As I mentioned in my last post, it was a documentary that made me decide to give up animal based products once and for all. I also did some of my own research, and watched several other documentaries. I knew I wanted to share that information, but in a way that is my own.
I’ve given that a lot of thought over the last several months and I have come up with my own concept of the different levels of understanding of how our food gets to our table. I am going to use one of my favorite movies to express those levels, the Matrix. I think it’s fitting because in the matrix, people didn’t know that they weren’t really living the reality they thought they were. The same is very much applicable to the way we eat. It’s a carefully constructed reality by the people who profit off of it and many of us are blind to the true reality. I am going to ask that you free your minds. The information in this post will be descriptive, and graphic. If you are like me and visualize everything you read, it will be hard. Part of me wants to apologize, to warn you not to read any further, but then I remember that the truth hurts sometimes. It hurt me, but lead me to a change that no longer hurts me or anything else. So, the decision is up to you. You can “take the blue pill”, close the window, and go back to believing what they want you to believe. Or you can “take the red pill”, read on and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember. All I am offering is the truth, nothing more.
Ignorance is bliss. That is a great description of what I consider the first level of knowing and understanding what it takes to get our food to our plate. I’d say that a large part of the population lives in this level of understanding. Our society has become so full of distraction that most of us don’t give a lot of thought to where the things we eat come from. This doesn’t just apply to animal products . When you eat a burger from a fast food joint, do you stop and ask if it was cooked from frozen or fresh? Do you wonder how it got to the restaurant from the distribution center? No, of course not. We look at our phones, tv, or we talk to whomever we are eating with. Why would we question it? Most of the time, we only pay attention to it if something seems wrong with it. It starts as kids. When we were younger we didn’t have a say in what we ate. Whatever your parents cooked was what was for dinner. We didn’t ask what ingredients were in it. We knew vegetables tasted bad but were supposed to be good. We knew there was almost always a meat, and some kind of side. That was about it. Most kids don’t think about a cow when they eat a burger. They don’t picture a chicken when they have a nugget. We don’t want them to, that would make them sad. I think the most questioned food item is a hot dog, just to make sure it’s not made of dog. We picture cows happily being milked. We picture chickens in a cartoon like coop all on their little nests that have a chute that the eggs carefully roll down to a collection bin. We picture farms as these places where animals roam around freely. We hear the advertisements that say milk does our body good. We know that beef, is “what’s for dinner.” We have a food pyramid that tells us we must consume dairy and meat. These beliefs have been passed down from generation to generation. Why would we question it, when not questioning it makes everyone perfectly happy? Ignorance really is bliss.
Beginning to believe. This is a slightly deeper level of understanding. We know, but we don’t know it all. As we get older, we know that a cow died to make that burger. We know that a chicken died for those nuggets. We try not to think about it. In our minds at this stage, we know there was a death and we want to think it was done in a humane way. We tell ourselves that this is the purpose of these animals. We remind ourselves that we are “supposed” to do this. Most human beings inherently would never want to hurt any animal. Most people would find the idea of someone enjoying that to be repulsive. Ask yourself this question. If you were walking down the street and saw someone kicking and beating a dog. Would you feel something? Would you do something or call for help? Most people, hopefully all the people I love, would. Now ask yourself this. What if it was not a dog, and was a pig? Would you feel something? Would you do something or call for help? One of my favorite foods over the last several years was chicken wings. Not just chicken wings either, specifically, the flats. We used to get wings at least once a week, many times twice a week. It was my favorite post race meal too. I’d order 10-15 wings with fries, all flats. I remember, one day I looked at the basket that the server brought over to me and I made a comment. “Dang, when you think about it, at least 5 chickens died for me to have these wings. Maybe I should not order all flats.” I shuttered a second and then dunked those suckers into the sauce and kept on eating. How dismissive we are at the loss of life when we think we are entitled to it. That’s sad when you think about it. Are humans so advanced that we are entitled to say what species dies and what species is our family pet? Why is our treatment of a cow in the US ok but not ok when other countries do the same to a dog? This is as deep as the knowledge in the matrix allows for most of us to go, but you chose the red pill. Let’s go deeper.
Knowing the path. This is where things start to get real. This is where we learn exactly what goes into getting what is on our plate. I learned in the many documentaries that I watched, just how ignorant I was. I knew animals died to be on our plate. What I did not know, was what their life was like up until that point and how they died. I learned the path that each of these animals takes to their death. Let’s unplug ourselves from the matrix, from what they want us to see, and go into each, shall we?
There are two types of chickens in what I will keep referring to as “the industry”. First, you have the chickens responsible for the eggs we eat, and second are the chickens bred for consumption. Let’s start with eggs. To me, that was the least harmful thing to eat. They were not fertilized eggs, so I was not killing anything by eating them, right? Wrong. Thousands of chicks are born into the egg industry every day. Obviously, the females lay the eggs. They are bred to produce over 300 eggs per year. A chicken “in the wild” would produce about 10 a year. First, as chicks, their beaks are either snipped off, ground off or burned off. The reason for this, is they will be put in cages together so tightly that they will go insane and start fighting with one another. Since that affects profit, they are mutilated so that they can go insane without anything to do about it. You may be thinking to yourself, “wait, I only eat cage free eggs.” Let me explain what cage free usually means. It usually means either the chickens are kept in one very large room, still crammed together, still driven mad that they cannot have room to breathe and still mutilated. Or it can mean that the chickens have access to outside space that is 3’x3′ for a certain amount of time in a day. From what I watched, there is one access point for thousands of chickens and the door was blocked by chickens that had been trampled to death by others just trying to get out. Some people have backyard hens that lay eggs, and I assumed that was ok. Remember how I mentioned that we breed them to produce way more than they normally would? I read that if you didn’t go out and take the hen’s egg to eat it, she would eat it herself. The reason is that making way more eggs than nature ever intended to, takes a real toll on her body. She is depleted and eats the egg to get back the protein she lost in the process of making too many. Even if left to die of natural causes, because of the toll it takes on their bodies their lives are cut very short.
So, what happens to all the male chicks? Well, they are not the same as chickens used for meat, so they are useless to the industry. I watched in horror as adorable little yellow chicks went down a conveyor belt. People stood on either side and sorted them out. The females continued on the belt to their destination and the males were tossed in bins on either side of the person doing the sorting. Once the bins were full, the person took them over to another conveyor and dumped them out. That conveyor went down into a hopper. The chicks tried with everything they had not to fall into the hopper and be ground up alive. Some were crushed to death in the bin before they ever even made it that far. Let that sink in for a second. For you to have the pleasure of eating eggs, thousands of chicks are ground alive every day.
The other type of chicken is bred for it’s meat. The chickens are selectively bred and fed to become larger and well, meatier. Don’t let that fool you. They don’t sit around and eat like kings. Their beaks are also taken off so that they don’t fight. They too are kept in the same awful conditions as their egg laying cousins, but they get an additional suffrage. Many of them have breast tissue that is so overgrown, they can no longer stand. They cannot lift their own bodies up off the ground. When the time comes, they are killed in many different ways depending on the company. Most are put into a conveyor system, hung by their feet clipped into a clamp. Even that, is done with such force that many of their bones are broken in the process. Some have their heads submerged into water that carries an electrical current. Others have their throats cut by a machine, or their heads removed by another machine. Many of them go their whole miserable lives without even knowing what it feels like to walk a few feet, or to even see the sun.
Let’s talk dairy. I thought this was harmless. Cows make milk, and it doesn’t hurt them to be milked, right? Wrong. First let’s start with some facts I didn’t think about. Cows are just like humans in that they make milk when they are pregnant, for their baby. We know where babies come from, right? Well, cow babies are made in ways I had no idea existed. Once you realize they need to be pregnant to make milk, you figure they mate the cows. Nope. I’m going to put it short and not so sweet to save time. They collect bull semen one of two ways, either a guy actually jacks off a male into a tube or they use an electrical device. The electrical device is inserted into the bull’s anus and forces the bull to ejaculate. Then, they forcibly impregnate the female. When reading the words, you may picture it a somewhat scientific process. I mean when humans get IVF, there is a delicate nature about it. When you see how they do this to a cow, it’s way more violent and relatable to rape more than anything else. Once the cow has her baby, a farmer comes in a takes it away from her. I can still hear the scream of the cow I saw on the documentary when her baby was taken. She had just given birth, was weak and still chased the truck that was taking her child from her for at least a mile. As a mother, I cannot fathom having your child torn from you the minute it was born. Yes, I realize that they are not human, and do not have the same thought capacity as humans, but if there is one thing that nature has ensured it is a mother’s love. There was no mistaking her suffering, or that of her newborn calf. The cow is immediately hooked up to a machine that milks her. It’s not a gentle process by any means. Just like humans, mothers produce milk until their children no longer need it or until their bodies simply stop producing because they cannot any longer. She is milked for way more milk that her body would have ever produced to feed her child. Once she can no longer produce milk, they impregnate her again. The cycle continues until she stops getting pregnant or no longer produces any milk even if she does give birth. At that point, she is sent off to be killed. On average, her life is about 5 years of this, when a cow’s lifespan is generally 20+ years. We take away 3/4 of her life so we can have her milk in our cereal. What happens to her baby? Well if it is female they will likely feed her a powder milk substitute, so she does not take our precious resource, even if it was made for her. She will be kept away from her mother, and if she makes it, as soon as she is old enough, she will be forcibly impregnated and the cycle will repeat itself. If they don’t need her to fill her mother’s shoes, or if the calf is male, it will likely be used in the veal industry or just shot in the head on the first day of life. Veal calves are put into boxes, and restrained in such a way that they cannot stand up or move. They eat from a tray in front of them and urinate and defecate in that same spot, into a grid beneath them. The reason they are not allowed to stand or walk, is because that would build their muscles, and we humans prefer our meat tender. They are usually killed between 18-20 weeks of age.
This brings us to the meat industry. Like most vegans, if you would have asked if I could ever go vegan years ago, I would have said NO WAY. Why? Um, bacon of course. It was the one thing that I was afraid would make me question my decision. The smell of bacon cooking is intoxicating. After seeing what I have seen, I have no doubt in my mind that I never want another piece of bacon in my life. Pigs are bread by the millions for our consumption. It may even be billions, but I am going conservative here because I don’t have all the stats to site. Pick your number, it is a lot. The suffering starts young. Their teeth are pulled or cut out. Their tails are cut. I even witnessed a person literally ripping off piglet’s testicles with his bare hands, and then tossing the piglets into a bin one after another. They are kept in similar confinement as the chickens. Packed by the thousands with no space to move. Many die from infection because we decided we no longer want antibiotics used in our meat. Antibiotics were originally administered to fight off infection from the mutilation done to them. When it is time for them to be “processed”, that is the new word for slaughtered, they are loaded into trucks. These trucks have several levels to them and the pigs are prodded into them using electric prods. They are packed tightly and sit for hours in the metal trucks while they load each of the levels. Activists have been charged criminally for attempting to give them water while they wait in temperatures that far exceed what we would break a car window for if it were a dog. Like the chickens, they die in different ways. A popular one is to gas them. A group of them is prodded into a box and the gas is released. Footage shows that it takes several minutes for them to die. Their eyes wide with terror, they scream and gasp for air. Others have their throats cut. Watching either, I can tell you there is nothing humane about it. This generally transpired within the first 6 months to 1 year of life.
Meat cows are treated much the same as the pigs, though they often are not executed by gas. They, like the pigs who get their throats cut, are bolted first. I forgot to mention that when addressing the pigs. What that means is that the person uses a pneumatic device to “shoot” the cow in the head with a bolt. Yes, a bolt like the kind a mechanic uses. This does not kill the cow (or pig). It merely stuns them. They almost cannot move, they scream when it happens and then stand there. You can see the terror in their eyes. Imagine for a moment not being able to move and knowing someone is about to harm you. For the cows, their throats are cut and they are picked up by their legs and inverted. They are bled out so that the blood can be used for other things. After a set period of time, they move to processing, where they are skinned. Notice that I said after a set period of time, not after they are dead. Some are not dead when they are skinned. On a side note, their skin is not used for leather goods like I assumed. Nope. That’s a whole other industry and a whole different kind of cow. They are skinned so that their bodies can be cut into the different parts that are needed for our consumption. These cows too, are generally killed within the first quarter of their natural life.
I want to take a moment to mention two things that come up. First, hunting. I won’t spend more than a sentence or two on hunting. It’s a sport. Regardless of eating or not eating the things hunters kill, at the end of the day they do it “for fun.” It’s not generally done to survive anymore these days. That is, unless we are talking about the second thing, indigenous people. I can only state my own opinion, but I cannot see how anyone would have an issue with doing what you need to survive. I will point out that most indigenous people, and even our ancestors killed animals for survival. They also did it with gratitude. There was and is an appreciation that a creature lost its life so that you could live. They also try to use every bit of the animal so that nothing is wasted of it’s body. Pelts to keep warm and bones for tools, etc. There is a huge difference between this and the industry as we refer to it today. People don’t wear fur because they have to keep warm. They wear it for the way it looks. It was also perfectly acceptable behavior, until someone got footage of how they clubbed baby seals to death to get it. Things are ok, until we realize they are not ok.
If you did not know, the meat and dairy industry do use almost every part of the animals. It’s not because they appreciate the life that was taken and want to honor it. It is because they want to honor the almighty dollar. Did you know that hot dogs often contain snout meat, or innards and anuses? And people think a plant based hot dog is weird. There are vats and vats of meat and parts labeled “not fit for human consumption.” They are all filled with the things they cannot really form into a sausage shape or patty for us to be fooled by. They are filled with the egg laying chickens, since they are too small to be sold for our food. They are filled with the meat from a cow that was raised only for it’s skin to be turned into that leather jacket you have had your eye on. What they do with that stuff, is create our pet food. Gotta make a buck somewhere.
I won’t get into all of the science, that’s not the purpose of this, but I want to touch on a few things because they are things I was wrong about. First, I assumed biologically we were made to be omnivores. We have canine teeth for ripping and molars for grinding. Well, turns out that is not true. Our jaws can move in a left and right motion. That’s for grinding. All herbivore jaws move in that way. The jaws of carnivores only move up and down. But what about those canines we have? Turns out our canines are hardly that at all. Canines, in a carnivore are made to tear through flesh. And while I did break the skin that time I bit my sister in the leg, there is no way I could ever get through a cow’s hide to eat them. Speaking of which. How many carnivores do you know that have to cook the flesh before they eat it? Oh, you have never seen a lion start a fire to roast the boar? Me neither. That is because their digestive system is made to handle raw meat. Ours is not. If we eat raw meat, we get sick. Of course we can cook it and eat it. That’s a choice, not a requirement. There isn’t a single nutrient that we cannot get from plants. In fact, most nutrients that we think come from animals, actually are just funneled through the animal. They got it from the plants they ate and now we consume them, thus consuming the nutrient. The last quick myth is that we need meat to get buff and strong. That’s funny to think about when pound for pound the largest strongest creatures on this earth are herbivores.
Walking the path. This is how I refer to the full level of understanding. It’s much more than knowing. Knowing may make you sad, but knowing is not the same as seeing. Unfortunately, just like the matrix, no one can be told, you have to see it for yourself. It’s hard to see. I struggled to keep watching. I cried. A lot. There were times I closed my eyes. The sounds are sometimes enough. Some of those images and sounds will never leave me. It’s hard to think that the kind of abuse I saw is happening every day to billions of animals just because we decided we like to eat them. Why is that? What makes a pig different than a dog? Pigs are even proven smarter. It’s all a matter of what someone decided a long time ago. Tradition can be wonderful, but it can also be blinding. For me, walking the path is made up of a few things. First, seeing for myself. Doing my own research and questioning what I have always thought to be true. Then, it’s making a choice. The decision to make a change in my life and the hope to influence others to free their minds too. To remove themselves from this belief that just because we are smarter and more advanced than another species, it gives us the right to torture and kill them. Not because of some necessity, but for our own pleasure. Not one person went vegan because they did not like the taste of meat or other animal products. They went vegan because they realized that their pleasure does not need to result in someone else’s pain. I see now, why there has always been a stigma to the term “vegan”. There is a great deal of emotion tied to being vegan. When you see the terror in an animal’s eyes and realize you are part of the cause, it’s tough. It’s also tough because you know how good it feels to no longer be a part of that suffering, and you want everyone to feel that way too. You hope to god with everything inside you that your family and friends will feel the same and make the change. You don’t want to feel sad or grossed out by what is on their plates. You don’t want to feel disappointed that even if they see it for themselves, they simply just go back to normal. Eating vegan is not hard at all. It’s the easiest thing I have ever done. What’s hard about being vegan, is knowing that everyone else is stuck in the matrix believing that this is how things are supposed to be and maybe won’t be willing to change it even if they knew the truth.
As Morpheus says, there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path. I am walking this path for the rest of my life, and I could not be more happy about it. Will you take the time to go see for yourself what is really happening in this matrix? Will you walk the path?
A few resources to free your mind:
Vegucated – This is the documentary that I watched that lead me to change. Most of it is just about the study, but the footage within is what opened my eyes to what was happening.
Earthlings – This is a documentary that will provide deeper insight to what goes on in the industry.
Earthling Ed – This is a you tuber who has excellent videos regarding any vegan topic. Speaking nearly as calmly and eloquently as he does is something for me to aspire to.
Gary Yourofsky – This is a speech that some have said made them change. It’s blunt and impactful.
Game Changers – This is just the trailer, you will have to check it out on Netflix. It’s a more fun movie about the science behind performance and diet.