For the first 17 years of my life I was a willing participant in the death of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocents. I may not have been the one wielding the knife or the gun, but I was directly responsible for taking lives. Interestingly, the police would not be concerned with my confession, and the courts would not be bothered with trying my case, for my murders are not considered a crime.
Murder…surely that is always a crime? Well like any action in our society that is condoned by the majority, certain behaviours are classed as acceptable, giving people permission to turn a blind eye to things that they would rather not see. This approach has meant that some of our most gruesome activities are accepted as a normal part of life. Ironic really, that the death of so many is the backbone of so many of our lives.
While I have since stopped indulging in these heinous crimes, I am bothered by societies which continue to sanction certain behaviours as acceptable, therefore allowing people to neglect their personal responsibility to be aware of the full repercussions of their actions. I made a choice some time ago to stop making a personal contribution to unnecessary death. With wars, famines, disasters and plagues, death already surrounds us enough. I could not add more bodies to the pile.
I stopped eating animals. No more chicken, beef, lamb, veal, pork, turkey, ham, fish, prawns, and the list goes on. But you’ve got to be careful, as anyone who has become vegetarian or vegan knows, animals feature in a lot of unexpected foods, so you have to be vigilant when selecting things like cheese, fries, yoghurt, cream, sauce, chips, lollies and again the list goes on.
People say to me, ‘surely human life is more important than animal life’, but for me this is not a consideration. I believe that life, any life, equals life. What does it say about a species that kills indiscriminately, for pleasure and in such a wasteful manner? If we were anything other than what we are we would say that such practices were inhumane. Humans should consider themselves part of the global ecosystem, but for some reason we hold ourselves apart from everything else in nature. It has truly become a case of Us vs. Them. We seem to have no qualms with disturbing, destroying and disrespecting the earth and all it contains.
The trouble with becoming a vegetarian or a vegan is that people reduce you to a label or you become nothing more than an interesting point of discussion. People are supposed to be non judgemental and accepting and yet I constantly have to defend my views, actions and beliefs. I naively used to believe that if I treated people with respect, the same consideration would be reciprocated. Some people seem to have forgotten that personal eating choices are just that…personal.
I have lost track of the number of conversations that have run something like the following…
‘You’re vegetarian? Really? But you still eat seafood don’t you?’
‘No, I don’t eat any meat at all.’
‘Why’s that? I couldn’t imagine not eating meat.’
‘It was a personal choice really. I love animals and I started to feel like a hypocrite going around and eating them as well.’
‘Mmmm, my son has gone through that phase as well.’
‘Well it’s not a phase…’
‘That seems stupid, it’s not like it makes any difference anyway.’
Why do people insist on me justifying my behaviour to them? I don’t insist that they justify their actions to me. I chose not to condone death and bloodshed at every meal. For me eating is about giving and maintaining life, not about fulfilling the endless equation of death equalling life. Perhaps these people are worried that they haven’t made a choice of their own. In just eating what they’ve always eaten and not thinking about what is involved with getting that product to their plate, perhaps they have missed out on an important process of self-discovery. In talking to me perhaps they are reminded of things that they would rather not be reminded of. I’m really not too sure of their internal thought processes during these conversations, but I certainly hope they find their own path soon and stop trying to walk all over mine.
Recent years have seen a huge commercial push in Australia to encourage people to eat more meat. At first these ads made me extremely angry as they were generally crossing the line of bad taste and were more often than not downright offensive to anyone who chooses not to eat meat. These commercials presented ideas such as ‘how Australian lamb could have prevented many recent incidences of un-Australianism, and to be Australian all you need to do is whack some nice juicy lamb chops on the barbie’, that our evolutionary history demonstrates that ‘we were meant to eat red meat’, that ‘if our ancestors hadn’t eaten red meat, our brains wouldn’t be the size they are today’, and ‘that craving red meat is instinctive behaviour’.
I went through several stages of emotion in response to these advertisements, first came anger then came grief, then came pity and finally a lot more anger. Recently though I’ve had a change of heart. It seems to me that all these advertisements expose is how worried the Australian meat industry must be, so that the only way they feel they can ‘win the fight’ is to launch such a horrifyingly simplistic, one-dimensional and scientifically dubious campaign.
And just what is it that they are fighting? Well they are fighting for our money and our tastebuds, but most of all they are fighting to ensure the continued survival of an industry that is environmentally unsound and ultimately unsustainable.
They are scared and more than a little threatened…
Nothing has made me feel that happy in a long time.