'Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace' ~ Albert Schweitzer
I have often debated whether or not I should post anything about this subject matter as it more than likely presents a minefield of various different reactions. I have landed in numerous debates around the dinner table about this topic, where I have tried to put my point across or explain my views but a lot of the time, it is either undermined or glossed over. The very last thing I want to do is to come across preachy or condescending and I can understand why some people may get defensive or don't want to talk about it. I used to act the exact same way. However, if it makes one person stop and re-think their lifestyle and make a change then I believe it to be justified.
It was a warm, sunny day in early summer in 2010. Not a cloud in the sky. It felt like any another other standard day; I awoke the same way, drank my coffee in the same manner and went about my day as I usually did. Unbeknownst to myself, I would not be going to bed as the same person. I had been browsing the internet for some part of the morning and I stumbled across a post on Facebook with a link to a video by Paul McCartney. An ex-Beatle was about to change my life. The video was called 'Glass Walls' and I distinctly remember Paul's introduction, '... I have often said if slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.' The next fifteen minutes broke my heart. It literally felt as though someone had slashed open my own chest with a rusty blade, torn out all my internal organs and thrown the bloody mess into a meat grinder. This video had reduced a grown man to tears and made me swear from that moment onwards not to play a role in any part of that process I had just witnessed.
The strange thing is that I had always had some form of awareness about how the meat industry worked but I had found it was quite easy to detach myself from those events that took place in the slaughterhouses and farms. The neatly packaged, processed meat that can be purchased from any supermarket did not resemble the living creature it once was. It was easy to not form the connection. I had often shrugged off stories from vegetarians and vegans in the past. I did not want to acknowledge the truth and the last thing I wanted to do was to change my eating habits because someone was trying to make me feel guilty or bad about it. It was difficult not to get defensive and claim 'well everyone else does it' and 'it's unhealthy not to eat meat'. I am a little bit embarrassed looking back at those comments now. I had spent twenty-five years quite happily not acknowledging what had happened to the food on my plate. From the moment that video ended and I swore to myself 'never to eat meat again' I threw out all the meat products I had previously bought and started researching vegetarianism.
The transition was relatively easy. I did my homework on the topic and with trepidation, I looked further into the meat and animal-product industries. I was shocked to read that humans are not evolved to be carnivorous; that in fact our teeth are blunt and square and our jaws 'grind' in order to better masticate vegetation rather than sharp and pointed teeth prevalent in carnivores that are established to tear at flesh and chew. Our large intestinal pathway is not developed to process meat as with carnivores who have small intestines to quickly dispose of the flesh to prevent it going bad and causing disease. Humans also don't have claws like carnivores and so forth. I was fascinated to discover these facts but also somewhat upset and angry that I had not received this education at a younger age. I also learnt that some vegetables, nuts and seeds have high protein content and there are an abundance of health benefits as a result of not eating meat. A whole new world had opened up.
To this day, I can not comprehend the torture and barbaric treatment of sentient beings. My stomach turned as I witnessed 'factory workers' and 'farmers' secretly filmed while they cruelly beat, kicked, stabbed, threw and tortured these helpless animals. Seeing calves being taken away form their mothers and hearing their cries and seeing the fear before they are killed was unbearable. It was beyond difficult to view and I still can not understand how a human-being who is supposed to be capable of empathy and compassion act in such a way. I will never understand it.
I think there is definitely a stigma attached to vegetarians and vegans but what we have to realise is that we all have a choice and choices are not always easy things to make. I have been subjected to a lot of judgement and jokes because of my eating habits and lifestyle choices. All I ask is that people open their eyes and mind and acknowledge the truth. That is all. Whatever choice they make is up to them and that is not my business. I will not pass judgement or make jokes. My only regret is not being aware or having this information at an earlier age but the important thing now is that I am and I do.
So here is a link to that very video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql8xkSYvwJs
Please be warned, it is very graphic but I urge everyone to watch it just once. Maybe an ex-Beatle will change your life too.