Today is Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015. I have a writer’s critique group meeting this evening at a local restaurant. The problem is, what I’m writing these days is definitely NOT dinner-time fare.
I have recently become a vegan. I’m sixty-six years old, and for pretty much my whole life I’ve turned a blind eye to the realities of the piece of meat, or poultry, or fish, or dairy on my plate. But once you know, you can’t NOT know.
The packages that appear on your supermarket shelves look so neat and tidy, don’t they? They rarely bear much, if any, resemblance to the living, breathing creature it came from, and even if it does, we don’t think much about the life it lived before it came to the store. We don’t want to know that it suffered before it died. But 99.9% of the time, it did.
The realities are harsh. Virtually ninety-nine percent of the meat, poultry, fish and dairy products that Americans consume come from factory farms, where conditions are more reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno than Old MacDonald’s Farm.
Chickens are being bred so that they produce more white meat, but this means that they are so deformed that they can’t even stand up. They are kept in crates so small they can’t even flap their wings. Once hatched, male chicks that are useless to the egg industry, are put through a meat grinder, alive. Chickens that lay eggs are kept in tiny cages where they can’t move, and often become entangled in the wires. As babies, their beaks are burned off, with no anesthesia.
Bacon. Ah, we all just love bacon, don’t we? More! Give me more bacon! Really? Female pigs are kept in gestation crates that are so small they can’t even turn around. At birth, their tails are cut off, and male pigs are castrated, all without anesthesia. When a female pig gives birth, she is put into what is called a farrowing crate which is no bigger than a gestation crate. Baby pigs are often crushed in their mother’s efforts to at least turn over to find a more comfortable position on a cold concrete floor. At slaughter, many pigs are not stunned first, or the stunning is incomplete, and go through the process of gutting still conscious and struggling.
Milk. It does a body good. Nope, sorry. Of all the atrocities in the industry, the dairy cow has one of the worst lives. A dairy cow will only give milk after birth. Therefore, they are impregnated once a year. The calves are taken from the mother within twenty-four to forty-eight hours after birth and the mothers will often cry for them for weeks. If the calf is female it is fed a diet of milk replacer untl it’s old enough to endure the horror of the “rape rack,” in which the cow is bred, sometimes by use of a bull (or many bulls), and sometimes by artificial insemination. If the calf is male, it will probably be sold for veal. A veal calf is locked into a tiny crate, not even big enough for it to turn around. It is fed a substandard diet, and will be slaughtered at a few days to about a month old.
A friend once told me that the dairy processing center at which she works processes eight MILLION pounds of milk a day. How many cows does it take to make eight million pounds of milk daily, just at one small processing plant in California? How many, then, throughout the country? They’re not all living on Old MacDonald’s farm. How many calves, then, were stolen from their mothers so Americans can have milk on their breakfast cereal? Dairy cows are milked sometimes as much as four times a day, creating a painful condiiton known as mastitis. They are forced to stand on a cold, concrete floor for hours, hooked up to machines, so Americans can have extra cheese on their pizza.
Okay, so why am I venting this here, on this forum? I belong to two writer’s critique groups. One meets at a restaurant, and anything I might write about this topic is not exactly dinner-time fare. The other, well, the last time I brought this topic up, it was not well received.
But, I cannot keep silent. I became, literally overnight, a vegan. Or at least, as much of a vegan as I can. I have shoes that I’ve worn for years that are leather, and a car I just bought (before I became a vegan) with leather seats. Not much I can do about that. But I no longer purchase or consume anything that used to be, or was produced by, a living creature.
So why here? Why now? Because silence kills. I understand. Really, I do. I didn’t really want to know all these things about where my food came from. But once I knew, once I realized, i knew I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut. The animals cannot speak, but I can hear their cries. I hear their terror-filled voices on the way to slaughter. I see the fear on their faces as they are prodded and hit and punched when they are being herded into cattle cars and tractor trailers on their way to slaughter.
So, I may not be able to bring a piece like this to either of my writer’s groups, but I will not be silenced. I will not be quiet. I will continue to share what I know, because I can’t do anything else. I will add my drop to the bucket that says, “No more. Enough is enough.”
I encourage you to educate yourself to the realities of the food industry. Watch the videos, read the literature. Educate yourself. Then join me as I speak for those who have no voice. I read recently that for every year I remain a vegan, I’ve saved the life of one-hundred animals. So, yes, that drop in the bucket matters. I can make a difference. Together, we can make a difference.