“If it were not so blindly accepted as part of our customs and traditions, how could any sensitive person accept the thought that in order to feed ourselves we should kill such a large number of animals, in spite of the fact that our earth gives us so many different treasures from plants?” – Leo Tolstoy
When I was 25, my sister announced to the family that she had “gone vegetarian.” Curious, I asked her why, and she said it was because she wouldn’t eat anything that had a face, whatever THAT meant. I liked my meat, and my response, as I recall, went something like this: “Well we’re omnivores, just like bears, so when you convince a bear to stopping eating meat, then I’ll stop eating meat.”
That was almost 20 years ago and I’ve been vegan for nearly 10. It just goes to show you that anyone can change, even a numbskull like me. My “epiphany” came about 12 years ago, after reading a book called A Calendar of Wisdom, by Leo Tolstoy; a collection of quotes from such thinkers as Lao Tzu, Socrates, Mohammed and Henry David Thoreau, as well as bits of wisdom by Leo himself.
Reading this particular quote (above) was the turning point for me. It just made good sense. Why would I cause the unnecessary suffering of other animals if I didn’t have to? If I could survive by eating vegetables, fruits, grains and other plant foods (foods my mother always said were good for me), then to have animals killed merely for my eating enjoyment would just be cruel.
This was at a time when I didn’t know any other vegetarians (my sister eventually went back to eating animal products) and as far as I knew, PeTA was a type of bread from the Middle East, but within a few weeks, I had given up all animal flesh, and I didn’t die! Not only that, but it was easy to make the switch to a vegetarian diet because I just replaced the hotdogs, hamburgers and burritos – all I was really eating at the time – with veggie dogs, veggie burgers and veggie burritos.
I felt pretty good about myself, knowing that I wasn’t causing the suffering and death of all these animals, and then in 2000, a friend of mine invited me to go listen to a guy who was giving a talk at the local university. It was during Professor Francione’s lecture that I learned what happened to dairy cows and egg-laying chickens, and so I vowed that night to go vegan, and have been ever since.
So when people say that promoting veganism is hopeless, I remind them that I used to be just like the people we’re trying to educate today, and look at me now! There is always hope.
I know it might seem like we’re not getting anywhere but we are. We have to remember that this is a new movement and it’s going to take some time to undo thousands of years of anthropocentrism and animal oppression. But more and more people ARE going vegan, and while it might not be popular right now, at least people know about it, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago when hardly anyone even knew what it meant.
And I know it’s frustrating and heart-wrenching to know that millions of animals are being killed each and every day which is why we need to get out there and spread the word and NEVER LOSE HOPE. The animals are depending on us.
Dan Wilson is a vegan, an abolitionist, and founder of the Vegan Party of Canada. He has been writing about animal rights and veganism for 8 years. You can read see more of his writing at: http://niagaraanimalrightscenter.blogspot.com/.