It’s been a weird and not great few days.
On Friday, I got wind of a new documentary called Dominion. It’s high-quality footage of the Australian animal agriculture industry. There’s no voiceover. The trailer (and I assume, the movie) forces you to sit and bear witness to the repeated, large-scale, everyday horrors that must happen in order to get animal products to our plates. It also appears that it contains footage of horse and dog racing industries, as well as pet breeders and animal testing.
I made the mistake of scanning the trailer on YouTube. That was all it took.
I spiraled. I became wildly depressed. I couldn’t unsee what I’d seen. My mind kept replaying it, over and over. And over the next 48 hours, I cycled madly through anger, hopelessness, guilt, and deep, wrenching, knife-twisting sadness.
Over the years, my eating habits have been all over the place thanks to a combination of cognitive dissonance (perpetually squashing the guilt I feel when I consume animal products), gut issues, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a general lack of self-control. I’ve spent time doing the FODMAP diet, I’ve been paleo, I’ve done the 4 Hour Body (my personal favorite for how it makes me feel), I’ve toyed with vegetarianism, I’ve even tried doing vegan days here and there. People usually have to ask what my diet is whenever they eat with me, because it changes so frequently and I like to experiment.
A couple of years ago, after learning more about the intelligence of both pigs and octopuses, I eliminated pork and cephalopods from my diet. I had one slice of salami pizza in April 2018, and I felt fine about that, but haven’t been tempted since. For a while, this felt like something I could live with comfortably. I didn’t have to give up beef, or dairy, or poultry. It was an easy way of assuaging my own guilt.
Obviously, it wasn’t enough. While my general meat consumption went down, I was still wrangling with my ethical issues with all the other kinds of animal products that made their way onto my plate. Partaking in dairy – which is arguably worse for cows than simply being raised and killed for meat – felt like some kind of deception. I cut out two animals from my diet, but they were two animals I wasn’t particularly fond of eating anyway. It was weak. And every time I ate a burger, or a steak, I felt these horrible feelings and just pushed them aside, ignored them, acted “cool.” I’m a chill person, right?
Well, no. I’m not okay with it anymore, and I’m not okay with pretending to not care. Yes, these episodes are made worse by actually suffering from depression, but I don’t think my reaction to the reality of animal agriculture is out of proportion. No one wants to watch this stuff because of how it feels. And yet, those people are okay with consuming the results of such intense, severe, large-scale suffering? The least we can do is to look, and absorb the reality of where this stuff comes from. The billions of individual, thinking, feeling souls that we create, torture, and destroy deserve that, at least. They deserve our tears, our sympathy, our sadness. We can’t keep looking away.
I used to be okay with free-range, happily-raised meat, but I’m not anymore. I’ve heard too many stories from ex-farmers who, even though they cared for the animals and did their best to let them live “natural” lives, still had to load up these happy, healthy creatures into trucks and send them to slaughter. No matter how good an animal’s life was, we no longer have the need to eat them, therefore we no longer have the need to kill them. And don’t get me started on “free range” labels – they mean nothing. In some cases, the animals are worse off in free range situations (see: chicken).
Over the last few days, I realized that a lot of the guilt I was feeling was because I’ve been in a financial, physical, and social position to become vegan (or as close as possible) for a long, long time, and I haven’t. Because I don’t want to annoy people, and I don’t want to seem uptight, and animal products are just so darn delicious. But even typing that makes me feel guilty. I’m putting the feelings of a few people over the mass breeding, mass cruelty, and mass murder of literally billions of animals, and I don’t want to doing that anymore.
I also realized that eating less animal products is the single biggest thing I can do to help the environment and my health. Seriously: this one lifestyle change is the most positive thing I can do right now—for me, for animals, and for the planet. Why have I been fighting this for so long, when it can only be a net positive?
The last few days of crying and anguish are starting to dissolve. This episode is the catalyst for a clearer, better path for me. My health will benefit from keeping (occasional) eggs and fish in my diet for now, but I’m done with meat and will be phasing out dairy as soon as possible.
I’ve been fighting it for a long time. I’m done fighting, and I’m done pretending that I don’t care. It’s time for me to behave in accordance with my values, take better care of myself, be the cause of less suffering, and do something positive for the planet’s future.