I’m sure your next question will be the same as mine was:
“Dairy can’t be all that bad, can it? They aren’t killing the animals.”
The dairy industry’s mistreatment of animals is every bit as grotesque as anything you will find in the rest of the meat industry. They are connected in many ways. When dairy cows (and chickens, too) outlive their usefulness, they are slaughtered. Until then, they have to survive a myriad of torture and abuse. Dairy cows have artificially inseminated over and over again so they can give birth and continue to produce milk. Then they are separated from their calves at birth, causing unimaginable grief to both. Most of the female calves are raised to live the same torturous lives as their mothers. The male calves are taken away from the mothers; some are starved and slaughtered for veal. The dairy cows are usually kept in a confined area where they can’t move around and are hooked up to milking machines, which often lead to a variety of infections and other illnesses.
Chickens, too, are abused by being kept in cages where they can barely move and their wings and beaks are clipped without anything to dull the pain. Male chicks are usually put on a conveyor belt leading to a crushing machine and live a very short life. Knowing this, I couldn’t ask my conscience to try and rationalize it away. In fact, I found that it couldn’t do that. I know many of us to disconnect from this knowledge of where our food comes from and how these sentient beings are treated. For me, no milkshake or piece of cheese is worth this.
Psychological comfort and the benefits of being a vegetarian
Every day of my journey, I have come to see the connection we have to all living creatures. We have a responsibility to take care of them, not to abuse them, not to torture them, not to use them for our own pleasure. We have been given stewardship over them, and we have abused that responsibility. We are just as guilty as any caregiver who does not properly take care of a patient in his or her charge.
You can feel great about the health benefits of being vegan and eating a plant-based diet, but that is nothing compared to the feeling that you have a clear conscience. By clear conscience, I mean that you know that no living, sentient being is being harmed for your use. That is a wonderful feeling, knowing you can make a tangible difference and save the lives of animals by your actions. The average vegan alone can save hundreds to thousands of animals’ lives each year. The collective conscience is beginning to awaken, and we are seeing so many understand these truths and then cross over the bridge to a life free of meat and animal products. Meat and dairy consumption are steadily declining, which means eventually the number of animals destined for slaughter will decrease, as the demand for them decreases.
As I have said, I can’t separate my reasons and benefits for being a vegan into separate issues: health, ethical, environmental, and spiritual. Now, all these reasons are equally compelling to me. And I know that the ethical reasons lie at the heart of everything. To me, it is important to live in a right relationship with my fellow humans and all living creatures at the same time. I want to know that no creature is being harmed by my actions.
I don’t live in a fairy tale world either. I know the horrors of factory farming, animal experimentation, and other forms of animal abuse continue on a daily basis. This knowledge fuels my desire to be all I can and do all I can to make a difference until every cage is open and animal-free.
This changed perspective of mine came about with the help of lots of good people who also care about the fate of animals and other species on this planet. I studied what they had to say and the work they did. I learned from them that how I see all living creatures and the world that supports all of us is determined by the grid placed by us before our eyes. We create that grid, and it has been life-changing to learn that I have the power to change that grid when my head and heart don’t line up with what is there before me. Never before in history has it been more important for us individually and collectively to make these changes.