When I was growing up, my mom only cooked meat on special occasions. She’d been a vegetarian earlier in her life. In high school, after my friend Molly introduced me to The China Study, I decided to commit to vegetarianism for ethical reasons. Vegetarianism wasn’t hard for me since I didn’t like eating meat anyway. In college, I had a brief stint as a vegan and eventually abandoned the effort because I felt awful. I had put myself on a highly restrictive weight loss diet (I’d been obsessed with losing weight since age 13, after I began menstruating and my previously skinny body became extremely curvy within just a few months). Now, of course, I realize the reason I felt sick as a vegan was because I wasn’t eating enough. After stints of not eating much at all, I’d binge and eat sugary junk like Reese’s Puff cereal–a product that’s technically vegan (no animal products in there) but certainly isn’t healthy. After that miserable phase, I convinced myself I couldn’t be vegan. Eventually I convinced myself that vegetarianism wasn’t working for me either. It was easier to eat chicken once in a while and feel full than to expend the effort and money needed to buy, prepare, and consume enough quality foods in my diet.
But over the past few years, vegetarianism–and now veganism–keep coming back to me. I try to deny it; I’ve even recently told people (I’m pretty sure I said this last week): “I eat meat now.” I’ve felt relieved saying that, because in some ways, the declaration makes me feel like I fit in better. I’ve told myself that I definitely can’t be vegan because it will be difficult socially–what will I tell my family and friends?
I don’t want to make excuses any longer. I can’t push away the ethical implications that keep coming to mind when I think about human consumption of animals. I can’t ignore the feeling I had two weeks ago in the grocery store, walking along the meat isle toward the produce section and then veering my cart away from the sight and smell of flesh. I thought, “I’m walking around in here with dead creatures sealed in packages in the fridge. How is this ‘normal‘?”
I’m no longer obsessed with losing weight (that’s a post for another day. I’m grateful God helped heal my attitude toward myself). But I am seriously considering what I consume and what that means. The more I think about the miracle of life, about people, about animals, about our planet, and about God, the more I want to live deliberately. I want to take responsibility for my lifestyle not only for myself but also for the planet and the species with whom I share Earth. After I die, I don’t want to face the Creator and tell Him that, while living on Earth, I consumed thoughtlessly, purposelessly. I don’t want to support industries that verbally and physically abuse, and kill, God’s creations. I don’t want to support that form of violence.
Coming to this conclusion has taken a long time, research, prayer, thought, and struggle–and a lot of food experimentation (including juice fasting–the two weeks of my life I felt more spiritually enlightened, more closer to God, and more connected with the Earth and with other beings than ever). I’ve been inspired by books, by documentaries like Food Inc., and by people like “Fully Raw” Kristina, Paul and Yulia Tarbath, and a BYU professor and her husband who told me why they decided to quit eating animals. But what finally woke me up–what finally led me to choose to quit making excuses–came because of this short video from Ellen DeGeneres.
After forcing herself to watch the film Earthlings, Ellen said, “It’s inside footage of factory farms and dairy forms. You just see that and you go, I can’t participate in that.” Ellen’s commentary got me curious, so I googled “Earthlings” and then, I forced myself to watch the violence. I cringed, cried, covered my eyes. The thoughts and feelings I’ve had about animals over the past few years of my life culminated in a moment of overwhelming sadness. Forcing myself to watch the grotesque footage from hidden cameras–a real life horror film–I, like Ellen, came to the conclusion: “I can’t participate in that.”
The question of what species do to each other is not merely a question of ecology. Of course it’s about ecology–but I also believe ecology is inseparable from theology. As a Mormon who who believes that animals have souls, I commit to better respect the inherent value in all creatures. In an effort to live a more compassionate life, I commit to veganism.
Mormon teachings on the treatment of animals: this 1972 article.
Interpretation of the “Word of Wisdom,” a revelation on health and wellness taught by Joseph Smith: this short film.