** in an attempt to share my heart and passion for animals, humans, and the environment, i have decided to start a discussion about food and its impact on all of the above. this is in no way intended to call any one out or pass judgment on others. the purpose here is to share my experience as a vegetarian/vegan, to talk about the food we put in out bodies, health and wellness, and to challenge others to investigate what is in their food, whatever your diet may be! i want this to be a learning experience for myself and for others. there are many people out there who are far more knowledgeable than me, and i cannot wait to learn more from them. there are also many people who are interested in exploring a plant-based lifestyle, but don't know where or how to begin - and for them, i hope this series to be informative and encouraging. for those people out there who are content eating meat, and have never considered foregoing it, you are more than completely welcome too. i am glad to have each of you here. this is my journey from omnivore or vegan, and the things i have found out along the way.
in fact, now that i am a vegan, that's usually what other people tell me - "i don't know how you do it, i could never give up dairy. no way." you know what is interesting about that? although there is an undeniable ridiculous deliciousness to cheese and milkshakes and the such, that really isn't solely what keeps us stuffing our faces with it. cheese is, in the literal sense, addictive. meaning, there are addictive properties to the moldy goodness we all love so much. scientists first made this discovery in the 1980s when they found a substance in dairy products that resembled morphine. casein, the main dairy protein, releases tiny opiate molecules, called casomorphins, which have about one-tenth the opiate strength of morphine. so when you say, "i couldn't live without cheese, i am addicted," you are speaking truth about that last part. not the not living part - you will not die from cheese abstinence, i promise. i should know - i am a recovering dairy junkie. (casein, incidentally, is also one of the biggest contributors to cancer ever. it's like a cancer cell steroid. but more on that later).
BUT, but, before i knew even that, i read jonathan safran foer's investigative book called "eating animals." as a new father, foer felt a conviction to find out what is really in the food his family was eating. so, off to the factory farms he went. i said in part one that this book changed my life. as dramatic as that sounds, it is one hundred percent true. and there really isn't an un-dramatic way to talk about a life-changing experience, you know? before i read this book, animal meat and animal products (dairy, eggs) were two separate things in my mind. i felt that as long as i wasn't eating actual animal meat, then i was, in good conscience, not participating in the harm and torture of animals. but what i found out was pretty much the exact 180 degree opposite of that thought. those animals that give us milk and lay us eggs are probably the most mistreated animals in the world. the poor creatures that are prepared for slaughter are pitiable and scared and abused - but it is even more so for the cows and hens who become the slaves to our appetites.
dairy cows - forcefully and unnaturally impregnated, over and over, to keep the milk flowing; separated from their babies (which are sold as veal); grain-fed and starved; kept in captivity; killed once milk production slows.
laying hens - severed beaks and talons; kept in wire battery cages, with an average of 67 square inches of space which is less than a sheet of paper (for perspective, a hen needs 72 square inches of space to be able to stand up straight and 303 square inches to be able to spread and flap her wings); male chicks, who are useless to the egg industry (nor the meat industry, seeing as they have not been genetically modified for meat production), are ground up in batches while still alive, suffocated in trash cans, or gassed; manipulated lighting and starvation periods to force their bodies into molting so that egg production is great, faster, and completely unnatural and unhealthy; die (or discarded) after two years (if they make it that long) when their bodies are worn out and they are no longer profitable.
the practices of "cage-free" and "free-range" are unregulated, and therefore virtually meaningless. the animals are still crowded, tortured, and - in the case of broiler chickens - still pumped full of growth hormones, making it unlikely that they can even walk to get access to the fresh air.
erik marcus, making a comparison to the better-publicized cruelty done to veal calves, says in his book meat market: animals, ethics, and money:
"i personally believe that the average battery hen has it worse than the average veal calf. i think it’s probable that a forkful of egg comes at a cost of greater suffering than a forkful of veal… for people making a gradual switch to vegetarianism out of concern for animals, i therefore believe that the first food to give up should be, not meat, but eggs."you guys, i could keep talking. but there is just so much information out there, and this is only a glimpse of it. those of you who have no desire to know more about it, then i'm sure this was quite enough. but, for those who want to know more, i know you'll seek it out. to learn more about factory farming practices, the best places i can recommend you starting are:
eating animals - jonathan safran foer (book)
the compassionate diet - arran stephens (book - short book, quick read)
food, inc. (documentary - available on netflix instant watch; website)
and seriously guys, ask me. if you have any questions, need some help/direction in getting started, or are simply curious, please ask. i would be so happy to answer any questions, give advice, etc. you can find my email on the sidebar, under my portraiture.
part three: i'll be talking about the health questions and concerns people commonly have in regards to veganism, as well as sharing the kick-ass benefits.
"tell me something: why is taste, the crudest of our senses, exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses? if you stop and think about it, it’s crazy. why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to killing and eating it? it’s easy to dismiss that question but hard to respond to it. and how would you judge an artist who mutilated animals in a gallery because it was visually arresting? how riveting would the sound of a tortured animal need to be to make you want to hear it that badly? try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals." - quote from an ex poultry slaughterhouse worker in jonathan safran foer's book, eating animals.
“we know, at least, that this decision (ending factory farming) will help prevent deforestation, curb global warming, reduce pollution, save oil reserves, lessen the burden on rural america, decrease human rights abuses, improve publish health, and help eliminate the most systematic animal abuse in history.” - jonathan safran foer, eating animals.
“what the meat industry figured out is that you don't need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable...factory farms calculate how close to death they can keep animals without killing them. that's the business model. how quickly they can be made to grow, how tightly they can be packed, how much or how little can they eat, how sick they can get without dying...we live in a world in which it's conventional to treat an animal like a block of wood.”- jsf, eating animals.
“however much we obfuscate or ignore it, we know that the factory farm is inhumane in the deepest sense of the word. and we know that there is something that matters in a deep way about the lives we create for the living beings most within our power. our response to the factory farm is ultimately a test of how we respond to the powerless, to the most distant, to the voiceless--it is a test of how we act when no one is forcing us to act one way or another.” - jsf, eating animals.