Two weeks ago, I fasted to honor and remember the 10 billion land animals who are slaughtered in the US each year. I posted on Facebook about it, which is the first time I’ve really put my feelings about animal rights out there broadly to my Facebook friends. Putting my views out there for the masses to consume with no control over how it is received has always scared me, however, this time, I did not feel as anxious as I would have predicted. I fundamentally do not believe in killing animals for our consumption, and I certainly cannot condone raising animals in the terrible conditions that we see on factory farms. So the message felt natural. And it was met with lots of support, for which I am incredibly appreciative.
Why stick up for farmed animals?
Arguably, they represent the largest source of suffering in the world. When we raise land animals for food, they suffer their whole lives on factory farms where they are crowded, stressed, attacked (and worse). Their lives are short and miserable. As soon as they are large enough to slaughter, they are deprived of food and water for 24-72 hours and transported to a facility where they are (often brutally) killed. Heavy stuff, right? During the fast, I had a lot of time to reflect on the plight of these animals.
10 billion lives per year in the US alone…
So even if you don’t consider the environmental or the health consequences of consuming meat, the ethical case for avoiding animal products is quite strong.
But there’s good news!
Each one of us, every single day, 3x a day, makes choices that can end this suffering. This variety of suffering is actually quite easy to alleviate. It does require large-scale behavior change, but we don’t have to overthrow the government or influence policy makers. Each one of us has the power to change the situation.
Sometimes when I have a terrible day, I will reflect on it and think about how I was not responsible for any being’s suffering and immediately, I feel better. Sadly, I could not say that for the first 30 years of my life.
If you’re not a vegan, when you meet one, what’s the first thing you think of? Here are a few of my hypotheses:
- Ugh, am I about to get lectured?
- Is this person into hippie dippy voodoo magic?
- Hmmm, I wonder if she wears deodorant…
- I really shouldn’t eat animals. ugh, but meat tastes SO good. I don’t think I could ever eliminate it from my diet. What would I eat?
What did I miss? lol.
Truthfully, I had a lot of anxiety about going vegan. I thought about it for several years before actually eliminating eggs and dairy. I assumed it would be difficult. Certainly, I couldn’t live without cheese. What would I put in my coffee? And I would certainly miss eating eggs at brunch.
There is a steep learning curve, but as the movement grows, it is becoming easier to transition to a vegan lifestyle. There are tons of wonderful resources online. Plus, the vegan food of 20 years ago is not the vegan food of today. Come to NYC and I’ll take you on a vegan restaurant tour of the city if you’re skeptical! After the first month or so, I didn’t miss cheese. Soy, cashew and other non-dairy milks taste great in coffee. And, really, who has time for brunch?
But the main thing is that I feel really good about being vegan. I am leading a lifestyle that is deeply tied to my values. And that’s a pretty big deal.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so what does this mean for me?
If you’re also not feeling good about causing pain and suffering to animals (and really, deep down, who is?), there are so many things that you can do to reduce or eliminate animal products from your diet. For example, if the whole world adopted Meatless Monday, avoiding animal products on Mondays, there would, in essence, be 1 billion more vegans on the planet than there are today.
In addition to Meatless Monday, there is a vegan 4 lunch movement and a vegan until dinner movement. There’s also folks who are adopting a “plant forward” diet, which simply means they are reducing their consumption of animal products. The beauty of all of these options is that you can have a positive impact without flipping your diet on its head.
Of course, if you’re feeling bold (and amazing), you can cut straight to a vegetarian or vegan diet. I’ll be posting soon about some resources that can help you with that transition. You are awesome! Please share your journey with me & ask any questions that I might be able to help answer.
Back to my fast. I’ve never fasted before, ever. So this was new territory. By 3pm my energy level was low. Preparing lunch and dinner for the kids seemed a bit cruel. But aside from that, it wasn’t so bad. When I broke my fast (with vegan ice cream, of course), I thought a lot about how the animals I was fasting for would be getting slaughtered at this point in the process. I really didn’t enjoy my dessert much.
As I mentioned before, the support from my Facebook friends was overwhelming. It is worth reiterating because I think that despite our eating habits, the majority of us do really love and care for animals. We’ve just been conditioned to ignore and overlook the reality of the situation.
A friend has decided to try vegetarianism. Another went vegan for the day in support of my fast. And one of my good friends, who is pregnant right now, has decided to reduce her consumption of animal products after she has her baby. It’s really inspiring! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
P.S. If you’re in NYC, join our weekly Tuesday runs for Team Humane League. We are training to raise funds for The Humane League, an organization whose mission is to reduce animal suffering by inspiring change at all levels. Find out more from our Facebook page. #ForTheAnimals