There’s this thing happening on the internet to kick off 2015 called #myveganstory where people who have made the switch post about what the catalyst was for them to do so. Here’s mine.
In 2005 I did Introduction to Philosophy at Murdoch University and the subject for week 2 was “Do Only Humans Matter?”. After reading Peter Singer’s 1979 essay ‘Equality for Animals’ I had decided unequivocally that humans have no business killing animals for food. But strangely, I didn’t adjust my behaviour accordingly and continued to eat meat for the next 7 years. Sometimes at the table the thought would occur that I was going against my intellectual and ethical understanding of right and wrong but the thought would leave almost as soon as it had appeared. Such is the strength of cultural conditioning, cognitive dissonance and the primitive refusal to give up old habits when it comes to something so primal and essential: eating.
In 2012 I met a girl who was a vegetarian, and I started again to discuss Singer et. al., but not in a serious way, almost as if it were all just theory. Because after all, I didn’t have to actually see animals suffering, I could just pick my meat up from the supermarket or the restaurant and not think about it. Nele suggested to me that we all have a responsibility to know where our food comes from and to be realistic about the ramifications of this. And with this point I couldn’t disagree.
I spent a few days scouring Youtube for videos of abattoirs, food videos that related to the environment and lectures on food ethics. About two weeks later I bought a bad ham sandwich as a quick breakfast from the Perth Railway Station and couldn’t eat it because it was so revolting and badly made. I reflected on the suffering that I witnessed with my eyes on Youtube and it started to make its way slowly into my heart. I discarded the ham sandwich and felt not shame nor guilt, but a sense of inanity that an animal had to suffer and die for food… even such horrible food. After this I was a vegetarian.
The logical inconsistency of being a vegetarian and not a vegan began to catch up with me and after a terrible cappuccino in Hamburg, Germany I ditched milk and eggs as well.
In a way it’s a frightening world being a vegan. One in which there is suffering on an unimaginable scale, a scale at which humans have never before been asked to suffer… and no one seems to care. But in another way there is a sense of pride that you were one of the first to open your heart and your intellect and see the world as it truly is, and to live a life that at least causes the least amount of suffering possible (not 0% suffering but as close to the mark as possible).
Nele and I are now both vegans and she is also now my wife.
I’m happy that it happened. It’s not a religion, it’s not for self-righteous people: it’s a social justice issue.