People sometimes ask me why I am vegan. Usually I answer with something along the lines of “I feel bad the way animals are treated,” which I know is vague and does not really answer the question. Here is the longer story.
I have always liked animals. In the back of my mind, I felt bad that animals were killed for food, but I thought that it was necessary and inevitable, and that farmed animals lived good lives until they were quickly and painlessly killed. My favourite foods were animal products.
In early 2016, I was not thinking about diet at all, and was content eating all the standard things that are popular in North America. I randomly came across a video clip; I think it was a trailer for a film called Samsara. The video showed pigs in cages and chickens getting scooped into crates. I felt like God spoke to me about His creatures being treated like this, simply for me to eat them. It suddenly hit me that I had been contributing to animal suffering. I saw the pigs confined in tight, uncomfortable crates, and I thought, “I can’t do this. I can’t cause this.”
A Gradual Change
At first I decided to continue eating animal products as long as the animals did not suffer, so for a few months I looked for “humane” animal products. Soon, I couldn’t stand to eat the “humane” animal products, either. I would cook meat, put it on my plate, and be unable to even take a bite. I kept giving the meat to my dog (which caused him to develop pancreatitis and become very sick!).
Gradually I became more aware of the things that happen to animals. I was doing some research to try to find local humane meat, and I came across the legal regulations for transport of animals where I live. I was shocked to see a long list of types of injuries that animals could have, and still be transported. It horrified me that an animal could be missing a limb, for example, and still be transported to slaughter.
The more research I did to try to find out where my food was coming from and how the animals were treated, the more shocked and horrified I became.
I realized that animal products (food or otherwise) are not humane or necessary, and became vegan. It felt strange at first, to see myself as vegan. I had grown up thinking that vegetarians were weird and that we should eat meat, dairy, and eggs to be healthy. I had thought that people who did not eat meat were sentimental or weak. When I realized that eating the foods I was accustomed to was causing tremendous suffering, I could no longer continue.
How long is the land to mournJeremiah 12:4 NASB
And the vegetation of the countryside to wither?
For the wickedness of those who dwell in it,
Animals and birds have been snatched away,
Because men have said, “He will not see our latter ending.”
Even if it might be difficult, or people might look down on me for my choice to stop eating animal products, I had to behave according to my values. I like animals, and my conscience tells me that hurting them for my own enjoyment is wrong. Paying someone else to hurt them for me still violates my conscience.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.James 4:17 NASB
For me, living a vegan lifestyle means that I try to live with compassion and prevent harm to humans, animals, and all of creation as much as possible. It is important to me that my actions reflect my values, and being Christian and vegan is the best way I have found to most closely align my lifestyle with what I value.
It is very important to me to be a good steward of the things that God has entrusted to me. This means that I need to treat animals with kindness and compassion. I am called to take care of the earth to keep it clean, lush, and beautiful as God created it to be. My faith calls me to put aside my desires where my wants could conflict with another’s wellbeing.
I used to like eating things like meat and cheese. I stopped eating them, not because I did not want to eat them, but because my wants are secondary to my compassion. If I choose to harm people, animals, or the environment just because I want something, I am putting myself above those I am hurting. My wants should never be so important that they drive me to cause destruction just to satisfy them. When God opened my eyes to the harm I was causing by eating and using animal products, I could not bear to continue.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.Philippians 2:3-4 NASB
There are many atrocities in the world that I can do nothing about, but where I have a choice, I can choose to live with kindness. I have a choice in what I eat and what I buy. Initially it was hard to know how to live a vegan lifestyle because I was accustomed to using certain products and eating certain foods, and I did not know another way. I have since learned how to make small modifications to create new habits, and now, for the most part, being vegan is easy.
Reasons I am Vegan
If I was to summarize a few of the reasons why I am vegan, here is what stands out to me.
- Eating animals or products that come from animals causes animals to suffer, whether through changes from the animal’s natural lifestyle, confinement, transport, or slaughter. Even the most humane practices still cause suffering.
- Animal products are not necessary for us to consume, and in fact, meat, dairy, and eggs are harmful to our health. Consumption of animal products is associated with a number of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. See Harvard Study: Plant-Based Diet Could Reduce Early Deaths by One-Third.
- Animal industries cause substantial environmental harm because of pollution, deforestation, and waste. The most significant way to reduce my ecological footprint is to abstain from animal products. See New Study: Avoiding Animal Products Is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet and Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret.
- The meat, dairy, and egg industries cause human suffering through the psychological horrors and physical danger of working in slaughterhouses, and other factors such as the adverse health effects of dealing with waste. For information about the dangers to humans of working in slaughterhouses, see: Lives on the Line: the High Human Cost of Chicken.
- Consumption of animal products forces millions of people to face hunger and starvation because food that could be fed to humans is instead used to raise farmed animals. Meat and other animal products are extremely inefficient sources of nutrition compared to plant foods. More information: New Study: Go Vegan and End World Hunger.
- According to my Christian faith, God created all creatures to eat plants for food (Genesis 1:30). He remembers all His creatures (Luke 12:6). We are to treat our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit by taking good care of ourselves physically (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and we are not to engage in gluttony (Proverbs 23:1:2; Proverbs 23:20-21). God’s intention is to restore all of creation, at which time there will be no more death, suffering, or pain (Revelation 21:4). There will be peace and harmony among all God’s creatures — humans and animals (Isaiah 65:25).
In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety.Hosea 2:18 NASB