World-renowned humanitarian and vegetarian Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Where did we go wrong? Billions of people claim they love animals and stop a couples times a day to consume the carcass of an innocent being who was utterly and hideously deprived of everything that could possibly make their life worth living.
How would you feel if on the day of your birth, the day of your death were already planned; if your own name were an insult such as “pig,” “cow” or “ass”; if every time people looked at you, the first thing that came to mind was a puzzle of your flesh being called bacon or beef?
The Sunday of Oct. 22, 2017, the animal rights advocacy coalition known as Direct Action Everywhere marched 200 people into a slaughterhouse in Oakland in order to share the love of our presence with the animals. Twenty-two of us, myself included, partook in civil disobedience when we were asked to leave by police, and we were eventually issued trespassing citations. Besides common sense, we knew after undercover investigation that this establishment was breaking animal welfare laws.
Convenience, taste and tradition have caused people to ignore the sentient life they’re consuming. Euphemisms such as “bacon,” “beef” and “sushi” have caused us to reduce something as sacred as life to nothing more than a “thing,” a meal or a fashion appliance, an absolute and utter commodification of someone’s being entirely. And yet, when we were little, we were taught to care about animals, to treat others the way we want to be treated: We all wanted Nemo to be found; for Wilbur to escape slaughter; and for the Chickens to escape in “Chicken Run,” but at what age were we taught to stop caring?
We went in with the belief that adopting veganism is a moral imperative for humanity. May our lifestyle reflect our deepest values and intentions, our voices speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. You, the consumer, create the world you want to live in. If not now, when? If not you, who? A kinder world begins with you.
To rally the troops of the revolutionary army in the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he who stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” As vegans who grew up loving “meat,” “eggs,” milk and “cheese,” we are resisting a lifestyle we once placed at the foundation of our identity. We swore that we loved animals because we appreciated our dogs and cats and believed in euphemisms such as “free range” and the oxymoron “humane slaughter.” But we found out the hard way that the greatest threat to our common values of love and compassion were not to be found in some cruel abattoir, but rather in a cruelty-free diet.
Our ambivalent relationship with animal agriculture corporations has led us to rob the lives of animals, pave the way for environmental degradation and taint our bodies with the flesh of others. We felt, and still do, that we must once again accept arrest, skepticism and civil disobedience as means of change.
Every time we give, the world gives in. Every time we change, the world changes. There is no happy ending in apathy, no great story devoid of hardship. I am not saying this will be easy at first; the best things never are. I am not saying we won’t go undefeated. I am saying we will be unrelenting. In retrospect, it takes nothing from a human to go vegan, but it costs an animal everything if we don’t.
You owe it to yourself to take a moment to research the treasury of information on both sides of the issue.
Nathan Fisher is a UC Berkeley student and a member of Direct Action Everywhere.