What Made Me A Vegetarian

» Posted by on Sep 23, 2011 in Ethics, Why Become A Vegetarian | 0 comments

What Made Me A Vegetarian

People often ask what made me become a vegetarian.

It was December of 2005, and I was living in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.  Little flecks of snow were fluttering down outside, but my warm apartment and the after-effects of a toasty meal — mashed potatoes and a grilled chicken sandwich with cheddar cheese melted all over it — had me satiated for the evening.

I plopped down in front of the computer and started meandering around around various sites and stories on the Internet, waiting for something to catch my attention.

About 10 minutes later, I happened upon an article online that described, in detail, what happens when a lobster is cooked.

The article claimed that many people think that lobsters have n0 nervous system and can’t feel pain.  Apparently, the opposite was actually true…that lobsters are acutely aware of the fact that danger is near, and that they can feel everything that’s happening to them.

This means when you place a live lobster in a pot of boiling water, which happens thousands of times a day all over the world, it can feel it; the searing, horrible, excruciating agony that any creature feels when dropped in water that’s been heated to several hundred scalding degrees.

I sat back in my chair, eyes wide and completely horrified.  How could anyone knowingly do this to an animal?

My back tensed up and my face grew hot — I needed to do something.

I opened up a new email and inserted the addresses of as many friends and family members as I could think of.  I described exactly what I’d read, and ended it with, “Please don’t eat lobsters.  Love, Benjy.”  Satisfied that I’d made at least a small difference for my little corner of the world, I scuttled off to bed.

The next morning, I came back and saw that I’d only gotten one reply.  Ubby, a.k.a. my Uncle Bobby, had recently done some consulting for a court case that involved a factory farm and learned a lot about the animal processing industry.

He read what I’d written and said, “Why stop there…?”  He went on to detail how cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals live in squalid conditions — often in their own urine and feces, are pumped full of antibiotics, are scalded with boiling water so feathers and fur fall off, are sick most of their lives, and then when they’re hauled off to slaughter, they’re slammed in the head with stunning bolt guns which cause them to fall on to a spinning blade, slitting their throats.

I’ve told that story to some people since then, and I ask, “How come you still eat meat?”

Their response?  “Because it tastes good.”

Well, that was enough for me.  I made a stone cold resolution that day; I will never eat meat again, for the rest of my life.

Over the next several weeks, I spent dozens of hours pouring over nutritional information, recipes, cookbooks, and more first-hand accounts of how farm animals are treated in preparation for slaughter.  I contacted grocery stores, got on Internet forums, talked to chefs, and made a solid plan on how I was going to succeed at becoming a healthy vegetarian, and stay that way until I die.

Why?  Because that moment affected me like none had before.  But it had ties to my past.

I’m Jewish, and when I was very young, we began learning about the Holocaust.  We heard the stories about how millions and millions of people were herded into camps in Nazi-controlled Europe.  We heard about how they were locked into tiny living quarters where, sometimes, they could barely even stand up.  About how they were prodded, stabbed, shot, were the victims of brutal medical experiments…some of which even involved being dropped into scalding water.

These have all been condemned the world over as “atrocities.”  We’ve been told that “we must never forget.”

But apparently, we did forget…because it happens to millions and millions of animals, every single day.

Some days I think about the world in which we live.  About how most people have no idea (nor want any) how their food gets from the farm to their fork.

Those days, I feel beaten down.  Sick.  Nauseated at the fact that I live in a society that propagates such levels of pain and suffering and calls it “normal.”

And then there are the other days when I look at the people who have made a change.  People who know how the system really works, and are making some sort of concerted effort at doing things differently.

Whether that’s someone becoming a vegetarian, a vegan…or even if that means a change as small as spending extra money to buy meat from farms that give their animals a healthy, happy life and a humane slaughter.

In my ideal world, everyone would stop eating animals.  But the bottom line is that ANY effort towards change is noble, and I’m proud to live in a world where many people do work to make those changes.

I’d love to know your story and what changes you’ve made in your own life to make the lives of animals, and our world, better.

Thank you.

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