The Only Difference is Your Attitude
April 7, 2017 | Voices
There are two things you cannot tell a child: 1) Santa is not real 2) The cute rabbit you saw today on the farm – well, its friend is now on your plate. Kids are naturally attracted to animals and do not think of them as food. At some point in our lives, however, this thought process takes a dark and twisted turn. Some of us see a pig and imagine sizzling bacon, while some of us are less “dark and twisty” and simply don’t make the connection between the chicken nugget in their plate and a dead baby chick. This is where our mainstream culture went wrong. We must change the way we look at meat and view it for what it really is: pollutive dead flesh pumped with antibiotics, emptied of fecal matter, and cut in shapes to please our meat paradox. More importantly, many of us ignore the cruel treatment of animals and the greenhouse gases animal agriculture produces, making it a leading cause of climate change.
A lot of people fail to make the connection between the meat we consume and the animal it comes from. For example, a lot of people don’t understand that for us to be able to continue consuming cows’ milk, mother cows must be constantly kept pregnant, which is made possible through inhumane methods such as rape racks and artificial insemination. Our collective choice to ignore the obviously nefarious means behind the meat industry is known as the meat paradox – wanting to eat meat without causing harm to the animal. This results in cognitive dissonance, which means to hold two contradictory beliefs, which in turn leads to a range of emotions such as guilt or embarrassment. A study carried out by the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès demonstrated that people are less likely to eat beef when the reporters emphasized the slaughtering of the cow that produced it. When reporters focused on the transformation of the animal into food, participants were less willing to consume beef. This shows that our culture is not so dark and twisted after all.
However, in order to end this conflict between wanting to end harm and wanting to reward our taste buds, we must see all animals as sentient beings, not just our cats and dogs. Western societies look down on the consumption of animals that people would own as pets, and people generally tend to prefer the idea of eating “pork” and “beef” instead of pigs and cows. The need to accept that animals suffer is blocked by our mental disassociation between the animals and the food in our plate, mainly because of the way we label animals and their byproducts. This act of labeling animals as food reduces, in our minds, the animals’ capacity to suffer, thus lessening our moral concern.
By allowing other people like butchers and farmers to kill animals, we dig ourselves deeper into this pit of disassociation because it relieves us of the responsibility of our meat consumption and the animal’s suffering. We are simply paying people to do the jobs that we should be doing since we are so ready to accept the death of animals for food consumption. The only way to counteract this is to stop avoiding the animal’s capacity to suffer and the harm we cause by eating it. Many studies show that animals such as pigs, starlings, and even honeybees have feelings, with biologist Victoria Braithwaite claiming, “There is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals.”
This awareness can be deepened once we look at animal agriculture’s impact on climate change, Actually causing more harm than we think. It has become the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the world, clocking it at a staggering 51% of all GHG emissions. Furthermore, livestock emits 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions, which is a GHG 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. It also takes 4,000 to 18,000 gallons of water to make the beef for one hamburger, according to a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey. Clearly, a sustainable solution to the environmental issue that is animal agriculture is going vegan. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “If every person on Earth adopted a vegan diet – without milk, meat, honey, or any other animal-sourced foods – the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food system in 2050 would fall by more than half compared to 2005/2007 levels.” In fact, the numbers show that if we all adopted a vegan diet, greenhouse emissions would drop by 55%, which would be saving US$570 billion in emissions. The only way to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of holding the planet’s temperature below the 2-degree threshold is if the whole world switched to a plant-based diet. Not only would we produce 50% less CO2, we would reduce our consumption of oil by 11 times, our water consumption by 13 times and our land use by 18 times, according to the documentary Cowspiracy.
While it might seem hard to switch to a plant-based diet out of the blue, by taking the process step by step you can make the change much easier and even more enjoyable. First of all, it is important to educate yourself on the situation, because, as mentioned earlier, we are less likely to eat meat if we make the connection between process and product. Animal agriculture documentaries like Cowspiracy, Vegeducated, Earthlings, and Forks Over Knives are all available for free on Netflix.
Another way to ease your transition into a plant-based diet is to lessen your meat intake little by little by adding more plant-based proteins to your plate, such as tempeh, organic tofu, and legumes and slowly change your palate so it can start enjoying certain foods outside of your comfort zone. You might want to start by following the famous “meatless Mondays” trend, where you stop eating meat on Monday and then slowly transition to a meatless every day. After cutting out meat and fish, you might want to look beyond cow’s milk and choose fortified plant-based beverages such as soy, rice, almond, hemp, oat or even coconut milk. Altogether, it is important to try new foods in order to appreciate the new diet.
Keeping it simple when starting out is the best way to stay vegan. Buying pre-made meals such as meat-free patties, vegetarian chicken or beef-less beef can also be helpful when a vegan meal seems overwhelming. You might also want to explore new restaurants near you when that happens. We actually benefit from having a ton of vegan restaurants (or at least restaurants with vegan options) very close to school, like the two Copper Branch locations within walking distance of each other. However, to make slow changes, you might simply want to go to your daily favourites such as Subways and order the “Veggie Sub” or to Amir’s and order the vegetarian plate. Alternatively, feel free to visit my all-time favourite vegan restaurant, “La Panthère Verte” for the best falafels in town.
Now that you see we must change the way we look at meat, start to your quest towards changing your own world to a more sustainable one. Let’s open our eyes and heart to a better world.