By Nadia W.
People who knew me before I went vegan are always surprised to learn that I am vegan. After all, I grew up on a typical west Indian diet which consisted largely of oxtail, pig feet, pig legs and other animal parts. After I moved to Ottawa from Montreal for university, I remember going home on breaks and my request for a homemade meal would be oxtail with rice and beans. This was a favourite of mine before I went vegan, and before I really understood what I was consuming.
So, how does a person go from eating all parts of an animal—even the ones most people consider to be “gross”-and consuming their secretions, to never eating any animal ingredients at all?
My pathway to veganism began with yoga. Before I become vegan, and to this day, I practiced yoga on a regular basis. As you may know, one of the teachings of yoga is non-violence. As I continued to practice and then would go home to a meal of dead animal flesh, I became consumed with guilt. I became acutely aware that the roasted chicken on my plate had been a living being, a being who wanted to live. My need—or rather, my desire—for flesh to satisfy my taste buds, played an important role in ending that life.
With my consciousness raised, I began researching and reading about vegetarianism, and eventually my research led me to veganism. I must admit that giving up dairy was not difficult for me. Once I was aware of the pain associated with diary, the decision to remove it from my diet was simple. No hand wrenching, no tears, no thinking, “I can’t do this.”
I realize some people find it more difficult than I did. I’m fortunate that the transition was easy for me, but it was easy in part because of the reality that faces dairy cows. The life of a dairy cow is tragic. She is forced to breed constantly to satisfy the taste buds of human beings, who steal something which she creates not for us, but for her unborn calf.
I wonder sometimes whether society would be willing to accept this if this practice was associated with dogs. Would we sit back and allows dogs to be milked over and over again to simply satisfy our desires? Or would we revolt and gather our placards and march on Parliament Hill and demand change?
My point is, there is no difference between a cow and a dog, at least not one that justifies the systemic abuse of one over another. Or any other animal. I refuse to buy into the attitude that we are the stronger species, and therefore animals exist for our use. I will never accept that the animals are put here for us to do as we please with them. After all, this was the same mentality which allowed for the enslavement of blacks for so many years.
Some people don’t understand why I am vegan, and why I feel so strongly about living a vegan lifestyle. I’ve been accused of having a “superiority complex.” Being vegan has nothing to do with feeling superior, and everything to do with feeling compassion for these creatures. Knowing what I know, I simply feel that I have no other choice.
It saddens me that any female would be repeatedly forced to become pregnant, and endure the agony of losing her baby, her maternal instincts unfulfilled every time. Her daughter will become enslaved as a milking cow, and her son will be killed as a juvenile to become veal. I’m not a mother, but I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t resonate with human mothers.
So I implore people, the next time you sit down to a meal, stop and think about what you’re eating. Your juicy steak is not just a steak, but is a cow who had his or her life ended to satisfy your taste buds. The next time you sit down to enjoy your ice cream think of the poor baby calf who had to go without his or her mother’s milk, because you love ice cream. Please, think.
And once you’ve thought about it, please consider going vegan.