing. The natural habitat of self-sufficient animals is being depleted due to farmland and wild animals are killed to protect farmed animals. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that “The livestock sector emerges as one of the two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” 

Because we are part of a bio-community and there is a shocking rate of species extinction, radical change becomes the order of the day. After 31 years of being vegan, I see that the vegan lifestyle, including veganic gardening principles, is a very practical solution to our environmental crisis. After 31 years of being vegan, I feel I have knowledge that the vast majority of people need to attain. With vegan education, we can change the mindsets of the purchasers who are creating the demand for animal products. Rather than regulating animal exploitation, we need campaigns that instil the vegan lifestyle as a moral imperative for humanity. If a conduct is wrong, it is more logical to change the behaviour, rather than inflicting harm in a more “humane” way. Because ‘rape’ is wrong, I would not campaign for “humane rape”. No animal can be “humanely raised” when the final outcome is slaughter and the whole intention behind raising it is for human use. We need to stop breeding and bringing animals into this world to serve human interests.

If we participate in single-issue campaigns; use them as a representation of animal exploitation. Our education also needs to include that we should discontinue using, eating, and wearing animals. If we tell the whole truth, our ‘anti-fur protests’ would not portray purchasing fur as ethically worse than leather or wool, etc. Our movement needs to ask for a total eradication of the enslavement of animals. The Truth calls out for a major change in perception on how people see other animals. Humankind has experienced a mass change of perception before when faced with evidence that differed to the widely held belief of the time. Veganism is humanity’s next evolutionary step. Let’s take each other’s hand and get there.

After 31 years of being vegan, I recognize that veganism appears to be a key to reducing environmental devastation and a remedy for our many physical and sociological ailments. Most importantly, it is a response to a heartbreaking social injustice - our crimes against nonhumanity. The world’s people going vegan has the potential to solve our shared problems, be they: environmental, global warming, war, violence, human ill-health, a lack of something spiritual that is tangible, or the inequity of animal-based diets. Food (that could end human hunger) is inefficiently funnelled through farmed animals to feed some people, while many millions of other people (mostly children) are starving. Veganism is the most ethical stance one can take to protest the state of the world.

We inflict misery and suffering on innocent animals so needlessly. I am living proof of this! For 31 years I’ve been substantiating that we do not need to enslave, dominate, slaughter, eat, wear, use, experiment on, inseminate, perpetually impregnate, steal infants from, steal milk from, exploit female reproductive systems of, electric-shock, own, sell, auction, breed, brand, *mules, shear, skin, pluck, de-beak, de-horn, trap, poison, hunt, shoot, work, whip, lasso, confine, or commodify the lives of, other animals.

(It's been 32 years now!)

M. ‘Butterflies’ Katz

*According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, humans kill approximately 53 billion animals for food per year not including fish or other sea animals.

*Professor Gary L. Francione –

*(Mulesing is a surgical mutilation commonly performed without anaesthetics on Merino sheep.)


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Unknown said...

Yes indeed a beautiful essay.
I feel pathetic having been Vegan only since beginning this year from being vegetarian since 2008.
I ask myself where have I been all my life. I am looking forward to the other half of my life as a Vegan trying to make up for all the damage I contributed to.

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

The Compassionate Hedonist said...

thank you. i am come to look forward to your posts

February 22, 2010 6:47 AM

Ricky T. said...
Beautiful essay, thank you! @richardturgeon

February 22, 2010 6:16 PM

Thank you for your beautiful post. It is very inspiring. I was veg for 20 years before becoming vegan 3 years ago. My life is so much richer and clear now.

February 22, 2010 6:54 PM

Anonymous said...
I am researching becoming a vegetarian online, and I came across your website. Thank you - very informative and thought-provoking (I would have to gradually become a vegan - give me some time, baby steps! lol) I actually tried to be a vegetarian while in high school after reading "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair (one of my favorite books to this day). But, it didn't last long. But, I think this time it will last! :)

April 29, 2010 1:32 PM

Miranda said...

I love finding other vegans and especially other longterm vegans like me: I became veggie at 13 (to the rage and dismay of my father) and then vegan at 23.
I have now been vegan for 23 years and it is one of my proudest achievements.
with love