“Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to reconsider the miserable life of the pig—an animal easily as intelligent as a dog—that becomes a Christmas ham.”
-Michael Pollan in The New York Times Magazine, 11/10/02
Someone on campus handed me this pamphlet during the first week of school this semester. It’s the same as one that I got two years ago, one that played a big role in my becoming vegetarian. And I had completely forgotten about it!
The pamphlet two years ago could not have come at a more opportune time. I had been reading some books about consciousness, like I Am a Strange Loop, and had recently seen the movie-version of Fast Food Nation. I had no intention of becoming vegetarian at the time; it really was coincidental that I was exposed simultaneously to so many ideas to make me think twice about eating animals.
I got the pamphlet and quickly leafed through it. This is the point when I throw most of this stuff away—I figure it doesn’t hurt to at least look at whatever someone feels strongly enough about to stand there and hand out, but it’s almost always worthless to me. With this one though, I couldn’t bring myself to toss it. I wanted to bring it home to show Erin, and to be able to look through it again. It made me feel horrible about the way I ate. And in some strange way, I was happy that it made me feel so bad.
Looking back at it, the seed must have already been planted before I got the pamphlet. The graphic photos of animal abuse in some factory I’ll never see in person are not that different from promises of fire and brimstone in the religious pamphlets that do so little to move me. But even when I consciously decided to keep eating meat since I thought I couldn’t run marathons without it, the images of chickens being debeaked kept coming back to me and it all felt very wrong. Within a few weeks of getting the pamphlet, I made my first attempt at becoming vegetarian.
That first attempt didn’t last, though it did result in my giving up red meat for a year. It took some more leverage, in the form of becoming convinced that I’d be healthier (not less healthy, as I initially thought) if I were to stop eating animals. Armed with this knowledge, I was finally able to make the big change that has done so much for my health and outlook over the past six, almost seven, months.
I hope this doesn’t come off as preaching. If you read this blog, then you probably aren’t someone I need to preach to anyway—you’re informed about what you eat, at the very least. But being handed this pamphlet again, this pamphlet with gory images and an unbefittingly modest goal of getting people to just eat less meat, made me very happy to look back on the past six months and know that I now eat the way I wanted to so badly back when I first read it. And to me, that’s something worth sharing.
Blast from the Past, Part 2 tomorrow! And it’s about running, so you have my personal guarantee that you will see NO chickens being debeaked!
[Update: It turns out the booklet was distributed by Vegan Outreach, who saw my post and included it in their newsletter. They exist to end cruelty to animals, so check out their site!]