(May 28th, 2010)
Most of us, including myself, grew up with families and in a society in which the eating of certain animals was completely normal, it was just "the way things are", it was "natural" and "necessary". These beliefs are backed by constant advertising assuring us that foods like hamburgers, bacon and chicken "nuggets" are copacetic, and that we need to eat the flesh of cows, pigs, fish and chickens in order to get the protein we need, along with drink the milk of cows to get calcium for "strong bones".
Most of us are also not violent creatures, never intentionally hurting or oppressing other people, and we actually have a tendency to show compassion for others, despite the lack of encouragement for such behavior by this current socioeconomic system, that corrupts human nature to fit a for-profit, money-dependent "dog-eat-dog" worldview.
Speaking of dog-eat-dog, or cannibalism, most humans would find the idea of eating another human extremely grotesque, and why is that? Common answers would probably include: "It's not natural", "It's unethical" and "It's completely unnecessary." Interestingly, these are the same answers given by many people, now including myself, as to why they have stopped eating animal products. "But that's totally different", you may immediately object. And in the past, I would have agreed with you. Yet now I know that the daily massive violence towards other animals that are sentient, have emotions, suffer and feel pain, is really no different from eating another human, from an ethical perspective. If you don't need to kill another sentient creature for your survival, does how many legs it has, or how smart it is have any ethical relevance? No. If it did, then we would find no objection to enslaving and murdering the mentally handicapped. All that is relevant is that they can suffer, feel pain and they want to live. The ethical imperative is to respect the right to life and freedom from violence, of other sentient creatures. To love your dog or cat but pay for people to enslave and murder pigs, chickens and cows so you can eat them is a moral contradiction. In most people's minds this contradiction is "resolved" by the belief, which again has been force-fed to humanity, like a force-fed goose that will become foie-gras, that eating animal products is needed for optimum health. Now how can that be if there are vegan Olympic athlete champions, vegan body builder champions and Ultimate Fighting champions? How can someone (Dave Scott) become an Ironman competition world-champion 6 years in a row on a vegan diet if it is somehow deficient in nutrients? Certainly these individuals have bodies in optimum health don't they?
I know it's troubling to contemplate the idea that you've been misled for most of your life and duped into participating in daily cruelty and violence that harms your health and the environment, not to mention the possible karmic consequences. But we should seek the ideal of truth, even though as Jesus said in the Gospel of Thomas, "When they find, they will be disturbed." Because after the disturbance comes greater freedom; as he also said "The truth will set you free." The truth about animal slavery, exploitation and murder can set us free from its dire health, environmental and possible spiritual consequences.It's well-worth facing the facts, without getting defensive about your past actions, and just begin the process of eliminating animal products from your diet.
"But where do I get my protein?" you may still be wondering. If you are, then you are probably only considering 2 sources of protein in your mind: flesh and cow's milk; 2 sources. Yet there are many more than 2 sources of protein in a plant-based diet! You can easily get all the protein your body needs from the large variety of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Also you can get protein from broccoli, potatoes and spinach, among other vegetables. I could still go on, but I'm sure you get the point. So there is in fact many more sources of protein in a plant-based diet than in a meat/dairy based diet (and the same goes for calcium), yet this fact is often overlooked due to constant conditioning by advertising and by the pressures of social and inter-personal normalization.
There is in fact nothing lacking whatsoever in a balanced vegan diet. "But wait! What about Vitamin B12?" B12 is produced by "good" bacteria which have usually been found in the soil and on plants and every herbivore in nature would gets its supply of B12 from consuming these bacteria on the plants they eat. However today there is often not enough of this good bacteria due to modern agricultural methods and through very thorough cleaning, so we have to find other sources, like the many B12 fortified foods/beverages, or Kombucha & Sea Vegetables, or by taking a supplement. Very easy. Again there is NO nutrient that you must get from enslaved, tortured and murdered animals, NONE.
Human physiology clearly matches that of herbivores, and the ingestion of animal products is directly linked to the leading cause of death, heart disease; plant foods contain zero cholesterol and minimal saturated fat. When considering the physiological characteristics of herbivores, and how we have those same characteristics (intestine length, jaw structure, etc.) it is also good to consider the absurdity of the claim (that may still be impressed on your subconscious via conditioning) that you need to eat meat to be strong. If champion Olympians and body-builders aren't enough to convince you otherwise, how about a rhinoceros? Or a horse? Do you associate such animals with weakness? Aren't they in fact immensely muscular and powerful when in good health? And guess what, they're herbivores too. Henry David Thoreau put it this way:
"One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with", and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle." -"Walden"
Not only are there more of the needed nutrients we need available in a solely plant-based diet, they are also much, much healthier than animal-derived sources. Dairy protein for example, known as casein, has been directly linked to cancer growth. And, revealing the advertising deceptions by the cruel dairy industry, the countries that have the highest intake of dairy products also have the highest rate of osteoporosis; this is because the calcium in dairy products goes mostly unabsorbed by humans, since dairy becomes acidic in our bodies (it's meant for calves, not humans!) which naturally leach out calcium from our bones in order to re-balance our pH level. Also there have been countless examples of people suffering from Diabetes who became completely cured by simply adopting a balanced vegan diet. I could go on with examples of the health benefits but these should be enough to open your eyes and start to do more research yourself.
If we collectively wake up to the fact that we've been deceived into committing daily acts of violence, if we "eat the apple of the knowledge of good and evil" (which by the way, the idea of having such knowledge as being the cause of "the fall of Man" is another great deception), we can truly start progressing back towards Eden, or a better, healthier, more sustainable and less violent world. The first step towards progress/evolution is clearly seeing what's keeping one in a deplorable state; we must use our conscience and common sense and reject beliefs/propaganda that are false, immoral and are degrading humanity physically, mentally and spiritually. So if you have compassion for other sentient beings, and are not too stubborn to face the facts, then you'll find transitioning to a vegan diet easy and one of the best choices you've ever made.