BEING VEGAN – A Letter to Those Still Eating And Wearing Animals
By Paul Graham
Las Vegas Informer
Thank you for allowing me to refer to you as that…even though we may have never met. I just want you to know that this is not going to be an antagonistic letter in any way. I would like to speak to you as a friend would to another…with care, concern, frankness, and with great love. I understand that this can be a very touchy subject for many of you and I want to ask you for just a few minutes of your time to consider what I believe to be one of the great issues before us and one that, I believe if we can grasp it and allow it to move us, can lead us to great change personally and for this world.
Up until about seven years ago, I had very little concern as to whether or not I was eating animals or using the skin or products from them to clothe me or furnish my home. What started out as a journey to optimize my health led to so much more and a lifestyle that has changed almost everything about me. I wanted to get to be the best that I could be and hopefully prolong this wonderful life in any way possible. I discovered after months of research that most of the things that contribute to our sickness and death are diet related. That was actually good news, because that was something that I could control. What I found out beyond that, though, really surprised me. Of the foods that we eat, meat and dairy are two of the greatest contributors to poor health and eventually death. Cholesterol was not coming from plants, but from consuming animal products. Heart disease was our leading health nemesis and meat and dairy are directly contributing to this condition. I came to realize that all of the talk about needing meat to get our protein to grow strong and needing dairy to build strong bones and teeth was just an elaborate way to get us to buy a product and make money for someone else. It has been perpetuated for generations and is just not true. I do not like to be deceived, and I had been for most of my life in this way. I found that we can get everything we need and more for our bodies to be healthy and strong without having to kill or use an animal to get it.
I also came to realize that even as an “animal lover” for my entire life, I was really just a lover of some species of animals. Perhaps the ones that I chose to share my home with, particularly dogs and cats. By my lifestyle and actions I obviously didn’t think the same way about chickens, pigs, cows, and fish, because I didn’t seem to have any problem with eating them or using products from them. That did not really qualify me as much of an animal lover then, did it? Even though I considered myself a pretty aware person, I seemed to have little regard for the marine animals taken out of the wild and held in captivity and forced to put on shows for our benefit. The same for animals that I found were held in captivity and often abused for our entertainment in circuses. Zoos were not much better for the most part. Animals are also being needlessly and cruelty tested daily in labs. For most of my life I had been complicit in contributing to the captivity, torture, and death of animals.
This was never more apparent than when it came to the food that I ate. I learned about the realities and horrors of factory farming, where we get most of the meat that we consume and all of the other related animal products. Artificial insemination, hormones, disease, antibiotics, babies separated from mothers at birth, pain, agony, horrific confinement, short life spans, torture, and a cruel death are only some of the things to describe what factory farming is today. By buying meat and animal products of any kind, I was contributing to this whole dastardly, sick model invented by the human mind and carried out by human hands. It disgusts me to think that we have allowed ourselves as a human race to come to the point where we are somehow “okay” with treating another sentient being in this way. Knowing that they feel pain, have feelings, emotions, reason, and so many of the other things that we possess and enjoy as humans. I chose not to contribute to any of this in any way by my lifestyle. When I made this decision, animal lives were being saved as a result of the way I had chosen to live. Ernest Hemingway said, “You are so brave and quiet, I forget you are suffering.” I will never forget the suffering of these animals and I will be a voice for them until we see them truly set free to live out the lives in peace and freedom that they have every right to have.
I also had no idea the impact that the use and exploitation of animals has upon our environment. How precious food and water resources are diverted away from people who need them and being given to feed livestock being produced for our consumption. It is an extremely inefficient use of our resources. People are not only dying as result, on the front and back end of things, but it is polluting our planet as well. It is a major contributor to water, air, and ground pollution. It is contributing right now to major deforestation, that frankly, we can’t even realize what the effect of that will eventually be. By scaling back and hopefully eliminating production and consumption of animals, we will contribute to the preservation of this planet in one of the greatest ways possible. Personally, making this decision to forego animal products of any kind is one of the greenest, compassionate, and most responsible things that we can do a resident of this planet. It feels really good to know that by my actions, I am making a difference in another way to help not only myself, the animals, but the Earth as well.
For most of my adult life, spirituality has been very important to me. I spent over two decades in the vocational ministry, primarily working with teens and professional athletes. It was all about care, kindness, and love for one another and making a difference. I came to the point of realizing in my own life that my attitudes and actions towards animals for most of my life was not really in alignment with my beliefs. I could not pick and choose which sentient beings, which of God’s creatures, that I could give and demonstrate my love. There is no way, no matter how spiritual, pious, or religious one might claim to be…that you could sit through a screening of Earthlings, for example, and say that that this treatment and torture of animals was acceptable or right in any way. It was an affront to everything that I ever held sacred and it impacted me to my core. There is no way that we can claim to want to have life, and life more abundantly, while contributing to and consuming abuse, fear, torture, and death. You can never reconcile that, no matter how hard you try. If you want life, then try consuming life…and not death.
I also want to be on the right side of history. For centuries people held to beliefs and practices that we now hold to be cruel, antiquated, and a violation of basic human rights. We are mostly incredulous now that people once held a notion or supported a practice of human slavery, denial of voting and other rights for women, and civil rights for all people. We have seen this same struggle for gay rights over the past few decades and I believe we are coming to the same conclusion on that. We are facing this issue like never before in regards to animal rights. This is not new and has been building for century upon century, but we are moving towards the day when animals will be recognized for what they truly are and will be granted rights and protection. The generations to come will look back on this time and also wonder how people once treated animals in this way. How will you respond when asked which side of history you were on? I implore you to consider this like never before. It is a matter of saving lives…your own and that of countless animals. It is about restoring and protecting the environment. It is about revitalizing and freeing your own spirits. A vegan is someone who consciously by their lifestyle, to the very best of their ability, does not harm/consume animals or products from them. This is not about a term or label for a lifestyle, though. It is about thinking, acting, and living in true love and compassion for all living creatures. It is not only for yourself, but for the animals, and for our planet. I ask you now to become a part of the change that is happening in our world. The sooner the better…for every being and everything concerned. I can attest, that If you choose to live consciously in this way, you will forever be glad that you did.
Respectfully and compassionately,
Paul Graham was born and raised in Northern California and has lived in Las Vegas since 2004. He is a top wedding officiate, a green Realtor and writer. He has a daily vegan food blog www.eatingveganinvegas.tumblr.com which is 365 days and 365 vegan meals in Las Vegas. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/EatingVeganinVegas.
Paul’s e-book, “Eating Vegan in Vegas: If It Can Happen Here, It Can Happen Anywhere” is now available at www.sullivanstpress.com/shop/ebooks/eating-vegan-in-vegas/.